A Spirit of Fear

If you are like me, you know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). I use this verse often when I coach people to find purpose or to be creative, and I have felt free to use this truth in many other areas of life and ministry, including my own. Therefore I was surprised this week when I looked at this verse in the context where it is found, and discovered that I should not be as free to use this verse as I have been, for it seems to be  specific and focused in one and not all areas of life.

In the verse before seven, Paul wrote these words: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God FanIntoFlamePicwhich is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Paul was urging Timothy to recognize the gift he had and instructed him to fan the gift into flames. When our homes had a fireplace, I would often have to employ this tactic. If I could get a small flame going, I would gently blow on it, giving it more oxygen so that it would spread. That is what Paul was telling Timothy to do: Take the smallest spark of his gift and do what he had to do to make it burn hotter and brighter.

So the context for not having a spirit of fear is not applied to all areas of life, but to the expression of our purpose and gifts. Paul would not tell us not to be afraid where our gift is concerned unless it was a common tendency for it to happen. We shrink back in fear when we have a chance to express who we are instead of taking every opportunity to do so and to learn how to do it more effectively.

Where are you afraid to express your gift? In fact, do you know what your gift is? Have others laid hands on you to confirm or release the gift? What can you do to fan it into flames, giving it the oxygen it needs to flourish and prosper. I have been on a search and destroy mission the last few years of my life to find and eradicate fear, and it's been a large task. I suspect this will continue for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to confront and neutralize the fear where your gift is concerned? I encourage you to read these verses and the others in 2 Timothy 1 and do what Paul was advising Timothy to do, which was to stop hiding behind his fears but to step out into the light of self-expression, which is the only way to honor God for making you who He made you to be.


"Here Am I, Send Me!"

I have been reflecting on Isaiah 6 the last few weeks and thought I would share my conclusions with you as they pertain to God's role and our role in fulfilling our purpose and being creative. First, let's look at Isaiah 6:1-8:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of PicIsaiah6unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (emphasis added).

What can we learn from this commissioning or calling?

  1. Isaiah's story began when he saw the Lord. He not only beheld Him, he heard the sounds that surrounded the Lord and felt the reverberations of the noise the angels created.
  2. When Isaiah experienced the Lord, he had what was probably an unexpected reaction. Isaiah saw his own uncleanness and inadequacy. He declared "woe is me" and "I am ruined." In other words, Isaiah faced his insufficiency to stand in God's presence or serve His purpose.
  3. Immediately, an angel swung into action, bringing a live coal from a nearby altar and touching Isaiah's mouth. An altar is where sacrifices were made, and this heavenly altar was a place where God Himself cleansed His servants.
  4. After the angel ministered to Isaiah, the Lord asked two questions: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Let's examine Isaiah's response.

FRIENDS OF GOD

Immediately, Isaiah volunteered for the job opening that God announced. Notice, that while God spoke in the singular, He also spoke in the first person plural, indicating that He had discussed with other members of the Godhead the need to send someone to His or their people!

Isaiah did not wait for confirmation, pray about his decision, share it with anyone to get their opinion, or need to know the specifics before he said, "I'll go!" It seems that he was free to go or not go, but God immediately accepted his offer and spelled out what he would say, how the people would respond, and how long he would serve.

This scenario leads me to believe that we have more say in what we will do for the Lord than we sometimes think we do. Often people say, rightly so, that "I will do whatever God wants me to do." That is noble and  consistent with our role as servants of the Lord. Yet, we are also friends of the Lord, as Jesus indicated in John 15:14-15: "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." As friends, there may be something in your heart that you want to do. Is it time that, like Isaiah, you say, "Here I am, Lord, send me" or "use me" or as I tell my college classes, "Put me in, Coach!"

Second Chronicles 16:9 states, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." God is looking for people who are willing to do His will, not those who have to be coerced and commanded to do it. As the Lord searches the earth today, I want to be among those He notices whose hearts are His. Will you join me as together we put aside our role as servant for just a moment and be friends of God in the tradition of Isaiah?


Life Matter - Jesus' Priority

"For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity" - Psalm 122:9.

Jesus gave His life not only to save souls, but to place those souls in a Church that He was building. The Apostle Paul realized this truth, and gave his adult life to found, structure, and nurture churches all throughout the Roman Empire, not considering his work a success until he saw a church with elders where he had preached. A few of Paul's letters were to individuals like Timothy and Titus, but the majority of his letters were filled with instructions for the church that were to be read in the church assemblies. If Jesus and Paul gave His life to establish the Church, it was obviously His top priority, and you would do well to make it your top priority as well. Jesus told Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19). Are you doing what you can to assist Christ build His church? Do you give to your church? Do you contribute your spiritual gifts to help edify and build up your church? What more can you do?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125


Life Matter - For the Lord

"Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him" - Psalm 4:3.

