154. Miracles – inside and out.

We cannot help but feeling powerless when we talk about miracles.  It is a mysterious realm outside our control.  We have no authority to command the exceptional. We are, in a sense, “prisoners” of the laws of nature and the ordinary scheme of things.  We cannot “break out” and fix things in an extraordinary and uncommon way. A miracle always makes one wonder. Whether you experience an extraordinary event or hear about it, it will make you think a bit.  A miracle demands careful consideration.

In the dictionary a miracles is described as a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.  The definition goes on to say:

…a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences or an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

Without a doubt it is a bunch of feel-good words thrown together in one paragraph: welcome surprise, highly improbable, extraordinary, amazing, outstanding… and added to that: the work of a divine agency.

According to the above definition a miracle is always positive and welcome.  There is not even a hint of negativity in the description of a miracle. It is an extraordinary event welcomed with joy and relief.

Even the fiercest atheist and agnostic have to admit that one historical figure is unquestionably associated with miracles, whether you believe the miracles or not, namely Jesus.  How many times in debates the miracles of Jesus are mockingly attacked.  Notwithstanding, the miracles of Jesus, as they are recorded in the Bible, serve as an inexorable and proven source of hope and strength in the most dire and disastrous circumstances.

Miracles are often described in the words of the person or persons who received a miraculous intervention or those very close eyewitnesses who were part of the story.  A miracle is often observable by bystanders, but many, many times a miracle takes place in us or for us that we are the only witness to. A drastic turn of events in a bad situation or a deep change in a person is clear to the closest associates.

There are life issues that describe our lives and there are life issues that define our lives.  Bad circumstances or illness or loss can describe your life, but it will only define your life if you allow it to.  As an adult one has somewhat more control over the things that define your life.  Even within a crisis, which describes your circumstances, the principles that define your life, will be your life-logo.

This brings us to a vital spiritual principle. Our inner being is the indicator of our person.  We are made in the image of God – three in one – spirit, soul and body. Our spirit connects with the Spirit of God when we make the all-powerful decision to commit ourselves to God – the process of rebirth.  Out soul is the expression of our personality in will, mind and emotion. The degree, to which our soul is controlled by our Holy Spirit-controlled spirit, is the degree to which we grow spiritually.  To submit our soul to the Holy Spirit is a decision that will have the most significant impact on our life ever.

This brings us to another key spiritual principle – the heavenly chain of authority.  A child of God lives poles apart from the non-believer. Believers prioritize radically different.  Our decisions are submitted to the Holy Spirit to draw from the source of Godly wisdom.  We decide with our mind and execute with our body.

God’s child = Holy Spirit > spirit > soul > body.

God is the source of life.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!

 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it).  (Romans 11:33,36, AMPC)

The non-believer lives the other way around. The body dictates needs and desires that determine decisions.  Those decisions trigger the feelings and even more needs.  It is a life controlled by bodily desires and a leanness of spirit.

Non-believer = body > soul > spirit.

The brokenness of the world, the lack of morality and the sharp focus on bodily desires that are mistakenly elevated to the highest source of happiness has dreadful results in relationships. So much heartache and tragedy can be connected to sin that leads to adultery, betrayal, fear, anger, unkindness and a list of other miserable consequences.

Last time in Pebbles we discussed Isaiah 61. Hear the awe-inspiring words of the prophet:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, (61:1,NIV)

The miracle inside!  Pebble pal, hear the miracle words of healing.

Do you need Jesus-bandages?  Do you have a broken heart that bleeds anew every now and then?  Hear it once again:

He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted (AMPC)

How does it happen?  What is a Jesus-bandage?

The answer is in Isaiah 61:3:

To grant consolation and joy to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

The keywords in these phrases are “grant” and “give”.

Strong’s defines these words as follows:

…to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, establish, found, appoint, constitute, determine, fix,

and further:

…transform into, constitute, fashion, work, bring to pass.

It is the miracle on the inside.  It is a transformation-mystery, a powerful work of the Holy Spirit, executed according to a heavenly command when we decide to allow God to heal us and place our broken heart in the hands of our loving Dad.

Next time we will talk about the process. The key scripture is Romans 12:2.   Meditate on it in the mean time.

 

 

153. Supernatural and extraordinary – it is for me!

“He is not the soul of Nature, nor any part of Nature. He inhabits eternity: He dwells in a high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not his vehicle, earth is his footstool, not his vesture. One day he will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the ‘divine spark’ in man. He is God and not man.”   

C.S. Lewis, Miracles

The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah are poetic.  Reading in English would not make it clear, but to the scholars who can appreciate it, the Hebrew text is quite phenomenal.  Isaiah was a singing prophet.  I can only imagine how he would sing the sharp judgments over idolatry, godlessness and sin over evil cities and hardened hearts in a deep angry voice. On the other hand I can hear him in an anguished cry to repent and a passionate joyous call declaring the loving promises of God over his people.  Isaiah feels like my dear friend, sometimes the wise and loving grandfather I never knew and most often the trusted mentor I desperately need.

