Tag Archives: Believing

Perspective: Man God Our World

This is a posting of an article written by Matt Walsh for Daily Wire yesterday. Walsh so Image result for we wrestle not against flesh and blood nivwell articulated why it is nearly impossible to view the troubles of this world and the macro activities of nations and politicians without taking God and His eternal purposes into account. I’ve taken the liberty of reposting his article here because it is something I want my children and grandchildren to always keep in mind as they view their world.

If we take the Scriptures seriously, we need to understand the forces that are at work in our world today. As the image says, our battle is not with people. Our battle is with the forces of satan who is manipulating the people. I am convinced that if we saw this world as God sees it, we could do a better job of loving our neighbors while recognizing the real forces that are driving their attitudes and behaviors.

Here is Matt Walsh as taken from yesterday’s Daily Wire …

Walsh: Many People Have Asked Me To ‘Tone Down The Jesus Stuff’ I’m Going To Do The Opposite

By MATT WALSH
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattWalshBlog
March 6, 2018
Daily Wire
One of the most common complaints I hear from readers is that my writing is too religious. Borrowing a phrase from an email I just read, I am guilty of “injecting religion into everything.” I need to “tone down the religious talk,” according to a guy on Twitter. “Please cool it with the Jesus stuff,” someone else recently told me. I was informed by many people that the piece I wrote last week about fathers was “ruined” because I “brought God into it.” Some of the commenters here have given me the moniker “Pastor Walsh,” because only pastors talk about religion, I guess. I have even noticed, unsurprisingly, that many of the people who lodge these complaints often declare themselves to be Christian. In America today, nobody hates hearing about Christianity more than a Christian.

Rather than ignore these criticisms, I thought I might try to explain why I don’t plan on toning it down. In fact, I’m headed in the opposite direction. The reason is very simple: I really do believe this stuff. I have often been pretty bad at living and acting according to my belief — I am no expert when it comes to following the teachings and making all of the sacrifices a Christian is called to make — but no matter my personal weaknesses (which are many and daunting), I still believe it all.

When Scripture says we are fighting not against “flesh and blood” but “the powers of darkness,” I believe it. And when it says that the Devil is prowling the world “like a lion seeking someone to devour,” I believe that, too. And when Revelation tells us about the war between Michael and the angels of God against Satan and his minions, I believe exactly what it says. I have sometimes wished that I didn’t believe any of it. I have even had terrible times in my life when I have tried not to believe it. But I still do. I believe it for the simple fact that it is true, no matter how I happen to feel about that truth. It just is. That’s all.

We are in a spiritual battle. No topic really matters apart from this deeper spiritual truth. The political arguments are only significant to the extent that they are manifestations of the underlying spiritual war. Every meaningful debate reflects, in some way, the eternal battle between Good and Evil. To ignore the eternal and focus entirely on the temporal seems not only dishonest, but also dull and boring. We are in the midst of a war between the powers of Heaven and the armies of Hell, and these people want to just talk about politics? That’s like if aliens invaded Earth on the same day that a new Star Wars was released, but nobody paid attention to the aliens because they were more interested in watching the movie.

As far as “bringing God into everything,” it is not up to me to do so. I cannot bring God in or take Him out. He is already in everything, except sin. And in those dark, wicked crevices of existence where He is not present, someone else is there. We cannot go anywhere, we cannot retreat to any corner, we cannot debate any topic that is truly “ours.” Nothing exists just on the temporal plane. As C.S. Lewis put it: “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”

So, one way or another, whatever we do, whatever issue we discuss, whatever argument we have, we are aligning ourselves either with Him or him. That seems a relevant fact, and should probably be mentioned as often as possible. There is an entire mountain beneath the surface of this island. Without the mountain, it would be just a bit of sand floating in the ocean, easily swept away and forgotten. That is how an atheist sees human existence. As Christians, we know better.

