Archive for August, 2013

The War Within

I began to sweat bullets again as I thought about my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. I hated the humiliation and feeling weak it would bring. I dreaded the self-condemnation that I would heap upon myself.

You see I suffer from White-Coat Syndrome. My blood pressure soars when it is taken in a doctor’s office. Lately, I have had to do a lot of fast-talking just to keep the doctors and nurses from putting me in the hospital because it is so high.

So, what is going on here? My blood pressure is normal except in a doctor’s office. What is causing my fear?

I took this question to the Lord before the doctor’s appointment. He not only gave me insight into why I have this fear but also how to cooperate with him in beating this thing.

So, why fight it? Why don’t I just take the easy path, accept defeat, and avoid the hassle of cooperating with God in changing?

The answer is because it would grieve God. It would also cheat me out of living as joyous and fulfilling a life as it could have been. “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

He longs for us to live life in intimacy with him. But if we cling to anything other than him, we distance ourselves from him.

I discovered that my White-Coat Syndrome was caused by clinging to being strong, respected by others, and meeting my standards. I was not clinging to God always accepting, valuing, and keeping me safe despite lousy blood pressure readings.

This was my war within for the week. What was yours?

We have ingrained habits and spiritual forces fighting tooth and nail to keep us conformed to the world. Why do you think we are as busy as we are? Why do you think we hate change as much as we do? These are evidences of the war within us.

Yet, this war is worth fighting. Our joy, eternal rewards and the destinies of others ride on our decision to fight the war or be lazy.

The war largely consists of leaving behind the old ways and putting on God’s ways of living life. For me, this week it was leaving behind the need to be strong and to impress and putting on my acceptance and worth I always have from God.

The Holy Spirit is in us to help us leave behind the old ways. “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Progress is often slow, but it does come (Proverbs 4:18).

The sad truth is that God will not force us to change. He will not force us to fight the war within. But what a waste if we choose to put up a white flag.

So, I encourage you to ask God to show you an old way that he wants to replace with his way. Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him. Then, do one thing that cooperates with him.

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Most of us are.

Even though the Holy Spirit is God, and loves us greatly, we tend to fear him. I think it is a loss of control that scares us the most. When he is control, we are not.

So what happens when we are afraid of the Holy Spirit? These are a few examples of what I think does happen:

  • We stay focused on gaining Bible knowledge at the expense of allowing the Holy Spirit to change us at a deep level.
  • We rely on our “wits and wisdom” to guide us rather than the Holy Spirit to lead us step by step into our future (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • We forbid the Holy Spirit to use his “miraculous gifts” in the ministries of the church.
  • We do not ask and depend on Jesus to use his Spirit to guide and empower our lives and the church’s.

We forget that the Holy Spirit is not an option. We forget that he provides the power to live the Christian life (Colossians 3:1-11). We forget that he is a Person and can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). We forget that he can withdraw his presence and power from our church.

Listen to this. Through his Spirit Jesus told the church at Ephesus:

“I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place- unless you repent” (Revelations 2:4-5).

This passage says that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit can be withdrawn from our church if we continue to grieve him. So, our fear of letting God and his Spirit have their way can be devastating to our church, as well as to our own lives.

So, let us lay aside our self-effort to control and crank out the Christian life. Let us learn to love and depend on the Spirit so that our lives and churches are full of love, joy, and kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us repent of how we have pushed the Holy Spirit out of influencing our lives and our churches. Instead, let us embrace him as a vital member of the Trinity and no longer fear him.

What evidence do you see in your life and in your church’s that shows you or your church is afraid of the Holy Spirit? Talk to God about what he wants you to do about it.

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Where’s God?

I tried really hard this week to fix a medical problem that has lingered on for quite some time. I prayed and then called the doctor’s office twice to try to get an appointment.

I got nowhere. No return calls and no appointment. Meanwhile, I grew increasingly anxious about my medical problem.

I was frustrated. Where was God? Why wasn’t he helping me?

During the week I spent some time meditating and talking to God through Psalm 139.

Here is what he said to me through this psalm, “I know what is going on in your life. I am all over your medical problem. I carefully watch over you and I will guide you as far as what you need to do regarding your healing.”

Well, you could have fooled me! God seemed awfully distant and otherwise preoccupied.

