Confidence, not fear

But God is our helper

Matthew 28:11-15 As the women were on their way [to tell the disciples Jesus was alive!], some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened [the earthquake, the angel, the stone rolled away, Jesus gone from the tomb]. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews and they still tell it today.

Hebrews 11:26, 13:5-6 Moses thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. … Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you, I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear: What can mere people do to me?”  

Shutterstock: glenda

Truth standing up to power is so rare my heart thrills when I see it happen. Especially when the consequences of not going along with deception is as serious as it would have been for these guards.  Acts 12:19 indicates what the soldiers faced if they didn’t accept the bribe: execution. In our day, what’s at stake may be political death, loss of reputation and being shamed before a constituency, accusations of disloyalty, etc. We care so much about prestige, position, and prosperity in this world that we may be willing to sacrifice our integrity to preserve them.

I find Hebrews 13:6 (quoting Psalm 118:6) one of the most challenging verses in all of Scripture. For a long time, I’ve realized I am a coward. I don’t think I would be tempted by money. But if threatened by torture or death or by harm coming to my family, or even, I’m ashamed to say, by private or public contempt or defamation, I’m afraid I would respond more like the soldiers—or even like Peter, denying he knew the Lord—than like the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. I feel a chill in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. I have confessed to the Lord I do fear what “mere people” could do to me. Or to those I love.

My hope is that should the time come, the Lord, my helper (my ezer), will be right at my side, giving me his courage by the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile, I can cultivate and grow my love and loyalty to Jesus in first place in my life, above love for myself or even for my family. In small decisions along the way, strengthen my soul.

You too? We can pray for each other.

They didn’t get it. Do we?

But Jesus knew

Matthew 26:1-4 Jesus said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

Hebrews 11:27-28 Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that he commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

Colossians 1:15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Remember that silliness from Monty Python? It’s a wee bit of humor that keeps our family laughing in times of unexpected events. If we only knew what will happen next, we could better prepare for it, right?

It’s normal to feel anxious. Anxiety is fear, dread, and uneasiness about what may happen in the future, which usually resolves along with whatever we’re worrying about. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, don’t resolve without help and treatment. According to the APA, anxiety disorders increased fourfold in 2020-2021 as compared with pre-Covid 2019:

7.4% – 8.6%

Range of average monthly percentages of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety, January–December 2019

28.2% – 37.2%

Range of average submonthly percentages of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety, April 2020–August 2021 

Not too surprising, right, that a worldwide pandemic and all its permutations would burst our bubble of optimism about the future? Once something we’re anxious about goes really badly, or when we’re shocked by a completely unexpected traumatic event, we’re more vulnerable to feeling anxious. I’ve had to fight anxiety about the births of each of my youngest children and my grandchildren, worrying that something will go wrong. I didn’t have that problem before Karis surprised us with a life-threatening congenital defect in her digestive tract.

Jesus told the disciples outright many times that he would be crucified. But they just couldn’t get it. If they had been paying better attention, they wouldn’t have been caught so flatfooted. You and I know what will happen to him on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of this week. What we don’t know is how this remembering may affect us.

But Jesus knows. He knows the treasures he has prepared for each one of us in this Holy Week. We can prepare by keeping our eyes on him, God made visible, and following where he leads us. Remember, our Father only gives good gifts to his children, even if we don’t immediately understand.

Shutterstock: vystekimages

Where do you go for refuge?

But God cannot lie  March 17, 2022

Hebrews 6:18-19 It is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

I love what this image communicates to me about resilience. I took it Monday beside our front steps.

The world is full of misinformation, and no one is smart enough or wise enough to figure it all out. So, I love this word from Hebrews. There is a place where we can relax and rest, a place to anchor our souls with confidence: God’s strong and loving heart. A place to anchor our resilience in the face of all the challenges we each face.

I want to share with you today the “But God” story of Lawrence Chewning. I don’t know him, but he’s made his story public through youtube.

And I think you’ll be encouraged with me by singing “We have an anchor” along with Loretta Adjetey from Ghana (“Lor” is her stage name). Priscilla Jane Owens, 1829-1907, wrote this song. I’ve been to Accra and have worshiped with and been blessed by the generous hospitality of Ghanaian people. Listening to Lor took me right back there. If you know any of their history, you’ll appreciate even more the beauty of this song in their context. It’s an amazing story of resilience.

But the Holy Spirit’s power gives us confidence

Romans 15:1-5, 13 We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself … May God help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. … I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I was eleven and in the U.S. on furlough from Guatemala, our family visited my grandmother in Liberal, western Kansas. My sister Marsha and I slept on the floor of Grammy’s office. We noticed a row of boxes on the bottom shelf of her bookcase, the kind paper came in back then. Curious, we peeked inside one of them, and then the others. Each contained a neatly typed book manuscript. Every night after we were sent to bed, Marsha and I muffled our gasps and giggles over Grammy’s romantic novels, carefully keeping the pages and boxes in order. We loved her stories, even though we never ‘fessed up about our nocturnal invasion of her privacy.

Shutterstock: mpaniti

I have no idea what became of those works after Grammy died. No relatives I asked knew anything about them. I suspect whoever cleaned out her house simply through her delightful work away. How sad.

My proposal for Book One of the Cally and Charlie series, Horse Thief 1898 (see https://horsethief1898.blog) has been turned down by forty literary agents. Why? Because I don’t have an adequate platform. What does that mean? It means, for starters, I don’t have at least ten thousand followers on at least two social media platforms and on my blogs. It means I can’t guarantee selling ten thousand books myself, through speaking, writing, and book signing events, thus recouping the costs to a publisher of taking a chance on my books in a very crowded market.

Not confidence-producing, right? So, what do I do with my conviction that God wants me to write these books? Turns out, most writers I know believe that’s true for them as well. So it doesn’t mean much in the publishing industry, but it still means a lot to us.

I’ve cycled through many different ways to think and feel about this situation. About the countless hours I’ve invested in research and writing about Cally and Charlie. Oddly enough, since I’ve given up my quest for a literary agent, and plunged back into Book Two, Treasure Hunt 1904, I feel energized and hopeful again. I feel like I’m doing what God has gifted and directed me to do. I’m trusting God to show me a step at a time how to walk forward into self-publishing Horse Thief 1898 and subsequently Treasure Hunt and Facing the Faeries. We have so many more options available now than Grammy had in the 1950s and 60s.

The number of books being published these days is overwhelming. Even so, we writers keep on writing more. Like Eric Liddell, we can each say, “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.” Though her work wasn’t known outside her small office, I suspect my Grammy felt the same way.

So I’m curious. In what ways does the Holy Spirit give you confidence and hope in the work he’s called you to do?