Focusing on the Here and Now

God’s goal is to get you to focus on the Present and the Eternal.TodayIsDay

The Enemy’s goal is to get you to focus on the Past and the Future.

Think about that for a moment.  Where has your mind been today?  This morning?  Last night?  What has consumed your thinking and your energy?  Are you focused on the Present and the Eternal?  Or the Past and the Future?

Consider this fascinating passage from the C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:

(*If you’re not familiar with this book, it is a series of instructional letters from a senior demon to his trainee about how to best distract a new Christian and so destroy his usefulness to the Kingdom of God.)

“He [God] would therefore have them continually concerned either with Eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business [the demons] is to get them away from the Eternal and the Present.  With this in view, sometimes we tempt a human to live in the Past.  But this is of limited value… It is far better to make them live in the Future… The Future inflames hope and fear.  Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it, we make them think of unrealities… Nearly all the vices are rooted in the Future… Fear, avarice [greed], lust, and ambition look ahead… We want a man hagridden [worried or tormented] by the Future – ready to break the Enemy’s [God’s] commands in the Present if by doing so we make him think he can obtain heaven…  We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now…”

I find that when we look to the Past – if it was negative and full of our mistakes or the mistakes of others that have affected us – then we feel trapped.  We are bitter or angry or feel victimized or feel stupid and incapable.  We feel hopeless and frustrated.  The Past can be an ugly place.

However, if your Past was beautiful, and amazing and full of joy – and your Present is none of those things – then you are tempted to be discontent, discouraged, and frustrated.  Nathalie Grant wrote a song called “Painting Pictures of Egypt” describing how sometimes we look to the Past and long for all that was good, forgetting what was troublesome, and we are unable to move in the Present.

We are often tempted to live in the Future instead.  The Future is so full of unknowns.  Sometimes we have great hope for the Future, but perhaps that hope is sowing seeds of discontent in our souls.  Mostly we have fear of the Future.  We spend so much time worrying about “what if”.  The Future is unknown and – quite honestly – out of our control.  Control is but an illusion.

God’s desire is that we focus on the Present… and on that which is Eternal.

Let the Past go.  Refuse to dwell in the Future.  Embrace today.  That’s my goal for today.

“The Present is the point at which time touches Eternity.”

*Screwtape Letters, chapter XV.

Fear and Trembling on September 11

I remember September 11, 2001.  I stop every year, spend time with my husband, and thank God that he walked out of the burning Pentagon alive.

“Fear not.” It is the command most repeated in scripture. “Fear not.” We need to be reminded on an almost daily basis. God knows you. God cares for you. God is capable of protecting and providing.

Five years after I graduated from college I married an Army Special Forces officer. Later I began to struggle with mini panic attacks. I was deluged with fears that I would lose my husband. Every parachute jump, every deployment to another country, every late night phone call raised my stress level.

A wise friend intervened, telling me, “You must fight these fears – all fears are based on a lie. Find out what lies you have believed and replace them with truth.”

Indeed fear is a terrible thing. Fear robs us of our joy and peace, destroys our spiritual growth, frustrates God’s plans for us, opens the door for the enemy, and wastes our time! I searched to identify the lies that had invaded my thinking and I worked to replace those lies with truth. Verses on God’s love and concern for me, His sovereignty, His protection, and His provision covered my refrigerator door.

When my daughter was nine months old we were assigned to the Pentagon. September 11, 2001 was my husband’s second week of work. After the events in New York and then the Pentagon plane crash friends began calling to see if he was ok.  I struggled to remain calm while waiting for news. We had not even unpacked our television yet.

I sat down on the bed and opened my Bible to Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”

I also have Psalm 138:7-8 marked with a “9/11” in the margins of my Bible.  “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me, You will stretch forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.  The Lord will accomplish what concerns me, Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting, do not forsake the work of Your hands.”Dad&flag

As I waited for news I was reminded again of God’s sovereignty, His love, and His promise of provision.

