Monday, January 28, 2013

Authenticity & Fear.


These are the words I cannot shake when I ponder and pray about my new season in the blogosphere. I love that my computer didn't put the squiggly lines under the word "blogosphere" btw... I actually didn't know it was a legit word... 

I want this to be a place where "real talk" can happen. Where I can be me, and you can be you. A place where you feel welcomed to share comments, prayer needs, what God is showing you about any topic that I blog about. 

One of my least favorite things about authenticity is that it generally requires a great deal of vulnerability. They're kindred spirits, as far as I can tell. Plainly stated: vulnerability isn't my strongest quality. I have struggled with a desire- what's more, a pressure- to appear "perfect and good" throughout my whole life. Of course I know that no one actually thinks I am perfect. But the pressure has been there still. Perhaps the most unnerving thing about this is that my ambition has never been to actually be perfect, but merely to appear perfect.

Scary, huh?

Yeah... For years (and I mean years) I didn't really know what the driving force behind this pressure was. I blamed my parents, church leaders and teachers who set the bar "too high". I blamed anyone who praised me only when I was "good". I blamed every youth leader I ever had for quoting 1 Timothy 4:12 to me over and over. I blamed "middle child syndrome". I blamed all the things I could see, without giving thought to praying to God, Who searches the heart and examines secret motives (Jeremiah 17:10). 

I recently read "The Fear of the Lord" by John Bevere. I would highly recommend that every Christian friend of mine take the time to read this gem of a book. [I will loan my copy to you if you promise to read it and return it, because it's one I intend to read again.] God's Holy Spirit, through this book, revealed much to me regarding the state of my heart, including the root issue of my perfection pressure: The fear of man. In case you're not familiar with the terminology, I'll give a very simple definition... "The fear of man" is the honoring of the opinions, praise and approval of people above the approval of Almighty God. It is idolatrous to the core, breaking the first commandment: "You shall have NO other gods before Me". When we value the opinions and seek the approval of people above obedience and reverence toward God, well, we have placed another god before Him. John Bevere states in this book, "If you desire the praise of man, you will fear man. If you fear man, you will serve him - for you will serve what you fear". The fear of man and the fear of the Lord are mutually exclusive. The fear of man enslaves, the fear of God liberates.

God is beginning to break me of my perfectionism, my high regard for the opinions of people. Fearing Him - reverencing Him and honoring Him and valuing His approval - it is setting me free. It's not that I no longer care what people think about me. I still care, but I'm caring less. And that "not caring" isn't about arrogance or proving myself, etc... I'm just seriously starting to care more about what God thinks about me! I feel like my understanding of this is still so small, but already it is freeing me to love and live and worship in a new way. A liberated way. 

Proverbs 9:10 says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." which means I'm only at the start of this journey. I realize that I've been held back for many years because I made myself a prisoner to the opinions of others. No one can be blamed for this but me. But now by His grace, in learning to fear Him, I am free to grow in wisdom and understanding of His character and nature. So basically I'm just a newbie.

All this to say, authenticity will be a new standard here, by His grace. The fear of God is freeing me to be real. I will talk a little more about edification in my next post, Lord willing... but for now, thanks for reading, please feel free to comment or email me your thoughts. Praying for you all.

Much love,


Monday, January 21, 2013

An Opportune Time

It’s been a whole year since I’ve written a real post for this blog. My silence was not so much a result of writer’s block as it was a change of season in my life. The silence has done me much good. A lot has changed in my life since I last was in the habit of posting regularly around here. Perhaps I will share a little bit about that in a future post. But for now, here’s what’s on my heart.

An opportune time…

For those of you who do not attend church with me, we are currently in our final week of 21 days of corporate fasting and prayer. This is our second year of joining together for three weeks of fasting.

I'm just going to be real with you here. Last year during the fast I really got off track, not only with my fasting but with my focus. Distractions came my way and I chose to look at them instead of setting my focus on God. I was tempted and tested and to be honest I absolutely failed these tests. Rather than praying about decisions and opportunities that came my way I just did what seemed right to me. If you read the Proverbs you know that "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12, TNIV).

That was the fast for me last year. A time of testing, trying, temptation... and failure. There's nothing like failing a test to be reminded that you aren't "all that." Honestly, I think that's what I needed since I would not willingly humble myself before the Lord. I must say I'm so very grateful for the Truth, that "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You" (Psalm 86:5, NIV). Just because I screwed things up doesn't mean I have to live under condemnation (Romans 8:1). I've called on the Lord in repentance for my duplicity, and He has been so faithful to forgive and lead me forward!

All that is just back story, I guess...

Here's what is going on in my time of prayer and fasting this year: God is speaking to me, teaching me, leading me, growing me, and really it is wonderful. All glory to God for this! That being said, I've experienced very little temptation and for those of you who may be in the same boat, I want to share with you what God is teaching me about this...

Don't let your guard down! 

We are cautioned in Scripture, "Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]" (1 Corinthians 10:12, Amplified). Basically, it's really easy to be confident in ourselves and our own willpower, strength, abilities, etc. when we are on the mountaintop. We start to think we are beyond failure, but nothing could be further from the truth. If we are not living by the Holy Spirit's power, sooner or later we will gratify the lust of our sinful nature (Galatians 5:16). 

Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights while fasting but He remained close to the Father and grounded in the Truth of the Scripture. You can read about it in Luke 4. One particular verse in this passage is very sobering to me during this time of fasting: "And when the devil had ended every [the complete cycle of] temptation, he [temporarily] left Him [that is, stood off from Him] until another more opportune and favorable time" (Luke 4:13, Amplified).

The devil finished tempting Jesus for a season, but he wasn't giving up; he was waiting for another opportunity, a more favorable one. If we are children of God, the devil is our adversary and he isn't going to give up easily or quickly on us either. We are told in Scripture that we are to "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)

Sobering, eh? Even in times when we aren't experiencing a great amount of temptation, we must be self-controlled (a fruit of the Spirit, not a work of our own strength) and alert. There's more going on than meets the eye, there's warfare of a spiritual nature going down continually.

I am praying that in this season of my life God will firmly establish in me a total reliance on Him, on His Holy Spirit and His strength. I want to be holy, set apart and useful to Him for the sake of His Kingdom. I want to be closer to Him with each day I live on this earth. At some times it is much easier to walk with Him than at other times... I pray that in the easier times I will draw near to Him, diligently seeking His face during any reprieve from temptation I may experience. I pray that I will not fear the temptation and trials that will surely come my way, but will learn to walk in His grace each and every day as it comes. 

I pray this for myself and for you, my friends: that we may be found faithful and fearlessly confident in our God Who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before His glorious presence with great joy (Jude v24).

Much love to you, my family and friends. Please email me if there's any way I can be praying for you.