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Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

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This Saturday morning in Dallas, Texas, dawned partly cloudy. A pleasant spring day stretched before me as I bowed my head and poured out my praise for the joy-filled celebration sure to come in the morning—Easter Sunday morning!

But my thoughts braked and turned back to that Saturday morning over 2,000 years ago. Have you ever thought how the disciples must’ve waked up feeling that day? Perhaps they hadn’t slept much the previous night. Perhaps Mary didn’t sleep at all. Remembering all those years—the baby, that day coming from the temple, the wedding miracle—and the…the brutal tragedy…the pain…the loss—

Could be you’re right there with them this morning—a grief, a loss, a pain you don’t have the strength to handle.

Perhaps these men who’d been with Jesus every day for over three years, didn’t know what to do with the unspeakable emptiness, guilt, and fear this morning brought. Maybe they grabbed their nets and headed for the boats like the walking dead. Dreams crushed, hearts mangled, and the pictures of their crucified Messiah splattered across their minds’ eyes.

Nothing to live for, I’m sure the evil one whispered to each of them in his first-person-singular with a Jewish hiss. Less we rush by this twenty-four hour span of time, think about their despair, and remember they didn’t understand the rest of the story. They didn’t have a Bible to pick up and find comfort and understanding from the Words of God.

Remember the time—the day after you’ve watched a loved one laid in the grave. And consider how you felt. And you know the rest of the story. They didn’t…or their wounded minds wouldn’t allow them to connect the dots.

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I’m sure their Saturday was a blur of depression beyond our ability to conceive. So why should we ponder the disciples’ Saturday? So when our times of unbelievable tragedy and grief visit our days, and they will, we can raise our eyes and remember:

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him…For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness” (Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-32 NAS).

If only they’d understood, but they didn’t have the whole story.

We do! But I’m afraid we rush right over the times of tragedy in our lives, racing to get to the good parts. Failing to understand learning takes place during hard times, the painful moments, when our hearts are humbled. We are always in a hurry…seeking comfort rather than sitting silent and learning from the pain.

Saturday night I’m sure they all tossed and turned, probably nightmares of the crucifixion stormed their dreams.

But what a difference a day makes! As the joy of Jesus’ resurrection exploded their sorrow, they rushed to the empty tomb! Weeping! Remembering! Rejoicing!

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Would that the next time you’re consumed and overcome with grief you’d remember. Remember that one day, in a moment, in the twinkling of eye, you’ll stand face to face with King Jesus—see the love in His eyes and the splendor of His glory will explode all the sorrows you’ve ever known.

Have a blessed Easter. An Easter to remember how much God loves you—enough to die just for you!

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I buckled the seat belt and glanced around the cabin of the plane. Full flight—not an empty seat. And I shifted closer to my husband for take-off. While my son is a fighter pilot who loves his airplane and delights in zooming through the skies at mach speed, no way does that strand of flight genes flow in these veins. Now I just had endure this three plus hours to get home.

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Vacation in Seattle had been wonderful, and I kinda looked forward to the interrupted time to edit my WIP (work in progress) Twisted. Kinda.

About fifteen minutes into the flight the captain instructed the flight attendants to immediately take their seats and buckle up. The voice instructed passengers not to move about the cabin for the next little bit, and those seat-command-lights flashed on.

Dick patted my arm and smiled. Every muscle in my body tensed. I didn’t return his smile.
The bumping began—then worsened. I closed my notebook, stuffed it back inside the bag and grabbed his hand in a death-lock. We dipped and the plane jarred from side to side.
I pushed his hand away and clutched the gray, drop-down tray in front of me, and hung on. But the bumps and rolls continued. Seconds? Minutes? Hours? My hands hurt from holding that plastic so tight. And all that raced through my mind, over and over, “Lord, help us! Please help us.”
“You’re holding onto the wrong thing.” The clear, concise words, sounded in my head and heart.
“What?” I quipped.
“You are holding onto the wrong thing.” The calm voice of the Spirit of God repeated as loud and real as if He were sitting in Dick’s seat.
I stared at my fists clinging to a gray plastic and the stupid absurdity of my actions crystallized. If the plane went down so would I—clinging to that insignificant tray.
The bumping continued, but I loosened my grip and tore my hands away from that false hope of stability and confessed what God already knew. I was wrong. And anxious. And was indeed holding onto the wrong thing.

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Though the bumping didn’t stop, I felt God’s presence and peace wrap me, body, soul and spirit, in His sovereign arms—after I put away foolish substitutes and trusted Him to care for me.
During this Christmas Season, that question has played through my mind many times since that high-flite-testing.

