Self Inflicted Tyranny

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Worry is one of the most self-crippling ailments. It’s also one we have complete control over, yet it’s how we punish ourselves the most. We worry when we have too much and we worry when we don’t have enough. We ultimately find things to worry about. Much of what we worry over is way beyond our control. The mind seems to seeks it out. When one thing has passed by, we find another worry to take its place. Anxiety, stress, depression, addictions, and the use of coping devices are all manifestations of the worry plague. It’s the black death of our own making. Worry destroys us emotionally and physically. It doesn’t have to be this way. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its difficulties but it does empty today of its joy. Choose joy this day. Choose life this day. Choose hope and optimism because our God is greater than whatever we are walking through.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

*This post was born out of a very stressful time in my life. Inspired by my supportive wife and my amazing God. We all need reminders from time to time. God bless you, brothers and sisters!

Waves or Glory

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There are a lot of things to focus on in life. So much competes for our attention; some good some not so good. It’s easy for me to become consumed with things, whether it’s a task, my family, or concerns that have been weighing me down. Whatever it is, it can draw my attention for quite some time. Lately, I have had some really heavy things that have been filling my mind. I’m sure you, reader, can relate. If not now then at some point in your life. It can really seem like a tempest at times. Wave after wave crashing on or around you with no immediate signs of relenting. It never lets up so you can never get dry. You feel cold and exhausted just trying to keep your face towards the horizon. The concerns are mounting to point that you begin to wonder if they will ever become insurmountable.

That is an extremely bleak picture. One that I’ve found myself walking through at several moments over the last few years. I also believe it’s easy to get there. To let our minds drift to such dark and hopeless places. To try and carry so much weight that our knees are buckling beneath us. Weight that we were never meant to pick up in the first place. And while it’s easy to get there, it can be equally as easy to escape. Perhaps escape isn’t the best word. To ‘rise above’ seems to fit better. It all boils down to choice. Circumstances actually have nothing to do with it. Bills, health problems, difficult people, homelessness, and even the death of a loved one, can hold no power over us that we don’t surrender to it.

Recently, we finished up celebrating the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles. It was first instituted by God back in Leviticus 23, more than a few thousand years ago. But it carries every bit of the significance today that it did back then. A quick rundown of the Feast for anyone who isn’t familiar with it. In the Old Testament context, the feast reflected God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and their temporary dwelling and wandering on their journey to the promised land. It also pointed to the tabernacle that was constructed for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. Fast forward to the arrival of the Incarnate God on planet Earth. Yeshua is described as the Word of God made flesh dwelling among us. The word for dwell is literally to tabernacle. The Feast also carries with it a future importance. In the book of Revelation, it is said that Heaven and Earth will unite as one and God will make His dwelling among us forever. We spend a week celebrating all of these awesome things.

On one of the evenings, I was sitting under our makeshift tabernacle (which people construct as a symbol of the Feast) in our backyard. It was really dark out but we had strung up lights on our tabernacle so it was pretty bright underneath. As I sat there, contemplating all the heavy things life had been tossing our way, I decided to open up my bible. I picked John chapter one and here is what I read:

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light. The true light, coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God. They were born not of a bloodline, nor of human desire, nor of man’s will, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.”

John 1:1-18 TLV

Everything in that passage spoke to me, not just where I was physically, but where my life was. Here I was, surrounded by darkness, but covered beneath the light of the tabernacle. The symbolism of that was huge! If I were to walk out from under the tabernacle, I would have difficulty seeing my way around the backyard. But where I sat, everything was as clear as day.

All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

It didn’t matter one bit how dark it got outside, the light that I was in would not be changed. That’s life in Jesus. I started thinking about how I’ve been spending so much of my thought life wandering around outside of the covering of His light. I had been focusing so much on all the difficult things in my life and it was beating me down. But here I was, reading God’s word, illuminated by the light of the tabernacle, at peace.

We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My eyes had been looking at all the wrong things. Who can blame me right? Well, I can. I had felt like I was in a sinking ship, all the while missing the point of my life. When God wrapped Himself in flesh and walked on this Earth, we were given the ability to behold His glory. Not just in a past tense, but even now. At any moment, we can look at the glory of God in Yeshua. Are you kidding me? Can we even understand what that means? Apparently, I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t gazing at His glory. Not even a little bit. I was looking at everything else. I was beholding the waves crashing over the sides of my boat.

These few precious moments under my tabernacle did so much to alter where I was mentally and how I felt physically. It was one of those experiences that I’ll always remember. I was able to catch a glimpse of His glory during a fall evening in Colorado in my backyard. How amazing is that?

