Browsing Tag

fear

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith

Don’t buy from the fear mongers

December 12, 2016

 

 

Monger: : broker, dealer —usually used in combination
2 : a person who attempts to stir up or spread something that is usually petty or discreditable —usually used in combination

 

When Kelly and I became parents it was incredibly to me how many people seemed intent on selling us on being afraid of anything and everything that could happen to our son Micah. I expected it from advertisements, but the most strident fear-mongering came solid, faithful Christians. The offers to buy into fear were myriad; you should keep the baby’s room warm so they don’t freeze. You should keep the baby’s room cool or else they’ll die of SIDS. You need to talk to your baby constantly or else they’ll never learn to speak. Along with constant offers of immediate worries, most of them involving Micah’s immanent death, there were plenty of people offering long term worries about how our freedom was over, how we wouldn’t get any sleep, how we needed to set aside all sorts of money to pay for our kid’s needs and the like.

Fear mongering seems to be a sport for many people, sadly including Christians. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, there will inevitably be people trying to sell their fears to you. Whether it’s college students bemoaning the terribleness of finals, co-workers selling fear about the lack of competency of their manager, or advertisers selling fear about your health and good looks, the pressure to purchase fear is immense.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t buy it. Fear is a garment that doesn’t fit the Jesus in you.

Not a spirit of Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
– 2 Timothy 1:7

If you’re a follower of Jesus you have the Holy Spirit living in you – the Spirit of Christ – and, as Paul writes to Timothy in the verse above, that Spirit is one that fear doesn’t fit on. Fear and it’s accompanying anxiety and worry may have fit the old you in your childish days before Jesus, but since you’ve been born again and grown in Christ fear is several sizes too small. Buying it from someone else would be a silly choice, regardless of how convincing the salesperson is. If you do buy that fear and squirm your way into it it will squeeze the life out of you and drag your days out in long discomfort.

My friends, the Holy Spirit is diametrically opposed to the kind of worry, fear, and anxiety that the people around you are trying to sell. The Spirit that God has given us replaces that fear with power, love, and soundness of mind.

A spirit of power

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

  • Joshua 1:9

Almost all of our fear, anxiety, and worry flows from attempting to be in control and failing. We worry about our kids because we can’t control them or their environment. We worry about our future because we can’t make it go the way we planned. We fear taking risks because we can’t control the outcomes.

For the Christian that fear and worry has been replaced with a Spirit of power. The follower of Jesus has a real, fear-destroying power. It’s not the controlling power that the world and our flesh wants to make us feel secure – it’s the power to entrust ourselves completely to an all-powerful King. It’s the power of faith – the power that enabled Joshua to conquer Jericho, Jesus to face the cross, Paul to speak confidently before Roman rulers, and for thousands of Christians to face martyrdom with smiles of joy.

When you know that the one who is infinitely powerful and can reshape reality at his whim is for you, buying what the fear-mongers are selling seems downright foolish.

A spirit of love

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
– 1 John 4:18

Along with power, the Holy Spirit is also a Spirit of love. Some of the most appealing fears that are offered to us by the world regard those who we love. We’re sold fear for our aging parents, for our adventurous children, for our spouses. They may die. They may get hurt, physically or emotionally or otherwise.

John writes in his epistle that true love casts out fear. That means that if we truly love someone fear won’t be what shapes our relationship. Love isn’t an excuse for fear. When God places in you his Spirit of love you outgrow the fears for those you care for because you discover that He – the good and powerful God – loves them even more than you do and He’s not out to punish them.

A sound mind

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

  • John 14:27

Fear causes us to think irrationally and make foolish decisions. When we buy into the fear that those around us offer we’ll inevitably do dumb things. We’ll lay awake late into the night worrying about tomorrow, we’ll be harsh towards people we care about, we’ll use anger as a weapon to defend ourselves from what we’re afraid of, and dozens of other things that we wouldn’t do if we had a sound mind.

Instead of wild-mindedness that flows from fear, the Spirit of Jesus gives us peace that overrides any worry. A peace enables us to walk with a sound mind, making decisions with the clarity of faith. We don’t do worry, because it just doesn’t fit us anymore. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Today you’ll encounter dozens of people who try to sell you on being afraid. Don’t buy anything from the fear mongers. When you feel worry, anxiety, and fear rising up, pause and ask the Holy Spirit what he has for you. What is his power for you? What is the love he has given you? How does the sound, peaceable mind that is yours in the Spirit asses the situation? Buy what He’s selling. I promise that it will fit you beautifully.

 

 

Christian Life, Faith

Prove God

July 18, 2016

 

 

 

Confession. Yesterday Kelly and I skipped church and liked it. There are times where it’s better to step back from the normal routine and encounter God in a different context, so we stayed home and spent time together, journaled, prayed, worshiped, and watched this sermon from Graham Cooke. We both came away from the two hours or so we spent together in the Lord’s presence thoroughly refreshed, challenged, and inspired.

Graham’s sermon was on questions God asks of his people, and one that’s been echoing in my mind since we heard the message yesterday is, “When will you prove me?” When will I prove God in my experience? When will I truly entrust myself to my heavenly Father so that he can prove his love, goodness, and glory? So often we keep ourselves safe and secure in our familiar old ways of acting and thinking that we prevent ourselves from proving God in the ways we so desperately need.

Oh, we’ll sit and read our Bibles. We’ll spend time in prayer. We’ll go to church, small group, Bible study, and do service projects, but when it comes to the painful grit of our lives we pull back into our strongholds for safety rather than casting ourselves upon God and proving him. When a relationship gets rocky we cut it off, convinced that what we need is “healthy boundaries” rather than the hand of God. When work gets stressful we run to our favorite television show to escape rather than pressing into the difficulty and letting God prove himself in us. When fear of failure builds we jump ship and move to the next thing.

Where in your life is God asking you to prove him? Where is he asking you to step forward in frightening faith? For me this morning there are two major areas that he’s brought up consistently over the past couple months. One is financial provision as Kelly moves from full time work to being a full-time mom in just a couple weeks. The other is a recurring sin that’s plagued my life for years and that I give in to far too easy. God’s challenging me to “resist to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4) and prove Him to be able to strengthen me and satisfy me.

And what a joy it will be when God proves himself to us! To get to know – to experience – the power and glory of our Savior is a fuel that sustains the lagging soul.

Let’s not be people who are dominated and decide things according to fear, who spend our time trying to be safe. Instead let’s prove God – taking Him at His word and acting accordingly with the eager expectation and confidence that we do indeed serve a Lord who is more than able to do above and beyond all we can ask or think. May we, together, see the mighty hand of God move in our lives this week as we prove him time and again.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fear vs. Faith: A framework for decision making

June 13, 2016

 

 

 

 

Life is basically just one long series of decisions. For those who are followers of Christ we long deeply for those decisions to be ones that glorify our creator and Savior. Some decisions are clearly right and wrong, and we navigate those with general ease. Or at the very least know how we should navigate them. The tension comes when we encounter decisions where God’s word doesn’t give direct instruction and where we may not be feeling a specific lead from the Holy Spirit.

I want to offer a simple, effective framework for navigating that kind of decision in your life. First the basis for this framework, then the framework itself.

Fear or Faith

In the 14th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul makes a massive statement; “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (14:23b) If this statement is to be taken at face value – which I believe it is, judging by the scripture-wide emphasis on faith as the thing which pleases God most – then that means that every act we do that isn’t prompted by faith is, in some way, a sin.

The opposite of faith is fear. Fear is self-focused, faith is God-focused. Fear is about security and control, faith is about trust and obedience. Fear is timid, faith is bold. Faith takes God at His word, fear looks at the circumstances and gathers doubt.

I want you to choose to live in faith rather than fear. When you come to a difficult decision and are unsure what to do, ask yourself this question: “Which of these options is choosing faith?” Choose that one, no matter what. We don’t want to be people who take the path of least resistance. We want to be the people who walk the path that carries us increasingly closer to Christ.

Live in Faith

The funny thing is, the same outward action that comes from faith in one person could be coming from fear in another. To help better grasp how this works out, let’s look at a couple examples and contrast how choosing in faith vs. choosing in fear plays out.

  • It’s Friday. A few co-workers are going to the bar after work and they invite you along. You choose to go.
    • Faith: You chose to go despite the fact that you don’t feel comfortable in bars because you believe that God wants you to love and minister to your coworkers, and you want to get to know them better.
    • Fear: You chose to go because you didn’t want to be seen as an outsider or a goodie two-shoes.
  • You’re frustrated with your significant other because of something they keep doing even though you’ve mentioned that it bothers you several times already. You decide to keep quiet about it.
    • Faith: You chose to be quiet and trust that they care for you and probably aren’t doing it intentionally, so you’ll trust the Spirit to remind them this time.
    • Fear: You chose to be quiet because you didn’t want to start an argument or appear to be nagging or have them be frustrated with you.
  • A person who drains you called this morning and left a message, asking you to call them back. You put it off for a few hours, then call them back.
    • Faith: You chose to call them back because you trust that God will give you the emotional energy to deal with whatever the situation is.
    • Fear: You called them back because you were worried about what they’d think of you if you didn’t, and because you’d feel like you weren’t being Christian enough.

There are a thousand more examples that could be laid out before us. But you don’t need them, because you have the Holy Spirit in you. When you ask which option in the decision you’re making is choosing faith, he’ll let you know. Step into it. We make decision after decision every day, and each one is an opportunity to step further into faith in God or backwards into fear. Let’s make faith our daily choice, no matter what the cost. It will be well worth it in the end.

 

 

 

 

Culture, Life, Spiritual Warfare

Fear Not

March 2, 2016

 
We live in an age of terror. Where fifty years ago the average person’s main news outlets were the local newspaper, a few radio stations, and word of mouth, today we’re standing in the middle of dozens of channels of global news. We’re inundated with the flood of horror stories from around the globe and across our country. Video of ISIS murdering dozens in Syria, a barrage of articles about armed stand offs within our own country, radio discussions about rogue nations testing possible nuclear warheads, and plenty more. The world is increasingly operating on a foundation of fear.

Nowhere is this more clear than the current American presidential race. The vast majority of political candidates are using fear as the main driver for their campaigns. Be afraid of muslims and vote for me because I’ll keep you safe. Be afraid of financial collapse. Be afraid of the establishment. Be afraid of the rich and the banks. Be afraid of the future. Fear is, sadly, the politician’s most effective tool.

Hard truth time. If your mind is filled more with fear and worry than faith and worship, you’re dishonoring God.

Every day we’re given hundreds of reasons to live in fear. And, to the delight of the Devil, fear and worry have become the default for many Jesus followers. We, like the world we live in, get swept away by the torrent and fall prey to Satan’s attacks, forgetting that, as the Apostle Paul writes, “true love casts out fear.”

When we partner with fear and let it direct our thoughts, we’re denying God and affirming the evil one. I want to take one verse and three key moments in Jesus’ life and remind you today that you literally have no good reason to live in fear. As George Whitfield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” What do those who are invincible and immortal have to fear?

There’s a moment early on in Jesus’ ministry where he’s teaching a crowd of Israelites and they get so ferociously angry at his words that they try to arrest him in order to kill him. John summarizes the moment by writing, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 8:20). Note that last sentence; “because his hour had not yet come.”

Safe from arrest

These seven words make a massive statement about just how secure our lives are. Jesus couldn’t be arrested because his hour had not yet come. The Father had a time set for his arrest, and it wasn’t then. No matter how vicious the crowd, no matter how fiercely they desired his arrest, Jesus could stand unafraid because his hour had not yet come and until his hour came he was invincible.

We serve the same God that Jesus did. He has the same care and power in our lives. No matter what the political reality of the present or future may be, no matter how viciously people oppose us, no matter how angry others may be, we are utterly safe. We have nothing to fear, because God is good.

Safe from Satan

Later in his ministry as he nears his betrayal and murder, Jesus says to his disciples,

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:30-31)

Catch that? Jesus calmly notifies his followers that Satan is coming for him, but he’s not afraid. The devil has no claim on him. Oh, he’ll go along with things and be crucified, but not in fear. He goes to the cross in faith, “so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

If you are a follower of Jesus you have the same Spirit that he did. You can, by faith, say with equal boldness, “the ruler of this world has no claim on me” and face even the most potent of demonic opposition without giving an inch to fear.

Safe in death

The story doesn’t stop there though, as you probably know. Jesus goes forward in love and is crucified. He dies, but even in death Jesus doesn’t give way to fear. He is utterly confident that his Father is sovereign even over the power of death. Jesus is just as safe in death as he was in that moment at the outset of his ministry when the Jews wanted to arrest him.

You too, like Jesus, can face even death with confidence. Paul writes in Romans that those who are connected with Jesus will surely be resurrected like him. Even in dying you’re secure.

Here’s the deal, my friends- fear focuses on the situation; faith focuses on the savior. We live in a world that says “be afraid, be very afraid!” ten thousand times a day. We have a savior who has said, “Do not be afraid, I am with you always” and proven it a million times over. Whose story are you going to buy? What kind of life are you going to live?

I for one don’t want to let fear define how I live. I want to be a love promoter, bold and laughing in the face of fear because I know my Father is the one with all the power. He has all the power and he’s promised that he’s going to use it for the good of everyone who have put their faith in Jesus. Get on board. Build your anchor on Christ, the firm foundation. Set aside all worry and doubt and trembling and embrace the truth; if you’re in Jesus, God loves you and is for you. You’re invincible. What do you have to worry about?

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Two Buts

January 18, 2016

When God commands us to do something more often than not our responses start with excuses. Rather than offering ourselves to our creator as obedient servants and our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12), we offer him our “buts,” providing long lists of reasons why we can’t do what he’s asked us to. We’re too afraid, too unskilled, too socially awkward, too tired, and on and on.

Our buts

We’re not alone in our tendency to give God our buts. Moses, after a direct verbal command from the God who made a bush speak, insisted “But I can’t speak properly!” Gideon made excuses to the angel of the Lord because his family was small and unimportant. When Jesus shows up at Lazarus’ tomb the crowd’s response to the command to roll away that stone isn’t excitement; it’s “But he’s been dead for three days!” The disciple’s response to Jesus command to feed the 5000 isn’t obedience, it’s excuses; “But we don’t have enough food.”

Continuing in a long line of but-offerers, we are generally extremely successful at counting ourselves out. God commands us to not fear or worry. We respond, “But there’s so many unknowns!” God commands us to be free from all sexual immorality and drunkenness. We respond, “But I have an addictive personality! I’ve tried to stop before and it hasn’t worked.” God commands us to practice hospitality and operate as a community. We respond, “But I’m an introvert, I don’t like big groups,” or “My problems are too big – they can’t handle them.”

Thankfully God never lets the story end with our “buts”. Moses isn’t abandoned after the burning bush and Lazarus isn’t left in the tomb. The disciples and the crowd aren’t left hungry, and the world isn’t left lost.

God’s buts

Throughout Scripture there’s a repeated theme of God butting in and dramatically changing the situation when things are going wrong. Note the “but God” in these three verses;

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark
Genesis 8:1

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But God, because of his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:1-5

Moses couldn’t speak properly, but God provides someone to speak for him. Gideon was from a small, helpless family, but God makes him the leader of a great army. Lazarus was dead, but God brought him back to life.

We need to take our eyes off our “buts” and fix them instead on God’s promises. Rather than making excuses let’s revel at the power of our God to step in and save, heal, deliver, and restore. When we focus on our own problems we get locked into an attitude of defeat and uselessness. When our focus is on Jesus we’re freed to walk in faith.

Next time God commands you to do something, remember that he always gives the power to accomplish what he’s commanded – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Get over your “but” and get into the power of God.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Reminder: do the impossible

October 26, 2013

 

 

 

Every day we’re confronted with insurmountable odds when we follow Christ; the impossibility of overcoming sin, of having Gospel conversations with non-believing co-workers, of holding a struggling family together, of standing firm against the cultural tide. We wake up and go to war. We sleep, enter chaotic dreams and wake to war again.

God’s people have always been at battle, even back to the foundation of Israel, God’s first people. As a result, Deuteronomy 20:1-4 is still a much-needed reminder for the war weary soldier-saint.

 When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

– Deuteronomy 20:1-4, ESV

I want to draw three truths from this text that will strengthen us for our work today. If you’re a follower of Jesus and you don’t feel like you’re on the front lines of the battlefield it may be time to do some inspection of your life. Let these three truths give you a taste of what it’s like to be in the midst of God’s mighty works that happen at the edges of his Kingdom. If you’re already there, in the trenches sweating under the pressure of spiritual and physical opposition, I pray that these truths will refill your faith in our Savior’s infinite strength.

We will face enemies greater than us.

The saying that “God will never give you anything you can’t handle” has no biblical basis. God always brings his people into impossible situations where he can flaunt his power. He consistently placed the Israelites in places where they were face-to-face with powers that would, in the natural, utterly overwhelm them. They escape Egypt as a mass of men, women, children, and animals with no hope of opposing the Egyptian army, and God wins. They face Jericho’s massive walls and trained warriors with trumpets and marching formations, and God wins.  Jesus left 11 Apostles and a small band of believers with the task of evangelizing the entire world, and God is winning. The entirety of scripture, from creation to Revelation’s close, is story after story of God flaunting his power by choosing the weak to shame the strong.

It’s when we are facing impossible opposition that God’s power is greatest in our midst. (2 Cor. 12:9-10) When the enemies around (or within) us are greater than us we need to call to mind the sovereignty of our King and remind each other that he is in control. Remember, the Lord our God who brought us up from the Egypt of our deadness and slavery to sin is still with us. The Lord our God who raised Christ from the dead and seated him over all rule and authority, both in this age and in the age to come, is at work in us. When we are surrounded and look to the world like we’re about to be defeated, we laugh with our King (Psalm 2:4), knowing that victory is at hand.

We are commanded to not be afraid.

According to this passage God commands our emotions, not just our actions. He declares, “you shall not be afraid, for the Lord your God is with you”. Fear flows from unbelief, and we need to fight our unbelief with the truth that feeds faith. When our enemies surround us and we feel them overwhelming us, we reach out in faith to truths like, “the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

From where we stand today after Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we have all the more reason to have no fear. God has already fought on our behalf in Christ and given us the victory. If we are in Christ, every one of our enemies has been defeated. Even death, the last and greatest enemy, has been transformed from a terrible demon to the doorman who opens the way into glory. Fear isn’t something that should even be on our radar when God’s mighty right arm is at work for us.

It’s almost impossible to talk yourself out of being afraid when the fear has started. Note that in this text it’s the priest’s job to remind the people of the truth that God is fighting for them as they come near the battle. When God’s people started moving close to a situation where fear might be a problem, the priest was to recall to them the truths that would be their tools to combat that fear.

The new Testament makes it clear that every believer is now a priest (1 Peter 2:9) We have a responsibility to “Gospel” each other with the truth that God is great and he is with us on a day-to-day basis. When we see fear rising up in our brothers and sisters in Christ we are to come forward and speak to them, reminding them, “Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies.”

God fights for us.

Bathe yourself in this truth until it becomes a part of the very fiber of your being. God fights for you. He fought for the Israelites in their day. He purchased every ounce of victory when he fought and conquered for us in Christ, and he still works on our behalf today, so much so that the Apostle Paul could write in Romans 8, “for those who love God all things work together for good…If God is for us, who can be against us?…in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave himself for us.” Get that? Everything is for your good. In everything God wins, and you with him.

Whether you are confronting years of entrenched sin and addiction, hard-hearted opposition to Christ from a friend you love, insults and oppression from co-workers, overwhelming loneliness, or bankruptcy, “the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

Believe it. Build your life on it. Remind others of it. And, most importantly, worship our God for it.

 

 

 

 

Poetry

Mortals

May 14, 2009

Wrath is the sister to Satan’s saint
let them understand as the ground gives way
Fear is the coward of Hell’s darkest halls
so nations scream as heavens fall

Greed made slave of all our hearts
wary that love would steal the scars;
relics left of bitter times once before
in the nights that the church once wore

So bury salvation in tender tombs
let light breed alone the chilling womb
for the object of love once denied
cut holy the road and let the life

Lust spends itself forever free
along the reigns of history
Gluttons take their deepest hopes
to satisfy an addiction’s holes

Immortal sin thrice enshrined
condemned itself twice to die;
once for the body and once for the soul
while children are left to fight the war

So bury salvation in tender tombs
let light breed alone the waiting womb
for the object of love was once denied
now cutting holy road and drawing men to life

Poetry

Falsetto Echo

February 27, 2009

I heard you, higher than before
in the icicles that hung from the window
where stars never were

and I see you, further than the last;
slipping through the minutes
that get caught in my chest

Oh! I am afraid of myself
and afraid of moving you so close
because I was once wilder and stronger
until our love grew and broke
and now I am the summer
that shall fade soon to fall,
in the patch on the mountain
where nothing seems to grow.

If you are the sun, I would melt
if your light should fully shine
if you are the wind, I will fall
like the tree before the storm
if you are the thunder
my ears will go deaf at your sound
and if you are the water
I’m sure that I shall drown.

and I see you, further than the last;
slipping through the minutes
that get caught in my chest

like an echo, lost on my ears
only waiting for the moment
where I finally learn to hear.

Poetry

The Spark

January 21, 2009

I can’t taste nearly enough of sunlit days
lit, lightly, barely shining through the haze
so move slowly, lest she run for fear
because love is war, and mistakes have a higher fee

so set your anger towards the sun
that it might burn away
and when sharp-edged words come
be sure, my heart, to hold your tongue
for tenderness is the surest path
to relight the spark that was