Cleaning House

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17, NAS)

Jesus was at home in the temple, teaching, healing, worshiping. A Son, in His Father’s house, going about His Father’s business.

But on this day? It was time for a little housecleaning.

The outer court of the temple was more like a bustling marketplace than a peaceful sanctuary. Tables had been set up for the convenience of visitors who needed to exchange money or purchase a sacrificial animal before proceeding to the inner courts of the temple. Upon entering the courtyard, one’s senses would have been assaulted with the sights, sounds, and smells of this carnival-like atmosphere. Regular temple worshipers had probably become somewhat desensitized, accepting the scene as normal.

Not Jesus. He had had enough of this bizarre bazaar. Fashioning a whip, he drove the sellers and money changers out in a rare display of angry passion.

Zeal for His Father’s house, we’re later told by His disciples, had simply overcome Him.

That temple is long gone, reduced to Roman rubble in 70 A.D. But now there is a new temple. One erected in every heart where Jesus dwells.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, NAS)

And just like the days of old, “money changers” come and set up their tables in the temple courtyards of our hearts. Some have occupied space there for years. The Bible calls them “strongholds.”

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV) 

A stronghold can take many forms. It could be a persistent sin, struggle, or addiction. It’s something that “sets itself up” in our lives to keep us from intimacy with God. It is anything that consistently robs us of what is rightfully ours.

Strongholds were never meant to be tolerated. Yet we grow accustomed to their presence and accepting of their chaos. We even start to “own” them, personalizing them…my anxiety, my insecurity, my anger. Strongholds are thieves masquerading as friends.

I allowed a long-standing stronghold of Fear to set up camp in my heart. It was a familiar presence, one I had learned to put up with and had begun to call my own. But according to 2 Corinthians 10:4, strongholds are meant to be demolished. Destroyed.

Thankfully, Jesus is on the scene. And He is still passionate about His Father’s house. He possesses the power to clear the temple courts with a whip and a word.

That word is our weapon.

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV)

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword… (Hebrews 4:12a, NLT)

His word is the gleaming sword that pierces, the swinging hammer that crushes, and the raging fire that can consume all of our strongholds.

Regarding “my” stronghold of fear, He placed this particular weapon from His word in my trembling hand:

Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18, NIV)

His word IS alive. And amazing. I doubt it’s coincidence that the Greek word for “drives out” in 1 John 4:18 is the same root used in John 2:15, when Jesus “drove out” the money changers.

I decided that Fear had littered my temple ground long enough. Perfect Love swept in and swept it away.

Does this mean I’ll never battle with fears again? No. But when I do, I’ll take them captive, rather than the other way around. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.)

What strongholds have staked a claim in your life? Are you tired of paying their exorbitant fees? Do you long for peace in the sacred spaces of your heart?

Jesus is here. He is ready to clean house, overturn some tables, and drive the money changers out.

Just say the word. Then take Him at His word.

He is zealous for you, lovely temple of His Holy Spirit.

“My house shall be called a house of prayer…” Jesus (From Matthew 21:13) 

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Spirit Boost

There are soccer moms. And hockey dads. And then there are the “Spirit Boosters.”

That’s right.

It’s what you become when you have three daughters who prefer pom poms to push-ups.

Chris once had a red nylon polo shirt with that very title embroidered in black. Because real men can handle wearing that kind of shirt. (He wore it once.)

This past week we both took the day off to go “boost some spirit” at the WY State Spirit Competition in Casper. Rachel and her boyfriend Alex also joined us as we cheered for the cheerleaders.

This was Alex’s first “spirit” rodeo, so Rachel explained the terminology–things like “basket tosses,” “libs,” and “full outs.” We yelled for our favorite little cheerleader and Rachel’s former team as they competed in three events:  Non-Stunt, All-Girl Stunt, and Coed Stunt. Alex was a good sport, and seemed genuinely interested in the performances. (Score a parent point for him!)

After the competition, we all commented on the athleticism of a couple of the other teams’ male cheerleaders. They each held a petite female cheerleader high above their heads–with one hand.

It was sheer strength. Combined with total trust.

Cheer Base

I saw this quote on a cheer t-shirt a few years ago:

Any man can hold her hand. But it takes an elite to hold her feet.”

Indeed.

I can still picture those burly boys at the state competition, gripping two small feet with one large hand, while the cheerleader above them just smiled and waved at the crowd. They made it look so easy.

