Faith in Fearful Times

2 Timoth 1-7

Pandemic, virus, quarantine, shortages, sickness, and death, all of these words have created great fear in the lives of many people today. In the last month, our lives have changed dramatically with the coming of the Coronavirus. Our response has been fear, panic, and confusion. We feel helpless, and our leaders seem to be as confused as we are.

Will our faith overcome our fears? Or will our fears overcome our faith? Faith and fear can not abide in our lives at the same time. It is not by accident that the Word of God exhorts us continually with the words: “Fear not.” God knows that when fear controls our lives, we cannot trust, love, and obey Him as we ought.

God gives us four reasons that fear should not control our lives. When we remember these truths, it will help us to overcome the fear that is surrounding us today.

  1.  God is our Heavenly Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) Fear brings bondage to our lives. In the fog of our fear, we don’t see our Father. We forget the importance of our position as God’s children. Our Father will not abandon us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. How can we fear when God, Our Father is near?
  2.  Our Heavenly Father loves His Children. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” (1 John 4:18) Fear not only brings bondage but also torments us. This torment keeps us from enjoying God’s peace. Because of this torment, we become blinded to God’s love and the needs of others. God’s love is His remedy for our fears. Why should we allow our fears to torment us when we can lean on the breast of our loving Shepherd? Even in the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. (See Psalm 23)
  3.  Our Heavenly Father’s purpose for our life excludes fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear keeps us weak in faith. Fear creates a self-centered attitude that keeps us from loving God and others. Fear brings confusion into our lives. We are unable to see life from God’s perspective. A fearful Christian cannot fulfill God’s great purpose in their life. God’s plan involves depending upon His strength, sharing His love with others, and growing in His wisdom day by day.
  4. God promises peace during fearful times. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) God’s promise of peace is real. His peace overcomes the fear that enters into our lives. Why do we embrace fear instead of embracing Christ’s peace?

God’s children will experience fearful times, but we don’t have to live in fear during those times. God’s Word makes it clear that our Heavenly Father has given us every reason to banish fear in our lives.

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for adopting us as your children. Thank you for your love and peace that you give to us. We live in fearful times. All around us, people are afraid. We need to look up to you instead of being dominated by our fears. Please help us to find courage, faith, and love during these fearful times. Amen”

A Rescued Saint in the Midst of Storm

Do you ever have the feeling that you are sinking deeper and deeper into the sea of sin, doubt, despair, and discouragement? Do you feel that you are in the midst of a storm, and there is no end in sight? The Apostle Peter understood the storms of life. He also experienced sinking deeper and deeper into the sea. Let’s join Peter and see how he handled his sinking deeper and deeper into the sea.

The disciples are in a boat in the midst of a storm. Jesus comes to them, walking upon the water. He tells them: “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. (Matthew 14:27)  Jesus always desires to calm our fears. He comes to us out of love and compassion. Jesus arrives in the powerful storm that caused such panic in the disciples.

Peter was taking an opportunity to demonstrate faith asked if he also could walk on water. Jesus answers with one word: “Come.” Jesus wants us to join him in the adventure of faith. However, Peter’s faith disappears in light of waves coming upon him. He must cry out immediately, “Lord, save me.”

We can describe Peter’s cry in three ways:

1. It was a desperate cry. Peter knows that death is near. He has only one hope. Likewise, God is waiting for our call of desperation to Him. The Psalmist wrote: “This poor man CRIED and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”  (Psalm 34:6)

2. It was a cry of faith. Peter calls out to the Lord in faith. He knows that the Lord alone can save him from sinking to the depths of the sea. Faith believes that the Lord hears our cries and that he will respond. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me.” (Psalm 34:4)

3. It was a cry based on his knowledge of Christ. Peter knows that the Lord can save him. He knows that the Lord is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. As we know the Lord intimately, we can cry out to him with greater confidence and freedom.

The Deliverance by the Loving Lord

Jesus hears Peter’s desperate cry, and he immediately responds: “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they entered into the ship, the wind ceased.” (Matthew 14:31-32)

Yes, there will be times when we seem to be sinking deeper and deeper. All hope seems lost, but Our Lord is waiting for us to cry out to Him. His hand is always ready to pull us out of the storm.

