Day 9: Facing Fear

copy-of-copy-of-salvation

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 23:18

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Psalm 119:116

“Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”


The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words from his first inaugural address still profoundly convey a truth that exposes fear’s impact.

Fear has been a foe of mine for some time. Over and over again it would rise up, taunting me with its threats. It promised destruction and failure. It spoke of an end to hope and propagated a message of being forgotten or forsaken. It left a lingering feeling of uncertainty and insecurity.

Fear grips our hearts and minds and threatens to paralyze us from moving forward in life. When we give in to fear, we let it rule us and limit the life God has for us.

Fear is formed in the midst of a disruption of our hope for our life. Struggling to put together the pieces of our broken dreams, we grasp onto a counterfeit hope and try to build again. We fake a smile or try to pretend the fear building inside of us does not exist. We try to placate the fear with a substitute hope, but it just does not work.

God has something better to help us overcome fear and restore a new hope.

Instead of trying to escape fear, we can look at it square in the eyes and speak to it in light of what God says about our hope and future. Fear is intimidating, but in the face of perfect love, it is cast out. 

When fear attempts to consume us, God’s word speaks a living promise.

Isaiah 34:4

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come, he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution he will come to save you.’”

The gavel pounded and my heart pounded within me. My children would have to testify in court. The asthma which was formerly in remission tightened its noose around me and I struggled to breathe. Looking around the room, I felt the piercing stare of hatred from those who pursued me relentlessly.

Trying to maintain control over my emotions, I silently prayed for God to give me strength to not give in to fear. He overwhelmed me with His grace and strength. I did not want to endure the suffering I had feared, but I learned to trust Him when the path hurts that He has me on and to approach fear with God’s grace instead of my own strength.

My heart hurt so desperately for my children and I wanted to spare them, but in that moment the LORD told me that they were His and He would enable them. Sometimes we don’t want to have to walk through the door of fear, but until we walk through it we cannot see the victory and hope that God has for us on the other side.

Ultimately, God granted victory, but more important than the victory in court was the victory over broken hope and the creation of a firm hope in Him.

Fear can take on a life of its own. Fear feels so very real and sometimes it is not based on reality at all. Either way, there is a way out and it is not through our own manufactured hope. We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Rather than fearing losing what we planned or hoped for, we have an alternative that never fails. If we give our hopes and fears to God, He can show us another kind of hope that is based on His goodness and mercy, rather than our gain.

Lord, thank You for revealing Your goodness and hope to us. Help us to trust you when we are filled with fear and fill us with Your hope and joy instead.

 

 

Mundane Monday: Friend in High Places

In High Places

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Walking with God does not mean we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 20:10-12

10 “I hear many whispering words of intrigue against me. Those who would cause me terror are everywhere! They are saying, “Come on, let’s publicly denounce him!” All my so-called friends are just watching for something that would lead to my downfall. They say, “Perhaps he can be enticed into slipping up, so we can prevail over him and get our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD is with me to help me like an awe-inspiring warrior. Therefore those who persecute me will fail and will not prevail over me. They will be thoroughly disgraced because they did not succeed. Their disgrace will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD who rules over all, you test and prove the righteous. You see into people’s hearts and minds. Pay them back for what they have done because I trust you to vindicate my cause.” 

Jeremiah is such an encouragement to me. That might seem like an ironic statement. When someone was known as a “weeping prophet” and no one listened to His prophesies, it would seem his life was a failure. But God.

Jeremiah was faithful to what God called him to, relentless in adhering to the calling of God on his life, and pressed in when affliction besieged him. Jeremiah loved the people so much that he initially stayed behind in Judah instead of going into Exile where God promised blessing. Even though it meant he would suffer with them, Jeremiah had to be with His people. His reward? Persecution.

When He obeyed God and said a tough word, he was thrust in a cistern of mud to die. But God. When he was thrust in a dungeon, God saw. And when he was scourged because he spoke the truth, God had not forgotten him. Time and time again he was persecuted, but God. 