And what about the “flyer,” as the girl in the air is called? How long did it take her to develop that kind of confidence in her “base?” How many times did they practice that lift before she could set aside her fear? And do it with a smile on her face?

All of this reminded me of the verse our Bible study group focused on a few weeks ago, where the Lord says:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

As we studied this verse I was struck by the fact that it begins with two commands, each followed by two promises:

Don’t be afraid…for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged (or “anxiously look about you,” NAS)…for I am your God.

The promises support the commands. Instead of being anxious and afraid, the Lord wants us to remember that He is Godour God…our God-with-us.

And as if that were not enough assurance, He goes on to make three more empowering promises:

I will strengthen you.

I will help you.

I will hold you up.

I love the way Pastor John Piper explains it:

…when God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), he does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.”

His promises are the basis for our confidence. They teach us to trust Him. Our fears begin to settle down. We learn to relax in His strong grip.

He’s got us.

We can have faith to fly, because the Almighty God is underneath us. He lifts us up with His victorious right hand. He could do it with the little pinkie on His right hand if He wanted to.

We will not fall.

Listen to what the Lord says to you through “The Message” translation of this verse:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you. Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

So, chin up. He won’t let you down.

Hold your head high. He’s holding onto you.

Put your total trust in His sheer strength! He will carry you through!

Let His promises cheer your heart and lift your spirits today!

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Into the Storm

Gray clouds

There’s a new tornado disaster movie in theaters called “Into the Storm.”  I’m not sure I want to go see it.  I’m still recovering from my own brief, but traumatizing tornado “encounter.”  No pun intended, but here’s how it went down…

I was out shopping on a Sunday afternoon last month when, for the second time this summer, my cell phone vibrated with this ominous message:

“Emergency Alert. Tornado Warning in this area til 2:00 PM MDT. Take shelter now.”

Yikes.

I hastily abandoned my cart with its contents and hurried to a neighboring store to collect Laurel and her two friends.  Outside in the parking lot, we scanned the horizon in search of a funnel cloud.  Seeing nothing but dark clouds and gray skies, I decided to make a run for home, reasoning that our full basement was a safer location than a one-story strip mall.

I was fairly confident I could make it there in time.

Within moments I was fairly confident I was wrong.

Warning sirens began blaring as our van rounded the back of the building.  The girls continued to monitor the clouds through the back seat windows.  The wind picked up.  Rain, mixed with hail, started to pelt.  My pounding heart echoed the staccato sound.

Soon we were engulfed in Gray.  For all I knew we were driving straight into the tornado.  And believe me when I say I’m no storm chaser.

At this point I instructed Laurel to call home to see if we could get some idea of where the funnel cloud had been spotted and which direction it was moving.  Emily answered and informed us that “it” was “by the church.”  “We” were several blocks directly east of the church.

Gulp.

This was beginning to get real.

My heart now kept time with the windshield wipers set to their highest speed.  I pressed harder on the accelerator, my leg trembling involuntarily as we sped north towards the house.  At times visibility became so poor I feared I would drive right off the road.  Seeing no other cars around, it seemed that everyone had gotten the memo about the tornado’s location but me.

I began to pray.  Nonstop.  Out loud.  I’m not sure if my prayers were a welcome comfort to my three wide-eyed passengers, or an unsettling sign that a meeting with our Maker was imminent.  (I’m guessing the latter.)

Seconds felt like minutes felt like hours.  I just kept driving (read: speeding).  And praying (read: crying out to my Maker).

We finally skidded around the corner onto the dirt road that leads up the steep hill to our home.  I scaled that hill in record time, fishtailing as I floored it down (read: up) the homestretch.  We lurched to a stop in our driveway, flung open the car doors and bolted through the heavy rain into the house.  We were breathless and drenched.

But we were safe.

We later learned that a tornado did touch down east of town not long after our crazy storm chase.  Emily had witnessed some scary looking cloud rotation in the church parking lot.  It was all part of the same strong storm system that cut diagonally across the city that afternoon.  But as far as we know there never was an actual funnel cloud bearing down on us, despite how frighteningly real it felt at the time.

After the fact, a friend jokingly remarked that those moments of sheer terror were a great time to make sure one was “good with God.”

“Oh, I’m good,” I replied without hesitation.

