What are you afraid of?

2 Comments

You’ve probably heard about ‘disordered loves’.  That’s when you love something more than God.

If I’m honest, I struggle with THAT sin not only every day but also multiple times in a day.

What do I love more than God?  Theologically, nothing!  But functionally, I can rattle off probably 10, without pause:

  • my time
  • my comfort
  • my routine
  • speaking French
  • my ability to cook well
  • my appearance (being fit for my age)
  • READING
  • writing
  • sleep
  • long stretches with no obligations

And I haven’t even mentioned people I love!

Yes, I am aware that the Holy Spirit constantly is at work in this entire area of my life.  It’s called pruning, or sanctification, or suffering.

But the other day, something caused me to think about ‘disordered fears’.  I haven’t spotted that expression before, but books have been written about the disproportionate fear of man over the fear of God.  Or how we can become immobilized through fear of failure.

There are a hundred things to fear. And Christians and unbelievers alike battle fear.  Winston Churchill understood the evil of fear during wartime.

Here’s what prompted me to think about how our fears might be out of whack.

First I saw God’s emphasis on loving HIM above everything else.  This lesson has recently been reinforced as Mike and I journey once again through the Bible in a year. Today we finished the book of Joshua.  This successor to Moses is about to ‘be gathered to his fathers’ and he passes on his final advice and admonitions to the congregation of Israel at Shiloh.  He spends a good deal of time recounting God’s faithfulness to the Hebrew tribes, beginning with Abraham and mentioning this fact:

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14 (NIV)

BASED on what God has done for them, Joshua explains their responsibility to LOVE God.  It’s a command.  If it’s a command, it must not be a feeling.  Because ephemeral feelings come and go.  Loving God turns out to be an action that looks like this:

  • serving God wholeheartedly
  • clinging to God
  • preferring the one true God to other Gods
  • obeying God
  • worshipping and sacrificing to this God only

But how did I connect this directive to love God to what we are to fear?  Well, you can’t read much of the Old Testament without picking up the importance of ‘fearing God’.  Proverbs 19:23 is just one of many verses: “The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

Earlier in the week, I was wallowing in some non-God fears.   Kind of like Pilgrim mucking around in the Slough of Despond.  But thanks be to the Holy Spirit!  He brought me up short about the sin of fear.

I saw that these temporal fears (I’m gaining weight, some work-related circumstances might never get better, what if………….happens?) were occupying my thoughts and causing me to be despondent.  That was a slap in the face to God.  God brought me up short about my unbelief in God’s good (*good as HE calls good, that is whatever facilitates my eventual conformity to Jesus) plan for my life.  That realization led me to confess that I was fearing FIRST and FOREMOST something other than God.

I now see that if I shift my thoughts and energy to fearing, to pleasing, to caring about God’s reputation, then maybe my other fears will fall ‘into’ place and to their correct size. God doesn’t want us to deny our fear; He invites honesty.  BUT He is at work to place them in perspective.  Loving God leads to life.  Fearing God leads to life.  Loving AND fearing something over God leads to death.

It’s a new thought for me.  What about you?  Do you struggle more with disordered loves or disordered fears?  OR…..are they one and the same, two sides of the same sin?

 

 

 

The danger of NOT being needy

4 Comments

A friend unburdened herself to me last month that she was scared to find herself in the midst of a dry spell with God.  She doesn’t sense His presence any more.  He seems distant.   When she reads her Bible, she feels nothing.  She once felt alive to God, close to Him.

Now she finds herself going through the motions.  When I gently probed about what brought on this change, she didn’t know.  She couldn’t pinpoint exactly when her intimacy with God, her excitement of belonging to Him had waned.  She had woken up one day, all of a sudden aware that He ‘was gone’, as she explained it.

She asked me what she could do to get the old feelings back.  We talked about the external behaviors of Christian discipleship such as prayer, worshipping with other believers, thanking God, regular Bible reading, journeying.  She admitted that although she still attended church most Sundays, she had stopped both reading her Bible on a daily basis and pursuing regular time with God in prayer.  She felt hypocritical and mechanical in doing them.  Doubt about the efficacy of our prayers had crept into her mind.

As we were brainstorming and thinking about the practices of believers, God suddenly brought to mind what I think is the key to a close relationship with God.  Neediness.

I feel needy EVERY DAY and many times throughout the day.  I could chalk it up to my age and growing awareness of the fragility and incertitude of life’s circumstances. Or maybe I simply have no more qualms in admitting that in my own strength and resources I can’t do much of anything well, I’m just plain NEEDY!

