NO FEAR!

 

“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.”

1Samuel 17:48 NLT

The other night I had a spiritual warfare dream.  In this dream, I had just moved into an older, two-story home with a large porch on the front.  I found myself in the living room area immersed in fear of an evil presence.  I tried crying out and rebuking the devil to cast out the evil but I had no voice.  I felt helpless and paralyzed.  I prayed for Christ to rebuke the enemy for me and to restore my voice.  Suddenly I became bold and angry.  Amidst a terror inside of me that was almost debilitating, I ran upstairs and started kicking in doors hollering at the enemy to show his face, daring him to come at me.  I ran into dark unfamiliar rooms not knowing what would be on the other side of the door, terrified but determined to face my enemy.  I was fed up with being afraid and I was chasing after this evil presence.  There was a room at the end of the hallway with a light on.   I never made it to that room.  When I noticed the light on I called the enemy out again and told him to show himself.  He came out of the lighted room cowering. When he appeared, he was nothing but a wiry, thin, pale faced thug-a thief who ran with his tail between his legs when I started ranting and thrashing at him to GET OUT!

Although I woke up exhausted, I had no doubt what my dream was telling me.  I have lived in fear most of my life.  Fear caused me to not try out for the softball team my freshman year of high school.  Fear kept me from studying in France for 5 weeks when I was a college student.  Fear kept me from pursuing my dream of being a professional singer/actor.  Fear also kept me in an abusive relationship.  It even still keeps me from visiting my dentist regularly.  God used this dream to show me what I needed to do with fear.  Face it. Run after it and kick it out of my soul.  Fear has no place in ruling my life or yours.

I have read repeatedly that the Bible says “Do not fear” 365 times.  Although I haven’t googled the validity of that statement, I’ve read enough of in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Isaiah alone to believe it’s true.  In His word, God repeatedly tells us to NOT FEAR, to not be afraid and to be still.  Each time He says it, He also adds, “for I Am with you…”  The Great I Am is with us all the time, everywhere we go.  Focusing on that alone should be enough to make us fearless.  But for most, for me at least, it’s not.  I needed God to show me how to not fear.

He not only showed me in my dream, He confirmed it this week through the story of David and Goliath.  You don’t have to be a Christian to be familiar with the story of a shepherd boy who took on a 9 foot (2.74 meters) giant and killed him with a slingshot and 1 stone. Some probably think it’s simply a fictional Sunday school story.  But the true believer knows it is truth because God’s word tells us so.

1 Samuel chapter 17 tells us David was Jesse’s youngest son.  While his older brothers were at war, David went back and forth between the soldiers’ camp and the sheepfold to help his father keep watch on his older brothers and the family sheep.  One specific day, Jesse, sent him to the camp with food for his brothers.  When David arrived, the Israelites and Philistines were in the midst of war. David ran out to meet his brothers.  This is the first time he sees Goliath taunting and terrorizing the Israelite army.  Men older and “braver” than David were frozen in fear because of one enemy who towered over them and taunted them.  To this point, anyone who had attempted to take on Goliath was murdered.  In human thinking, their fear was completely valid.

David was a man after God’s own heart before he became King of Judah.  What was David’s response to Goliath’s threats?  “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?(vs 26b)”  David had no fear of Goliath because David knew his God was bigger, stronger and mightier.  He couldn’t understand why the Israelites were so afraid of this giant. David recognized who Goliath really was-He wasn’t an enemy of the Israelites, Goliath was an enemy of God.  David knew no enemy of God’s ever wins-that confidence, made him fearless.

Even though David trusted God to defeat Goliath, he still received backlash from even his own family members regarding facing the giant.  David’s older brother, Eliab, was angry with David for talking to the other soldiers and asked him, ““What are you doing around here anyway? “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle! (vs 28)” Eliab’s faith wasn’t as big as David’s and he didn’t see David as the man God created him to be.  Eliab only saw David as his annoying little brother who was just an action-junkie going to get in the way and get himself killed.

I love David’s response to his older brother.  “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question! (vs 29)” Then he walked over and asked other soldiers the same question.  He didn’t bat an eye to his brother’s naysaying.  I imagine David was already hearing God calling him to face this giant and he was determined to obey God.  Nothing anyone said was going to deter David from his God ordained destiny or make him falter in his faith.

