Monthly Archives: June 2015

ENTITLEMENT–A RELATIONSHIP KILLER–Part 1 (the child/parent)

“Mphoto-1429277158984-614d155e0017an is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.” Criss Jami, Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality

Relationships–it seems the ones that really work are the ones that in some way supply something we need either physically, emotionally or financially. But what happens to the relationship when your expectations are no longer being met? Disappointment, disillusionment and discouragement set in. Since you are no longer getting what you bargained for in the relationship, you become critical and begin to consider separation. It’s time to move on to someone who gives you what you feel you want, need or deserve. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario between children/parents, spouses, friends and coworkers, etc. So over the next few posts, let’s look at how this plays out in our various relationships.

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.” Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

I grew up in East Texas where it is very hot and there was no air conditioning. We didn’t go to grocery stores and buy everything we wanted; farmers in our church brought us produce and meat out of love. My afternoon’s entertainment was shelling peas or snapping beans to help prepare dinner.  We didn’t have swing sets or playhouses. We didn’t go to city parks to play. The only amusement park was Disneyland, and it was in California, so it might as well have been on the moon.  We played outdoors with a neighbor or our siblings. Our parents would never have considered it their responsibility to coordinate play dates, sleepovers and fantasy excursions. Birthday parties meant a homemade cake with the family and maybe some crepe paper streamers. We got our first TV when I was almost eight. I never had a store bought dress until I was in my mid-twenties and made my own money. Christmas meant one toy and a stocking with fruit and candy. Family vacations were few–I remember one at a cabin owned by a church member that was truly in the middle of nowhere. We swam and fished in the lake and played dominoes or checkers for entertainment. The annual rodeo was big entertainment–I’m not sure why as I’m terrified of bulls. There was no college fund–I worked and put myself through college. While in college, a three-minute weekly phone call was my contact with home–there were no parent weekends because they were too far away and they couldn’t afford to travel to see me.

Never once have I considered myself deprived. My parents (and grandparents) survived the Great Depression when food was a rare commodity and shoes always seemed to have holes in their soles. I have always been grateful for everything my parents did for me. Yes, as I got older, I realized others had more in material things than we did, but I didn’t cop a mindset of entitlement–feel my parent’s owed me more. They gave me life. They gave me what they could. It was a good era to be a child. I was blessed. Today my home is filled with many treasures and luxuries we never dreamed of in those East Texas days. But never once have I looked back and held the lack of anything against my parents. I thank God for their sacrifices for our family. They did the best they could; and I was blessed.

For better or worse, we usually get our parenting patterns from our parents. When my children came along, life was beginning to change. We found a few city parks and a putt putt course or two. We even got to take the kids to DisneyWorld. We didn’t have money for the circus when it was in town, but I prayed and someone gave my parents free tickets so they took the children–and I rejoiced over answered prayer. We sacrificed to put the kids in Christian school and I got involved in cheerleading to be with my daughter. Little league baseball, soccer or basketball teams for children were becoming in vogue and if/when mine wanted to play, we made that possible. We gave my daughter ballet and gymnastic lessons for as long as they held her interest. I hosted birthday parties as we could for family and friends. We spent summer weekends with the kids at my in-laws trailer at the lake where the kids learned to ski and hunted for arrowheads with their dad. We discovered timeshares and sacrificed so our family could take vacations together. My husband would take the children down to the game center so they could play Ms. PacMan. Times were hard but we enjoyed our children greatly and supported each child as best we could in their educational and career pursuits. Certainly we would have loved to write the big checks for college, but that wasn’t it the cards for us. So I prayed and prayed. And God provided for each of the children–they are well educated, highly motivated, hard-working, successful men and women. God definitely took up any slack from our part.

I see our children going the extra mile for their children–giving them everything within their ability. It’s what we parents do. Technology has added a new dimension to entertainment and communication, but it comes at a cost. I love the opportunities set forth for my grandchildren to grow and develop their minds, relationships, careers and future. From my humble home in East Texas it would have been impossible to imagine the world my grandchildren would grow up in and enjoy. And I thank God for His blessings upon my children and grandchildren.

