Crushing Fear

Fear can take all shapes and sizes, and changes form for each person it tempts. Did you know that fear is actually a temptation? It isn’t just a fluctuating human emotion, although it’s often passed off as such, but something Satan uses in a very real way for everyone. Like pride, this temptation can take a whole lot of guises. “What will people think of me?” “What if I fail?” “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if I misjudged, and everything’s going to come crashing down?”

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It seems like it takes all that is in me to conquer my fears (and even then I’m not that great at it), and one thing that I think is dangerous is the fact that it seems justifiable to feel fear. Everyone feels it, so what’s the problem? It’s admirable to be able to live courageously, but it isn’t necessary for the professing Christian to be the same way…right? If you think about it, it actually starts to sound like those familiar excuses we all use in our sin – just shuttling away the problem into a dark little corner with our intensely human excuses. “This is a little sin. It won’t matter.” “Look at them – they’re far worse than me!” This is more of a I-call-the-shots attitude than a humble one that sees sin as it is. (I have the same struggles; I’m not trying to preach here, but actually show what I’ve realized about the sins I commit.)

So, back to fear: it’s actually a weapon of the Deceiver, and therefore there must be some way to conquer it. “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13b Every believer has the power (granted by Jesus) to resist temptation. That verse is one of my favorites, because it reminds me how powerless Satan is over me because of my faith in Christ. Because Satan uses it to tempt us, and God always provides a way out of temptation, there must be a way out of fear. Impossible sounding, I know…

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One of the things that really inspires me is watching other people with their fiery spirits for serving the Lord. It tends to (momentarily) banish my fears by observing their own fearlessness. Even though this can be very inspirational, there is even another, better, option. We can watch God at work. If fears are the work of Satan, than God’s work will be the complete opposite. Seeing how God moves (sometimes by stepping out in complete faith to do something out of our comfort zone) can…and will…start a different kind of fire in our hearts – one that won’t ever go out, as long as we stay true to Him.

“…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”  – Ephesians 6:16

 

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A Broken Prayer

Prayer is probably one of the hardest things I struggle with. Not with having time to pray, or even really doing it – though that is something else to work on – but just with having doubts about how I’m approaching God.

After all, when you think about how the Israelites approached God – through a high priest, behind curtains and walls, with special incense – it’s obvious that God isn’t simply a “friend who you can talk to whenever”, though society seems to want to paint Him that way. He’s the Lord of the universe. Savior of your heart.

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With these thoughts in mind, I’m constantly worried that “maybe that prayer was too flippant.” “Maybe I forgot to pray for someone important.” “I’m repeating the same prayer pattern…is that a problem?” “Should I address God as someone I’m close to, or keep it solemn and formal?” To be honest, I don’t have definite answers to any of these questions.

But one day I was sitting in my room drawing, listening to a Christian radio station, when a new song came on called “Broken Prayer” by Riley Clemmons. Part of the chorus is “You see the beauty in my broken prayers”. When I heard that, it all came together – even if the answers were in little bits and pieces, not quite whole, I still started having a new understanding of how Christ looks at our prayers.

 

First, I think it’s important to point out how God doesn’t need our prayers. But they’re still vital…for us. They show us how much we rely on God. They humble us by demonstrating how much we depend on Him. So, while God is all-sufficient and doesn’t exist because of our prayers, they are still an intensely important part of our Christian walk.

Secondly, we are a broken people. No matter how changed we are (on the outside and on the inside) sin has broken us and we can’t escape from sin as long as we live in this world (of course, that doesn’t mean what we do doesn’t matter…but that’s another post 😉 ). Therefore, since we are a broken creation, our prayers will never be perfect, so don’t expect them to.

Thirdly, even if we don’t know what we’re asking for, Christ does. The Bible tells us “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.” He knows our hearts. He knows our passions, our fears, and our hurt for what we’re going through or what someone else is going through. Don’t stress about whether or not God will accept your prayer because you think you might have forgotten someone or something.

 

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Finally, just remember who God is. While He is a comforter and a stronghold, a place for us to flee to and a shelter for our weakness, He also is far more than we could ever imagine. He’s our creator. God’s greatness shouldn’t be something to fear, but something to take comfort in. If He’s so unfathomable, if He’s so infinite, then He knows our problems and He knows what we have gone through and will go through. So approach God believing that He is who He says He is, and pray with a heart of faith.

 

Pain Hurts

I was inspired to write this by Christian blogger Tim Challie’s post.

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It seems like – as Christians – we’re always told to “see the bright side of things!” or “just trust in God. It’ll all work out.” It feels like we’re pressured to avoid feeling the hurt. It feels like we’re not allowed to hurt.

There’s two ends of the spectrum – two traps – we can fall into. The one of “I have to wear a false front, perpetually happy and feeling blessed, for everyone – including God,” and the other end, where we say “God can handle our emotions. Just thrash out. He’ll understand, and He can take it.”

Feeling pressured to put on a smile, no matter how much you feel like crying, is worrying too much that we’re not “Christian enough”, or that Christ can’t understand our sorrows, or even fear that God might re-think our salvation if we give in too much to pain. You don’t have to be a perfect person to be a Christian. We aren’t entitled to see God’s plan by putting on an act of trust; we have to admit we can’t do it on our own.

