Can I give up fear?

Lent is a traditional time to give up something we love and replace it with (more) love for God. You can read more about Lent’s origins hereNo fear

Although I’m not bound by this man-made tradition, it’s purpose as a discipline to honour God has inspired me to focus on a particular aspect of my own love for God.

Before giving my life to Jesus I was imprisoned by fear, a fear so powerful that it ruled my life. It held me back from living life to the full, from making decisions, from talking any kind of risk and kept me in a constant state of worry, about pretty much anything.

When I became a Christian, Jesus released me from that prison. His death on the cross won the battle for my life (& all whom believe in Him) and removed my (need to) fear, replacing it with God’s truth.

What’s the truth? Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

But, becasue I’m human, I tend to lapse into my old ways. Not only does this hold me back. but it stands contrary to my belief in my new life – and my identity as a child and disciple of God.

I want to see if I can give up these human fears and live as God intends me to. So this Lent, I’m focussing on the subject of fear and each day I’m going to look at a different verse or passage from the Bible and reflect on what God has to say about the matter.

What will I learn? Will I be transformed as a result?

We’ll see.

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How to work out God’s plan for you

Working out what God’s plan for me is, is proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life. Perhaps it will be my life’s work in itself, and when I look back at my life, I’ll know what God’s plans for me were.

I do know that He plans for me to work for Him, it’s more the specifics I’m struggling with, and as He reveals more and more to me, I learn more about how we can discern what His plans and purposes for us are.

I don’t pretend to know even 10% of how to do this, but I offer some insight.

Inspired by some teaching from the Word for Today (an awesome resource from UCB), entitled ‘Working for God – His Way’ (….created in Christ Jesus to do good works.. Eph 2:10), here are my thoughts.

For the most part, we have to wait to find out what God’s plans for us are. God doesn’t tell us immediately, usually because we’re not ready. Readiness often comes in stages  – and we have to complete tasks (or trials – see James 1) along the journey, to be readied, prepared. Sometimes those trials make no sense, either – remember the Karate Kid? Daniel waxing the cars and painting the fence? He had no idea that they’d create instinctive martial arts moves in him. So it is with us. When God’s ready to tell you how he wants to use you, he will. It will be very clear – even though it may look impossible – that’s when he asks (& requires us) to trust him – because he’s dealing with the bits we can’t see or understand how to accomplish – we’re only a small part of his greater plan.
OK – does that all sound a bit intangible and (perhaps) far off? Remember God is patient and wants to grow that in us…
Here’s a way to find out what it is he’s calling you to do…
When God’s character and your passions collide you find your mission.
God wants us to love each other. He wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and care for the broken-hearted (Matthew 25:34-36). He wants us to love mercy, do what is right and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8). All of which is worship. All of which glorify him. – these are his standards, his character.
What are you passionate about? Whom do you care for? What is it that you’re drawn to? Where do your passions and his character meet in the middle?
He speaks to us: the voice in our head, strong feelings, words from the bible, words from other people. We can discern his voice from these ‘channels’ by judging them by the standards I’ve listed above.
And we have to take action – to do things, serve others, as above. We have to step out in faith and try things out – to see where they take us and find out where God leads us.
Hope that helps somehow.
Have fun finding out.

Glorifying God when life hurts

Last week a member of our church family died from cancer. Our church family had fought like an army of prayer warriors, believing that God would heal her. Yet we’ve lost her from this earthly domain, she’s been called home to be with our Father.

I didn’t know Nix well, but had found her faithfulness throughout her drawn-out battle with the illness, inspiring and I know she’s in a better place now. However, the gap between knowing that and feeling that, truly understanding it, will be like a chasm for some of us right now. How can this be God’s will for her and her family? I simply do not know, nor cannot fathom.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways…”  (Is 55:8) Isaiah reminds us that God does not think the way we do, and knows infinitely more than we can imagine. Paul writes that we see only through a glass darkly, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 3:12) He recognises that while we’re living our earthly lives, we only see a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, of His great plan.

Yet as Christians, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Believing in Jesus means that there is life for us beyond our earthly existence. “…whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

We may not be able to (fully?) understand God’s will – He calls us to trust Him in all circumstances. When His will goes against our wants, hopes and desires, what becomes so important is how we perceive God’s will and how we respond, when our dreams are shattered.

How we respond to God in the aftermath of such a loss as losing a loved one (and that battle itself) is as important as how we sought him for the miracle of her healing. We have choices now: How we let him heal us, how we ask him to show us the pain each one of us is feeling at the loss of a faithful member of our Christian family. How we show each other love and compassion will be evidence of God’s glory as we seek and worship him.

A few years ago a young friend of mine died suddenly in a tragic accident. I still can’t explain God’s will for that, particularly for him and his family, but I do know what happened next in the lives of those who knew him, following our loss. Our bonds as a community became stronger, our compassion for one another became more evident. We each made decisions about the direction our lives were taking us. We all made choices to live, and not to accept things that weren’t right or held no joy. We still miss him, but because of the relationships that formed after his death, he’s still a part of our lives. Losing him made us experience love in new ways.

Our faith community, our church – is a family. The broken world is a place of loss. God invites us to come to him for the sustenance we need to keep going; for the love we need each day in order to survive the world’s brokenness. Right now many of that family are feeling that brokenness cut into their souls.

How do we glorify God when life hurts? In our times of hurt and dismay, feeling loss, lost and let down, Jesus is here, waiting for us to come to him. He wants to heal our hurts and in so, our Father will be glorified.