Each generation can look back and be grateful for the sacrifices each made so they could have a better future or they can look back with criticism and a sense of entitlement–we deserved more. Unfortunately having everything we desire handed to us can be detrimental. For example, a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. It stays in the cocoon and presses against it so that it develops and becomes strong enough to fly when it breaks free. If you cut the cocoon open to set it free, it will perish and die. There is something about working for what they want, sharing in the cost of their personal growth and development, that strengthens a young person. So parents, don’t feel guilty if you can’t give your children everything the neighbors can give their children. Do what you can, but most of all teach your children values, morals, right from wrong, discretion and fairness, truth and justice, modesty and morality. . .and teach them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind.

One of the greatest gifts each generation can pass on to the next is an attitude of gratitude. What attitudes are you teaching your children?

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” Brené Brown

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SUFFERING–PART 2

photo-1429095687696-3227bb0aa9a8This was not going to be a series. But God apparently had another plan.

As I prayed this morning, God brought Christ’s suffering to mind. I thought about how His heart might have grieved at the betrayal of His friend, one of the twelve He had walked with for three years–one to whom He had ministered–one He trusted. As I said my amen and opened my Bible, it fell open to the garden scene and the betrayal. Needless to say, I began to think God must be trying to show me something, so I began to read from John 18. As I got to verse 11, I knew this was the verse God wanted me to see. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?'”

Jesus had spent a long night alone in the garden asking His Father if there was any other way than the cross. Apparently the Father confirmed the plan that no doubt He knew of when He came as a baby in a manger. So He told the Father He would submit to His plan/His will. Scripture tells us Jesus did this for the glory that was set before Him–He could see ahead to the time when we would all be gathered around the throne in our new heavenly home, free from sin and its penalties. . .and as He counted the cost, He considered you and me worth it. We were worth the suffering, the humiliation, the pain, the death. It was God’s redemptive plan for you and me. . .and we were worth it.

As I read verse 11, I saw the heart of one who trusted His Father. If this was a cup the Father gave to His Son, how could He refuse to drink it? This is probably the greatest example of submission and love in Scripture. He knew that if HIS FATHER asked Him to drink the cup, it was the right thing to do.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when things hurt I’ve been known to question God. I back up and say, “I don’t want to drink from this cup any more. Take it away.” Jesus didn’t do that. He simply said, “My Father has given me this cup to drink, and so I will drink it.” He didn’t run and hide from the soldiers, He walked right up to them and asked whom they sought. When they said they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth, He said, “I’m the one you are seeking.”  He knew what lay ahead and He stepped up to the plate to take my sins on His shoulders. What love. What obedience. What faith in His Father.

God did not create this world with sin or suffering. Yet because of sin and Adam’s fall, we must live in a world where death reigns. Praise God He became my redeemer. Praise God He was willing to step up to drink the cup His Father was asking Him to drink. There’s so much love in that statement. . .love for and trust in His Father, love for mankind. . .LOVE was willing to suffer even though I was undeserving of such a sacrifice.

And then I understood. I would never raise my hand and say, “Here am I, let me suffer” unless I could take the place of one I lovedMy daughter recently had back surgery. As I prayed for her, I so wished it was me going under the knife and not her. Praise God He was faithful and healed her, but I knew in my heart I would not hesitate to step forward if given the chance to take her place. . .because I love her.

Only love accepts suffering for another. ONLY LOVE.

And then my thoughts turned to the heart of the Father who had to ask the Son to drink the cup. Here was love, too. As I’ve mentioned, my first child had cancer. How can I describe the suffering of a mom and dad giving a baby chemo through painful injections as they look at  you with those precious yet questioning eyes? As tears would stream down our faces and that of the doctor, as our hearts broke–we gave her “that cup to drink” that she might have life. Oh, the Father gave the Son the cup that you and I might have LIFE! The only way you could ever ask anyone to suffer is if there is LIFE at stake.

Yes, through suffering I understand, I see. . .and my heart is moved as together we fellowship in His suffering–both the suffering of the Son and of the Father.

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SUFFERING

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When we built the new sanctuary at our church in Nashville, our pastor used large wooden letters to write Philippians 3:10 across the front:  that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. . .”

