Monday, September 30, 2013

The “Omni–ness” of God

“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.…What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:8–11)

Is your god big enough for today’s needs, world events and scientific discoveries?  Is your god big enough to command your loyalty and cooperation?  To believe in your god do you have to suspend your adult thinking for fear of weakening your faith?  Maybe it is not your God who is too small but your knowledge of Him.  Maybe you need to meet the Omni-God.

Remember…Your strength is in direct proportion to your faith
and your faith is in direct proportion to your knowledge of God.

Children sometimes ask, "Who made God?" The clearest answer is that God never needed to be made, because he was always there.  He exists in a different way from us.  We necessarily age and die because it is our present nature to do that; God necessarily continues forever unchanged because it is his eternal nature to do that. This is one of many contrasts between creature and Creator.

God's self-existence is a basic truth.
The Apostle Paul explained at the outset of his presentation of the unknown God to the Athenian idolaters in Acts 17:23-25, that this God, the world's Creator, "is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."  Sacrifices offered to idols, in today's tribal religions as in ancient Athens, are thought of as somehow keeping the god going, but the Creator needs no such support system.

God has life in himself and draws his unending energy from himself. The Bible makes this clear.  Meditate on these verses proclaiming  

(Psalms 90:1-4) Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man back into dust and say, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.

(Psalms 102:25-27) "Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. "Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.

When we sing “How Great is Our God!” may these scriptures be etched on our hearts to come forth in praise to the true and living God.  It is vital for spiritual health to believe that God is great.  To one studying theology (the study of God), the Omnipresence, Omniscience, and Omnipotence of God are fundamental to knowing Him. In other words, God is “Always in the Here & Now!", "Never out of Touch", and "Has it All Together!"

Scripture to Claim
(Isaiah 40:28 )Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fear as a Foe

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15

As we continue our brief look at fear and its influence on our lives we acknowledge that fear can be healthy or unhealthy.  As a protector and motivator it serves us.  But when we are captured by a spirit of fear we serve it.  As a foe, fear works against us internally to sabotage healthy living.  When we’re assailed by threats from the outside, we sometimes disable ourselves with fears from within that can turn obsessive.

This sabotaging fear distorts our perception of ourselves and the reality of the dangers we face.  It erodes confidence that we can handle a particular threatening relationship or situation and come out of it intact.  This form of anxiety undermines even the best of plans with insecurity, inadequacy, and self-doubt, which leads to a loss of heart that is crippling, and increases our vulnerability to danger.
Insecurity is tied to our core longing for love and acceptance. We desire to love others, but the frightening reality is that there is no guarantee that anyone will love us in return. Ultimately, insecurity leads to a fear of intimacy and results in withdrawal.

Inadequacy taps into our desire to make a significant difference in life—to know that we matter. We want to know that our life has meaning and purpose.  But past failures in our performance undermine our confidence that we will ever make the kind of difference in life that we dream of.

Self-doubt grows out of our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Upbringing, especially the impact of parents, goes a long way to shape our self-confidence. Doubters are paralyzed by “what if’s.”  Often, underneath a perfectionist’s flurry of activity is fear—the fear of failure (“I’ll never be able to measure up and be enough”) and the fear of success (“If I do succeed, I’ll never be able to keep it going”). Doubters fear trying, so they quit.

We must learn to conquer and even use our fear.
Many people choose safe lives in which failure (and therefore, real success) is highly unlikely. They never take risks, and they never fail; but they also die without any real service. They may never make a mistake, but they’ll also never make a difference.  Fear that strips us of vitality and zeal to live well must be dismantled.  But we must be careful not to handle fear in a way that aggravates instead of reduces the problem.

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The definition of courage is to act confidently in the face of fear.  God has provided His Spirit and His promises for us to walk in courage.  May we walk with boldness being aware of danger but confident in God’s care.

Scripture to Claim:
Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, But He will save you."  Isaiah 35:4

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Function of Fear

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalms 56:3-4

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, fear can cause a great deal of damage in our lives.  However, fear can also play a healthy rolWhen I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalms 56:3-4
As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, fear can cause a great deal of damage in our lives.  However, fear can also play a healthy role in our lives.  God created us with this emotion and its power for a very specific reason.  So, what is the function of fear? When is it helpful? When is it harmful?  Let’s take a closer look at what fear does for us. 

Because life is full of dangerous situations, fear is not only unavoidable but often necessary.  In the realm of emotions, fear is like friction.  Too much friction heats things up, wears them out prematurely, and hinders movement.  With too little friction, things can quickly get out of control and dangerous.  That’s true about fear as well.  We need fear to keep things from spinning dangerously out of control. But too much fear can suffocate creativity and reduce life to mere survival.

A certain amount of fear and anxiety is good for us. Healthy fear can serve us well by:

1.    Warning us of danger. The primary function of healthy fear is to warn us of danger.  It alerts us to our vulnerability and urges us to take precautions.  It’s foolish not to be afraid when the shrillness of a blaring smoke alarm pierces the stillness of a restful night’s sleep.  You would be ignoring a warning signal that danger lurks nearby and you are at risk.

·      In much the same way that pain functions in the body to alert us that we’ve been injured and are in need of medical assistance, fear grabs our attention and prepares us for dealing with danger by either getting out of harm’s way or by confronting the danger head-on.

·      The Bible illustrates the healthiness of self-preserving fear in the presence of danger.  On several occasions, David fled for fear of his life from the presence of a jealously murderous King Saul.  Joseph and Mary, in obedience to an angel that spoke to him in a dream, fled from Bethlehem and escaped to Egypt because they feared the wicked King Herod would attempt to kill Jesus.

