Nothing else needs to be said today.
Nothing else needs to be said today.
I listened to the Pray As You Go App devotional for Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7th during the morning of April 6th. I usually listen to the PAYG devotion around midday, but because my wife and I were going to be at a Forgiveness Ministries seminar all day, I listened to it early.
The reading for that devotion was John 8:1-11, the story of the woman caught in adultery (which I know is considered by some to be of questionable authenticity but which I believe is genuine).
What caught my attention as I listened to this text being read twice was that the woman did not (maybe even could not) defend herself but had to be and allowed herself to be defended by Jesus. Conversely, I noticed that Jesus not only defended her but defender her ably and defended her in a way that did not obliterate her enemies but merely made them think.
This caught my attention because it applies to a clear need I have and have long had. I have always been defensive. For some reason (probably deep childhood wounding), I have felt the need to defend myself against any and every attack or slight. I have felt the need to defend myself aggressively and with extreme prejudice. One of my favorite (and most revealing )stories about this comes from my early high school days. A group of us were hanging around in the cafeteria when a guy named Paul said something about me. I can’t remember what that something was, but I do remember it was a joke rather than an actual attack and it was a small thing rather than a large thing. I immediately attacked back; again, I can’t remember what I said but I know I said something and said it vehemently. In reply, Paul said, “You’re too defensive, Doug,” to which I responded, “I am not!” I realized with that ironic response that I was indeed too defensive and that I needed to stop being so defensive if I was ever to have happy and fruitful relationships with people.
Decades later, I’m still struggling with this defensiveness to some degree. But when I heard this text read in the PAYG devotion, I realized I could escape it by allowing Jesus to be my defender. My action step here is to remind myself that Jesus is my defender whenever I feel attacked and defensive.
Interestingly enough, my wife recently shared a song with me which teaches me this same thing. I have been listening to this song incessantly ever since December. It is appropriately-enough called “Defender”.
Jesus is my defender. He is my great defender. And His way of defending me is better for me and my enemies and the world than my way ever could be. I will relinquish the drive to defend myself to Him. I will allow Him to defend me rather than defending myself. It truly is “so much better this way”. It is so much better this way in every way.
That’s what I saw on April 6th, 2019.
Christmas just came early for me. I was making plans for my 2019 Bible reading plan. I read a Bible passage every day, and I usually like to follow a plan. I will finish my current plan on December 31st (ending with Jude, I think), so I need a new one.
I did not find what I was looking for. I am not concerned with reading the entire Bible in a year, which is what most plans are geared for. I’ve already read the entire Bible many times and most benefit from something that gives shorter readings than those “in a year” plans. I wanted something like what I get from the Moravian Daily Text.
That, in turn, got me thinking about the Moravian Daily Text. I access this text every night, using their “Watchword” and “Doctrinal Texts” for my nightly prayers. I have always wanted an app for the text, but have so far been limited to using the website. But I decided to check the Google Play store (I’m an Android guy), and to my great delight I found there was a new Moravian Daily Text app on it!
The app is listed as a 2018 app. I don’t know if that means I’ll have to buy a new one for 2019. If so, I’ll gladly do it. It was only $1.99, and it is something I consult every day. To be sure, it was no great hardship to use the website, but there is just something about having it as an app that I like. If you want to check out the app, you can find it here, and if you would like to check the website, you can find that here. I hope you will check it out in at least one of these ways. The Lord has brought me some great words through these texts, and I know He will do the same for you.
A few pastors came over on Tuesday, December 4 for devotions. Our text was John 21:1-14.
This was a familiar text, the story of the resurrected Jesus meeting the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and giving them a second “miraculous catch of fish”.
