Tag Archives: fear

Stepping Out in Faith

Living in the Spirit
August 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
–Matthew 14:22-27

Time alone with God is important for everyone including Jesus. There is a scene in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar where the crowds are grasping at him barely allowing him to move. I cannot remember which song the cast was singing, Superstar maybe; but it gave me a moment of understanding his ministry on earth. The gospels often describe him as being in crowds seeking him. I am sure his time spent with his disciples was special, and he still needed to withdraw from them.

Our world is a scary place right now. Not so much from outside forces terrorizing us but from our anemic responses. We shake in our boots because we have forgotten whose we are. We need to withdraw to a quiet place ourselves, give all our fears to God breathing in the words below of the Psalmist and breathing out all that is holding us back from being fully God’s instrument of love.

‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’ (Matthew 46:10)

I never know what to think about supernatural events; even ones I have experienced or witnessed. So, I have no explanation of the story of Jesus walking on water. Apparently, Jesus took for granted Philippians 4:13 before it was even written, I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Wise counsel for us today.

Prayer: Lord, strengthen us to do the many things within our grasp to be the Body of Christ in our fractured world stepping out in the faith you will make us conduits of your love in all situations. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Pitching Tents

tent-camping-imageLiving in the Spirit
October 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Joel 2:23-32

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,    and praise the name of the Lord your God,    who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again    be put to shame. –Joel 2:26-27

I confess I do not have an easy working relationship with the Book of Revelation for a lot of reasons, but I learned to glean positive thoughts from it over time from a good teacher. One such idea are words similar to the ones written in Joel. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals, He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself with be with them; .. (Revelation 21:3) The word translated home here is actually the word tabernacle which is a tent. I rather like the thought of God living among us.

Has God become so far removed from us that we lose a sense of God’s presence? What difference would it make in our lives if God were our next door neighbor? It would be great in times of trouble. God most likely would share a storm shelter or allow us to run an extension cord to an outdoor plug if our electricity were off. Is this how we perceive God now?

It occurs to me that God longs to be a part of every aspect of our lives. For that to happen, we must recognize God’s presence continually. A lot of hate speak spews through our airways in the midst of a, particularly ugly election year. How much of that is going to continue after the election? What does a God who is love think of hate speak or actual hate actions? How does God feel about our wasting the talents invested in us on unproductive interactions that result in gridlock or worse? I wonder at times if God has not taken the tent out of the package yet because our growth in love as the source of a better world is not ready for God living next door.

Prayer: Lord, if ever we have needed you we need you now*. Forgive us for getting caught up in fear of change, fear of strangers, fear of loving the other. Embolden us to pitch our tents among all your children so that we can find you. Amen.

*See Hymn I Need Thee Every Hour lyrics by Annie Sherwood Hawks with chorus by Robert Lowry see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/371

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Letting Fear Lead to Knowledge

mosesbush_gifLiving in the Spirit
October 8, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. –Luke 17:11-14

Leprosy was a very scary disease in the first century. Considered contagious, leprosy drove people to be leery of loved ones even to the point of shunning them. People avoided strangers with leprosy altogether. Thus in our scripture today, the lepers kept their distance even from the one they hoped would cure them. The lepers recognized the perception that they were a danger to others. We know a lot more about leprosy today and even have ways of treating it. We have not yet defeated the disease of fear.

Fear is a natural response in most animals. It heightens our sense of self-preservation, which is not a bad thing. The problem with fear arises when those natural instincts make us irrational in our reactions. Proverbs 9:10 states that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. When fear pushes us to take off our shoes and approach the burning bushes* that await us, our knowledge of God increases and our irrational fears, drawn from the world, decrease.

Identifying all humans in our world as neighbors leads us to take the steps necessary to move from fear of the unknown to understanding and knowing. Community policing is an excellent example of this idea. We cannot limit the scope of understanding and knowing to the police. We must each take off our shoes and approach the burning bushes illuminating our prejudices so that God can cleanse us and free us from the irrational fears that are deterring the realizations of God’s love ruling the earth.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, enable us to confront our prejudices opening the door to the healing of our nation, world. Amen.

