Fear as an Idol

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. -2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Can fear be an idol? This is something I recently began pondering. If we are drowning in our fears, instead of hiding in God, I believe it absolutely can be. When we are in fear, we are not trusting our Creator. And mistrust, is the opposite of having faith. If we are so frightened and wrapped up in our fears, we are not walking in faith-not believing that our Father has everything under control. When our fears are elevated to the point of interfering with our relationship with God, fear has become an idol. We must instead, give these fears to God and choose trust. By handing each thing we are afraid of over to Him, we can rest in peace knowing that he has us. He has our lives and those around us in his palms. This doesn’t mean we won’t have hardships, of course. He, however, will give us the strength to endure those trials, blanketing us with His peace along the way.

So do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

Fuel Your Walk Friday

Fuel your walk with some Jesus and Joe.

I love Jesus and I love me an iced cuppa fresh cold brew halved with vanilla almond milk. What better way to combine the two and perk up the beginning of your weekend, than to “Fuel Your Walk” with some Jesus and Joe. Once a week, I will be posting a little snippet, thought, quote or question to ponder in relation to your walk with Christ. So grab your favorite mug, pour yourself a delicious cuppa Joe and get comfy as you let these questions percolate in your mind:

This week’s quote hit me hard and made me really think. In his book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan said, “Both worry and stress reek of arrogance.”

Are you placing your worries and stressors in His hands?

Misguided Hope and Healing

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” -Mark 5:34

Are there things in your life that are difficult for you to surrender and place into God’s hands? I realized recently that my health was one of those things I hadn’t yet fully surrendered into His care. A few weeks ago, my family and I made the two and a half hour trek to see an hematologist/oncologist that my doctor referred me to. After I checked in, I waited nervously in the room for an hour and a half for the physician to come in. During that time, I was skeptical of being helped, but prayed and put the situation in God’s hands. When the doctor finally came in, it was one of the most demoralizing and hope-crushing appointments that I had ever had. Within the first minute of my appointment, I knew this doctor had dismissed my case-and he had. He didn’t want to take the time to look into what other doctors had been unable to figure out, and he later admitted it.

What I’m beginning to understand is that I’ve been putting my hope in the wrong place, when it comes to my health. Instead of seeking God first, I’ve been putting my hope in a worldly medical system. It’s a system that has failed me and at least three other friends I know with chronic illnesses, time and time again.

As many of you are aware, I’ve struggled with chronic health issues for years. I’ve seen countless doctors ranging from regular MD’s to naturopaths. And while I have one doctor in particular, who has has really dug in the most, thus far, she still doesn’t have all the answers about what has caused such profound fatigue or the other mysterious symptoms.

More despair followed my appointment the following week, as I waited for an ultrasound result that I was told would be to me that evening, but still did not have in my hands. Again, the tears flowed. Over the years, there have been so many mountains I have had to scale to try to get proper medical care. At this last appointment with the hematologist/oncologist, I was in no way treated like a human being and it made me believe that I cannot be helped by our current medical methodology.

The afternoon of my appointment, with tears steaming down my face, my husband said this: “I think you going in there and saying you were putting it in God’s hands, He just closed the door and solidified what you’ve always known. And, you’ve been hurt way too many times to let people keep doing this. Western medicine is never going to be able to help you.” Shortly afterwards, I spoke to my good friend and told her what my husband said. She said that God had also told her in these exact words “they can’t help you”. So, a new journey for me has begun.

And while I’m in no way advocating not seeking medical care, what I am saying is our faith should be in God first and foremost. For myself, I had been leaning on doctors who couldn’t help me, rather than leaning on our Great Physician in this area. My faith was backwards. It needed to be in Him, above all, not in a worldly system. I cannot hand over my hope to these doctors, who are merely human.

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. -Psalm 30:2

15 Ways to Surrender to God

1. Humble yourselves before the Lord

How do we humble ourselves before the Lord? The word humble has to do with our attitude. We adjust our attitude, making ourselves less proud. We lower ourselves and admit to Him, our human flaws, our weaknesses, our sins, our mistakes, while asking for forgiveness and help to be more like Christ. I love how the amplified Bible breaks down James 4:10

Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].