God has called you to a life of service during which you will direct your purpose and use your gifts to help other people in many ways. Yet no matter how often or how much you serve others, God must remain the focus of your service. What you do, you do for Him, so that when people are ungrateful, unresponsive, or unapproachable, you will not become disillusioned or discouraged. This principle was reinforced throughout the Old Testament in the symbol of the burnt offering, which was not consumed by the priest, but was to be burned completely (without the blood and fat) as an offering only to the Lord: "You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord" (Leviticus 1:13). Do your feelings get hurt when people don't recognize or appreciate you? Are you doing what you do ultimately for the Lord? Do you mind being a burnt offering, consumed in the fire of God's service and presence, as a sacrifice to Him in your service to others?

Today's reading - Psalms 1-5


Life Matter - Dangers of Idolatry

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them - Psalm 135:15-18.

One of the many problems with idolatry is that it dehumanizes the worshiper. According to today's passage, those who worship idols become like those idols. They cannot speak, see, or hear spiritual things apart from those that the idol imparts to them. Idols can be either external or internal, physical or mental, animate or inanimate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and advised them how to deal with idolatry: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you'" (2 Corinthians 6:15-17). Check your heart to see if anything or anyone has taken a place in your life that is hindering your walk with the Lord and your ability to comprehend your true spirituality in Christ.

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135


Life Matter - Simple Things

"Praise the Lord, all you nations;
    extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord" - Psalm 117:1-2.

 

Today's two verses are the only verses in the entire psalm, making it the shortest psalm of all 150. It is not particularly profound, nor does it reveal some truth that cannot be found someplace else. Yet, it has a place in the inspired words of God, indicating God's approval and priority. How often have you not said or done something because it seemed so obvious or simple? You kept your words or idea to yourself because you did not want to come off as simple, shallow or even stupid. Today's psalm gives you a model to follow that no matter how something seems to you, it may have value to other people and to God! What's more, these verses summarize a simple yet appropriate behavior that is acceptable in every and any season - and that is the praise of the Lord your God because of His great love. Have you been too quiet because you have been judging either your unspoken words or undone acts of kindness or service? How can you become less critical of your own righteous impulses, no matter how simple they may be? Can you praise the Lord today for who He is and His great love, even if you are in a difficult place?

 

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120


Life Matter: Dealing with Godless Fools

"The fool says in his heart,
    'There is no God.'
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good" - Psalm 14:1.

A correct understanding of and relationship with God are required for any and all righteousness. Without that, God identifies the godless as fools and their ability to do good is minimized. Therefore, the best way to turn around evil and wickedness is to convert the evil-doer into a God-believer. That should make global evangelism the top priority for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. You can pursue evangelism by going and doing, or by supporting those who are gifted and willing to go and do, including a local church that preaches the gospel and makes evangelism and then discipleship a priority. Remember, no one is beyond God's reach, and the Apostle Paul is a good example of that: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:13-14). Are you committed to the work of evangelism? How so? How can you increase your role in reducing the number of godless fools in the world?

Today's reading - Psalms 11-15


Life Matter - Do Good to Enemies

"Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back on them what they deserve" - Psalm 28:3-4.

David once again cried out that God would deal with those who were evil. Some are uncomfortable with the psalmists' cries for vengeance, but at least they were not taking matters of revenge into their own hands! They were crying out for God to do it! What's more, this set the stage for Jesus' ministry, whose hallmark was forgiveness toward those same evil people who plagued David and the psalmists: "And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:34-36). Do you have any enemies to whom you can do good today? What can you do that will distinguish you as a follower of Jesus in your good treatment of those who treat you badly?

Today's reading - Psalms 26-30


Life Matter: Your Self Talk

"Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits" - Psalm 103:2.

David had a talk with his soul, directing it to praise and remember. Have you noticed that you are in a constant dialog with yourself? This is called self talk. It is important that when you do something less than perfect, you don't say to yourself, "Boy, are you dumb" or "You never were any good at that." David suggests what the content of your self talk should be: focusing on God's goodness to you and praising His holy name. One way to guide your inner talk is to have a robust dialog with others according to Revelation 12:11: "They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Are you sharing with others how good God is to you? Are you rehearsing God's goodness in your mind according to what you have, or do your thoughts focus on what you don't have or how bad things are?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105


Life Matter: Your Anointing

"Once you spoke in a vision,  to your faithful people you said:
'I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have raised up a
young man from among the people. I have found David my
servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him'" - Psalm 89:19-20.

David was anointed, which means the Spirit was with him to help him do God's will. Jesus was referred to as the Anointed One: "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him" (Acts 10:38). You are also anointed when you function in your purpose and that anointing isn't restricted to church work; it's for God's work, however that is defined for you and your life. What is your purpose? What do you sense God's presence helping you do, which is your anointing, regardless of where you do it?

Today's reading - Psalms 86-90