Tag Archives: Faith

Fear God, Not the Storm

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Robby took this photo in WalMart today.

 

Like everyone else in Florida, my family and I are waiting on Hurricane Irma to make landfall.

Every major news channel is reporting on enormous hurricane—her trajectory, the devastation she’s already wrecked, and the lives she’s claimed. This morning, CBS called her a “monster” and a “killer storm.” The poor folks in Barbuda would probably agree.

Although we’re in Tallahassee, most of our gas stations ran out of gas days ago. Stores like Wal-Mart and Publix have been out of water and low on staples like bread and toilet paper. Several stores have had new shipments, but the generators and water have sold out within minutes.

If I had to use one word to describe the tension in the air, it would be “Fear.”

We know the Bible tells us repeatedly not to fear, and yet we can’t help but be scared when life’s storms are headed our way. So, how do we respond in a godly way? What are we supposed to do?

 

DAVID’S MONSTER

This situation reminds me David, staring up at Goliath. At about nine feet tall, Goliath must have looked like a man-eating monster. If he had focused on Goliath’s past, his ability, his hatred, and his desire for blood, David would have returned home and let someone else worry about the giant. David was the youngest in his family, a mere shepherd boy. No one expected him to be a hero. He could have left without incurring any shame.

But David wasn’t looking for an out. In fact, he wasn’t looking at Goliath, either. His eyes were on God. He knew beyond a doubt what God could do in the present situation because he knew what God had done for him in the past:

“And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine'” (1 Samuel 17:37 NAS).

Armed with nothing but a sling and a few stones, David brought his monster to its knees. (See 1 Samuel 17:32-51.)

This is the kind of life-changing experience a person doesn’t forget. I imagine David was thinking back on it when he later wrote, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1 NAS). By God’s power, David had fought a lion, a bear, and a giant. With each success, his faith was strengthened even more.

 

FEAR THIS

Interestingly, there is one thing the Bible tells us to fear: God Himself.

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 6:13 NAS).

“You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4 NAS).

There are numerous Scriptures that reinforce this idea that we should fear God…and only God. That’s because when we fear God, we cling to Him with loving obedience. This is the opposite of being afraid of something and running away from it.

To “fear God” means that we:

  • Believe in God—accept that He exists and His Word is true (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Obey God—follow His commands daily (See Deuteronomy 13:4)

This type of fear is really a form of holy reverence.

 

FEAR NOT

When we fear the storms of this life, our anxiousness can make them appear bigger than they are. We focus on the storm and forget the One who created all things, who manages all things, and who loves us immeasurably. Our problem looms so large that we cannot see God beyond it, and our faith falters. That’s when our storm becomes an idol.

We are told to fear only God because He is the only one worthy of our fear, our love, our reverence, and our obedience. To every storm on the horizon, every coming battle, every season of hardship, we are told to “fear not”—not because it isn’t scary, not because it won’t be hard, and not because God doesn’t care. We’re told to “fear not” because there is nothing bigger than God and nothing worthy of our adoration but Him.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT

If, like us, you’re in the path of Irma, please listen to the advisories. If you’re in an evacuation zone, get out. If you’re hunkering down, be smart about it. Use common sense and stay safe.

However, as you watch the news, and the wind begins to pick up speed, take a breath. Don’t let the storm loom larger than God. Keep it in perspective as you focus on Him—all the things He’s done for you and all the times He’s delivered you. Then put it in God’s hands. God is with us, and He’ll get us through this.

 

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NAS).

 


I’ll be posting updates throughout this storm. To see more about our experience, or for helpful hints and links, check out my Facebook page @ashleyljones.author. God bless you and keep you safe!

 

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Classes, Manuscripts, and Radio Interviews, Oh My!

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Navigating_Meme

 

This month, I’ll begin teaching a 5-week course called Navigating Your Spiritual Journey at my alma mater, the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center. I developed this class based on 13 years of research on the topic of the spiritual journey, which is the topic of my non-fiction manuscript, Girls with Gusto. In the class, students will learn the eight major steps of the spiritual journey and will be able to identify where they are on the map and what they need to do to advance forward.

Every semester, our local Christian radio station, Wave94.1, interviews a faculty member about his or her class. This semester, they picked me! So, for more information on this class, my manuscript, and the college, check out my radio interview. (I added photos and memes I’ve shared on this site or posted on social media to make it more fun.)

 

I hope to see you later this month at TCCTC. If you’re not in the area, or you can’t commit to the 5-week class, don’t worry—I’ll continue to share encouraging posts with you right here at BigSisterKnows. As always, your prayers (as well as your Likes and Shares) are sincerely appreciated!

