Category Archives: Fear

The Mercy Seat

If you had to customize a seat from which you would conduct your business and engage in all of your daily conversations what kind of chair would it be? Would it be simple and comfy or stately and professional? Would it be economical and efficient or perfectly aligned to fit your hips, lower back, and spine? Then, if you had to name your seat, what would you call it?

Personally, I’ve never given much thought to crafting and naming my ideal seat, but there are some people, including God, who have.

Jesus said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2). When Pontius Pilate gave his ruling against Jesus Christ he was sitting on “the judge’s seat” (John 19:13).

Do you remember anything about God’s seat? Do you remember what it was called? Out of all the names that God could have rightly given His seat—out of all the virtues that His seat could have represented—He chose this: The Mercy Seat.

When God gave Moses instructions for the creation of the Ark of the Covenant, He told Him to make a “mercy seat” as the covering for the Ark (Exodus 25:17, ESV). This mercy seat would be positioned in between the gold sculpted cherubim, and God said, “There I will meet with you, and there above the mercy seat…I will speak with you” (v.22).

Is that incredible?

That’s where He sits when He wants to talk to you. That’s where He’s reclining when you pour out your heart to Him and petition Him with your prayers. I would understand if His seat was called judgment. It would make sense to me if His throne was named righteousness, but it stirs and moves and heals my soul to know that He has chosen to call it something else. He sits upon mercy, grace, and love (Hebrews 4:16).

Another name for the Mercy Seat was the Atonement Cover—that’s Jesus! He is our atonement, the one who provides what we are lacking so we can enter right standing before God. This casts a different light on the imagery of Paul’s “Judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Indeed, we will all eventually stand before Christ’s judgment seat, and yet our fate will be in good hands because the judgment seat is occupied by the Mercy Seat.

Please take heart! If you or your loved one needs mercy from God, that’s exactly what He is most inclined to give.

Not alone in your darkness

narnia5guardianPsalm 97:2 says that “clouds and thick darkness” surround God, and that’s great news for you and me when we go through our times of cloudy skies and Stygian gloom.

You are not alone in your darkness.

I know it feels like you are. It feels like you’re suffocating and like there is no end in sight. It feels like things will never change and that all of your former hopes were mere illusions bent on mocking you.

Hold steady.

The Scripture employs a strange contrast when describing the atmosphere around God. Sometimes it says that He dwells in unapproachable light, and at other times it shows Him shrouded with the dark. Both descriptions are accurate.

He is present in the dark, but He eventually turns the lights back on.

If you took a moment to recall your history, you would inevitably remember times when darkness had swallowed up your light and you didn’t know which way was up. Then you would also recall how you made it through those times—how God helped you through those times.

One of my favorite literary scenes of all time comes from C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy when Shasta, lost and despairing, encounters Aslan in a dark wood. For a while Shasta thought he was all alone in the dark, but then he perceived a presence beside him. After a while he felt the lion’s breath, then he heard the voice, and eventually he saw the face of Aslan, the High King of High Kings in Narnia.

It’s a picture of Jesus of course. He is there in the dark even if you can’t perceive Him. Eventually you will. After a while you will feel His warming breath, and then you’ll hear His voice, and eventually you will see Him again. When you do, the lights will come back on and you’ll realize you are much further along in your journey than you ever imagined you would be.

Peace or Adrenaline?

screaming on roller coasterWhich word best describes the consistent state of your soul: peace or adrenaline?

Are you living a life of “untroubled, undisturbed composure and well-being” (New Testament Greek definition of “peace”) or are you in a constantly stressed, adrenaline-laced, fight or flight posture?

Most of us would align with the latter. It’s the bane of our 21st century Western Civilization existence to ride the endless roller coaster of adrenaline spikes and crashes.

And it’s actually kind of funny when you think about it, because we’re seldom engaged in activities that truly warrant that kind of response. We don’t have to physically run from predators to save our lives. We don’t have to hunt and overpower smaller prey if we want to eat dinner tonight. We’re not surrounded by constant dangers that startle us and send our hearts into panicked palpitations.

Except that we are.

Although the comforts of our modern life have never been greater, the pressures and stresses of life have risen alongside them, and we are awash in an unstable sea of pressures, insecurities, and demands that are beyond our control.

We need two scoops of adrenaline with our morning coffee just to survive.

Fortunately, it’s into this kind of world that the Christmas story still speaks: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

How do we kick the adrenaline and access that peace?

  • It begins by accepting Jesus’ gift of eternal life so that our existential worries can melt away.
  • Second, we choose to love and forgive even when we are wronged. A forgiving soul is like Teflon to the stickiness of fear and anxiety.
  • Finally, we hearken to the words of the late Dallas Willard who wrote, “Because He who loves me is Love, I live beyond harm in His hands. There is nothing that can happen to me that will not (eventually) turn out to my good. Nothing.”[1]

We really can “be still” and know that HE is God. (Psalm 46:10)

 

 

[1] Willard, Dallas, The Renovation of the Heart, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2002, 135

You and your insecurities

elvisIf you’re like me, and most adults I know, your insecurities have evolved with you over the years.