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Amid the hustle and bustle, what insignificant, useless things are you holding onto?
Are you clenching your fists at God because He took your loved one home this year? Are you determined to keep all things as they were before their death—accusing God of taking someone you can’t live without? Are you holding onto anger, anxiousness, and agitation?
Or are you so spun up over the world events crumbling around us you can’t enter into the truth of the Christmas celebration? Are you holding onto the hope of salvation through the right candidate, right political party, or right Congress to set this nation back on it’s godly foundation?

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What shape and color plastic are you holding onto?
What deception have you allowed to creep in and cloud your ability to see the Light of Christ?
What turbulent situation is robbing you of faith, peace, and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ to give you help, hope, and healing?

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Dick leaned over and whispered, “It’ll be over soon. We’re just flying over the Cascades.”
I had no idea flying over mountains in the atmosphere of the afternoon would cause turbulence. Did you? We had flown over them in the early morning and it had been smooth. I was ignorant of the facts.
And many of us, even those who believe in Christ Jesus, and have been washed in His blood, don’t know the facts of the truth of His Word. And, like my ignorance of the cause of the bumps and rolls, they are ignorant of what God tells us about who He is, who we are in Him, and what is to come.
And how we are to behave in the process.

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But He has preserved His love letters. His instructions on how to make it through these harsh and barren times. And it’s not too late to educate yourself.
Will you search His Truth?
Will you choose to release your grip on your understanding in order to embrace the truths and peace of His Word?
Will you make a daily practice of focusing on the only One who can deliver you through the storms and tragedies of life? Jesus—born to die so you might live in the joy of His presence—right now and forever.

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“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:5-7 NAS).

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3 NAS).

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All Photographs by: Richard Farmer

“Therefore, brethren be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I turned onto a dark and dangerous road one night many years ago. Too busy having fun. Thinking of the next day’s opportunities. Not paying attention to the mechanics of reaching my destination, I turned onto Alligator Alley—a two lane toll road that runs across the Everglades in South Florida from Miami to Naples. A road that wasn’t safe in the daytime, much less at night.

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And several miles later, the car ran out of gas and we were stranded. Unable to see in the darkness, listening to the terrifying sounds of the Glades at night.
But how many times have we all done that exact thing on our journey through life? Too enthralled in the moment. Too busy with the problems at hand. Giving no thought to the road we’re traveling. Paying no attention to a change in direction. Never bothering to check our spiritual gas gage, ‘til the voices of peril and fear echo in our ears. Unable to find our way out of the gnarled mess we’ve made.

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God was gracious to answer my frantic cries that frightening night. He delivered two silly women—I’m convinced, by sending angels to our rescue. The amazing story can be found on page 34, in Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk’s book, Heavenly Company, Entertaining Angels Unaware.

I’d love to tell you those terrifying hours on Alligator Alley taught me a life lesson I’ve never repeated.
But I’d be lying.
_MG_9600_1_2What nightmarish road do you find yourself trapped on today? Stuck alongside or mired in treacherous swamps full of snakes, gators, and getchas threatening your sanity and safety. Is your mind filled with if only self rebukes? Precious one, you don’t have to remain ensnared—God is waiting for you to cry out to Him.
He is your Deliverer.
Or do you have a life-pattern of shoving the pedal-to-the-floorboard, paying no attention to or perhaps not even considering your destination? Just bent on accomplishing the task screaming do me first? And then the next one, and the next one—until you’re lost and out of gas. Entrenched in the quagmire of your own choices.

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That’s where I found myself this morning. Exhausted. Full of regret. Idling on fumes. Having run at mach speed for several weeks from morning ‘til night. Oh, I’d mumbled thank you prayers and asked for guidance at the beginning of each day, but I had failed to stop and refill my spiritual tank—until this morning. This morning when I looked back and saw the litter of missed opportunities and muddy trail of wrong choices behind me and smelled the fumes of empty.
But in my despair, God was there. He didn’t rejected me. I cried out to Him that dark night on Alligator Alley and He delivered us. And I cried out to Him this morning, when I came to my senses, and His Word was there to rebuke, refresh, and restore me.
And He promises to do the same for you. If you will trust Him. And then obey His Word.