But this is the life that God wants us to live. He wants us to “see” him throughout the day, even if everything in us and around us is screaming that he is not there. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

He promises that he is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), and sometimes that is our only assurance that he is. Other times we can “see” him in our circumstances, in answered prayer, and in a word of encouragement from a friend.

So, what we have here is really an awareness problem. We are like Jacob who said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

Why then do we have this God awareness problem? Why do we often fail to sense his presence throughout the day?

Probably the main reason is that we do not want to. We do not want God messing with the details of our lives. Often, only when life gets too painful are we motivated to allow the reality of “his very present help” (Psalm 46:1) to seep into our awareness.

In closing, where have you seen God in your life today? Thank him for his watchful care and invite him into the details of your life for the rest of the day.

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Dare to Be You!

I was trained as a child not to be me.

Being me did not seem to meet by needs as well as being who my parents wanted me to be. So, I learned to perform and be someone else.

I emerged from childhood equipped to be whatever would earn me the most worth, acceptance and love.

One of the results was studying engineering instead of something I really was interested in. Another result was seeking responsibilities in jobs that were way over-my-head that sometimes led to demotions, and once being fired.

However, I did change when I was 26. I became a new me when I became a Christian. “Therefore, if any [person] is in Christ, [they] are a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But did new things come? Did I dare to be me?

No, I did not. I continued to strive to earn worth through job success, love through pleasing people, and acceptance by conforming to others’ expectations. I still did not depend on it being okay to be me.


The power to be me comes from knowing and living in the reality that I will never be rejected. Oh sure, people will reject me from time to time, but never God. “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In recent years, I have learned more to be me.

God tested me last year when I could have been accepted on a board if I were not me. All I would have to do is to pretend that I subscribed to their approach to helping people grow spiritually.

However, I did not subscribe to their approach. So, I dared to be me and was rejected. I was comforted  by God’s acceptance of me, which I considered to be more important.

But growing in daring to be me is slow business.

This summer I have struggled with being me in the face of low ministry results. To some extent, I still let ministry results dictate my worth. I forget that I am always precious, honored and loved (Isaiah 43:4), even when ministry results scream otherwise.

So, how are you doing in daring to be you?

Two of the biggest reasons we often fail to be ourself is our lifelong training and our pride.

We often have not been trained to regard ourself as fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We have not been trained in regarding ourself as God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). We fail to live in the reality of the uniquely wonderful person that God has made us to be.

And we don’t want to. “What? That sounds crazy,” you may say.

No. We don’t want to admit that we need God to give us our worth, love, and acceptance as gifts. Instead, we have been trained to look to others and things we do to get these needs met by our own efforts (John 12:42-43).

Daring to be ourself requires us to admit our desperate need for God. And we don’t want to do that!

So, we don’t dare be ourself.

Ask God to help you identify an area of your life in which you are not being you. Picture how your life would be different if you dared to be  you in this area.

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Waiting is Good

I find myself waiting a lot these days. Boy, is it frustrating too! I want to make things happen. But I wait.


I am slowly learning that God often is doing good things in the waiting period that prepare me for the challenges when the wait is over.

For example, I started a ministry last year. I have worked really hard to make it succeed! Yet, it is small and growing slowly. I am waiting for ministry doors to swing open.

However, in the meantime, he has also led me to improve my marriage, deepen my relationship with him, and grow in writing skills. He wants me to have a strong foundation so I will be able to handle whatever challenges he has planned for me in the future.

Also, wonderful things can happen to our faith as we wait. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). We can grow in expecting good from a good God before it happens.

We can also be delivered from our problems as we wait for God. “I waited patiently for the Lord;.. and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:1-2). Instead of bullying our way through our problems in our own strength and often failing, we can learn to wait for his help.

Waiting on God can help us not to quit too soon. “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap, if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). A comfort to me in waiting on ministry results has been the reminder that “my toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Finally, waiting for God just makes sense. It is logical. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who [lives] in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That’s right! By not waiting on him, we can do nothing that truly serves God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Therefore, let us learn to wait for God. It will be hard. We will need retraining to wait. “All [waiting] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

So, what are you waiting on God for? Ask him to help you see the good that he is doing as you wait and give him thanks.

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