2. Give Him your heart and delight in His ways

Give him your whole heart-all of it-the broken pieces too-every single shard. He wants it all. Jesus wants all of you and He wants you to revel in His ways.

My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways, -Proverbs 23:26

3. Love the Lord your God with all your heart

We don’t just love Him when we feel like it, or when our lives are looking up. This is isn’t a part-time, conditional love. No. We pour our heart, mind and soul into loving Him, all the time, with every ounce of our being.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and with all your soul and with all your strength [your entire being]. -Deuteronomy 6:5 (AMP)

4. Live by faith

No longer living for ourselves, we have been crucified, so dying to ourselves, we give Him every part of our life. And if we’re struggling with turning some of it over, we ask for the willingness to surrender each area to Him, until we can fully surrender our life and our desires, then we let Him fill us with His desires. And we live by faith, believing without seeing, and trusting in Jesus-always trusting in Him.

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. -Galations 2:20 (AMP)

5. Be doers of the Word

Yes, reading the Word is important, but are we doing what the Word is telling us? We must be doers of the Word, not just readers of the Word. To “do”, is to act. It involves truly listening and then taking the obedient steps to follow what it says.

But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. -James 1:22 (AMP)

6. Keep His commandments

Keeping His commandments is love in action. By following His law, we are submitting to His ways.

If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments. -John 14:15 (AMP)

7. Take his yoke upon you, and learn from Him

Come to Him, letting Him teach and refine you, because Jesus is a gentle teacher. Come to Him, for His way is lighter and less cumbersome than our ways.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. -Matthew 11:29 (AMP)

8. Seek first the Kingdom of God

When we seek Him and His kingdom first, all else falls into place. So, we seek and put Jesus above all else, and we become. Then, we watch it all happen just as it’s supposed to. And we watch ourselves become who we were meant to be all along.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. -Matthew 6:33 (AMP)

9. Trust in the Lord with all your heart

We don’t just trust Him a little, we trust Him with our WHOLE hearts. We trust Him with every piece of our lives. Everything we hold near and dear to us, we hand over to His care. Everything that is important to us, we put in His hands. Every decision we must make, we take to Him first. When we can’t see, we trust that He does and that He has our best interests at heart. And when we don’t understand His ways, we still trust and rely on Him.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. -Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)

10. Crucify the flesh

When we put to death our fleshly desires and temptations, we begin to live in the Spirit. This is when the fruits of the Spirit are given room to grow and blossom.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. -Galations 5:24

11. Walk by the Spirit

By letting the Spirit direct our thoughts, our words, our attitudes, and our actions, we are surrendering our ways, while letting Him lead us and empower us to walk in righteousness.

If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. -Galations 5:25 (AMP)

12. Repent and produce fruit

We repent. Making a concerted effort to not sin by practicing new ways of living, we work with Jesus, while allowing Him to change our hearts so we can produce fruit.

So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]; -Matthew 3:8 (AMP)

13. Let not your hearts be troubled

Be brave in Him, and not afraid. Have courage and know that He is God- the God Almighty, who overcame the world. He is a BIG, BIG God, who is in the business of helping His believers. So, be fearless, be bold-and take heart in Him, my friends.

“Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. -John 14:1 (AMP)

14. Do not fear

We remember that we are not to be afraid of anything because there is nothing we should fear, and He is our God-our Defender and Protector. This is a tough one for those of us who struggle with fear due to anxiety. I once heard though, that we can either have faith or live in fear, but we can’t do both at the same time. It is one or the other. Will we walk towards faith or in fear today?

Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’ -Isaiah 41:10 (AMP)

15. Submit to God and draw near to Him, resisting the devil

To submit, means to yield. So, we yield to Him and draw close, burying ourselves in His Word and taking it to heart by walking in His ways. We stand firmly before Jesus, not letting satan get his hold on us.

So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people]. -James 4:7-8 9 (AMP)

In Christ, I am.

