Stop and think about it…

Certainly you made my mind and heart;
you wove me together in my mother’s womb.
I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;
my bones were not hidden from you,
when I was made in secret
and sewed together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.
All the days ordained for me
were recorded in your scroll
before one of them came into existence.
-Psalm 139:13-16 (NET)

Have you ever stopped to think about how incredible it is that the Creator of the universe [and all that exists] knows you personally? The very fact that He knows us and has chosen us before the foundation of the world is mind-boggling for a mere mortal to comprehend without the intervention of the Holy Spirit in opening our eyes.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. -Ephesians 1:3-4 (NET)

It is a blessing to know that you have been chosen by God to be a part of His family through the work of Christ on the cross. Moreover, He shows us that we really have nothing to do with receiving salvation, apart from making a choice that we cannot help but make. To become aware of the awesome Creator of the universe and feel His love for us makes Him really impossible for us to resist. Who would not wish to know Him if they were truly aware of Him and all He has done for us? Remember the words Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians: For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NET)

FEAR.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you!
Don’t be frightened, for I am your God!
I strengthen you—
yes, I help you—
yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!
-Is. 41:10 (NET)

I have come to terms in recent years with the fact that I have let fear rule a large portion of my life. I have allowed it to control much of my activities. Fear of heights, driving, success, people, etc. You name it — I seem to fear it. Much of my life I have allowed it to hold me back, keeping me from my potential for Christ.

Truly, fear has not ruled every single aspect of my life, but it has covered enough of it as to have me looking back with regret over opportunities not taken. It is not like fear is the only sin I am guilty of (yes, I regard it as a sin just as worry is), but it is perhaps one of the most impeding, in terms of my mission for God, and certainly on my mind a lot. Even the fear of going back to school has stricken me recently. There was a time in my life when I enjoyed it — now I am saddled with the “what ifs.” I must not allow such fear to keep me from His work.

So what has brought all this up? A recent road trip down to Virginia to see my ailing sister-in-law has reminded me of the way I allow fear to cripple me. I find cities, heavy traffic, large bridges and more often seem to instill in me a modest sense of terror. This has been something I have needed to contend with more as I have become older. I am starting to hear myself say “I am too old for that” or think somehow I am no longer capable of doing things that I most certainty am able to do. Much of this fear I would have deemed foreign and unreasonable just a few years ago, but it has now become my new reality which I have to contend with regularity in my life.

The only way I know to conquer fear is with faith. That is something that comes from God alone. I cannot create it, I can only ask for it. I am in the process of asking for an increase in faith with regularity. I must. As a Christian, I am to serve Christ and do my part to help grow His kingdom while I am here on Earth. Satan certainly loves to see me succumb to fear as it renders me virtually ineffective for Jesus.

And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand  by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. – 1 Pet. 5:6-7 (NET)

If we are to live successfully for Jesus, we must cast our cares upon Him. We cannot go it alone any more than we can obey the law and find salvation in that. It has always been about faith, and that is what replaces fear.

May God grant us as His children the faith we need to live for the advancement of His kingdom, being ever careful to give Him all of the praise and glory for what He has done for us and through us. Amen.

I sought the Lord’s help and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
-Ps. 34:4 (NET)

Don’t think too highly of yourself.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. -Proverbs 11:2 (ESV)

It’s been a week since I last posted. I don’t want to get so busy that I neglect taking the time to reflect on lessons learned from God’s Word and convey them in the form of blog posts. Should I be the only one to read them, at least it shall benefit me as I take time away from the affairs of this world to focus on things of eternal significance (as they spring from the pages of His Word).

For the past few weeks my pastor has embarked on a study of the book of Daniel. The focus has been one of a prophetic nature, as it usually is with Daniel. But a couple of other things have sprung out of those pages to hit me between the eyes. I would like to take a few minutes to focus on one of them: the ego of one King Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar (for those who may not know) was a King of Babylon (605-562 BC). The Babylonian Empire extended through much of the known world at the time. Its sphere of influence was without parallel. Nebuchadnezzar is a story of a man who had ample opportunity to witness firsthand the awesome power of the one true God in his life and kingdom, yet he often forgot what God had both demonstrated and done for him and his kingdom personally. The recounting of his experiences leave for us an important lesson in how highly we ought to think of ourselves and the importance of crediting God with the glory that is properly due to Him and Him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar received more than just a glimpse of the awesome power of God and yet quickly forgot, reverting to crediting himself for all the good things. Finally, he was made to be like a wild beast for 7 years, acting more like an animal than a man, until he acknowledged the sovereign all-powerful nature of God and turned from his self-absorbed ways to worship the one true God. Rather than interpret the story’s ending remarks by Nebuchadnezzar when his sanity and kingdom were restored, I shall let Eugene Peterson tell it through his writing in The Message:

“At the same time that I was given back my mind, I was also given back my majesty and splendor, making my kingdom shine. All the leaders and important people came looking for me. I was reestablished as king in my kingdom and became greater than ever. And that’s why I’m singing—I, Nebuchadnezzar—singing and praising the King of Heaven:

“Everything he does is right,
    and he does it the right way.
He knows how to turn a proud person
    into a humble man or woman.”
-Daniel 4:36-37

How to pray…

When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. -Matthew 6:7-8 (NET2)

I spent many years in a twelve step program that would end most of its meetings with the Lord’s Prayer. That was an easy one for me, because I had been saturated with it growing up in an Evangelical Lutheran church. We were taught to recite it at an early age, as well as to learn several other liturgical things in keeping with tradition at that time. In both the church and meetings reciting things became habitual, requiring little or no thought. Of course, they were of ill effect –because they did not come from the heart (and, in most cases, not the brain either).

I will not sit here and write that repetition is of no avail, because that is not true. I will, however, plainly state that it is pointless — if no thought or conviction goes into it. Even music, in a worship setting, should be a form of prayer to God.

Sometimes, Christians get very “religious” when praying to God and somehow transport themselves back in time to when old King James English was being read and spoken. Apparently, they think that God will pay more attention if prayers are framed with “thees and thous.” Of course, most of us are fully aware that such things are not necessary. We have many examples of prayers that we can model our own on, if we need a starting point. Perhaps the best place to start is in Matthew with the LORD’s Prayer. Jesus has given us the model of a perfect prayer with which we can begin our prayer life with God.

So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. -Mt. 6:9-15 (NET2)