Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission)
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism© is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Minimizing The Giant Of Fear

When I was preparing this post, I found that according to the Psychologist, Robert Plutchik, there are eight basic human emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.  Before we move on from the emotional slice discussion of the Whole-Person Pie©, I wanted to devote one entire blog post to the subject of fear.

Why talk so much about fear, you ask?  I'll be honest.  I spoke a little bit about how my imagination can run completely away with me in this post, so if you got to read that or some of my posts at Homespun Devotions, it may come as no surprise to you that, for years, I have struggled with an unnaturally, all-consuming sense of fear.  With shame and regret, I'll tell you that fear has dominated far too many of the moments of my life.  I really hate that because I'll never get them back.  Life is so precious, short, and fast-moving, and it is beyond frustrating to think I have allowed fear to steal so much from the only one I'll ever live.

As I talk to and counsel with others, I find that I am not alone.  Perhaps you also battle fear?  If you do, you already know very well how intense the struggle can be.  My heart goes out to you, and I hope, by sharing some of the things I have learned am learning firsthand, you can find encouragement.  At least, you will know you are not alone, and we can pray for one another in this battle.

First, let's clarify the difference between "healthy" fear and the terrorizing, "unhealthy" fear that I battle so much.

There are two types of "healthy" fear.
  • Fear, as an emotion, is needful.  The emotion of fear is a natural reaction and response to perilous situations.  It makes us aware of danger and compels us to move to safety and make necessary adjustments to protect ourselves.
  • Fear of God is a debt we owe.
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13  (KJV)

The word "fear" in this verse means, "affright."

Each one of us will stand before a sinless, holy, Almighty God when we leave this world, and we will give an account of how we responded to His commandments while here on earth.  Knowledge of this should instill in us a sense of sobering awe and reverence, as we consider that He paid the ultimate price to make a way for us to live a holy life, and we will stand before His righteous presence, without excuse.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  Hebrews 10:31  (KJV)

May we never lose our fear of God.  It is vitally important to our spiritual vision and moral compass.

"Healthy" fear is necessary.  But, when fear becomes a continual, overshadowing, paralyzing force that drives every decision and consumes even the best of moments, it has gone far beyond what is natural and healthy.  This, my friends, is the fear with which I am so embattled and of which I speak.

I recently shared a glimpse into some of the root reasons for my intense battle with fear at No Sidebar.  As I continue to unpack my emotional baggage, I am delving deep into what the Bible says about such agonizing fear and psychological intimidation—ever seeking God's face with all my heart for deliverance and victory.  I want to know the truth because I want to be free.  Don't you?

Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  John 8:32  (KJV)

Here's what God's Word tells us about "unhealthy" fear.  Herein lies the truth.

1.  Fear is a spirit.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:7  (KJV)
2.  Fear never, ever, ever comes from God.

God gives us the spirit of power ~ to overcome fear, to take control of fearful thoughts, to conquer the lies of fear, to identify and annihilate deceit and psychological intimidation, to press through the smoke and mirrors and fake facades of fear into what is real and what is truth.

God gives us the spirit of love ~ to accept His forgiveness, to open our hearts to His truth and what is real, to understand that through His shed blood and atonement on the cross we have been washed clean from the sins of our past, to embrace our true identity as a joint-heir with Christ, to fully walk in and enjoy a privileged life as an adopted child of the King, to finally see ourselves as fully His—redeemed, forgiven, completely loved, and capable of loving others with the same spirit of love.

God gives us the spirit of a sound mind ~ to live free from what is irrational, to make level-headed decisions based on reality, to think sanely and sensibly, to live at total peace—with Him, ourselves, and others.

Power and love and a sound mind—not fear—are good and perfect God-given gifts.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  James 1:17  (ESV)

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."  I John 4:18  (KJV)

"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them."  I John 4:16  (NLT)

God would never bestow such torment and anguish as comes from fear.  Finally knowing, understanding, and believing that fear NEVER comes from God is extremely liberating.

3.  Since fear doesn't come from God, we know who it comes from.

There are only two sources from which everything flows in this life—good and evil.  God is goodness personified.  Satan is entirely evil.  Satan is our archenemy.  Satan is a liar.  If we are listening to him, we are serving him, instead of God.

"Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; God sent Me.  Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  John 8:42-44  (NIV)

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives.  Jesus comes to make our lives completely full—of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.   (Galatians 5:22,23)

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly."  John 10:10  (KJV)

One of satan's ways of stealing, killing, and destroying the good in our lives is to take perfectly wonderful moments and force his lies into our thinking, making us afraid to enjoy the abundant life Jesus stands offering to us.  Jesus said there is NO truth in satan.  Every, single time he speaks, he tells a lie.  He is the father of lies.

So, since satan is a liar, and he is the source of fear, we now know the truth that will set us free.  Fear is a liar. 

