Facing Fear

In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.
 What can man do to me?
Psalm 56:11 NKJV

 Since it is still January, I continue to contemplate about what the new year may hold for me and what God desires for me.  If I am totally honest and vulnerable this morning, I will have to admit that I am struggling with fear.  This scripture in Psalm 56:11 is intimidating to me since I want to trust God and yet I cannot wholeheartedly say that I do not fear.  I guess my feelings are being influenced by my experiences the second half of 2013 with a broken wrist.  It was a bad break complicated by my bones being weak because of osteoporosis. The orthopedist said I would probably have more broken bones in the future.  This is where fear comes in because I do not want more pain and broken bones.  I have rebuked the words of the doctor but the seed of fear has been planted within me.  I know that I have not blamed God for this situation nor felt like God deserted me but I do sense the reality of what is possible in the natural.  In the spiritual, I must remember that with God all things are possible and I must not put limitations upon God.

So, my Reader, do you struggle with fear?  What causes you to fear – health, finances, job security, relationships?  I am suspicious that there may be something deep down that is causing you some anxiety.  As you continue to read, please apply my thoughts to your situation.

 Fear not, for I am with you;
 Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

One thing I need to remember is that fear is an emotion.  Fear is not necessarily a weakness.  God created me with emotions.  I have heard that there are approximately 365 scriptures, one for each day of the year, telling me not to be fearful.  (However, I cannot substantiate this.)  If God tells me not to be afraid, then He must know that I will experience fear.  However, He does not allow me to handle my fear alone.  Isaiah 41:10 tells me the reason I do not need to feel afraid is because God is with me.  When I read to the end of this verse, God also says that He will uphold me with His righteous right hand.  That is especially reassuring to me since it was my right hand that was broken.  Now I have the Lord taking hold of my injured hand.  I like the statement,Face your fears, acknowledge them, confess them and take a positive stand against them!”  Knowing that the Lord is with me, I am more capable of heeding this advice.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

 This verse is encouraging to me!  When I focus upon the fact that God’s plans will not harm me, I am less fearful.  The next couple of verses of Jeremiah 29 go on to say that when I pray and seek God, I will find Him in any situation I encounter. Even if an unpleasant situation arises, God will be with me.  If He is with me, the unpleasant is better than what I might consider pleasure without God. This scripture helps me to say, “Jesus, I trust You!” no matter what may happen.  If I can see Jesus in every situation, fear will lose its hold on me.  I want to agree with David who says in Psalm 27:1,The Lord is my light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV

 As I think about this scripture, I ask myself, “How do I receive the spirit that is the opposite of fear?”  The first quote that comes to my mind is by Beverly Lewis who says, Courage is fear on its knees.”  I really like this quote!  I desire to be courageous, not fearful, and the way to receive courage is to pray for God’s help.  I want to follow this advice, “If your knees are knocking, kneel on them.”  Another quote I like is “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the conquest of fear.”  I am becoming less fearful of what may happen in 2014 when I read these  scriptures and quotes.  Just one more quote, “Keep Faith as a constant companion. When Fear knocks at your door, send Faith to answer it.”

In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Psalm 56:11 NKJV

Yes, I am back to the first scripture I quoted at the beginning of this blog.  However, when I read it now, I feel more hope than intimidation. I agree with Oswald Chambers, “If we fear God, we shall cease to fear man.”  I want to dismiss the words spoken to me by the orthopedist and claim the Word of God. The type of fear I want to experience in my life is a reverential fear of God rather than a panicky fear of something that might not even happen.  Fear of God is a sure foundation while fear of man‘s possibilities is only an apprehension or uneasiness.  The quote, You’ve gotta face your fears and face the facts, before you can get the victory.” is true just as is the statement, Faith and fear cannot totally occupy your mind, heart and spirit at the same time.”  I can now speak the words of Psalm 34:4 with more confidence, I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  One more quote now becomes a part of my life, Face the fear of man in the power of His Spirit on the promises of His Word, and you cannot fail!”  When I live with a reverential fear of God, not fear of man, and include prayer and scripture reading as essential parts of my life, what was once fear will become courage with the help of the Holy Spirit!