Speaking of atheists, I understand that they will laugh when they hear this kind of talk about God, spiritual war, angels, demons, and so on. They really have no choice but to react that way. If God is not true, then He is ridiculous. To treat Him as anything less than ridiculous is to admit that He might be true. The sneer of an atheist doesn’t bother me and never has. Sneering is their only defensive mechanism. I don’t hold it against them. I pity them. I pray for them. They are miserable and stubbornly holding onto their misery.

The problem is that many Christians try to stake out a similar position. But that position isn’t actually available to us. They want to admit that all of this spiritual stuff is true, but then relegate it to the background. They want to say they believe in God, but there is no reason for God to “come up.” They want to acknowledge the eternal with a dismissive wave and then get back to the business of ignoring it.

As I said at the beginning, I understand this inclination. I have felt the inclination. It can be scary to think about these things. Especially if we are living deep in sin. Indeed, even the virtuous cannot help but tremble in fear when they contemplate themselves standing before the Heavenly Throne. But the fact remains. And it is a massively important fact. It is the fact upon which every other fact is built. It is the fact that every fact leads back to. It is the tree that holds every branch.

There is a whole side to existence — the more real, more solid side — that we cannot see, though the beings on that side can see us. They not only see us but act upon us. They attack us, or help us, or hurt us, or heal us. Every moment of every day there are legions of demons and legions of angels fighting over you, personally. You are in the middle of a great battlefield, and you are the prize the two sides are fighting over. Indeed, you are the battlefield, in a certain sense. They are waging this war inside your soul.

And when you die, which could be literally any moment — and will certainly, in the grand scheme, be soon — you will either join the angels in Heaven or be consumed by the demons in the darkness of eternal oblivion. We must believe this if we are Christian. And if we believe it, how could it not dominate our thoughts and our conversations?

But, yes, we can “tone down the Jesus stuff” if we want. And if we keep trying to “tone Him down” in our lives, there may come a time when we really succeed. We may enter a place where Jesus is silent forever, and nobody speaks His name. We will have finally gotten what we wanted there. And I think, now that it is too late, we will realize that we do not want it anymore.

So please don’t ask me why I write about God. Ask me why I ever write about anything else.

Breaking the Code v. 6

In many instances in the Bible, grace (see Breaking the Code 3) and peace are linked Related imagetogether. The fact that these two are so often linked together ties also with the passage from Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The Philippians 4 passage is given in the context of our anxieties, our anxious tensions, our inner turmoil and lack of peace. The preceding sentence reads, “The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The Lord is near, so, do not be anxious about anything. When the Lord is near, our anxieties fade and we can have peace in any situation.

The 23rd Psalm is one that calms the soul. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. There is a word picture in the book of Revelation showing that in front of God’s throne there is a sea like crystal, smooth like glass, so calm, no storms.

I mentioned in Breaking the Code v. 5 on prayer that I frequently used my commuting time to talk with God. Better said, I would dump all the issues of the day and complicated relationship challenges on Him. His Spirit would very often respond with pieces of Scripture that would both let me know that my God was listening and He would calm my heart by giving me God’s perspective on my turmoil.

The perspective of the Christian who considers it all joy when he or she encounters various trials (James 1) comes from a worldview that has Christ and the truth of his word in the center. Without this perspective, the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) is elusive and generally non-existent. The storms rage around us and we need God’s help in the form of bringing people into our lives to express God’s love for us. We serve a living Savior who wants to be active in our lives. All we need to do is to invite Him into our world.

At times, He tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10) Waiting on the Lord takes us out of our comfort zones, but His timing and His solutions are always better than our wildest dreams. Ps 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

If Jesus can calm the wind and the waves of the sea, we can count on Him to calm our hearts and our spirits. We’re not talking about yoga stillness here. Yoga is something we conjure up internally through posturing, breathing deeply and thinking good thoughts. The peace of God is that comfort of knowing that the God who made the heavens and the earth loves us enough to give Himself up for us. (John 3:16) Our God tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.  (1 Peter 5:7) It is the peace that comes from knowing that we are loved … unconditionally.