I wonder how the words of Isaiah 61 would have sounded in his voice and words.  It is words of magnificence about the healing, salvation, liberation and restoration for the loved ones of a miracle-working God who has everything under control.  Can you “hear” him in you inner being?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidingsto the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim libertyto the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beautyfor ashes,
The oil of joyfor mourning,
The garment ofpraisefor the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Just these first verses stir up a passion in me to experience the Spirit of God and speak the words of God.

All the heartache, desperation and destruction of a broken world could find solace, comfort and salvation from these life-changing words of Scripture.  It is significant how much emphasis is on mourning and tears.  The promise of freedom from the limitations of spiritual imprisonment by the evil woes of life is a powerful promise of deliverance.  Life breeds fear, anger, sexual sin and other kinds of wickedness to enslave us to the devil. Supernatural release and restoration are promised to all who seek salvation in the grace of God.

And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.

The brokenness of our world is a ruin of tears and depression.  Fear and bondage of any kind keep us locked up and limit our potential. The good news is that the century old remedy for all oppression still stands as the powerful solution to all desolation of life.  It is the outstanding theme of the Psalms.

Praise God!  Look up and praise your Saviour and Lord.  Know that He will deal with the ruins and misery of your life.  Grab hold of his greatness and goodness like a drowning man in a raging sea.  “See” yourself as a tree of righteousness.

In the words of this same prophet as few chapters earlier, God says to you:

O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
(Isaiah 54:11)

You are the jewels in his crown. (Malachi 3:16-18)

You are the afflicted one who are going to rebuild, who will surrender control to the Holy Spirit to initiate peace and restoration of the walls of your city, your family relationships and all the wreckage of life around you.  You will announce freedom to the prisoners and live in the comfort of your loving Father.

Think with me through the details of this Word from God.  The consolation of God’s presence and intervention is to be found in the reality of daily living. It is the oil of joy and the garment of praise that heal and cover.  Oil is what we take into our bodies for nourishment and medication.  A garment is what we wear on the outside.  We do not go naked.  Our world is obsessed with clothing.  Just think of the percentage clothing stores in any shopping centre.

A garment of praise is probably the most beautiful and most elegant clothing possible.  Think of a cloak embroidered with the finest gemstones and silk thread.  Your foundations in sapphires…

Years ago my mother had a dream about my husband and I.  She was in our driveway with her car, struggling to unload a heavy chest from the trunk.  We stood on the front porch and did not offer any assistance.  She knew she had to open the chest and show us what is inside.  When she opened it, it was full of the most beautiful cloaks she has ever seen.  My mother was a seamstress herself and appreciated fabrics and embroidery. She told me of the dream and announced that she will pray for an interpretation.  Early the next morning she phoned.

God said: We had to wear our testimony and Word revelation so that others would be blessed by it.  The jewels and gold were the tests that refined us as people and our Rhema-words were the jewels that we spoke when we testify of the goodness of the Lord.  We had to “look” the work of God in our lives.

What can I say?  I would be most flattered if the people say of me: Oh, here comes old Praise the Lord again!

Dress up Pebble pal!  Wear your praise.  Break loose from the bondage of depression with a constant awareness of the gemstones in your heart.  Every tear is a diamond of victory and joy, recorded by God.

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book? 
(Psalms 56:8)

Let our words be the words of Jesus of whom is said:

For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.  (John 3:34)

 

 

152. The arm of God.

“There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (man’s search for God) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?” C.S. Lewis, Miracles.

It is a most miraculous moment if you want it.  The instant that time stands still and you know the God of the universe has cast his all-seeing gaze on you.  He has seen your fear, He has answered your call, He reacts to you and acts on your behalf. You see his arm moves… in your favour.

The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.
  (Isaiah 52:10)

Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him
. (Isaiah 40:10)

God is baring his arm for you.  It is as if I see the action of rolling up his sleeve.  It is the action of somebody who is ready to work.  All his power and goodness flow into his arm and hand that He stretches out to touch you.

Moses sang about God’s hand and arm with his powerful touch on his people.

“Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power;
Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces
. (Exodus 15:6)

The Psalmist had a lot to say about God’s arm and hand.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. (Psalms 98:1)

Many centuries later Mary sang about God’s arm in her song of praise when the angel brought her the news of her pregnancy.

He has shown strength with His arm…  (Luke 1:51)

You might say this is all good for Biblical times.  What about today?  Can I still rely on a miracle when I live in fear of the day?  Our struggle against all the evil around us: destruction, divorce, deception, disfigurement, dishonesty and so much more can be overwhelming.  We try our best in the world given to us with what we get to equip us for a daunting task.  If we look around us we might doubt the possibility of a miracle – rightly so.

The post-modern wailing about the non-existence of God casts a dark shadow over the faith of our childhood, if indeed we were so lucky to grow up with faith.  So many children grow up in a godless and god-cursing environment.  Is there extraordinary support available?  Might there be something like a miracle?

The only way to meet the God of miracles is through Jesus, whom He sent as the incarnation of himself to reveal his heart and mind to humanity.  What is the most notorious fact about the life of Jesus before his death?  His miracles- of course.  In our world with the squeal of New Atheism the miracles are attacked in a mocking and scoffing way to ridicule anybody so naïve to believe them. Water into wine – come on! A virgin pregnant – we all know where babies come from!