Form the life of Jeremiah we see that walking with God does not mean that we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Man thinks he has power. He thinks he can control people and positions, but ultimately God is the only One in full control. It might look like we are forgotten or like being righteous or following God leads us to suffering. But when the chips are down and it appears that defeat is looming over our lives, we can be like Jeremiah and look to God as our hero. Remembering God’s promises means we might lose some battles, but we will have the ultimate victory.

Lord, thank You that we can count on You at all times. Help us to trust in You and to be faithful even when our ministry of the Gospel is not well received.

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Striving No More

It is Finished

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Be still and know that God is fighting for us.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 46:10-11

“He says, ‘Stop your striving and recognize that I am God! I will be exalted over the nations! I will be exalted over the earth!'”  11 “The LORD who commands armies is on our side! The God of Jacob is our protector!” (Selah)

“It is finished”, Christ proclaimed as He breathed His last on the cross.  No more work needed to be done to complete the perfect sacrifice.  Such a stark contrast with the other religions of this world which state that we will never do enough to earn our salvation.

In Christ, we recognize that our good works are like filthy rags, but we also see our need to serve God with all of our lives.

The motivation is different, though.  We do not serve out of guilt or obligation, but out of incredulous gratitude and a heart of obedience.

Formerly enemies, we, who are in Jesus Christ, are now called His sons and daughters.  And He says to be still – to cease striving, worrying, trying to defeat the enemies we encounter while temporarily on this earth.  He, our All-Powerful God, already won the war and we are positionally already with Him in the heavens.

When faced with life’s realities, though, it can be difficult to rest in God’s victory, because our eyes, hearts and minds scream out the opposite.

What does this rest look like?  Not lying down on a couch eating potato chips and playing video games – no, this rest is on our knees crying out to our God to fight on our behalf. Once again, the motivation is changed.  It is not for us, but for His glory.  We do not just want Him to fight for us, but for His Name’s sake – that others who look at our lives will see that we serve the living God.

Lord, thank You for accomplishing our salvation and victory and for living in us.  Help us to not look at the waves of this live, but to rest and to look to You, our Almighty God Who loves us.

Mundane Monday: Folly’s Wisdom

Foolishness of the cross

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The world might think we are foolish when we go against our flesh and worldly wisdom, but that death produces real life and wisdom in Christ.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent. 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching.  22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8

“Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

In a moment what seemed to be foolishness, what appeared to be a colossal defeat – the greatest victory was won.  The wisest, most astonishing act of sacrifice was presented on the world stage and it did not make sense.

Being murdered, spat upon, falsely accused and dying in front of everyone the most grueling painful death can hardly be described as a coveted position, yet the King of all chose this suffering which appeared to be a meaningless tragedy at the time.

How could a cross spell victory, when it’s sole purpose is to condemn and defeat?

The victory won that day was over the wisdom of this world that trusts in itself and does not know God.  In all its wisdom the world cannot know God – unless.  Unless God would come down and do a seemingly foolish, risky thing like die for His own people that He made.

His precious life laid down accomplished the forgiveness for every sin for all time.  One act resulting in complete forgiveness and restoration conquered every heart.

If His death were the end of the story, we would indeed be fools, but Christ has risen and will come again – and next time He will come to take His bride.

Lord, thank You for the victory you accomplished by dying for all mankind.  Help us to walk in Your wisdom and never forget Your sacrifice so we walk faithfully before You.

Thoughtful Thursday: Illusive Discipline

Photo Credits: quotivee.com

Photo Credits:
quotivee.com

Proverbs 5:11-12, 23

11 “And at the end of your life you will groan when your flesh and your body are wasted away.  12 And you will say, “How I hated discipline! My heart spurned reproof!” 23 He will die because there was no discipline; because of the greatness of his folly he will reel.”

1 Timothy 4:7

“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

1 Corinthians 9:27

“But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Our flesh despises discipline.  Routine is agony and seemingly inhibits freedom.  I have struggled for most of my adult life to be consistent in exercise, healthy eating and devotions.  Just when I thought I mastered one of these areas, I saw how woefully wrong I was.

We never arrive.  So what is the point of still trying?  It is in the trying, the persisting, the pressing on that character is formed, often unknowingly to the soul that seeks to follow God closely.