As I would sit in church and read that verse, I could welcome the knowing God part, and celebrate the power of His resurrection. . .but the fellowship of His sufferings? Well I wasn’t sure I was willing to go there.  What did that mean? Why would Paul desire this part of a relationship with God? Is there such a thing as too deep a relationship? Doesn’t God want me to have an abundant life? Suffering? Really?

Sunday after Sunday, year after year, that word burned in my soul. It was if God was calling me to a deeper level of intimacy with Him and I frankly did not want to go. You see, I’d lost my firstborn child. How much more suffering would be required? Certainly that experience opened my understanding to the heart of a God who would give His Son for me in ways you can never understand unless you’ve walked this very difficult road, but that was a high price to pay for an intimate look at His heart/His suffering. But as I sat there I knew He was speaking to me with the only word that seemed to be flashing on the wall in front of me. Suffering!

As I look around, there is so much suffering. Some of it is physical–cancer, rare diseases, injuries, etc. If you are ever at the Veteran’s hospital, you’ll see the suffering of those who have given so much for our freedoms and your heart will be moved and your eyes will fill with tears as these brave ones continue their suffering. But much of the suffering of man is never seen by the naked eye. When I worked at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, parking was a rare commodity during the Faberge exhibit. A group of young people burst into my office to complain about a young female executive who parked in the handicap parking. They couldn’t see anything wrong with her and wanted me to confront her about abusing this privilege. She was a friend and I just happened to know she was born with a rare heart issue. From all appearances she was normal, but every day was a gift because her heart didn’t pump like it should.  How many times do we pass someone who is carrying a heavy burden and we are blind to their suffering? How many times do we judge people’s actions and attitudes when we have no idea what goes on behind the mask.

While I have typically defined suffering as physical, God has opened my eyes to those suffering from addiction, anxieties and depression, mental illness, etc. Many times they suffer in silence and an addiction becomes their method of coping. Homelessness and isolation. SUFFERING!  Oh, I’d heard about these things but those people were for others to deal with. Oh how He has changed my blind and judgmental heart into one that empathizes with my fellow man.

Recently I’ve been teaching my book to small groups. This has opened up a whole new chapter of ministry as many of these women begin to reach out to me, unveiling the pain and suffering in their hearts that they have been hiding–rejection, betrayal, hopelessness. It seems everywhere I turn I see SUFFERING–and those wooden letters on that wall flash in my mind.

Last summer we went home and visited our home church. The letters were gone, but the absent word still pierced my heart. I knew God had been opening my eyes over the years to those near and far who are suffering. Our suffering moves the heart of God and He wants my heart to be finely tuned to the hurting hearts of my fellow man–His children.

I don’t know where this awareness of suffering will lead. I do know I recognize His working in my heart and life and am excited to see what opportunities He may provide for me to touch those who are suffering. I’m just one person but if I can touch two and they can each touch two more. . .there is a multiplying impact on lives and eternity. Make it your goal each day to reach out and touch someone. Hug someone. Lift someone’s burden–walk beside them for awhile. It’s Paul’s admonition to us in Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burden–and so fulfill the law of Christ.” You see, Moses’ law was given that man might understand ways in which they might not defraud their fellow man. But Christ’s law–it was all about moving our hearts to the point that we lift our brothers and sisters up–we bear their burdens for them–it’s His new law. It’s what He modeled for us when He bore our sins on that old rugged cross.

I wonder how I’ll react when I come face to face with His nail pierced hands and scarred side and head–scars He bore for me. Suffering I caused. I pray God will keep me from causing pain to others and use me as an instrument to minister to those who are suffering.

SUFFERING! May God touch your heart in new ways this week because of this word. Jude 1:22 “And of some have compassion, making a difference.”

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STAY CLOSE

Headshot_Katy KauffmanToday I’m pleased to introduce you to Katy Kauffman, an author friend who has just released her second Bible study: Faith, Courage, and Victory. I know you will be blessed by her message. Her heart for God and others characterizes her entire personality. I hope you’ll sign up for her blog and LIKE her Facebook page so you can follow God’s blessings on her ministry.

STAY CLOSE

By Katy Kauffman

Some of the most beautiful words of Scripture have been motivated by love. God told His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV). Out of compassion and love for the lost, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NKJV). Tucked away in the pages of the book of Ruth, another expression of love has been preserved.