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In the Book of 2 Peter I read those ancient words and thought about what was going on in Peter’s life as he penned them—sometime around 63 or 64 A.D. Christians were driven from their homes and slaughtered for their faith. And this was mere months or a year or two before Peter was crucified. Upside down, for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to his words and see how much he had learned since that infamous night when he also took a dark and dangerous turn down the road of destruction—the night the rooster crowed.
Perhaps, like Peter, we can learn through God’s Words to avoid those faithless detours in the swamp and those mired-in-the-muck dead-ends. Choosing instead to chart our course of travel—from faith to faith and filling to filling—rather than fooling ourselves into running toward ultimate destruction on the fumes of a know-it-all, prideful heart.

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…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11 NKJV).

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We’ve all heard this title so often the words become cliché, but please grant me the privilege of referring to that lonely road one more time.

My husband and I were scouring the countryside around Crandall, Texas, for photo ops last weekend and due to the drought, found few. We meandered up and down country lanes which had become washboards that rattled our brains, not to mention the underpinnings of my car. Dust clouded the windshield and I was ready to call “uncle” and go home.

Then I saw it—that special frame—the one shot that made the whole afternoon worthwhile. And like a lollipop to a stick, I connected to this picture, this premise, this long, lonely, path. The one God calls us aside to hear Him. You know, the road less traveled.
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A super highway snaked not a mile away and farm to market roads (that’s what we call two lane roads in Texas) not a half mile to the north. All busy taking folks from Crandall to Dallas or Terrell. But this little path rolled along the curvature of the pasture, probably carved by a single tractor. Over and over again.

The past few years of my life trailed through my mind. And I connected with the ruts and ridges worn deep in the earth by the journey each morning from home to pasture, and each evening back home again. An HD picture of my life.

Years ago I began writing, received a few rejections, and threw the manuscripts in a drawer. Every now and again I’d pull them out and do a rewrite, until five years ago. God tapped my shoulder and said “now or never.” He brushed away my frugal excuses about lack of money by the announcement of a half price writing conference ready and waiting for me to enroll. So I registered, attended, and the rest is history.

Within ten minutes of walking into that intimidating gathering, I found out numerous things I had done wrong. No wonder I’d been rejected. God connected me with a writing family and for the next five years I diligently pursued my goal of becoming a writer—until a month ago.

I was tired. Exhausted. Bone weary with words. Edit groups, rewrites, hours placating a temperamental computer, costly conferences, dollar signs plastered over each ink cartridge, more edits and editing, and time, bolts of time—all for what? What if I couldn’t even write?

Oh, I’d received a trio of awards for a few chapters. But I cried out to God that night, “God, am I truly doing what you want me to do? I know you slashed that conference fee years ago so I could afford it, but have You changed your mind? And as far as schmoozing publishers and editors at conferences—You know I can’t do it. Am I even a writer? Please show me. I want to be in the center of Your will, whatever that will is.” After another few minutes of groaning and whining to the Lord I drifted to sleep.

And Wednesday morning I didn’t wake up feeling any better.

Sunday evening a writer friend and I were emailing about her new book and she asked, “What did you ever do with that book you were working on when we attended that seminar four years ago?”

She couldn’t see me, but tears rimmed my eyes and I hung my head, ashamed, and typed, “nothing.” And hit send.

Several minutes passed and another email flashed across my screen. “Do you have back-cover copy?”

I replied, “Yes.”

“Do you mind if I send it to my editor?”

My breath caught in my throat and my world stopped. In that second I bowed my head and breathed, “Oh Lord, you did hear me. You are here and You do care.” I wept as a wave of Jesus’ compassion and grace washed over me.

I know many of you reading this blog tonight may be experiencing fierce fiery darts from the enemy of your soul—I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I don’t know which way to turn. What’s the matter with me?

Bill Gilliam says, “Satan speaks to us in first person singular with a southern accent.” And I can hear all of us agreeing “Amen.” It’s hard to maintain your footing and your focus when barrages strike home over and over again. Yet we motor along that super highway trapped in the crowd, just trying to keep up or out run them.

When God asks us to pull onto that road less traveled, pause in a shady spot, and ask, scream, or sob—“Help me, Lord. I don’t know where I am or what You want me to do. Please show me Your way.”

God knew my needs and He knows your needs. He called me to that place of quiet calm.

That Sunday evening God guided a very special young woman to come alongside to be a conduit and confirmation of His refreshing love and encouragement poured out on me. And I received hope. His hope. I was reminded of His truth, my life is in His hands.

But I wonder how many times I’ve raced down those endless farm roads of life, one thought in mind—getting to my destination. Dried out and dusty, too busy to hear the Spirit’s urging to notice and help someone else struggling in the constant chaos of the freeway and traffic jams of life. Too distracted to invite them to travel with me along the road less traveled. And too tired to care.

