Standing Strong in Fearful Times

Living fearlessly means living with your eyes glued on the Lord, not on your circumstances. Focusing on who God is and what He is able to do changes everything.

In the book of Daniel, we read about the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and commanded that all should bow down and worship it and that whoever refused would be cast into a “burning fiery furnace.” The command was given by the King and three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. This sent the king into a rage, he asked that these men be brought to him. When they came before him he asked if what he had been told about them was true and they told him that it was. The king asked them who could deliver them from the punishment of the fiery furnace. The men answered him with these words, “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” This response caused the King to become more furious and he commanded that the temperature of the furnace be raised to seven times hotter than normal. And when this had been done the three men were cast into the midst of the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose only to worship God no matter what. They did not compromise even in the face of such drastic punishment. (You can read this story in Daniel chapter 3.)

More and more in this world we see anger and rage threatening people’s safety. Persecution is real and threatens many who stand up for Christ. Many die for their faith. As I read and hear about these stories it always makes me question, what I would do?

I look at the threats and beatings endured by many of the disciples, apostles, and early believers with amazement. Paul and Silas sang as they sat in prison in stocks. And when given an opportunity to escape they stayed and influenced the other prisoners to stay as well. (Acts 16:16-40)

Peter and John held firm to their convictions when warned not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name. They responded to those opposing them with these words,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. ” (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John were firm and immovable in their beliefs. They were confident in the truth of God’s Word and in His faithfulness. Their convictions made them stand firm even when faced with great consequences.

When our fear of man overrides our trust in who God is and what He can do we often choose the path of compromise. Too often it seems easier to ride the fence and not make a stand for Christ at all. We may not say anything in rebuke, or say as little as possible in order to not stir up trouble.

The truth is hard to take and generally many do not want to hear it. When choosing to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition. Holding firm to our convictions may mean losing the popularity vote because we make a choice that others disagree with or do not understand.

We have to choose whether to walk in obedience to God or not. And we will face consequences for our choices. Often fear gets in the way! Fear may keep us from sharing the Gospel or from showing love to one others think isn’t worth the time of day. Or maybe fear keeps us from saying we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is when we worship. Our fear can also stop us from speaking the truth about holiness in many areas of life.

So how can we stand up to our fears and stand firm in our convictions?

Here are a few things we can do:

1. Know God’s Word.  When it comes to making a choice find out what the Bible says about the choice. If we are unable to find the answer on our own, we can ask a trusted pastor who has studied God’s Word.

2. Be in prayer. I am doing my third study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, each one of the titles of the studies have worked on begins with the words The Praying Life. Dean says that the praying life is turning every fear, concern, or worry into conversation with God. We need to seek God for wisdom and direction. We need to learn to “be still and know” that He is God.

3. Be committed to living for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His Word is our plumb-line.

4. Follow Paul’s advice to the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10-13. Put on the full armour of God. We can be empowered through our union with Him. We can draw our strength from Him. He will help us to stand firm in crisis situations.

We cannot allow our fears to open the door to compromise. We have the Lord and His Word to help us. Here a few verses that are helpful to me:

Psalm 50:15Call on Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify me

Psalm 56:3-4What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His Word, on God I will lean,  rely, and confidently put my trust. I will not fear, what can man who is flesh do to me? “

Psalm 18:3I will call upon the Lord, who is to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Those are only a few there are so many more that can encourage our hearts in times of fear. God’s Word really can help us to stand firm. We all need help to keep our confidence in the Lord and not allow our fears to cause us to compromise. Let’s pray for strength to stand strong in our convictions so we can bring God glory no matter what comes our way.

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Overwhelmed

Dear Friends,

I am going to need to take a break from blogging due to so much going on in this season of my life. I will post my next blog the beginning of August. Hopefully, between now and then I will find some additional time to do more writing. Right now, there is too much going on and I don’t feel like I can prepare a post for each week. I love writing, so I don’t want to stop blogging altogether, so we will see if this break allows me time to do what I need to do so I have more time to concentrate on writing. I look forward to sharing more with you later this summer.

Many blessings to you all,

Cheryl

Christian Platitudes and Spiritual Band-Aids

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

  • When your neighbor’s husband dies from a heart attack at 32 leaving his wife with four young children.
  • When the retired couple at church have all of their financial savings taken in a scam and are left with nothing.
  • When the cancer comes back for the third time and the hospital bills continue to pile up at our friends house.
  • When the young college grad with a successful job opportunity ahead is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.