You see, that’s the thing.  A tornado could have swept us up and into eternity that afternoon.  All of our days are numbered.  As Christian author and teacher Beth Moore once said:

“You gotta get home somehow.” *

Be it via tornado or illness or accident.  One day we will depart from this place we now call home.

It is vital to know that we are “good with God.”

I am.  I don’t base my confidence upon my own performance, but upon the perfection of the One I call Savior.  I love how Tullian Tchividjian put this in his excellent book One Way Love:

In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution.  Jesus is infallibly devoted to us in spite of our inconsistent devotion to him.  The Gospel is not a command to hang on to Jesus.  It’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith and how unsuccessful your efforts may be, God is always holding on to you.”

Amen.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus, then as far as He’s concerned, you’re good with Him.  Not because you are good or even just good enough.  But because HE was!

Storms will come.  They are unpredictable, unavoidable, and inevitable.

In those moments of fear and uncertainty, you can be completely sure of this:

He is with you.

He will hold on to you.

He will deliver you safely Home.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” –Jesus (John 6:39-40, NIV)

*From her teaching on Daniel 3.

 

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He Knows

“I hate this place,” I couldn’t help but blurt out to Laurel.

We had just checked in for her ultrasound appointment last week, and had seated ourselves in the comfortable brown leather chairs that dot the large, modern lobby of the radiologists’ office.  It was tastefully decorated in neutral tones.  A towering stone fireplace stretched from floor to ceiling, the dramatic focal point of the room.

“Why do you hate it?  I think it’s nice,” she responded, a bit surprised by the intensity of my reaction.

If you’re a woman over 40, you’ll know instantly why I dislike this place.  This is where I go for my annual mammograms.  And I had just scheduled one for the following Monday.

Later that evening at my Thursday night Bible study, teacher Beth Moore transitioned into the closing of our DVD session with these words:

There’s no such thing as a ‘routine’ mammogram.”

I scribbled this on the bottom of my notes with a silent “Amen.”

She knows.

Beth went on to describe her visit to a similar radiologist’s office in Houston for some follow-up tests from her own recent mammogram.  Her daughter Melissa had accompanied her for moral support.  As they waited, Melissa scanned the ominous titles of the cancer brochures on the nearby rack and couldn’t help but exclaim, “This is brutal!”

Then she turned to her mom and said something profound:

Jesus knows it’s scary to be us.”

I jotted this down in my notes as well.

Because, yes.  It is.

The news this week brought fresh reminders of just how scary.  In case you missed it, tornadoes, floods and sinkholes wreaked havoc from Arkansas to Florida.  CNN reported that since Sunday 38 lives had been claimed by these deadly weather-related events.  I’ve mourned as I’ve read some of the stories of heroism…and loss.

It’s scary to be us.

Jesus knows.

I love the way The Message puts Hebrews 4:15:

We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. (Hebrews 4:15, The Message)

He knows what we’re going through.  He is with us.  He will help us.

I liked the King James rendering of this verse as well:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities… (Hebrews 4:15a, KJV)

He feels our pain.  He knows our frailty.  He understands our fears.

A God who can be touched is a God who can be trusted.”

(That last quote was mine.  Feel free to copy it in your notes if you like.)

It was scary to answer the call from the radiologist’s office yesterday.  They want me to come back in this afternoon for additional images.  So, for the third time in eight days, I will walk through those foreboding automatic doors and taste that familiar fear as it rises and fills the cavernous waiting room.

Jesus knows it’s scary to be me today.

But with Him by my side I can face all my fears.

Jesus hands

*Update:  I’m grateful to report that all is well!  The technician showed me the spot they were concerned about and took two additional images of the area.  She left the room to go talk with the radiologist to see if he wanted an ultrasound.  It felt like she was gone a long time, maybe 15 minutes.  I just kept praying, and prayed specifically that God’s presence would fill this place and replace the fear with His peace.  Not just for me, but for the many other women who would sit in that room waiting and wondering.  When she finally returned she said the spot had “disappeared” and that even the radiologist hadn’t expected that outcome!  I don’t know what happened, but I’ll take it!  Thank You, Jesus!

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Prone to Panic

“A southeastern Idaho ranch lost 176 sheep as the animals ran in fear from two wolves…”

This story on my Facebook newsfeed the other day caught my attention.  Curious, I clicked on the link to read more.

