FAITH and FEAR can’t Coexist

We’re living in a time where fear is running rampant. Unseen viruses and their variants are everywhere we turn. Corruption, chaos, and fighting surround us. Fires, floods, and storms are wreaking havoc. All of these and more create an environment rife with fear— but fear does not come from God. 

                There’s much truth in the phrase “Fear is a Liar” as fear comes from the Deceiver (John 8:44, Rev. 12:9, 20:3, 8, 10). God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).  This is where the battle of faith over fear lies—in the mind.  What you focus on is what you’ll see, what you think is what you’ll say or do, and what you say and do is what you’ll feel.  BUILD FAITH, NOT FEAR.  Fear builds up when the mind is set on earthly things and worldly thinking. On the other hand, faith builds up when the mind is turned to and tuned in to God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). That’s why the steps to building faith require hearing and understanding what God has provided for us in His Word:

· Cast down and take captive deceitful thinking

Imaginations, false messages, and arguments that are contrary to the knowledge of God must be cast down. When the focus is put more on the world and its way of thinking, the mind becomes conformed to wrong conclusions. These errors in thought need to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

· Put off the old nature

Faith and fear can’t coexist — one or the other must be ‘put off‘ (Gal. 5:17). Ephesians 4:22 tells us where wrong thoughts grow fertile and directs the believer to, “…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…” The key word deceitful again emanates from the deceiver, not God. The flesh is the area of darkness that Satan desires to work in and is corrupt in nature (Rom. 6:6, 13:12-14). The flesh is the handicap of the believer until resurrection and so one shouldn’t place any confidence in it (Phil. 3:3). It needs to be ‘put off’, as worry and anxiety thrive in this realm. “Cast all your anxiety upon Him; for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Any (and all) anxious thoughts need to be given to God so His peace can reign and guard one’s heart and mind through Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).

· Put on the new nature and renew the mind

After the old is put off and the deceitful thinking is taken captive, it can be replaced with something new. The new nature (or new man) that’s created after God in righteousness and true holiness is the perfect replacement. This spiritual attire is needed for the mind to be equipped for continual renewal with the knowledge of God’s truth (Eph. 4:23-24, Col. 3:10, Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 4:16). God’s Word is the living and powerful antidote to the false and the only weapon to counteract fearful thoughts (Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17, Rom. 12:2). 

· Increase Faith

Proverbs 1:7 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This fear (or reverence) toward the Lord is the only type of fear a believer should exhibit.  As holy fear or reverence is given to God (acknowledging Who He is), everything is placed in its proper perspective. The only way to truly know who God is comes from reading His Word, the Bible (Rom. 10:17). So it’s no surprise that fear, not faith, will grow if one isn’t in God’s Word daily. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear.  God is love and His love was manifested toward us in sending His only begotten Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:8-10, 18). We can trust a loving, almighty, and infallible God rather than the alternative of fallible men and women. Put on the Armor of Light (which is the Lord Jesus Christ) and there’ll be no vacancy for the flesh to fulfill its lusts (Rom. 13:12-14, Gal. 5:19-21). When there’s no room for the flesh, fear will decrease and faith will have plenty of room to grow as the Spirit reigns and produces its fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).

· Set your mind on things above

To keep one’s mind in faith over fear mode the focus needs to be kept upward where Christ is (sitting at the right hand of God).  The mind should be set on things above (that are eternal), not on earthly things (which are temporary) (Col. 3:1-3, 2 Cor. 4:18).  Stop focusing on all the bad news of the world and instead meditate on the things that are: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).

                Sounds simple? Well it’s not. Keeping the faith is a fight. One doesn’t truly realize where they stand in faith until it’s tested. It’s only in the midst of trials that the believer’s dependence on the Invisible becomes apparent. It was by faith alone that those listed in Hebrews chapter 11 could endure all the physical things they did. The apostle Paul used military terms when he wrote his second letter to Timothy, “…you therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3-4)As a soldier who wrestles against evil spiritual entities (rather than the flesh), the fight of faith requires God’s spiritual armor (2 Cor. 10:3-4, Eph. 6:12-13). This is the only effective attire that will equip one to stand against the wiles of the devil and quench all the fiery darts he throws (Eph. 6:11, 17). As the apostle Paul could rightly say in his last days, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

                Before freaking out when all hell seems to be breaking lose and fear tries to slip in—stop and BE STILL (desist; cease your efforts, knowing God is Almighty) (Ps. 46:10). BE PRESENT to God’s presence. He’s a present God that IS with us. Listen for His direction through His Word and prayer (Prov. 3:5-6, Phil. 2:13). BELIEVE (even when you cannot see) that God is working (in diverse ways that we cannot always understand) (Isaiah 55:8-11, 2 Cor. 5:7, Heb. 11:1, 3, Phil. 4:19-20). Memorize and repeat this truth, “God IS our refuge and strength, A very PRESENT help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (Ps. 46:1-3).