What do you say? We want to say something. We want to sound like good Christians and be encouraging. Yet so often our words end up coming out leaving the grieving one feeling hollow and empty.

We hear the grief, the despair, the hopelessness, and pain, and in our anxiety we search our minds for the right words. Then out comes a verse out of context or a platitude that drops like a bomb.

The Bible shares how initially Job’s friends really were helpful in bearing his burden. They came to him and they sat with him. For the first three days they were silent.

Those who are hurting don’t need us to explain away why God allowed this.

  • They need someone there with them in the pain– someone to just be fully present.
  • They need someone to give them hug, to cry with them, or to just listen without judgment.
  • They need someone who will allow them to be wherever they are in the process of pain or grief.

Grief and emotional-pain takes months and sometimes years to work through. Our losses, whatever they maybe, hit each one of us differently. Each step of the process takes a varying amount of time depending on the individual. That is why the spiritual band-aids and Christian platitudes can be so damaging and so hurtful. The things we say may very well be true, but the hearts and minds receiving them may not be at all ready to hear those things.

Sometimes the person enveloped in pain wants to share about what they are going through, whether it be fear or sorrow or even anger. Other times they cannot even form the words, they can’t even begin to think because of their depth of grief. We need to be aware of where they are at, and when we don’t know, just ask. A simple, “Do you want to talk or shall I just sit here with you?”

There just are no easy one-size-fits-all answers. All of our responses need to depend on the individual’s needs.

Our fear of not knowing what to say or do can even make us want to avoid the situation. But that can be hurtful too.

The bottom line is remembering to show love. Isn’t that what we all need all of the time? And we especially need love when we are going through the rough stuff of life.

Next time you are faced with someone near-and-dear to you struggling with what life brings, consider how you can show love and meet them right where they are.

  • Maybe that will mean going and sitting with them.
  • Possibly sending a caring card will be the right thing to do.
  • Maybe sending a note and flowers will show you care.
  • It might be that bringing a simple meal will be just what is needed.
  • Or maybe the Lord will lead you in a totally different way according to His perfect wisdom.

Whatever path of compassion you choose remember you definitely can help them to feel held in your love and presence by reaching out and being there.

Please Pray

Dear Friends,

I apologize that I did not post a blog last week. I hope to get back to a more normal schedule next week. My elderly mother was in the hospital and is now in rehab. She has fractures in her sacrum and is in a great deal of pain. Taking care of all of the organizational and caregiving needs has required a great deal of time and travel. Please pray for decreased pain and healing for her. Her name is Marilyn.

Next week the post will be about Acceptance and Belonging.

Thank you so much for your prayers, Cheryl

The Path of Surrender for God’s Greater Glory

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

Beautiful surrender to the will of God for the glory of God, that is what Jesus shows us there in the Garden of Gethsemane. He shares the sorrow and agony of His heart, asks for a different path, but surrenders to the wisdom of His Father’s will.

Oh, Jesus, what lessons we can learn from You there in the Garden.

1. Jesus took the pain and deep distress He felt and shared the reality of it.

Jesus took with Him His three dearest friends, His inner circle. Jesus did not hide behind a facade of “I’m fine,” or “Hey, I got this one guys, no pain, no gain.” He was real about how He felt, He didn’t hide His agony.

When you are in agony and distress what do you do? Do you go to Your Heavenly Father and speak to Him out of the place of your desperation, out of the cellar of your soul?

Our Father in Heaven wants us to freely come to Him with our pain, worry, fear, and hurt. He wants us to know His presence and to trust Him with our needs and our concerns.

2. Jesus prayed with earnestness, yet He prayed with a great desire to bring His Father glory.

His prayer was a prayer of surrender, “not my will but your’s be done.”

Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from Him, but He left the decision in His Father’s hands.

I think the difference here, at least sometimes in my prayers, is that I tell the Father how to accomplish my will. And all the fear in my heart, all of my worry, all of my inner distress shadows the light of God’s love. Jesus knows the Father’s love, He does not question it. And Jesus speaks to the Father out of a place of deepest humility. When we come in humility, it no longer is about getting our way, it’s about God getting the glory.