I caught myself striving the other day. It’s what I’ve always done and when life kicks up the dust, I’m right there taking it in the face and fighting back in a futile attempt to prove to myself that I’m enough. But this is a form of self-will and what I need to do instead, is remind myself of who I am in Christ and that His yoke is lighter. I mentioned in a previous post that for years, I found my worth in my accomplishments-until one day, my achievements failed me. I no longer had my health, so none of it mattered anymore. I’ve known that I need to find my identity in Christ, but knowing and actually believing who I am in Him are two totally different ball games, so I’m working on this and He is working on me. Well, who are we in Christ, anyway?

If you are a believer, you are CHOSEN. CHOSEN ya’ll! This means that we were hand picked by our Father to be His followers. In Jeremiah 1:5, He says “before you were born you were set apart”. Before we were born, we were His. And His Word tells us in Deuteronomy 14:2, “for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Treasured means highly valued and precious. That is who we are to our Father. We belong to Him and we were set apart for His purpose. He has a plan for us and it’s big. And this plan includes being the salt and light of the earth.

In Matthew 5:14, He says that we are “the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” We were meant to shine for Him-to bring light and hope to others in need and through us, He will be glorified. This is another massive undertaking that He granted us. We are a vessel that He fills and uses to bless others. What a magnificent responsibility He has endowed us with! We must remain connected to Him though, in order to fulfill His purpose for our lives.

Jesus says, in John 15:5, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.” This means that we are an extension of Him, our God Almighty. We are a part of Him and we were made to bear fruit and serve Him with it. As we continue to seek Him, He will keep sprouting more fruit to do His will, which is good and perfect. Our Father made us in His image, His likeness. He is a creative God and we are a marvelous work.

Ephesians 2:10, says that He made us a masterpiece. A MASTERPIECE! The Oxford dictionary defines masterpiece as-a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship. We aren’t an amateur’s sculpted lump of clay that sits on a basement shelf. No. We were created by the God of the universe Himself, and we are His own master work to be used for good works that He entrusted us with, because we are that loved and important to Him.

We were worth dying for! How loved we are. Let that sink in. Let that really sink in. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He gave His own life because He loved us that much and wanted us to live. Nails were driven into His hands and feet. He died an agonizing death, for you and me-because He loves us beyond what we can fathom! This wasn’t a quick shot to the head and bam! It’s over. He suffered unimaginably during this prolonged death, and that’s not it. He was humiliated during the process. So when we struggle with our worth, let’s remind ourselves of all that He sacrificed for us.

Now let’s talk about those times when we get still get down on ourselves and beat ourselves up because we don’t think we measure up. Who’s really doing the measuring here, Him or you? If we get out of the way and make it our goal to live and love for Him, He will fill us with what we need. And we will feel more positive about ourselves because we are doing what we were created to do and who we were meant to be in the first place. We can’t forget WHOSE we are and that we were made for a purpose-to further His Kingdom. This is huge! This isn’t just a side job, and this is far more important than any earthly career. This is a soul-saving, life-restoring duty. This is ginormous! And He CHOSE us to do it. If you are glorifying Him in everything you do, how can you not feel good about yourself?

So let us make it our mission to become more Christlike, serving Him in all ways, always. Let us remind ourselves that we are not our accomplishments because our accomplishments can’t even begin to compete with who He wants us to be. And let us not lose sight of the fact that we are not of this world, but instead, He created us to help change and light up the world. It’s easy to sometimes let the thought of-I’m not enough, slip in, but His Word tells us differently. The Truth is, my friend, you and I are more than enough in His eyes.

Snipped and Pruned

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. -John 15:2-6

When I was younger, I hated my hair. Then, I grew to love it. It was usually long, and always curly. Growing up, I’d hear the typical straight-haired comments- “Do you know how much money I spend at the salon to get hair like yours, getting a permanent?” or “You’re so lucky to have that kind of hair.” After I got married, and because we were trying to be frugal, I began letting my husband cut my hair-yes, I know-pretty shocking. I previously spent an upward of $65-not including a tip, just for a decent cut. Realizing my husband could do a better job than most stylists, I slowly began to trust him with my precious curls.

