Hold tight to what’s true…

I am part of a mid-size church nestled between one of the wealthiest areas of Dallas, Texas and the city’s poorest neighborhood. We are an eclectic picture of the Body of Christ. Rich sit beside the poor, African refugees beside African-Americans, seminary graduates beside the homeless, seekers beside long-time Christ followers. Grace is freely offered, truth is freely spoken and no name is higher than the name of Jesus.

This morning as I got ready for church, I prayed for a real thirst quenching. I came away drenched. Like a soaked sponge.

The Church is stirred up today, worried about what the future holds. God’s people are seeing the definition of marriage challenged, watching ISIS kill those who declare the name of Jesus, alert to the racism and hatred flooding fill the news and people are concerned about what will happen to religious organizations in the United States.

Fear is being allowed to invade minds that are supposed to focus on the good things of God.Phil4_RegimenswithGrace

It is creeping into our hearts when we are told that Jesus has overcome the world. Jn16_RegimenswithGrace

With all of that, I’d like to quote a small portion of the sermon I heard today:

Jesus will provide.

He can open the eyes of the blind and open the ears of the deaf but we’ve got to stop being dumb.

We really do. I’m not naïve. Just believing in Jesus isn’t going to solve any of these problems we face.

They may take away our tax-free status and stop giving people deductions for their charitable giving. The government may threaten us with fines or even imprisonment for speaking out against these things. What are we going to do?

I know what I’m going to do.

I’m going to keep preaching.

If they fine me ,then I’ll go broke.

If they send me to jail, then I’ll preach there.

And if they kill me then I will join that blessed band who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — 38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” These people “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:36-38; 13-16)


Me?

One day, several years ago, I lifted my opened hands and said, “I surrender all.”

It was the most freeing thing I have ever done.

I trusted Him then. I trust Him now. I can trust Him with my future.


You can listen to or watch Gary Brandenburg’s entire sermon at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas here: Blind, Deaf and a Little Bit Dumb

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On darts, missiles and clenched jaws…

Ephesians 6

I don’t think the shield of faith is supposed to give you clenched jaws.

But judging by my tense shoulder muscles and that old familiar TMJ ache, that’s where I’ve been attempting to carry the shield of faith this week.

Or not.

People hear “spiritual warfare” and they think of head-spinning, pea-soup-spitting, gutteral-noise-making, wild-eyed people requiring some super-hired holy person with great Scriptural knowledge.

Warfare in the spiritual realm doesn’t usually look like that.

“Fiery darts,” by the way, translates as “missile, dart, javelin, arrow.” We’re talking weapons of all sizes. Sometimes you get missiles, sometimes darts.

The missiles are ones that we often think to pull out the shield for – “Run for shelter! That’s a biggie!”

The darts? Not so much.

      “What am

I

    going to do about this?”
      “Where
    is that going to come from?”
      “How can

I

    take care of that?”

Clenched jaws. Sore muscles.

What is it about the little things that makes me forget that I already have a shield of faith?

When we see the Greek word “faith” used in the Bible, it is always from God. It is never something that can be produced by people. That thrills me. I’m not so great at this on my own. The Roman shield to which Paul referred was big. I have full protection.Shield of Faith

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)

Cool, huh? And there’s more.

Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

My problems right now aren’t huge. Not in the grand scheme of things. But they are big to me. And you better believe that the enemy is going to utilize every negative thing in my life to make me worry, to fill me with anxiety, to make me walk around with a clenched jaw.

Fiery darts. Shield of faith. Flaming missiles. Shield of faith.

And Paul said it quenches them. Extinguishes them. Puts them out.

Neither Paul nor Jesus said the problems automatically go away. The darts (or missiles) aren’t necessarily the problems themselves. Usually, it is the way the enemy uses your problems. Jesus said we “will have tribulation.” But He promises peace – “that in Me you may have peace.”

Peace.

Just the word itself brings a calming breath.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

Paul says the shield of faith extinguishes the attacks of “the wicked one.”

And because we don’t always recognize problems as attacks, we don’t always realize we need to fight them.

Life’s problems may be just that. Life’s problems. But we are told to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8)

He is going to take advantage of every situation.

What didn’t strike me until writing this, is that this verse immediately follows the one I have claimed as my own since fourth grade:

“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Another breath. The jaw relaxes.

The preface to that is verse six: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”

Cares and tribulations come. We are assured of that.

I have to humble myself before God.

Then when I’m humble enough to realize that I can’t fix it on my own, I’m able to cast my cares on Him. In faith.

“Can’t do this on my own, Lord.”

    “God, please, help me to trust.”
      “Father, will you fix this? It’s a mess.”

Because He cares for me. He wants me to. I’m really not being a pain when I ask for His help.

That’s all part of vigilance. Of being steadfast in the faith.

It’s hard to hold up my shield of faith when I’m holding on to a pack of troubles!

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On fear, ground zero and the e-word…

BeFunky_background-images-26867-27583-hd-wallpapers.jpg

I attend a church within eyeball distance of the hospital that treated the first patient to be diagnosed with ebola in the United States. Two nurses there have now been diagnosed with the virus as well.

This disease is in our zip code. We are a diverse church with people attending from all over Dallas. We have the privilege of ministering to refugees, many a part of our family.

I’ve watched our church leadership respond with wisdom and love. We take precautions. Lots of precautions.

We are at ground zero.

Ground Zero…

It isn’t always a bad place to be.

You see, ground zero can be a dark place and that’s where light shines its brightest.

    “You are the light of the world.
    A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
    Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

So what do we do with this as Believers? As followers of Christ?

The Scriptures are pretty clear on this.

God did not call us to be cowards. He called us to let our lights shine.

There are people who walk in fear of GMOs, cancer, big government, no government, weather, the economy, and now EBOLA.

As followers of Christ, we are not given a spirit of fear.

God gives us power, love and a sound mind.

The Greek definition of sound mind here basically means acting in a sensible way that fits a situation; acting out God’s will by what He calls “sound reasoning.” (WORDS Help)

I firmly believe that part of having a sound mind is not being stupid. Eat well, vote, stay informed, come in out of the lightening, take care of yourself.

This may offend some people but walking around saying that you are “covered in the blood of Jesus” is arrogant and unscriptural when it comes to bodily health. The blood of Jesus covers our sins and grants us eternal life. (Matthew 26:28) Nowhere in Scripture are we told that it protects us from disease. And it dishonors many brave and honorable Believers who are in Heaven today to say so. To quote “by His stripes we are healed” from Isaiah 53 to someone who is sick is a bastardization of a beautiful passage on the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

So as followers of Christ, perhaps we should look at the facts without fear and pray.

And love.

Never mind your opinions on protocol, the CDC, healthcare workers, etc. That isn’t what this is about. This is about the spirit within.

See, it is kind of funny. It is really hard to be afraid when we love people enough to pray for them. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Wow. How many times have I been tormented by fear? How many times have I had to go to God, asking Him to still my thoughts, giving me “sound reasoning”? And when it involves other people, oh, how many times do I actually remember to pray? To love?

I just came across a really powerful reminder of what was accomplished by the death and resurrection of our Lord:

    “Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood.
    For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.
    Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.
    (Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)

“Slaves to the fear of dying.”

Set free.

Pray for us in Dallas, my friends.

Pray for the Church, the Body of Christ,

    that we will find ways to love rather than fear,
      ways to be light,
        ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

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