3. Jesus lives up to His name Prince of Peace even when He is arrested. He lives and dies to bring glory to God.

Jesus gets up from praying and soon His betrayers are at hand. He sees the army of men coming to get Him. He doesn’t become alarmed or put up a fight. He remains peaceful. In fact, when an ear is sliced off of one of the soldier’s that has come for Him, Jesus takes time to heal the man’s ear.

When I get up from prayer and I sometimes leave feeling unsure of what will happen. I leave with fear, I question my Heavenly Father’s love, I leave that place in a mode of self-protection. It still is all about me and I want to fight for what I want. But, not so with Jesus.

I am sure Jesus left His place of prayer knowing He was going to the cross, knowing He would face separation from His Father, and that He would carry the heavy burden of the sins of the world. Yet, He left empowered to bring God glory. He didn’t self-protect and fight against the coming cross. He wasn’t interested in taking revenge by fighting or hurting the soldiers. He only stood strong in His Father’s love and walked peacefully in a continued ministry toward the mission of greater grace.

4. Jesus goes with the soldiers to His trial and does not argue, He let’s Truth be truth. 

Do you want to fight for your way? As I have said, there are sometimes that I do.

Fighting with words or with power is the way of fear, but “perfect love casts out fear.” And Jesus walks in perfect love, fully trusting His Father’s will to be best. He goes to the trial, He goes to the cross as “a lamb to the slaughter.” He has no need to defend Himself. He knows Who He and Whose He is.

5. Jesus endures the agony of the cross still filled with love. 

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble dealing with pain, and my natural response when I am in pain is not often one of love.

But Jesus, even on the cross, responds with love. He sees the evil, He feels the heaviness of the sin, and He prays. He prays for His Father to forgive them, “for they know not what they do.” Jesus has sympathy and empathy, He again shows love and gives grace even there on the cross. He surrenders to the way of the Father even then. He lives out love and showers us with grace even today.

6. Jesus’ body is taken to the tomb and on the third day He rises from the dead. 

He surrendered to the point of the cross and death and then comes forth from the tomb.  HE IS RISEN!  And all glory goes to our Heavenly Father for giving us Jesus as our substitute.

Only Jesus could surrender in humility and love for the purpose of grace and glory.

Only Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, could be slaughtered for our sin, risen to give us His righteousness and hope everlasting.

All our faith and hope must be in Him for He alone is our Savior. He walked the path of surrender to give all glory to the Father. He is our perfect example. 

Lord, help us to follow in the way of our Suffering Servant. Help us to walk the path of surrender as we know the magnitude of Your love. May all glory be given to You. Amen. 

Have a blessed Resurrection Day as you remember all that Jesus has done for us. 

Lord, I Need You, I am Lonely

Do you feel lonely? We all go through seasons of loneliness.

  • Times when we feel no one is really listening.
  • Times when no one sees who we are.
  • Times when it seems that no one even cares what we do.

We want to be known.

Loneliness makes my heart hurt. It is sad. It is a very needy feeling. To me loneliness is the absence of heart connection. We each need connection to different levels of depth. And when we are disconnected for whatever reason we can feel lonely.

  • It could be your spouses pre-occupation with their own stuff that leaves you feeling lonely.
  • It could be because you feel isolated emotionally by what you are going through leaving you to feel as if no one understands.
  • Or, maybe the busyness of life leave you feeling disconnected.

There are so many scenarios that can leave us feeling lonely. When we are lonely we feel empty and deeply desire to receive understanding and acceptance.

Loneliness can be felt whether you are alone or in a crowd, it’s a feeling of isolation. You may be at a family gathering or alone in your apartment and loneliness can strike.

The prophet Jeremiah was isolated by his calling. The Lord called him to tell the Israelites difficult things and no one wanted to listen to him. Jeremiah chose to listen to the Lord despite the pain this brought him. He obediently shared the Lord’s words to these rebellious people.

The Lord forbids Jeremiah to interact with the Israelites, in fact, Jeremiah was told not to get married or have children. Jeremiah didn’t have any close relationships in his life. This caused him to struggle.

We struggle in our times of loneliness also. Our personal times of loneliness may not be because of God’s call on our lives, but our feelings may be similar to Jeremiah’s.

The book of Jeremiah reveals that he was ridiculed and insulted because of the words he had to proclaim. We learn that Jeremiah had no close friends. We hear him becoming angry and frustrated with the responses of the people whom he shared God’s message with because they refused to listen.

