July 25, 2016

Fear or Faith?

It is a good Monday. Yes, it is July 25, 2016, and that means that there are five more weeks until school begins for me at GCU. I am starting to panic a bit, given the fact that I am not ready to begin school AND the fact that I have so much work left to do on my proposal. Still, it is a good start to the new week, and I am thankful that I am home and able to do whatever I desire to do. Plus, the Lord has me well covered, I mean well covered. I may not feel 100% well covered today, but I know it is true. Yes, I know it is true. My faith doesn't rest on what I think or feel, but rather my faith rests IN whom I believe, and in the trust that comes from knowing and believing the truth about God, His Son, and the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yes, my faith is in Jesus, even if I struggle today with not feeling 100% faithful. Let me explain...

Is it Fear or is it Faith?

It is one of those days where my life and circumstances seem to hit hard up against reality. I woke up this morning after passing a relatively peaceful night. However, I did have one very strange dream. I dreamed I bought two cars, both white. One was a Ford Mustang and the other a Toyota Corolla. Both cars were used, but they looked pristine, brand new. The Mustang was an older model. Not vintage, but a model from the 1990s. The Corolla was likewise, older, but still very sharp looking. I had purchased them from a used car lot, not sure where, but on a whim. I was driving by the lot with my Dad, and I saw them sitting by the front of the road. I stopped, and next thing I know is that I had bought them. I had taken them home, well, to where I thought was "home." At first it was a big lot, like a gravel parking lot, but later it appeared to be a rural place with a big garage or shop. I remember driving and parking on the gravel lot, and then next, I was inside the "shop" or garage, and I was going through the car, listening to the radio, checking all the buttons on the dash board. When I was sitting inside the Mustang, I started to notice things under the seat, behind car mats, etc. I quickly realized that what had been pristine on the outside (as in the car itself), was turning out to be filled with junk, weeds, clutter, old pieces of garbage on the inside. It was like someone had been living in the car, and the person who sold it to me had just cleaned it up on the outside so it looked like 'new.' As I cleaned the car out, I remember someone coming up to ask me how much I had paid for it. I said I had paid "$3500," which seemed like a reasonable amount for a car like this. Later, as I was moving the car, I heard a gasping sound from the engine. I thought,"Oh, no! This car is junk!" Then, I woke up. What in the world could this dream possibly mean?

This morning, I am still scratching my head, wondering what the dream meant. Was it random images, a series of disconnected events tied together in my head like a movie or comic strip? Or did the dream have meaning? Could it be the result of my inner turmoil, my financial struggles, or my worries over my financial situation? I don't know, I just don't know. The weird part was that I didn't have any panicked feelings while I was dreaming. I also didn't wake up panicked. It was like I accepted the fact that the car wasn't what it seemed, that the outside and inside mismatch was to be expected. Furthermore, I was proud of the fact that I had bought two cars for the price of one, and that my son, "now had his own car." It seemed like the entire ordeal was a good thing, but once I started to dig below the surface, I realized that perhaps I had been "taken" by the seller. Even though I figured as much, that I had fallen for the outside appeal, I still felt good that I had found a "diamond in the rough," so to speak. I mean, I always wanted a Mustang. I always hoped some day to have one. I really was excited about having this car, just for show, just to enjoy, just to use on occasion. The other car was practical. I remember thinking that the reason I bought the Corolla was because it was a good practical car. It would get really good gas mileage, and it would be dependable. I always wanted a Corolla too. My friend in high school had one, and I loved her little car. It was white, and a 4-speed. She bought an entry level car and had fat tires with mag wheels on it. It really was super cool. Of course, I never got either car in high school or college. I did get my baby blue Spitfire, and no other car could surpass that one, for sure. It was another "looks good on the outside, but tastes rotten on the inside" deal. Still, I treasured that car, enjoyed it, and was sad when it finally was sold for the cost of the new tires on it.

So what do I make of this dream? What is the story it hopes to tell to me (the real story, I mean?)

Things Aren't Always as They Seem

Yes, I think the moral of my dream is simply that things are not always as they seem. You know, metaphorically speaking. My life can be summarized in the same way today. What seems good on the outside, isn't always accurate of what is going on inside my life. I have hidden fears, deep secrets, and yes, even things I am not being honest about (truthful) with myself and others. My life looks pretty scrubbed out, clean and fresh, when in reality, there is a lot of dirt hiding in the crevices and cracks that make up the truth of my life.