Therefore encourage one another
 and build each other up.
I Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

My Reader, how are you feeling now?  I hope my honesty has helped you to take a closer look at something you might be apprehensive about.  The word “encourage” means to impart courage.  This scripture verse may mean that we need to be ready to receive encouragement from the Lord Himself or from another person when we are discouraged.  It also can mean that we need to be ready to encourage others who may be discouraged. Let’s look together at some scriptures in Romans. Romans 8:26 says,the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  God encourages us through the work of the Holy Spirit within our lives!  Romans 8:28 goes on to say, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This tells us that our times of discouragement can help to equip us to encourage others at another time. God wastes nothing, including our fearful feelings.  We gain an empathy for people who may be fearful if we have experienced fear in our own lives.  So, I pray that my sharing may help you to face your fear with courage.  In turn, may you encourage others.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Question: Are you facing fear?  If you would like me to agree with you in prayer to overcome this fear, please respond to this blog and I will pray for you in the coming weeks.  Your request will not be posted.

(Quotes in light purple were found at http://www.wordofloveforyou.com/fear.htm unless another source is indicated.)

Layers, Lines and Precepts

snow mfIt is cold outside this morning so it is going to be a good day to stay inside.  If I were to go outside I would need to wear layer upon layer of clothes but I think I will create a little extra warmth in our house by baking an apple pizza coffeecake instead.  Since this recipe takes time, this is the perfect day to make it because it gives me a good reason to stay inside. However, it is worth the extra time and effort!  The layers of dough, cream cheese, apples and topping blend together for a tasty treat.  One could eat each layer separately but it would not be nearly as appetizing.

While thinking about the layers of the pizza I am going to make, one particular scripture comes to my mind.  It is found in Isaiah 28:13 and says, “But the word of the Lord was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line….”  I am not ways good at remembering everything God teaches me through each experience in life. Consequently, the Lord needs to keep reminding me precept upon precept (concept by concept) and line upon line (chapter by chapter) of the power and message of His written word.  One of the unique things about the faith walk is that I can reread a specific scripture a multitude of times and each time I read it God can reveal something new to me.  When Isaiah wrote this verse to the Israelites, they did not like to be reminded of what God had told them.  For me, I want to be receptive to what God is showing me.  Precept upon precept or line upon line or layer upon layer is not a bad thing whether it refers to how I study scripture or how I assemble an apple pizza.

bible for study mfAs I sit at the computer drooling for the apple pizza that I will share later with my husband, I find an interesting article online by Robert Grove.  He defines four layers of scripture.  (This is interesting to me since my pizza recipe has four layers!)  Layer one is defined as the primary layer. This is the first layer of understanding the Bible and it is where we all start. It is as simple as reading the Bible as a story. The second layer is described as the practical layer. Here we take scripture and personally apply it to our lives.  Layer three is distinguished as the prophetic layer. Here we find multiple scriptures of the Bible and link them together to reveal an understanding of future events.  The last layer is described as the mystical layer.  This layer of understanding keeps us sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This concept allows us to be aware of how the Holy Spirit will pour out understanding to people in the last days according to scripture.  Robert Grove says, “Let me end by saying that it’s imperative that you have a good foundation in the first two layers before you will even begin to understand the third and fourth layer….  Familiarize yourself with the scriptures of the Bible. Pray that God will grant the Holy Spirit to pour upon you new understanding of the Bible, that your eyes of understanding will be opened.”   I can concentrate on the message of scripture one level at a tine but it will be more meaningful to me if I combine the interpretations of all four levels.   This is similar to how I choose to eat the apple pizza, either one layer at a time or all layers incorporated into one final pastry.

