Fear Of God Is Our Confidence

The word is vexation, a state of being frustrated, annoyed or worried. Job went through a period of vexation. He pleaded for understanding of his friends’ reprimand as to what he had done to render such devastation in his life. Of course we know from the scripture that Job was innocent, guilty only of serving God. I believe Job had every right to plead his case. However, fear of God (Job 28:28) does not mean that we should be afraid to question God concerning the trials and tribulations in our lives. Wisdom is it’s own teacher. There will be many times that we are frustrated, annoyed or worried about a negative situation of which we are unaware as to why we are being challenged with this experience. Let us pray that seeking God will be our first and only recourse. Of course seeking wisdom about the situation will require that we believe God is present and at work even when what we see is to the contrary and all we are able to do is praise a truly just and loving God as we wait it out. All the while we know that redemption, reconciliation and healing is God’s blessed assurance.

Job 4:6  Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope? 

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and one’s children will have a refuge. 

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Encourage Yourself

Paul did it. David did it. Elijah, Job and Abraham did it. They all encouraged themselves. We must learn to speak what we believe. When there is doubt we should speak faith. When there is despair we should speak hope. When there is weakness we should speak strength. When there is hate we should speak love. Trust, believe and stand firm that God’s promises are true and know that his spirit upholds you, goes before you, and will never forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Pressing On: Only Our Next Step Really Matters

1 Chronicles 29:14 ‘But who am I?…For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. Today I am in a new place and as I was searching for something to write I came across this post from my own blog written on July 29, 2011. I decided it was a good way to begin yet another renewal in my life. No more forgetting who I am. No more waiting for other people to get them selves together, only living my life through the eyes of Christ, like it is gold, precious and yet moldable only by the skillful hands of God and building my life on his promises alone.

Forgetting Our Heritage (29 Jul 2012)

It’s not only when things in life go wrong do we quickly forget who we are, but also when things are going exceptionally well. We can just as easily lose confidence in our selves as quickly as we can become full of arrogance. Both extremes have the tendency to instigate storms. When our spirit is low the enemy attacks. When our spirit is high the enemy attacks. The balance (peace) will come when we begin to trust God’s presence in our life and give him praise regardless of our circumstance as Paul so eloquently encouraged in Philippians 3 and 4. We don’t have to blame our selves for the low times, nor give an explanation for our high times. In either situation we have only to give God the glory, remember that we are heirs to the promise of salvation and redemption as believers in Christ, and strive towards the peace of God, which passes all understanding. If we say we believe, only our next step really matters.

Philippians 3: 13-14 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Always Looking Up To God

These past couple of weeks I’ve been reading 2 Samuel in which we find the life events of King David. Most recently the event of David and Bathsheba has my attention in that it gives a most tragic example of the depth of the human will turned away from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps our cycle of transgressions doesn’t reach such an epic proportion as adultery followed by deceit and compounded by murder, nonetheless we are all guilty of making poor decisions and compounding them with even poorer choices. We forget that we are spiritual beings living a human experience. When this happens the power of the spirit of God doesn’t leave us, we just cause it to become ineffective because we are focused on the physical and not the spiritual.

We are without a doubt on a spiritual journey that will continually encounter physical forces, which will challenge our relationship with one another and our relationship with God. Most times we will triumph over the challenge. Occasionally we will fail. Other times we will panic, but the heart that seeks after God will always prevail. David’s story is a reminder that even the anointed can become the antagonist in one’s own life. We may be chosen but we are not immune to the ways of the world, so let your house be guided by the spirit of compassion, understanding and most of all love. Above all remember that no matter how high we get, we should always be looking up to God.

Staying Focused

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). Prayer is always a good way to sustain the spirit and this one from Ephesians I believe is particularly good to embrace. The writer commends the readers and encourages them to focus on their relationship with God in order that the gift of the spirit of God within will continually guide and strengthen them.

Often the issue we have in this journey is whether or not we will allow God’s love to guide and strengthen our resolve to do the work God has called us to do. Our focus on the spirit within will help us stay a course that is pleasing to God. This is not to say that the course will be perfect by human standards. Rather it is a course that involves praise and thanksgiving for our blessings (including hardships & lessons learned), confession and repentance for our mis-steps (including disobedience to God’s word) and our testimony to the glory of Christ to which God in his grace heeds. Thus, when we lose focus (as we sometimes do) in this journey, God’s discipline and mercy will help us regain our focus on his spirit within and move us forward.

My Different Direction

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him (Surrender; 3rd step in the 12 step program published by AA).