It was such a long day, and the entire cell phone network had collapsed, but the call finally came – my husband was fine.

I was grateful for lessons learned about fighting fear-inducing lies with truth. The truths of God’s character are timeless, and they have kept us sane through many dangers, toils, and snares.

Photo – My husband and daughter on September 11, 2001 when he finally made it home.  I hated it when he went back to work the next day to a building still on fire…

God Will Fight For Us

In the midst of great opposition, under threat, and with rubble frustrating the rebuilding project Nehemiah stopped to pray.  He organized guards to watch over the builders (4:9).  And when he saw their fear he gave a motivational speech:

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” – Nehemiah 4:14

Indeed our GREAT and AWESOME God frustrated the plans of the opposition.  God took care of the problem for them.

How quickly we forget and collapse in a heap of tears, trembling because we are afraid!

“Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” – Nehemiah 4:20

God will fight for us.  This phrase, repeated throughout the Bible, was a promise that those who were doing what God called them to do, those who walked in obedience – would see God’s intervention on their behalf.

God will fight for us.  What does it mean to you personally?

Let us be inspired by Nehemiah’s unrelenting belief and trust in God.  He was certain that God would fulfill the vision given to him, inspite of opposition and troubles on every side.

Romans 8:31-39 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Take just a minute or two to listen to this Chris Tomlin song and let this great truth sink deep into your soul – Our God is Greater, Our God is Stronger…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlA5IDnpGhc

– Nehemiah, a Bible study by Kelly Minter.

What Are You Repeating?

Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” – Neh 4:12

After discouragement came the next enemy from within the ranks – FEAR.

True – there was a death threat issued (4:11) and the possibility of an unseen enemy sneaking inside the walls and killing workers was real.

But repeating the issue ten times over?  Really?  Someone who should be on your own side has suddenly become part of the opposition!  Family members and close friends are famous for this kind of behavior…

Outside Jerusalem concerned mothers and relatives were stressed and afraid and they ratcheted up the fear factor by repeating over and over again the danger the workers in Jerusalem faced.

But everyone is saying….  Haven’t you heard… Don’t you know… It’s not good… You should stop… Come to a safe place… Why are you being so insistent, so hard-headed… It’s dangerous for crying out loud!

Kelly Minter calls them “ancient-day re-Tweeters of Sanballat’s threats”.

She also writes, “I believe the Jews from the surrounding areas were loving and concerned citizens, but they had lost sight of what was most important: the successful rebuild of Jerusalem.  Even well-meaning people can unintentionally draw us away from God’s will in our lives.”

Discouraging words may be true.  You must choose what to do with them.

Who is repeating discouraging messages to you?  Stop listening to them.

Are you repeating discouraging messages to yourself or others?  Stop re-tweeting what is not helpful for building others up. (Ephesians 4:29).

Let us not lose our focus on the things we are called to be doing.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith… “Our great and awesome God” as Nehemiah called Him.

– Nehemiah, a Bible study by Kelly Minter.

The Intimidating Tongue (#18)

“The mouth of the wicked is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.” Proverbs 10:7

Intimidators are bullies.  They make others feel inadequate, unworthy, ashamed, fearful – any emotion that will allow them to maintain a position of dominance.  Name calling, threatening language, belittling words – and yelling.  They make you feel guilty, unappreciated, unworthy, and full of doubt.  Intimidators seek control and power.

I hope, honest to God, that none of you have to deal with an intimidator on a regular basis.  And I really pray that this is not what your marriage looks like.  It’s so tough to deal with intimidation – not impossible, but very tough.

God never meant for anyone to oppress or dominate another person.

I have been thinking about bullying recently – my daughter will start middle school next year and it’s scaring the snot out of me!  Girls can be so mean with their words.  And I pray to God that it’s not my daughter who becomes the Alpha Mean Girl…

Scripture gives us several good examples of how to respond to intimidation.

