A Call to Repentance

25 April 2017

Warning:  This is not my normal type of blog!

God got me up more than an hour before my alarm this morning, having planted an exceptional hunger for His Word in my heart.  I’ve learned over the years to just get up, wash my face, get a cup of coffee, and dig into whatever is next in my Bible reading plan.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been reading through a chronological NLT (New Living Translation) Bible.  This translation seems mostly accurate, at least according to the Bible training I have undergone, and is very story-like and easy to read.  At the end of 16 months, I’ve made it all the way up to June 24.  I decided a while back that the chronology was what I was desiring more than “making it through” the whole Bible in a year.  I want to take my time and catch what God is speaking to my heart rather than rush through and “just gitter-done.”  I write all this to say I believe this is a very important message for me today, and it might be an important message to you, too.  I’ll just give you the (slightly revised – mostly more organized and with names confirmed) notes about what God showed me this morning.

Isaiah 8:5-8      Then the LORD spoke to me again and said, “My care for the people of Judah is like the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, but they have rejected it.  They are rejoicing over what will happen to King Rezin and King Pekah.  Therefore, the Lord will overwhelm them with a mighty flood from the Euphrates River – the King of Assyria and all his glory.  This flood will overthrow all its channels and sweep into Judah until it is chin deep.  It will spread its wings, submerging your land from one end to the other, O Immanuel.”  (NLT)

My personal take-away:  Do NOT rejoice when God brings judgment on evil men and women.

Before I go any farther, let me state a caveat:  I don’t pretend to understand politics and world events, try as I may.  God brought to mind a few events I know of as illustrations, using the few facts I believe are reasonably certain, to apply this Scripture to my life, and to the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

How often do we, God’s children, rejoice when God brings judgment on evil men and women today?  When Saddam Hussein was executed by American forces?  When Osama Ben Laden was assassinated by Seal Team Six?  When President Trump sent the MOAB missiles into Syria, an attack against Syria’s President Assad, just this past month?

By God’s standards, all there of these men are evil men, doing evil things.  It may be possible that God used America to bring about His judgment upon these three men and their political kingdoms, rooted in the same evil.

Yet, I am reminded of a few things:

  1. The title of John Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
  2. 2 Peter 3:9b tells me, “He [God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT)
  3. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” (attribution uncertain)

A bit further down in Isaiah 8, verse 11 says, “The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.”  (NLT)  Further down in verse 20, “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!  People who contradict His Word are completely in the dark.”  (NLT)

So, today I will choose to repent, to confess as sin and turn away from doing again, the times I took joy in seeing evil men – and women – brought to justice.  I will choose instead to begin praying for their salvation and their transformation into godly men and women.

Who will join me?

 

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This Week’s Adventures

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I realize I’ve not posted in a week, maybe a little more.  It surely wasn’t due to my laziness!  Planning and packing for our repatriation and getting my little book (Living Boldly: Acknowledging and Overcoming Fear) published on Kindle Direct Publishing has taken most of my “spare time.”

The packing is going well.  Hopefully there will be a little “garage sale” this weekend.  Of course, we have no garage and this really isn’t a Thai thing, but it’s time to dispose of some of the bigger things and appliances now.

The book publishing adventure is surely an adventure.  I’ve found that there are two misspelled words in the text, and there’s a goof-up on my cover – never noticed it!  I’m going to have to get the graphic artist to fix it for me.  It should be quick, and then I’ll have to figure out how to fix both of those things.  This has surely been a learning experience for me.  THEN to figure out how to get everything sized so that it can be available as a printed product.  That may take a while with everything else going on.  Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WW81JGX/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487894561&sr=8-1&keywords=Cindy+Bratton.