                                “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). 

Laura                    

IT’S ALL IN GOD’S TIME

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: … Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

Isn’t it funny how much of what goes on in the world is beyond our understanding and yet we think we can steer and control it?  I’m learning that doing so is a great waste of time. There’s so much going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the spiritual realm that would blow our minds if we were privy to it all. God’s only allowed us small glimpses of it. See Job 1:6-12, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Dan. 9:21, 10:11-13, 20-21, Eph. 6:12, Jude 9, and Rev. 12:7.

                THE ONE EVENT

It’s part of human nature to be fixated on self. Ironically, it doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, fit, skilled, talented, or wise one is, the one event that happens to everyone (regardless of status) is DEATH (Eccl. 9:11-12).  Man, like a bird caught in a snare, does not know when death will suddenly fall upon him (Eccl. 9:11-12).  All the tiresome toils and passing pleasures of this life can be traced back to the nature and fall of man.  One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the consequences of it were life changing as man and woman no longer had access to the Tree of Life.  Now bound in time—life subject to limitations—it advances toward the one event that brings them back to the dust that they came from (Gen. 2:7, 17, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, 1 Cor. 15:47, Ps. 103:14).

                GOD’S TIME IS NOT OUR TIME

All’s not fair in this life. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The question, “Why would a loving God permit evil and suffering in the world?” is a common one. God’s allowed men and women to have freewill, giving each to choose to follow what’s good or what’s evil.  God’s already provided a remedy for sin and His mercy and longsuffering are beyond human comprehension (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). To us mere mortals, ensnared in a fallen world, it may seem like an eternity, but God’s timing is always perfect. His work goes beyond the scope and sphere of our work and His purpose dates back before time began, and continues on after it’s ended. We’re unable to ‘find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end’ (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 11:33-36, Acts 1:7, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 40:28). So why do we think we can?

The endless cycle of human experience described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a faint echo of the mighty purpose of the ages.  Whatever God does, it will be forever. Not a thing can be added to it or taken from it (Eccl. 3:14).  God works in the way He does ‘that men should fear before Him’ (Eccl. 3:14). This fear of the Lord (reverence) is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). It’s only the “beginning” as Job discovered (Job 42:5-6, James 5:11).  King Solomon found that the conclusion of all his searching and testing was to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).

                WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN NO LONGER FEAR GOD?

When men no longer fear God they sin without hesitation. The fear of consequences isn’t a deterrent when the fear (reverence) of God is gone. Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices (schemes) in a man’s heart, yet the counsel of the Lord shall stand.”  Yet throughout the ages man has turned to the creature and not the Creator to seek counsel apart from God using everything from fortune tellers with crystal balls to tarot cards and horoscopes. Even turning to witches, enchanters, wizards—those who use spells, divination or consult with familiar (evil) spirits to seek the dead. These are of no real help and an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:25, Ps. 115:4-8, 146:3-4, Deut. 18:10-12, Lev. 19:26-31, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:10-16). This in the end led to King Saul’s demise (1 Chron. 10:13-14). 

                OBEDIENCE LEARNED THROUGH SUFFERING

Jesus’ death and resurrection has given the believer a hope and a purpose to wait patiently and endure this present evil age.  If the dead won’t rise then the “Let’s eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality would suffice. But that’s not the case. The counsel of the Lord will stand and all works will be brought into judgement (Eccl. 12:14, Ps. 37:1-2, Heb. 10:23). Sin came through disobedience while righteousness comes through obedience (Rom. 5:12, 19). “Though He were a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8, 12:2, 1 Pet. 2:21-24).  Obedience is the cadence in which a believer must learn to walk in. One can’t bypass suffering in the chain of events that lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-4).  Being conformed to Christ’s likeness happens as the believer has faith through trying times, while keeping their eye on the prize (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, 2: Cor. 4:8-10, 16-18). Though we may not understand it, God disciplines because He desires for us to be partakers of His holiness. It’s not always pleasant going through it but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 6:8-9, 2 Tim. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:17-18).

FAITH IS MEASURED IN STEPS

Our finite minds can only see in part. It’s not for the created to question the Creator. God justifies man/woman when they come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, knowing that it’s not based on any merit of their own. The believer becomes a new creation and learns to live and walk by faith, not by sight (Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:17, 7, Gal. 2:20).   Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”  God sees the whole staircase.  He knows where it’s going. We need to trust and obey His direction and will in our lives. Even when we trip and fall, we need to get up and take the next step in faith, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).

May the poem, “The Weaver”, by holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, inspire you to see with eyes of faith:

“My life is but a weaving
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaves steadily.