According to the owner of the sheep ranch, 119 lambs and 57 ewes were lost in the early morning ambush.  But less than a dozen sheep actually perished from injuries inflicted by the wolves.   The vast majority died from…asphyxiation.  What?  Reporter Mike Koshmrl of the Jackson Hole Daily explains:  “Running downhill in a panic, about 165 sheep from the (herd) were killed, trampled and smothered in their terror.”

The panic attack was more deadly than the wolf attack.

I did some research.  Apparently for skittish sheep, this is not that unusual.  “Even if sheep are not directly bitten or survive an attack, they may die from panic…” (Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep)  How needless.  How sad.

I’m reminded that I too am a sheep prone to panic.

This is especially true for me in the wee hours of the morning, when a bad dream or a full bladder disrupt peaceful slumber.  In the dark, semi-conscious, I’m more vulnerable to cries of wolf.  Within minutes, “…my anxious thoughts multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19a, NAS).  And once spooked, fears, doubts and insecurities can stampede into a suffocating pileup at the base of a hill called Reason.

Carrying me right along with them.

What’s a sheep to do?

I have learned over the years to try not to put too much stock into thoughts that intrude in the middle of the night.  Darkness has a way of distorting reality and magnifying problems.  The light of day mercifully illumines Truth.

A definition of faith that I’ve always liked and remembered is this:

“Faith is a refusal to panic.” (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Now if I could just remember to apply it!  For once runaway fears take off, they can be next to impossible to corral.  That’s when I bleat out a plaintive cry for help…

Shepherds and ranchers will go to great lengths to protect their flock from wolves and other predators.  Realistically, they can’t be out in the fields with their animals 24/7.  I was intrigued to learn that some ranch owners have implemented a creative solution known as “livestock guardians.”   Sheep specialist Susan Schoenian describes their function:  “A livestock guardian generally stays with the sheep without harming them and aggressively repels predators.”  Certain breeds of dogs, llamas, and donkeys have proven to be very effective in this role.

I love the beauty and serenity in this picture of a faithful livestock guardian on the job:

Livestock guardian dog

And I realize…God is not only our Shepherd.  He is also our Guardian.

“Once you were like sheep who wandered away.  But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.”  (1 Peter 2:25, NLT)

This Shepherd is not distant or detached.  He is an ever-present Guardian, right smack dab in the middle of the flock.  He is alert and attentive to His timid sheep’s cries for help.  He instantly knows when they’re under attack from doubts within or threats without, whether real or imagined.  There’s no need to push the panic button with Him on the scene.  Sheep in His care can rest, secure in His love, safe in His protection.

I’m His sheep.  He is with me.

As a result I can confidently declare:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shalt not…panic!”

Let’s Keep Calm and Trust On!

(Note:  “Guardian” is another great song we sing in church!  You can listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiRH8Hc8VQI )

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A Walk on the Water

Although the wind is still whipping and whirling unrestrained around him, a strange stillness has suddenly settled within.  For there, on the water, he sees the One whom his soul loves.

It is the Lord.  Their eyes meet.

His heart leaps at the thought of being near this One whose very presence presses peace into all that surrounds Him.  And there is that familiar twinkle in the Master’s eyes as His hand beckons him to join Him.

Warmth floods his body as he responds, compelled, drawn, unaware of the murmurings of his companions in the boat behind.

Their gaze is unbroken and the moment seems timeless as he approaches…

Until, for an unexplained instant, he looks away.

A wave of fear engulfs him and he is now painfully aware of his vulnerability and the absolute absurdity of his position.  The water begins to close in around him.  As he’s going under he manages a muffled cry to the One who had so captivated his attention just moments ago.

He is there.  His strong arm reaches down and pulls the dripping, shivering figure close.

“Oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

It might have been a stinging rebuke had not that twinkle still been shining in those loving eyes.

And together they return to the boat.

(Note:  I wrote this way back in 1989(!), and thought I would share since my post yesterday reminded me of it.  It was one of those special times when I felt the Lord allowed me a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Scripture.)

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What Do You Want?

If God offered to grant you ONE request, what would yours be?

This was the question I was considering Sunday morning as our pastor challenged us to pray a bold prayer and ask for a BIG thing from God.

This was also the question posed to King Solomon one night in a dream.

