Sunbeams From God

For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Psalm 36:9

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” —C.S. Lewis

“So we can say that when we ‘look along’ the heavens and not just ‘at’ the heavens, they succeed in their aim of ‘declaring the glory of God.’ That is, we see the glory of God, not just the glory of the heavens. We don’t just stand outside and analyze the natural world as a beam, but we let the beam fall on the eyes of our heart, so that we see the source of the beauty—the original Beauty, God Himself.  This is the essential key to unlocking the proper use of the physical world of sensation for spiritual purposes. All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be ‘looked along’ or a sound to be ‘heard along’ or a fragrance to be ‘smelled along’ or a flavor to be ‘tasted along’ or a touch to be ‘felt along.” —John Piper 

Leading Like A Shepherd

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them (Psalm 78:72). 

The most powerful king Israel ever had is applauded for leading his people with integrity and skill like a shepherd. Not as a warlord, not as a kingdom builder, not as a musician and songwriter; but a lowly, unassuming shepherd. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads like a shepherd.

A shepherd is known for these qualities—

—shepherds don’s see their sheep as a mass, but know each and every individual by name. 

—shepherds lead their flock by walking in the middle of the group so that they can be as close to as many sheep as possible. 

—shepherds are attentive to the particular needs of the young, the sick, and the elderly.

—shepherds lay down in the dirt to protect any places vulnerable to a predator’s attack. 

—shepherds find the best food and water possible for their sheep. 

—shepherds search for any sheep who have strayed away. 

—David shepherded the people Israel just as he himself had been shepherded by God.

This is an invaluable lesson every leader should learn! 

This is part 30 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Alien Anxiety

“A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” —Lanny Hunter & Victor Hunter 

The Greek word for anxiety means to be pulled in different directions. In the context of “Aliens and Strangers,” it means being pulled between Earth’s way and Heaven’s way. Other biblical definitions for anxiety that the Amplified Bible brings out include—

    • being perpetually uneasy…about your life (Matthew 6:25) 
    • a troubled mind unsettled, excited, worried, and in suspense (Luke 12:29) 
    • drawn in diverging directions, his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God (1 Corinthians 7:34) 

Unchecked anxiety can negatively impact our physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual health, so it’s imperative—if we are going to live differently than Earthlings—that Christians handle their anxiety in an alien way. 

Peter gives us an alien response to our feelings of worry and anxiety—

Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Notice that Peter doesn’t say, “Don’t be anxious,” but he does say, “Here’s what to do with your anxiety.” Being anxious is not a sin, but hanging on to your anxiety may cause you to behave in a sinful way. 

So what do we do with our anxiety? In a word cast it off—throw it somewhere else! The verse tense here means it’s something we must keep on doing, so Peter is really saying keep on casting your anxiety on Jesus. 

Why can we keep on casting our anxieties on Jesus? Because He cares for you. Jesus has taken charge of your care; He’s made it His goal that you aren’t missing out on the abundant life He paid for! This verb is in what’s called the indicative mood. That means it is something that has happened in the past, and it is happening now, and it will continue to happen forever and ever! 

Even if you cast an anxiety on Jesus 30 seconds earlier, you can do it again right now because that’s how much He cares for you! 

At the risk of oversimplifying it, here is the prescription for anxiety in four steps: 

  1. Recognize that you are anxious—admit it to yourself and to God. 
  2. Remind yourself that Jesus cares for you. 
  3. Reject your anxieties by counteracting your worry with God’s truth—I like to read something like Psalm 23.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3. 

“Your natural tendency when you’re feeling anxious is to focus on yourself and your problems. The more you do this, the more you forget about Me and all the help I can supply. This worldly focus only increases your anxiety! Let the discomfort you feel at such times alert you to your neglect of Me. Whisper My Name, and invite Me into your difficulties. … A problem-preoccupation makes you anxious. So I urge you to cast all your anxiety on Me—trusting that I care for you. You may have to do this thousands of times daily, but don’t give up! Each time you cast your worries and concerns on Me, you are redirecting your attention from problems to My loving presence.” —Sarah Young, in Jesus Always 

Join me next week as we continue our series called Aliens and Strangers. You can join me in person or watch via Facebook Live. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 22

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 22

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 22.] 