  • Nehemiah 6:1-17 where a group of men came and attempted to intimidate Nehemiah and cause him to stop rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  They used lies, accusations, slander, and exaggeration in the hopes of creating fear and discouragement.  How did Nehemiah respond?
  • I Kings 19:1-4 where Elijah has just completed a demonstration on Mt. Carmel and God smote (favorite word!) the prophets of Baal.  Then evil queen Jezebel sent death threats to Elijah.  How did he respond?
  • I Samuel 17:41-47 where David goes out to fight Goliath and Goliath hurls all kinds of intimidating insults and threats at David.  How did David respond?
  • Acts 4:18-20, 29 where Peter and John were threatened by the chief priests and elders and instructed to quit preaching about Jesus.  How did they respond?

Good passages for us to review – good insight there regarding how to respond to intimidation.

One last thought – do you use intimidation as a parenting tactic?  Yelling, threatening, making a child feel guilty, forcing a child to obey out of fear?  Many of us do it occasionally… “Get back in bed or I will beat your rear end!!” etc.  However, parenting by intimidation is not going to bring about the long-term results you desire.  Notice I said long-term.  It might work for the moment, but eventually your threats will come up empty.  Parenting by intimidation is fear-based, not consequences-based, which creates a terrible dynamic between parent and child… resentment, anger… and it’s not very effective.  You can enforce consequences for rule-breaking without creating an environment of fear.  Tricky – but possible.  You want your kids to love you and know you are fair, not fear you.

“But You have saved us from our adversaries, and You have put to shame those who hate us.  In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever.” Psalm 44:7-8

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

The day I thought I lost my husband

Recollections of September 11, 2001

“Fear not.” It is the command most repeated in scripture. “Fear not.” We need to be reminded on an almost daily basis. God knows you. God cares for you. God is capable of protecting and providing.

Five years after I left Wheaton College I married an Army Special Forces officer. Later I began to struggle with mini panic attacks. I was deluged with fears that I would lose my husband. Every parachute jump, every deployment to another country, every late night phone call raised my stress level.

A wise friend intervened, telling me, “You must fight these fears – all fears are based on a lie. Find out what lies you have believed and replace them with truth.” Indeed fear is a terrible thing. Fear robs us of our joy and peace, destroys our spiritual growth, frustrates God’s plans for us, opens the door for the enemy, and wastes our time! I searched to identify the lies that had invaded my thinking and I worked to replace those lies with truth. Verses on God’s love and concern for me, His sovereignty, His protection, and His provision covered my refrigerator door.

Later my husband relocated to the Pentagon. September 11, 2001 was his second week of work. After the plane crash friends began calling to see if he was ok and I struggled to remain calm while waiting for news. We had not even unpacked our television yet. I sat down on the bed and opened my Bible to one of the verses I had studied earlier – Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” As I waited for news I was reminded again of God’s sovereignty, His love, and His promise of provision. I was strangely calm.

The call finally came several hours later – my husband was fine.  He had been underground when the plane hit and they had evacuated to the parking lot where the threat of more planes created havoc.  He would later walk several miles home because his truck was cordoned off in the impact zone. He was fine, but how awful it was to grieve with others who suffered burns (Brian Birdwell, from our church) or the loss of a spouse (Lisa Beamer, a Wheaton alum, whose husband Todd went down with Flight 93).  

I was grateful for lessons learned earlier that year about fighting fear-inducing lies with truth. I found peace.  I also learned that God does not always spare us from harm or loss, but He is good and faithful through it all. The truths of God’s character are timeless, and they have kept us sane through many dangers, toils, and snares.

My 10 month old daughter and I welcomed him home with open arms that night, and I hated it when he went back to work the next morning while the Pentagon was still burning.  “We’re going to war,” he said and I was reminded to never take for granted something as simple as a husband coming home from work.