Some time ago while in New York, I had the opportunity to visit an AA meeting (some of the open ones allow pre-arranged visitors with the understanding that you introduce yourself and why you are there). When I left the meeting I was somewhat changed in my way of thinking. I had already understood alcoholism as a disease. What I didn’t realize was my own cowardice. I knew that I had some unhealthy “attachments” but as a Christian, had I really made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God? I am certainly not comparing my simple mundane weaknesses to alcohol addiction but oddly enough when I heard the stories from newcomers, their journeys all began quite innocently and some sounded rather familiar. How many of us at the age of sixteen have been invited to a party by a friend? I decided that it didn’t really matter where I was or how I had gotten there, what would have to happen before I really committed to making that decision? As it turned out, a lot. Although at the time I hadn’t yet reached where I believe God needed me to be, from that meeting I knew with more certainty, the direction of dependency in which I needed to go; a surrendering that allows me to let go and trust God first.

Psalm 48:13 This God is our God for ever and ever; he shall be our guide for evermore.

God’s Absolute Faith

Learning to simply rest in the stern of the boat amidst a storm, I believe is all part of the risk that God is willing to take with us. Perhaps the challenges we confront both great and small provide us with opportunities to  discipline our hearts to the spirit of faith that God has given us. If we accept the gifts of God (Isa. 11:2-3′ 1 Cor. 12:1-11) without respect to its power and authority that we may discipline our lives in faith, we diminish our own fulfillment and restrict the fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) that it bears. Thus, we risk becoming like a loose canon crashing the sides of our own boat given to self-destruction. Storms may come suddenly, they may make us lose direction, they may even paralyze us with fear, but they are never insurmountable. Through Christ, God has already defeated the storms and in faith we have only to rest in God’s peace believing that absolute faith always protects absolutely.

Mark 4: 35-41 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace Be Still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid?”

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain…There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return… open wide your hearts also.

Psalm 9:10 Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, for you never forsake those who seek you O Lord.

Saving Acts In Faith

A story called “Ninety-Three” written by Victor Hugo tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this new noise came from a cannon, part of the ship’s cargo, that had broken loose. It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink, two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from a loose cannon was greater than the fury of the storm. Storms of life may blow about us, but it is not the exterior storms such as the one that rose upon the disciples while Christ was sleeping in the stern that pose the gravest danger. It is our faith, which has loosened and ultimately broken away from the gift of the spirit within us that leaves us vulnerable.  Instead we become attached to doubt, fear, distraction and disillusionment which seem to engulf our lives in Christ. Although furious storms outside may be raging, what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our lives. Much like the sailors, at times we must be willing to take the risk of saving acts in faith continually in this journey because our hope lies in regaining and holding fast to that which keeps us reconciled in God’s peace as we wait out the storm.

Risking the Holy Spirit

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the gift of the spirit was specifically anointed on certain people. Not until the New Testament is the gift of the spirit poured out on the world both Jewish and Gentile. In retrospect, from a human point of view, making the gift of the Holy Spirit available for anyone seems to me a huge risk on God’s part. For those who believe in its power and authority, such a gift in the wrong hands can prove devastating to the one who possesses it, if not properly used. Certainly in biblical times there were many who did just that, using trickery, and false witness to convince others of their authority thus causing people to turn away from God’s truth. (And) Even now when storms, distractions or disillusionment happens we become vulnerable to the trickery, and false witness of this day as well, and we turn away from what God has promised. But what about God’s point of view?  Though we can’t presume to know God’s thoughts, the fact that Pentecost occurred and given the gift of the Holy Spirit through his son; who does such a magnanimous, and some would say awesome, philanthropic act as to make available a free gift with such power and authority? I have to ask of myself, how is it that a gift so generously given, when received is either selectively used or used with severe abuse? Surely God already knew at least by that point that the risks were at best 50/50, some believing, while others just shrug it off. As time moves on, of course the risks become greater as some, believers and non-believers, now claim to possess the spirit without evidence of really having it. Surely today with all of the distractions and disillusionment of what we see and what really is; the thought of the Holy Spirit reconciling our hearts to the mind of God in the midst of struggle (storm, distractions, doubt, fear etc.) seems like an overwhelming task, yet clinging to the hope of this ultimate goal continues to live on today. As the world turns and we become more attached to tangible things, our journey toward reaching the intangible seems harder and longer to reach. Perhaps however, in God’s way of thinking, abandoning this hope even if only for a few was never an option and it seems that Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit) perhaps, is not God’s ultimate act towards his creation. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of taking the risk?

 

The Vine Connection

If in fact eternal life is our goal it seems to me that we must first understand what eternal life really means for us. Based on what I have come to understand about those individuals whom we’ve read about (Abraham, Moses, and the prophets etc.), all had direct relationship with God, I recognize and believe that eternal life for us today is synonymous with eternal relationship with Christ. The cleansing words of Christ in John’s gospel make it very clear, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  The purpose of this is to leave little room for anything else to take root in our lives that might influence us away from God. By definition, to abide is to continue or remain in a particular condition. Thus to abide in Christ is to remain in relationship with him in order that we may bring forth the fruit that is God’s love. Every relationship is potentially a branch to God’s love. As long as we abide in God’s love, we as believers strive to continue in this world as Christ is in this world. If we lose connection with the vine then every branch (relationship) we have, potentially loses connection through us. The life of the vine is  what gives us hope. Stay connected to the vine!