Christians often draw back and think they do not have the answers, or their answers suddenly feel inadequate.  The counter argument is that of science and the superiority of all that can be explained in real terms.  There are however, so many things that science are still grappling with.  They can describe energy, but not explain it.  They can define consciousness, but not explain it or the origin of it.  They cannot deny the existence of both energy and consciousness and therefore they have to accept the existence of something they cannot explain.  Why should they demand an explanation of the claim that Jesus was both God and man at the same time?

It is very important to acknowledge and know the normal course of business, to concede a miracle.  If the dead regularly came to life, it would not be extraordinary.  If 5000 homeless men are fed from one picnic basket every week, we would soon be very familiar with it, and it would be nothing special.

A miracle is God’s supernatural – above and beyond the laws of nature that rule our world daily, action in our lives.  It is his extraordinary intervention into my specific situation.

Often the most significant miracles take place inside us when fear and anger in the deepest crevasses of our heart and thoughts are stirred and healed by the Holy Spirit.  God rolls up his sleeves and get to work to heal me.

Circumstances are a field of action for miracles.  How would we ever know what a miracle is, if we never need one?  There, in the corner of discouragement and panic, we feel God’s hand touch us from an outstretched arm to reach us, however far we might have wandered off away from him.

 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm;therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)

Crucial in these processes of God’s action in our life is to see, to acknowledge and to remember the miracle, in order to make it part of our testimony of praise to God.  Miracles are often judged and categorized in our mind.  We think of small and big miracles. It is important to see all of them and express your gratitude to the Lord.  The insight of the Holy Spirit alerts us to the awesome work of God in our lives.

The testimony of miracles is the gold refined by firementioned in Revelation 3:18.  The Psalmist warns against a superficial attitude when God’s intervention is to be taken seriously.

Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. 
(Psalms 106:7)

Even the disciples did not hold the miracles in high regard.

For they failed to consider or understand [the teaching and meaning of the miracle of] the loaves; [in fact] their hearts had grown callous [had become dull and had lost the power of understanding]. (Mark 6:52, AMPC)

Strong words indeed!  Let us hold the intervention of the mighty arm of God in high esteem and lift our testimony up on the altar of our pebbles of perpetuity on the banks of the Jordan (Joshua 4).  Then when people ask: why is this altar of testimony built, we can answer with the high praises of God in our mouth.  In doing so we will avoid the harsh insult of callous hearts and foolish, superficial lives.

 

 

 

 

151. Look… and see the mystery.

We live in a visual world these days. To children and adults alike, education and entertainment are visual, dramatic, dynamic and constantly improved.  In classrooms and boardrooms the new tech is used to make people understand and remember as well as stimulate creativity and initiative.  The days of dusty chalk on blackboards are long gone.

Long, long ago, the Greek philosopher, Socrates, was opposed to “the art of writing”.  He thought that writing everything down would spoil the ability to memorize facts.  People would be complacent when information is available in writing and not make the effort to engage the retaining faculties of the mind. [I include his reasoning at the end of this piece – interesting to think about it in terms of our modern day “wisdom”.]

Screens in all shapes and sizes are all around us, in the workplace and in our homes.  Just think for a moment what was available a half century ago. Going to the movies was a special night out.  The drive-in was the go-to place for the latest Hollywood productions.  Now all of those are available on the couch with the world of Holly- and Bollywood and so much more at the touch of the remote button. Students study online in virtual lecture halls at their own convenience.  Where are the days of small tape recorders in the front row of university classes?  (Not that I long for any of this – I enjoy the world of information at my fingertips.)

Time travel with me, not to the days of Socrates or even the beginnings of writing in Egypt – further back.  Take the big steps, like only our God-given imagination can, to the days of Noah – yes, so far back.  To Noah, God set up the screen of the universe and said: Look!  He displayed the heavenly splendour in a colour-arch to serve us to this day, as steady and beautiful as ever.

“Hear” the surround sound and “see” the biggest screen of the firmament to “read” God’s art of writing. He says:

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you,

 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 

 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9,12,13,16)

When God says: look, it is not a casual invitation to take a quick look.  When God says: look, your life depends on it.  Take a look, pause and calmly think about it, understand and invite the insight of the Holy Spirit into your mind for the quickening of your inner being and live – truly live!

To hear and see have never been so important.  To look with your mind and heart fully involved, is to receive the instruction of the biggest screen ever – the heavenly skies of unending majesty stretching further and wider than you could ever imagine over past and future in a moment of eternity.

Look at the rainbow!  Know what it means!

It is vital to know that the rainbow is always there, always visible.  We need the right optical elements to see it.  We need a prism to see God’s light “divided” into colours.  That is what a prism does.  It divides light. The rainbow gives us a taste, so to speak, of the manifold power of the covenant promises.   Just think how lovely it is to see the rainbow when the light shines through the shower door, or the kitchen window, or the water drops on the bricks.

Just the other day I stared in wonder in the bathroom when the chandelier caught the first sun of the morning and the bathroom was bathed in colour.  I rejoiced and asked God for a chandelier in my spirit to always see the full spectrum of his covenant.