I’m a J.R.R Tolkien fan so sometimes I can’t help but find spiritual illustrations in the movie adaptations from his books. Here is a scene from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. To set it up a little, the town is under attack by the Dragon Smaug. It’s burning to the ground and only one man stands in the way of him killing everyone in Lake Town. Bard, the Bowman, and his son are stranded atop this tower and come face to face with the evil creature. This scene is so full of meaning. First, the world is falling apart around them. The danger is very real and there is every opportunity to despair. Everything could come crashing down at any moment. But Bard looks at his fretting and fear-filled son and says, “Stay still son, stay still.” In the moments that follow, Smaug continues to try and strike fear into their hearts and make them come to terms with their imminent demise. As the son, again shaken by the situation he finds himself in, turns to look at the approaching beast. Just then his father says, “Look at me son, you look at me.” It’s then that the son looks at his father with confidence and the surroundings seem to fade in significance. Shortly after, Bard slays the dragon Smaug with one precisely placed shot of an arrow.

I know it sounds cheesy but my eyes seriously started to well up when I watched that scene. I couldn’t help but find myself in the place of the boy, caught in life’s difficulties, wanting to look at them and fall apart at times. But then hearing the gentle voice of my Loving Father call me to be still and to look Him. In those moments, like the one I had under tabernacle that night, I am in a state of complete peace. Everything around me might as well be burning down, but I am still when I look at Him. His light beats back the darkness and the darkness will never overtake it. The key is to behold His glory and not the waves crashing around us. I’ll finish with one last scene. Only this one comes to us from the Bible. A man named Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is about to do the impossible. He is going to walk on water.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

I used to focus so much on how Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. I would talk about his lapse of faith and how he focused on the waves and wind rather than Jesus, and that’s when he got into trouble. And all those things are true. And all of us have been Peter more times then we care to count. But what I want to leave you with is what Peter said when he found himself sinking and how Jesus responded.

…beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…

If you find yourself sinking because of the pressures of life cry out, “Lord save me,” and that’s exactly what He’ll do.

Peace brothers and sisters

Bearing the Weight

I’ve spent a good portion of my life  exercising. Some of that has involved lifting weights. One thing that every weight lifter knows is that you can’t lift heavy weights with open hands. A person has to close their grip around the bar or dumbbell for optimal strength. 

Sometimes I think we treat life like lifting weights. So many things add heaviness to our hearts. Think about those heavy loads in your own life. They could be bills, a career, worries over your kids, the health of a loved one, or even the plight of sexual slavery all over the  world? Chances are it’s not just one thing. Life can get really, really heavy!

Unfortunately we wait to the point where we simply can’t bear it any more. We wait until our knees buckle beneath us. If the weight of life is so heavy that it is bringing you to your knees, there’s actually no better place to be.

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.

-Abraham Lincoln

Part of going through life is to keep our hands open. What does that even look like? Holding loosely to possessions, careers, or our money? Maybe coming to terms with the fact that there is only one sovereign in the world and we aren’t Him? How about loving those close to us the best we can every single day because we just don’t know how many more we’ll get? It could be as simple as remembering that every meal we’ve ever had, and every warm roof we’ve lived under didn’t come from us but from a God who takes joy in taking care of us. It might be confiding in a friend and asking someone to pray with us. 

Holding on to things so tightly comes from a disposition of control. We keep our worries and struggles buried deep inside, because we feel as though we can carry them on our own. But no weight is meant to be carried alone.

In life, just as with weight lifting, we get to choose which weights we pick up. Even the smartest lifters have a spotter, because they know that at one point the weight may become too heavy to carry. Hopefully we have spotters in our friends and family, but if we don’t, we have a constant spotter, one who can actually do the heavy lifting for us. 

Maybe it’s time to begin more days on our knees rather than waiting until we utterly collapse. A humble life is one with open hands and bended knees. The God we serve once carried the greatest weight of all, our sins, and He did so that we wouldn’t have to any longer. 

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

He can handle the weight of our lives. More than that, He wants to! There is no weight limit or maxing out for God. He can take it all. 

“Pile your troubles on GOD ’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭55:22 ‭(MSG‬)

Stress is a choice

So often I hear Christians pray to experience God’s peace (I’ve been one of them) and joy when all along we’re the ones that decide to either experience it or not. The peace of Christ is always extended. When we don’t feel at peace it’s not because of some disconnect on His end, or because He’s withholding His spiritual peace from us, it’s because somehow we’ve forgotten who He is and lack in the trust that He’s for us. 

We don’t want to admit it but anxiety and stress only happen because we lack in faith and choose to focus on the problems of life instead of the Savior. We have lots of reasons to be overwhelmed during life whether it’s health reasons, death, money, etc…but knowing Jesus can overshadow all of that. When we find ourselves stressed we may want to spend more time in our bibles, more time in prayer, more time rejoicing, more time worshipping, and less time worrying. After all, stress shortens life but Jesus gives it. The choice is ours. God bless brothers and sisters. Be encouraged in Him!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (NIV)