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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

John Bunyan described Christian as a pilgrim progressing on an earthly journey. Christian travels over hills of difficulty and through dark valleys. He meets Despair and Doubting, but also Faithful and Hopeful. At one point on the journey,

Hopeful began to get very sleepy. Christian, shaking his friend’s arm, exclaimed, “Remember, the shepherds warned us about the Enchanted Ground. We must stay alert!”

“What would have happened to me if I’d been by myself?” Hopeful wondered. “I’m thankful you are here with me!”

Christian said, “To keep us from falling asleep, let’s talk….”*

Today, we might say that Christian is traveling through the Land of Covid. It is unfamiliar to him and like no place he has ever been. The River of Fear flows along the trail. Some travelers have already slipped into the River. Others have set camp near the River.

A voice calls to Christian. “Come camp with us. There is no need for talk here. Close your eyes for a while. We will keep you safe.” The invitation is tempting, but Christian is bold to ask, “What does this mean?

Stepping away from the camp, Christian scouts the area. His reason and all his senses are alert. He looks right, then left, then ahead. There, Christian sees other travelers walking away from the River. Moving closer, Christian hears them talking and telling stories of where they have been and what they have seen.

Christian looks back toward the camp where he was invited to close his eyes and feel safe. Then he looks to the talkers moving on the trail. Christian is deceived neither by the campers nor the talkers. He knows the Savior of his life and trusts the guidance of Wisdom.

In Wisdom, Christian walks.

To keep from falling asleep, Christian talks. In humility, he asks questions. With discretion, he listens. The way does not become easier.

But in Wisdom, Christian walks.

 

L. Bartlett, 5-7-20

*From Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s Classic Story Adapted for Children,
Great Commission Publications.

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“Abortion is the sacrifice I made for myself.” That is the way that some women describe the most difficult decision of their life.

But God does not ask for such sacrifice. He does not ask for the blood of an unborn son or daughter. He asks that we turn our eyes to the cross where the sacrificial blood of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ has covered every fear, doubt, and repentant sin.

January 22 of 2020 marked 47 years of legalized abortion in the United States. The reasons for abortion are most often fear-based. “I fear for my future.” “I fear losing my boyfriend.” “I fear the disappointment of my parents.” “I fear inconvenience.” “I fear the unknown.”

Since 1973, Americans have offered the blood sacrifice of 61,628,584 unborn children. That is 2,362 abortions daily and 98 abortions per hour every hour in the U.S. Our nation cannot sacrifice the lives of sons, daughters, cousins, grandchildren, and neighbors and be better for it. There is no hope in the blood shed by abortion.

But there is hope in the saving blood of Jesus Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness for abortion—and any other sin—is costly. But it is a cost that Jesus was willing to pay. Why? Because nothing else would save us.

King David’s bones were wasting away under the weight of his sin. The blood of another human being was on his hands and for as long as he refused to confess his guilt he suffered. Day and night, God’s hand was heavy upon him. His “strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” But then David acknowledged his sin. He said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’” and he was forgiven. (Psalm 32:3-5).

“Yes!” says the woman who’s had an abortion “I believe that even a murderer like David can be forgiven. But how can God possibly forgive me, a mother who has killed her own child?”

To believe that abortion is “the unforgiveable sin” is to believe the lie of Satan. It is to sit in the darkness of doubt and despair, held captive by “the thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

The blood of abortion may stain the hands of a mother, father, or grandparent, but the blood of Jesus makes us white like snow. (Isaiah 1:18) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God has compassion on “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Jesus sets the sorry heart free! Jesus says, “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Linda Bartlett
Titus 2 for Life

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My niece, a young wife and mom, is dealing with cancerous brain tumors. My husband’s nephew, a young husband and father, is dealing with thyroid cancer. It is my way to encourage them through written letters. Here’s the one I sent them both today.

This morning in my devotions I read about Ezekiel’s call from God. What happens between God and Ezekiel strikes me as very significant for you. Let me try to paraphrase:

God tells Ezekiel to stand up so He can speak to Him. The Spirit enters Ezekiel and he hears God’s instruction. God tells Ezekiel to go to the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. God tells Ezekiel not to be afraid of them, even if “thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.” Then God tells Ezekiel to open his mouth and eat the scroll that He puts in his mouth. He tells Ezekiel to go speak “My words to them … the house of Israel.”