Oft’ times He weaves sorrow;
and I in foolish pride
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skillful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.”
 

Laura   

HOPE–An Anchor for the Soul

img_4415It’s been said that people can live for up to 70 days without food, 10 days without water, and 6 minutes without air. But they can’t live without hope.

In order to stay afloat through the changing ocean tides of life, one needs an anchor for the soul that’s both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). That anchor for the Christian is hope.

The word hope defined by Noah Webster is: a desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.

Where or what one places his or her hope in can make all the difference. Is one’s hope placed in fallible, unpredictable man’s ways or in some realm of this fallen world? Or is one’s hope placed in (what the Scriptures testify to) an immutable (unchanging) God, Who doesn’t have in His nature to lie (Heb. 6:18, Tit. 1:2)?

David’s hope (or expectation) was from God, “My soul, wait silently for God alone; For my expectation is from Him…Trust in Him at all times…Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:5, 8, 10). David’s confident trust in the Lord is reflected also in Psalm 56:3-4, “Whenever I’m afraid I will trust in You. In God I will praise His word, In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me…” Notice his use of “In God I have put my trust”.

Not surprisingly as America has distanced itself away from “in God we trust” as a nation and toward dependence on the ever-changing & unreliable ways of man, there’s been a rise in anxiety, depression, and related disorders resulting in a reliance on an array of prescription drugs (which sadly many times, in the long run only worsen things). Not trying to negate or minimize the truly devastating effects of life in a fallen world, and the legitimate need for some to be dependent on medication/s, but stress, hardships and troubles are a reality for all in this present life (albeit, some more than others). There’s a real need in society today for more encouragement toward its citizens to have a faith in a loving God, and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, that transcends self. It’s only there that the believer will find an object of hope that’s glorious, eternal & will not disappoint (Titus 2:13, Rom. 5:5, Phil. 3:20).

FAITH IS THE NECESSARY LINK TO HAVING HOPE as it’s the outworking of trust in God and the proof of BELIEVING IN THINGS NOT SEEN. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” (Hebrews 11:1); “…hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what it sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Faith is the crucial channel that leads to hope as one is saved through it (Eph. 2:8), and without it one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Having faith may seem easy at first (especially when times are good and the living is easy). Sadly the moment when challenging circumstances arise, it’s in human nature to dwell on the seen trials rather than on an unseen God. Even the disciple Peter began to (literally) sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and was thus rebuked, “O you of little faith” (Matt. 14:24-33).

Those who have faith (as those in chapter 11 of Hebrews) are prime examples of the Romans 5:25 chain that connects tribulations (afflictions) to perseverance (patience) and perseverance to character (experience) which leads to hope. Their hope made it possible to endure hardships as they focused and relied on the invisible God and His promises (Heb. 11:27). We too, today need to look for our blessed hope, not here on earth, but where it’s laid up for us in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-4, Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Nothing worthwhile is easy, but one must suffer evil as a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:4), especially in a world with its allures of instant fixes and gratification.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Laura

Missing the Mystery?

Hid in Christ

Our world set in the bounds of time moves on toward another year—
How will you choose to move through it?
You may miss the sound of the Divine’s low whisper and wooing ways if you’re intent on striving in your own strength instead of surrendering to the security of the Savior.

Missing the Mystery
By Laura Kestly

Fixated on facades
Fooled into the fake
Focused on false frills
Succumb with social media
Motivated by material
Beguiled by bogus beauty
Over occupied to observe
Wonder left wanting
Earthly evaporates
Rather
Modify your mind
Transform with Truth
Consider the Creator
Behold His beauty
Glimpse the glory
Welcome His Word
Savor the Savior
Take in the transcendent
Spiritual sustains

 

The eye of faith sees Him Who is invisible.

“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” –Acts 17:28–

1 Kings 19:12; Rom. 1:19-23, 8:5-7, 10:17, 11:33-36, 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:14,16; 2 Cor. 4:18, 10:3-5; Ps. 8:3-4, 18, 29:2; Prov. 3:5-7; Eph. 1:9, 3:1-9, 5:32; Col. 1:26-27, 2:2, 3:2-3, 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9; Isa. 55:8-9, 40:21-3, Heb. 11:1

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

o-come-let-us-adore-him-webFor most, it’s far easier to grasp God as the Creator of the majestic mountains, the delicate flowers and the patterned butterfly than as a baby in a lowly manger.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

A few years back when my husband & I took a trip to Arizona for our 25th wedding anniversary we road-tripped to the Grand Canyon. As we stood on the rim of the canyon and gazed first-hand at its majesty, it was awe-inspiring & breath-taking.

