The Cure for Fear Lies in 2 Simple Antidotes

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We moved homes in 2010 from city-life to country -life and I was in for a big surprise.  Up until then I had been raised in a big city and never lived in any other type of environment except a big city.  The lights, the noise, the bustle, yes and even the pollution (that you don’t even realize you miss until you move to the middle of NO WHERE) were all craved luxuries.  I’ll preface that by mentioning we had lived in a rural town, rural as in it only had 5,000 people in the entire town, a Piggly Wiggly, and a Walmart. We moved right after college  due to my husband’s first job.  We tried to get out of there as fast as we got there. Because again, I am (at heart) a city-girl. Ain’t no shame in that.

But after moving back to the city we began to miss the quiet of the country, the stars ( I had no idea you could actually see them so close or at least they appear that way when smog is not invading the view) and the space, oh the space and need I mention the privacy.  Oh! the irony of hindsight!

So, naturally we decided to buy in the country, a beautiful home on 2 acres with wide open spaces and a little creek to boot in a small country town in Texas not too far from city life and yet definitely rural enough you could hear cows mooing and giving birth (as I’ve come to understand the noise to be).  Maybe we were growing up.  It was time to give this country thing a chance.

The first day of move in I excitedly began unpacking and putting my beautiful country kitchen together. As I opened our first box and reached in to grab a pot I suddenly jumped 10 feet back (yes, 10 feet people, ok, don’t argue!) I screamed and ran across the other side of the house and I would not come out of the room I ran to.  I saw a spider. The size of a shoe. Yes a shoe! Listen, size doesn’t really matter…in this situation.  It was a spider and I had never seen one like that before.  I called my dad (not sure why, he lived 8 hours away not sure what I thought he could actually do for me at that point) I was sure he had some reason I had to hear however.  He always does. He’s one of those dads.  He did manage to calm me down and did remind me that it wouldn’t kill me.  He also reminded me that it is probably more afraid of me (remember those annoying little talks when you were little and you were afraid of mice and roaches and they’d {the voice of reasons in your life} would tell you that they’re more afraid of you.  I wasn’t buying that one but it made logical sense. I eventually came out of the room and mustered up the will power to get some windex and windex him to death. Eventually they were EVERY WHERE. EVERY. WHERE. After an entire week of knots in my stomach and anxiety and missing the city,  I had to figure out who these spiders were and what they wanted with me.  Found out actually they aren’t poisonous at all, they weave the most beautiful webs and they actually help me out by killing and eating more gross things and pesky things.  So I decided we’d be distant friends. I overcame my fear. Her name? The Orb spider.

When I read the Apostle Paul’s story in Acts 21 I thought about fear in a very real way…not like my pathetic city-girl fear of spiders way.

Acts chronicles Paul’s journey from Christian slayer to Christian martyr.  His transformation is no doubt the invisible hand of God at work in a man whose purpose in life was to glorify God by telling ordinary people about the extraordinary love of Jesus, to give the European and Asian world a taste of the love of a Savior even unto death.  He faced shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, black-balling, stoning, hate and eventual death.  He always knew he was going to die for Christ.  One of those most astonishing things he says is in verse 12. His friends are crying because he tells them he might not see them anymore.  He’s headed to Jerusalem and the Jews want him dead.  Paul is forewarned of his imminent death and yet knows he has to face Jerusalem.

And he says, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? “

(Not sure bout you but I’d be weeping and bawling, wrapping myself in my friends arms, throwing myself on the floor, trying to escape reality, it would be an outright drama scene) but he continues,

“I am ready not only to bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I believe that Paul just like Jesus feared death.  But fear was overcome with 2 powerful weapons: knowledge and perspective

  1. Knowledge (of the “unknown”): he knew the “unknown” possibility because God prepared his heart for it.  I believe God wants to prepare our hearts for the bumps and bruises, sufferings of life and yes even death if we let him.  When fear grips us it’s usually because we have no knowledge of our purpose in Him.  Know your purpose and fearful situations won’t keep you from walking in {His} strength.
  2.   Perspective: Paul knew what was important.  He saw life as a gain and he saw death as a gain.  If death is the worse thing that could happen to us then the outcome is pretty victorious. I’d take one day in heaven over a million here. However if you are on the other side and you don’t know what the outcome of your death will be then fear can be crippling.

