Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Fear Assault


Although I’m not a gun owner and personally believe they’ve been given far too great of a place in social acceptance, there is something much more dangerous than any gun (and any other material weapon for that matter) that has ever existed. Fear. Nothing has ever ended more lives and held millions captive more than fear. The Republican conservatives want you to fear the always-appalling actions of the current Democratic-run US government. The Democrats want you to fear the looming Republican agenda. The Government as a whole wants you to fear the “evil terrorists” that are somehow always plotting to kill us all. And the Christian majority? Well, they seemingly lead the way. They want you to fear… well, everything. Non-Christians, hell, backsliding, gays, the wrath of God, people of other ethnicities, the sinful world and even Jesus if you’ve not been good enough and He’s mad at you for it. I don't even watch it and I know that the mainstream news and entertainment industry want you to fear every type of sickness and disease from the common cold to the ebola virus. Fear your neighbor that may be a serial killer. Fear a terrorist attack. Fear losing your job. Fear that the government governs too little or too much. Fear leaving your house and fear what might happen if you stay home! *sigh*

Daily, we are all attacked from all sides with emotion-driven fear. The future of our children, our job security, our health, financial situations… we could go on for days with scenarios of dread. Lurking in the shadows of every experience of life is fear. It may be buried deep down but it is always trying to rear its ugly head.

But what of the follower of Christ? How do we face these challenges in the midst of our daily lives? How do we respond when seemingly every avenue of influence in our lives attempts to drive us to fear? 

In regards to fearing judgment, 1 John tells us that God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.

We also know from Paul’s writings in Romans that “the goodness (kindness) of God leads to repentance.”

We can pretty much spread wide a large umbrella for all of the other earthly and temporal terrors that plague us from ever side with just a few verses.

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46

“He [who properly fears the Lord] will not fear evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is upheld, he will not fear.” Psalm 112

“From my distress I called upon the Lord, the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? Psalm 118

For God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity), but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy

“Peace I (Jesus) leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14

Don’t let fear push you into or keep you from your directive. Never allow it be a role player in your decision-making process. There is a time for weighing pro’s and con’s over a thing, but fear should never be a deal breaker. Is fear holding you back from taking a new step in your life? The fear of failing… again? The fear of the unknown? The fear of things that are entirely out of your control? As a Believer, I can leave no room for fear. We can no longer, as a Body called according to the purpose of Christ, be so easily swayed and manipulated by fears that are broadcast to us from every angle.


How do we do it? Turn off your TV’s! Stop having a daily diet of FoxNews and everyone’s endless commentary on this worlds goings-on. Put down the printed trash that pollutes your mind with earthly mindsets. Forsake the conversations of gloom and doom around the water cooler. Stop eating of the endless trees of fear. Stop being an eager participant of the earthly chatter and propaganda-driven fears of the patterns of this world. Our absolute assurance cannot be rooted and established in the ebbs and flows of our natural condition. Set your minds on things above! It is time to come out! Come and out be free! Free to rise above it all and see things what they truly are. All that I’ll ever encounter is upheld by the Creator’s capable and mighty hands. In this alone I find rest.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Standing In Spiritual Places


Yesterday, the weather was beautiful so I decided to take my three-year old son, Noah, out to a local park a few miles from our house. He can sometimes become quickly bored with doing the same thing for very long so he took off running into a small field adjacent to the playground equipment. The field was lined with trees and thick shrubbery. As he ran over and stopped beside the treeline, I heard a loud rustling sound coming from within it. He noticed it too as he turned to look into the bushes and see what it was. Being the overly-cautious parent that I am, I called for him thinking that we could safely figure out what it was together. As he took his first step toward me, a large dog jumped out of the shrubbery behind him, barking frantically.

My first instinct was to run to my son but I didn’t want to startle the dog as he was only a few feet from him, beside the bushes. I could see the dog had a few inches of broken chain dangling around its neck as it began to look back and forth at us both and growl. Immediately, I began to pray. I yelled to Noah and told him to just be still. Of course this is impossible for a three-year old (especially in this situation). As the dog continued to snarl and growl, Noah got scared and started to run towards me. As soon as he turned to me, the dog ran towards him. Before I could even take a breath, the dog pounced onto Noah tackling him to the ground with ease about ten feet from me. As my mind instantaneously became clouded with what was unfolding, I could see that the dog had instantly sunk his teeth into Noah’s right leg. For the next several moments everything was seemingly in slow motion. As I ran over towards them, Noah looked up at me with a face that I hope to never see again as long as I live.