The desire of every human is to be loved. We live in a broken world and complete unconditional love, even between husband and wife, is rare. I love my wife and tell her of that love as often as I have the opportunity. She loves me even better than I am capable of loving her. But we have this agreement between us. It is our desire that both of us will love God first and foremost, and then we’ll be able to love each other well in second place. Living in God’s love helps us to have His love flow through us to each other. This works because we both have the same source of unconditional love.

In describing the relationship of the sheep to the Shepherd, He tells us in John 10:3 that “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Yes, God loved the whole world, but still He knows you and calls you by name. Take comfort in the fact that He knows you by name and Jesus said that your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matt 6:8)

So, what is our takeaway on the peace that is available to those who are God’s children? We are not of this world, and the cares of this world that might otherwise weigh heavily on us, should be given to the God of the universe for resolution. Use the vehicle of prayer that Jesus Himself used when He was on this earth, to talk directly with the Father and ask that His will be done on earth (in our world) as it is in heaven.  This peace is beyond the comprehension of most people in our world. It is a precious gift that God has promised to those who love Him and trut Him.

Have a blessed day!

 

Hard Questions of Faith

This past weekend we were impacted by the homegoing of a man of God who, as many would say, died way before his time. He was 34 years old. Nabeel Qureshi is a former Muslim who became a world reknown Christian apologist with a ministry that impacted millions. My friend Natasha Crain asks one of the hard questions of the faith in her blog posted yesterday. Her reflections and conclusions, posted in Christian Mom Thoughts, are worth sharing here so that more people will reflect on God and how He responds to our prayers.

We are currently going through a series on prayer in our church, so the timing of this piece is appropriate.

Why Didn’t God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

 

Why Didn't God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

I don’t know.

I simply do not know the answer to this question, nor can I fathom what it might be.

But I was heartbroken when I learned that Nabeel succumbed to cancer this weekend at age 34, leaving behind his wife and young daughter. My tears just kept coming after the news, even though I never had the opportunity to meet him personally.

For those who haven’t followed his story, Nabeel Qureshi was a Muslim-turned-Christian Apologist who authored the best-selling books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters ChristianityAnswering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, and No God But One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells the incredible story of Nabeel’s journey to Christ through an extraordinary set of investigations, dreams and visions. After committing to Jesus, Nabeel became a Christian apologist and spent the rest of his life writing and speaking, with a heart for bringing light to the Muslim world.

When you read his story, it is amazingly clear that God chose him for this important role.

But that clarity was also the reason so many people were shocked when he was diagnosed last year with stage 4 stomach cancer, which has a 5-year survival rate of 4 percent. The obvious question everyone wanted to ask was, “Why would God so clearly raise someone up with such an extraordinary testimony, only to let him die at this young age?”

Instead of accepting the grim outlook, however, Nabeel made it clear that he was not giving up. He started filming regular videos to document his treatment and reflect on faith during a difficult time. He prayed fervently for healing and strongly believed that healing would come, for the glory of God. Tens of thousands of people prayed for him and fasted over the months of his treatment. He attended healing services. In his videos, he recounted many experiences with people who told him they “heard a word” from God and that they knew he would be healed. On his Facebook page, thousands of people commented every time he posted a new video, and many of the comments were from people who said they, too, “knew” he was going to be healed.

I, like so many others, anxiously awaited each video in the hope of a miracle. After all, that same question from when he was diagnosed sat firmly planted in the back of my mind: Why would God so clearly raise someone up with such an extraordinary testimony, only to let him die at this young age?

Surely, this must be for the glory of God so He can perform a miracle and demonstrate to the Muslim world that Christianity is true!

But on Saturday, Nabeel died.

When Your Faith is Wounded

Many people have shared beautiful tributes to Nabeel’s life, and my Facebook feed is overflowing with posts proclaiming that Nabeel received ultimate healing. They are celebrating his life, and there is much to celebrate.