4.  Since fear is a spirit, this is spiritual warfare.  We can't see fear.  If we could, this battle would be so much easier, but our battle is against what we cannot see with the human eye.  It is happening in the spirit world.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Ephesians 6:12  (NIV)

5.  Since this is not a fleshly battle, it cannot be won with fleshly weapons.  

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."  2 Corinthians 10:4  (ESV)

6.  Divine power is tapped into by speaking God's Word out loud.  

If we want to give the spirit of fear a TKO blow, this is how it's done.

When Jesus was being sorely tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Satan chose to begin his first two attacks with the word "if."  This was a fear tactic.  He was trying to place seeds of doubt in Jesus' mind as to who He was and cause Him to fear that He may be mistaken about being God's Son.

"If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."  Matthew 4:3  (KJV)

"If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands, they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."  Matthew 4:6  (KJV)

Though Jesus knew who He was as young as 12 years of age when He was found conversing with the teachers in the temple, Satan tried to undermine Jesus' belief in His own, true identity.  He knew if he could get Jesus to fear that He may not really be who He was, he could deter Him from pursuing the whole reason He was sent to this world in the first place.  If he could inject the spirit of fear into Jesus' mind, he could sabotage the whole plan of salvation, and he could win the ultimate battle.  Can you even imagine such?  To think of it is unimaginable.

Jesus was fully aware of what was at stake, and He wielded the only all-powerful weapon, striking satan down in utter defeat every, single time.  To each of satan's underhanded, fearful "ifs", Jesus responded with the Word of God—spoken out loud.

"But He answered and said, it is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."  Matthew 4:4  (KJV)

"Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."  Matthew 4:7  (KJV)

The Word of God is proven and tested artillery.  It worked for Jesus and enabled Him to overcome, and it will work for us in the battle against fear.  In order for us to use the Word of God, we must first hide it away in our hearts so it will be there, at the ready, automatic, and at all times.  The way to do that is to read it, study it, and memorize it.

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."  Psalm 119:11  (KJV)

After it is hidden in the heart, we use and wield it as an offensive weapon by speaking it out loud.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Proverbs 18:21  (KJV)

We are in control over what comes out of our mouth.  We can either give in to the spirit of fear, give it an audible voice, feed into its intended frenzy, and perpetuate its existence, OR we can speak God's Word into existence.  Spoken truth exposes and dispels the lies of fear.

When David went out to fight the giant Goliath, he refused the untested armor King Saul offered him.  He chose to go into battle with nothing less than what he was familiar and experienced with and what he had tried and proven to be successful in the past—with what he knew.  David knew his trusted sling, and David knew his God.

"Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.  David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands. As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.  So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.  David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran."  I Samuel 17:40,45-51  (NIV)

What purpose would David's sling and stone have served if he had left them in his shepherd's bag and turned away from Goliath in defeat?  For sake of space, I didn't include the whole story, but if you have time to read it, you will see that Goliath was continually spewing threats toward David that would make a lesser person tremble and run in the opposite direction.  David identified the threats for what they were—total bullying, empty fear tactics, and absurdity when stacked up against his GOD.  He stood firm in the face of such terror, reached into his bag, pulled out a stone, placed it in his sling, marked his target, and landed the blow that felled his opponent once and for all.

The giant of fear will rear its ugly head in all of our lives.  Of this, we can be certain.  It isn't a matter of "if" fear will resurface, but when.  The wonderful thing about it is that the next time he reappears with all his taunts and threats, we are armed and fully loaded with the truth.  We know he is a liar, and following Jesus' example and speaking God's Word is the only "stone" we will ever need to minimize and take him down.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Minimizing Emotional Clutter

There is a fine line between mental clutter and emotional clutter.  Since the mental and emotional parts of us are so closely related, and they even overlap in different ways, we will move right on from the mental slice of the "Whole-Person Pie©" and delve into the emotional.

Following Jesus does not mean that we will no longer feel or be excused from the human condition. As human beings, we will experience the full gamut of all emotions on a regular basis.   Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years to show us what God in the flesh looked like.  He felt every emotion we will ever feel.  His circumstances may have been different from the exact situations we find ourselves in, but the emotions, the hurt, the betrayal, the pain—it was the same for Him as it is for you and me.

If we are experiencing it or facing it, we can be 100% certain that Jesus faced it first.  If we are going through it, Jesus has already been there, yes, in a human form.  Just like you.  Just like me.  How do I know that with an absolute certainty?  Because His Word tells us the truth.

"For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15  (KJV)

Truth is the thing satan does not want us to know about—he hates truth.  Truth releases the chains that satan takes delight in wrapping around our spirit and emotions.  Truth is what sets us free.

Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  John 8:32  (KJV)

Jesus IS the truth.  "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."  John 14:6  (KJV)

Jesus came to not only tell us the truth but to show us the truth, lived out in a body of flesh with a human mind that was susceptible to every single emotion known to man.  Jesus experienced them all, and through each one of those emotions, He never sinned.  He didn't allow His emotions to control Him, nor did He allow them to consume His life or deter Him from His purpose.