What do I need to “see” the rainbow at all times?  I need a life-prism.  The life-prism is faith.  How do I get faith when my circumstances toss me in the stormy seas and I feel I am sinking?

I need the glasses, or contact lenses of the Word of God.  I need to hear the Word – it is the faith building bricks of a godly life.

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Romans 10:17)

The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.  (Romans 10:17, The Message)

We all experience fear very real and very physical.  We never have to fake fear.  It is there and it makes itself known in no uncertain terms.

As physical and real fear presents, as physical and real the rainbow is our sign of outcome and relief.  To see and be filled with the peace of God we need to grab hold of his Word, to know and understand what He has said.

Please read Genesis 9 to hear the beautiful words of God when He gave us the rainbow.

It the golden thread that guarantees the Covenant promises to the end of time.

And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.(Revelation 4:3)

I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.(Revelation 10:1)

 

 

 

 

 

Socrates:

In fact, it [the art of writing] will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing. And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.”

 

150. Look… and receive understanding.

It is easy to look. It is difficult to see. I am sure you have had the experience that someone says: look! and you have to say: where, what?  To see what needs to be seen is the not always simple and obvious. We need a looking glass, a special instrument or someone to point it out, to look and truly see.

On a deeper level, we need insight and understanding to discern the true nature of things.  We need to see the invisible. How often do we jump to conclusions when we know one side of the story?  Another witness or the other person involved in a situation could give us a new perspective that could completely change our judgment.  We need to think about it every time we read or hear the news.  One side could be a lie.  To add the other side could bring truth and understanding.

We do not always understand what God is doing in our lives.  To us it might feel that circumstances rule, when they are working in our favour, seen from a different perspective.  There are so many scriptures to support our unqualified obedience to God and his Word.  He is our loving Father and we can trust him fully.  Hear, Pebble pals, as I write, my verse of the day from Bible Gateway slides in. Here is the heart of our blind trust in God always and in all things.

For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. (Psalms 33:4,5)

Praise God!

We need discernment – a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Our looking glass is the Word.  In our secret place with our Dad, in prayer and study, our deepest fear and panic is answered with the overwhelming goodwill of God and his promises to act supernaturally on our behalf.   He can do anything you know.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

It is in that secret place (any place where you invite the presence of God in prayer) that the ink on the page comes alive and is “spoken” into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  It is the ultimate source of peace and release from fear.  It is the rhema word that changes us from the inside out. It should be written down and memorized to become part of us.  In Bible language – eat the Word.  Eat and digest, take some time to chew and let it be in your mouth as honey, so sweet.

He told me, “Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel.”

 As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, “Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!”

So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, The Message)

Eat it, because of the devil can, he will steal it away immediately and rob you of the peace and joy the Word of God bring.  All circumstances become misty and small in the light of the living words of God.  Give attention to his Word.

Why?

Fear angered Jesus.

I have already written how I experienced the Holy Spirit as a disciplinarian.  My fear as a serious distrust in God and his intentions to keep me safe, was underlined by a random verse in the New Living Translation that I casually picked up and opened.  [Pebbles 147]

Let us consider the words of Jesus.

And He did not do many works of power there, because of their unbelief (their lack of faith in the divine mission of Jesus). (Matthew 13:58)

And He marvelled because of their unbelief (their lack of faith in Him). And He went about among the surrounding villages and continued teaching. (Mark 6:6)

Jesus was shocked by their unbelief.  He knew what He could do if invited and welcomed.  It is exactly as true today.

Afterward He appeared to the eleven apostles themselves as they reclined at table; and He reproved and reproached them for their unbelief (their lack of faith) and their hardness of heart, because they had refused to believe those who had seen Him andlooked at Him attentively after He had risen. (Mark 16:14)

Jesus speaks strong words to his disciples.  There is nothing else that could exert such strong correction from him.

Then He said to Thomas, Reach out your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be faithless and incredulous, but stop your unbelief and believe! (John20:27)

How big is your storm today?

Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass. (Matthew 8:26, The Message)

It is the contrast between an insult and a compliment.

Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.(Luke 7:9)

My heart cries out to live the faith that Jesus will praise.  It will be my ultimate worship.  I want to be strong and believe in the gust of the storm, when I am tossed and scared. Please Lord, help my unbelief.

Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”(Mark 9:23,24)

What is the answer and solution to fear, doubt and unbelief?

Surrender in prayer – not a greater effort in thought or deed.

Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the Word so that it lives in you.  His words are spirit and life.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)

 

 

149. Dismembered and dissected – divide and rule!

We cannot fight fear effectively if we do not know what we are up against.  Do we shoot, kick or shout, hide, be silent or argue?  We need knowledge and insight – that clear picture that emerges when we truly see and wisdom to know exactly what to do at the right moment.  We need weapons and words and a strategy for their use.

As I write these words, I recognize them. They are burnt into my heart. Every aspect of the fight is easily categorized as gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We read about them in 1 Corinthians 12 (also Romans 12). They are named and explained to give the reader an unmistakable and understandable layout of the full impact of the Holy Spirit in action within us.  Paul names them in a certain order but explicitly states that they are available as needed.  Let us look at this special endowments of supernatural energy”.

