Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
My dog is obsessed with the chipmunks living under the deck. He whines and barks at them through the window as they run and play, stopping to munch on a nut or vegetation right in front of the glass door. Just two or three feet and a glass pane separate him from his nemesis. Once I let him out for his relief breaks he runs from burrow to burrow, sometimes forgetting why he was let out. Then he comes inside and realizes he needs to go out. All day he paces, whines and cries and nothing I do distracts him from those chipmunks. He is obsessed and cannot focus on anything else.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that we too can become obsessed with things. In fact, like those chipmunks in the window, we are also distracted. Everywhere you turn there are commercials, radio advertising, billboards, emails, news reports and the topic of every conversation you take part in. The Covid-19 situation is on the forefront of every communication. Stirring up fear, worry and questions. We spend a lot of time pacing and trying to figure out what will happen next.
I have begun limiting my exposure to Covid-19 reports, articles and news. Some would say this is not prudent. However, I disagree. I am not sticking my head in the sand, instead I am controlling what I expose myself to. It is true we need to know what is going on in our communities, governments and the world, but there is a limit. Instead of subsisting on a continual buffet of Covid reports, information and speculation, we should limit how much time we spend reading and submerging ourselves in the ongoing situation. I know that is not easy, you cannot listen to the radio or watch TV without every commercial being about the Covid 19 virus, but you have the power to choose what and how much you digest. Do not allow yourself to be distracted to the point of neglecting yourself. This constant exposure can intensify fear, loneliness, depression and aggression. Enjoy time with family, make time for study and prayer, enjoy a good meal or take a walk. You have the power to limit your exposure and protect yourself.
I put curtains up on the door and Bryan is much calmer. He still knows the chipmunks are there and checks out the burrows every time we go out, but he is not obsessed anymore because the constant stimuli has been curtailed.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
I recognized the sound. The thump and lope of a flat tire. I coasted to the grass along the country lane. Getting out of the car I saw that the tire was flat and coming off the rim. It was my first time to travel this road and I had only gone a few yards when I realized it wasn’t a road made for my little car. I should have turned around, but I thought I would just carry on and that is when I hit the pothole and ended the life of the rear driver’s tire.
I explained the situation to my daughter and got on the phone with a towing company. Thirty minutes later the truck backed up in front of my car. What happened next was bizarre, hilarious and unexpected. The driver explained to me that because of the Covid-19 we could not ride in the cab with him. I stared back at him. “Well,” I began. “I can call my other daughter to come to get us.”
“So, I do have another option.” He said, a twinkle in his eye. “You can ride in the car back to the shop.”
Windows down, seat belts on, my daughter and I princess waved as we rode down the main street. People pointed and laughed. Some stared and some chose to ignore the spectacle. I will admit it was great fun! A parade all our own. As I was enjoying the ride and of course the attention, I thought about how sometimes in your life you just must be carried. I had to trust the driver not only with my property but the lives of myself and my daughter. It was an unusual event in unusual circumstances.
Today across the world people are living in fear. The world has a common enemy. Not just of the virus that is storming every city, village, and town, but the worry about jobs, finances, health, losing a lease or home and the future of each of us and our loved ones. Now more than ever we need hope and faith. And now more than ever, the world needs to see Jesus. That is where we as Christians come in. You may be the only example of Jesus some may see.
We keep reading the same phase in news reports and articles, “These are unprecedented times.” These may be unprecedented times for the world, but this is no surprise to God. Allow him to carry you through this. Share your faith and hope in Jesus. Hold fast to your faith.
“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1
Scuba diving has been on my bucket list long before it was called a bucket list. So when the opportunity arose to dive while on my cruise, I jumped for it.
Honduras, according to Captain Mike, is one of the “hot spots” to dive. In fact, Isla Roatan is well known in dive circles. That fact in itself made the possibility even more appealing. I was very excited that morning and eager to do something I had only dreamed. We boarded the boat, met Captain Mike, and swiftly left the pier for the dive shop.
The crisp, yellow sun danced on the aqua blue waves of Mahogany Bay. Salty ocean air tickled my nose and seasoned my lips. Along the horizon, we saw other dive boats, fishing boats, and cruise ships. It was a hectic through fare.
I could feel the excitement of the participants. I wondered if they too were experiencing jitters. Did they also have that little tremor? You know the one you feel deep in your belly when you can barely contain the erupting excitement? The boat pulled aside the wooden dock, and three young island men appeared from the small hut set back in the palms. Offering bronzed, strong hands, they helped us from the boat to the dock. Introductions all around were followed by signing forms and flipper measurements.
I continued to simmer with excitement.
Ang and I sat in the boat as it bobbed rhythmically on the lapping waves. We had been through the class, fitted with BD jackets and weight belts. Now we waited our turn to enter the blue expanse.
Flippers protruding before me, I shuffled to the boat’s aft. With the rocking of the boat shifting the weight of the tank, I was unsteady and unnerved. I followed the instructions gave and leaped into the churning depths.
