‘No minor key’

It’s good to remind ourselves that there will be many times when we’ll feel grief or sorrow – those ‘down’ times, when things just seem to go against us, over a period of time. It happens to God’s children – we are not insulated from the thorns of this world.

Consequently, I really liked Selwyn’s conclusion: “We seem to be as afraid of lament (to express sorrow or grief) as we are of catching a serious dose of the flu. Why is this? Is it because we fail to see that openness and honesty is the soil out of which grows true confidence and joy? The ancient Israelites sang their laments as worshipful as they sang their hymns of praise; they were able to express their emotional struggles as part of their worship, knowing that God would not turn His face away from them. God delights in our passionate engagement with Him. What He longs for in all His children – is that they are real.”

For me, the problem I feel is that many Christians don’t have a living, personal relationship with Jesus. They have an intellectual view, a formulae of beliefs, that treats God as a superior being, who is distant from their emotions. Their actions, say, ‘why would God, the creator of all the universe, be interested in how I’m feeling’; basically they are saying – ‘God, is too busy with important things, to care about the small things in my life.’  They are so, so wrong! Jesus loves you – with all His mind, His heart and His strength – do you believe this? If ‘yes’, then live it.

‘He will come and save you’

Selwyn continues to look at the fact that the remedy for fear is to focus on God.

On thinking about today’s study, I remembered these verses from John’s first letter (1 John 4:10-19, New Living Translation): “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”

Fear, is an emotion born out of what harm may come our way; yet, the ultimate disaster for many will be the ‘day of judgment’  – we must live like Jesus, and then His perfect love will drive out all fear – even, the fear of the ‘last day’.

How did you go with Selwyn’s question (as follows)? I thought it was a good way to summarise his discussion on fear: “Here’s a question which will take no more than a few seconds to answer: When afraid, where does your fear drive you? To worldly things or to God? You tell me where you go when you are afraid and I will tell you who or what is your god. Some when afraid, turn to drink. Alcohol is their god. Some turn to sensual pleasures. Comfort is their god. When Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, shrunk from the ordeal of the cross, He turned to His heavenly Father and chose His will, for He knew that despite His fears He would find in Him – and only in Him – the strength He needed for what lay ahead. Fear clarifies where it is we place our trust.” 

I thought that another area, many turn to in times of fear – is friends or family – and, we tend to naturally do that when we are children.  However, there comes a time, when we must turn to Jesus first – and that means before we turn to family, friends or even our church community.  God must come first – in all areas of our life – do you agree?

The remedy for fear

Over the last few days, Selwyn has been writing about the emotion of fear. In certain dangerous situations it is perfectly normal to experience fear – however, the crippling nature of fear is that sometimes it can become a chronic, on-going emotion that hinders our daily life.

I agree with Selwyn – the best way to deal with fear – is to tell ourselves not to be afraid. We should remind ourselves of the many verses in Scripture, which tell us not to fear things of this world, because God is with us.

It comes to the core issue – just how much do you trust in God’s control, of everything in His universe? It is a matter of faith, Selwyn mentions Matthew 8:26, in support of his statement about this issue (Matthew 8:23-27, NIV): ‘Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Selwyn’s conclusion is excellent, if you gain an insight (with God’s help) into these words, and apply the understanding gained, to your life; I think you will have richer experiences in serving our wonderful Lord.

He writes: “Over and over again Scripture exhorts us to fear God. Jesus said, ‘ … do not be afraid of those who can kill the body … I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him [God] … ‘ (Luke 12:4-5). What does it mean to fear God? It does not mean being afraid of Him, but standing in awe of the fact that a God who could bring a universe like this into existence and maintain it could remove all difficulties from us if He wanted to. The fact that He does not shows there is some good purposes in them. Faith is trusting that purpose. Fear of God (being in awe of God) strips away all other fears and compels us to deal with a God who has everything under His control.” 

The sentence, I’ve highlighted above, has resulted in many desperate moments for God’s people over thousands of years. For example, the dead of a young child in some horrible way, of course, does not suggest that our God thinks lightly of such events. On the contrary, I believe that He feels the death of ‘innocent’ [I’m not using the word innocent, outside of a fallen world, context.] children, much more than we can ever, possibly realise.

It is the belief, that He uses all of life’s experiences, from the very worst to the very best, to help us mature and be transformed into the likeness of our suffering Jesus. Do you agree?

Fight or flight?

Today’s study is fairly straight-forward; Selwyn talks about the fight or flight response to danger.

I like his summary of fear: “When we are confronted by danger, fear motivates us to flee. It hastens our retreat. It says to us: to do battle against this person or thing will be ineffective – run!”