“Dear Lord, there are many times that we seem to sink deeper and deeper into sin, despair, or discouragement. Our circumstances seem too difficult to bear. Please help us to learn to cry out to you in the times when We are sinking. Thank you for always being ready and willing to pull me up from whatever is causing me to sink. Amen.”

Breaking Fear’s Domination

Fear comes in many forms, but it still has the same effect. Our fears can dominate us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even physically. As our fears increase, our faith in God decreases. We lose confidence in His promises, presence, and power. Fear keeps us from enjoying our daily walk with God and others.

Isaiah 41:10 gives us four great promises from God that enable us to conquer whatever fear is crippling our lives. “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:2) I will strengthen thee; yea, 3) I will help thee; yea,4) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” 

1. When I am lonely, God promises his presence. He will never leave me. How can I be afraid if I know that my loving Father is with me? He is with me to bring comfort, wisdom, strength, and grace. What we cannot handle alone, can is there with us.

2. When I am weak and feel like quitting, God will strengthen me. How can I be fearful when I remember that: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)? He will give me His strength to bear whatever comes into my life.

3. When I need spiritual, emotional, or physical help, God will help

How can I be afraid when God’s ability overcomes my inability? The Lord is right there with me. He is my help, no matter how fearful and difficult the future is.

4. When I stumble or fall, God will pick me up.

How can I be fearful when I know that God will pick me up when I fall or stumble? When Peter sinned, stumbled, and fell, Jesus picked him up and restored him. Our fear of failure often keeps us from moving forward in our spiritual lives. This promise assures us that when we stumble, God is right there to keep us going.

“Lord, help me to believe your promises. May I know that you are greater than any fear that is dominating my life. Thank you for your presence and power that conquer my fears. Amen”

Note: A special thanks to Karla Da Silva for the photo. The photo is of Waterfall Gully in South Australia.

Am I Prepared to Meet God on Sunday?

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) A worship service in a small village in Romania

You are in church on a Sunday morning, have you ever found yourself

1. wishing that you weren’t in church?

2. thinking about the week ahead during the message?

3. fighting off sleep?

4. making negative mental notes about the people in the service?

5. singing and not paying attention to the words or our hearts?

6. picking apart the sermon?

7. forgetting the message by the time you eat Sunday dinner?

What is the problem with our time of worship on Sunday morning? Could it be that we arrive unprepared to worship God? How can we have prepared hearts to worship the Living God?

Look unto God in preparation to worship Him.

Do I study and meditate upon His Word during the week? How can we expect to receive something from the Word of God during the worship service if we are not bathing our hearts in the Word of God during the week? “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97) Our love for the Word during the week will be evident in our response to the Word on Sunday.

Do I seek the Lord in prayer during the week as I prepare to worship Him?  We should pray with the Psalmist. “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)

Do I desire to glorify God as I worship Him? O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:3) The worship service is to bring glory to God above all. Have we fallen into the trap of looking for a blessing instead of seeking to glorify God?

 Look at Yourself in Preparation to Worship God

1. Do I have the right attitude about attending the worship service of the church? Our attitude determines the richness of our worship experience. If we arrive at the worship service with a negative attitude, our time of worship will be a negative experience. The Psalmist says: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. “(Psalm 122:1)

.2. Do I have the right relationship with God as I attend the worship service? Sin will keep us from having an encouraging, joyful worship experience with God. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8) We make sure our outer person is clean before we attend the worship service, but what about our hearts?

3. Do I have the right understanding of the need to attend the Sunday morning worship service?  We can attend a worship service and quietly wonder why we are here. God says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) The worship service is not only to bring glory to God but also to minister to each other.

Look at others in preparation to worship God.

1. Do I have the right relationship with those around me? Jesus taught that you couldn’t come before God’s altar and offer your gift if you have a problem with others. (Matthew 5:23-26) How can we worship God on Sunday, when we have unresolved conflict in our family or our church family?

2. Do I see the opportunities of ministry within my family and my church family? God has given every believer a spiritual gift. We are to use our gift within His Body (Romans 12:3-8). These gifts are not for our benefit but the benefit of others.

 Worship means to give worth to His name. The Sunday morning worship service can be a negative, tedious experience, or it can be a time of enjoying and honoring the presence of the Living God. The choice is ours. Next Sunday, will we come to worship Him with a prepared, and surrendered heart? Will our worship be worthy of our great and mighty God?

 

 

God Still Works in Lives!