There is a lot to remember when you are struggling in open water. Inflate BD, clear ears, stay vertical, breath in and out in the regulator only and do not drown. I hit the deflate button on the BD jacket, and in a fury of bubbles, I began to sink beneath the water’s surface. Expectedly, my ears felt the pressure change, and as I was instructed, I cleared my ears.
Now it was time for my skills test. I was to remove my regulator, blow bubbles out of my mouth, and reinsert the mouthpiece.
Attempt 1- FAIL
Attempt 3-Success but then panic
The last attempt- Deflate BD, sink beneath the waves, clear regulator, and ears.
The weighted belt drew me further into the depths. Around me nothing but blue. I immediately wondered what lurked behind the blue? My tremors of excitement were becoming a simmering fear.
Clutching the rope that stretched between the world above and the world beneath, I felt the sea exert her pressure. My lungs felt compressed, my ears began to ring. Above me, the sun’s light and warmth faded. Nothing but blue closed around me. Cooler water rose from beneath me spreading ribbons of cold around my legs. It traveled deliberately, steadily up my body. The pressure increased, and my ears hurt, sharp stabbing pain in the left. I waved to the instructor, pointed to my ears, and he did the sign to clear them once again. I tried to relieve my discomfort. No luck, the piercing pain continued.
My body continued to sink with the weight around my middle.
Between the pain, fear, fading light, and creeping cold, I began to panic. I tried one more time to clear, pinching my nose and swallowing but this time the mask creased and the ocean flooded into my mask. Instinctively, I held my breath. The instructor tried to calm me, but panic was driving now. Hand over hand, I pulled myself up the rope kicking with all I had. A flipper came off, but I barely noticed as I clawed my way back to air, light, and warmth. I broke the surface and tore the mask and regulator off. I greedily inhaled all the air my lungs could hold.
When I look back over my life at my many failings and spiritual pitfalls, there is a common denominator, fear. Fear robs us of joy and peace. It causes us to buckle under the pressure and settle for less than God’s best for us. I allowed my fear to take over, and I reacted in panic.
Others on the excursion completed the test and descended to 40 feet and glided along the sandy bottom. They trusted the process, themselves, and the instructor. They did not let fear rule the situation.
Fear is a repulsive force. It can exert pressure on you and whisper things in your mind. Allowing it a foothold, it conjures up imaginings and doubt. There is no place for fear in a Believer’s heart.
I wish this story ended with me gearing back up and with determination descending to 40 feet and swimming victory laps around the coral bed, but it does not. Instead, I climbed back on board defeated, disappointed.
Fear keeps you trapped. Keeps you from opportunities and experiences. Fear does all these things, but you do not have to allow it. Ultimately, fear answers to you. Reject it, rebuke it and never let it rule you.
Trust in Him and deny fear.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 ESV
I stopped by my friend’s place of business one afternoon to drop off a package. I went into the lobby and met her. We talked and giggled as is our usual custom. I got the car keys from her and headed to the parking lot. I pressed the fob to open her car and pulled at the door. However, the car door remained locked. I pressed the fob again and tried the door. Still, it was unyielding. Over and over I pressed the fob and pulled on the door. The front door opened and my friend yelled out, “Fob doesn’t work, you’ll have to use the key.”
Boy, was my face red. I was standing in the gray and misting rain pressing a button. It never occurred to me to use the key.
We are not much different when it comes to our spiritual lives. We carry around the spiritual keys, yet we fail to use them.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Throughout the Bible, keys refer to power and authority. To be given keys is to be given authority and power to open and close. Jesus gave His disciples and in following all Christians spiritual authority.
Often we feel that we are without authority in this life but that is what the enemy wants you to believe. Jesus left you the keys. He left you with power and authority. You have been given a great privilege. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, he gained access to God for us through his blood. Therefore there are no more barriers between us and God, we have the keys to open every spiritual door.
Remember, you have the key, all you have to do is use it.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV
The lush green moss provided a comfortable bed for me to stretch out. I bit into the firm white flesh of the pear, juice sweet and sticky escaped, trickling down my chin. Through the limbs of the walnut tree, I watched whisp of white float on an unseen current across the summer sky. Only the sound of an occasional car broke the steady hum of the insects busy at work. My grandmother sat on her milking stool, peeling pears, and apples for a pie. The sun had risen high glaring down on us and chased us out of the garden and into the cool shade of the ancient walnut, who’s limbs grazed the ground, bent by the clusters of nuts. She spoke as she made long curls of peel that hit the aluminum pan with a thud, telling us stories of her time in California during the Second World War. Tales of the tenants in their boarding house. Stories of lemon and orange trees at the back steps of the house. Nights filled with laughter and dancing as they clung to that moment, never knowing if the next would come. My eyes grew big as she told us about sitting around the radio and listening to the war reports, the fear, the wonder, will the enemy touch our shores. As the clouds lazily floated past her stories formed on the stage of my mind.
I loved those afternoons under the walnut tree, barefoot, wearing tank tops and shorts. The cool of the moss, the sweet fruit, and the smell of clean air. That hour or two that we escaped the heat and hid in the hazy shadows.
