Fear not!

Isn’t it exciting to start a New year, and a New decade? There is comfort in tradition and even in routine, but it’s always exciting to start something new. Like the fun I had this year, working at changing my lifestyle to be more and more “zero waste”, etc. It’s always fun to say “from now on we’re going to….” and try doing something differently than you’re used to. In fact, we even make notes to change up some of our traditions, for next Christmas.

Perhaps that’s part of what it will feel like when Jesus comes back to earth and makes “all things new”. But… all things? I confess, that seems a little difficult, from this present, earthly perspective. Though I know it’ll actually be much easier when the time comes.

For now, it’s time to think more about “fearless”, my One Word for 2020. There are SO many scripture verses for that! Even in the Christmas story, there are an awful lot of Fear not’s. Perhaps a good way to start, is to “examine” myself, and make a list of what I might actually have fear about.

  • That when the “end time” comes, my loved ones will ask me, “Why didn’t you tell us?! Why weren’t you more insistent that we listen? Why did you worry about feeling uncomfortable, with such a life-or-death question?”
  • That someday there will be things I’ll wish I’d been doing, instead of being so comfortable all the time.
  • That I’ll soon become a huge, fat, “blimp”–not only fear of the health problems, but of the ugliness.
  • That not being able to resist temptation means I’m not really allowing God to work in my life.
  • Fear of not getting enough rest: this is a new discovery (edited Jan. 4), since every time I think about doing some new regular task (e.g. volunteer work), there’s a fear that I can only explain by the fact that “it may cause me to be over-tired/over-worked”. (Also, that my family may be neglected, but that’s a *good* fear!)
  • Fear of my son’s unhappiness: being oppressed by too much work, loneliness, or health problems (though we’ve had some practice at dealing with that last one!); fear of him not being aware of how much God loves him (knowing that in your mind and being aware of it in your life are two different things).
  • Fear of making a fool of myself, when/if I try to share the Gospel.
  • Fear of death: I believe that God will supply the “ticket” (as Corrie Ten Boom describes it) when the time comes, giving strength and even enabling me to look forward to meeting Him face to face; but there’s also the death of others that one needs those tickets for!
  • Fear of an opportunity passing me by, of enjoying something… more about that below.

I think that’s it! Perhaps I’ll have to edit this later, if there are any more. One of them might have been “fear of wiggly, yucky things”, like maggots, worms, etc. But I’m not really afraid of them, I just don’t like them! Also, the fear of not getting something done that needs to be done: I act like I’m afraid of this sometimes, but actually, when I think about it, the realization usually dawns that it’s really not that important, and that God is in control anyway.

I came across an interesting quote about that last fear on the list. “When we think that this life is all there is and our time is running out, we live with the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). When we believe that we will be raised imperishable, we are freed to labour for the Lord without growing weary.” (from Prayermate advent devotional) That fits so well with my fear of enjoying to much comfort (sensual pleasures)–the second point above. I’m thinking that a lot of these things would be “solved”, if I could focus more on that truth of “being raised imperishable”. So this also connects with the verses I’ll use for memorizing this month, which is from that article I quoted in my last post.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

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Thank you Lord!

It’s so neat when that happens…

I’ve been praying about my One Word for next year. An option that came to mind, is “fearless”. So I asked God to make it clear to me if this should be the word, or to bring something else to mind. Even this morning I prayed that, and then thought, “Of course, it’s silly of me to want some kind of supernatural confirmation all the time.”

So look what was in my morning’s reading:

Jesus took our nature in Bethlehem, to die our death in Jerusalem — all that we might be fearless in our city today. Yes, fearless. Because if the biggest threat to my joy is gone, then why should I fret over the little ones? How can you say (really!), “Well, I’m not afraid to die but I’m afraid to lose my job”? No. No. Think!

If death (I said, death! — no pulse, cold, gone!) if death is no longer a fear, we’re free, really free. Free to take any risk under the sun for Christ and for love. No more enslavement to anxiety.

