Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keep Love in Mind


For years I struggled with fear.  Fear is one of the earliest emotions I remember feeling.  As a child, I don't remember many days without feeling some measure of fear.  It would seem as if I had come from some terrible situation producing this continuous geyser of emotion, but quite the contrary is true.  In many ways I had an idyllic childhood.  My neighborhood, school, church, and community were 'Norman Rockwall' like and life in many ways was very good.   I was not abused as a child and my basic needs and wants were met.

So, I have no horrible story depicting the 'why' of my fear, but just the memory of this dark shadow that weaves it's way throughout much of my early and teen years.

It would be many years later while doing a Bible study called "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby that I read a statement that shook me to my core.  'If you have a fear problem, you have a love problem'.  Though I didn't have full understanding of why this was so, this marked the beginning of a journey into freedom for me.

I would like to tell you that the healing happened quickly, but instead it was layer upon layer as God worked His way into the innermost workings of my heart.   I think it important to mention that before God began His process, I first tried dealing with fear on my own.  I memorized scripture, I repented, I read books, but none of these dealt the death blow to my enemy called fear.

It was not until God Himself began to reveal to me the wrong perceptions in my mind and  heart concerning His nature and His goodness, that I began to understand what had kept my heart so bound.  I had seen Him as disinterested, uninvolved, and busy, and I had stinky theology in some areas concerning His sovereignty and judgments.   I had no concept of what it meant to snuggle up on a father's lap and receive affirmation, comfort, and protection, so I developed my own futile ways of receiving these things.  

But, God in His goodness entered into my world to dismantle the false system that I had built, and then began to build a foundation of identity, security, and love that flowed directly from His heart to mine.  I learned to enjoy and look forward to my times in His presence as He always spoke into my heart just what I needed to hear.

It's been many years now that I began this journey to know and experience His love.  Do I ever still struggle with fear?   Yes...occasionally.  But, it no longer has a hold on me, and it's unwelcome visits are usually short as I know where I need to go to send fear packing.

I learned that the only antidote to fear is His perfect love.   Thank you God that fear cannot co-exist with Your love.

God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him.  There is no fear in love.  But, perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love. - I Jn. 4: 16-18

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The God of Fire

Can you imagine the stories that must have circulated from generation to generation among the children of Israel? The parting of the Red Sea, the manna that fell from heaven, and the pillar of fire and cloud that followed them, were just a few of the highlights. But, one that must have been told with a holy hush was the story of Moses returning from his visit with God, his face glowing so much that he had to cover it.

This reality, that someone who encounters God comes away radically transformed, became part of their cultural DNA. Moses had a hunger to meet with God and he had a burning desire to see His glory. After his encounter with God, where God lovingly shielded him from too much glory, his face shone with a light that must have amazed those who saw him.

It is this scenario that makes the language of Psalm 80:3 much more understandable. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. The Psalmist understood what those who walked with Moses must have known; it is impossible to encounter God's glory and not be changed. Throughout the Psalm he repeatedly cries out for restoration, but it is equally important to note that he has an understanding that it would be God's shining face or His glory that would bring about the depth of salvation and deliverance he so longed for.

It's these thoughts, and a burning desire to see more of His glory, that fill my heart and mind as we enter 2013. I'm so thankful for how He came in 2012, and the increase that we have seen in His presence. But, as one who has been in some type of ministry for over 30 years, I know that I know, that in order to see the dreams of my heart, or the great harvest prophesied by so many, I need a greater encounter with the God of glory.

In much the same way as Elijah when he faced the prophets of Baal, our backs are to the wall. We are facing a Godless culture who desperately need to see a demonstration of His power and glory. It will require the type of radical faith that Elijah had when he stood alone to face 450 prophets of Baal. As he gave the orders and prepared a place for God to come, he was walking in a steady, deep confidence that His God would come.

My favorite line from the story is set against this very backdrop of wood and sacrifice, 'The God who answers by fire-He is God'. Though I doubt that we will see a physical display such as Elijah saw in this incredible encounter, I can't help thinking that He is still the God who answers by fire. Isn't this what we need? We need a radical encounter with the God of Fire. We need to encounter the fire of His glory.

This is my prayer for 2013....that we will have the type of encounters with God that Moses had, that God's face would shine upon us in unprecedented measure, and that we would experience the God of demonstration and power such as Elijah saw. May He give us all the faith, tenacity, and courage to pursue Him until He answers by fire.