All these gifts are the most effective weapons against fear.

Wisdom and knowledge will bring calm and reason into panic and crisis.  Knowledge sharpens insight to help us understand fully what is going on.  Wisdom paves the way for our action – the right thing at the tight time in the right way.

Then we have access to the gift of faith that strengthens our inner being with focus on the Almighty God who loves us.  Healing and miracle power are readily available to resolve any impossibility. For peace and encouragement we have the gift of prophecy or prophetic insight, our love language of intimacy with the Father – tongues and the possibility of knowing, interpreting the unknown tongue in which we pray.

Fear is unbelief – the direct opposite of faith.  Fear and doubt are synonyms in a spiritual sense – going hand in hand as a powerful strategy of our enemy.  Fear is frequently addressed in spiritual as well as secular literature. It is the illness of the day, and probably always has been.

Fear is not rehearsed; it doesn’t need practise.  It is the natural, instinctive, intuitive reaction on circumstances.

We know that the adrenalin rush of fright gives us options – fight, freeze or flight – when our action is determined in a split second.  It is very necessary and secures our survival, but as soon as that state of fright becomes a way of living and the associated anxiety a constant, we live dangerously on the edge of mental and physical health issues.

Fear, our topic, is not fright or being scared. A quick scare is a good reaction to set us in motion to get ourselves out of a dangerous situation.  Fear is the prolonged state of stress that impacts your life on every level and ultimately determines your decisions. [Pebbles 148]

There are two words in Hebrew and two in Greek for fear. Fear of the Lord, that denotes reverence and awe for a holy and powerful God, is used in Isaiah 8:13. [Hebrew = morah.]

The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow;

Let Him be your fear,

And let Him be your dread.

 

The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of  knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)

Only God is to be feared.  Fear of the Lord is the antidote for doubt. Unbelief offends God.  Read carefully how the Amplified explains Isaiah 8:13:

The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor His holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety], and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread [lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him].

We cannot risk disappointing the Holy Spirit with our fear in things this world throws at us.

The other word for fear in Hebrew [pachad] is also used with regard to God and the fear of the Lord.  It means scare or sudden fright.

 They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:5)

 In this case God’s goodness is to be feared. So many people hear about the love and goodness of God and choose to ignore it.  In the end, his goodness will judge the rejection thereof.  Let us live in awe and respect, and therefore expectation of the goodness of the Lord. Expectation of his goodness will drive out fear and doubt.

In the New Testament two Greek words are used for fear: phobia and phobos in the sense of panic to make you flee.

So have no fear of them; for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, or kept secret that will not become known.(Matthew 10:26)

 Jesus talks about the fear of men.  It is so much better to fear God, as it will liberate you from any fear of what people can do to you.

Fear of men is destructive and fear of God is constructive.

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high.(Proverbs 29:25)

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

God’s love drives fear out of our mind and even the sub-conscious.  It is your choice to believe it and trust him fully.

But in the day that I’m afraid, I lay all my fears before you
   and trust in you with all my heart.  (Psalms 56:3 TPT)

Make the decision – trust God.  Your decision to trust him is as powerful as the decision to surrender your life to him that has given you new life.  It will have far-reaching and lasting consequences for your life.

Here is the last word on fear – God’s word.

Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. (1 John 4:18, TPT)

 

 

 

Next time we will have a look at Jesus’ response to fear and unbelief.

148. What then…how is it possible?

What do you live for?  How do you live for it?  The answers to these questions are the mainstay of a life of excellence.  Yet, we do not spend enough time to contemplate, meditate and pray about the big picture. Often corporations do the exercise.  Strategy sessions they call it.  Management getting together to hammer out a plan, the bigger picture, goal setting as well as tactics for people and placements to reach the goal – the goal being profit and ever increasing profit growth. The people and placements would only be a means to reach the projected targets.

What about the people?  We, the people, need our own strategy sessions, personal growth seminars, goal-setting for a purposeful life and guidance on how to live the life we think we ought to.  Whether we are part of a big corporation or work as an entrepreneur in a much smaller environment, we need life-coaching – a very popular career these days.

How will we know we are on the right road? How then will we not succumb to the pressures and pains of normal life in our world?

There is only one way – THE Way.  We have talked about it often enough in our Pebble-discussions through the years.  There is only one man in the entire history of mankind who has ever said I AM the truth, the way and the life.  He is the same God who said to Moses, centuries ago at the site of a desert bush burning, his name is I AM.  He is the EVERYTHING – the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and everything in between.  He is the source of every possible enhancement for your life – all that is true, noble, right and pure plus all that is lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  Here you are – you have it all.

Good, you might say.  It probably sounds good on paper, but that is not how life is in reality.  We contend with the cruel, the vile, the lie, the ugly, the bloody and every horror in between. Added to that we live with frustration, disappointment, destruction, disgrace and a deeply rooted fear that everything might just go much worse than now.