But I’m still crying.

To be honest, it’s a very complex mess of tears.

Tears for his wife and daughter, tears for the ministry he can’t continue, tears that many Christians were wrong about having “heard from God” that he would be healed, tears that Nabeel himself believed he would be healed but wasn’t, and tears for all those I’ve prayed for God to heal but who ended up dying anyway.

Though I don’t want to admit it, many of these are tears of disappointment in God. And though I really don’t want to admit it, there are some tears of bitterness in there too.

While I believe many people do experience modern-day miracles, I have not witnessed one myself despite praying for people to be healed on many occasions. At times like this, I find it incredibly hard to ask God for anything in prayer.

I don’t want to be let down again.

If God doesn’t answer the prayers of tens of thousands of people for Nabeel’s healing when there are SO many apparent reasons to do so, why should I bother to ask God for much smaller things—like for my kids to stop fighting so much?

Or so the disappointed logic goes.

You see, my faith has been wounded.

I know that’s not the response people expect from an apologist—someone who is supposed to be a strong defender of the faith. But perhaps that’s why I wanted to write this today.

Knowing a lot of answers to questions about subjects like God’s existence, the historical resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible does not mean you never experience difficulties with faith. Everyone experiences difficulties, to varying degrees, in their spiritual journey. As such, if your faith is only rooted in the summation of your personal experiences, it can easily fall prey to fickle human emotion. Given the number of people with cancer for whom I’ve prayed in recent years, only to see them succumb to death anyway, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to never again pray for a person’s healing…if I gave in to my feelings.

I am extraordinarily grateful I can say during a difficult time, however, that the strength of my faith rests on far more than feelings. Because I have studied apologetics in depth, that understanding is an objective anchor I can reach for when my emotional ship has been rocked. This is precisely what we should want for our kids as well.

Apologetics isn’t just about dealing with skeptics.

It’s about dealing with life.

The fact that God didn’t heal Nabeel doesn’t change the fact that the evidence for God’s existence is extensive, that there is compelling historical evidence for the resurrection, or that there’s excellent reason to believe the Bible is God’s word. Those intellectual anchors hold me firm even when life is making me feel seasick.

So Why Didn’t God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

On Saturday, the day that Nabeel passed away, I received the first printed copy of Talking with Your Kids about God in the mail. A bit ironically, I opened it to the chapter on talking with kids about how we know God answers prayers. I thought I’d end this post by sharing the conclusion to the chapter. I needed to be reminded of this as much as anyone this weekend.

In the book, this is addressing a particular question on why God doesn’t heal amputees (a question often asked by skeptics). But I’m replacing the word amputees here with Nabeel in brackets. The same conclusion applies.

So what have we learned the Bible says? God answers prayers, but there are many reasons why he doesn’t answer all prayers in the way we’d like. The question of why God doesn’t heal [Nabeel Qureshi] is no different from numerous other questions we could ask: Why doesn’t God answer a prayer for a million dollars to instantly appear in a person’s front yard? Why doesn’t God answer a child’s prayer to fly like a bird? Why doesn’t God answer a prayer for a child’s burn wounds to heal immediately rather than gradually? If we know from the Bible that God doesn’t answer allprayers, we logically can’t look at the outcome of any particular prayer to determine whether God ever answers prayers. What we’re looking at may be one of many examples of requests that God, in his wisdom, does not grant.

A lack of certain prayer outcomes is not inconsistent with the Bible. What would be inconsistent with the Bible is if God never answered prayers.

But millions of people throughout history have claimed they’ve received answers to prayers. Today, according to Pew Research, almost one-third of Americans say their prayers result in “definite and specific answers from God” at least once a month, with almost one in five adults saying they receive direct answers to specific requests at least once a week. While a skeptic might claim every single one of these millions of people is mistaken every single time, that’s a belief worth being skeptical about.