The writer of Hebrews 4:13 says, "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." This reminds us that while we may try to hide the truth of our life from others, the Lord God sees everything. He knows the heart of man, and He knows our innermost secrets. We can try to hide from the world, but we cannot hide from the Lord. As such, when we do try to hide from God that which is already known, we lie to ourselves. Or a better way to say that is that we fabricate a story to tell us what we want to hear. We want to justify and rationalize our thoughts, our feelings, our inner emotions so that our world, as we picture it, makes sense to us. This presumes that our worldview is correct, when the Bible tells us that the only worldview that is accurate is the one that begins and ends with God. Thus, as we try to tell ourselves what we want to hear, we often find that we must create new stories to replace the older, more faulty ones. In this way, we choose to create an opaque screen through which we can hide our vices and our sins from God and from others. Instead, the Word calls us to live transparent lives, to come clean, confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in Romans, 8:1-8 (AMP):
Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man’s nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son],  so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power].  For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].  Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever];  the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God.
In order to live a life that is pleasing to God, Christians must live according to the Spirit of Truth. In this way, believers in Christ are now living in a way that is no longer guided by the fleshly desires, but rather they are living in a way that is guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are able to live in peace, to "set their minds on the...will and purpose" of God.

This morning as I think about my dream, I realize that for the most part, the story itself is pure fabrication. It made very little sense when taken in context or as a whole. But, when looked through the microscope, the lens of clarity, I realize that the real story was about not judging God things with frail human eyes. This means that I am not to think that God's way, His purpose and His plan will look good on the outside, yet be rotten on the inside. No, that is what comes with the world's way, the fleshly way. In God's provision, He only provides good gifts, good fruit to His children. Thus, it is imperative to not think of our life or our circumstances as being inherently bad, even when they appear to be "good on the outside." I guess what I am trying to say is that we tend to view the gifts of God the way we view human gifts. We take everything with a grain of salt. It might look tasty, but it could really be bitter on the inside. This is not faith, but fear at work in us. Instead, if God has given us something good, we must believe in faith that it is good through-and-through. He will not lead us and guide us in His purpose and His will and then leave us with rotten, dirty, or broken resources whereby we cannot expect to do what He asks us to do. No, this is not our heavenly Father's nature at all. Jesus said something similar when He said, "You fathers--if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead?" (Luke 11:11 NLT). In context, this passage (verses 9-13) is worth reading again,
“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”
Note that it is Jesus who says that the Father will give His children the BEST gift, the Holy Spirit, when we persistently ask for Him. Thus, it reminds us that God knows what we need most, and it isn't always tangible, material, or other types of resources. Most often, we need a fresh in-filling of the Holy Spirit in order to withstand the temptations with which our enemy seeks to ensnare us.

Today, as I reflect on these passages, I remember that when I am frail, weak, and unable to produce one ounce of faith, my inner Helper and Companion, the Holy Spirit is with me, and He is able to produce the faith I need to remain strong. He is able to keep me steady, to not let me sink deep into fear, but rather, He keeps my eyes firmly fixed on the Lord, on my Savior, Jesus the Christ. I may struggle with doubts, with fear, and yes, with worry, but my best FRIEND is the Holy Spirit, the One who knows exactly what I need this moment, and the One whom has been given to me as a guide, a mentor, a counselor, and a friend. Yes, I need the Spirit of Truth, to comfort me and to remind me that God is in control of the events in my life, and that not everything I see is true. Not every rotten thing is good, and not every good thing is rotten. May I remember this story today, O Lord, so that I can remain faithful, trusting, and relying upon you for your good, good work in and through my life today. Selah!
Remembering Whom We Serve

As I close out this blog today, I remember that I serve a mighty God. Just as David remembered the strength of the Lord, His God, when he faced the giant, Goliath, so too must we remember that our God is more powerful and more able to accomplish His will than any other worldly or spiritual being. Yes, there is no one more mighty than our God. Thus, when I feel low, dejected, or overwhelmed by the nature of the events in my life, I must run to the ROCK that is more powerful, more steadfast, and more immovable than any other person or thing. In Psalm 61:1-4 (AMP) we read,

Hear my cry, O God;
Listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed andweak;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help].
For You have been a shelter and a refuge for me,
A strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

We must remember that it is our God, the Lord Jehovah, who is the ROCK, our shelter and our refuge. Today, Lord, may I run to my ROCK, to my shelter and my strong tower so that I can feel safe and no longer afraid of the enemy as he tempts me and taunts me. Give me this day your strength, O Lord, so that I can be strong, so I can be faithful, so I can remain resilient and do the work, the important and good work you ask me to do this good day. Selah!

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