God explains that the people of Israel won’t want to listen to Ezekiel because those people have “a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” But then He says, “Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” (Excerpts from Ezekiel 2:1-3:11)

Now, you haven’t been asked to go speak to rebellious Israelites, but you are up against a stubborn and rebellious enemy who hates the human life that God so loves. As God’s child you are not only living in a world broken by sin, but your body and soul are engaged in physical and spiritual battle. In sickness and difficulty, Satan wants you to doubt the mercy and work of Jesus Christ. He wants you to think that God has abandoned you.

God has not told you to “eat this scroll” and then speak to a rebellious nation, but He has told you to digest the Word He has given you for life—the Word fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He wants you to trust His Word and then use it to speak to the fear and doubt that comes in your weak and weary moments.

Here’s the profound part of the dialogue between God and Ezekiel that I think applies to you. God made Ezekiel’s “face as hard as their faces” and his “forehead as hard as their foreheads.” In other words, the Lord prepared Ezekiel for the challenge he would experience. He gave to Ezekiel the strength and determination needed to stand up to strong-willed and determined people. He comforts Ezekiel, saying, “Fear them not.” I believe that God has prepared you for your own challenge. With the faith He has given you comes determination and courage even in the face of cancer. He promises you His Spirit who comforts you and intercedes for you (Romans 8:26). And when a neighbor or caregiver struggling with their own difficulties and fears sees your eyes resting on the Cross of Christ, can you deny that God might work through you to turn their eyes there, too?

God is God. And He will be exalted (Psalm 46:10-11). Repeatedly throughout all of Scripture, we read how God is exalted at those very times when Adam or Abraham or Jacob or David or even the disciples believed everything was hopeless and lost. That is how it is with Almighty God. That’s how He works. Nothing overcomes Him. He overcomes everything. In His way. And for His purpose. If this mighty yet merciful Lord and Savior is our God, then you and I have nothing to fear.

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“People have trigger warnings and safe zones because they feel powerless against the ideas they’re facing, but when students grasp reality through a biblical worldview they don’t feel powerless.” (Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries).

When I was a young woman, I don’t remember being “triggered” or needing to seek a “safe zone.” But then, I wasn’t nurtured by parents, teachers, pastors, or the culture to think that an emotional gut reaction to a problem or alternate way of thinking is acceptable and healthy.

Ok. I get it. The times have changed.

But people have not. Women and men have always had–and on this earth will continue to have–emotions triggered by sights, sounds, smells and, yes, those ideas that oppose our own.

Whenever given the opportunity, we ought to engage not a whole crowd of “triggered” people, but one triggered person at a time. For example, when someone rants against Christianity, we can ask, “Why are you angry? What has caused you to respond in this way? What barriers stop you from living the Christian life?”

When we talk about the things we haven’t done right, we give others liberty to talk more freely about things they haven’t done right. Carrying the burden of guilt can prevent someone from living a life that’s wholesomely committed to Jesus. Holding on to guilt, pride, or fear puts us all in the position of being taken captive by some deception, myth, or dangerous ideology.

So perhaps, when we encounter a “triggered” person, we can be an example of how to confess sin. We can explain the mercy and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and, in this way, lead from despair to hope. We can make use of the fruit of the Spirit which includes patience and kindness as opposed to emotional outbursts and harsh rhetoric.

We can profess with confidence, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Source: “Generational Guidance,” WORLD, 9-1-18

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Joseph and MaryJoseph, a young man from the house of David, was probably like every other soon-to-be husband: nervous, but excited all the same.  That is, until his fiancée came to him with shocking news.  Mary was pregnant, but Joseph was not the father.  The world, as Joseph knew it, had collapsed around him.  He felt betrayed, hurt, angry.  Break the engagement, whispered his pride, and walk away from this woman.

Everything had changed.  Plans were ruined.  Reputation was at stake.  Unchartered territory lay ahead.  At this precarious moment in his life, Joseph had nothing to hang on to… nothing, that is, except the Word of the Lord.

The Word gave Joseph courage.  “Don’t be afraid!”  It was the word that showed Joseph how to be faithful.  “Take Mary as your wife.  She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Perhaps, in holding on to the Word, Joseph remembered the experience of his ancestor, Adam.  Perhaps, in a moment of truth and with eyes focused, Joseph could picture Adam standing next to his wife, Eve.  Perhaps, with wisdom only from the Holy Spirit, Joseph recognized the significance of Eve’s creation by God from man’s rib.

God made (literally: “built”) woman using part of man.  With this, He established their relationship within the order of creation.  A rib is structural; it supports.  A rib guards and protects the heart and breath of life, yet it is vulnerable.  Under attack, it can easily be fractured or even broken.  Satan despises the order of creation that God uses to protect the man and woman He so loves.  So, that day in the Garden, Satan set his target and went straight to Adam’s rib.  The man was responsible for using God’s Word to cover his wife, yet he did nothing.  Joseph knew the consequences that followed.