I would be the first to agree that just reading the headlines might suck me into a deep pit of depression and fear. That is exactly the point. Where is my eye for hope? Where do I look for the elevated life, the higher life?  Which atmospheric vibes are my senses communicating to my brain for comfort and hope?

I don’t blame you if you feel quite despondent right now.  Yes, those lives of the rich and famous without worries or fears look so good in the glossy magazine or Google link to the gossip page that huffs and puffs about the glitz and glamour out there.  After all, the shutter of the camera captures a split second of a person usually when they are all dressed up and professionally prepared. That split second is then appropriately photo-shopped to portray the best possible image.   In all this, have you ever seen a heart or mind? Our cameras and even interviews do not reveal the true thoughts and deep inner life-guiding principles of a celebrity or admirable personality.

Every individual needs to establish these guidelines deep within.  It is personal and private.  It is usually driven by long established perceptions of upbringing and education, or a life-changing decision to choose a particular way of life.  When you choose Jesus, your life is elevated to the higher purpose of God.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways.  He says so himself:

I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.
God’s Decree.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think. 
(Isaiah 55:8,9, The Message)

How then are we brought so low?

One of the more successful strategies of our enemy is fear and doubt.  Fear is unbelief – the direct opposite of faith.  Fear is the disease of our time and from it springs a well of illness, mental and physical.  It is an inexhaustible source of trouble.

Fear is not practised – it is the natural, instinctive reaction to circumstances.

Fear in this sense is not that initial fright or panic in an alarming situation.  We all know the feeling of the adrenalin rush when our brains switch to panic mode and we make the swift decision to freeze, flee or fight. This reaction is survival and very necessary, but it is not a life style.  When this physical panic mode is prolonged and ultimately determine our decisions, it is a recipe for crippling stress and malady.

Fear is not shock or superficial fright. To be frightened is good. It propels you into action to get yourself out of a life-threatening situation.  Fear is the prolonged, nagging state of stress and anxiety that settles in your inner being and determines your decisions and life choices, like an inner badass to be placated and satisfied with constant trembling submission.  When fear is the source of plans for the future and not the promises of God as it should be, we succumb to dread and a bleak perspective marked by the negative expectation. This is not a victorious life.  The Holy Spirit is powerful and able to release your inner being and set you free to live boldly and courageously.

Our source is Jesus…

for in Him we live and move and have our being… (Acts 17:28)

For a child of God fear is stirred by the raspy, gruff voice of the enemy, planting thoughts of dread and alarm in the darkest hours of panic.  This literally happens mostly at nighttime when everything seems worse than daytime.  This state of crisis should put us on our knees with the Word open to allow the words of Jesus to heal our inner beings.

The best way to open up the channel for Holy Spirit ministry is confession.  It is a liberating and powerful act to defeat those thoughts of fear. Recognize thoughts of worry and stress for what they are.  It is the repetitive milling reflection on worst-case scenario and the source is hell.  Submit the thoughts to the authority of God and confess the sin of fear.

Confession brings instant relief.

Confession breaks the hotbed of that fortified hellish attack thrown at us, called fear.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4,5, AMPC)

 

 

We continue our discussion on fear in the next piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

147.  Oh the shame, the dreadful regret!

I know I shall be so disappointed, so full of reproach, blaming myself when I find out just how I could have lived. The day I see Jesus face to face and fully grasp his character will be the day I will realize what my life could have been if only I believed the words He spoke in Scripture.

I will be embarrassed over all my fear, I will hang my head in humiliation because of hours of worry and curl up in shame when I think how my thoughts circled in desperation for plan B to Z regarding dreams that might not work out and other twisted plans mulling over worldly solutions for my circumstances.  Regret and self-pity will overwhelm me when I “see” the life I could have lived.

It is utterly worth it to get my life in order right now to live a life of liberty and victory as promised.

On a few occasions in my life I experienced the Holy Spirit’s discipline.  I say this hesitantly.  God works in every person’s life individually and will guide you with his eye in his own way, that relate to your life in a very unique manner. (Psalm 32:8)  I write my experience as a testimony and not as a lesson.

My husband was a corporate executive and traveled often.  Company policy allowed me to accompany him once a year on a trip of our choice.  My three boys were getting a little more independent and with the support of a good friend who could help with the school run and my mother close to keep an eye on them, my friends and family encouraged me to take the opportunity to get away.  We spent a lovely week in Germany.

Back home the news hit me hard.  My youngest (five years old and in the last year of pre-school) became very ill, shortly after I had left.  The whole family rallied around him, the family doctor diagnosed and treated him and he was healthy and happy when I arrived.  They told me the whole event with my family’s usual animated drama.  I was livid.

I was angry that they kept his illness away from me in order to give me a holiday.  Sure, it is a good thing and they were being nice, but I was fuming.  Guilt made me respond in angry reproach.  How could I jet set around the world while my son needed me?  I felt that I utterly failed in my role as a mother and will never let that happen again.  I made a decision there and then not to go away again until my sons are big enough to look after themselves.

Three times the opportunity came to go again. I refused.  I made a decision and stuck with it.  This is my sacrifice for being a good mother. No debate necessary!