Familiar texts are difficult for me to receive a word from as they are too familiar; I think I know what they say and so I don’t look as hard. Reading in a group often helps overcome this familiarity. One thing that helped overcome it this time was the devotions leader, who said, “No detail seems unimportant to John.” What he meant was that John records a lot of detail that seems superfluous to the “theological” content of the passage. Here those details were Peter’s putting on his clothes and jumping overboard, the disciples struggling to get the catch of fish to the shore, Peter’s rushing back to help them, the number of fish caught (153), etc. After the leader said this, I started looking at these details and realized that the disciples were acting chaotic. Peter was jumping overboard and running around; I imagine the others were criticizing him for abandoning them and he was criticizing them for not being as devoted to Jesus as he was (imagination, to be sure, but not a huge leap based on what we know about the disciples); there was a huge catch of fish and a boat to take care of.
What I really noticed, though, was that Jesus was unaffected by this chaos. The disciples weren’t. They were in the middle of the chaos. They were creating the chaos. They were driven by the chaos. But Jesus was unaffected by that chaos. He stood apart from and above it. He even had His own fish, which He was quietly cooking, and some bread as well (where did those come from? I don’t know; maybe He created them, maybe He got them from some person not recording in Scripture; either way, I bet it is an interesting story). He was moving slowly, calmly, confidently, and was just waiting for the disciples to drop down to His speed so He could speak with them.
What I see in this are three related things: 1) My Lord doesn’t need whatever it is I’m trying to bring Him (again, He had his own fish), 2) My Lord isn’t affected by chaos as I so often am, 3) My Lord is waiting for me to escape the chaos, slow down, and sit with Him. This was a great comfort to me. The truth that my Lord is not as “double-minded” and “tossed back and forth by the waves” (James 1) as I am encourages me with both the understanding of His power and the opportunities His power gives me.
And that’s what I saw on December 4, 2018.
This post is a point from a recent sermon which I thought was A) important and B) open to some elaboration. I have taken it and elaborated on it here.
A fifth/final way to escape fear/live apart from anxiety is to see that some of the things we fear are not as important as we think they are. These fears aren’t as great as we make them out to be.
For example, I’m afraid of not being a good preacher and I have been for some time. It was established very early in Bible college that I was a “good preacher”. I’ve been called that or told I am that more times than I know. And that was very pleasing to me when I preached my first few sermons at 14 & 15 years old. Now, though, some thirty years later, it isn’t so great. Once you get a title like that, you then have to live up to it. Like the old gunfighter who has to defend his reputation against every young buck who wants to make a name for himself, I have to defend my reputation.
(When I preached this, I said I thought there was some movie about an old gunfighter defending his reputation. Somebody shouted out The Shootist. I’ve never seen it, so I don’t know if that’s it or not. I do know that I’ve seen this idea in a slightly comic form in this Far Side cartoon.)
After 25 years, I’ve gotten tired of defending that reputation. I’ve gotten tired and discouraged of having to prove every Sunday that I am a “good preacher”. I’ve gotten really tired of having to live up to that label, or, to put it differently and perhaps more poignantly, of having to earn that identity.
Fortunately, the Lord has shown me recently that I don’t have to do this anymore. He has shown me that “good preacher” is not my identity. He has shown me that “son of God” is my identity, and He has further shown me that this identity doesn’t have to be proven or earned. He has, in other words, shown me that being a good preacher is not that important. What’s far more important than being a good preacher is bringing His word, that is, bringing people a true message from Him. That’s not the same as being a “good preacher” as that title is culturally understood. It sounds the same but it is not. Bring a word from God is far more noble and profound than being a good preacher. It s also a lot easier to do and a whole lot less stressful.
Let me give you another example of a fear I have which isn’t as important as it first seems to be. I’ve always been afraid of visitors not being impressed with my church. To that end, I’ve obsessed over how clean the carpet is, how good the worship is, whether or not there are any misspellings in the bulletin or the slides, if church members are friendly to the visitors, and any number of similar issues. It suddenly occurred to me, though, that these worries are completely unfounded. They are not unfounded in the sense that they don’t happen; they do happen. But they are unfounded in the sense that they don’t mean much. If someone rejects my church because there is a misspelling on a worship slide, they would leave my church for any reason. Keeping such people pleased with everything today merely means they will become displeased about something tomorrow. There is always the chance they will become displeased about something tomorrow, anyway. It means such people aren’t and probably never will be in a real relationship with me. And it is rather silly to worry about losing something that is not a real relationship.