Where does Jesus find you today? In need of help or in need of helping? The Word tells us “We have not because we ask not.” And these words apply to whichever situation you find yourself tonight. Talk with the Father. Ask Him. He loves to hear the sound of your voice—even if you’re whining.DSCF6619 030

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB).

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Stuffed in my ears and heaped in stacks around my feet. From hands-free devices to flat screens. TVs. Phones. And books. Zillions of them. A constant barrage of words. All day, every day and into the night, words surround me.

But is anyone listening? Does anyone really hear my words?

As a parent I’ve asked the above questions concerning my children, my spouse and my friends.

So why should I even take the time and energy to speak today?

Because the Lord Jesus Christ gave me the ability to speak and the command to go and tell.

“So what am I supposed to tell them, Lord? And how am I supposed to say it?”

Jesus instructed I am  to… “Go and make disciples.”

Now preachers go to seminary to learn apologetics—how to present God’s Word to their congregations. But I’m just a normal person. I don’t have all those degrees. I don’t know what to say or how to say it.

My mind raced back to those first century Christians. How did they make disciples? They didn’t have Bibles. Yet their numbers multiplied. They just shared their experiences. The joy and peace they found in knowing Jesus after centuries of enduring a bloody altar that didn’t fix their sin or their problems. The joy of suffering persecution on account of His name. The joy of knowing and believing their life on this earth was only the beginning.

They understood with their minds and believed in their hearts that at the moment of death they would open their eyes and be in the presence of the Lord. Forever. In His everlasting kingdom that is to come. Where He will rule and reign here on earth.

The accounts of these early saints lives and deaths are an incredible role model for us today as we see persecution of believers escalating around the globe.

Perhaps that’s the problem. We lack experiences. Maybe. But I don’t think we need more experiences or how to—I think we need more want to. I wonder if pride and churchiness aren’t the issues preventing us from sharing our heart.

Fear and pride are sister-boogers-in-the-woodwork. Fear and pride of what others would think if they really knew what we had done, what had been done to us, or what we really think in those dark corridors of our minds. Fear and pride of deception, thinking we are better than we are.

So we retreat behind the walls of the church, compare ourselves to all those sinners who don’t go to church, and become clones of one another. Using fancy words. Words without power. Words that do not affect or change the life of another, much less our own life.

The cure comes when we begin to recognize the depth of our deception, dear church, acknowledge our need for repentance, and get real with others about how and why God is transforming our lives. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s not. Being transparent is painful, to us and sometimes to others.

I’m here today to use my word limit to share my troublesome boogers with you. Not with flowery words that loose us in a trail of sweet sounding emptiness. No. Just the sorrow of my heart and the immediate and responsive love of my Savior.

This past Christmas Season was the most difficult one of my life. Family issues, changing relationships, grief and coming uncertainties for America, brought the onslaught of a spiritual battle in me that loomed larger each passing day.

‘Til I admitted that terrible word—depression—and fell on my face, crying to my Lord Jesus for help. I was ashamed and confessed that I had squandered this year’s holy celebration. More concerned about me and mine rather than focusing on the miracle of His conception and pondering the purpose of His birth, death and resurrection. I had to confess I had ignored God. When I did that, I bowed to worship of The Sovereign God of all creation—Immanuel—God with us.

He didn’t stand me in the corner. He didn’t shout reprimands. He immediately answered the groaning of my heart and reminded me, I’m His child. He dried my tears and wrapped me in the warm Emergency Room blanket of His love and refocused my eyes and my heart on His mercy and everlasting love for me.         

“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:8).

The battle ceased. The fog of deception lifted. Have the problems vanished? No, but the bottomless well-spring of His joy immediately bubbled-up and filled my spirit to overflowing. When a wisp of gloom tries to creep back into my thoughts I capture that thought and give it to Jesus. The light of His love overpowers the shadow of darkness every time.

The formula is simple but sure:

My plight + my cries to Him + His love and power = His comfort, His mercy, His grace and His healing = complete forgiveness and restoration for me, now and forever.

As soon as my lids flutter open in the morning, my heart tunes to sing the anthem, “For Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, the glory and the lifter of my head.”

No sin is beyond His ability to forgive. How long has it been since you have had honest words with God? How long has it been since He rescued you? How long has it been since you’ve used words and actions to tell and show someone what God has done for you? Now is the perfect opportunity. I invite you to share with the readers of this blog what God has done and is doing in your life today.

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