However, if we take our anger and pain out on God, that’s is a sin. It’s our own sin that causes the disease, worries, doubts, and everything else that is breaking us down. Not His. When we feel like the pain’s too much, we can’t explode and scream at God – how would that be acting at all Christ-like? We’re still different from the world as Christians. We can’t react the way the world does to trouble. 

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So if acting brave when all we feel is pain and dumping our hurt and anger out by blaming God both aren’t how we respond to trials, what is?

I think of the example of Jesus. Even though Christ knew exactly what would happen and how big the effects would be when He died on the cross, His human nature was afraid. He prayed to God that, if possible, the bitter cup of death would pass from Him. But what did He pray after that?

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

God doesn’t want us to act like we can do it on our own. He wants us to run to Him. He longs to comfort us through our trials, not admire how good an act we can put on. Every Christian will have times of doubt, and during those times God doesn’t want us to yell and scream and throw a fit about the storm we’re in, He wants us to bring those doubts to Him. I can’t do this. Father, carry it for me. Carry my doubts. Carry my fears. Carry my pain. Because I can’t, but I know you can. 

Not with a heart of anger, but with humility. Not with blame…with faith.

Why Me?

Christians sometimes struggle with the question of, “Why wasn’t *so-and-so* saved? Why is there a whole world full of people who aren’t given God’s grace?” I know – I’ve had that question before.

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Every once in a while God reminds me of truths I’ve forgotten. He gives me a new sense of how undeserving I am of His grace when I start to think I’m doing alright on my own.

It was time for our family worship, and tonight we were reading from Romans 9. As discussion flowed from that starting point, my dad began reminding us of our identities as Christians. More specifically, how we got them. Using the example of the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau, and a verse in our reading (“Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” – Romans 9:13), he stated: “Our first impression would be, ‘poor Esau!’; but stop and think. Remember, it’s not that God rejected Esau. It’s that He chose Isaac.

It’s sickeningly easy for us as Christians to start looking down on the world in a self-righteous manner, thinking that we somehow deserved God’s boundless grace from among a world of millions and billions of unjustified sinners. I very easily fall into that pattern, almost unconsciously. But what is vital to the Christian walk is realizing how utterly unworthy we are. Why us? How did God ever look on us as candidates for His love?

It isn’t a question of “Why not them?”. It’s a question of “Why me?”

Treasures

Last Sunday, my pastor began his sermon using a verse from John 17. Being encouraged to follow along, I accordingly read from that chapter and discovered that I didn’t remember ever reading that passage. The next day, as I was doing my own personal Bible study, I decided to browse through these unknown verses – and I realized that the things in that chapter were priceless. They have significantly watered my faith.

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Growing up in a Christian family, I’ve become familiar with a good deal of Bible stories and basic facts about Christ and His nature. But sometimes a lot of what I took as a fact about Christ had never been reaffirmed by seeing it actually written in the Bible. It had to be written down in there somewhere – after all, I’d been taught it all my life.

So whenever I see a reassertion of what I’ve been previously taught, it becomes very special. That’s what this chapter was to me.

In John 17, Christ’s true love for the believers really shines (specifically I’m talking about verses 6 – 25). His prayer to God the Father reiterates how He prays and intercedes for us – us! It’s dumbfounding how God the Son could be specifically praying for my heart. How He knows us so personally. It’s hard to even convey in words how truly awesome and precious this is. In truth we can’t fathom the depths of this miracle.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

-John 17:22-23

Looking for God’s Works – 2018

It’s a brand new year, and I’m so excited to start it! One of the most exciting things about a blank slate is you never know what it will end up being filled with. The calendar has 12 months of fresh, pure pages. A new journal is the same way. We get to “start over”.

The holidays were wonderful. Although most of us emerged on New Year’s day still feeling tired, we made some great memories. I’m also about to begin on another semester of school, and I’m hoping it will go as well as my first semester!

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I usually don’t make any interesting New Year’s resolutions, so you won’t hear much from me on that subject. However, like most Christians, I’ve tried to begin my year off right – by reading my Bible and praying – and I’m hoping to try to maybe (perhaps) keep that going on a regular basis (smile). My family and I have had a busy 2017, with getting used to a new house, gaining the blessing of a new sibling, finding a great new church, and co-creating a new homeschool co-op. There’s been some interesting times, when we weren’t sure how things would end up turning out, but for the most part it was an exciting adventure. I have a lot to be thankful for.

This new year is going to be tough. There’s going to be new challenges, new experiences (good and difficult), and new ways of thinking. I’m praying that God will help me grow, no matter what He uses to bring about that growth.

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As I look forward to a whole new year, I can’t wait to see how God is going to work in it. Because I do feel that something is going to happen this year…whether in a tangible way, or by helping me in my walk with Him, or by working in other’s lives. I think if we try to look for God and watch Him work, we will see Him moving – because even the simplest act done with a heart for Christ is something He uses.

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

-Matthew 25:37-40

2018 is almost here!

It’s almost the new year!

For 2018, I’d like to try and get more organized with this blog…it’s been a little random at times, and I’m constantly not liking the way it’s set up. It might be a few weeks as I try to set up a post schedule, work out the kinks in the blog design, but hopefully in the not-too-far future I’ll have it more put together. I’ll keep on posting as I work on it, and I hope that eventually I’ll be able to make everything a nice, permanant site. Thank you for reading & bearing with (smile)!

 

– Abigail