Well, about a week ago, I decided I wanted it a few inches shorter. I was tired of washing it, tired of styling it. It always ended up in a messy bun anyhow.

Sitting on the stool, he began hacking away like Edward Scissorhands. I realized I didn’t even care if he chopped too much off. This was pretty huge for me. Any other time and I would be constantly feeling and looking to make sure he didn’t cut an extra millimeter more than what I had instructed him. Tonight was different though. As the ringlets fell to the ground, it was as if a weight was dropping off of me and I just let it happen-without the worry, without the control. I let go and let whatever happen, happen.

Then, it dawned on me. This was symbolic of me dropping the weight of my life-my will, my ideas about how I think I should live, how we should raise our family, and instead, surrender to His will and what He wants for me and my family. It was about acceptance, surrendering to what is and where He has placed our family temporarily. That simple moment was about letting go and accepting right now for exactly what it is.

And as I sat there, I began thinking about how I’m in this season of pruning. God is in the process of trimming all of the dead branches to make way for the new shoots, the new fruit that he is beginning to produce in me. As He does this, I’m feeling a bit empty and bare. He’s stripping me of all I thought I was, in order to become more Christlike. It’s as though I’m being stripped of the bark to allow the good clean wood underneath to be used. Like when a log cabin is built, if the logs aren’t peeled first, the wood will begin to rot. It will decay. My life was once like this. It was in a state of decay because I wasn’t abiding in Him. and I didn’t even realize it. I was swimming up stream, getting caught in a vortex, and I couldn’t get out. I was getting nowhere, but I continued to live like I thought I knew best. This is self-will, my friends. And self-will never got me to where I truly wanted to be.

What I thought made me me, maybe wasn’t really me at all. Once, this social worker with a career that I worked so hard to obtain, running in this perpetual rat race, striving to be this super mom by chugging coffee all day long in order to fuel this fatigued body that was slowly breaking down, I was only sleeping three to five hours per night at most. I was the mom trying to make sure our girls got a top-notch education at a private Christian school, aiming to throw them Pinterest-worthy birthday parties, stressing about the perfect Christmas, making sure they were in the right after school activities. It was always about having the best and trying to be the best, but I see now that I wasn’t really living for Him at all. I was striving and striving and I didn’t need to.

I had it all backwards. See, I thought my identity lain in what I accomplished, but once those things were ripped from me and I drove myself into the ground too far for my health to bounce back, He kept me down so I could learn to have faith in Him-especially in the trials, to find my identity in Him-not in the world and not in my accomplishments, and He taught me and continues to teach me to trust Him more fully. I’m learning that my sole purpose in life is to love Him and love others like He does-His way, not mine. And despite the trials, His way is so much better. I’m home with my kids, homeschooling them and teaching them about Jesus daily. My husband has a work from home job, so we can travel and live wherever He wants us. I have less stress in my daily life and I’m healing. Our life is much simpler. We no longer own a lot of “stuff”, but we have Jesus, we have each other, and I’m slowly regaining my health. It is just enough and I have His peace, which far surpasses anything this world can give.

Even with all of the hardship we have experienced, we are extremely blessed. I see these blessings more frequently and more abundantly when I step aside and He is able to work, but this requires me to pick up His cross daily, and die a little more to myself. It’s a conscious effort and decision I must make every single day to turn my life and my will over to Him.

So let us continue to abide in Him, surrendering completely to His will. For only He can produce the fruit we truly desire. And only He can make us more like Him each and every day, But, and it’s a humungo BUT-we must continue to do this big thing-remain in Him. If we remain in Him, He will keep producing the good fruit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because apart from Him, we can do nothing. My efforts on my own, have proven futile.

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit -John 12:24

A Father to the Fatherless

And he will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ -Psalm 89:26

My earthly father failed me. He failed me hard and I haven’t been the same since. Walking out that door at the age of thirteen, he turned my world upside down and I have never looked at it like I once had. A life where I felt safe and secure, suddenly became painful and scary. And it wasn’t like he just disappeared completely. He was still “around” after the divorce, but he chose not to parent me. The man I was supposed to be able to depend on, left me high and dry numerous times. He wasn’t trustworthy. The amount of pain, rage, and sadness I felt from him leaving, haunted me for years. One day though, something changed.