“God said, ‘What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’ ” (1 Kings 3:5)

“What do you want?”

Well, I could think of a lot of things!  A lifetime supply of Ghirardelli chocolate would be a big thing.  (But then I would become a BIG THING.)  My children to walk with God their whole lives would be a bigger thing.  A good result from a recent biopsy, however, was the biggest thing on my mind that Sunday morning.

Solomon apparently had a few hefty items at the top of his prayer list:  Wealth.  Long life.  Victory over his enemies.  Yet, as a new king, he knew enough to know he had a greater need:  Wisdom.

I knew I also had a greater need.  A benign report would sure be welcome news.  That’s what I most wanted to pray for that morning.  But I knew that relief would only be temporary, until the next health scare or crisis appeared.  I needed something more lasting, something that would continue to serve me well, whatever life’s path might bring.

I was even afraid to pray it.  But I swallowed my fear and did it anyway.

Lord, make me…fearless.

Solomon’s request pleased the Lord so much that He granted him an abundance of wisdom.  “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!”  (1 Kings 3:12)  The Hebrew word for “understanding” literally means to hear.  The Message translates it as “a God-listening heart.”  Now wouldn’t that be an awesome thing to have!

But that wasn’t all.  “And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame!  No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!  And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”  (1 Kings 3:13-14)  He had asked for his greater need.  And he received along with it every lesser thing.

I believe God is in the process of granting my request too.  I do long to be transformed into a bold person, one who can “laugh without fear of the future” like the woman in Proverbs 31.  This really is my greater need.

But the Lord is so gracious.  After a long week of waiting, I finally received my test results, and they were negative.  Thank You Lord, for also granting this “lesser” desire of my heart.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  I think this principle has been brought home to me in a deeper way this week. 

Pursue the greater.  Let God provide the lesser. 

So, I’ll ask the same question of you.  Think big.  Choose wisely. 

What do YOU want?

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A Conversation with God

I had a “Job” moment last night.  You know, one of those “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” kind of moments.  The kind where we question God.  And God silences us.

I had come across this very thought provoking quote by Beth Moore: 

“Fear is an emotional outburst of unbelief.”

Go ahead and read that again.  I know I had to.  I wondered.  If fear has its roots in unbelief, then what about God am I not believing?  What am I doubting about Him, His character, His activity in the world and in my life?

I decided to be honest about the things I sometimes think about God, but don’t often voice because they look so ugly out in the open.  I timidly peeled back the layers of spiritual correctness I hid them behind.

The “conversation” that followed went something like this.  (My words are in italics.  God’s words are in bold.  Words in quotes are Scripture.)

I don’t believe You are still in control of this fallen world.  It looks to me like sin messed things up too badly.

I don’t believe You can be trusted when You say You will protect us and that no harm will come to us.  Because harm DOES come.  People get sick and die.  Soldiers don’t come home alive.

I don’t believe that Your good and perfect plan should involve pain and suffering.

Neither did Peter and the disciples.  Boy, were they surprised…

Peter:  “This shall never happen to You, Lord!”

Jesus:  “Get behind me, Satan.” (Matthew 16:22)

The belief that bad things should never happen to good people is a lie from Satan. 

And I have believed it.

“You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23)

It’s true.  I am so focused on the here and now.  You see the Big Picture.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet.

“If You are really God, then why don’t You prove it by…?” 

This was the essence of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and what I realized was at the heart of my doubt. 

Oh, I could.  But even if I don’t, I am still God.

Then He repeated what He said when Peter was trying to intervene (again) on the night of His arrest:

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Oh, I can alright.

“But if I did, how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (v. 54)

I took one more swing.

But God, YOU wrote the Scriptures!  You wrote the script!  You could have written it any way You wanted!

WAS there any other way?

I thought for a moment before raising the white flag.

No.  There was no other way.  Your ways are not my ways.

“No one (took my life) from Me but I (laid) it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.”  (John 10:18)

I was the One in control, even when it appeared things were out of control.  I am still the One in control.  Just because I don’t act in the way you think I should doesn’t mean I am not.

 

I AM GOD.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I KNOW WHAT I AM DOING.

 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

 

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Perfect Love

I’m a Bible nerd.  I mean, who spends their two free hours while their daughter is at a birthday party looking up the meanings of words from a Bible passage in the original Greek?  Who reads and compares said Bible passage in a dozen different versions, when they could be out shopping, or better yet, napping?  Who blogs while the Super Bowl is on in the other room?