At this point, King Saul hears about David’s question and calls for him.  When David meets King Saul, the young shepherd boy boldly and confidently tells the king, “Don’t worry about this Philistine…I’ll go fight him! (vs 32)” To which Saul replied, ““Don’t be ridiculous! …There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth. (vs 33)”  And here’s what verses 34-37 tells us David’s reply was, “But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!’”  The best part of that whole passage is the first sentence, but David persisted.   In spite of his own family not believing in him, in spite of the law of the land at that time having no faith in him, David persisted because he trusted God to defeat the enemy.  His persistent faith is what prompted Saul to finally say, ““All right, go ahead…And may the Lord be with you! (vs 37b)”

Even though Saul consented to David’s request, Saul still didn’t see David as the warrior God made him to be. Saul tried to dress David up in protective armor that actual held David back. If he had worn the man-made armor, David would have readily been defeated because it was too heavy, weighed him down, and not what David was used to. So David refused the armor and prepared for battle-how? He used what he knew, his staff and his slingshot.  His ammunition was 5 stones.  He ran toward his enemy, fearlessly and was practically a laughing stock to his family, the army he was fighting for and especially his enemy.  David looked square at his enemy and said, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us! (vs 45-47.) He loaded his slingshot, took aim and nailed Goliath square in the forehead, then cut off his head.  Did you catch that-David, a small shepherd boy killed a 9 foot giant by knocking him down with a slingshot and cutting off his head!  Why was David victorious?  Because he knew it was the Lord’s battle and he TRUSTED God to deliver the enemy to him.

When we lay our fear down, face the giants in His way and trust His might through us, He moves in a mighty way and makes us victorious too.  David had no battle plan. He was simply a natural born warrior and he used what he knew trusting God to do the rest.

As I write this, I’m listening to a sermon by Todd White, entitled, No Longer a Slave to Fear.  In this sermon Todd says, “[We] are not victims of circumstance-[we] are victorious.  We are sons and daughters of the King.  Let us not be bound by [the enemy’s] lies.  Don’t let your hope be deferred.  If it’s deferred, it’s because your hope isn’t set on what God says you are.  It’s impossible to have your hope deferred by circumstance when your hope is set on Jesus.”  The Israelites lived as victims.  David lived as the victor through Christ.  The Israelites lived without hope.  David’s hope was set on His God.  He knew, deep in his heart, that he was a mighty warrior made by God and that no enemy would be victorious in destroying his God-ordained destiny.  Because he was not a slave to fear, God’s destiny for him came to fruition over and over again.  David only knew defeat when he sinned against God or handled life by his own might.  But even then, when David repented, God raised him up again and made him victorious over all his enemies.

We all have a God-ordained destiny.  The only thing that can keep us from achieving that destiny is paralyzing fear.  We have a choice to be like David who ran after his enemy or be like the Israelites who doubted God and fought battles in their own human strength.   We can live to know who God made us to be, or we can live with a hope deferred and sick hearts (Proverbs 13:12.)  We should definitely pray and know God’s destiny for ourselves but once we know, we have to go.  As Todd White says, “we’re not going to pray about where to go, we’re just going to go.  Why?  Cuz’ ‘go’ is two-thirds of God (G-O-D.)”  If God is telling you to go-then go, fearlessly, and let God guide you along the way.

To blindly go, we will need faith like David and like Abraham.  When God told Abraham to go in Genesis 12, He didn’t spell out the plan step by step or detail by detail.  God only said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. (vs 1)”  God said GO then He promised to SHOW.  Too often we miss out on what God is calling us to do because we’re waiting for God to show before we go.  We need to take that leap of faith and go first.  Then trust God to show us the way.  We need to trust that God is moving mightily defeating every enemy that attempts to block us from His destiny for us.  But remember, He calls us to first GO.   He calls us to run after our enemy and trust Him to bring the victory His way, and in His time. Let us stop floundering like a wave tossed to and fro and let us go after what He has already laid on our hearts to achieve for His purpose and glory.