     “Perfect love drives out fear” [1 John 4:18]—but not love in its beginning. To say “Therefore will we not fear, though…” [Psalm 46:2] is only possible when the love of God is having its way. … 

     Every power of human government that can be used by the devil and self-interest can be reclaimed and used by God. On the other hand, everything that is usable by God is abusable by the devil. … 

     As in the Book of Isaiah, so in Jeremiah, God is revealed as the Controller behind every power of evil; when evil strikes His people it strikes not only by God’s permission but under His direct control (cf. Isaiah 37:29; John 19:11). … 

     Divine fire as opposed to natural fire, burns the fiercer the farther you get away from it; when you get nearer to God, His burning becomes a comfort.

From Notes On Jeremiah

These are good thoughts from Chambers—and good passages of Scripture as well—to keep in mind when we are staring down evil or being persecuted for our faith in Christ. 

Remember:

  • God’s love drives out our fear, but focusing on our fears can drive out God’s love. 
  • God uses; the devil abuses. 
  • No evil can touch you unless God has allowed it, and He only allows it to accomplish something that will bring Him glory. 
  • If the fires seem to be burning hotter, run to God not away from Him!

7 More Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In his book Praying The Promises, Max Lucado shows us how simply we can turn passages of Scripture into intimate and powerful prayers. Here are a few more prayers (the references in brackets are passages that formed the prayer).

Lord, in the midst of my storms, I may doubt Your presence. I may wonder if You are there and if You care. Don’t let me lose hope or lose heart. Deepen my belief in You, even during the storms. Don’t allow doubt to take over. Help me release control of my circumstances and surrender them to You. Jesus is interceding on my behalf, and I am so comforted by this truth. [Luke 22:32; Hebrews 7:25; Matthew 14:23-24]

God, teach me how to live free from condemnation. Teach me how to trust and believe in this promise: in Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin. Free me from guilt and shame. [Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 8:1] 

Lord, thank You for the promise of a temporary tomb. Your power has no limits. You have conquered death. You have promised to make all things new. You are the God of restoration and redemption and regeneration. You are the God of resurrection. In my day-to-day life it can be difficult for me to maintain an eternal perspective. Sometimes I may get bogged down in the worries of today and forget that the best is yet to come. Restore in me the joy of my salvation, God. Renew my mind and my heart so that I will have an eternal perspective of all the worries of my day. They are nothing compared to spending eternity with You. And because of Your promise of resurrection, I do not have to fear death. I will live in faith, knowing that in Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory. Amen. [Matthew 28:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18] 

Guide me today, Holy Spirit. Show me where You want me to go, whom You want me to talk to, what decision You want me to make. Help me discern Your voice over my own and others’. Walk closely with me and whisper truth to me. Forgive me when I listen to my own desires and ignore what You are telling me. [John 16:13-15; Galatians 5:25] 

You know all of my needs before I can even ask for them. Sometimes it’s tempting for me to believe I can rely on myself for what I need. Instead of trusting You to provide, I think I can look out for myself. I fear not having enough. And when I do have enough, it never feels like it. But You have promised to meet my needs out of Your glorious riches. Remind me of Your kind and generous provision. Thank You for taking care of me and meeting all of my needs. [Psalm 34:10; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 10:29-31]

Help me to keep eternity in mind, making the most of my days and showing others Your renewing love. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:13] 

Dear God, You are my unshakable hope. Your promises are unbreakable. You never waiver. You are faithful to the end. My hope cannot be anchored to anything less than Your promises. … Forgive me for those times when I don’t put my hope in You. May I rest in Your promises once again. May any fear, anxiety, or confusion I feel subside in light of You as my anchor. [Isaiah 40:31; Romans 15:13] 

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here. I also shared some other prayers here and some quotes from this book here. 

Life Is Hard! Now What?

Jesus told Peter, and now Peter tells us—Christians are going to be insulted and persecuted for believing in Jesus. So the fact that life is hard shouldn’t come as a surprise. Peter then goes on to elaborate on how Christians should live in spite of the mistreatment. 

“The more Christians are unlike the world, the more it hates us; the more we are like our Lord, the more the world will persecute us.” —Horatius Bonar

How should Christians respond to insults and persecution? Peter outlines the Christian’s response in 1 Peter 4:12-19

dear friends, do not be surprised (v. 12). I like this verse in the Amplified Bible: Do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. After all, Jesus told us this was coming (see John 15:18-20). 

but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ (v. 13a). Notice that this should be the sufferings OF Christ, not of our own making. 