Yet, I feel, that the worst type of fear, is a generalised fear of the ‘unknown, hard to define, ever-present’ fear of disaster or failure. It’s the vague fear of loss: of family, of home, of work, of health, or of security. In these times of ‘terror attacks’, there is a heightened awareness that terror could strike – unexpectedly, without warning. It’s understandable that this type of fear could become, a ‘constant’ companion which holds us back from living an effective life.

Selwyn uses Psalm 55, to illustrate a point about fear; yet, this Psalm is more about false friendships, and the immense hurt that can arise when the falsehood is discovered (especially, during times we are suffering a number of attacks from external sources.) Yet, David places his trust in God – who will never be ‘false’; and, will always listen to his prayers.

Psalm 55:1-16 (New Living Translation: Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.

My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down.  My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.

Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred.

Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and conflict in the city. Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city. Everything is falling apart; threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.

It is not an enemy who taunts me – I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me – I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.

Let death stalk my enemies; let the grave swallow them alive, for evil makes its home within them.

But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me. … “

The last verse, highlighted above, is the way to handle all fear – even the disabling fear of unknown terrors – take your fears to God in prayer; He will rescue you – He will give you the strength, His strength, to overcome any fear.

Paul – in despair?

It’s of value to dwell on the matter which Selwyn has raised today. The “Holy Spirit’s ministry is no longer occasional, but perpetual – God’s Spirit  has not come not merely to visit us at times but to reside with us and fill our hearts. This does indeed help us to deal more effectively with the negative emotions which we may feel, but it does not do away with the need to admit to them and to talk to Jesus about them.”

God’s Spirit dwelling within us does not makes us instantly perfect – it’s a process that is never completed here on earth – we grow in Christ-like maturity; it is a transformation process – where, parts of our sinful nature gradually come under God’s control, with our co-operation. It’s a journey – and the end point is our death – then, we become a member of a holy nation- to perfectly enjoy God’s peace, forever.

There were times when Paul despaired of what was happening, but he never took his his eyes off, his eternal goal. He often compared his ministry, to the task of an athlete: to run fast and win the race – to keep his eyes focused on the finish line. So, too, must we!

Godly sorrow

I think Selwyn makes two excellent points (regarding anger) in today’s study.

One: ” … we can pray that God will enable us to feel godly sorrow – sorrow for our own loss, sorrow for the loss in the heart of the offender and sorrow also for the pain God feels as He sees His creation war against itself.” 

Two: “Destructive anger will be transformed into righteous anger as we grow in the hatred of evil and the love of good. The simple fact is this: people hurt. The challenge we face as Christians is to handle hurt in such a way that it is not overlaid with unrighteous anger. This is one of the biggest challenges we may ever have to respond to, but respond to it we must.”

The verses selected for reading and meditation also highlight an important fact; godly sorrow, leads to repentance and there are also, no regrets, Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, 7: 8-13a (NLT):”I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. We have been greatly encouraged by this.”

You can see from the above verses, that the Corinthians may have be hurt by the severity of Paul’s criticism  – but instead of dwelling on their hurt and becoming angry with Paul;  they understood the reasons for his criticism and changed their behaviour.  This is a lesson, all of us can take on-board because as a general rule, today’s people, don’t like to be corrected – even when they need it! What are your views on this topic?

Anger detox

I think Selwyn gives some good advice regarding the control of angry impulses.

He uses verse 7 from Psalm 37, as a guide on what to do when we get angry [I’ve also included verse 8] (NIV): “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.”

As Selwyn says in today’s study, it’s important to mentally exit from the situation which is causing us to be angry and take the matter to God in prayer. The very action of talking the issue over with God and being still in front of His throne is one which will cool the hottest head down. It’s hard to be angry in front of our loving God. He goes onto write: “Next, wait. This involves reminding ourselves of the text we have already looked at: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord,’ (Romans 12:19). Waiting also prevents us experiencing the repercussions of ill-chosen words we might speak when angry.”

The third point he makes, is this: ” … do not fret. This means not going over the injustice in your mind because, as sue as night follows day, the more you fret and fume the stronger will be your desire to attack.”

If we do continue to fret, it means that we have not turned the matter completely over to God, because if we had – we would be trusting in Him to perfectly deal with the issue; and we would have put the matter behind us.

As is the case with many of these emotions, we can’t fully control them without God’s help – that’s why it is essential that we develop the practice of taking such issues to God, as soon as we realise that these emotions are stirring in our heart.

Consequently, today’s prayer is one we all can say: “Father, You have given me good advice and steps to follow; please enable me to put them into practice the very next time I feel unrighteous anger rising within me. In Christ’s name. I pray.”

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[I’ve been on a holiday, and took my laptop away with me so that I could continue to post on this blog. Before I left, I upgraded to the latest version of Internet Explorer – and, something was corrupted in the download, such that I could not maintain a stable Internet connection while travelling – now, back home, and my desktop computer works just fine – I should be able to catch up, over the next few days.]