When I was a child, I was insecure about being too skinny. My parents and siblings traumatized me by calling me “Hallelujah Bare Bones” after a character in a book (sorry, family, for publicly calling you out on that one :)).

When I was an adolescent, I became insecure about being too introverted. And as a young adult, my insecurities shifted to my ever-vanishing head of hair.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on my given mood, as a fully grown man today, no one ever calls me “Hallelujah Bare Bones,” I don’t mind being an introvert, and I no longer have hair to worry about. My insecurities have all gone away.

Except for that other list of fears and worries that keeps popping up.

As a child, I never worried about money or our global economy. I didn’t know the difference between a “bull” or a “bear” market, and I wasn’t overly afraid of international dictators and their loathing for America. I didn’t feel anxiety about raising children in an unstable world, and I never really imagined that pain, loss, heartache, and grief might be central themes in the story of my life.

I didn’t know how mean or shaky the world could be.

Fortunately, I learned something in my sheltered, idyllic childhood that has sustained me as an adult. I learned it from Elvis Presley.

On one of his religious CDs (actually, I think it was an 8-track tape), Elvis Presley sang these words: “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future…”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought? And it’s true. The consistent and pervasive message of the Bible is that God can sustain your life no matter what comes your way. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11 quotes God as saying, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

This Easter season, let’s lean more closely into the only one who is truly and forever unshakable.

Death by Worrying

worryingWor-ry

Verb (used without object)

  1. To torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.
  2. To move with effort: an old car worrying uphill.

Verb (used with object)

  1. To torment with cares, anxieties, etc.; trouble; plague.
  2. To seize, especially by the throat, with the teeth and shake or mangle, as one animal does another.
  3. To harass by repeated biting, snapping, etc.

So…are you a worrier? Do these definitions describe the state of your soul? Do you feel like your dog’s chew toy, routinely seized and shaken back-and-forth by the scruff of your neck?

That’s what chronic worrying does to us. And in response to its harassing, biting, tormenting work, Jesus gives a simple command: “Do not worry.”

Now in case that’s too simple and you need a broader strategy to help you overcome your worry, you can study the other things Jesus said about worrying in Matthew 6:25-34. However, for the purpose of this blog, let’s just think about His three words: “Do not worry.”

Before we write these words off as overly simplistic or naïve, we need to remember who is saying them. They’re not coming from me, a fellow human being who frets and fusses as much as anyone else. They’re coming from Jesus—the one who holds the future and sustains the universe (Jeremiah 29:11; Colossians 1:15-17).

  • If the Savior says, “Don’t worry” we can trust that we will indeed be saved.
  • If the Healer says, “Don’t worry” we don’t need to live in terror of sickness or calamity.
  • If the Comforter says, “Don’t worry” we can draw from His peace even when tough times do come our way.
  • If the Provider says, “Don’t worry” we don’t need to white-knuckle our way through life, startled over every ebb and flow of our nation’s economy.
  • If Jesus says, “Don’t worry” it must mean that He intends for His will on earth to be done (Matthew 6:10).

Dread Champions

wolverineDread Champions.

Every action movie has one. Whether it’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, Troy, or The Wolverine there is always a hulking warrior that stands head-and-shoulders above his peers, threatening to crush the hero into oblivion. These champions are seemingly invincible as they shock their opponents into fear and send grown warriors running.

They’re all around us today.

These giants take the forms of global violence, shaky economies, political unrest, and fear of the future. They flood our souls with anxiety, rendering us weak and vulnerable. If we’re not careful these champions will overwhelm us and ruin our faith.

That’s what Goliath from the Bible did. Do you remember him? He was a nine-foot Philistine giant that stripped the Israeli army of its collective strength and bravery—at least until David came along and killed him.

The famous “David and Goliath” Sunday school story reminds us of a desperately needed truth: God, not Goliath, is the one who wins the day. God is the dread champion of those who trust in Him. In Jeremiah 20:11 the Bible states it explicitly: “The Lord is with me like a dread champion.”

If you need a champion today, you’re in luck. If towering giants are mocking your faith and obscuring your future, there is hope.  There is a dread champion who cares for the broken, strengthens the weary, and promises to right every wrong in our world. His name is Jesus and His words from John 16:33 still ring true: “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.”

Kept

Kept: past tense of keep, verb.

  1. Held or retained in one’s possession; held as one’s own.
  2. Held or used for a set period of time.
  3. Held or reserved in a given place; stored.
  4. Maintained, especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise kept or watched.
  5. Reinforced in a given position, state, course, or action.

Do you know that you are being “kept” today and that your “keeper” is the one who holds the universe together?

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word…” (Hebrews 1:3)

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:1)

In the middle of today’s fragile existence with its harried pace and endless demands, please remember Jude’s words: you have been called, loved, and kept by the power of Jesus Christ. He loves you. He is for you. And nothing can take you out of His hand.