—let suffering lead to Spirit-led reflection (notice the if’s in vv. 14-18, and the if’s in what Jesus said in John 15:18-20). We need to make sure our suffering is because we’re standing for Jesus, not because we’re being jerks! David asked God to check if his actions were the cause of his persecution (Psalm 7:3-4) and we should too. If we discover that we’re the one to blame, quickly apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make things right.  

keep your focus on when His glory is revealed (v. 13b). Time is short, and the rewards are sure so don’t remain focused on the immediate pain, but look up to the longterm gain.  

do not be ashamed to suffer for Jesus (v. 16). Jesus told us not to be ashamed of Him because He is not ashamed of us (Luke 9:26; Hebrews 2:11). 

stay committed to your faithful Creator (v. 19a). Staying committed means getting even closer to God in the hard times.

continue to do good (v. 19b). What does continue to do good look like? Peter lists things like being self-controlled, helping others that are being persecuted, showing proper respect, having a good work ethic, not trading insult for insult, and many other commands. Bottom line: doing good means living like Jesus lived while He was on Earth (see Acts 10:38). 

So, Christian, I’ve got two questions for you—

How are you handling insults and persecution? Are you continuing to do good despite the mistreatment? 

Remember Jesus is coming soon, and His rewards are with Him for how we have lived. “Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.” —Jesus (Revelation 22:12) 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while we visit Earth. You can join us either in person or via Facebook Live. 

Unlearning Limiting Fears

Did you know that you were only born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises? Yet the DSM-5 has a whole section to help mental health professionals diagnosis the specific phobia that may be limiting someone’s life. That might be because some places list upwards of 500 recognized phobias that constrict people’s lives! 

Since only two of our fears are innate fears, that means the rest of the fears that trouble us are learned fears. Since God repeatedly says “Fear not!” throughout Scripture, that must mean He also tells us how to overcome our fears. 

Christians—as aliens and strangers on this Earth—should have an alien response to earthly fears. So if we are going to unlearn some of the fears that have cramped our lives we will need to learn and relearn what God says to us.

Peter asks what might seem like a rhetorical question, “Who is going to harm you if are eager to do good?” Think about it: who wants to punish someone for doing the right thing? Apparently some people do because Peter goes on to add, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (1 Peter 3:13-14). 

So even if people insult Christians for doing things God’s right way, God’s blessing is on them. Sadly, people without God’s blessing on their lives often give in to the FOMO (fear of missing out) and they end up lashing out at those being blessed. That lashing out is directly rooted in their fears. 

Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs that humans have, and obviously, there would be fears associated with any of those needs not being met. At least, that would be the Earthling response. Christians need to unlearn those fears by learning and relearning why God tells them to “Fear not!” 

  1. Fear of not having physiological needs met—Jesus tells us why we shouldn’t worry (Matthew 6:25-34). 
  2. Fear of not being kept safe—the psalmist tells us that God is our shield (Psalm 84:11).
  3. Fear of not fitting in with a certain social group—Jesus proudly call His followers His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11-12).
  4. Fear of not being rewarded or recognized—Jesus says there are blessings for those that hang in with Him through persecution, including being called a co-heir alongside Him (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:17).
  5. Fear of our life not having purpose—the apostle Paul reminds us that God chose us on purpose to be His example to the world (1 Corinthians 1:25-27). 

Since Jesus overcame all the things that could cause us fear, Peter counsels us to arm yourselves with this same attitude (1 Peter 4:1). The Greek word for arm yourselves only appears here, and it means for us to repeatedly remind ourselves of God’s truth. The Greek word for attitude is only here and in Hebrews 4:12, where we are reminded that the Word of God helps our minds unlearn, learn, and relearn God’s truth. 

Have the borders of your life been squeezed by your fears? Do you feel like you’re missing out on the “abundant life” that Jesus said you could have? The Word of God can help you unlearn those fears, and fellow Christians would love to come alongside you to help you continue to relearn that truth over and over again until your fears are banished from your life! 

Don’t let fear keep you from being all that God has planned for you to be! 

Please join me on Sunday as we continue our study of how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while on Earth. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live. 

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