                All creation bears God’s handiwork and the imprint of His touch as His eternal power & divine nature are revealed (Rom. 1:19-20). Pattern and purpose are visible everywhere–from the intricate design of a flower and butterfly to the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning & reproduction of the human body, as well as the reliable & orchestrated rising & setting of the sun.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Purposefully God revealed Himself in the likeness of man (Hebrews 1:1-4).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

–The same Word that is the invisible God.

–The same Word that is before all things & in Him, all things hold together (Col. 1:15-17).

–The same Word that upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

–The same Word, who being in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6-7), being born in a lowly manger (Luke 2:7).

Why?

                God chose to take on the likeness of man and suffer to pay the penalty (wages) of sin for man, which was death (on the cross), so that man could be redeemed through His blood (saved/released from the power & fear of death) and be reconciled to enjoy eternal life with Him (Rom. 3:23, 6:23, Col. 1:19-22, Eph. 1:7, 2:13-19, Col. 2:13-15, Heb. 2:9).

                God revealed this great LOVE for man (even while man was dead in trespasses) because He so LOVED the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Eph. 2:4, John 3:16). It’s by grace man has been saved through faith (not of man’s doing)—it’s the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). But to enjoy a gift, one must first receive it–and this one through faith. Faith receives the gift that is undeserved.

                When God came as a baby thousands of years ago, He wasn’t well received (except for some angels, shepherds and wise men)–But after Christ died & was raised from the dead, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Col. 2:12, Phil. 2:9-11).

 O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant–

O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

  Laura

Where’s My Hope?

Things Above Colossians 3 2
“Things Above” by Laura Kestly

HIGH HOPES

Having an Outlook that’s Positively Eternal

 March is the month that includes the last phase of winter & also the official beginning of spring. For us in the northern Midwest especially, it’s the long awaited glimmer of hope of warmer temperatures and the bright & beautiful colors of creation reawakening–replacing the frozen snow-covered, brown & barren ground.

THE HOPE OF SPRING ENABLES US TO ENDURE THE REMAINING DAYS OF WINTER.

I often tell people (especially after discussing current events or other circumstances that may be out of my control), that I’m so thankful that I have ‘a Hope’. I don’t mean the kind of hope that has a trace of doubt in it—like, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope he remembers to bring the mail in”. That’s an “I’m not so sure if it will happen, but I have my fingers crossed” kind of hope—it’s possible but… The “Hope” that keeps me ‘keeping’ on’ and focusing upward is the capital “H” type of Hope defined by “confident expectancy”—as in the fulfillment of a promise. It’s a certain hope (where there’s no trace of doubt) (Heb. 6:19, 10:23; Titus 1:2)!

Martin Luther King Jr. said this, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Finite means having limits or bounds/fixed. Contrarily, infinite means limitless/unable to measure. This type of hope can only come from the Divine. It’s a HIGH Hope placed in a God Who, though He was on High, was brought low so that those (like me) who were low could have a hope on High (Phil. 2:6-9, 3:20; Rom. 3:23, 5:6-11)!

  • IT’S a PRECIOUS & BLESSED HOPE that was BOUGHT with a PRICE. A Hope, through Christ Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, for those who were alienated, to have peace with God & citizenship in heaven upon its reception (Eph. 2:12-13; Phil. 3:20).
  • IT’S a HOPE that came by GRACE & through FAITH is received (2 Thess. 2:16, Eph. 2:8).
  • IT’S a SAVING & ETERNAL HOPE (Rom. 8:24, 1 Thess. 5:8, Titus 1:2, & Eph. 2:8).
  • IT’S A HOPE that focuses on the BIG PICTURE—the FOREST (not just the trees). This Hope comes from God’s perspective & doesn’t focus on earthly circumstances that will pass –but on the eternal unseen things that will last (2 Cor. 4:18).
  • IT’S A GLORIOUS HOPE THAT CAUSES ONE TO REJOICE (not be disappointed) even through hard circumstances the future glory outweighs the present afflictions (Rom. 5:2, 5; Col. 1:27; 2 Cor. 4:8-10, 17).    
  • IT’S SUBSTANCE CONSISTS of FAITH/UNSEEN with the NAKED EYE. Through tribulation, perseverance & character it’s produced & must be eagerly waited for with perseverance (Hebrews 11:1, Rom. 5:3-4, 8:24-25).
  • IT’S ENERGIZING: One can endure & abound in this hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word (Rom 15:4, 13; 2 Cor. 4:16).

THE HOPE OF ETERNITY ENABLES US TO ENDURE OUR REMAINING TIME ON EARTH.

Want the shadows to fall behind you? Keep your mind’s eye toward the Son and the things above where HIGH HOPE can be found (Col. 3:1-4, Heb. 12:1-2, Titus 2:13).

Laura