Funny thing as I was getting ready to click the publish button on this.  A wave of fear hit me.  “What if no one likes it? What if there’s something that’s not quite right theologically?  What if . . .”  That’s the topic of the book!  So, I remembered where this fear came from (not God!) and hit that publish button anyway.   To be honest, it’s a bit odd to begin thinking of myself as a published author.  I really believe that God has led me down this path, and I’m excited to see what He will be doing with it.  I believe He has given me insight into how to simply apply the Word to my everyday life in order to impact those around me, those in my sphere of influence.  I just want others to be able to be encouraged to do the same.;

My posting on this blog may be a bit sporadic over the next several weeks.  A lot is going on, a lot of it physical too.  Selling/giving away most of our earthly possessions; packing up 4 cubic meters to ship on a boat; flying to Los Angeles from Phuket; recovering from jet lag; a day at Knott’s Berry Farm with family; a day at Disneyland Anaheim with family; a road trip from Southern California to Vancouver, WA to catch up with family, then back again; finding employment/ministry positions and an apartment; settling in to life in the States again.  God is good!  He will take us through it all!  I’m excited, but also a bit exhausted just thinking of it all.  Overall, I’m excited to embark on this next step of our journey.

Living Boldly: Fear for Your Personal Well-being

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The Twelve Spies

A synopsis of Numbers 13:1-7, 17-24

After crossing the desert on their way from Egypt to Canaan, the land that God had promised Abraham their ancestor, the Hebrews, under the guidance of Moses, were ready to enter the land.  God instructed Moses to send spies to check out the land.  One man from each of the twelve tribes was chosen to go in.  All twelve returned telling of a land flowing with milk and honey and they brought back huge clusters of grapes.  But ten of the twelve included reports of huge giants in the land, men so large that the Hebrews seemed like grasshoppers, and as a result, fear for everyone’s personal safety and well-being was sown that day.

The Rich Young Ruler

A synopsis of Mark 10:17-30

 A man approached Jesus one day.  This man asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life with God forever in Heaven.  Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments, to which this man replied that he had kept them all, from the time he was a youth.  Then Jesus instructed him to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor.  Disheartened, the man went away because he had so many possessions.

 

We, too can have a fear that others will physically hurt us.  Those spies believed that the giants in Canaan, the land that God had promised them, were going to slaughter them.  We can often feel the same way.

In 1990, I had such a fear.  We were new missionaries at the time, and there was an area of town known for its gangs and was considered a very unsafe area.  I had a horrendous fear that someone would want me to go teach a Good News Club© in that area.  I had three children of my own that would go with me.  I feared for our physical safety.  What was I to do?  Well, back I went to 2 Timothy 1:7.  If someone wanted me to teach a club in that area, then God would provide the protection we would need to get it done.  By the way, I was never asked to teach a club in that area.  I was just borrowing trouble!  Matthew 6:34 is very appropriate for this too: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

We might fear we will not have enough resources for the present or the future.  This is how the rich young ruler must have felt.  Fearful that, if he gave all he had to the poor, he wouldn’t have enough to eat, a place to stay, clothes to wear.  I felt that way as we prepared to enter full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in 1989, and again as we prepared to leave for missionary work in Thailand in 2006.  And, yet again, this fear rears its ugly head as I begin considering repatriation to the States.

I’ve already shared the first story, about preparing to serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship.  Seventeen years later, I had a well-paying teaching job.  I was teaching middle school science.  Most of the time I loved my work.  The times I didn’t love it was when the middle schoolers behaved poorly and wore me out.  Outside of my student loan and our mortgage, we were debt free.  I loved our church and the people in it.  I especially loved singing in a top-notch choir.  But on December 26, 2004, the Boxing Day Tsunami struck throughout the Indian Ocean region and my husband went to assist with relief.  He came back home with a heavy burden for Thailand.  The end result was heading to Thailand on August 6, 2006 to minister to the Thai who had been affected by the Tsunami.

My husband and I, then in our late 40s, had finally begun to contribute to retirement accounts about two years previously.  That would end when I left my teaching position, leaving us to depend on the floundering U.S. Social Security system for our retirement income – and God!  We thought our son and his family would live in our home, paying the mortgage, but after a year, that wasn’t working out for them.  We lost the house and all the equity in it.  Then the “what ifs” began again:

What if, when we repatriate, we don’t have a place to live?