In all these cases, fear was appropriate because the danger was real. It isn’t cowardly or wrong to be afraid of life-threatening danger. When recognized and heeded, the warning alarm of fear can help us to live wisely and more safely in a dangerous world.

2.    Motivating us to excel. All of us deal with deadlines of one sort or another. If you don’t meet them, you’re dead! Or at least you wish you were. Properly harnessed, the fear of failure can be a powerful motivation to do your best.  The apostle Paul spoke of the fear of God’s final judgment as a powerful motivation in his ministry to persuade others of the hope of the gospel.  Not only did he want others to escape the wrath of God as their judge, but he also wanted the approval of God as he stood before Him for his reward.

But fear is not always a friend. It can go awry—and often does. When it does, it becomes a foe to be reckoned with.  We will share some thoughts on that tomorrow.  Today, recognize that healthy fear can be a protection and a motivator.  To say it simply, we must not fear fear.  Properly handled fear can be an asset to our lives.  Thank God today for the way He made us to live in a fallen world.

Scripture to Claim:
Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin."  Exodus 20:19-20

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Favorite Day Of The Year

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity

Today is my favorite day of the year.  See You At The Pole.  I also absolutely love that my kids love it as much as I do.  They want to be there and will sacrifice sleep to get there extra early.  There will be a special worship time around the flagpoles of schools.  It is student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led.  It is an awesome display of Christian students stepping up and taking a stand for Christ. 

See You at the Pole began in 1990 in Burleson, Texas.  It started as a challenge by Texas youth ministers at a conference in June.  Students who wanted to pray for their schools together were encouraged to meet before school on a specific day that September.  In order to be able to find each other, it was decided that the flagpole was the best choice since every school has one. 

More than 56,000 students on 1,200 campuses in Texas and three other states were documented at the first See You at the Pole in September of 1990.  Now it is an international event. 

For me, there is no greater joy than seeing my own children worshipping God with such abandon.  That is what I love so much about this day.  This is their day.  They own it and the rights to worship with reckless abandon.  Today they give themselves permission to let it go and worship led by their heart.  Today they have their music, their speaker, their own style of worship.  Many of them worship this way all the time but to see so many and one time is wonderful. 

Tonight the worship center will be filled with enthusiastic youth.  They have been waiting and looking forward to this, some for a whole year.  I have too.  If you want to be blessed, be there.  If you want to worship with reckless abandon alongside the youth of Parker County, be there.  If you want to witness God moving in the lives of many young people, be there.  It may just become your favorite day of the year too!

Be in prayer today for the youth that will attend the rally tonight.  Pray that God will move in a mighty way in their hearts.  Pray for the communities in Parker County.  Pray for the churches in Parker County.  Pray for the parents in Parker County.  Pray for the schools and teachers in Parker County.   The world is changing.  It will be harder for them as Christians in the future than it was for you or me.  Pray for God to strengthen them and ready them for what lies ahead.

Scripture to Claim:
"Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7

Fear has been with us from the beginning, not as an infrequent visitor but as a constant companion. Fear may be the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind.  It is the first human emotion referred to after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.  After they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, God came looking for the first couple to take their customary evening walk together.  Adam’s response to God’s inquiry about their whereabouts was: “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (v.10).  For the first time in their lives, fear gripped the hearts of Adam and Eve because of what they had lost and the One they had to face.

The source of their fear arose from disobedience that brought about danger, disconnection, and desperation. 

Danger:  Safety was lost outside of Eden. Once evicted from the friendly confines of paradise, the man and woman were forced to face a world fraught with danger and increasing hostility (Genesis 3:14-19; 9:2-6).  The apostle Paul described an internal struggle with fear that was provoked by external dangers threatening him: “We were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5).  Fear was born when man was no longer under the full protection of God.

Disconnection:  Also, Adam felt vulnerable because he became separated from his Provider God. The death that he experienced immediately after he sinned was the loss of his vital connection with God.  He knew he was at risk.  He was naked, but it was much deeper than that.  He was emotionally, relationally, and spiritually cut off from his life-giving God.  Whenever our sense of well-being is threatened, we experience the same shudder of fear that Adam felt.  We feel alone and vulnerable.  Our disconnection from God fuels our fearful struggle with insecurity, inadequacy, and self-doubt.

Desperation:  Adam lost control of his world.  He was banished from the Garden, estranged from his wife, alienated from his God, and desperate to figure out how to survive in a hostile environment.  We all hate to feel out of control. Dan Allender wrote, “Different people fear different things with different levels of intensity, but all of us fear what we cannot control.  Fear is provoked when the threat of danger exposes our inability to preserve what we most deeply cherish.”  Fear invades our most cherished relationships because we have no real control over another person.  People are free to make their own choices.  And where there is freedom, there is fear.  Some spouses fear betrayal; others fear being ignored or unloved.  Parents fear that their children won’t turn out okay.  Employees fear that the company will downsize.  A sense of desperation comes when we lose control.

The truth about life is that all of the above are the experience we live in every day.  Therefore, fear can become the natural state in which we live.  The damage of such a state is profound.  Many physical issues, emotional issues and spiritual issues emanate from a spirit of fear.  But this is not God’s desire.  He offers us courage, wisdom and guidance to offset our fear.  All of these are found in a vital relationship with Him through prayer, Bible study and worship.

Scripture to Claim:
THE LORD is my Light and my Salvation--whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? …Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, [even then] in this will I be confident. Psalms 27:1&3 

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