*See Exodus 3

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Knowing the God of Love

child-in-hands-of-godLiving in the Spirit
September 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. –2 Timothy 1:11-14

As I look back on my life, I must admit I probably was a weird kid. Way too serious; my dad described me as three going on 103. My two favorites songs as a child were Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone and I Know Whom I Have Believed. Obviously, I got my social justice creds early in life and I also learned early that I am never alone even when the world seems to be going crazy. While neither song is sung much today, neither are in our contemporary hymnal; I believe they have much to say about being a follower of Christ in a world living in fear, strangled by greed.

I do not remember knowing at the time that 2 Timothy was the source of I Know Whom I have Believed. Apparently, such assurance was as necessary for the first century as it is now. We become disillusioned because with put our faith in lesser gods promising magic wands to make all things right again. If I just had enough money, if we just had the right person in power, if we just drop a bomb and kill all the bad people, everything will be OK. We dig ourselves deeper and deeper into futility.

There was a man who lived in that first century who proposed a different way: the way of love. When applied with all due humility, Jesus’ way works.

 But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day. *

Prayer: Lord, save us from ourselves. Give us the courage to love as you love and to spread that love throughout the lands. Amen.

*Chorus of hymn I Know Whom I Have Believed, Lyrics by Daniel W. Whittle, see at http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh714.sht

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Love vs. Fear

perfect-loveLiving in the Spirit
September 21, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday. –Psalm 91:1-6

Truth cries out in our scripture today. We do serve an awesome God who loves us and thus wants the very best for us. We do live in a scary world where bullies try to bring us to our knees. The bullies do not realize that the best place for God-lovers in times of stress is literally or figuratively on our knees humbling ourselves before God. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) This truth particularly resonates in our lives when evil seems to be all about us.

Our world is complex. Hate and fear beget hate and fear. What we must remember and grasp is love overcomes hate and fear. God never promised it would be easy. God does promise that our love exponentially increases as it joins with God’s love. The love of God combined with the love of all God-lovers far exceeds the power manifested by hate and fear. The question, the challenge is when will we ever have the faith to let love do its work through us as God seems to will?

Prayer: Strengthen us to humble ourselves enough to be your conduit of love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Fear, Faith, Love

woven-together-in-loveLiving in the Spirit
September 20, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. –Jeremiah 6-8

The history of the church I attend stunned me when I first heard it. Located in Oklahoma City, the church was founded in 1931. Who would start a new church in the midst of the Great Depression, in a state that three years later dealt with the disaster of the first of three waves of the Dust Bowl? Crown Heights Christian Church was built on faith and the fortitude of its founders. I was privileged to worship with a few of those charter members and several of their children. I learned this history after becoming a member. I joined because of a good minister, friendly members, dedicated mission work, and great music, the legacy of those early leaders.

Jeremiah had the audacity to claim property in his native land when he knew for certain that his country would soon be taken over by the Babylonians. He had planned his return before he left. Do we live that kind of faith? Do we trust God more than anything else?

Fear is our number one sin; faith is its cure. Love is the tool faith uses to extend its reach to the whole world.

Prayer: Lord, forgive my knocking knees when I give in to fear. Strengthen me in answering your call to love. Weave me together with all your children to form a bond so loving it overcomes fear. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Sky is Not Falling

right-pathLiving in the Spirit
September 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

For there is one God;
   there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. –1 Timothy 2:4-7

Have we not all been appointed as heralds spreading the news of the awesome love of God coming to us in human form? Jesus came modeling for us God’s love. He even gave his life to demonstrate the level of God’s love. I find myself occasionally clucking around like Chicken Little*, “The Sky is falling, the sky is falling.” When I should be doing everything I can to reassure the world that fear has no place in the Kingdom of God. And I should be doing everything a can to assure love rules our world.

Remember the story, Chicken Little and her friends, in all their panic caused by an acorn falling on her head, rush to find the king to save them. They eventually run right into the den of Foxy Loxy never to be seen again.