One day, three years later, my husband came with a special request.  It would have been a unique opportunity to visit an island.  Neither one of us had ever had an island experience. My first thought again was no, because of my “vow” to stay home with my kids.  One of my friends encouraged me to go and promised her support.  My mother was more vocal and even sharp about the matter.  She and I had a series of discussions on the subject of fear and she knew very well how deeply my fear was rooted.  She knew my fears around my children; she knew how upset I was about anything to do with my children.  One afternoon we discussed the whole thing again and she instructed me to read Revelation 21:8:

 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (NKJV)

But for the rest—the feckless and faithless, degenerates and murderers, sex peddlers and sorcerers, idolaters and all liars—for them it’s Lake Fire and Brimstone. Second death!(The Message)

I sat stunned for a while.  This is serious.  Am I a feckless unbelieving coward?  Is my destiny the lake of fire, second death?  It could not really be any worse! Fear cannot be so bad!  God, are you serious?  Is this how you see me?  Are you angry with me?  I am only being responsible.  Is that so wrong?

I announced that I shall seek the Lord on the matter.   In my heart I was upset and confused.  I needed to know what the Lord says.  On a previous occasion I realized that I did not take the instructions in the Word of God seriously enough.

I “saw” Jesus in my mind’s eye, standing in front of me asking: What is going on here? Do you trust Me?  Do you know that I love you and keep you in My embrace?

I got home and grabbed a Bible lying around.  I opened it and was stunned at what I read.

 The Lord has given me a strong warningnot to think like everyone else does. He said,

“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,

    and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.

    He is the one you should fear.

He is the one who should make you tremble.

    He will keep you safe.  (Isaiah 8:11-14, NLT)

I ran up to my bedroom, locked the door and fell flat on my face before God. I confessed my fear and surrendered my life, to Jesus AGAIN, every aspect of it.  I stayed there until I felt the burden of my sin lift and the Holy Spirit minister to me with release, peace and joy.

The end of the story, you might ask?

My husband and I enjoyed a lovely week in Bermuda IN hurricane season.  When we phoned to confirm the hotel late August, they were nailed up for a fierce tropical cyclone in the Atlantic.  We enjoyed perfect weather and explored the two islands on mopeds. The week after we came back, the winds of Hurricane Nate took the little beach where we sat in a restaurant with our feet in the sand and were served exquisite seafood.

We both felt God’s loving imprint on the holiday, keeping us safe, keeping our children safe.  How could I ever doubt Him?

 

146. The feasting table of faith in the storm.

Continuing from the previous Pebbles…the disciples are in a panic.  They are struggling against wind and wave, fighting for their lives. Real life.  Circumstances are out of control without a clear resolution.  All the good intentions of calm sessions in therapy are thrown overboard when reality overwhelms purposeful and wise life goals.  Where, you may ask, is God?  The clatter of confusion speaks louder than anything and foolish fear is right back on the governing seat of heart and mind.

The disciples were fighting a violent storm on the lake, when Jesus approached them on the water.  They could not see in the darkness and had no way of knowing who or what this ghostlike image is.

He speaks command-like certainty to them to calm them down. [Pebbles 145]  His voice is the means by which they recognize their Master.

Can you hear him speak to you this moment, even in the raging circumstances?  He brings calm and reason with his voice.

What is the next step?  We all know Jesus can calm a storm.  How wonderfully grand that story has been told in words and art!  I would expect nothing less in this case.  Speak to my waves, Jesus.  Speak to the wind, Jesus.  Bring me some calm so that I would know I am safe in the boat.

As if the storm in the dark is not enough to focus their attention on Jesus, He does not address the situation. Everything is still in crisis mode.  The boat can capsize, the people can drown – I mean, lives are at stake!  Get this miracle on my circumstances done now!

Actually, not yet.  It is time for faith living.  Could we experiment a bit in stormy, deadly waves?  Let’s do something counter-intuitive; something completely irresponsible.  Oh no, you might say, stay in the boat and continue praying.  Don’t push matters too far.

Trust our impulsive friend Peter to push matters along.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.

Key words to live by.  On the command of Jesus we will ride out the storm.  His voice says: Come!

I have no doubt that Peter would have walked with Jesus to the edge of the water, through the storm in the darkness, keeping his eyes fixed on the face of Jesus and his ears pitched to hear Jesus’ voice.  However, he looks down and sinks.

Jesus was always very truthful about the cost of discipleship.  He never allowed emotional commotion to rule over rational decisions and wise deliberation.  In spite of an emotional and impulsive decision to get out of the boat, Peter quickly sensed the daunting and terrifying scope of the storm.  This would not be a walk in the park!

Nevertheless, Jesus will never let him sink.  He reaches out and pulls Peter to safety.  Peter did not suffer defeat that night. Defeat would have been drowning. He took a mighty step of faith, and even when it looked too big and too frightening, he could stretch out his hand to his Saviour who was right there next to him.

He touched Jesus in faith.  Together they landed safely on the beach. He survived the storm, with many lessons learnt and sharpened life skills for the next one.

