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. 

A “Slip Of The Tongue”?

Have you ever said something and then immediately thought, “Where in the world did that come from?!?” 

You might have thought it was just a slip of the tongue, but it’s not. That slip of the tongue is actually a gift to us to help us know what’s really going on in our heart. 

Check out this 2-minute clip—

The Scriptures I reference in this passage are Psalm 39:1; Jeremiah 17:9; and Matthew 15:19. 

This is a snippet from a longer message on putting other things in our life in perspective. You can check out the full video by clicking here, or you can read the list of the 5 things we need to keep in proper perspective by clicking here.

Living Lives That Make Sense

This sounds totally contrary to common sense, but I’ll bet you’ve seen this before—Someone does something unexpectedly nice, and gets criticized for it. 

Why would that be? 

Christians can expect to experience this more frequently. Jesus told His followers to be prepared for persecution from those who didn’t believe in Him. One of Christ’s disciples named Peter added a few other warnings for Christians: 

  • Non-Christians will accuse you of doing wrong even when you’re doing right
  • Non-Christians will think it’s weird that you don’t do the same evil deeds they do
  • Non-Christians will heap abuse on you for not doing the evil deeds they do (1 Peter 2:12; 4:4)

This is because living good, Christ-honoring lives causes a burning in those hearts that don’t know Jesus yet. 

Solomon said there’s an aching void in the heart of every human being. It’s a longing to know what makes sense in life (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). When Christians live their lives focused on God, and they live—as Peter said—“such good lives,” it reminds non-Christians of what they’re missing. 

Christian, you need to remember why we live this way. The belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:18) is the foundation for our lives. In fact, Peter called Jesus the Living Stone. As His followers, we are also called “living stones” that the Holy Spirit is building together to make a spiritual signpost to point others to Jesus (see 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9, 12). 

We cannot do this under our own power. Jesus Himself reminded us that we need the Scriptures which all point to Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45), and the Holy Spirit which will help us apply the revealed Scriptures (John 14:26) and live “such good lives.” 

So here’s how I’m challenging myself this week, and I’d like to extend this challenge to you too. For the next seven days, just before going to bed I’ll be asking myself these three questions:

  1. Did I read the Word of God today? 
  2. Did I see the God of the Word in the Word of God a little more clearly today?
  3. Did I live a good, Christ-honoring life today that pointed others to Jesus?

Join me this Sunday as we continue our look at how Christians should live as aliens and strangers while visiting Earth. You can join me in person or via Facebook Live.

Let’s Put That In Perspective!

How long is your life? If you’re a man living in the United States on average your life is 689,412 hours. But how long is that really? 

Here’s some perspective—if you drew a timeline 50 feet long that represented all of Earth’s recorded history, your life would cover about the breadth of your hand. But that’s only recorded history—what about the eternity that existed before history started and the eternity that will continue after history ends? 

Twice in Psalm 39, David described our brief life like this: each man’s life is but a breath. 

So what do we do with our breath-long life? Fortunately for us, David gives us godly perspective in five areas. 

  1. Perspective on the weight of my words and my silence (vv. 1-3) 

David had a good start: I will keep my tongue from sin, but what happens when sinful words slip out? I would suggest we count those as a gift. Really?! Yes, because those “slips” make us aware of what’s really in our heart (see Matthew 15:19) so that we can confess them. 

David also suggests putting a muzzle on our mouths when we’re around certain people. In other words, don’t get into petty fights with people who aren’t going to receive the wisdom we may have to share with them. 

  1. Perspective on the use of my time (vv. 4-5)

Why do we procrastinate doing good things? Some of our simple cliches reflect this, like TGIF. Why wait until Friday to get happy? Why not say TGIT—thank God it’s today! Do something memorable today… do something life-altering today… do something for God today.

  1. Perspective on my possessions (v. 6) 

David reminds us that we work so hard to accumulate stuff “not knowing who will get it.” Jesus had another word for someone who only wanted to get stuff to make his life easier: fool (see Luke 12:16-21). Use stuff to serve others. 

  1. Perspective on forgiveness (vv. 7-11)

Why oh why, would we spend one minute longer than we have to with unconfessed, unforgiven sin? I blogged last week about the freedom that immediately comes when we receive forgiveness from our confessed sin. Let’s do this quickly! 

  1. Perspective on the purpose of my life (vv. 12-13)

If I only have a breath-long life, I want to make every moment count. I love what C.T. Studd wrote: “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. … Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in Hell when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”

Here’s my prayer for all of us—Lord, help me to know how few days I have so I can live every one for Your glory. 

Confession Is Good For You

One of the best definition of Selah is the bracketed comment used next to that word in the Amplified Bible: pause, and calmly think of that. 

Psalm 32 is only eleven verses long, yet Selah—a call to pause and ponder—is used three times. In other words, David is very interested in getting us to weigh something important. This whole psalm is a call to ponder the heavy, unbearable burden of unconfessed sins vs. the freedom and fresh start that comes immediately with confession.

And in case you think that confession is just something that someone does one time when they become a Christian, keep in mind that David is writing this song to be sung by the choir in church. That means confession is good for everyone!

