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.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

144. The command to live by.

We are talking about the brain-bug: fear. How can we live boldly and fully? How will our lives epitomize the elements of the Christmas Advent: joy, peace, love and hope when we are crushed by the issues and dangers of modern living. All that Jesus came for, lived to exemplify and died for are rendered meaningless when fear floods our system.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with youwherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

The SECOND fear defeating principle is the command in the Word that rings throughout: Do not fear!

The writers of the Psalms are all struggling with fear.  They pour out their hearts before the Lord.  He is to be trusted. (Psalms 62:8)

Jesus repeats this principle with extended examples, repetition and warnings against the meaninglessness of worry.

Jesus forbids worry – not responsible future planning.  (Matthew 6:25-34) He does not ask for a reckless denial of the demands of life.  He is talking about that fear-filled, windmill of repetitive thoughts that robs all inner joy and peace.  The word he uses is merrimna– anxious worry.

Jesus emphasizes that God is the source of life and therefore the maintainer of life.  He creates the body and provide for the body.  He illustrates with the birds of heaven and the lilies of the fields, things that humankind does not maintain or make grow.  He cares from an inexhaustible source.  His examples are significant as they illustrate abundance and beauty.

He underscores again and again the worthlessness of worry.  He makes it ridiculous; that one might think you can grow taller by worrying. Then He makes it an insult and compares a worry-sick person with a heathen, someone who does not know God. A heathen has no God or he might have an angry God who does not love him or cares what happens to him.

He contrasts God the Father with an angry and distant god, and calls him DAD.  God is a close, loving dad who cares and provides everything necessary. It should be easy to obey this command and eradicate all worry and fear from our lives – but HOW?

Here is the THIRD fear-defeating principle.   In Matthew 6:33 is the principle of fearless living.

Jesus says:

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

What will be given besides?  The abundance and beauty that Jesus mentioned in the previous verses will be yours because of God’s favour and not your own good works.

What is righteousness? It is the conformity to the revealed will of God in all respects; the surrendering of your life and desires to the One who died for you. The revealed will of God is the revelation of who Jesus is.  We find all this in the Word.

 It does not mean that every worry and experienced fearfulness are sins of disobedience.  Often worry prompts us to act and do something constructive. The worry that will make us sick and considered a sin is the whirlpool of anxiety about things we cannot change, things that can only be managed through prayer to the Almighty whose trademark is the supernatural.

God promises supernatural peace.  Here is the recipe for windmill and whirlpool thoughts.  Let us again enjoy the Amplified translation.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

 And God’s peace [shall be yours, thattranquil stateof a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothingfrom God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace], which transcends all understandingshall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 I am blown away by the faith knowledge that God is guarding my heart from anxiety.  This is not only fear-defeating.  It is so much more. It is the experience of peace that cannot be explained; peace and joy within the storms of life.

 The story of Mary and Martha in Luke (10:38-42) worries me a bit.  Well, I can honestly say, if one “worries” about the principles in a Bible story and how to apply it to one’s own life, worry is a good thing!

I am a homemaker.  I sort of identify with Martha, keeping things in order and especially feeding Jesus when he comes to visit.  I would have probably cooked up a storm and served a feast for him.  I know Martha loved him and served him with her talents.  In common language the “insult” to say you are a Martha, cuts deep for me. I might even say it of myself.

However, the story has a deeper line.  It is not about the daily, the superficial and the fleshly. It is all about conviction of the deeper principles to live by.  It is about life priorities.  Tending to the everyday cares of life can distract from the search for the deeper kingdom principles that the words of Jesus brought into their house. Mary sensed that and sat at his feet, not sidetracked by the ordinary.

There is no freedom from fear in the ordinary.  There is victory in the “eating” of the Bread of Life, the words of Jesus.  In the prayerful digestion of the words of the Bible, freedom from fear is guaranteed.

Just as a reminder we are promised to know what is important according to Philippians 1:9 (discussed in the very first Pebbles).  The Amplified translation defines the gift of discernment as follows: keen insight, greater depth of acquaintance, and more comprehensive discernment. So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.

This is a life-goal worth pursuing.  It is wise living.

How do you perceive God in your most anxious moments?  Is He close and accessible? Do you feel He hears your cry?

 I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. (Psalms 32:8)

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s loving eye on you to your imagination.

Let us live boldly into our future with the word of the priestly blessing in Number 6.