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And Jesus Wept

Last week I rec’d a prayer request via text message regarding the sudden and tragic death of a young man.  I didn’t know him, but I know and love the person who was grieving his death and asking for prayers.  We spent the day texting back and forth trying to make sense out of God calling home someone whose life was fully dedicated to serving Him before this young man’s ministry could even begin.  In the midst of our conversation I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to tell her this: “Although God is the One who called this young man home He is grieving over his death too because His children are hurting and immersed in grief.”  I believe the Holy Spirit talked through her as well when she responded with this; “It’s been raining all day here.  I imagine the raindrops are tears from Heaven pouring down.”

When tragedy happens, we tend to blame God first.  A few common questions people cry out when they’re in the pit of despair is “Where is God!?”  or “Why did He let this happen!?” In Psalms 22, the man after God’s own heart even cried out “My God, My God, WHY have You forsaken me.” In the midst of life shattering grief we wonder how a God who says He loves us could also allow us to feel such crippling pain.  And for some, grief will cripple them.  The pain can be so overwhelming they’ll harden their hearts simply so they don’t have to feel anything anymore.  Others will self-medicate or turn to another self-destructive behavior as a means of comfort that creates a false sense of numbness.

So where is God when tragedy happens?  He’s right there in the face of that tragedy and He’s right with you at the moment your heart shatters.   The second half of Deuteronomy 31:6 says “For the Lord my God personally goes ahead of me.  He will neither fail me nor abandon me.”  In Isaiah 43 God again promises He is with us always whether we go through deep waters or through the fire of oppression.  Psalm 23 tells us that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He is with us-His rod and His staff comfort us.  Where is God-He is everywhere, all the time.  Even as His own son was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, hung on a cross and stabbed in the side-God was there.

But why does He let tragedy happen?  My human response would be “Ask Job.  I’m sure he asked the same question when God allowed satan to take Job’s entire family and his prosperity only to prove Job’s faithfulness to Him.”  But I’d prefer to answer in God’s words with Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT) “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts’ says the lord. ‘And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”  As crude is this may sound, God is God and He does what He wants even if it hurts us or we cannot comprehend what He’s doing.  He does however promise to use everything, including tragedy for His glory and His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The same God who allowed His own son to be murdered, is the same God who wept when Lazarus died and is the same God who is grieving WITH you too.  Jesus wept.  The shortest verse in the Bible yet one that may bring greater comfort than hearing the Lord is near to the broken hearted.  Knowing God is with us isn’t always comforting, especially if we can’t feel His presence.  But what a great comfort in knowing He is grieving with us.  What a comfort to know it breaks His heart to break ours.

There are no right words to say when someone is in the midst of grief.  We offer, “I’m sorry for your loss” or send a sympathy card.  You can try to hold them tightly until they don’t hurt anymore but even that doesn’t truly take the pain away.  The only true healing comes from Jesus Himself. The same One Who breaks our hearts is the same One Who can take each shard of brokenness and piece it back together making our hearts whole again.  In Psalm 147:3 God promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up all their wounds.  The word bind in Hebrew is chabash, which means to bind, bind on or bind up.  In exploring the thesaurus, another word for bind is to wrap or secure.  God, with His love and sovereignty is the only One who can wrap up our broken hearts and make them secure again, secure in His word and in His love.

I want to close today’s blog with a few lyrics from Danny Gokey’s, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  Ironically the story behind this song was based on a pastor wanting to see a heart surgery take place. In the midst of the surgery, after the heart had been repaired, they couldn’t restart it.  The doctor uncharacteristically spoke to his patient and said, “We’ve fixed your heart, there’s nothing wrong with it.  We just need you to tell your heart to beat again.”  Jesus, the Great Physician will fix our broken hearts too when we come into agreement with Him and tell our hearts to beat again.

“You’re shattered

Like you’ve never been before

The life you knew

In a thousand pieces on the floor

And words fall short in times like these

When this world drives you to your knees

You think you’re never gonna get back

To the you that used to be

“Tell your heart to beat again

Close your eyes and breathe it in

Let the shadows fall away

Step into the light of grace

Yesterday’s a closing door

You don’t live there anymore

Say goodbye to where you’ve been

And tell your heart to beat again”

May God’s loving grace and mercy fall on those who read this and are in a time of loss and grief.  As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3; “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”  My prayer for you is that God turns your mourning into dancing and you see God’s goodness prevail through the darkest storm I pray you will ever face.  To the family who lost their son and their church congregation who was present with them when their lives were forever changed, this was my prayer to our Abba:  “Lord, let even his death be a mighty miracle and testimony for Your glory.  Show them, show everyone who knew him and was touched by His life how this tragedy will be used for Your glory.  Let not his life nor his death be in vain.”