There’s no way for Christians to prove God answers prayers, just as there’s no way for a skeptic to prove God doesn’t answer prayers. But if (1) there’s good reason to believe God exists (as we saw in part 1), (2) the Bible claims God answers some but not all prayers, and (3) it’s the overwhelming experience of Christians that God does, indeed, answer prayers on a regular basis, then the fact that God [didn’t] heal [Nabeel] has no logical bearing on the truth status of Christianity.

Yes, my faith has been wounded for a time. But not mortally so. Never mortally so. My conviction runs too deep.

Rest in peace, Nabeel. I do not understand now, but have no doubt I will someday.

He’d Still Been God

So often when we experience challenges and trials in life, we wonder where God is and why He hasn’t protected us from the misfortune that has come our way. It seems we’re caught off guard when life isn’t fair; when we’ve been dealt a hand that seems counter to all that we’ve worked for. James wrote that we should consider it all joy when (not if) we encounter various trials. (James 1:2) Why? Because the testing of our faith produces good things in us like the steadfastness of a tree standing strong in the face of constant winds and harsh weather. Like these two trees outside my office window. They have withstood winds over 75 mph, freezing temperatures to 20+ degrees below zero, hail, and infestations of bugs.

These two trees standing in the rain today have weathered the storms and are standing strong and erect. One has a little bow in the trunk, but don’t we all change somehow as we weather all that life throws at us? Hopefully, the ups and downs of life have improved our perspective and perhaps strengthened us to better handle the next storm. A dear friend is a kind and gentle man (now in his 80s) who has seen his share of disappointment and his share of success. But the ups and downs of his life have strengthened his faith and given him a perspective and wisdom that he shares freely with me. Together we look at what we can learn about God through our lives, through the lens of Scripture.

Jesus was talking with Nicodemus one night and said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) So it is with the ways of God as He continues to mold and shape us to prepare us for life with Him in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We are indeed a work in progress.

So, as God continues to use all things that come into our lives for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) let’s not despair over the trials of life. Rather, let’s use them to grow in the knowledge of God, being more convinced than ever that He is still God, the great I AM. Let’s not let our view of Him be drawn only by the good things that come our way, but, as we look around at creation, being confident that whatever comes our way in life, He is still the God who made us, loves us enough to die for us, and continues to care for us and shape us for His purposes in eternity.

While attending a 4th of July musical a few weeks ago, the Legacy Quartet sang a song that caught my attention. It’s titled “He’d Still Been God.” The words go like this:

Master, carest Thou not that we perish?
Can’t You see that we’re about to die?
This boat we’re on is surely going under
“Save us now!”, His disciples cried
So Jesus rose to stand against the tempest
Knowing His disciples had no faith
Just to prove that He was still the Master
He spoke, and the wind and seas obeyed

But He’d still been God
Even if He’d never calmed a storm on a raging sea
He’d still been God
Even if He’d never caused a blinded eye to see
He’d still been God
Even if He’d never brought a crippled man to his feet
It’s not about what He did
It’s all about who He was
‘Cause even if He’d never come and done a single miracle
Then Jesus woulda still been God

Mary was His loving, earthly mother
She understood the purpose of her Son
Ever since the angel’d come and told her
“This child is the blessed Son of God”
So when she’d see the people gather ’round Him
Watching for a miracle to prove
That He would be their One and great Messiah
She just smiled ’cause she already knew

The original release was done by a group called Greater Vision and here is a link to their version of “He’d Still Been God.” The YouTube video is about 5 minutes long and I’d encourage you to give it a listen.

Friend, let’s not let our circumstances define God. Let’s see our circumstances through God’s eyes. Let’s not let our faith hinge on God’s performance of a miracle in our lives. God loves us and is continuing to do a work in us that will not be completed until we get to heaven. Life here on this earth is preparation for eternal life with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s allow God to shape us into His image rather than us trying to shape God around our comfort zones.