Emotions are real.  They are a part of us.  As long as we are in a human body, we will experience them.  It is what we allow our emotions to lead us to do that matters.  Reining in our own reactions to our emotions is a lifelong battle, but one that we can overcome daily, through following Jesus and yielding control to the power of His Spirit dwelling within us.  

Each one of us bears scars from the wounds of our past.  There isn't a person alive who has not felt the sting of hurt, heartache, grief, and suffering.  None of us possess the capability of completely shutting off our feelings or coming to a place of such resolve that we are left unaffected by the things that touch our lives.  Each hard thing we go through in this life leaves its mark, and the deeper the hurt, the longer it takes to heal.  But, just as too many physical possessions creates chaotic stress and clutter—long-term accumulation of rampant, undealt-with emotions take over and become deeply detrimental to our well-being.  Emotional baggage is a heavy weight to carry.  Even if we have found the rare peace that comes from the release of excess physical possessions, out of control emotions can overwhelm and steal every bit of that peace and pull a cloud over an otherwise serene life.

Just as none of our physical possession minimizing journeys look quite the same, the contents that fill up the suitcases that hold our emotional baggage are also very different.

So, let's open those suitcases and take a look inside, shall we?  Do we dare?  It is one thing to peel back the layers of physical possessions in search of excess and unnecessary things that need to be released, but digging into and disturbing emotions presents a whole new ballgame and challenge.  It can get real ugly real quick because who wants to face and deal with this stuff?  It is much easier to just shove it farther to the backs of our minds and try to convince ourselves it doesn't exist than to acknowledge and embrace reality and shine the light of God's Word into all those darkened corners.

You can do this!  Take courage, and know that you are definitely not alone.  If each one of us is brutally honest, we will have to admit that this is a level playing field.  So, go ahead—unlock your suitcase, and lift the lid.  What do you see?  What's in there?  Chances are it has been in there for so long and become such a part of you that you have forgotten it is even there.  What does your emotional baggage look like?  There are only two people who will ever know—God and you.  He's known all along, and He loves you so much!  He is so pleased that you are taking this audacious first step toward letting go of all the "junk" in that suitcase.  It has weighed you down and made you unhappy for so long.  Today, you are going to start your emotional minimizing journey, and you are soon going to be set free!

Shh!  Just between you and God, do you happen to see any bitterness in there?

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:  looking diligently lest any man fails of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."  Hebrews 12:14-15  (KJV)

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth."  James 3:13,14  (NIV)

Do you see any grudges?  Look close.  Are you unable to forgive someone who has wronged you?  I know it hurts.  I know that what they did to you is incomprehensible.  I know they may or may not have apologized or admitted to their own guilt and wrongdoing.  I totally understand that you are 100%  justified in feeling the way you do.  Your feelings are real.  They matter.  They deserve validation.  But, friend!  Carrying this unforgiveness is making your suitcase really, really heavy and hard to carry.  Imagine how much lighter it would be if you just decided today to forgive, bury that hatchet once and for all, and lighten your load!  You are the one who will benefit most from letting it go.

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."  Colossians 3:13  (KJV)

"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  neither give place to the devil.  And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice:  and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Ephesians 4:26-27,30-32  (KJV)

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.  On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Romans 12:17-21  (NIV)

Is there any guilt in there?  Any shame for past, already-forgiven sins?  God already forgot about them.  Why can't you?  Why carry the weight of them any longer?  Oh, look!  He already took them from you.  If you look just a bit closer, you will see that they aren't in the suitcase at all.  Memories of what you did and the shame and guilt are all that linger—mere illusions of what used to be.  You are not that person anymore, remember?  Don't you want to walk forward, from this moment, with only what is real?

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."  Romans 8:1-2  (KJV~emphasis added)

"He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities, and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."  Micah 7:19  (KJV)

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."  John 3:17  (KJV)

"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.  He will not always chide: neither will He keep his anger forever.  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us."  Psalm 103:8-12  (KJV)

Those sins are gone, my friend!  Now, go—forgive yourself and extend to yourself the same grace God has bestowed upon you!

Do you see any hatred in your suitcase?

"If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?  And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."  I John 4:20,21  (KJV)

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."  I John 2:9-11  (KJV)

How about self-loathing?

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10  (KJV)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16  (KJV)

"The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."  Jeremiah 31:3  (KJV)

"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."  I Corinthians 6:20  (KJV)

What else are you finding in there?  It is time to minimize.  Release everything negative.  Let go of all that drags you down.  Purge the excess.  Open your heart and mind to the unconditional love God has in His heart for you.  Stop nursing old wounds, and allow yourself to heal.

Are you feeling lighter?  Hey, maybe you no longer need that suitcase at all.