#Origin

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”                                                         Philippians 3:14 NLT

I watched my first rugby match this morning.  I follow a couple of rugby pages on Instagram and my newsfeed was blowing up with pics of this crazy game called “Origin”.  I had no idea what “Origin” was or what the craze was all about.  But I quickly learned.  Actually, I still don’t know why they call it Origin but I learned what the craze of rugby was all about.

Prior to watching this game, my understanding of rugby consisted of it being a form of football where they wore no pads and dressed like soccer players.  I knew the rules were a tad different but never studied it enough to fully understand the similarities or differences.  Watching the match was a real eye opener that rugby is clearly in a league of its own.

Football and rugby both have an offense and defense. The offense moves the ball to the end zone/goal line, the defense does everything in their power to stop that from happening.  Where American football has four downs (or four attempts to move the ball toward the end zone) Australian rugby offense can move the ball through 5 tackles before the ball is turned over to their opponent.   But there’s a greater difference-In football, after each down, a new play is discuss and set up, a new strategy is planned before the ball is hiked and another attempt is made toward the end zone.  What I watched in rugby, the team runs together in a horizontal line lobbing the ball to each other trying to bust past the defensive line.  When they’re tackled, they get up, kick the ball slightly behind them to a team mate and the running/lobbing madness begins again.

Another difference is passing.  There’s passing in rugby but it’s nothing like football.  In American football, a quarterback can throw a spiral that’ll clear the defense to a receiver who can outrun the enemy.  A quarterback with a strong throwing arm combined with a fast receiver makes for one tough high-scoring offense.  I’m still trying to figure out how passing works in rugby, but I didn’t see any throws over the defense’s heads or someone running down field to catch and score.

Watching the offense move the ball to score a try (or touchdown) and the defense repeatedly tackle them was like watching a spiritual warfare battlefield.  As Christians, we are the offense.  Each day we are called to press on toward the goals we have in this life, accomplishing our God-given dreams.  The enemy is the defense.  He and his evil henchmen do everything in their power to tackle every move we make preventing us from reaching God’s goals for our life.  If we’re tough like an Australian rugby player, we get right back up and keep moving only to again meet opposition and maybe get knocked down again.  A vicious cycle until we wear out because let’s face it, the enemy doesn’t get tired.

As exhilarating and slightly confusing as rugby is to me (confusing only because I’m still learning it), there’s a few differences in American football I really like.  First,  there’s a quarterback who sets the stage, directs the plays and tends to determine how the ball is going to move down the field into the end zone. In life, we have a quarterback too.  Psalm 37:23 reminds us that “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT)  God has already set the stage for us. If we listen, He directs the plays (our steps) and His word determines how we (the ball) navigate through this life achieving His goals.

Second, the offense’s response to a defensive tackle is to pause, reset, and set up a new strategy before moving the ball again.  In life, when the enemy attacks us, there are times we should “cease striving and know that He is God….” (Psalm 46:10 NASB) There are times in life where the enemy has knocked us on our backsides so hard all we can do is pause, seek our Heavenly Quarterback for direction and allow Him to set up our next move.  It may look like the same move we tried before, or He may have a different “play” for us.   Whatever the plan, if we listen to His leading, we will victoriously find ourselves successfully in the end zone with the enemy licking his wounds in defeat.

One last thing-in American football there’s a term called “false start” where the offense crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is in play.  In life, we can experience false starts too if we try to move ourselves before the Lord tells us to move or better yet before He has even given us direction or set up the play.  The books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah along with many Proverbs warn us of what happens when we walk outside of God’s direction.

Whether you play Australian rugby or American football, the prize is ultimately a trophy and bragging rights.  In life, the prize we press on to achieve is accomplishing God’s will for our lives, changing this world and giving Him all the glory.  Doing anything that glorifies God is a prize worth fighting for no matter how many tackles the enemy makes on us.  With God as our Quarterback, in the end, we will score the ultimately try/touchdown!!!