The Lord bless and keep you

The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Receive these words in the promise of Isaiah 26:3:

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon You, because he trusts in You.

Lastly, remember what Jesus said at the end of Matthew 6:

 

So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

 

 

[BK 23]

 

 

143. A most luxurious life.

It is the bug in every brain – fear. Somehow, somewhere and in some or other circumstances it will paralyze you, give you that hollow feeling inside, even sweaty hands and palpitations with an added dread of rumination, visualizing the scenarios over and over in your mind.  Who can say they are not familiar with every symptom of fear?

The next two shorter pieces are focused on some Biblical teaching on fear, but they are by no means exhaustive.  Every circumstance, every state of alarm or constant anxiety should be directed to our loving Dad in prayer for His Spirit-guidance in the Word for those miraculous “life” -words of “peace that surpasses all understanding”. (John 6:63; Philippians 4:7)

Somewhere I have heard that the phrase: do not fear, is repeated 366 times in the Bible; one for each day and en extra.  I don’t know exactly how I can confirm this, but it makes so much sense. One of the most important strategies of our enemy is fear.  It will rob you of a meaningful, joyous life. It will overwhelm your thoughts and limit your potential in so many ways.  It is a trap set in hell to trip you up and make you suffer in the cruel, sharp, iron claws of your own thoughts.

When we talk about a strategy from hell, we have to remember that the devil is not creative and cannot do anything new. We have all his plans and actions recorded in the Bible for our knowledge and equipping.  The Bible is truly our textbook for life.

The stories of the Old and New Testaments are the examples of men and women living on this earth with the same life issues that we have to contend with so many centuries later.

  • Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden had to live the consequences of disobedience to the directive of God.Eve has not heard from God directly, only second hand through Adam.  Satan approaches her to plant doubt in her mind as to the exact words of the command from God.  He will always sow doubt about what God said and promised and whether God will do what He has said He will do.

 

  • Abraham gets impatient with God’s timing in giving him the son he so desires. He takes action himself and Ishmael, Hagar’s son is born with all the complications that action brings.

 

  • David is tempted and weakened when he should have been on the battlefield with his men.

 

  • The kings of Israel are a study in pride and arrogance, succumbing to sin in the pursing of greatness and standing.

 

  • All his sneaky tactics to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4 where he quotes Scripture out of context to make it a lie of motivation and purpose.

 

If we can dissect his strategy and prepare ourselves to withstand the temptations of evil, we might be able to live more boldly.

One of his most successful traps is fear. So much of our modern illness and physical symptoms of discomfort is related to fear and anxiety.  Our toxic thoughts make us sick.

We can give it many names, label it in any which way and prescribe the pills and therapy to fight it – all of which is good and necessary as we fight on all fronts against the destruction of life, but in the end we know we cannot fake inner peace.  We know what that tight grip of cold fear feels like.

Let’s go back far, back to Abraham.  God promises him:

 Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward. (Genesis 15:1)

This is a covenant promise.  God said that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham.  In Romans  (4:13) Paul states that this promise is ours, not through our good works measured by the law, but through FAITH.

The promise covers our past and future. God’s shield is our protection for today; His reward is the guarantee for future success.  There is nothing that can happen in this life that God cannot turn around for good.  Nothing is too hard for Him.  This is the first principle for victory over fear.

You are safe in his hands.  In Exodus 34 God describes himself as abounding in goodness and truth.  Jeremiah 29 confirms his plans for our future.  The Psalms is full of promises of outcome and protection and so are the prophets and epistles.  Just think for a moment about the life of Jesus.  He healed and encouraged the lowliest of society.

However,our God turned the curse into a blessing. (Nehemiah 13:2)

And we know that all things work together for goodto those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.(Romans 8:28)

These are promises to remember and live by when things go “wrong”.  I deliberately write that in quotation marks, because things might look “wrong” in our eyes when God in his mysterious wisdom works them out for our benefit.

Could we live in the knowledge that when we have surrendered our ways to the Lord, our lives are governed by the principles of God and will never end in defeat. So many times I thought my life has taken a wild side road, when I realize that this is the way God has made as I recognize his loving guidance.

We have a guarantee:

Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present you unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation, with unspeakable, ecstatic delight —    (Jude 24)

The first fear defeating principle is: Rest in the arms of God and his plan for your life.

 

 

Next time: Do not fear – the command of God that should be the foundation of our life.

 

 

[BK 23]