Jeremiah’s loneliness led him to feel depressed and to even wish that he had never been born.

Jeremiah was honest with the Lord about how he felt. We see this most often in the book of Psalms. Ths often allow their raw feelings to spill out to the Lord. We too can be honest before the Lord with our feelings and needs.

Jeremiah was able to help himself through this difficult time by remembering what the Lord had promised. Psalm 37:4 tells us to “feed on His faithfulness.” This verse stands out to me in the midst of all neediness. It helps me know, as I remember God’s words to me or as I remember all He has done for me, that I can find hope.

God’s promise of bringing the people under a new covenant brought Jeremiah hope to help him keep moving forward. We too can think back to what the Lord has done in our lives. We can hold tight to verses that He has used to speak to our hearts. We can find hope and know that He is present with us.

The Lord knows our desperate need for connection. He gives us the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as Savior. We can constantly speak to Him who lives on the inside of us. We can choose to share what is on our hearts and minds knowing that He listens and cares.

When we go through times of loneliness we need to call out to God. We can say again, “Lord, I need you!” We can tell HIm what we need:

  • I need acceptance.
  • I ned to feel loved.
  • I need to be known.
  • I need connection in my life.

We can, also, talk with those we know who love us, about how we are feeling and ask for help through the difficult times. It may mean asking for a listening ear, or finding a time for deep sharing. Possibly, it may mean talking something out to develop understanding with another person.

We need to reach out to the Lord and others, especially in our loneliness.

We can find hope as we seek the Lord in all neediness.

 

Please Accept my Apology

Dear Followers and Readers,

I don’t usually write a second post for a day, but I need to apologize to each one of you. I am so grateful for each one of you who come to visit my blog and to those who receive my posts via email. I do not take it lightly that you take time to read and connect with me. I appreciate each one of you.

It is because of my appreciation for you that I am writing this apology. I was just going through a few of my recent posts and realized that there are way too many errors. I was appalled. I know how time consuming reading blog posts can be, and there is no reason why you should have the task of reading something that has not been edited well.

I want to apologize for my many mistakes, and I want to make a promise to you to take more effort in editing.

I thank you for sticking with me through this learning process in blogging.

May your day be full of many beautiful blessings!

 

The Importance of Pockets

Pockets are more necessary than I realized. Pockets are for soul refreshing. 

I just got home from doing a little shopping and banking. It felt good to get in the warm house. Here in Wisconsin it is in the 20’s heading for the single digit temps later this week. I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my sweater feeling thankful for cozy pockets to warm my cold fingers.

I am realizing I need pockets.

  • Pockets to carry little treasures.
  • Pockets of time to accomplish the items on my to do list.
  • Pockets of truth to bring me out of the place of lies that I sometimes get lost in. (I need friendly reminders me of what God’s truth is about the situations in life.)
  • Pockets of peace to know stillness and rest.

I am realizing the need for another pocket. Christmas is less than two weeks away. I started to take inventory of all that needs to be done in the next few days before Christmas and gulped, wondering, how is that going to happen?

I am realizing I need the pocket of time between now and when the new year begins to prepare for all of the holiday events that are scheduled. I also need to take time to breathe so that I can enjoy the presence of the Lord in my life.

You have to plan for pockets, or you end up without any when you really need them. I am saying all of this because I realized today that I need to take a couple weeks off from posting. I will begin posting again a couple days into the new year.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Christmas full of blessings. May your hearts be filled with the joy of knowing Jesus and celebrating all He is to and for us. l pray that the new year will draw you into deeper faith in Him so that you know all of the peace and hope that you can have in Him.

May your souls be refreshed this Christmas. Take time to plan for the pockets you need so that you don’t miss what is really important, the true reason for the season. Jesus is born, He came to be the Savior of the world. Praise God!  

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

The Lord Gives Us Victory!

Are you prepared for enemy attack?

Here in the middle of all the preparations and even in the quiet of our hearts, our enemy, the devil, can attack with weapons that bring us down by way of feelings of insecurity, overwhelming stress, worry, or fear. We lose our hope and joy so quickly,  we are overcome, and often unprepared for the battle. We feel all alone and scared. 