My heart goes out to Nix’s family and friends, who’ve had someone they loved so dearly taken away from them. If you’re reading this, please think of them or remember them in your prayers.

 

How long in the wilderness

How long will I walk in the wilderness?

Forty ‘somethings’? (Years, months..?)

When did it begin? When will it end?

Certainly until I am ready, until I am prepared.

For what? A ministry. In what? Yet to be fully revealed. When will it be revealed? Perhaps a ‘burning bush’ moment… When God will reveal more of His specific plan for me & call me out of my wilderness.

Until that time. I wait, walk, seek and follow.

Wilderness: a definition

As I explore my wilderness, I thought I’d better check out some definitions:

Dictionary.com

1. a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.
3. any desolate tract, as of open sea.
5. a bewildering mass or collection.

Wikipedia

Includes the following definitions:

“…those last truly wild places that humans do not control…”

“The word wilderness derives from the notion of “wildness”—in other words, that which is not controllable by humans.”

For me it is indeed a, “bewildering,” place. Knowing that it is not only not controlled by humans but also, “not controllable,” makes it that much more important to have a guide…

The Word on Wisdom

A short note, reflecting on what God has to say about wisdom, particularly in light of yesterday’s post.

… the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18

God’s wisdom is centred in peace, not aggression. It’s impartial, not personal. It is gentle, not harsh. It is merciful and open to reason, not closed and unforgiving. And it’s full of fruit, “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. “(Galatians 5:22-23) Plus it is sincere; given in love.

If you’re looking for His wisdom and have any uncertainty about whether it is from Him or not, His Word gives very clear signs by which to recognise it.

For my own part it’s not just about the wisdom I receive but that which I give, too. These are the standards set that, when I’m imparting wisdom, I must live up to.

Bible verses I never knew #2

“… A wise person stays calm when insulted.” Proverbs 12:16

This verse was highlighted to me by UCB’s Word for the Day (a great daily devotional, subscribe here)

I’d not come across this verse before, but it really reminded me of how God breaks our cycle of hurt and revenge and how He gives us the power and choice to do the same.

When we are insulted (or at the very least, criticised) it’s all to easy to lash out in defence of ourselves, a move which can often inflame a situation. Often a simple comment can escalate into a full-blown argument because of the initial response. The apostle James references this proverb when he writes about how to live properly, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

By slowing down, and thinking about a response, rather than reacting to a painful comment (however hurtful, critical or insulting) we can stop that cycle of escalation before it even starts.

That’s what struck me about God breaking our cycles of hurt & revenge – responding to a hurtful comment with another one etc. He gives us the opportunity to forgive, and in that moment be wise, by understanding the consequences of a retort based in hurt. He gives us the power of forgiveness, of foregoing that pain and letting it pass by, rather than fuelling it.

That power is the power of the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made, to take the brunt of the world’s sins and bring about their forgiveness. That sacrifice is the ultimate cycle-breaker.

This verse made me remember that we have the power to break the cycle of hurt and revenge too.

Bible verses I never knew… #1

… & am glad I now do.

Here begins my collection of less well-known Bible verses (by me at least) that I find really encouraging.

2 Samuel 22:30

29With your help I can advance against a troop 30 with my God I can scale a wall.

Footnotes:
2 Samuel 22:30 Or can run through a barricade

What an awesome little reminder of what we can accomplish with the God of all the impossible in us?

Contextual note: In the wilderness, it’s especially good to be reminded of what our Faith in God means we can really do. It’s all about developing our Faith, increasing it & trusting in God more & more – giving up less & less of ourselves…

The first steps in the wilderness

Discovering I’m in a wilderness has been like having my eyes opened. I’m not just looking at what it contains, but I’m beginning to see things for what they are.

Having this perspective helpfully re-aligns my expectations & means that I’m not looking for the same things I was. To go with the analogy of a natural wilderness, instead of expecting to see green fields and lush vegetation to feed on, I’m looking under rocks for water & bugs! Which I’ll be happy if I find!!

This goes much deeper than the country’s current economic circumstances, I’m aware that my wilderness time is more spiritual & pervades many areas of my life.

But I wander around now, a little better prepared; I’m looking for different things & in a different way – I don’t know what I’ll find, I’ve just got to keep following God, seeking Him for direction & provision.

And who knows. Maybe I’ll even find a burning bush!

Finding myself in a wilderness

This may turn out to be part one in a series – but here goes…

I’ve just found out I’m in a wilderness in my life. Which explains a lot of things, like why I’m feeling so lost in some areas, lacking in direction, sustenance. It helps me understand why this season feels so hard, fruitless and like its a gruelling trial with no end in sight.

This evening I was able to attend Burn, an expression of our church community where there is no format, only the intention to seek God; praying and worshipping to see where His Spirit will lead us.

As part of my process of giving control of my life back to God, I went forward for prayer. I felt that God had placed a number of things on my heart to deal with; to forgive myself for regretting 10+ years of life that I think I wasted, to ask for help with patience and to receive God’s Spirit, to refresh me. While praying, one of the leaders came and said that he felt God saying that I am in a wilderness (which one of my colleagues had suggested a few weeks ago…), to learn, be trialled, tested, shaped, prepared – and at some point I’ll be called out, back to serve in a particular way, for a particular purpose. For what? I don’t yet know, perhaps glimpses i’ve seen, but for now…

… For now I have found myself in a wilderness. I have to learn how to navigate it; what to do next…