If the Son has set you free, you shall be free, indeed!

“Fearless” is not something one comes across that often, in morning readings!

Not that I’m a particularly fearful sort of person, but maybe that’s because there hasn’t been a lot I’m up against to make me so; or I just don’t take time to think about it.

So, looks like I already know what my One Word will be for 2020. But more about it later.

If you want the whole John Piper article, find it here. It would be good to study this article more, and make more notes.

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in this world

One of the hardest things for me, in my Christian living (perhaps it could be called “my weakness”), is my enjoyment of sensual pleasure: eating, sleeping, photos & other things pleasant to look at, even the ones for the mind–puzzles, books, etc. The strong desire for comfort, and enjoyment. I’m always asking myself if I’m able to really sacrifice, and trying to do it and usually failing (think diet & exercise, for one example).

Perhaps just carrying out my daily duties when I don’t feel like it is a sacrifice, I say to myself. Or, it could be a cop-out. Jesus did comment on how hard it was for the rich young ruler (who had every comfort) to enter the Kingdom of God, though “all things are possible with God”.

But, aren’t we supposed to enjoy everything as God’s gifts, as Paul says? Within reason (meaning, according to God’s will), yes. However, it’s so easy to get distracted and simply forget that they are God’s gifts. This is one of the reasons that I wish I’d remember to say grace. It would also help during times of distress, help us to remember our blessings–which usually leads to the discovery that there are many wonderful, positive things to be thankful for in spite of the negatives.

Yet I keep coming back to the word sacrifice–“bearing your cross” and all that. Christmas is a time of so much delight and enjoyment, for me, it feels like I should balance that with a reminder about living sacrificially… thinking about the many who are not in very good circumstances for the season. Soooo…. here is my memory verse for this month, right from the mouth of Jesus:

“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.

The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

Yeah, don’t like that one at all. Not the best one for the Christmas season. But–Jesus’ own words! I destroy my own life by loving it. That comes through when you’re so very disappointed about something not going the way it should, robbing you of some comfort or enjoyment or whatever. But then it comes to me… “if it dies, it produces much grain.” Oh the joy in that “much grain”! Oh the joy of feeling better after being sick for awhile (small example); oh the joy of experiencing God’s provision of strength, wisdom, presence through the fire! There’s nothing wrong in looking forward to joy. The ultimate example is Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross”.

Recently I’ve come across the truth that reminding myself of God’s presence within, will help me to endure, persevere in God’s will, resist temptation, etc. (the discipline aspect vs only the comfort aspect). It should help me not to “love my life”, so much that loving others (as Jesus loved) gets neglected.

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Hope is everywhere

If I post so soon again after the last one, maybe that will “catch me up”? Just have to follow up on that last post, because that word “hope” still keeps coming up these days! Last Sunday I had cause to remind myself of that lesson “things will not always be like this” (but will get better, though it may take awhile); because Sam had to miss church again, after about a month of missing… And then the scripture for the sermon had all those “hope” reminders–“…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,” (Hebrews 6:18, 19)

Turned out, I didn’t even have to wait long… Sam’s cold is much better, and his work situation as well! (He even made it to church today.) I’ve also noticed that the verses I chose would have been better to start a verse before:

“But this I call to mind, and there fore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;” (Lamentations 3:21, 22)

So I think I’ll change my memory-work, since it seems the song just insists on being in my mind whenever I try the other reference (vs 22-24). Neat to see though, that Lamentations 3:21-24 is framed at either end with hope verses.

I’ve also come across quotations about fruit, so that’s still working. It’s way too early to think about next year’s One Word, and anyway “hope” is just too common/easy. It’s a great Christmas word though!

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Hope is always there

Time to post before another month goes by! Those were great verses about giving and God’s generosity, resulting in the fruit of praise, but I’ve certainly had trouble working on them… can’t even remember the reference. Oh well, this “habit” was only started up again because someone suggested that even if you don’t actually get the verses memorized, the “trying” to do it is a good activity.