Ruth didn’t want to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi. Even after both of their husbands had died and Ruth was free to go back to her family and her gods, she chose to stay with Naomi and follow her and her God. She wanted to stay close to her because she loved her. Ruth told Naomi these beautiful words.

“Entreat me not to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you;

For wherever you go, I will go;

And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;

Your people shall be my people,

And your God, my God.

Where you die, I will die,

And there will I be buried.

The LORD do so to me, and more also,

If anything but death parts you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17 NKJV

Love motivated Ruth to stay committed. To stay close. She wanted to go where Naomi went, live where she lived, become a part of her people, serve her God, and die where she died. Ruth loved her, and committed to spend the rest of her life with her.

So they went back to Judah together, back to Naomi’s people. God steered Ruth to glean grain in just the right field, and just the right man saw her and provided for her and Naomi’s needs. This man, Boaz, fell in love with Ruth, and made her his wife. God blessed Ruth’s commitment to Naomi by giving her a new home and a new love. God blessed Naomi by giving her a grandson, who would become the grandfather of King David.

Stay close to God. The more we know who God is, the more we will be in awe of His love and power and want to cling to Him. The more we will love Him. He loves us in a way that sees us through the trials of life and makes the good times precious. He creates the best adventures and satisfies our hearts. His companionship with us never ends, and His mercies are new every morning. When we know God, we have a Best Friend for life and a Father to guide us.

Let’s stay as committed to God as Ruth was to Naomi. Let’s seek God with all of our hearts and stay close to Him, and not let anything rival our love for Him. This is what we can learn from Ruth’s example of commitment and love, and apply to our relationship with God:

In your life of faith, love God, cling to Him, and walk in His ways. (Ruth 1:16-17)

How can we cling to God if we can’t physically see Him? By spending time with Him in His Word and talking with Him. By sharing every day with Him and looking for Him at work in our lives. By sharing with others what we know about Him. By choosing to live by faith instead of fear, peace instead of anger, and love instead of selfishness. We cling to God by holding onto the truths we know about Him and the promises He has given us in His Word. We may not know how life will turn out, but He does. When we cling to Him, He will bless us with a home—Himself—and an eternal love.

© Copyright 2015 by Katy Kauffman

This post is based on a devotion in Katy’s new book, Faith, Courage, and Victory, which capsulizes the stories of 24 people of the Bible in 40 devotions. Each devotions begins with an illustration, modern story, or intriguing thought, then transitions into Scripture, provides application and discussion questions, and ends with a prayer. A leader guide is provided for using the book as a nine-week group study.

Katy Kauffman is a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. Her heart’s desire is that women know and love God, understand the richness of His Word, and fulfill His plan for their lives. Katy makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.

FCV_Katy KauffmanCheck out Katy’s book here, and connect with her online! If this link doesn’t work for you, see the link below*.

Important Links:

Website: http://lighthousebiblestudies.com/

Blog: Life With God at http://lighthousebiblestudies.com/katy-kauffman-blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatyKauffmanAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatyKauffman28

 

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*Hyperlink in case the “Check out Katy’s book here” link did not work foryou…”: http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Courage-Victory-Struggles-Characters-ebook/dp/B00WYAALMQ

 

Lord, Make Me Perfect!

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I can honestly say I’ve always tried to do my best at absolutely everything. Now I quickly want to point out that trying and succeeding are two very different words. On my wedding day, as I took those vows, I dreamed of being the perfect wife. But those dreams were soon smashed to smithereens as I discovered all the things I could not even do well, much less perfectly. Some of my most memorable failures included ruining my husband’s shirts as I ironed them and dying all of his underwear pink in the laundry. And let’s just say my nickname of “Mrs. Burns” was well earned–there were many nights we just had to scratch dinner and go out to eat. And frankly, I don’t even like to cook, iron, wash clothes and I’m not good at chasing dust bunnies either. And would you believe I squeeze the toothpaste in the middle rather than from the bottom–definitely a deal breaker in the perfection category according to my husband. But praise God, he didn’t demand perfection–He loves me just as I am. What a gift.