I’m willing to bet there are some things in your life that aren’t that important as you think they are. I’m willing to bet you are afraid of things that really aren’t as significant as they seem, which really won’t do the damage or aren’t the damage they portend to be. I don’t know what these are exactly. They may be like mine. They may have to do with your reputation or identity in some way, with how people see you or think of you; whether or not they love you/you are loved. But they could be something else completely. I don’t know. I just know we are frightened by things that aren’t really that frightening, and I further know that we won’t be frightened by them anymore if we realize they aren’t as frightening.
If you’d like to hear the entire message this post was taken from, you can find it here. Enjoy, and may God deliver you from your fears!
This post contains a short point from a recent message. I left a part out of this point, a small but critical part which came to me after the message was completed. I hated that, so I decided to rectify it here.
Another technique I’ve discovered to escape fear/live apart from anxiety is to realize that I have more resources than I think. Resources (or the lack of resources; that scarcity/poverty lying under the harvest, the threat of not having enough) is a major source of anxiety for me. That’s what introverts worry about (I don’t know what extroverts worry about, but lack of resources is what introverts worry about ). What I’ve realized lately, though, is that I have far more resources than I give myself credit for. I have inexhaustible resources, actually, or at the very least i have access to inexhaustible resources. I am a child of God. The Father has given me full access to His household; He has put on my hand the signet ring, allowing me to do family business or spend family capital.
When I have need, then, I can supply it not just from whatever meager resources I have scrapped together (how much money I’ve managed to save, how much sleep I managed to get, etc.) but also and even more so from the Father’s resources. I can go into the Father’s barn. I can withdraw from the Father’s bank account. I’ve always had the ability to do this, I suppose, but I’ve only recently learned to actually do it. I haven’t been looking at last night’s sleep to get me through the day as have all my life, but I’ve been looking at God to get me through the day . When I feel tired, I say, “God, I need something here.” I say that and I usually seems like I get it. Energy is usually given to meet my need.
I’m not the only one to discover these resources or the ability to use these resources. Santa Clause discovered this as well. I started reading a book about Santa Claus (aka St. Nicholas) yesterday.
In that book, I discovered this statement about young Nicholas’ growth in the faith:
Nicholas found he could ask God for strength and receive it. He found he had access to more resources than his own. I’ve found the same thing, and it has had a profound affect on me. I was in a difficult situation the other night. I was struggling with the same difficulty my wife and I have been struggling with for some time. As I struggled with that, I looked up to heaven and said to God, “I just can’t make it.” And immediately I heard God say back, “Yes you can.” I don’t know if God said that to me directly or said it through the Holy Spirit or said it through my own conscience which He has taught to think as He thinks (any of those ways gets you to the same place), but He said it. It was said. “Yes you can make it.” And that statement was based on this idea. I could make it through this difficulty because I had his resources to get me through it. My own resources weren’t sufficient; I rightly realized that. But I had (and have) more resources than my own. Those resources are sufficient to get me through this difficulty and any other which comes my way. That gives me a lot of confidence. It gives me the same confidence I had when I learned I could run 10 miles. Before I knew I could do that, I was afraid of running, afraid of my energy giving out when I was far from home. Once I knew I could do that, I no longer feared running. I looked forward to it, actually. I laughed at the distance that once frightened me because I knew I could cover it.
And that takes away fear. Understanding that I have these other, better resources which enable me to get through whatever I need to get through disarms my fear.
So that is one point of my message. If you’d like to listen to the rest, you can find it here. Enjoy, and may God lead you out of anxiety!