Here in this Hospital Room

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I hesitate to type this, thinking, “How many blog posts am I going to have to write from a hospital room?”

I suppose the answer is:  “As many as it takes.” Because giving up is inconceivable, and letting go is synonymous with trust.

Writing these posts helps me to focus on Jesus. Looking at Him makes it possible to release the things I can’t control (the symptoms and the accompanying waves of fear that try to crash over me) into the most capable of hands.

Surrender.

It’s the theme of this blog and the often underestimated victor over fear’s taunting attack. My brother Chris recently preached a sermon over it that brought me to tears and to the feet of Jesus to ask for the grace to wholly believe. “When fear and surrender collide,” he said, “We can choose to surrender to God’s perfect love as it casts out all fear.” (At least that’s what my heart heard.)

And God’s love is perfect. His love is flawless and without error. It is a matchless love that drives out fear, leaving nothing to doubt. (I John 4:18)

His thoughts and ways and plans are perfect too. Our God is incapable of thinking anything less than infinitely beyond our highest human thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

God watches over His own Words to perform without fault all that He has sent them to accomplish. (Jeremiah 1:11)

He perfects, completes, and brings to an end the things that concern me. (Psalms 138:8)

Until recently, I never really understood the beattitudes (from Matthew chapter 5) and would sometimes puzzle over them.

“Blessed are those who mourn …” (vs 4)

It’s a paradox. An oxymoron.

Then I began to see the context for this, one of Jesus’ most famous sermons. With His words and His life, with parables and miracles–Jesus was announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven had come to earth.

This message of hope came to a world at its wits’ end. The physically blind, deaf, and lame. The dead and spiritually deceased. Those hurt by persecution or purposelessness or painful circumstances. People disheartened by religion and its ritualistic tradition. All of humanity grimacing under the weight of trying to reach God, to find life and meaning, by mortal methods.

If you are a blind man standing in front of Jesus, the Son of God and Word made Flesh, you are blessed. You are blessed, not because you are blind, but because the Answer to your greatest need has arrived.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Suddenly the mourner, shrunken under the weight of loss, glances up from her brokeness and catches the eye of the Savior. She is blessed–not because of her grief or pain–but because indescribable and uncontainable comfort has stepped onto the scene in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom of God is here. Not in the distant future, a million light years away. Here. Now.

The mother spending another night in a cold, sterile room is blessed. Not because of the disease or the struggle. She is blessed because The Kingdom of God–His rule, His reign, His sovereignty, peace, and power to work miracles–is right here in this hospital room. Right now.

I’m pretty sure the sweet girl in the crib next to me is somehow more aware of this Kingdom truth than most. I can tell by the way she smiles knowingly and laughs at things you and I can’t see.

Fearless Faith

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In our new-parent zeal for baby milestones, we spent hours staring at our newborn just to see what she might do next.

I used to lean over a sprawled out Olivia, cooing, “How much does mommy love her baby girl?” Then, I would answer the question myself as I picked up her tiny arms, flinging them outward:  “Mommy loves Olivia THIS big!”

It was a startle reflex, of course, that caused Olivia to spread her arms and legs wide at the exact moment that I squealed. I’m sure that some logical part of me knew that I was witnessing an ordinary phenomenon called the Moro reflex. (It’s when babies respond to sudden movement by throwing back their heads, extending arms and legs, crying out, then curling up again.) But when Olivia did it, I was sure it was a pent-up declaration of love for me.

The Moro reflex happens when an infant feels like she is falling–the fear of which most experts believe all humans are born with. We’re all born afraid to fall, yet a glance at the picture above will reveal a child in joyous rapture as she is being launched at the sky by her taller-than-average father.

So how does Olivia go from startling at sudden movements, even from the safety of the ground, to laughing gleefully as she is tossed into the trees?

How do you and I go from jolting at every bump in life’s road to resting easy, joyfully even, no matter how far down the ground seems to be?

Faith.

NOT mechanically shouting faith words through a hoarse voice–raspy from trying to prove belief and conceal doubt. What good is it to understand the power of words if you do not trust the heart of God?

Just faith.

NOT praying, “Lord, if it be thy will” with ankles shaking and hands clenched–too scared to ask for what has been freely offered. How sad to realize the peace that comes through submission only to miss out by selling the promises of God short!

Faith can’t be mustered up any more than fear can be wrestled into compliance.

What happens when I speak words of faith because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t? What if I stay silent out of fear that believing and speaking won’t make a difference?

Fear just finds a new mask.

Matthew 12:34 says, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Can a heart full of fear speak faith? Not any more than a deceitful heart can tell the truth.

When we try to draw faith from a well of fear it’s like picking rotting fruit from a bad tree or writing a hot check on an account in default.

Only perfect love casts out fear. Faith comes, not just by hearing, but by receiving the Word of God (I John 4:18; Romans 10:16-21). We hear the good news about Jesus and accept the words as we embrace the One who speaks them.

How can Olivia, afraid of falling since birth, smile as she’s thrown into the air?

She learned firsthand that her father’s hands are the safest place to be.

How can I rest easy in the most fearful of situations?

Only by getting to know my Father so well that I can’t imagine Him ever dropping me.

Faith comes through relationship, and that only happens face to face. I find God’s ability and willingness to come through for me in His written Word, the self-told story of His constant love. In Jesus made flesh, I see perfect dependability and a spotless track record. In the presence of God’s Spirit–always with me and in me–I discover unfailing faithfulness.

Now I am a tree, rooted in Jesus and bearing good fruit.

I write checks on an account in solid standing:  backed by the One who built the bank and based on His enduring promises.

I speak faith-filled words, and they are drawn from a well of deep trust.

When I pray, “Your will be done,” I’m running toward God’s sovereignty, not away from His promises.

I come to Jesus as I did the very first time: like a child, with simple belief. I recognize that He is the basis for my faith and the only rightful source of its expression.

Jesus is both the Author and the object of faith. When I’ve experienced his faithfulness intimately, I can’t help but declare my trust in Him!

Face to face with Jesus, the living Word, I find real faith.

Startle-proof,
Gravity defying,
FEARLESS
Faith