Perhaps, with discernment only from God, Joseph understood that he must not repeat the sin of his ancestor and do to his rib what Adam had done to his.

Perhaps, in remembering what Adam had failed to do, Joseph was given the courage to cover his wife, Mary, and lead her to safety.  Let the village talk!  Adjust carefully-made plans!  Trust the Word of the Lord!  Although it meant leaving his zone of comfort, Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do.  He covered his rib by taking Mary as his wife.  And, when Mary’s child was born, Joseph named Him Jesus.

God wanted Joseph to make a difference – a difference that would impact the world.  But, such a difference could be made only by being faithful.  Such faithfulness required that Joseph leave all that was familiar and put his life and the life of Mary into the hands of God.

Today, when a young man pressures his girlfriend to have sex, he is leaving her physically, emotionally, and spiritually vulnerable.  He has placed his “needs” before hers and, in so doing, left her open to attack.  When a man does not promise to love, cherish, and cover a woman with his name, but simply share living quarters and a bed, he is leaving her open to attack.  When a man fathers a child but does not accept the privilege and responsibility of being a daddy, he is leaving both mother and child uncovered and vulnerable to the world.

But, when a man remembers God and His call to leadership, he is able to make a difference.  A young man who guards his girlfriend’s virtue makes a difference.  A husband who remains true to his wife makes a difference.  A dad who understands the privilege, responsibility, and generational influence of fatherhood makes a difference.  Men of faithfulness have a grand opportunity to defend against chaos and leave a legacy of hope.

Convenience told Joseph to walk away from Mary.  Self-defense told Joseph to think of “number one.”  Pride told Joseph that he could do better.  Fear told Joseph to hide.  But, God told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded.  He covered Mary, his rib, and the unborn Child whose heart beat under her own.  And, after the Baby was born in the most humble of circumstances, Joseph named the Child Jesus.  Through all the frightening days ahead, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And the Lord did not forget Joseph.  In the midst of danger, the angel of the Lord warned Joseph.  When uncertainty abounded, the angel of the Lord directed Joseph.

It’s true that life wasn’t ever the same for Joseph.  It certainly wasn’t what he had planned.  But, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And, in doing so, he received courage to do what was asked of him.  Joseph was faithful to cover Mary, his rib.  He raised her Son Jesus in a godly home and took Him to worship.  Some 2000 years later, the Boy who grew to be a Man in the house of a carpenter is still changing lives.

Joseph made a difference.

Copyright 2010

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No one knows why, but a young woman is dead.   She was found in the garage of her parent’s home.  It appears that she hung herself.

Why?  Why would a young woman fear life itself?

What makes this especially personal is that I was on the phone with my son when it happened.  This young woman was his neighbor.  “The police have pulled up, Mom.  People are milling about outside the garage.  I’ll call you back.”  When he did, he explained what had just happened.  “Her mom and dad are standing outside.  Her dad is talking loud.  People are on cell phones.  The neighborhood is stunned.”

So, why?  Why was a young life cut short?  Not long ago, when our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren were out for a walk, this young woman approached them with interest.  She was friendly.  Talkative.  During the course of the conversation, she explained that she was a psychology major in college.  She asked if she could hold baby Kate.

Now the girl who held my granddaughter is dead.  Evidence suggests that it was by her own hand.  I never met this young woman.  I don’t know her parents.  But, the ache inside me is real.

What happened?  Her parents, family and friends may never know.  But, one thing is certain.

Human life, because of sin, is very fragile.  The enemy of life knows this.  He delights in this weakness.  He takes advantage of our frailty.

Satan despises the humans who are created “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5).  He is jealous of God’s beloved creations who have been given “dominion over the works of [His] hands;” with “all things under [our] feet” (v. 6).  Satan is a thief.  He comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a).

But, Jesus says, “I came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (v. 10b-11).  Jesus left heaven for our sake.  He lowered Himself so that He might battle Satan for every fragile life.  Jesus won eternal victory over Satan when He died on the Cross at Calvary.  His resurrection proves that victory.  He ascended back to heaven.  There He waits, until the Father tells the Son it is time to return to earth on the last day.  Then He will call every believer home.  To heaven.  To new life without the chains of sin.

For now, Satan is having his little day.  The destruction he leaves in his wake can take our breath away.  In our most vulnerable moments, he hisses, “Did God really say . . .?”  His best weapon is to deceive.  Once deceived, we doubt.  Then fear.  In fear, we are desperate to take control.  To do anything… anything that might stop the confusion or loneliness or suffering.