Then the babies arrived and I renewed my attempts at perfection. They took my breath away and I adored them with every beat of my heart. In my dreams I would be the perfect mother. I stood on my head trying to keep order and peace in the midst of chaos that only four little ones can make. I made my own baby food from scratch and read every book on parenting I could find. I rose early to make sure things went well in our household and hand made their clothes late at night after they went to bed so they’d have the best–sleep took second place to my dreams for them. I worked three jobs and came home to another demanding job as mom. . .but I truly loved it…I loved them. But if you joined my crew around the dinner table they would regale you with stories of my many failures. Some of them are just plain funny, but others still tug at my heart. Oh, God, I wanted so badly to do things right. . .I gave it my best. Why wasn’t my best good enough?

Then it dawned on me. . .my best is never going to approach perfection–it will never be enough. And so I lay my feeble attempts and broken dreams at His feet because as He said to Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4:6: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.’ If there is any good that comes from my efforts, it will only be because He takes my little and makes it much just as He multiplied the five loaves and two fishes of the small lad. So as I lay all my dreams at His feet, I ask for His grace and mercy and that He do a mighty work in His name. I’m so glad He is in the redeeming business.

I have a hard time identifying with those who look at others and find fault, judging them to be inadequate. Frankly, I’m too busy before the Lord pouring out my heart as David cried in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” I’m so thankful He is faithful and doesn’t reject ordinary people who aren’t very good at this perfection thing. And praise God He hasn’t given up on me. I praise His name for His gentle, loving Spirit who daily searches my thoughts, motives and actions, showing me His ways.

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Fear–of Death/Dying (Part 4)

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FEAR OF DEATH:

We don’t like to think about it, much less talk about it. Whether you’ve placed it on your bucket list or not, Hebrews 9 reminds us that it is appointed unto man to die once–after which comes the judgment. Because of my faith in God, I feel confident in His provision and plans for what comes after death; therefore, I have no fear of the after-life. I’m excited to see my Savior and loved ones. I want to see the place He has prepared for me. If you don’t have this assurance, the rest of Hebrews 9 explains that Christ became your sacrifice through His death so you might inherit the Kingdom and be welcomed as a son or daughter by the Great I Am. Now is a good time for you to take care of this critical decision.

Step 1. Know you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory.

Step 2. Accept God’s Plan. Romans 6:23 explains that our sin has caused death to come upon us but that God has a better plan–eternal life with Him through Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us of God’s love for us and great sacrifice to bring us to Himself.

Step 3. Repent of (turn from) your sins and accept God’s gift of salvation (explained in Romans 6:23 above).

Step 4. Ask Him to come into your heart. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if thou shalt confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It takes heart belief and a confessing mouth. There’s no time like the present to get down on your knees and admit you are a sinner and ask Him to change your heart by His saving grace. Romans 10:13 tells us that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I put my name where that ‘whosoever’ was and called upon His name and He saved me and took my fear of death away. Put your name in place of that ‘whosoever’ and receive His grace and plan for you.

Step 5. Thank Him. . .and let the praise begin. One great fear settled.

FEAR OF THE DYING PROCESS:

Even though my after-life is settled, I still found I feared the dying process. Will I spend years in a nursing home lost in my own mind because of Alzheimer’s? Will I suffer injury or experience a painful debilitating illness? Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry about what might or might not happen tomorrow but rather focus on the present. Over the years I’ve walked through death with my daughter, dad and mom. In each instance, there was peace for them. I watched God’s grace in their lives. I felt His near and dear presence in my own life as I walked beside them. Psalm 34:18 (NLV) “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” was manifested in my life. I saw Him gently take their hand and lead them home; there was joy and peace. There was sweet comfort and assurance in my heart. Oh, He was faithful to them; and I know He will be faithful to me. 