Last month didn’t even seem that busy, but lately there’s more “excuse” for not blogging & memorizing, what with terrible colds, strep throat… starting way back with a wedding in Toronto, and trying to help Sam endure his busy work schedule (somehow, but of course, one can’t do it for him!)

I’ve sure been enjoying Lynn Austin’s historical fiction books. Even though she has a recurring theme of people/Christians being mad at God, and coming to grips with deep suffering, each story is quite different! Some centre on poor people, some on rich, from Bible times to WWII stories… from the perspectives of women in the work force, older Jewish men, even children’s perspectives sometimes, slaves, doctors… they all have a love story of course, but the last one I read focused more on the relationship between two very rich sisters.

I could go on and on about her writing… but to focus on the latest one I’m reading (While We’re Far Apart), a certain theme (one of the many in the book) has come up that was actually in my mind before/lately. That in spite of all the difficult things that happen, God always provides something to give you a spark of hope, even if it’s hard to notice sometimes. Sometimes, you have to forcefully look for those “sparks”. In the story it was the dog coming home after being lost, the children providing company for the older Jewish man, and other things like that.

I read somewhere else lately that God is always speaking to us, if we would only be open to see it, and this is something that I’ve generally been able to enjoy (unless things get very busy). Just recently, I’ve felt that God was saying that you can always look at things with the perspective of saying: “things will not always be like this” (hard). That gives hope. In fact, it’s also my experience, at my age, that things do change, no matter how long they seem to go on.

Of course, sometimes we don’t want things to change, and the key in that case, is to look for the thing that is better about the change, or how to make it better, even in some small way. (Like pretty thanksgiving plates, when you have a smaller number for dinner.) In these times, it’s so wonderful to remember that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”–even when it seems like He is not there, not loving, whatever, we can know that He IS there, and his love never ceases! That’s why I’ve decided to make the following verse my next one to memorize, even though I’ve mostly already memorized it from the song. :D

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

It would be easy enough to “make” this fit for the theme of “fruit” (the fruit of God’s love is my hope?) But maybe I should just leave it alone… after all, I’ve even been failing at eating fruit, though I haven’t given up hope!

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Fruit: love, praise

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16, 17)

Thinking about this verse… the “whatever you ask the Father” seems to be referring to the work of bearing fruit, that Jesus mentions just before. Just like Cheri told us to let her know what we need for our “work” of teaching the kids on Wednesday mornings.

We’re going to bear fruit that abides, because this work that He has called us into is HIS work, and (as just stated), he provides everything we need for it.

So… what does that last part have to do with the rest (“These things I command you, so that you will love one another”)? It hits me that Jesus said in another place, “they will know you are my followers by your love for one another”. Then my devil’s advocate asks: what about loving others, not just one another? (You often see the interpretation that Scripture seems to emphasize that Christians love other Christians.) And don’t other religions also have love for each other?

I think the key to the kind of love that will “bear fruit”/attract others, is to have the perspective that anyone has the potential to be in God’s Family—love them because of that. Also, love them because they are made in God’s image. Come to think of it, it is definitely the loving, all-inclusive, sacrificial response of Christians that seems to be a witness in times of crisis or disaster. Love that “produces fruit”.

Of course, loving other Christians is important in that we need to encourage each other, help each other grow, and support each other in our individual calling. That also would produce fruit, as we see the result of God working out his plan in our efforts.

Now for the next verse!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving—yes, time and talent, but also resources/money. That’s always the last thing people really want to give, and apparently this is a key area that shows how much we love God, and shows our faith in the fact that he has provided and will provide. It was an email from our church about giving that got me thinking, but these past few days I’ve also come across it in my regular morning reading:

“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11) See how God giving to us results in the fruit of us giving to others (and it’s a blessing to experience being able to give), which results in the fruit of praise back to God, which is the ultimate purpose for everything! Because praising God is a blessing in itself.