Life is fleeting, busy, stressful, meaningful, and at times seems meaningless, and we have a way of getting caught in that spiral. We all have schedules and deadlines; however, do not forget to take pleasure in what God has given you. As Solomon tells us, we were created to enjoy food, drink, each other and our jobs. God has provided many things for us to enjoy, do not allow yourself to get caught up in the spiral of deadlines, schedules, and worries. Take the time to enjoy the summer fruit.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13
The blue circle spun…..endlessly on my screen. I checked my watch, and I needed to go. I waited another moment and reluctantly, I shut the laptop, grabbed my purse, and headed to work. As I drove, my mind continued to return to the spinning blue circle. Had the payment gone through? Was my car insurance paid for the month? My mind, like the circle, spun out hypothetical scenarios.
What if the payment didn’t go through and I get canceled?
What if I have an accident or get pulled over?
What if there wasn’t enough in the account to cover the amount?
My phone dinged it was a new email. When I got to work and parked, I sifted through my purse to find my phone. Opening my email, I sighed with relief. My payment was processed, and I had a confirmation number. I moved the email to my 2019 bill folder. Now I had proof, of payment if any questions arose, I could refer to my email.
Wouldn’t it be nice if when you came up out of the baptismal water your phone dinged, and you got an email with confirmation? After you repented and accepted Christ into your heart that a registered letter with a certificate of salvation came to your house? Sure would make it easier. Make you feel more secure. However, that’s not how it works. Salvation is about faith, trust, and belief. There is no confirmation number or certificate; there is only faith.
One of the most common fears and doubts for a Christian, new or seasoned, is “am I saved?” I’ve heard it many times, and honestly, I have asked the same myself. Our enemy wants nothing more than to fill you with doubt, fear and anxiety and what better way than to make you doubt the truth and your salvation.
Salvation is not a feeling; it is not an emotion; it is the belief, trust, and faith in Christ Jesus. And these things are decisions, willful, and deliberate choices on your part. If you are waiting for emotion or feeling to give you confirmation of salvation, then you will always be waiting on that blue circle to stop spinning. There is no certificate or email for salvation because if there were, your faith and belief would be in that tangible proof and not in Jesus. Place your faith and trust in Him, the one who sacrificed all for you.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Big Bryan’s white fur shone in the mid-morning sun. The air was crisp with a gentle breeze that ruffled my curls. It was a great morning to be out for some exercise. I had taken Bryan to the fenced exercise yard in the apartment complex. My friend had come to meet me with her beautiful German shepherd, Yue. We were hoping to make a puppy play match. With two rather large dogs and the uncertainty if they would like one another, we left their leash on them. Once the dog greeting pleasantries were concluded, we were eager to initiate play.
I called to Bryan, I had a stick I knew he would want to chase. I threw it but he lingered. I coaxed him again and finally and rather unexpectedly he picked up his lead and trotted off toward the stick. For the rest of the play date, every time Bryan moved he picked up his lead in his mouth and ran. We laughed about. It was funny because he seemed to think someone had to be holding the leash for him to move.
I think that you and I are more like Bryan than we would want to admit. We have been set free by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross yet unfortunately, many of us fail to live in victory and continue to be tethered to chains of anxiety, fear, sin, addictions and guilt. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of the renewing we need to be living in victory and freedom. You have been unleashed from sin, fear and guilt.
Jesus is your bondage breaker, start walking in freedom.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
Hurrying down the hallway, the girl pushed her way into the lunchroom. She found her friends and with a smile as wide and as bright as dawn, she blurted out, “Someone asked me to the dance!”
The table erupted with giggles and chatter and of course the question burning on everyone’s mind. “Well, who is it?”
She leaned back grinning, allowing the tension to build, and when she could no longer contain herself, she whispered his name. Her friends looked from one another and then laughed.
“What?” she asked, her furrowed brow burned with embarrassed heat.
“You mean, you don’t know? He used to eat paste.”
“So all little kids do.” Her voice raised above the din of the midday diners.
“No, I mean like in the sixth and seventh grade. It was weird.”
All the girls begin to laugh. The excitement that just moments ago brimmed drained away replaced by hot tears. She wanted to run back down the hallway and hide. How could she go to the dance with him now? What would all her friends think?
We all care about what people think. We worry about fitting in with people, being accepted. We want everyone to like us, but at what cost? Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will approve of you, and that is OK. If Jesus had cared about fitting in or making everyone like him, he indeed would have never chosen to die on the cross with common criminals so that you could have eternal life. He would have hung around the Pharisees, but instead, he chose the tax collectors, fishers, prostitutes, a crowd of women, a doctor and a guy that ran around in camel skins and ate bugs (Matt. 3:4).
Proverbs 29:25 reads, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” What does that verse mean? It has nothing to do with being afraid in the sense that we think of the word “fear,” but rather, it means “to fear the disapproval of man.” This verse deals with our insecurities. Worrying about what others think is a snare. The word snare refers to the traps a hunter sets to catch small animals and birds. Allowing ourselves to worry what people think entraps us in fear, doubt, and gags us. Do not focus on what people think. Instead, put your trust in the Lord.