Defeat is a matter of perspective.  Peter walked on the water and in spite of his sudden panic and the demobilizing fear that sunk him, he walked out of the storm on the arm of his Master.  He did not die. He lived and completed the full purpose of his life.  We do not emerge from the storm with a shining certificate for good behaviour. Mostly we come out of it with a few scars, maybe even open wounds, but always holding the Hand that saved us from drowning.

Storms are fierce.  We may falter and fail, but hell will not prevail. Victory is to keep the faith, not to be offended with God for the storm and walk out on the beach on the arm of your God.

I am sure we are all familiar with modern teambuilding strategies. One of these is a very high narrow bridge over which all partakers must walk.  The walk is scary and each participant is fastened with a cable, held by supervisors on the ground.

It is not easy.  The height is chosen to make it creepy.  How will you know that the guy on the ground is strong enough to tighten the cable when you miss the step?  They look far away and much to relaxed.  Our brain gives us three options for a split second decision.  Fight, freeze of flee.

One of the participants was overcome with fear in the middle of the bridge and took a very logical decision: freeze.  He could not move forward and backward was even more terrifying.  On the other side, one of the participants who had just finished the walk, turned around and walked to the frozen figure.  He commanded him to look up into his eyes and take each step together. With his eyes away from the height and the narrow walkway, they walked in unison to complete the rest of the bridge.  Fear did not prevail. It was beaten, even though he needed help.  He completed the walkway, just in another way.

Where is your eye fixed? Are you looking at the waves and shy away from the wind?  Take the hand of Jesus; hear his voice.  You will walk in victory within the storm.  The stumbling block will become the certain step of victory. It is faith and trust that grow deeper roots, that shape the victory.

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’ Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. (Deuteronomy 33:26-28)

When Jesus got into the boat, the storm calmed down.  His presence is the solution.

He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. (Psalm 107:29)

And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:6)

The tabernacle is where the Ark of the Covenant is, the symbol of God’s presence.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing. (Psalm 23:5)

In closing – who is this Jesus? What is his name?

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved,
 for You are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)

The Hebrew for SAVE is yasha with a deeper meaning to loosen, or to open wide.  It is the word for God’s reaction to all our needs.  He gave his Son the name – Yeshua– He saves.

It says it all.  All you need is in his NAME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

145. Don’t worry… you are safe!

These are the most wonderful words to hear. In the panic, in the most difficult state of affairs, in the middle of the fight, within the helpless disappointment of things spiraling out of control, these words will bring calm and reason in your mind.

You are out of harm’s way. You are protected. Always and everywhere – without exception or interruption.  It is the truth.  It is guaranteed.

Have you truly heard the Word of God?

…for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!   (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

Permit the Holy Spirit to burn the Word of God into your heart and mind.

Most people who grew up in church would know about the stories in Matthew 14.  Maybe familiarity renders them powerless.  It is power-words from a miracle-working Saviour.  After the picnic-feast for roughly 10 000 people (5 000 men – John 6:15), the people are ready to crown Jesus King and Messiah and live the political solution they have been anticipating for centuries.

 Jesus sends his disciples away on a boat to the other side of the lake.  Were they part of the problem?  Perhaps.  They were very aware of the oppression of Roman rule and this wonderworking man was their ultimate weapon of guaranteed victory.  Jesus slips away to spend time alone in the mountains.  He had to focus on the grand plan of which earthly kingship had no part.

The lake of Galilee (sometimes called the Sea of Galilee) is the biggest freshwater lake in Israel.  The particular geological structure of Mount Arbel creates a wind tunnel through the Arbel Pass to blow up raging storms over the lake.

The disciples were in a fishing boat roughly eight meter long, two meter wide and one and a half meter deep.  The measurements were taken from a recent archaeological discovery of a fishing boat on the northwestern bank of the Sea of Galilee.  The boat could carry one-ton fish with a crew of five.  Instead of the catch, the boat could carry ten passengers with the crew.

The night was divided in watches of three hours each.  Jesus spent a few hours in the mountains and then walked around the lake to meet his men on the other side as agreed.  By the fourth watch, He sensed their panic and came to them on the water.

In the mayhem of the storm they struggled against wind and wave.  When they saw this figure approaching, they did not recognize Him.  That is exactly what a storm in your life does.  It blinds you to become aware of his presence.  Darkness and noise hold you captive to the situation.  Things are always worse in the night – true?

How will you recognize Jesus in your storm?

Precisely like the disciples recognized him! They heard his voice with these wonder-words of peace:

But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid! [AMPC]

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” [The Message]

Jesus speaks clearly and direct.  No niceties – straight to the point. He knows your fear and knows the way out.  This is what He says:

I AM!

He is the source of every possible miraculous solution for your circumstances.  He does NOT calm the storm.  He speaks first to you and your mind.  The point is not the storm.  The point is the recognition of his voice.  He is there!  He is present in the storm!

Hear the echo of 2 Kings 3:18:

And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord.

Faith in his words is the test.  Nature will obey him.  Faith is your choice.  Will you obey him?  The heart of the matter is your choice to believe him and obey his words not to fear.

The presence of Jesus elevates your situation from crisis-level to expectation-level.

What happens next?  Oh, very good, you might say.  Now that I recognize his presence, He will act on the situation.

Well, that is not how the story continues!