Grace and Peace,

 

Word of the Day – Posterity

The last couple of entries posted here have been shared posts from other folks whose blogs I follow. The more I read, the more I see and know that others have insights worth Image result for posteritysharing here for my posterity. Most of us will have a posterity. Our posterity is that future generation which emanates from us, our children grandchildren and their children after them.

Our posterity will look for clues that would help define us long after we’re gone. I have spent some time understanding how my ancestors led their lives. I know that I am responsible for my own decisions, but we all have leanings and tendencies. Understanding my ancestors can, at times, help me understand how my family adopted the values and worldview with which I was raised.

God understood the importance of teaching truth to one’s posterity. In the book of Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 11, we see these words, “teach them diligently to your children,” and “teach them to your children.” The concept of teaching truth to our posterity will plant tendencies and leanings in their hearts. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.” So, in these passages, we see that God understands the importance of legacy and the promise that our posterity will look back to our generation for understanding. These days we refer to the reputation we leave for those who follow us as a legacy. Our posterity will look back to our legacy for instruction and a baseline of those things we held to be truths for our lives.

I like to think of it as “paying it forward” or a gift to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, including those I will never meet this side of heaven. The money we leave behind will provide short-term blessing and perhaps cover a few bills. The legacy we leave for our posterity will give them a foundation on which they will build their worldview or system of truth.

What happens in the event that the early years of our lives weren’t something that you’d want them to emulate? It is never too late. I had an uncle who accepted Christ in the final days of his life. Upon making that decision, he called his boys, who were already grown men, to his bedside and told them about a wasted life and implored them to take a different path. That single conversation changed the future for those men and their children. Granted, not all stories end so well, but God planted in my uncle the thought that this was a nugget of truth that must be passed along. Too many of us view our faith as a private matter, and so, are reluctant to discuss such things with others. Christ taught us to let our lights shine among others so that they too might believe.

Life is like a train rolling down the track. We all need the voices of people in our lives who will let us know there is trouble ahead. Sometimes it is a friend, many times, however, it is the voice of a parent calling across the years, a voice we long to hear once again. The other day a family member was feeling stress and I was able to share with my posterity a song that my mother would sing in times like these. Even though she is no longer with us, her voice and her solid foundation of faith still serve as an encouragement to me and my family.

I’m engaging in this blog so that one day my posterity will have something to look to as a reference point for what Papa would think or say during a particular situation. I’d encourage all of us to find ways to leave bits of wisdom and legacy for our posterity.

Here is a promise from the Lord: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17) Our God will honor those who love him to multiple generations that follow. We should use this to renew our commitment on behalf of our posterity. Just as I am a product of the faithfulness and prayers of my ancestors, I want my posterity to have that same blessing that will be carried on for generations of generations, until the Day of the Lord arrives

Victory Over Sin Isn’t An Event

One of the blessings of being part of a community of bloggers is that I get to read some thoughts and reflections that are expressed with crystal clarity on topics that need to be brought to our attention. God is very big on remembering. On many occasions throughout the journeys of the children of Israel, God would tell His people to have feasts and erect monuments for the purpose of remembering. In the same way, reading purposefully what God has put into the hearts of others, is a helpful way of calling our attention to the truths of His word, to take back to the Scriptures which help us remember who God is.

This issue of victory over sin is a reminder of God’s grace and never ending love for us. The apostle Paul lamented that sometimes he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. (Romans 7:7 ff)

Today I’m sharing the story of a woman who is deeply committed to following Jesus. Her thoughts about the journey here on earth are worth sharing with my readers. A helpful reminder of the grace and patience of our God.

While the original post can be found at Growing4Life, I’ve posted her comments here.   The words of Leslie …

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it, we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

Breaking the Code v. 5

Matthew records this description of Jesus spending time with His Father, “And after he Image result for prayerhad dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone …”

Prayer … Jesus did it and, when they asked, He taught the disciples how to pray by giving us what we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Matt 6) Why does it seem hard at times to even begin? What should a good Christian’s prayer life look like? At times I don’t even feel like a good Christian and feel like I can’t even get God’s attention. Books have been written on prayer, but when I think I should pray, I have things on my heart that make those books seem distant and kind of … not applicable in my situation.

