Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Week Nine - A Little Comfort, Please

Ever need a good hug? Or a kind word? Isn’t it great when a friend reaches out to you and, without their knowledge, touches your soul with comfort? I love those moments. They are like little angel kisses sent directly from the heart of my Father giving me cause to rejoice, and strength to carry on.
   God does the same thing for me through His word and often through my devotional reading. Today, I want to share a bit of comfort that caused my heart to peacefully lean back and rest the other morning.
   C. H. Spurgeon, in his little devotional, Words of Cheer for Daily Life, wrote a whole chapter about The Holy Spirit a Comforter. I don’t want to type quotes, but I want to give you the eight incredible truths he brought out concerning the Holy Spirit, and a bit about what they meant to me. I hope they are precious to you, as well! 

The Holy Spirit is—

1)    Loving. 
His words comfort and assure me. They wrap my heart and give me peace.
2)    Faithful. 
He never leaves me. Even when I am struggling to understand or come to grips with a situation, or find the words to pray, he is right there with me!
3)    Unwearied. 
He never gets fed up with me! He does not cast me aside as a waste of time or an annoyance. I might bring the same complaint to him ten times a day, but every time I am faithfully met with the same love and patience.
4)    Wise. 
He knows me, and He knows God’s will. He will point me in the right way.  I can’t fool him—he sees right through me with wise eyes of love. He cuts right down to my real motivations and helps me see the error of my ways with gentleness and instruction.
5)    Safe. 
I know he will not say hateful or hurtful words to me. He might have to correct me, but he will not embarrass me or laugh at me. I can be open and honest, without fear, even when I feel ridiculous or know I am guilty.
6)    Active.
 He isn’t in the business of just listening or talking with me to no end. He will work on my behalf. He will answer prayer. He will move things for my good. 
7)    Successful. 
“He never attempts what he cannot accomplish.” (p 42) He started the work in me.  He will do it. I can trust in that. Even when I feel a failure or think things are going to fail, he will always accomplish his purpose and cause me to marvel.
8)    Ever-present. 
He is Immanuel, God with us. All I have to do is call. He never leaves me. He is the indwelling Spirit of God in this child of God. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

So, today, do you need some comfort? Do you need a listening ear? The Holy Spirit of God is the place to go. You can trust Him. He will not turn you away. Let him wrap you in his arms while you pour your heart out to him. Come, find the rest you need from this weary world and stand up again, refreshed and empowered by the comfort of Love.

Beside the Well

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Week Eight - Kindling

Last week, we looked just a bit at fear. This week, we want to talk about anger. You know what anger is. It’s that seething beneath the skin that gives us ulcers and heart issues and increases our blood pressure. It’s that last straw that regrettably causes us to lose control of our words and actions.    
Do you see the progression? It starts with seething and smoldering. The Bible uses the word kindled. Jacob’s anger kindled again Rachel in Genesis 30:2. Balaam’s anger kindled against the donkey in Numbers 22:27. Saul’s anger kindled against his son, Jonathan. And what happened when their kindling reach combustion point? They lashed out. James 3:5 warns us that a little kindling grows into a great fire.

Uncontrolled anger is destructive, and even letting it seethe damages our health. Denying it allows pressure to build up until vicious steam escapes scalding everyone around us and leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. It is based on pride. James 1:20 says our anger does not work for our good or the good of the Lord.

Just as God knew we would fear, he also knows we will experience anger. He experiences anger. Jesus experienced anger. It’s not the experience where the danger lies; it is in the outgrowth. Fear binds us. Anger exposes us.

Fear and anger plague the world around us. We see it on the news, running in our streets, and motivating and ruling in government. Society is consumed by these two. And all the while, people are calling out for change. God is so aware of the ramifications of anger that he warns us not to make friendships with angry people because their attitude rubs off on us, and we will be trapped. (Proverbs 22:24)

So, what is the solution for anger? You might be surprised!  It is forgiveness. Anger is sourced in an annoyance to self. Something or someone gets in our way. That driver impedes our path. That person disagrees with our opinion. Those rules make it more difficult to reach my goal. Frustration sets in, it kindles (and sometimes too quickly), and we begin to seethe, or we explode.

Anger says, “I am the only one that matters. My needs come first.” It ignores the fact that others live on this planet, and experience the same frustrations with us, as we do with them. Anger holds such a high opinion of itself that no one else’s opinion matters. Anger is self-focused and seeks to remove anything that gets in the way.

To forgive that driver, you have to say you have done the same thing at times, and forgive his mistake. 

To forgive that person who disagrees with you, you need to respect their right to have an opposite opinion, and forgive them for being wrong! No! I’m joking!

But to think that my opinion is the only right opinion is faulty. If I like blue and you like green, it is only a personal choice. It is nothing to come to blows over. Why not be the adult in the situation and just agreed to disagree. There is no need to break friendships or marriages over opinions. We are to live in grace instead of law.

To get angry at the speed limit or the red-tape of life is to fight a losing battle. We are best to accept that laws are necessary for our safety, and the red-tape of life has grown from the mistakes of others and sometimes ourselves. “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” So, forgive the humanity of those around you and recognize you are human, too. Humble yourself. It won’t hurt you!