And of course, a verse about seed-time and harvest is perfect for September!

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Interesting twist on my One Word, “fruit”, and on me trying to eat more of it: someone who cannot eat fruit these days. That is sad for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that this is the season of fruit. (Note: read previous post, about suffering.)

Through all of this, I seem to keep getting this reminder: “Cathie, you know you’re not very patient about waiting. You’re always in a rush for things.” This is an encouragement that “it will come, it will just take time”. And you know what the Fruit of waiting is. Strength! (“Strength will come as we wait upon the Lord”… see Isa. 40:28. Or, does that mean strength will come FOR the waiting? Either way.)

Although I didn’t do very well at memorizing the current verse (about work, endurance, hope), it’s time for the next one. Not that I’m totally settled on which verses to memorize, from John 15:1-17… but many of these I’ve already memorized from years ago. The reason I’ve decided on this scripture, is because of a post I came across yesterday, that seems to fit so well for the “fruit” theme. And I already knew that I’d be thinking of these verses eventually, for it.

“…ask what you will, and it will be done for you…” This part of the reference is also good for this time!

These verses talk about having results, or “producing fruit”, so part of that has to do with asking for things according to God’s will revealed in scripture. The reason to have results, is to point to God, so more and more people will know they are loved by Him: “This is how my Father shows who he is”. Jesus says, “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.”

Sounds great!

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Hope & Suffering

You would think Hope doesn’t have much to do with “fruit” (my One Word), and the verse I’m choosing this month–somewhere titled “Work and Endurance How-to”–doesn’t have much to do with Hope. Which is why you need to “stay tuned”. ;)

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3) Now you can see the work-hope relation. As far as fruit, you actually don’t have to think far to realize that hope can produce fruit/results. This verse is talking about work prompted by love, but for those times when the feeling of love wears thin, hope in Christ will (hopefully :P) take over and helps us to keep on keeping on (“endurance”), with that work… that produces fruit.

What is “hope in the Lord Jesus Christ”, exactly? Some people tend to think of it as hope in the afterlife, of being in heaven when we die… and that’s it. We must endure all kinds of suffering on earth, but we can endure it because of the hope that suffering will be no more, in that Day of heaven. That is true, but there is SO much more to it!

I’ve been thinking lately, of the myriad things that we have hope for, because of following Christ:

  • that God hears our prayers, and knows our every groan
  • that He knows what’s best, and sometimes answers “no” because of that
  • that He has an ultimate plan, and is always working towards that plan; directing our lives and involving us in His purposes
  • that He is able to give us joy and peace, amidst the turmoil
  • that His resurrection power is able to conquer even our own inadequacies, no matter how long it takes, or how many times we have to keep asking for forgiveness
  • that His creation is always there to help us respond with worship
  • that His character is worthy of worship; He never changes
  • that His Word is able to inspire faith, and reveal truth, every time we read it

I could go on and on! Maybe I’ll keep coming back to add more…

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fruit, fruit, fruit

What I memorized last month was “But I say, if you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… [skip a bunch of verses].. If we live by the Spirit, we should also keep in step with the Spirit. [or, walk by the Spirit].” (Galatians 5:16 and 25)

I kept wondering if this meant that I’m not walking/living by the Spirit because of how I so often give in to the temptation to have another cookie (or other such things–the “desires of the flesh”). But as I did the study of surrounding verses (the kind of study recommended by John Piper, that I talked about in my last post), the meaning that came across to me is a little different than that. (And remember that “desires of the flesh” simply means the desires of the “sinful nature”. So every desire of our “flesh”, speaking literally, isn’t necessarily sin.)