The weighty CURSES of unconfessed sin

  • I feel worn out, wasting away like old, flimsy clothes (v. 3a)
  • I am groaning (v. 3b)—I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears (Psalm 6:6)
  • I feel God’s hand of displeasure heavy upon me (v. 4a AMP) 
  • My strength evaporates like water in the summer heat (v. 4b NLT) 
  • I’m led around like a dumb mule (v. 9)
  • I experience many woes (v. 10a) 

Then comes confession—I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord continually unfolding the past till all is told”—then You instantly forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin (v. 5 AMP).  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

The weighty BLESSINGS after confessed sin

  • My transgressions are forgiven, which means they are lifted up and carried away (v. 1a)
  • My sins are covered; they are literally overwhelmed by God’s forgiveness (v. 1b)
  • My sin is no longer counted against me (v. 2a) because my record of forgiven sins has been cleared (v. 2b NLT; see also Psalm 103:2-3, 12) 
  • I get a fresh start, my slate’s wiped clean … Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared (vv. 1, 5 MSG) 
  • I’m protected in God’s hiding place and surrounded by God’s songs (vv. 7, 10b)
  • God instructs me and protects me to keep me from sinning again (v. 8)

What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record (v. 2 TLB) 

The mark of a maturing Christian is the one who is constantly closing the gap between sin and confession. 

Don’t let unconfessed sin weigh you down. As soon as you feel the Holy Spirit pointing something out in your heart, confess it and experience God’s immediate release! 

I am going to share one more message in this series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday (but, God willing, we will return to this next summer). Please join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Going Into The Heavy Presence Of God

“The King of glory” is a phrase that’s only used five times in the Bible, and all five times are packed into just four verses of Psalm 24. In this psalm, David lets us know who can enter into this awesome, heavy presence of the King of Glory. 

Why do I say “heavy”? The definition of the Hebrew word for glory always refers to a heaviness. There is something majestically, awesomely heavy about going before the All-Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Holy, All-Knowing, Absolutely Perfect God. Can any mere mortal enter into this presence? 

In an earlier psalm, David said, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). But in this psalm, David asks, “Who can ascend Your holy hill? Who can come into Your presence?” (Psalm 24:3). 

He answers the question with these words: the upright, the one with clean hands and a pure heart (he expands this list even more in Psalm 15), then he calls on us to Selah—pause and weigh this as if on a scale. David is asking, “Do you really want to enter into the weighty presence of the King of Glory?” 

If you do, something needs to happen first. David calls his generation (and our generation) the generation of Jacob. You can read the story of Jacob’s life beginning in Genesis 27. Jacob was a pragmatic man. If he could get away with something, he did. He only looked out for his own interests. He deceived, he connived, he bribed, he calculated his odds—he did what he had to so that he could advance himself. He didn’t realize God’s weight. He saw God only through a scarcity-mindset that gave God limits. He thought there was only a limited supply, and if somebody else was getting a blessing, then that meant there was less for him to get.

Then Jacob encountered God and discovered that he couldn’t do a thing against this weighty King of Glory. When he finally submitted to God, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob—the self-sufficient man—would never be allowed to enter the doors into God’s heavy glory. But Israel—the submitted man—may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy presence. Jacob means deceitful; Israel means the man without any deceit. 

For the rest of his life, Israel walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder that he simply wasn’t the man he was before he wrestled with God.

  • Jacob could only obtain what he could finagle; Israel is the recipient of all God’s blessings. 
  • Jacob could only keep his gains for this life; Israel got God’s blessings for eternity. 
  • Jacob might be vindicated by men; Israel is definitely and completely vindicated by God. 
  • Jacob couldn’t enter the presence of the King of Glory; Israel was welcomed as a prince into God’s presence.

Here’s the challenge I would give you… Use either Psalm 15 or Psalm 24:3-4 and let the Holy Spirit wrestle with you. Is there anything that’s holding you back from going through those doors into the weighty presence of the King of glory? If there is, confess it, repent from it, and even limp away from it (if you have to) so that you don’t miss out on God’s eternal blessings. 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

Grudges Can Block God’s Blessings

In Psalm 7, some guy named Cush is giving David trouble. How much trouble? David felt like Cush was a lion about to rip him apart! 

We would naturally expect David to cry out for God’s help from this tormentor (which he does in the opening verses), but then what David does next is quite unexpected—he asks to God to search his heart to see if he might be the cause for Cush’s attack: 

  • Have I done something wrong?
  • Is there guilt on my hands?
  • Have I done such an evil to cause him to attack? 
  • Have I somehow robbed Cush of something? 

This introspection in God’s presence was apparently a regular habit for David. He made this a regular habit when the heat was on, and also when he was at peace (see Psalm 139:23-24). 

Not only did David want to make sure his hands were clean, but he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t carrying a grudge against Cush. A grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment toward someone who has wronged us. But the most devastating thing about a grudge is that it takes our eyes off God and places them on our tormentor. 

In other words, as long as we hold a grudge, we continue to give our tormentor power over our lives. 

So after asking those introspective questions, David writes Selah. One definition of this word—which is probably quite appropriate here—is pause, and calmly think of that. 

After this Selah pause of introspection in God’s presence, David must have felt clear of any guilt (because we don’t see him repenting, as is his habit), but we also see him being very careful of not holding on to a grudge against Cush. 

David then begins to affirm in the remaining verses that God is more than capable of handling evil people and keeping the righteous protected. David determines that he will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Most High (v. 17). 

Here’s an important thing for anyone who has been injured by someone else to remember—

By holding on to a grudge, you’re holding yourself in bondage! 

How can your hands be free to receive God’s blessings if your hands are full of the grudges you are holding? 

Learn from David’s Selah these two lessons when someone torments you: 

  1. Ask God: am I to blame? If so, repent. If not, ask question 2.
  2. Ask God: am I holding on to a grudge? If so, let it go so your hands are free to receive God’s blessings! 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

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