My dad had Parkinson’s disease and dementia was beginning to cloud his mind. Early one morning before anyone else had risen, he sought me out as I worked on my  PC. “Carol, I can tell my mind is going.” “Dad, does that worry you,” I asked. “Yes. that worries me. I don’t want to be a burden to you girls or mom.” “Oh, dad, you will never be a burden to us; we love you. Will you stop loving me if your mind goes dim?” “Never, sweetheart!” ‘Well, dad, I’ll always love you, too. And love covers a multitude of evil, so let’s hold onto love as we walk out these days. The rest will take care of itself if there is love.” He smiled and began to teach me about death. He said, “Don’t be afraid of death for me. It’s all part of His plan. Did you know whenever God speaks of death He used words like “shadow” (Psalm 23:4). The Bible also talks of the separation between those who are living and those who are dead as being a ‘veil.’ Carol, while a shadow or veil may conceal, they are harmless. They don’t hurt. Crossing over to the other side will be like stepping through a veil. I know God will walk through that veil with me and welcome me home.” I watched my loved ones step through that veil and there was peace. While I wish we were not separated by that great gulf (Luke 16:26), I know that as I step from this life to that great shore that the angels will carry me as they did the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:22). I know that had God removed the veil I would have seen the angels take my loved ones and heard them rejoicing at their homecoming.

Oh praise God, He has conquered death, hell and the grave and has a resurrection and transformation plan. I Corinthians 15:54-55 “Death is swallowed up in victory. O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” This passage explains death will not have the victory and it’s sting will be taken away. God’s plan is for resurrection and the transformation of our old body into a new body, free from illness, unthreatened by death. And praise God, the sting of death (sin) will no longer rule and reign in our bodies for we shall be like Him.  Yes, that will be a victorious day. Is there any wonder why my favorite hymn is Victory in Jesus?

So exchange all your fears for confidence in His victory and let your praise begin.

 

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Fear (Overcoming our Fears)–Part 3

43e39040God’s plan is that we do not live in fear but rather enjoy His peace. In fact, I’ve heard many times that there are 365 times in the Bible that we are encouraged to fear not/do not fear. This leads me to a couple of key assumptions:

1. God knows that humans are frail (after all He made us from dust) and are inclined to fear.

2. We need constant reassurance that everything is going to be ok.

3. He loves us and desires that we live in peace, free from fear.

So where does this sweet peace come from? Bottom line, God knew we would face many situations in this fallen world that would cause us to be afraid. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Our peace is going to come “in Him.” There is no other source of peace. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Well, at this point I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That sounds good in theory but when I’m in the midst of a trial, I struggle to find peace.”

Remember that peace is found only “in Him.” The source of peace is faith–in Him. Faith is like our muscles. It has to be exercised to be strong. As you meet life’s trials and watch God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of a trial, you can look back and realize He is trustworthy. He saw you through. You may not have understood why things happened the way they did, but you can see He has brought you to a good place where your feet are once again on a rock. And your faith increases. The trials of life were not created so He could rescue us and we would give Him praise. He may love our praise, but He doesn’t need my little bit of praise when He is surrounded by angels crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” His desire is for our peace. And peace is only going to come when we learn to trust Him. And learning comes from experience–our faith must be tested and tried so our confidence in Him increases. The more worthy He proves, the easier we move to trust.  Soon, we can rest in the midst of a storm because we know He is faithful and will see us through. This is why James 1 tells us to rejoice when we experience testing/a trial of our faith–it’s going to yield patience and we are going to be at peace while we wait for His deliverance.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

A friend recently told me of a book she had been reading. In summation, our mind controls our brain. If we look outside our window and the clouds are dark and the rain is coming down, our mind can tell our brain that this is going to be a gloomy day. . .and so our mind programs our brain to see gloom and doom all day. But if our mind sees nourishment for our garden and we praise God for this provision of refreshment, our brain looks for good things in the cloudy/rainy day. We drag out our rain boots and go for a walk just so we can enjoy it as we splash in the puddles. It’s about taking control of our mind. When our mind tells us to fear, our brain takes note and sends messages to all parts of our body that cause all kinds of physical and mental reactions to our mind’s decision to fear. Isaiah 26:3 sums it up for us: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Peace is a mindset. It is about knowing who is in charge of your future. It’s knowing He shelters you under His wings, hides you in the cleft of the rock, provides a strong tower for you in the midst of a battle. He rules the universe. He loves you. Rest and peace are in Him alone. Set your mind on Him.