This girl.

The Word of God has always fascinated me.  Studying it feels like panning for gold.  Only it’s ALL gold.  It’s just a question of how large the nuggets will be today.

I was mining the depths of 1 John 4:17-18 yesterday and thought I’d share a few of my finds.  The New American Standard Version reads like this:

“By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment…  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

I’ve been battling fear on a number of different fronts lately.  One of the fears I’ve had to face involves needles.  I get all clammy just typing the word.  To say I’m “needle-phobic” would be an understatement.  So when I look up the word “fear” and see the Greek word phobos, I am reassured that God is not at all surprised by my fears and phobias.

His desire, though, is to “cast out” these fears.  To cast means “to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls.”  Vincent’s Word Studies describes it as “turn(ing) out of doors.”  This reminded me of recent nights when worry would gain entrance to my mind and needed a firm escort to the door.

There is also an element of “judgment” in our fears.  Because I am in Christ, I do have confidence in my standing before a Holy God and no longer fear His judgment.  The kind of judgment I still battle, however, is my self-condemnation and blame when I come face to face with my own imperfections and failures.  The kind of confidence I lack is in dealing with the trials and struggles of the here-and-now.

So again, there is much relief when I notice that the Greek word for “judgment” is krisis, from which our very own word “crisis” is derived.  The confidence God gives is big enough to cover not just the life to come, but the day-to-day challenges of this life as well.  We can have a holy boldness when we encounter the inevitable crises on this side of heaven.  “He whose sins are pardoned, and whose heart is filled with the love of God, has nothing to dread in this world or the world to come.”  (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, italics mine)

The hinge that our confidence and courage turn upon is this thing called “perfect love.”  The Greek word used here for “love” is agape, which refers to God’s unconditional, supernatural love, as opposed to the conditional, more fickle human variety.  It’s His love that shows our fears the door.  “This is love:  not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

We know God is perfect and therefore it follows that His love would be perfect.  The Greek word for “perfect” is teleioo, which means “accomplished, finished, fulfilled.”  This made me think of Jesus’ final words as He hung on the cross:  “It is finished!” (John 19:30)  And this is where it gets good.  I checked, and sure enough, the Greek word for “finished” in John 19:30 is teleo!  Eureka!

“Finished” can also be translated “paid.”  When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He was essentially saying, “It is paid in full!”  The work was done.  The debt was paid.  He had led a perfect life, which qualified Him to offer Himself and take the punishment we deserved, in one perfect act of love.

This then is the “perfect love” that casts out our fears, that gives us confidence both in this life and the next.  Jesus died to purchase our freedom.  He rose to conquer our fears.  He lives to give us courage to face any crisis.  We can rest in His finished work, secure in His proven love.

And that knowledge is worth its weight in gold.

 

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(Not So) Silent Night

With the smoke detector situation completely under control and my cell phone fully charged, I declared our bedroom a “Beep Free Zone.”  My hopes were high for a peaceful and silent night.

Somewhere between 4 and 5 am, however, I was once again awakened by a familiar sound.  This time it wasn’t a “beep.”  It was Chris’ snoring.

I gave him a little love kick, which I have found over the years to be most effective in startling him just enough to interrupt the snoring but not enough to actually wake him up.  My technique once again proved successful.  I had just rolled over to resume sleeping, when the first fear presented itself.

Don’t you want to worry about ———? it greeted me.  I was reaching for the doorknob to let it in, when I remembered what I had learned yesterday.  I had a choice.

No, actually, I don’t,  I responded.  Silence.

Then.  But what if ———? it countered.

I’m not going to entertain that thought, was my reply.  More silence.

One more attempt.  But what about ———?

God is in control, I addressed the fear firmly.  Complete silence.

This surprising silence was such a total turn-around from the previous few nights, when my fears had thrown a boisterous slumber party in my bedroom.  Yes, I was the one who had invited them in.  But they had taken advantage of my hospitality and overstayed their welcome.  The party was over.  It was time for them to go.

Confronting them and refusing to give them free rein actually worked!  I was amazed at how much quieter it was and how much easier it was to sleep when my worries weren’t jumping on the bed like little monkeys.  I had won this pillow fight.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Victory over fear IS possible!

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