A Model of Unity

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TCCTC-3

That’s me, second from the right, in front of the new campus for TCCTC. (Credit: SociallyLoved)

The following article was first posted on OneChristianVoice and their subsidiary, TallyChristianVoice. Check out their site for more inspiring stories as well as news that impacts Christians around the world.


UNITY 

Imagine, if you can, a place where Christians of all colors and creeds gather together. Every believer is welcome, regardless of his or her denomination, background, education level, or socio-economic status. Together, they spend hours poring over the Bible in various translations and ancient languages. They focus on God and the Scriptures. They pray together, learn from one another, and encourage one another in their walk with the Lord.

You may think this kind of unity only existed in the first century church. (See Acts 2.) At least, that’s what I thought…until I saw it first hand at the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center (TCCTC).

 

MODEL

Over the past 12 years, I’ve been connected with TCCTC as a student, volunteer, board member, and faculty member. With each passing year, I become more amazed that such a spirit of unity exists—and even thrives!—within this small college. In a world full of segregated churches, of discord and confusion, TCCTC stands out as a model of unity.

I sat down recently with Jo Anne Arnett, the president and co-founder of TCCTC, and asked her an important question: How does the college achieve such unity?

Below, I’ve compiled a short list of Jo Anne’s responses, as well as suggestions on how we can apply the model of TCCTC to our own churches, youth groups, small groups, and Bible studies. While I’m sure there are more elements we could include, these few items are sufficient to challenge even the most established group of believers. 

 

1 – Diversify – Seek “unity at every level.”

Since its inception in 1990, TCCTC has embraced all manner of diversification (including age, color, background, and denomination) among the board of directors, faculty, and student body. Each semester, the faculty represent 15-20 denominations, while the total student body has come from over 400 congregations. Jo Anne puts it simply: “Everybody’s welcome.”

Application: Unity does not mean sameness. Encourage diversification in your group, then seek unity. 

 

2 – Focus – “We focus on Jesus and the Scriptures.”

Jo Anne is careful to point out that TCCTC focuses on Jesus and the Scriptures. True Christianity includes the study of both, for we are directed to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23 NAS).

Over the years, I’ve heard Jo Anne say, “We major in the majors…but we don’t avoid the minors, either.” In other words, the majority of classes are focused on the major topics, such as the books of the Bible, hermeneutics (how to interpret Scripture), and Church history. There are numerous other classes students can explore for personal growth or continuing education, but they are not the major focus of the college.

Application: Focus on Jesus and the Scriptures. However, don’t get sidetracked or bogged down in details to the point that you miss the overarching message of God’s love and redemption.

 

3 – Concentrate – Unity is “not about watering down” the truth.

Too often, we feel that we have to dilute the Gospel to make it more acceptable for a wider audience. However, TCCTC takes a different approach: they face difficult Scriptures or topics head-on. They trust that God’s Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” and so they search the Scriptures for clarity. (See 2 Timothy 3:16 NAS.)

As for doctrinal conflicts, Jo Anne said there are only a few areas in which real differences of interpretations may appear. For those rare instances, teachers agree up front to give “equal voice and weight” to alternative interpretations. The students can then lean on the Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to interpret the meaning of the passage. Even if students disagree on the interpretation, they can be unified in their whole-hearted approach to seeking God and learning more about His Word.

Application: Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and clarity as you dig into the Scriptures. Concentrate on the Word and don’t shy away from difficult subjects. When differences arise within your group, retain unity as you explore other interpretations of the Word.

 

4 – Appreciate – Unity involves “appreciating each other’s different gifts.”

Most of us are familiar with the metaphor of a single Church Body with many members, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12. During our talk, Jo Anne used the same Scripture in reference to the various denominations within the Church—an analogy I had never considered before.

She said that TCCTC appreciates the different roles of each denomination and the value they bring to the Church Body. Instead of trying to break down denominational walls, the college seeks to “train and equip congregations to better fulfill their purpose within the Body.”

Application: Appreciate the various roles of individuals as well as denominations and congregations within the Church. When you do, you’ll begin to build bridges and spread unity within the Body.

 

5 – Serve – “Every follower of Jesus Christ is in full-time ministry.”

According to Jo Anne, the goal of TCCTC is to “train and equip believers to fulfill their various roles as followers of Jesus, and to do so in love with a biblical basis.” They believe every Christian—not just pastors—is in full-time ministry, so those roles could be within the home, church, workplace, or community.

Application: Acknowledge that every believer has an important role within the Church Body. Encourage one another to discover that role and develop it. Don’t go it alone, though. Seek appropriate training and equipping from knowledgeable, mature believers.

 


New Semester Fall Ad

(Credit: SociallyLoved)

If you’re in the Tallahassee region, I encourage you to check out TCCTC in person. But, regardless of your location, I challenge you to seek unity in your church, youth group, and Bible study. As Paul said, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NAS).