What if, when we retire, we don’t have enough to pay our bills and still eat?

What if? What if? What if?

Now, as we are entering our 60s, these “what ifs” jump to the front of my mind again. BUT GOD has promised in Mathew 6:33, 34 that, if I will but seek Him first, He WILL provide all our needs.  I don’t have to fear for the future if I am fully following Him.

We sometimes fear that we might get hurt if we do one thing or another.  Sometimes being a homemaker can cause me to fear for my physical safety.

What if I fall off the step ladder while changing the light bulb or painting the wall or hanging the picture?

What if the oil pops and burns me while I’m cooking a meal?

What if the 220V electric zaps me when I plug in or unplug the toaster?

Growing up in the U.S. with 110V electricity flowing through the general house wiring, we were taught to greatly fear the 220V electricity that powers electric stoves and ovens, electric clothes dryers, and air conditioners.  If we needed to unplug such an appliance, we’d not only turn off that particular circuit breaker, but probably the main breaker to the whole house.

Living overseas, I’ve had to give up that fear.  Can you imagine cutting the power every time you plug in and unplug the toaster?  Remember, power to the wifi router would also be cut, along with the power to the alarm clock and all those appliances with clocks, such as the microwave and DVD player.  You get the idea.  And again, cutting the power to plug in and unplug the blow dryer, the curling iron, the phone charger, the power supply to the laptop, the iron . . . the list can go on and on.  And the inconvenience is not only to you, but to your whole household.  This particular fear of personal hurt could be quite debilitating.

You might ask if people really live in fear of these daily uses of electricity.  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  Come live where I live and observe how people live in my neighborhood.  It seems to be either total fear of or total disregard for the 220V electricity.

We sometimes fear that we might get sick if we do, or don’t do, something.

“Germaphobia” (not used here as a medical diagnosis) is rampant in the U.S.  I see it more now that I’ve lived and not just visited overseas.  It seems as if every cleaning product is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial.  Kitchen counters are bleached in one way or another multiple times a day.  The same goes for every bathroom fixture.  Hard flooring is disinfected daily.  Many little children are disallowed from playing outside in the grass and dirt and mud most of the time.  If they do get to play on the grass, Mom is there with a pack of disinfectant wipes scrubbing their hands and faces every fifteen minutes or so.  Then comes the time for the child to enter kindergarten.

As a former kindergarten teacher, I can share my personal experience.  This is not a scientifically controlled study, just my personal observation.  I observed two basic types of student health in kindergarteners:  Those with the occasional sniffles and little to no fever, and those who were absent from school much of the time.  It was the children who often played in the grass, dirt, and mud who missed less school!  Why?  It is my understanding that they had been exposed to germs little by little and had built up personal immunity over time.

As adults, I see a similar phenomenon.  Teams will come to assist us in ministry here.  They come with multiple packs of disinfectant wipes.  They brush their teeth with bottled water.  They insist on expensive little bottles of (sometimes imported) drinking water.  They must be wondering if the large, very inexpensive, bottles of purified water have been purified enough.  They refuse to enjoy ice in their drinks, and refuse uncooked vegetables and fruit.  Some places this is necessary.  Where we serve, it is not.  The one piece of advice we give them – wear mosquito repellant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is totally disregarded.  Where we are, the problem is not malaria, although many will take daily anti-malaria pills; the problem is the four strains of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito.  That same mosquito carries Yellow Fever (not a problem here) and the Zika virus.

So, what are we to do?

Recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, look back at 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (KJV) Focus on the term “sound mind.”

Third, I think we need to examine these particular fears.  There may be things we can do to prevent some of this.

Has God enabled me to save a reasonable amount for my retirement?  By all means, do it.

Make sure that step-ladder is fully open and stable before climbing on it to change a light bulb or hang a picture.

Plug things in properly, with dry hands, and unplug properly, with dry hands and not yanking on the cord.

Wash your hands properly when you should be.  Wipe down the counters and keep the bathroom clean.  Sweep and mop your floors regularly.