Kingdom building may not be glamorous or thrilling in the eyes of the world. It demands everything we have. Remember Jesus described it as the Pearl of Great Price. (Matthew 13:45-46) I guess we all need to evaluate our priorities.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I get caught up in the frenzy of the news cycles. Order my life, help me synch my priorities with yours for I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day**. Amen.

 

*Folktale read at http://eleaston.com/chicken.html
**From the chorus of I Know Whom I Have Believed by Daniel W. Whittle. See at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/I_Know_Whom_I_Have_Believed/

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All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

A Loving Trustworthy God

Trust GodLiving in the Spirit
July 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ –Luke 11:1-4

I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I did not pray. I do not remember being taught to pray, but I surely was. We prayed before every meal. My mother prayed every evening on her knees at her bedside. Example is a great teacher.

Jesus was a great example for his disciples, and they indicated hunger to learn more. He taught a simple prayer. First, it recognizes the omnipotent, all-powerful nature of God. It then, in the briefest of statements, gives Jesus’ purpose, which he passed on to us: to bring about God’s Kingdom on the earth. Nourished by a request for sustenance, I think both spiritual and physical, we are enabled to ask for forgiveness of our sins and to forgive the sins of others. The final phrase in Luke’s reporting of the Lord’s prayer is not in Matthew’s more familiar rendition. Luke includes a plea for not bringing us to the time of trial, which speaks to our human fears as well as trust in a loving God.

It feels like a time a trial now and fear leans heavy on us. It reminds me of Helen Keller’s saying, I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. It is a time to trust in a loving God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace*.

Prayer: Lord, so nourish us with your love that love becomes the only response we can make to those people and events that cause us fear. Amen.

*Chorus from Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel. See at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Turn_Your_Eyes_upon_Jesus/

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Go and Do Likewise

Stangers no moreLiving in the Spirit
July 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25-37

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ –Luke 29-37

When did we get so scared of one another? Is it still a carry over from 9/11 fifteen years later? Is it a reaction to having too much knowledge of the world about us with our easy access to instant news? I usually eat lunch with the noon news in the background that most often leads with a report of a shooting or robbery or car chase that had occurred the night before. I sometimes wonder if I prefer to live in the oblivion of not knowing the realities of our world today.

One of the lessons learned from living in tornado alley is there is relief, but no joy in the storm’s path changing course and missing one’s own home for it will most likely hit someone else’s. There is not much that can be done to avoid natural disasters. Storm shelters protect life. Early warning systems are crucial as is well-organized responses to damage.

The storms we face from our fear of one another are not the same as natural disasters. Based on human failings, they seem to be beyond our understanding. To conquer them we must face them. Ugly as they turn out to be, we will never eradicate them until we demonstrate a willingness to deal honestly with them. These failings are as old as time, and we are not the first generation to be caught in their web. We need to learn from our ancestors in faith who did not deal with them well and the ones who did. We need to trust that God in infinite love will provide the answers that we need if we open our total beings to God’s guidance. Like the story of the Good Samaritan we may need to determine if our religion is getting in the way of our hearing God’s leading us in the ability to love like Jesus loves.

Prayer: Lord, make us mindful of our own limitations in fully loving each other. Show us the way to rise above our fears and enter fully into your grace in building a world ruled by love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, 
Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Do This and You will Live

Let justice rollLiving in the Spirit
July 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
–Luke 10:25-28

If you read these daily devotions regularly, I am sure you have discerned that there are primarily three scriptures that inform the bases of my faith:

  • Micah 6:8b, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
  • Psalm 51:10-12, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.*
  • Any form of Love God and love your neighbor as yourself, including our scripture today.

This week in the USA we have once again experienced two questionable police shootings of black men and the killing of five police officers with the wounding of seven others who were providing protection for peaceful protesters to vent their frustration resulting from the earlier police shootings. Throughout the year, we have had irresponsible people and media exploiting our fears of the other to their financial or political benefit fueling the flames of divisiveness. Why are any of us surprised that innocent lives are being lost in the name of greed and power?

We are each responsible for our own behavior. We are each responsible for the well-being of all. Words matter. Actions matter. Love works when it is applied.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit*. Make us whole, make us one, and let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.