Do you struggle with anger? Have a short fuse? Smolder and Seethe? Let’s look at some practical things you can do, but don’t forget, the most important thing you can do is agree with God—uncontrolled anger is sin. 
STOP - When you first feel that twinge of anger, stop and ask where it is coming from. What spurred it? Were you caught off guard? Were you tired or hungry? Were you rushed? Find the source and get things into perspective. You got angry. Why? How does the other person feel? Can you come with a quiet word to diffuse the situation? Are you better to remain silent?

COUNT - Quickly, count what it will cost. If you blow up, will things just get worse? Who will you hurt? Are you willing to deal with the backlash?

DECIDE - Then, decide what outcome you want. Do you really want to lose control? Do you want to say words you will regret? Would you rather be able to move on without an episode?

LOOK - Look for space. God says he will make a way of escape from tempting situations. Where is your out? Could you turn and look away? Could you shut your eyes? Could you count to ten? Could you go for a walk? What could you do that would not heighten the situation, but give you space to get hold of yourself?

MASTER - Learn to master your emotions. To do this, you must slow everything down. It is the pace of anger that creates the most problems. We lash out without thinking of the words, the outcome, or the feelings of others; then we wonder why we face more anger. You want to be a person in control. So, remember, your reaction is your choice—every time! No one can make you act in anger. It is a choice you make.

One of my favorite verses on matters like this is 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (KJV)

To me, paraphrased this says, “I have a choice. I can do what I want, but not everything is beneficial. I can do what I want, but I refuse to let emotions, people, or situations have power over me.” And that includes anger. It wants power to expose my weaknesses and leave me embarrassed, hurt and bound in fear.

“No way,” I say, “I will not give anger control. I choose to forgive. I choose to show grace. I choose to exercise self-control, and allow the water of the Word to quench the fire in my heart.”

How about you?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Week Seven - That Rush of Adrenaline

What makes you quake? Tremble in your boots? Cry out in fear?

Is it your finances? Your marriage? Unruly children? Fear of the future? Inability to control your world? Being alone with your thoughts?

   Anxiety comes from many sources and on various levels, but nearly all of us experience it at one time or another. It can even be that little panic as you look for your keys or as you put your debit card into the machine. It can be that odd feeling of being watched in the shop or thinking a car is following you. Life is full of these moments.
   As we consider fear today, I want us to see there are tools in our belt, weapons, if you will, to combat this enemy. And fear is an enemy. It has a purpose in keeping us safe as it warns us of danger, but it also oversteps its place as it seeks to control us.

   Peter wrote about the qualities of meekness and quietness as a sign of a godly woman saying, “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4) Did you know that meekness does not mean to be weak and mousey but to be without anger?  And quietness does not mean she doesn’t speak up, but it means she is not afraid, she is confident and secured.  Fear and anger are the two most controlling emotions people face. So, let’s look today at fear.

   God knows we fear. That is why He mentions it so often and gives us an array of assuring promises. Let me share just three with you. Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:13 “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not, I will help thee,” and Mark 5:36 “Be not afraid, only believe.”

   The verse I taught my children when they would wake fearful in the night, was Psalm 56:3
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” My oldest daughter tells me to this day when she feels fear; she recites this verse in her head! 

   In each of these verses, and in every promise on fear, the source for release is trust and belief in the Lord.

   I was reading David Jeremiah’s book, Slaying the Giants in Your Life, and he had a great comment on fear.  Here’s what he wrote –

   “The opposite of fear, you see, is not courage. It’s not trust. (1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”) The opposite of fear is love. This verse captures that beautiful and powerful truth. As we’ve already seen near the beginning of the chapter, 2 Tim 1:7 “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” There it is again – fear versus love. I think parents understand this principle, for they know that little children often wake up in the dark of night. And they’re afraid of the darkness. I experienced it again with our oldest grandchild when he was an infant. When he was staying our home, he’d wake up in that unfamiliar bedroom in the middle of the night, and he’d begin to cry. It wasn’t just any kind of crying, but an “I’m afraid” kind of crying.  You parents know what I mean?  So, what did we do? I doubt any of us would rush into the room and say, “Come on – be courageous!” No, you and I are much more tender than that.  We lifted the little boy in our arms, nestled him tightly to us, and spoke softly with assurance. We told him we loved him and that everything was all right. We helped him realize he was in a safe place and that we were very near as he slept, even if it was dark. And that we would always protect him. We poured in all the love we could until the fear was cast out, and he slept in peace. That’s what God does for us when we call on Him.” (p 15)

   Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God’s love for his fearful child?

   When I walked down the aisle to marry my husband, fear gripped my heart. Was I making the right decision? Would things work out well? I made it to the front and looked into his loving eyes. Fear left, and I made my vows.

   When I faced that awful news of cancer, there was fear. But there was also peace in my heart because I knew my Father loved me. I was not alone. He was walking that camel train with me. 
   So, today, whatever fear tries to clutch your heart and gives you a rush of adrenaline, step back into God’s love for you, calm your heart, and refuse fear’s grip.

Call out to your loving Father—He’s there!

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:19)