Since it is a cold day, I think I will curl up in a chair by the fireplace and read some scripture precept upon precept and line upon line for a while and then I will go make the apple pizza layer upon layer.  My Reader, would you like to join me?  The apple pizza recipe is listed below but I will let you find your own Bible.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Apple Pizza Coffeecake
Apple topping:
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 large cooking apples, peeled and thinly sliced
½ c. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
In a large skillet, melt butter and add apple slices.  Combine remaining ingredients; blend with apples.  Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cream cheese topping:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.
Streusel topping:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
¼ c. butter or margarine, softened
Combine ingredients with a fork until crumbly.
Coffeecake:
2 ¾ to 3 c. flour
1 pkg. quick-rise yeast
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ c. water
¼ c. milk
¼ c. butter or margarine
1 egg
In a larger bowl combine 1 ½ cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt and mix well.  In a saucepan, heat water, milk and butter until very warm (120-130 degrees).  Add to flour mixture.  Add egg.  Blend at low speed with mixer until moistened;  beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Cover; let rise in a warm place 15 minutes.
Punch down dough.  On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a ball. Pat dough on a greased 12 inch pizza pan, forming a rim around the edge.  Spread cream cheese filling over dough.  Spoon apple topping over cream cheese and sprinkle streusel topping over apples.
Cover; let rise in a warm place about 15 minutes.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until the edge is golden brown.  Serve warm.
(I clipped this recipe from a newspaper many years ago.)

A Little is A Lot

plandt i hand 2 mf

My Reader, two weeks ago I presented you with the question, “What does the Lord want to help you make new in 2014?”  Did you seek the Lord for an answer?  If so, have you been working towards this “something new”?   Another way of asking this question would have been for me to ask if you were making any New Year’s resolutions. If you did this, are you fulfilling your goals?  Maybe you were too busy with the holidays to explore new options for the new year at that time, but now you may want to think about something new.  Whatever your response is, let me give you some encouragement today.

 As a new year begins, I often make big plans to do something new, or at least to do something more consistently than in the past.  My agenda may include such things as keeping in touch with a lonely neighbor, spending more time in prayer, eating better with less snacking (how about fasting?), setting aside time for physical exercise, being more diligent with Bible reading and studying, or learning how to do something I have never done before.  (Blogging was my “something new” a year ago.)   My intentions are good and I am excited for a few weeks and then I revert to my old lifestyle. Although this is frequently the pattern of my life, this past week God has been reassuring me that He will help me achieve my intentions.  I would like to share with you what the Lord has shown me.  

plandt i hand 2 mf

Who dares despise the day of small things?
Zachariah 4:10

 That’s awesome!shouts the Lord to my spirit.  God is my best cheerleader.  The Lord wants me to know that He is aware of every little thing I do for Him. I tend to look at the negative side of things and get discouraged the first time I fail to fulfill a promise I have made to Him. God looks at my heart and He sees the positive.  He is pleased with even my intent when I am striving to live closer to Him.  I Samuel 16:7 says, “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If my heart is aligned with the Lord, He thinks it is awesomeeven when I succeed only a little bit for a little while. God is pleased with my efforts when my efforts are to glorify Him. 

plandt i hand 2 mf

Let nothing be wasted.
John 6:12

A little is a lot,” speaks the Lord to my spirit. The amount of effort I put forth or the length of time I actually devote to the effort is not as important to God as is the fact that I am willing to exert any effort or time at all. The gospel of John records how Jesus multiplied a boy’s lunch of five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed 5000 people with even 12 baskets of leftovers. That is when Jesus said, “Let nothing be wasted!”  In comparison to Jesus’ part, the boy’s offering was miniscule, yet it was necessary.  I must remember that I do not have to do much until Jesus will help me, but I must do something!  When I choose to do something, I am showing God that I am willing to take a step of faith in order to have a closer walk with Him.  My steps may falter as I try to succeed with my new thing for 2014, but even my baby steps can become big steps with God’s help.  I say with David in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  I may get discouraged and anxious when I fall short of my intentions, but I can ask God to look into my heart.  That is when He will see that my ambition is to be faithful to Him. To God, my little is a lot!