I was recently studying the Bible narrative of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:15-23. Elisha’s servant got up in the morning to find them surrounded by enemies, and he was full of fear. Elisha immediately asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes so that the servant would be able to see that there were more with Elisha and him than with the enemy. The Lord did just as Elisha asked and the servant saw all of the horses and chariots of fire with them.

I learned, as I studied this, that horses and chariots symbolize divine power and the fiery nature of them signifies a divine presence.

Satan uses the circumstances of life and our areas of weakness for his benefit. He wars against us, overpowering us when we least expect it.

This story of Elisha made me realize that at the first sign of enemy attack, as I recognize Satan moving in, I need to pray as Elisha prayed for his servant. I need to ask the Lord to help me see the Lord’s power and His presence standing with me. I need to seek to be equipped to operate in His power, kingdom power. 

“… greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. ” 1 John 4:4

Satan knows our weak spots. It is often when we get too tired, feel lonely, angry, or hungry that we are even more vulnerable to his attacks. During the holidays we have extras added to our to-do lists and we grow weary in the busyness. We need to be alert as to how we are feeling, and be vigilant about standing strong in the Lord. The battle doesn’t stop because it is the holiday season. Satan doesn’t take vacations.

Our enemy wants to defeat us all the more as we seek to prepare for and celebrate our Savior’s birth. Remember to stay strong in the Lord, moment by moment, throughout this season.

Remember the Lord’s power and presence are with us to help us and defend us. We need only call on Him. He is able to give us victory against all of the feats of the devil. 

 God Victorious, help us to see, know, and rely on You to supply Your power and make Your presence real to us in the times we feel attacked or in a weakened state. We want our lives to bring You glory as we celebrate the wondrous gift of Jesus. Help us to not be defeated, but rather to overcome with Your kingdom power. In Your victorious name I pray.  Amen. 

The Lord gives us victory in our battles, remember to call on Him. HE IS ABLE TO DO MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE!


 

The Lord’s Extravagant Love

“I have done everything wrong!”

I came to that realization recently as I listened to Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. 

I have been the too busy, driven person, too often unavailable in various ways and not present to those around me. Distracted by and overwhelmed with my to do list, striving to check off one more task. I feel that I have missed so much because of living many years of my life that way. It was doing it the wrong way for me in that I now wish I would have been more present and available to others, and especially to the Lord.

The Broken Way is an excellent book. It makes me want to grow in so many ways. It leads me in doing a lot of deep thinking. It made me realize more of my brokenness. It brought me to a place of feeling a sadness that led me to repentance. I talked with the Lord, I talked with my husband, and I talked with some dear friends, in the days that followed, about my realization. The sadness felt big.

My husband and I were recently walking through some rocky farmland, and I started to hunt for a treasure. I love rocks, but I wanted a really special one. It was freezing cold out and the wind was blustery, so my time was limited. I settled for a piece of a rock that looked like quartz on one side. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I liked the shiny quartz side. I really wanted something that had a special meaning to me, but I could’t seem to find that special rock.

Sounds silly, I know, but it seems more often than not, the rocks I find have a special lesson for me. And as it turned out this one does also.

It was three or four days later after my finding the rock, I was writing in my prayer journal, the rock sitting on my bedside table. I glanced at it feeling disappointed as I wrote to the Lord a prayer about my brokenness.

I picked up the rock and looked at the quartz side under my bedside lamp. It was then I found that this rock is very special and extremely meaningful, more so than I could ever imagine. There on the quartz side in the pattern of the rock is a tiny little heart in the rocks own lines. “There is love in the brokenness.” That is the thought that went through my mind. The Lord loves me in and through my brokenness.

You see, that rock is a broken rock, I have a piece that is probably only a third of the whole rock. It is because it is broken that I can see the beauty of the shiny quartz. It is because it is broken that I could see the heart in the pattern of its lines.

It is now in my brokenness that I see more of the beauty of the Lord’s presence shine into my life. It is in my brokenness that I find that I am more open to my own neediness for His love and to know his heart.

I am thankful, so thankful, to the Lord for the amazing ways He shows me His loving presence. He knows exactly what I need in my brokenness, and even leads me to a rock in the middle ofan entire field of rocks to show me He is with me in my brokenness. He hears my prayers, He knows my heart. He loves me in such extravagant ways.

He is a personal God full of love for His children.

THANK YOU LORD FOR YOUR AMAZING LOVE TO ME!