When traveling, especially overseas, research what is truly needful, and when locals strongly advise something, follow their suggestions.

Remember that “sound mind” that God has given you?  Use it.  Then, don’t live in fear.

 

Photo snitched from http://www.theonlinemom.com/best-apps-personal-safety/

Living Boldly: Fear of Others

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Fear of Others

Moses’ Call

a synopsis of Exodus 2:11-3:22; 4:10-17

 

Moses, a Hebrew man who had been miraculously spared from slaughter by the Pharaoh when he was an infant, grew up in Pharaoh’s household.  He knew that he was a Hebrew who had been rescued and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and when he saw that a Hebrew slave was being beaten by an Egyptian, he became angry and killed that Egyptian.  He thought no one had seen him, but the next day saw two Hebrews struggling.  He asked why they would strike their companion.  The one was quite bold, asking who did Moses think he was? Was he going to kill him too, just as he had killed the Egyptian the day before?  It wasn’t long before Pharaoh heard of it and set out to kill Moses, his adopted grandson.  So, Moses left Pharaoh’s court and went to the desert land of Midian.  There he met his wife and began a family.

Forty years later the Pharaoh, and the burden upon the Hebrew slaves became far greater than it had been before.  They cried out to God for deliverance.  And God had a plan.

God spoke to Moses as he was leading his flock in the wilderness.  God told Moses that he had seen the affliction of the Hebrews in Egypt, and was going to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and take them to their promised land, the land that He had given to Abraham long, long before.  He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew slaves.

Moses made excuse after excuse to God, giving Him reasons why he shouldn’t be the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  First, he replied that he was no one special; why would Pharaoh listen to him?  My guess is that he was afraid to have an audience with Pharaoh because of the Egyptians he had killed all those decades ago.

Then he was afraid that the people of Israel would not believe that God had truly sent him to deliver them.  Probably intertwined with this was the fear of being mocked for his position.

Then he was afraid of his ability to speak.  Maybe he had a speech impediment.  Even after God promised to be right there by him, he still begged for someone else to be given the task.  So, God gave Moses his brother, Aaron, to be his spokesman.

Moses’ fear kept him from fully experiencing the amazing plan that God wanted to work through him.

We can have some of these same fears today.  We think, we might even know, others are smarter than we are. We fear we will perceived as stupid. But if God has called us to a task, we must realize that we know and understand things in unique ways that can help others.

We can be afraid that others have more wealth than we do, which in the eyes of many, seem to give them a greater level of credibility.  That’s always been something in our lives.  Most people in the States have far more wealth than we do.

We can be fearful that our skill set is not great enough, that others have better abilities than we do.  We don’t want to appear incompetent.  But we have skills that others don’t.  And, if we are following God’s call on our lives, He will provide for the deficiencies.

But what is the underlying fear of these three things?  It is the fear of what others will think of us.  This is probably the most debilitating fear in this category.  I don’t want to be looked down upon because I said or did something that someone considers inappropriate.  So I just don’t do anything.  This is not procrastination; this is debilitating fear.  On a personal note, this is a fear I must fight as I pursue this project of writing about fear and overcoming it.

So, what is to be done?

First, recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Then I must overcome that fear, the most difficult part of this process.  What is a Scripture passage that can help me overcome the fear of what others and what they think of me?

In 2 Timothy 1:3-7, the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of his faith, his God-given gifts, and the calling God had placed on his life. Paul exhorted Timothy to stir these things up, to use them boldly.  And then in verse 7, Paul reminds Timothy that, “. . . God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV).  The King James Version of the Bible uses “a sound mind” in the place of “self-control.”

It is, in that simple verse, the reminder that, as I live in faith, exercise my God-given gifts, and walk in the calling God has placed on my life, any fear I experience does NOT come from God.  I shouldn’t live in that fear.  I must press on and fulfill the calling God has on my life.  Is it easy? Not usually!  Nevertheless, God calls me to press on.

Note: Image from http://www.quick-good-fortune.com/Stress-Relief-Solution-to-Difficult-Situations.html