plandt i hand 2 mf

Behold, I make all things new.
Revelation 21:6

I’ll help,” whispers the Lord to my spirit.  God is always willing and able to help.  He will allow me to try to do it on my own as long I want, but He will also let me know that He never leaves me alone to accomplish a task.  I notice in the scripture quoted above that it is God who makes things new, not me!  Once again it becomes a heart issue. Psalm 37:4 says,Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  This verse informs me that God implants desires into my heart and then He continues to work with me for their completion.  My part is to consistently take pleasure in who God is. Providing that my “new thing for 2014” is aligned with the Lord’s plans for me, He will help me succeed.  I can’t do it alone, but I can do it with His help.

My Reader, I pray I have given you some incentive to pursue something new in 2014.  It is not too late to grasp hold of a goal nor is it impossible for you to revive a desire that has already been forgotten. God shouts, speaks and whispers to you. So, take time to whisper a prayer of intent to the Lord right now. Your little prayer will mean a lot to Him. He will also help make your little offering into a lot.  He will think it is awesome; and He will think you are awesome too!

Joyfully,
Cheryl

From the Manger to the Tomb

resurrection pd

nativity set LINK pd

I have now packed away our Christmas decorations for another season. However, one thing caught my attention in a special way as I was putting away our nativity scene.  At Christmas I read about Mary wrapping Jesus as a baby in swaddling cloths and lying him in a manger.  (see Luke 2:7 NKJV) The next time I read of Jesus being wrapped up is when Joseph of Arimathea wrapped his body in linen grave cloths and laid it in a tomb.  (see Luke 23:53)  Big changes took place in the life of Jesus between the time when Luke records the Christmas story and the Easter story:  a baby to a man – swaddling cloths to grave cloths – a manger to a tomb!  I ask myself, does my understanding of Jesus allow him to grow up? Do I look beyond the manger to the cross and even beyond the cross?

Jesus did not stay a tiny baby.  He was soon kicking off his swaddling blankets and crawling around the feet of Mary and Joseph rather than just being held in their arms.  The only thing scripture that really tells me about Jesus growing up is Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  The next thing I read about Jesus is his baptism and ministry when he is 30 years old.  Three years later Jesus is again wrapped up, but this time it is after he has died on the cross. Jesus kicked off these grave cloths three days later at his resurrection.  Jesus grew up during those 33 years.  He could not have died as my savior as a baby; He had to grow up.

Now I have to ask myself another question.  Am I too wrapped up in my daily life to take time to grow in my relationship with Jesus?  Do I keep Him wrapped up in swaddling cloths as a baby?  If I desire to grow in my relationship with Jesus, how do I do it?  It is interesting to note the difference in the way I am able to grow spiritually and how I grow physically.  When a baby grows physically, he or she grows bigger and becomes more independent.  In order to grow spiritually, one grows smaller and becomes more dependent.  John the Baptist says in John 3:30 NKJV, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”  If I am to grow up spiritually I must become smaller in how I perceive myself.  I must think less about what I can achieve and more about how I can glorify God.  This is the only possible way for Jesus to grow in me.

My Reader, I ask you, at what age does Jesus live in your heart?  It is fun to celebrate Christmas, and indeed we should celebrate the birth of Jesus.   However, do not let Jesus stay a baby.  Allow Him to grow up by growing in your faith.  A baby must be fed to grow, so must you feed on His Word in order to grow in your knowledge of Him.  God’s Word can be both milk for spiritual infants and meat for men, so feed on the Word.  (see Hebrews 5:12-14)  As you allow your understanding of Jesus to grow from his being an infant to being a man, you too will grow spiritually. Then He will be able to live more powerfully in you.  In fact, the resurrection power that allowed Jesus to throw off His burial cloths will be available to you.  (see Philippians 3:10)

Joyfully,
Cheryl