Let’s live like Paul!

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know.…”

What is your hope in fearful situations?  What’s your biggest fear? Do you get crippled with fear?  How do you handle fear? What steps do you take?

 

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Grace Defined

grace-cloulds-and-rainI am sure you hear it every where too, the 5 letter word thrown around in Christian circles, the one that makes your shoulders less tense, drop, relax, makes you take a deep sigh of relief, the famous little word, most delightful, feel-goodish, excusing little word, written in pallet board that adorns our homes, the one used to calm the chocoholic inside all of us, when we’ve indulged way too much and need just a little grace on the calories (wink, wink).  It’s the little word that excuses you when you’ve just bought your 61st pair of shoes that you DIDN’T NEED.

The word grace is a word that contains power and honor and authority.  I’ve been bothered by the humdrum way we use it and throw it around.  So I decided to probe and dig deep and see what grace really means.

In scripture we see 2 types of grace.  In Esther 2:17 King Xerxes finds grace {favor} in Queen Esther.  This type of grace is man-given and man-earned.  It has two criteria, one is subjective and the other objective.  The king found favor in the queen because of her beauty (subjective) and she met the kings criteria (objective).  She earned his grace.

In the New Testament we see a new type of grace. A grace that is God-given, impossible to be man-earned.

In John 1:17 we see the definition of grace and the difference between earning grace and it being given to us despite our condition.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received the Ten Commandments through Moses that revealed we can not earn grace because we aren’t “good” enough.  Hence, addictions like shoe shopping and chocolate eating. And fill in the blank with your own issues (we all got ’em). The grace that Jesus brought was this:His favor (taken from the greek work used in John 1:17:charis pronounced har-es) for humanity because of simple, unadulterated, love.  Not earned- given simply because He made you.  You are His even if you don’t accept that yet.  It is His spirit impressed on our spirit that influences us toward Christ and the Christian faith- the enabler of strength that pushes us to live out love even when people don’t deserve it, nor ask for it, nor think they need it.  It is the spiritual stuff that has hands that support us  from behind as we trudge through this life in the darkness, as we walk through quiet deserted valleys, and high mountains without jumping off a cliff.  And yes the stuff that that changes a shoe addict into a recovered shoe addict.

There is one small but big caveat to this grace.  And it is accepting it.  Grace is a noun.  It’s a {spiritual} thing.  It is something you can accept or you can reject.  But you gotta do something with it.  It’s the gift that keeps on showing up, like the image of the fruit cake except good tasting.  It’s the gift that will keep on popping up on your door step that you gotta figure out what to do with, cause it ain’t going away. You either make fruit cake turn into filet-mignon (and if you’re a Christian walking in grace already you know exactly what I mean) or you throw it in the trash.

Grace is played out in John 8:1-11. The adulterous woman got more from her experience with Jesus than she thought she’d ever get. She not only got forgiveness (she thought she get condemnation), she got grace.  His last word to her was ‘go and sin no more’.  He didn’t just want to forgive her he wanted to change her.  Here, we see the impact of God’s grace…change.  We become different.

Grace is a gift of forgiveness and change.  He didn’t tell her “Go on girl I forgive you, keep on doing your thing” or “It’s all good do what makes you feel good”. No, because its impossible for grace to reside in our hearts without change. A good Father never encourage us to live a life that is harmful or destructive or dishonoring to Himself.  Change is the evidence that grace lives in us, that we have put this beautiful little noun on our backs and it now clothes us from head to toe, inside and out.

The take home (in a shoe box), God-given grace is forgiveness and change.

So, how are you doing in the grace department?  Are you living in the true grace of God?  What does grace look like in your life?  What have you misunderstood about grace?