Fear is real. I personally am afraid of heights and fast anything–the combination of the two is terrorizing. So I choose not to put myself in these situations if I can avoid them. But flying became a big part of my job. I took trips to the airport to watch them take off and land so I could visualize riding in one. I looked up aerodynamics to try to figure out how they stayed up. While everyone else is annoyed at the safety instructions, I have memorized the just in case pamphlet provided in the back of the seat in front of you. I have gripped the arms of the seats so many times I’m sure I’ve dented a few. Even the slightest ding signaling the stewardesses to serve a snack strikes fear in my heart. And let’s just say it is a miracle I’ve not died on the spot from air turbulence. But time after time as I made it through flight after flight, my confidence in that pile of tin has increased. I no longer panic just thinking I may need to fly. I’ve even been known to fall asleep during a flight. I’ve learned to have faith. . .to be at peace.

Philippians 4:6-7  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

There have been two big fears in my life that keep reoccurring:
1.  The loss of a loved one–particularly where my children are concerned. Having lost a child to cancer, watching her suffer and the emptiness experienced in that loss, I feared losing myself if I lost one of them. If it’s possible to love too much, I do. I overprotected them, worried over them. Let’s just say it wasn’t always appreciated. It was irrational, it was unwarranted and unwanted, but it was real. God has had to take me on a  journey where I have to give my children totally and completely to Him. I have to trust Him. They are His. I am His. I must rest and trust. Easy, no. Painful, yes. But I have learned sweet peace. Have I enjoyed the trial–no way. But the result has been great peace as I learn to trust Him.

2. Financial insecurity–I’m not sure why but even as a little child I feared loss of provision. Maybe it was because my dad was a minister and we literally made it day by day, week by week as God provided for us. You might think that would have taught me to trust, but as I became the mom with little ones to provide for, I became fearful when financial stresses came. I couldn’t sleep–there was no peace, only terror. I began to think I had to provide; I had to work multiple jobs. Now I’m sure there is some merit to my stepping up and taking responsibility and working hard–but I took it to an irrational level. I became a work-a-holic which took a toll on my health and my family.  All along I just needed to learn to trust Him. I found that trust in Matthew 6:32b “. . .know ye not that your Father knows that you have need of all these things?” Bottom line, my daddy knows my needs. Now I don’t know about your dad, but my dad would move heaven and earth to provide any need he ever knew I had. How much more does my heavenly Father love me and have plans to provide for me? And He not only has the power to provide my needs, but He also desires to give me good gifts.” (Matthew 7:11/Luke 11:13)

While I do not know what the future holds, I don’t have to live in fear because I know who walks beside me and leads me as He gently holds my hand. And this assurance means I can sleep peacefully, without fear, all night long. I can face stress and fearful times because He holds my hand. Oh, sweet peace–the absence of fear. So take His hand. Make sure of your salvation. Hold fast to His promises and tell fear to flee. God’s got you, has a plan for you and He says it is going to be good (Jeremiah 29:11). Trust the Almighty One–He’s your Abba Father.

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FEAR–Part 2 (3 Steps to Overcoming our Fears)

43e39040STEP 1:  Identify our Fears.

Today let’s look at ten types of fears we face. (Note these are not in any particular order because my worst fear may be #3 on your list). If we can get a handle on what we fear, then we can focus on God’s provision for each of these circumstances. And you will note that many of our fears are intertwined.

1. Death. While we all know that we will all die at some point, we fear death. It isn’t the moment of death we fear but the process by which we may die. Therefore, this is closely associated with a fear of pain/suffering/injury. While death is the final step here on this earth, the question hangs in our minds–then what. This is closely aligned with the fear of the unknown.

2. Failure. This is probably one of the most gripping fears but our reaction to it determines our destiny. For some this fear drives the to work harder. For others, it becomes a roadblock to even attempting to succeed.

3. Pain/Suffering/injury. None of us are signing up for this one. While we each have a different tolerance for physical pain, none of it is pleasant. I have personally found that emotional pain hurts worse than physical pain.

4. Inability to have/provide basic needs. This is closely linked to failure. Poverty brings misery and hopelessness. And while none of us desires to have this fear for ourselves, it is compounded when we are responsible for loved ones/children and are unable to provide their basic needs.