Stop a moment!  Isn’t ‘neediness’ the very essence of being a created being?  But God as Creator, what does He need?  Not one thing!   To be God is to be self-sufficient.  To be creature is to be needy.

O, the happiness of being in want! That neediness keeps me begging God, scouring my Bible for His sure promises of provision, guidance and wisdom.  Daily, I journal about what I find in Scripture.  Likewise, I talk about the truth of God with my husband, other family and many friends.  I pepper emails with encouragement from God because when I point to God and His greatness, I FEEL renewed and strengthened.  All through the day, I thank Him as I see His provision.  When I start to dread tomorrow, I’m learning to rehearse why I don’t need to be afraid.  When I catch myself worrying, I repent of my unbelief and ask my husband to pray for me to trust God. I’m in constant dialogue with God because I live out of the insufficiency of Maria.

Yes, His mercies are new every morning, because my needs are new every morning!

Financial and health needs, relationship challenges, work problems, decision conundrums and other suffering have turned out to be God’s greatest gifts to me. I knew that at one level. But listening to all my friend is suffering and trying to DO to regain her once close relationship with the happy Triune, all-powerful God of the universe scares me.  I don’t EVER want to lose that.

Nothing compares to knowing God.

Where I used to begrudge any circumstance of neediness, I now THANK Him specifically.

Here’s how I have reworded Paul’s description in 2 Cor 12:10

Original: For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My version:  For the sake of a close relationship with Christ, then, I am content and thankful to be given weaknesses, neediness, hardships and problems.  For when I am needy, I am strong in the Lord.

For…..The fear of (losing) God is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10

The Gospel according to the Preacher

Leave a comment

78 - my blue hydrangeas with lots of blooms

Fear God and keep his commandments….eat and drink and find satisfaction in (your) work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?….Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love….Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Ecclesiastes 12: 13b; 2: 24-25; 9: 9a, 10a

Having pursued projects and pleasures, the Preacher’s life principle emerges, germinates and blooms. And I inhale:

Treasure and fear God. Then obey Him, enjoying every good gift He gives, namely the ‘dailies’. The accompanying joy will cleave to me as I work with my heart at what He assigns me.

How easy it is to lie and steal

Leave a comment

I didn’t lie yesterday, but God showed me how very easily I could have and what a pickle I would have been in.

Lowe's

Mike and I were at Lowe’s to look for a new kitchen trashcan.  We found one we liked, but it was the floor model and had a small dent.  In talking with the sales associate I inquired about a reduction in price due to the dent.  He thought that would be likely.  We found another small defect and I suggested, “We should get 50 % off this floor model then since there are 2 issues and no box to boot!”  He agreed.

We had to wait while he sought approval first from customer service, then from a floor manager who had to check with his supervisor by phone. The supervisor advised him that 20 % is the max discount in such cases, not the 50% I had asked for. In the end, as the floor manager completed the ‘sale’ price, he informed us:

  • “Lowe’s never gives 50 % off for a damaged floor model.”
  • I replied, “But the sales guy said it was likely!”
  • He asked, “What’s his name?”
  • “Bill”

The floor manager THEN informed Mike and me that he was going to have a serious talk with Bill, because all Lowe’s employees know NEVER to offer a discount like that to customers and that Bill could possibly be fired!

I was horrified.  What if I had ‘lied’ about Bill mentioning the 50% off reduction?  I would have had a SERIOUS crisis of conscience on my hands.  I would have had to admit to Mr. Floor Manager:

  • Oh…no, uhh,….. he didn’t really say that.  I just said that…..about the 50% off.  Don’t hold that against him!

My stomach felt the same blow to the gut as THOUGH I had lied.  Maybe God gave me a glimpse of the ‘wages’ of sin!  Whew – I didn’t enjoy looking into the precipice.

**

Then there was a moment last June when I came close to the edge of sin.  I was at school and was putting something back in my desk drawer when I recalled that I needed sticky name tags for a church seminar I was facilitating.  The stash of labels was front and center, lying in that desk drawer at school.  But something kept me from what I’ve done in the past – ‘availing myself of’ a school provision for home use.