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

“Why am I not more spiritual? Why do I make the wrong decisions? Why do I seem to be going backward in my Christian walk?” We have all asked these questions before. We are discouraged because there is no apparent progress in our Christian life. However, God sees things differently. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6) God begins His excellent work in our lives at the moment of salvation. Our Lord is always working in our lives. Don’t be discouraged because God knows what He is doing, and He is not going to quit His work in our hearts and lives.

A Prayer “Dear Lord, I don’t always see what you are doing in my life. I get discouraged because I do not see the growth that I expect. Please help me to understand that you are very patient and loving in your making me into the Christian that I ought to be. Thank you for not only the exciting times of spiritual growth but also the quiet times. Amen

An old children’s song says:
He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me
There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
But I’ll be better just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands

Breaking the Chokehold of Worry (Lessons from Philippians 4:6-7)

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Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Have you ever felt pulled in several directions at once? You know you should have faith in God, and yet worry, and anxiety have a chokehold upon your whole life. Your life seems to be going nowhere. You find it difficult to sleep. You ask: “Where is God in all of this.” Despair is ruling your life. What can you do?

The word “worry” comes from the West Germanic word, “wrygen” which means “to strangle” or “to choke.” Worry chokes us spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. God knows the power that worry and anxiety have upon us. He tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

How do we break this chokehold that worry and anxiety have upon us? God gives us several ways to break this chokehold.

1. Understand the consequences that worry and anxiety have upon our lives.  The words “be careful for nothing” have the idea of “stop being pulled in different directions.” Worry is a sin because it keeps us from giving glory to God. It also keeps us from serving God and others to our full capacity. Worry causes us to doubt the goodness of God, which creates confusion in our lives.

2. Focus upon God and not upon our circumstances. The above passage says, “Let your request be made known unto God.” God is the source of peace. When our eyes turn from our trials and focus upon God, we will see the greatness of God’s power, wisdom, love, and sovereignty. We know that we can trust Him regardless of what comes our way because God is greater than any circumstance in our lives.

3. Talk to God about the source of our worry and anxiety. The passage says: “but in everything by prayer and supplication.” God, our loving Father, wants us to take every hurt, misunderstanding, health issue, family issue, financial problem, and doubt, unto Him. He alone can carry that burden. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Worry and anxiety say I will carry my burden. Faith says I will take that burden to the Lord and leave it there.

4. Learn to give thanks to God in everything. Many problems and heartaches that choke us can be turned into blessings when we learn to give God thanks in everything that happens. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Th 5:18) When we thank Him in everything, we are saying to God: “I commit this circumstance, person or problem that is choking my life unto you. I thank you that you are fulfilling your great purpose in my life even amid this great trial or burden.”

5. Enjoy God’s promise of His Peace. God tells us that His peace “passeth all understanding.” God’s presence and peace shine forth in those who face their deepest trials with faith in Him. I have been beside many people who are facing death, and yet they had a peace that passes all human wisdom. God’s peace doesn’t make sense to the people around us. They only see our difficult circumstances, but they don’t see our enjoyment of the presence of God.

God doesn’t want any of us consistently pulled in two directions. He wants us to turn our faces directly towards Him. The songwriter wrote: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” God will break the chokehold of anxiety and worry in our lives. Will we trust Him to do so? “The truth shall make you free.”

-Mark J. Booth-

“I Will Never Leave Thee” (God’s Presence in Dark Times)

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Twenty-seven years ago, I said goodbye to my father. He had suffered a stroke. I traveled from Portugal to see dad one last time. Did he recognize me? I will never know. My return to Portugal was with a heavy heart. I would never see my father again. My father didn’t leave me by choice, but he was gone. I miss my father.

In life, we all face separation from loved ones. This separation is painful; however, there is One who will never leave us. Our Heavenly Father is always with us. Hebrews 13:5 says: ” Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God is with us in the good times, and He is with us in dark times. How does His presence affect our lives?

God’s presence gives us contentment in dark times. The tendency in life is to complain about everything. As a result, when things don’t happen the way we want, we become bitter and complain. Our lack of contentment is saying that God is doing a poor job of taking care of us.