For this – and every other reason – our identity matters.  Knowing Whose we are matters.  Knowing that we are adopted sons and daughters of God because of what Jesus did for us matters.  Trusting our identity as God’s beloved creation serves us well in all circumstances.  No matter if we don’t feel loved or attractive or significant.  No matter if we are unhappy or in pain or seemingly spinning out of control and knocked off our foundation, we remain God’s treasures in Christ.

Trusting our identity in Christ, we become less vulnerable.  When Satan comes to deceive, Jesus stands close.  When Satan hisses in one ear, Jesus calls us to Him.  “Trust Me, My child.  Hear My word of hope.  When all forsake you, I never will.”

Our identity matters.  Trusting our identity in Christ makes a difference.  Even if something snaps… if a neuron misfires… our identity does not change.

One question remains.  It is for us.  The living.  Do we know our identity?  Do we see ourselves as treasures of great price?  In the battle for our very souls, do we look past the thief to focus hearts and minds on the Good Shepherd?  No matter the circumstances, do we cling to His promise?

Dear Father, comfort the parents of this young woman.  They suffer loss beyond my imagination.  In their loss, draw them to the Cross of their Savior.  Send Your Spirit to fill the emptiness.  To work Your will for good.  Amen. 

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Liberal thinkers like to call themselves “progressive.”  They have “evolved” to a higher and more enlightened view and practice of life.  Is this true?

Between the years of 1904 and 1909, archaeological excavations at Gezer (once known as the Canaanite region) revealed the ruins of a temple.  This temple, or “high place” was built to worship Ashtoreth, the “wife” of the idol named Baal.  Great numbers of jars were discovered under the debris of the temple.  These jars contained the remains of children who had been sacrificed to Baal and Ashtoreth.  The whole area (an enclosure 150 feet by 120 feet) proved to be a cemetery for babies.

“Foundation sacrifices” were performed by Israelites who had adapted the ways of the people around them.  When a house was to be built, a child would be sacrificed and his or her body “built” into the wall with the belief that “good luck” would come to the rest of the family.  Many tiny bodies were dug up in Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, and other sites.

How could a mother lay her child in the arms of Baal, a stone-cold idol who stood above a flaming fire?  How could the father permit it?  Infant sacrifice was practiced by parents seeking a change of circumstances.  A better life.  Prosperity.

Are we more civilized today?  Are we truly more “progressive?”  We have sacrificed 53,310,822 preborn babies in the United States since 1973.  Biology and ultrasound technology remind us that the abortionist is not removing “globs of tissue” but sons and daughters.  These children are sacrificed, not at the temple of Ashtoreth or Baal, but at the temple of Self.

Approximately 95 percent of abortions in the U.S. are not for rape, incest, or the life of the mother, but for convenience.  Mothers and fathers in Canaan sacrificed their children to idols for personal gain or out of fear.  Today’s practice of abortion is really no different.  Mothers and fathers lay their babies in the arms of stone gods named “my choice.”  “My convenience.”  “My best interest.”  One life is sacrificed for another.  “If I have an abortion, I will regain control of my life.”  “If I have this abortion, my future won’t be at risk.”  “Having this abortion is the sacrifice I must make for myself.”

But, God demands no such sacrifice.  He has already paid the ultimate and only necessary sacrifice for a future of hope.  God does not require mothers and fathers to sacrifice their children so that others might live well or fear less.  God made the sacrifice for us.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the reminder of amazing grace on pitifully desperate people.  The Cross tells us that no one else — not even a “fetus” (Latin: young one) — needs to be sacrificed.

No peace for the soul was found in the temple of Ashtoreth.  No hope for the future was found in the temple of Baal.  Peace and hope elude the mother or  father who bend at the temple of Self.  “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods” (Psalm 16:4 NIV).  Ashtoreth. Baal.   Self.  All seek to deceive, then forsake.

But, those who trust in the God who calls each child by name will not be deceived.  God’s Word opens eyes and changes hearts and minds.  When fear presses down and momentary evil seems justifiable, God’s Word convicts… then comforts.  God does not forsake those who cry out to Him. He may not answer in the way we want or expect, but He promises His faithfulness in all circumstances.  Apart from God, there is no good thing.

With God, goodness and mercy rise up.  Push back against evil.  Overcome.  When wrong choices of the past made in fear and desperation are confessed and taken to the Cross, they are forgiven. Forgotten.  Covered by Jesus’ robe of righteousness.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed . . . The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:4-5, 7 ESV).

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