Would my using work-provided supplies be considered stealing?  If not, it certainly pointed to something worse: UNBELIEF!

unbelief  How so?  Because lickedy split my inclination was:  I DON’T want to spend  $2 at the store to purchase what I need when I have some tags right at my fingertips.  But who provides me with all my needs, my daily bread?  Is my God THAT miserly in what He gives that I can’t afford a small office supply from the money He provides through our work?  God pointed out the larger sin that underlay my temptation to sin: to steal. I was ashamed and well taught in the moment.

Phil 4:19 – And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

But lest you think that I always stop right before this kind of sin, I don’t. Frequently I know what I am doing AS I move forward, yielding to the shortcut of sin. Remorse immediately follows afterwards.

So why do I lie? Why do I tell someone what I think he/she WANTS to hear?  Because I don’t want to experience the:

  • annoyance
  • anger
  • disappointment
  • dress down of the person to whom I am lying

What struck me during a recent post-lie conversation with God was how misplaced my fears were, how little respect I had for God.  Rather than avoiding the possible displeasure of my interlocutor, I should GREATLY fear lying to God who is holy, who has given me life AND shown me nothing but love and mercy.  Is this how I treat my Father?  What does THAT say about how much I value Him?

One hears in Christian circles that as one gets closer to divine light, as God’s holy flashlight penetrates the dark recesses of sin in the heart, one FEELS more sinful. As the years go by, I grow increasingly aware of my sin, daily and I am shocked.  I don’t know why, except I thought ‘I was BETTER than that’.  Ha!

I am learning (through lots of pop quizzes) to thank God FOR his gentle training rebukes that follow my failures.  It means I’m a daughter,

“……because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Hebrews 12:6

 

 

Why wonder?

2 Comments

We need to be awed and astounded in order to be happy. Or put another way, those who have retained the ability to be ‘wowed’ and astonished are the happiest.

Who comes to mind when you think about what kind of person is easily dazzled?  Little children!

Wonder

I once heard Ravi Zacharias, a defender of the truth of Christianity, talk about his three children and what it took to wind-up each with that night-time story fear.  His littlest one needed only to hear Daddy read with a dramatic voice:

  • “The door creaked open slowly.”

The 5-year old, past being stirred by that preamble, was sent into a paroxysm of shivers with:

  • “The door creaked slowly open as an ominous but invisible voice growled, “Are there any children here?”

And the more ‘savvy’ seven year old needed more drama and suspense.  It wasn’t until Dad described the perilous predicament of the three children, cowering under the bed, when:

  • “All of a sudden, a slimy but firm green hand snatched a bare ankle and dragged forth the oldest child from under the bed.”

Ravi continued in his account of bedtime stories from 30 years ago to make the point that adults who have lost the ability to be awed grow weary of life.  Why is that?  We are wired, by God, to wonder, to feel awe, to find ourselves comforted by something immensely more grand and powerful than us.  It’s that combination of being scared yet knowing that one is safe.  Like being caught on a mountain ledge in the midst of a raging storm and finding a shallow cave in which to ride out the tempest.  One feels secure AND at the same time swept up in the grandeur of so much power.

Maybe that is why the Bible teaches over and over again that ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ Proverbs 9:10.

Are you feeling blasé, bored with life, lost in the ho-hum seeming monotony of daily life? I think this hits most first-world people, many starting around the age of 40. Bored people are not happy people. I know.  From experience!

So what do we have to do to regain the habit of holy awe?  First – admit our boredom to God as sin!  A people blasé about the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer doesn’t KNOW God. Second – pray and ask His help, for we are helpless to do anything good for ourselves. Third – find a promise from God, claim it and pray it.  How about Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction.

 

Night sky awe

Self-sufficiency is a lie!

4 Comments

Bigger Barn

I am like the rich fool who believed Satan about storing up stuff for future needs instead of trusting God.

In desperation, I pray.  God comes through.  

Relieved, I thank God.

But with the very next breath, I perversely tense,  “Rats!  There’s X situation tomorrow and I’m going to have to BE VULNERABLE and NEED God.  I just wish I could see the resources ahead of time, (look out the window at my BARN.)

Here’s the lie:

Either I provide for myself, or I trust God.

(and Satan paints self-sufficiency as less anxiety-producing)

The truth is, I CAN’T provide for myself.  That’s a false assumption.

Real life: 

Either neediness WITHOUT God, or neediness plus the God who promises to provide with me

Dear Father, help me repent not only of fear-thoughts and worry but also of not wanting to NEED You!

Psalm 40:17 I am poor and needy, yet the Lord takes thought and plans for me. You are my Help and my Deliverer. O my God, do not tarry!

%d bloggers like this: