Still No Room for Fear

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?…Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” – Psalm 27:1, 14

We all know what’s happening in the US today, from local to federal government levels.  The eyes of the world are on us and have been for quite a while.  The normal levels of anxiousness and concern during election season have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, and the chances of returning to “normal” have all but faded.  Deep-seated fears—either justified by past experiences or imagined by insecurities—have manifested in truly scary, ugly ways.

2020 has done a number on us, fam, that’s for certain.

And yet Psalm 27 rings out loud and clear: the LORD is our light and our salvation.  Not politicians, not special interest groups, not media conglomerates, but the LORD.  His track record of leading and guiding His people through dark and uncertain times is impeccable, so really, who should we fear?  Why should we fear if we believe when we say, “The LORD reigns”?

If we declare so quickly that God is the strength of my life, then of whom should we be afraid?  Naysayers?  Voter intimidators?  Local, state, and federal leadership?  I’ll say it again: God’s track record is impeccable.  I’ve seen Him move the mountains of life out of the way so His children can walk boldly into their season.  I’ve born witness to Him lifting His people above the snare of the fowler and block the enemy’s arrows from striking home.  So, to paraphrase a comedian, “I wish I would be afraid!”

Instead, I choose to follow verse 14 of Psalm 27, because I have experienced the blessings of waiting on the Lord to do His thing, of being encouraged by Him in the meantime.  I know how He strengthens my heart—and how He strengthens yours, too—to trust Him, to cast all our cares on Him and not take them back when it seems He’s moving too slow.  (And for the record, the LORD never moves slow; He moves right.  On.  Time.)  Because of this, I wish I would give the enemy one second of time, one joule of energy fearing the outcome of today.  There are better things to do with the time God has given us, like staying in constant prayer with Him, reading/listening to His word, praising and worshiping Him, thanking Him for all He has done, is doing, and will do in our future.  And especially, we can be encouraging one another not to throw in any towel in defeat, when we are in the family of a victorious God.  

So, fam, here’s my encouragement to you: If any of this happens to be where you are mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually, then go on and put that figurative towel back down, throw that fear away.  Stand tall with shoulders back, eyes forward, and declare at the top of your lungs:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Always remember who you are, Whose you are, and that there is no room for fear.

No room at all.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for Your ageless, powerful word that speaks life to dead situations, and light to darkness.  Wrap us all in the reminder of Your strength and love on this and every day, that You and You alone are in control, and therefore we have nothing and no one to fear.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Amen.

Shine On

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16

Earlier this week I took an overdue chill moment and re-watched Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”.  Except for the original “The Lion King” and “Moana”, I’m not a big fan of all the singing, but the songs were still pretty good.  I thought Tiana was great, Naveen was…eh, and Mama Odie was a trip.  The character that stood out the most, though, was the smallest, snaggle-tooth thing on the screen: the firefly Raymond, Ray for short.  I loved Ray, y’all.  He made me laugh, really laugh, and even cry; he gave me all the feels.  He exuded hospitality, helpfulness, warmth, concern, determination, and courage to fight his good fight.  He let his light shine both literally and figuratively.

Now call me crazy (I don’t mind, really), but I saw some spiritual lessons in this little bug, ones that truly need revisiting.  Three moments featuring Ray come to mind, so bear with me.

The first time we’re introduced to Ray is when Tiana and Naveen are still adjusting to their new frog life and instinctive frog abilities, i.e., catching bugs with their tongues.  This is a disaster as their insect nature locked on an unsuspecting Ray, and they end up completely tangled and tongue-tied…literally.  Ray offers to help right away, but first “adjusts” his illuminating backend, because it wasn’t shining too bright.  He makes a few twists and turns, and then the light is all the way on so he could help them get sorted out. 

Now, in our lives, there are times when the light God gave us doesn’t shine bright or steady; it flickers as our faith and confidence flicker.  For some of us, the flickering has gone on for so long that it’s become our default when faced with challenges.  Our mind and heart-set are more about “I can’t do this, I don’t know what to do”, instead of “I can do this because with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Instead of making the adjustment, of checking ourselves and re-centering on the truth of God and of His power and authority, we allow the darkness of challenges, disappointments, and hurts to crowd us out of our own space.  Our light dims a little, then a little more, and still more until it’s flickering to hold on.

But Jesus Christ tells us in today’s verse to let our light shine; we are to do this with no exception, no matter what we’re facing.  With Him on our side, darkness really doesn’t stand a chance.  It does not have the right or authority to occupy our space in this life.  It does not have the power to extinguish or destroy what was given to us by God.  We need to remember that, always.  When we do, just like Ray we can solve any problem, overcome any challenge, and all this with a big ole smile on our faces.

The second major scene (and third later on) for this scene-stealing lightning bug is towards the end of the movie, when the Shadow Man’s spiritual henchmen on chasing Ray to retrieve the amulet which was instrumental in Naveen’s transformation into a frog.  Ray is cornered in a graveyard by tall, menacing evil spirits, and without pause he rolls up imaginary sleeves (don’t ask; it’s Disney) and warns them with a strong voice, “Don’t make me light my butt!!”  He flies straight at them, his “butt” lit bright and disintegrating the spirits on contact.  He is literally the tiniest thing on the screen, but he has ZERO fear.  He’s not worried that his light will flicker out, because he knows it won’t.  He’s living his purpose, and the darkness can’t handle it.

Fam, wouldn’t it be something to have that type of confidence all the time, to know without hesitation that we can do all things by the grace and power of Jesus Christ?  Wouldn’t it be something to be unhindered by cares and worries, and just do what we were created to do, to live in and on purpose?

Ready for a little secret?  We already have it within us, waiting for us to flip the proverbial switch and allow the light to SHINE, and keep on shining.  The enemy doesn’t want us to do either, but thank God that he holds NO power over us.  We are part of the Lord’s family; we are citizens of the Lord’s kingdom.  It is our right and responsibility to let the world know who we are, Whose we are, and most importantly the Good News of Jesus Christ.  It is our right and responsibility to let the world know that God loves every single person, and wants us to be in a right, whole relationship with Him.  He wants us to be a part of His family, and y’all know there ain’t nothing wrong with that!

The last major scene for Ray is initially sad but ultimately jubilant.  While he fights the shadow spirits with no issues, he is overpowered by the Shadow Man and mortally hurt.  Surrounded by Tiana, Naveen, and the jazz-playing alligator Louis (again, don’t ask; it’s Disney), Ray closes his eyes with a smile, and the scene zooms out so we see his light fade away.  He is laid to rest in a leaf on the bayou, and his friends and countless firefly family hang their heads down in sadness.  But something strange happens: a small star appears next to the one Ray called his Evangeline (he was in love with the star).   All watch with amazement as the star shines and sparkles just as bright as Evangeline begins to, as if she was waiting for – you guessed it – Ray to join her.  With all the other stars in the sky, these two outshine them all, spurring his family and friends to shout for joy.  Ray lived a good life and the things he did—the way he helped people and stood up to the dark forces—earned him his reward, to be with his love for all eternity.

There is so much in this final scene for my buddy Ray and what it says to me, but perhaps the best way is to look at Matthew 25:23:

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

I don’t want to leave anything on the table, so to speak; I want to live this life in the way that is acceptable and pleasing to Him.  I want people to see the good works and Good News God has entrusted to me – the good works and Good News He has entrusted to you—so that He may be glorified, and they may be connected to Him.  More than anything, I want to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”, when my time on this earth ends.  I want to be like the song from childhood:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

“Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna let it shine,

Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna let it shine,

Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

No matter the challenges, hurts, or flat out attacks, I’m gonna let it shine.  Correction, WE are gonna let it shine.  It’s not meant to be hidden; it’s not designed to fade away.  It is bold and courageous by the love, truth, and power of God, just as we should and WILL be.

So, let’s shine on, Fam. 

Shine.  ON.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the faith, works, and Good News You have given us to grow and share with this world.  Embolden us now to keep shining brighter than the brightest star, so that others may know and love You as we do.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.