Discipline gets bad publicity.  It is seen as wrong in today’s society when applied to the parent/child relationship.  It might even be viewed as abusive to apply punishment for a wrong done.  Denying self seems brutal to many, too, because flesh is the god this world bows to.

Christ knew we would struggle to be disciplined, but He did not lower the bar.  He raised the bar and demonstrated a disciplined life, yielded to God.  We all prefer lavish grace – we are only human, after all.  But God expects more and so should we.  Lowering the bar because we are imperfect is not grace – it is laziness.

We would never accept a lackluster job performance for something we paid for, yet we expect forgiveness, mercy and understanding when we live our lives -which were bought at a high price – for self.  The dichotomy of our expectations and contributions brings us to a crisis.  A crisis of seeing God’s requirement and our inability to carry it out.  In that moment of realization, though, we see our need of Him to help us exercise our will toward righteousness and kingdom purposes.

Being disciplined is so very hard.  The flesh wars against our soul and is a pushy personality.  It wants what it wants – when it wants it. Paul understood this and battled against his flesh, too.  This is where victory lies – staying in the battle. When failure after failure pile up as witnesses against us, we rise again to battle, because the war is already won.  To give up is not an option – we are not defeated if we will only continue to deny the flesh and ask God to help us choose the disciplined path.

Lord, thank You for your grace.  Your laws and precepts are perfect and medicine to our soul.  What we perceive as discipline is what we really need.  Thank You for Your patience, LORD.  Help us to walk in victory, faithfully following Your decrees all for Your glory.

The Purpose and Fruit from Testing

Photo Credits: gardenofpraise.com

Photo Credits:
gardenofpraise.com

Exodus 9: 1-7; 11

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Release my people that they may serve me! 2 For if you refuse to release them and continue holding them, 3 then the hand of the Lord will surely bring a very terrible plague on your livestock in the field, on the horses, the donkeys, the camelsthe herds, and the flocks. 4 But the Lord will distinguish between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, and nothing will die of all that the Israelites have. 5 The Lord set an appointed time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.” And the Lord did this on the next day; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the Israeliteslivestock not one died. 7 Pharaoh sent representatives to investigate, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of Israel had died. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hardand he did not release the people. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians.

Psalm 66:11-13

“11 You allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water, but you brought us out into a wide open place. 12 You allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water, but you brought us out into a wide open place. 13 I will enter your temple with burnt sacrifices; I will fulfill the vows I made to you.”

Throughout time, the story of God’s mighty deliverance of His people from the Egyptians has captivated many.  The thing we often forget though, is that deliverance costs.  The Israelites suffered along with the Egyptians for the first few plagues and thereafter from the resentment the Egyptians poured out on them as retribution for their own judgment.

The rain falls on the good and bad, and the righteous and unrighteous alike will be tested – with one key difference.  The testing by God on one of His children has the potential to yield a bountiful harvest and has eternal purposes.  For the unsaved, God is hoping the testing will cause them to turn toward Him, but often testing yields punishment and exasperation for an unbeliever who does not understand the heart of God.

For those who fear the LORD, there is protection and a purpose in all hardship endured under the sun.  It makes me smile to consider that the magicians, who were so smug at being able to duplicate God’s miracles initially, then were suddenly covered in boils and recognizing the finger of God.  Not enough to repent and recognize their need for salvation, but humbled, nonetheless, in the presence of a Holy God.

God will be glorified in our moments of testing and of victory.  Knowing that nothing is in vain in Jesus gives encouragement when the testing seems lengthy.  He is at work.  Even when it seems like the enemy is advancing, God knows the end.

God is so good in all of His purposes.  He longs to bring us to a place of abundance, but not if our character is not prepared first.  Of far greater worth is our heart than our comfort, even if it means we suffer for a little while.  In due time, we will reap a harvest, and it will be beautiful.

Lord, thank you for patiently loving us and carrying us through life’s adversities and triumphs.  We need, You, Lord.  Help us to not resist testing but embrace the lessons learned and submit our souls to You in the process.

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Happy Easter – The Second Adam Conquered Death!

1 Corinthians 15: 26, 45, 47, 54b-57

26 “The last enemy to be eliminated is death.  45 So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven.  54b Now when the perishable puts on the imperishable and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen.  55 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ!”

