Monday, December 28, 2009

Fearless Heart

About a month ago, I had a panic attack. I say panic attack but really it was more like a tightening sensation in my stomach complete with butterflies and a racing heart, shortness of breath, and a fight-or-flight response. And no, in case you're wondering, it was not a result of a guy (believe me, I would have preferred that). Nope, it was my reaction to fear and to a realization of what the next year could hold. Grad school applications are in, and now it is time to start on financial aid applications and internship applications. But in the middle of all that, it became very real to me that I will be moving out of the state and potentially far away from my family for at least two years. It is easy to talk about it, easy to know that that is what I am supposed to be doing, easy to distance myself. After all, it is still months off. But then the reality of my decision set in when I hit send on the last application...and I was scared. Fear was crowding in.

As an English major, I love quotes. I recently came across one that really gave me a peace in the midst of this fear. A man named John Haggai says, "Attempt to do something so impossible that unless God is in it, it is doomed to failure." Wow, that packs a punch. That is exactly what I feel I have done with grad school. Even my professor has told me that I have a very slim shot of getting into some of the schools I have applied to. Big cause to fear. Then I remember that I serve a big God and if I am supposed to get into one of these schools, then it will be a God-thing. I will confidently be able to say that it is nothing that I did. Then....I turned to scripture to see what the Lord says about fear.

Fear is the result of trouble and anguish that can overpower you - Job 15:24

Fear consumes - Psalm 73:19

Fear couples with distress and anxiety, but is an earthly reaction and not one of fearing the Lord - Proverbs 1:27-29

Fear should cause believers to trust in Christ and realize man can't do anything - Psalm 56:3-4,11

Fear overwhelms us and causes us to want to run, but then we go to God to get peace - Psalm 55:5, 18

Safety and security in Christ cast out fear - Proverbs 1:33

Perfect love casts out fear and perfection can only be found in our Creator - 1 John 4:18

Lord grants rest from fear - Isaiah 14:3

Waiting on the Lord and realizing who He is (Light, salvation, strength, promises courage of heart) dispels fear - Psalm 27:1, 14

We are not given a spirit of fear - 2 Timothy 1:7

He has redeemed us and called us by name, erasing all need to fear - Isaiah 43:1

And here is my favorite one...Psalm 119:105-106 says His Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. He is guiding and directing me and therefore....NOTHING will I fear.

One of my favorite bands growing up was Point of Grace. They sing a song that is encouraging to me when I focus on my fears. It has become my prayer as I see that fear is not a healthy thing, unless it is fear of the Lord. It is a human, natural reaction and is therefore of the flesh and not God-honoring. It says, "I wanna live with a fearless heart, with courage that's coming from trusting God. It is constantly guiding me though the road may seem long. I wanna live with a fearless heart."

My prayer for you is that surrendering that fear to the One who made you and loves you like no one ever will, will bring a peace that passes all understanding, and that you will rest in the promises He has made to you, even when you can't see where He is leading. No fear! He is in control and still on His throne.

Praying for a fearless heart,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Guard!

I have been absolutely terrible with keeping up with this lately. The Lord has been teaching me so much but it will have to wait until another time. Right now, an issue has come to my attention that has been heavy on my heart this week. Before you read the rest of this post, please read this article.

"Supreme Court takes case of student group that bars gay members"

One guess what kind of student group that was. That's was a Christian club called the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College in San Fransisco. Please hear me...I in no way desire to be extremist but I do believe Christians and non-Christians alike need to be aware. The dynamics of certain aspects of our country are changing. And they are not changing in favor of believers. This group is being charged with discrimination against a fellow homosexual student who desired membership within the group, as well as a potential leadership position, but refused to sign the contract necessary to become a member which included things such as: belief that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, was resurrected, returned to Heaven, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, sex before marriage is wrong, etc.

Are you seeing anything un-Biblical yet? This group was holding its members to a high standard which I greatly admire. As a result, this case is being brought before the Supreme Court. Did you catch that? The SUPREME COURT! Guys, depending on how the court rules, we could see religiously based organizations on our campuses forced to changed their rules drastically or be disbanded. That means your fraternities, sororities, FCA, Christian clubs, anything and everything religious could be required to change their membership qualities to include anyone who wants to join and will be charged with discrimination if they choose otherwise.