Contentment means that we find our joy and happiness in our relationship with our Living Lord. In spite of the tough times, we know that He is right there with us. He will not leave us. He will walk with us through any valley. As the Psalmist says: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

God’s presence gives us strength in dark times. The Word of God informs us that Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. ” (Hebrews 13:6) The dark times in this life weaken us spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. We may feel like quitting. God’s presence gives us the strength to carry on. God told Paul: “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (Hebrews 13:6)Our weakness says to God: “I need your strength.” God will respond.

God’s presence gives us courage in dark times. Dark times can bring out the coward in us. We become fearful of people. We are afraid of the future. Fear of failure rules our hearts. Where do we find the courage to move forward. “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6) God’s presence and love will cast out the fear that torments us.

Many of our loved ones are no longer with us, but our Heavenly Father will never leave us. He is with us in good times and dark times. Yes, the clouds of darkness may dim our view of God, but He is still with us. May we lean upon Him in the darkest night; so that we may see his presence amid the darkness.

Afflictions, Trials, and Heartaches

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Afflictions, trials, and heartaches are all part of this life. We never choose to enter into the storms of life, but they come. They may occur suddenly or gradually, but all the same, we must deal with the afflictions that come our way. What are we to do in the day of tribulation and heartache? Jeremiah, the prophet, shares an answer from God. “O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction.” (Jeremiah 16:19) God shows us three truths about Himself that bring hope amid our trials. 

1. God gives us His strength to endure the storms of life. (My strength) Trials and heartaches have a way of weakening our resolve to move forward with life. Our energy has disappeared. We want to quit. However, God tells us amid our weakness, His strength is always there. God says to the Apostle Paul in his time of weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. God gives us His protection to stay faithful to Him during the storms of life. (My fortress) The fortress shows stability and security. During our afflictions, we are tempted to depart from the Lord. However, the Lord keeps us firm in our walk with Him. We may stumble, but He will not allow us to fall. 

3. God gives us His refuge for rest and hope amid the storm. (My refuge) In the midst of our trials, we can become weary. We feel that we have nowhere to go. The affliction causes worry and anxiety. God says to us in our weariness: “Come unto meall ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:29) God’s rest is available. Are we ready to lay our weary souls in His loving arms?

A Prayer. “Dear Father, I did not seek this heartache that is an unwelcome guest in my life. I know that I can not handle this storm on my own. I feel weak, vulnerable, and anxious. You alone can take me through this trial. I look up to you as my strength, my fortress, and my refuge. Thank you for holding my hand as I go through this challenging time in my life. Please help me to glorify your name because of all that you are doing in my life. Amen”

 

A New Year: A New Look at Life

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The year 2020 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for our life. However, this is an excellent opportunity to take an inventory of our spiritual lives.

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. The people placed God on the back burner of their lives. Their priority was building their own lives without any thought of God.

Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him? Here are some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.

1. Do I know God? “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God but to know Him as His Father, Lord, and Friend. Will we sacrifice our time and effort so that we can know God better?

2. Do I know myself?  “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23)We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our lives. We tend to excuse our sins and follies. God sees all and knows all. His examination not only shows us our sins and failures but also the way to move forward in 2020.

3. Do I use my time wisely?  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)  Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. Do we sacrifice the important things in life for the urgent? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. Do I encourage those around me? We often focus upon our own lives, and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

  • He encouraged others by his example. (Acts 4:36-37)
  • He encouraged others with his friendship. (Acts 9:26-27)
  • He encouraged others with his words.  (Acts 9:23)
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. (Acts 15: 35-41)

5. Do I glorify God in all that I do? The highest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God desires us to bring glory to Him in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions? De, we honor God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or at school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I need to consider my ways as I look forward to 2020. Please help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do. Thank you for the blessings of 2019. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

Finding Love in an Angry World

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Photo by: Mark Booth

Where can we find love and mercy in this world filled with selfishness and bitterness? The Psalmist David found the answer! “I trust in the mercy (lovingkindness) of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8)

God’s love is a breath of fresh air in a world of insensitivity, anger, and a lack of compassion. God’s mercy never ends. His love carries us through the hurts, pain, and hatred that is all around us. His mercy is like a plane that flies above the storm. With His loving hand, God can lift us above the animosity within the world. Will we take His hand, today?

“Dear Heavenly Father, we need to focus on your love and mercy in this world that has turned its back on you. We see the selfishness, anger, and bitterness all around us, yet we know that your love and mercy never end. Please help us to share your lovingkindness and mercy with others who need you. Amen”