These chapters are the ones where Paul is railing about the “Judaisers” who are telling the Gentile Christians that they have to follow Jewish law and be circumcised, etc. He lists a bunch of terrible sins, saying those people will not be going to heaven, I think because these sins make it obvious that they don’t have the Spirit within, they haven’t accepted the plan of salvation in Christ. And then he talks about the “fruit of the Spirit”. He also talks about the law (like, being circumsized). I think he’s saying that people of the Spirit (Christians/Christ followers), don’t need the law, because their love for their Lord just naturally works itself out in those fruit, and in not doing those other “terrible sins” (my words). In other words, the Spirit within keeps reminding them of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for them, and also convicts them if they give in to temptation. (That last phrase means they’re not perfect of course, but “in training”. Even Paul talked about the “flesh”, or “sinful nature” always at war within himself/Christians (see verses 16-18 of this 5th chapter of Galatians). Remember that there wouldn’t be any struggle if the Spirit wasn’t there–we’d just give in.)

Now to speak to the verse about the fruit of the Spirit, since “fruit” IS my One Word for this year. There seem to be a couple of slightly different applications of this verse. Some people take the list (what is it, 9 of them?) and try to work on each one, or the ones that need improving for them. But at the end of this verse Paul says “against such things there is no law.” To me, “such things” means this list of fruit is not a comprehensive list–there are others. I think he may be saying here, that these fruits are the natural out-workings of the Holy Spirit, not something we have to “try hard” for. Someone has said they are not necessarily qualities, but gifts that the Spirit works in each of us.

But, I still wish I could lose weight–eat less and exercise more… though I’m kind of tired of trying, and almost giving up hope for that. This is perhaps my “thorn in the flesh”, that keeps me humble!

Next verse: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.” Proverbs 18:20

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look and look and look

My verse for last month was: “But how can people call for help, if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust, if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear, if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?” (Romans 10:14-15)

After I chose it, it kept coming up “everywhere”, so of course it made me wonder what God was trying to say to me. Although I certainly wish I could talk to my loved ones more about Christ, I think it was more to confirm the things I’m already doing–like Perspectives marking (which would be the “sending” part), as well as helping others learn more about Him (small group and Wednesday kids). Also, perhaps it’s a reminder about things I’d formerly determined to do but have slacked on lately: sharing scripture, using a photo to highlight scripture sometimes, etc. Although, it doesn’t really mean that much to people when they are not open to it (via the Holy Spirit). Maybe that’s not for me to decide, when/if people are open. I know it’s meant a lot to the odd person “here and there” before.

Next! My One Word for this year has been losing interest for me. This often happens when I determine to eat more “fruit”. It lasts for awhile, but then… Of course, my new “obsession” is partly to blame for it, and there’s been a temptation to actually change the One Word to “zero”, or “waste” or something. I’m not the only one! Apparently, that Marketplace episode got to a lot of people. Which is great, because hopefully we’ll start seeing some changes about single use plastic, etc.

But, God always comes through when I ask for guidance. Always! I’ve been reading John Piper’s book about how to read the Bible, and one thing he talks about is spending time looking at a passage vs going through it quickly. Of course, I’ve been doing that for years–reading a few verses over and over again each day, before going on to the next ones. But I’m not sure I wasn’t just enjoying the “turn of phrase”; or as he says, enjoying the “gems” vs seeing the “connections”. He describes how a student (a biology student, and in another case, art students) was instructed to look at something for hours, and as time goes by they see more and more than what they saw at first. In fact, I’ve done this before a few times, when waiting somewhere, or riding in a bus or something. Noting the detail on another passenger’s purse, what shoes they’re wearing, etc. It’s fun!

Now to try this on scripture! Of course, you have to make sure you’re not seeing things that aren’t there. John Piper says you need to ask questions, like “what does the author intend”, etc., and look closely at the grammar, etc. I already find that there’s soooo much wonderfulness in scripture, but this will be fun. And of course, to match my One Word, it has to be the verses about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. You can’t just take one or two verses though, the whole context of verses must be considered. So I’m not sure yet exactly which ones will be for memorizing… maybe I’ll find a few!

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