If I am being honest, this scared me. My desire is to write Christian based material in a secular college setting for the next two years of grad school and it is possible that this ruling could effect that as well. As I began to think and pray about it, the Lord brought two passages to mind.

The first is in Acts 4....let me break this scene down for you. Peter and John have just healed a lame man through the power of the Lord and are now preaching about Jesus to a big crowd. I want you to note several key things and see if they remind you at all of this big decision that is about to go before the Supreme Court or of the changing temperament towards Christians in our nation right now.

Peter and John are arrested by the religious leaders of the day, who were pretty much the Law to the Jewish community. They were disturbed that Peter and John were preaching about Jesus and that people were listening and responding. Here is an interesting fact...the Sadducees were a religious sect that were part of this arrest. Here is my favorite part. This sect was described as being "liberal, compromisers, and political opportunists." Ring any bells? I'll leave political parties for you to think about.

Anyways, these leaders threw Peter and John in jail to shut them up and then brought them before the Sanhedrin (which was a place where these leaders all got together to make big decisions or in this case, try Peter and John). Know what their question was? "By what power or by what name have you done this?" (vs 7). Hm that is a very loaded question and sure enough Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, lets them have it. Know what he does? He shares the gospel with them!! He boldly claims the name of Jesus Christ, and claims the power of His death and resurrection.

Here is a cool part. So the leaders are listening to these guys and it says that "they saw their (Peter and John's) boldness, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, and they were amazed." (vs 13). Now let's stop and compare. These leaders could not deny the boldness of these men, nor could they deny that technically by society's standards these guys were working class, low, and dumb. But yet they spoke with confidence and knowledge, and they could not deny the evidence. This lame man is standing right in front of them! They saw the evidence of a changed life. May this be said when this decision is brought to the Supreme Court. My prayer is that they see the boldness of this group and regardless of what happens they cannot deny the evidence of changed lives.

But to keep going, stay with me, I know this is long...the leaders deliberated and came back to Peter and John and commanded/threatened them not to speak or teach the name of Jesus anymore. Peter and John pretty much tell them, "Hey you are the religious leaders, you let us know whether it is better to listen to God or you, but we are going to keep telling of what we have seen and know." Did they back down? Absolutely not!! Did the judge and jury's decision ultimately matter when it came to things of the Lord? Absolutely not!! So you draw your own conclusions of what I think of the Supreme Court's decision either way.

So the first thing Peter and John do is they go back to their companions and it says that "they raised their voices with one accord" and then acknowledged the awesomeness power of their God. I don't know about you, but some of the sweetest times for me this past summer were spent with friends talking about the Lord, encouraging one another, praying, and then worshiping our God! There is amazing power in that.

Now here is the most important part of this whole passage to me. These followers of Jesus pray that the Lord will grant them all boldness to share Him and that amazing things will be done through them in His name. Then look at the power of their prayer..."And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." (vs 31) Wow!

So let's bring this back home to 2009 and the Supreme Court's ultimate decision. It is so easy to sit back and say, "Well I have no power here. What happens will happen." Hello! Do you realize apathy is wrong? The Lord has called us to proclaim Him boldly! So let's do it. What can we do? Let Christians know about will most likely not be all over the media. Look it up for yourself...research it. And then as Christian students and adults, let's be of one heart and mind like the example of this early church. Ultimately, the decision doesn't matter. Our God is Sovereign either way. And let's pray...let's see our country shaken. We have a relationship with the God of the Universe!!! Talk to Him and surrender this decision to His capable hands.

The final thing I want to share with you is this: 1 Peter 5:8 is a warning to Christians. "Be sober, be vigilant for you adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." Be on guard, be aware of what is going on in our country and the changing atmosphere and attitude towards believers. Here is the promise after that verse...verse 10 and 11 say "After you have suffered awhile", note that it says after and not if. It is a guarantee that suffering will come. But in the end the Lord promises to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. We may be undergoing personal attack as Christians but we are being beautifully perfected by our Savior in the process. My prayer for each one of you is that we are bold and see the hand of our God in the midst of this.

Praying for boldness,