So often I’ve found myself feeling unworthy and at a loss for words when I know there are things that only God can solve. When I think about some things that I need to leave with God, I know there are many unknowns about the situation that it is presumptuous for me to propose a solution that may be completely inappropriate. There are also things that are within my scope of responsibility but beyond my power to resolve.

Peter wrote (5:6-7) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the almighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Instead of continuing to own all of life’s issues, as we’ve been trained to do, we need to humble ourselves and place our anxieties at His feet. He tells us that He cares for us. Which of us, when a child asks for a piece of bread will give that child a stone? God cares for us as His children. He tells us to look at the flowers in the field and how they are adorned. Even Solomon in all his riches and royal attire was not dressed as well as the flowers in the field. Still, God loves us even more than the flowers in the field. He cares for us and wants us to give Him all our cares.

There was a religious man in the temple square speaking eloquently so that all could hear, “Thank God I’m not like these peasants and ne’er do wells.” Jesus calls our attention to a tax collector standing quietly in the corner of the temple square, beating his chest in agony, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18) This parable of Jesus is intended to show us that it is not fancy words, but a contrite spirit (as Peter wrote) that captures God’s attention and is forgiven.

There have been many times in my life that I just needed to share my heart with God. In one season, I was in the habit of clearing the passenger seat of my car of all papers, and use my commute time to talk with God who I invited to travel with me so that we could just talk. That proved to be a time when I learned to really give Him all my junk and express the true desires of my heart. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went alone in the garden, and asked the Father to let the burden of this crucifixion be done a different way, and to let Him escape it. He asked this, knowing full well that this moment was why He had come into our world and that this was the only way our sins could be covered. Jesus modeled baring His heart and soul in making the desires of His heart known to God, His Father. Paul wrote in the letter to the church at Philippi, “… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

Don’t over-complicate your prayers. Just sit down with God and speak to Him the desires of your heart. Some have envisioned the acronym ACTS as they think about prayer.

A – say a few words of Adoration from your heart to God, the Creator of all things. He is worthy of our praise. Look into some of the Psalms for some ideas of how to praise God our Father. Admire his creation if nothing else comes to mind.

C – one can’t help but come into the presence of the Almighty without Confessing our sins and shortcomings. We need to admit that we are sinful and need His forgiveness for our sins. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive those sins.

T – expressing Thanksgiving for the things in our lives that He has provided. Even when life is not going well, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” James wrote that we should consider it a joyful thing when we encounter various trials. He also wrote that every good and perfect gift is from above. So give thanks to the Father for His goodness to us.

S – we should offer prayers of Supplication. What is supplication? Well, it is asking for something humbly and leaning on the promises of God that He cares for us. Yes, it’s a 50 cent word but it completes the acronym with by telling us why we came here in the first place. This is the time to ask God for anything and everything that is on your heart. Christ did it and so should you.

Honestly, there are times when there simply isn’t time to go through all these steps. There are times when I’m talking with someone about something really important and I say a prayer asking God to guide my words so that they will honor Him. There are times when a situation is spiraling out of control that all we can do is cry for help. There are times when we lose someone we love dearly when we ask God for the comfort that only He can provide.

Prayer, the act of talking with God, helps us invoke a power beyond our own capabilities. The disciples were effectively praying when they awakened Jesus from His slumber in the middle of the storm, begging Him to help them. They had no idea that they would see the response they witnessed and the winds and the sea were stilled. When we pray we need to be ready for God to respond in ways we didn’t anticipate because He cares for us and loves us.

The letter to the church at Thessaloniki tells us to pray without ceasing. Live in an attitude of prayer. Let prayer become the lifeline for your courage and love for others. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1) I leave you with that same word.

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.