5. Rejection/being a disappointment in some way or feeling disappointment/rejection. Rejection by others or yourself leaves your with a feeling of inadequacy. You feel you do not measure up. You are worthless. This fear drives us to try to fit in.

6. Ridicule/bullying. We fear making mistakes that will cause others to make fun of us, to feel they have power over us–can put us down. It can keep us from sharing our ideas or dreams.

7. The unknown/The future. Risk tolerance varies for each person. When you cannot see the future, do you step forward quickly or do you wait to see if the path will become clear?

8. Loss of a key relationship. Losing a loved one to death, through misunderstanding, or even having them move away. If it is a relationship you value, its loss can be devastating. This is the reason why some begin to isolate; loving brings the risk of loss.

9. Loss of Freedom. We are blessed to be free in America but this is not the case for everyone worldwide. Their loss of freedom brings fear; and many are close to losing freedoms they’ve held dear. This fear could manifest itself as simply as a teen driving carefully and being home on time for fear of losing the keys to the car or it can be played out as a political battle; e.g., the freedom to bear arms, to speak our minds, to worship as we choose. Some remain single for fear they will lose personal freedoms in a committed relationship.

10. Loneliness/Isolation. Moves to new areas, prolonged illnesses, etc. put us in situation where we can experience loneliness–a time without the social interaction we need. We were born to need the approval/validation of others. We need moral support in good times and bad.

Can you look at this list and see that you have probably experienced all of these fears at one time or another?

 

STEP 2: Examine our Fears

In each of these cases, there are two distinct subtypes:

* Real Fears–imminent danger

* Imagined/Perceived Fear

It’s important that we identify our fears and then filter them so we know if they are real or perceived. There’s no need to let our imaginations hold a power over us that keeps us from living full, happy lives.

 

STEP 3: Overcome our Fears

God’s plan for us is peace. He has provided great resources and assurances for us in His Word. We’ll look at them closely in our next session. But for today’s homework, look deep in your heart at your personal fears and determine if they are real or perceived. Then bring your list to our next session together and let’s face fear head on.

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FEAR or FAITH–Part 1

43e39040FEAR~think of a time you were terrified.

A few memories flash into my mind–my one and only roller coaster ride, a turbulent flight, the moment before a car crashed into ours, the night my husband was out of town and I thought I heard someone in our home. . . and standing in St. Jude’s Hospital as the doctors delivered the news that my child had a terminal illness. Where did your thoughts take you?

Face it, as a people we are filled with fear of all kinds. My cousin’s daughter and her family recently went to Papua, New Guinea as missionaries. The rural tribes are welcoming these Christian missionaries because they heard their Bible/God can teach them not to fear. Imagine–this is a community that has banded together and determined to welcome a voice that would help calm their fears. What are these primitive natives afraid of? Lightning? Swelling rivers? Illnesses? Are they really any different than you and me? Do they fear they won’t have food, or resources to provide their needs and those of their families? Do they fear a downturn in the economy or the loss of employment (which might simply be a season when their crops fail)? Do they worry about retirement or old age? Are they fearful for their children’s future? Do they worry about life and death issues? In reality, aren’t all of our fears about daily survival in this life and concern for what comes after this life?

Regardless of societal structure, human beings are filled with fear. Oh, we try to tell ourselves that we have it all together in America–everything is fine; we have it all under control. But the insurance business has its basis for success in our fears–and it’s a thriving business. We don’t like to talk about our fears. We take the approach that if we don’t talk about them, we won’t have to face them. We stay busy so we fall asleep at night from exhaustion to ensure there is no time to dwell on the things that might keep us awake.

In Matthew 8, Jesus asks the disciples, gripped in the midst of a storm, “So why are you afraid?” He then answers His own question, “You have so little faith.”  Let’s spend some time together identifying our fears and finding a way to increase our faith.

Aren’t you glad our Savior came to conquer our greatest fear(s):  death, hell and the grave? Aren’t you glad He gave us His word to help us with our relationship with Him and our fellow man? Aren’t you glad God knows our tendency to fear and told us 365 times in Scripture we should “fear not” or “do not be afraid?”

For today I will give you two simple verses to make your own. Memorize them as part of your defense.

*  As a child I memorized Psalm 56:3. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

*  And Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

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