I remember hearing God firmly declare “I am your Father”. It was at that point that I realized I needed to stop looking back and instead look up to the One who has always been there. He is our rock and He will never forsake us. Our Heavenly father will strengthen us and help us. He will uphold us with his righteous right hand. He is not human, like our biological fathers are. And He will not harm us, like humans can.

Chasing his own selfish dreams, my dad caused me a lot of damage, including the need to have control in my life. It has taken me years to forgive my earthly father and trust my Heavenly Father. I’m still learning. I’m learning to surrender each part of my life to Him because He is ultimately in control. I’m learning to let go slowly and pry my fingers off of each thing that I hold dearly. And it’s scary to loosen my grasp. I don’t have to grip everything so tightly though. I have to consciously remind myself that I am safe and that surrendering my life to Him doesn’t mean I’m going to lose my life, rather, if I hold onto my life, I will.

I am not the teenager I was the night he left us and my Heavenly Father is not my earthly one. I have to remember that He wants what’s best for me. Actually believing this is one of the things I struggle with the most. But, He is love, even when He allows hardship and trials in our lives. In fact, by allowing trials in our lives, He is being a loving Heavenly Father, whether we see it at the moment or not. He is making us more like Him and this is a most loving act. Using trials to prune and shape us into who He wants us to be, He is helping us to become our best selves. He has our backs. And, He is always with us. He is for us and not against us. It is ok to let go.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. -Matthew 10:39

Acceptance for the Win

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God can bring peace to your past, purpose to your present and hope to your future. -John 14:27

During this crazy, isolating pandemic, I needed a way to serve and God put it on my heart to share my story. Tired of posting snippets of my life on social media, where lives are made to look picture perfect, I took a break and God spoke. So, here I am! And I’m going to be real here, y’all. I want to show the messy, the imperfect, and the struggle in the journey. My journey has never been a straight line or even just a little crooked. It’s been a full on three steps forward, two steps back–again and again, twirls and zigzags, abrupt stops and detours, a cliff drop here and there where I’m hanging by a thread, a long crawl back up, and yet another stumble. I’ve battled abandonment issues, food addiction, chronic illness, postpartum depression and more. I often wonder why I was put on this Earth to begin with, because compared to the amount of suffering I’ve endured, I’ve experienced much less joy in my life. Maybe this blog is why. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know, but I have to believe that He has a purpose for my suffering. Maybe that purpose is telling my story to let others know they are not alone or maybe it’s to bring hope to those who are currently enduring hardships and need some light shed in their lives. Right now, I’m needing some light too. I’ll be honest. Today, I don’t have a lot of hope myself, but perhaps, as I write, I’ll find some in this blog as well, because this last week-heck this last year—or three, have been really, really rough.

A couple of weeks ago, the waves of life came crashing down yet again, just when we were beginning to get settled into our cozy little cabin in Alaska. This cabin, we found out, had toxic mold, so we had to move a second time. Not only that though, less than a week moved in and we have run into problem after problem with this newest abode. I noticed I was becoming REALLY angry-like blood boiling angry, and I know there is always something more behind the anger so I started digging around and realized that I’m struggling with acceptance. I have been in a full blown boxing match fighting with reality because I don’t like the temporary living situation we are currently in and since I haven’t been able to accept it, it’s causing me more suffering and more frustration. I don’t know why our lives have been full of trials-so many, many trials. But as I write this, I can see how exhausting and futile it has been to fight against the things I cannot change, so I must accept our current circumstances as they are for the moment. This doesn’t mean I have to like them or approve of them or that these circumstances are what I’m choosing, but they are what they are for right now. The more I resist, the more I will suffer, so I will choose the less painful road this time. I will be thankful for the things I do have and look for the lesson, while continuing to hope in the One who has carried me this far.

Tonight, as I wrestled with anger and acceptance, I remembered a passage from the A.A. Big Book that had helped me in the past. I pray that this will help you too:

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake…unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), 4th Edition P. 417