The greatest fear of mankind according to one source, is public speaking.  Next to that is death.  When I was a child, I was afraid to die.  Mostly it was the uncertainty of and the manner in which that event would take place that I feared.  Or being taken sooner than I wanted.  Then I met Christ.  He conquered the fear of death and conquered my heart, as well.  I will never be the same.

What looked like defeat when God Himself was nailed to a cross was victory, instead!  The innocent was slain and satan thought he had won.  Instead, all mankind was covered with the blood of the sinless lamb, who defeated our enemy – death.

Jesus faced the fear of death as the perfect God-man.  The first Adam was given life by our Creator, God.  .Made in the image of God, he chose sin and separated all mankind from God.  Every offspring from then on was made in Adam’s image.  Until Jesus came.  This second Adam lived a perfect life and brought eternal life to all.  We were first born of Adam and now can be born again through Jesus.

When I first heard that terminology, “born again”, I thought the people who shared the Gospel with me were crazy.  So did Nicodemus, when he questioned Jesus about how one could be born again.  But because Christ rose from the dead, we, too, who believe in Him will rise.  And this hope we have is not in vain.

The more I walk with Him, the more I long to be with Him.  I do not desire to leave loved ones, but I realize that we who are in Christ were made for another world.  My former fear of death has been replaced with a perfect love that casts out all fear.  The longing in our hearts for eternity with God cannot be satiated by anything this world has to offer.

Today, as we celebrate Easter, may we pause and realize the effect of Christ’s obedience on the cross.  His resurrection means we no longer need to fear death – He crushed it and the head of the serpent.  Praise be to God!  Happy Easter!

I Must Be Dreaming

I Must Be Dreaming
By: Denise Pass © 7/9/14

reflecting on a pond - possible seeing deep

Psalm 71:20-24
:20 Though You have allowed me to experience much trouble and distress, revive me once again! Bring me up once again from the depths of the earth! 21 Raise me to a position of great honor! Turn and comfort me! 22 I will express my thanks to you with a stringed instrument, praising your faithfulness, O my God! I will sing praises to you accompanied by a harp, O Holy One of Israel! 23 My lips will shout for joy! Yes, I will sing your praises! I will praise you when You rescue me! 24 All day long my tongue will also tell about your justice, for those who want to harm me will be embarrassed and ashamed.”

Dreaming. Something I seldom do anymore – or at least I am unaware of it if I do. But that is to speak of the dreaming that occurs when one is sleeping – not the dreaming that occurs on purpose in real life. I have always admired the planners in this life – you know, the people who declared their major before they went to school – the ones who seem to have their whole lives planned out for them, without a hitch. The ones with a bucket list a mile long and half accomplished by age twenty-something.

I have tried to refrain from admitting it, but I am the artsy type – many think I am actually quite organized (chuckle), but truly I hang on the edge of every day, wondering what surprises it will bring. Sure, there are great attempts at using my ©Franklin planner and really trying to stick to it, but alas, consistency is hard to adhere to when one is just trying to accomplish the basics of their day, much less find their planner. There, I did it – the secret is now out – all those people who envied me for being organized, I have confessed it! Envy me no more!

Back in the days when I used to dream, in the year my world was rocked, the Lord was doing amazing things in the music He had inspired. Radio play in eleven states, first place in a Christian Contemporary category on an internationally televised show, an offer to be on a national compilation CD … things were coming together. Then disaster struck and none of that mattered anymore. I just wanted to hold my children in my arms and make all the pain go away.

Prolonging out the pain and process, my relentless enemy who used to be my friend dragged me incessantly to court claiming rights through the damage he had done. How would God use such a tragedy? Did He care that I was way off the goals I had formerly been pursuing? Was the original prophecy that had been spoken concerning the gifts He had placed in me no longer of any effect? It was the death of a dream, actually the death of many dreams and plans. The perfect marriage, the perfect family, a vibrant ministry. Dead.

But what was the original dream? Set ablaze with a passion for God in 1988, I wanted to be used by God for His glory, to share His love with anyone who God allowed to cross my path. I dreamed of doing mission work, of singing for His glory, to be more like Christ, to be faithful. When hands were laid on me professing that I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage and I was a Euphonium player at the time, I laughed. But has that dream been accomplished? Yes. The scope of that dream belongs to God – I just need to be open to how small or vast His purposes are in that gift, because it is, after all, all about Him and His dream.

Music has been the healing balm of my life, and yet it became difficult to write songs in the wake of tragedy. I continued to serve on worship teams, worshipping God through the pain and waiting. Functioning on a somewhat normal level seemed insurmountable. One foot in front of the other, one breath at a time, scrambling to put the pieces back together. But maybe God was going to create something completely different with the pieces this time.

One day a year or so after the abuse was discovered, I remember teaching my children and one of my daughters said to me, “you are Ai Wei Dei”. Puzzled, she reminded me of the story of Gladys Aylward that we had read together. She was saying I was a virtuous woman. Overcome by such praise, I realized in that moment that I had been doing exactly what God had me to do. Gladys Aylward rescued innocent children in China. I did not do anything as amazing as that, but I lived in a town called Bumpass (yep, true!) where God was using me to rescue my own children, and that was of far greater worth than what my former dream could have ever been.

Life will never be normal again (whatever that is?) and I am still the artsy one trying to figure out God’s calling on my life. I have heard that God is in the ordinary things of life – that is our Holy calling. So for now, I am laying it all down before the Creator Who gave it all to begin with and asking afresh for Him to do as He pleases. A scary thing when some things that have transpired seemed to be off course and not what He would will, but actually the safest place to be.

So here is to dreaming again – though this time it might look quite different. Whether my dreams are being an amazing wife to my fantastic husband of almost four years, being a faithful mom who never tires of discipling and loving her children, writing songs for God, writing this blog, stepping out and ministering through Word and song again, or some perceived mundane thing, or wherever His path leads, it is all about Him and His glory. Creating space to dream again – are you?

Prayer:
Lord, thank you that an end is not the end. You are never surprised by the sudden changes wrought by sin or consequences of living in a fallen world. You use that hideous thing for good and to somehow bring You glory – the original purpose anyway. Help us to dream again – to believe You can do the impossible and be willing to walk faithfully with you even when it seems our dreams are not coming true. They are Your dreams, after all. Praise Your Name!

You Have the Strength

Image

By: Denise Pass – © 6/4/14

Judges 6:12-16, 22-24 “The Lord’s messenger appeared and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!’ Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us?’…Then the Lord himself turned to him and said, ‘You have the strength. Deliver Israel from the power of the Midianites! Have I not sent you?’ Gideon said to him, ‘But, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.’ The Lord said to him, “Ah, but I will be with you!’ . . . When Gideon realized that it was the Lord’s messenger, he said, “Oh no! Master Lord! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face to face!’ The Lord said to him, ‘You are safe! Do not be afraid! You are not going to die!’ Gideon built and altar for the Lord there and named it, ‘The Lord is on friendly terms with me’”.

 

This message is for the fainthearted today who do not think they can even crawl out of bed, much less make it through a day or cry out to God one more time. Like Gideon, do you find yourself in a place where disaster has overtaken you? Gideon is honest about his doubts of victory. I love our Lord’s patience with Gideon while he takes awhile to figure out that God is enough. I remember not being able to feel my hands or feet due to anxiety – fear and dread over what next thing my enemy who was once my friend would unleash upon me. In the depths of my despair I cried out, “Lord, why must I suffer for another man’s sins?” “I did not complain when I bore yours – my grace is sufficient for you” was the response. In that agonizing place sometimes hearing that we have strength is not enough or believable. We tend to focus on the problem or on our weakness.  Gideon did, too.  But when God says it, and He promises to supply us with the strength and grace we need, then if we just step out in faith, He will do it – through us. People have said I am strong, but I know the truth. In my weakness, He is the strong one. Gideon named His Lord aptly – how amazing that He is our friend. As we walk with God in relationship, not religion, we begin to know His character. How amazing that we can know God – the Creator of the world! He is my Shield and Protector, my Defender. He was ‘the God who sees me’ to Hagar, ‘The God Who provides’ to Abraham. Who is God to you?

Lord, help us to realize that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Grant us strength to accomplish what you have called us to and faith to do that work.