After I ran over to him I just froze. I stood beside the commotion and stared, still praying. “God, help us!” I cried out loud. As I stared down, watching the dog pull at Noah’s arms and legs, I begged Jesus to come help us. I didn’t know what else to do so I just continued to pray. I pleaded for God rescue us, to free Noah from this awful event. As the dog persistently bit Noah, I could see that Noah was not looking good. The dog was having his way with him and there was just nothing I could do about it. The scene felt like it went on for hours, even though I know that it was only mere minutes. After a while, the dog stopped and ran off as fast as it had arrived. Weeping, I knelt down and picked up my son’s bloody little body and held him close. As I fell to the ground with him in my arms, I cried out to God, “Why… why did You let this happen?! Why?”

OK. For those who know us personally, please allow me to immediately state, this was entirely fictitious from beginning to end. There was no dog attack and Noah is completely fine. Now please allow me to explain. 

First of all, were you wondering why in the world I didn’t kick the living daylights out of that dog? Why didn’t I beat it like a madman to loose my son? Why did I not do anything more than just stand there and pray? Pray? That’s all I did?

So now for some application of this parable - I am Noah’s earthly defender in the spiritual realm. As bizarre of a statement this is to most Christians, it’s true. Noah has severe anaphylactic allergies that cause him great distress and trouble. When they come, they come quick and powerful. They pounce on him just like the aforementioned dog and oppress him. Some come entirely out of nowhere. For too long my position had been too passive (as in the story above). I might as well just have stood there like I did with the dog. Doing little more than watching it all unfold as a bystander. I’d beg God to help Noah, to help us. I’d ask God why He would allow these terrible occurrences to happen but I’d rarely, if ever take a spiritual stand against the enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy. The moments always pass and then we’d move on. But looking through today’s lens of spiritual understanding, I’m seeing things a bit differently. My wife and I have said from day one, when we realized the seriousness of his allergic reactions, that we simply felt helpless. But I recently made a decision that it would be this way no longer. This resolution was tested almost immediately within days as we were out and Noah began to have trouble breathing. I will be honest, I was no sword-wielding spiritual soldier on his behalf, but something inside of me felt different this time. I chose to set aside my fears and embrace my role as the spiritual head of my family. In myself, of course, I’m weak and entirely incapable of anything. But in Christ, I can stand in places unseen and address the principalities and powers that desire to afflict my son. No sickness or disease or anything else we’d deem detrimental goes without God’s choosing to allow it to come to pass. So it must be addressed as such. That being said, we cannot just casually put up with it as acceptable either.


Trials come to purify us, to give us the opportunity to walk in victory, relying upon strength that is not our own. It’s a mystical paradox isn’t it? We embrace the opportunity to be thrust into a position of reliance upon The Christ yet we wrestle against the powers that unleash all hell against us in order to produce it. It is, without question, a thing to be grasped in our spiritual understanding and not just approached with our natural reasoning. We need to be a spiritual people who walk in an awareness of what is truly affecting us and the ones that we love. To get right to the heart of it, we need to awaken our spiritual senses. Far too often we only assess (improperly) our circumstances with our limited natural senses and understanding. To summarize, in light of the parable above, I need to take a stand against the attacks of the enemy that come against me and my household. I cannot just pray it away, motionless in the spiritual realm. How silly of an analogy it is from where I sit this morning to envision such an attack and only respond with passivity and helplessness. Again, it is not at all about my own strengths or abilities. In Christ alone am I able to stand and seek after a victory over whatever may come. “Lord, help us to see properly and to filter all that we encounter through the eyes of the spirit and an activated mind of Christ. We desperately need Your help. Come quickly.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lord, Help My Unbelief


Fear. Anxiety. Doubt. Disbelief. Not exactly favorable characteristics of a follower of Christ now are they? But the reality is, these are realistic familiarities for all of us as human beings, even as regenerated ones attempting to operate according to the mind of Christ. I had never known the disparity of deep-seeded fear and anxiety that I know now before I became a parent just over three years ago. Of course I had issues before but they were generally confined to myself, generally controllable on most levels. But now? Now I have a son. A beautiful, wonderful and incredibly precious son. The reality for him, today, is that he’s somewhat fragile, physically. He has extremely easily triggered bronchial flare-ups, anaphalactic food allergies as well as a newly-discovered allergic response to insect stings. Frantic administering of breathing treatments are far more common than I’d ever say I can properly handle. Sneezing and wheezing at even a touch from someone who came into recent contact with dairy products. The latest being a reaction out of nowhere after he ate a few bites of a “safe” granola bar and was possibly bit/stung by something outside. It can come at any time and we must be prepared for when it does.

I’ll never forget the morning he and I made pancakes and I ignorantly used a buttermilk mix. He ate the batter… he ate the pancakes that we made… he eventually turned blue as he struggled to breathe as we sped off to the ER. Even a hint of the memory brings tears to my eyes. “How in the world do we handle this?”, I often ask. To be embarrassingly transparent, there are times when his reactions are at their worst that I literally want to leave and simply let my wife handle it. It’s just too much. I freeze. Sometimes I even feel nauseous.  I feel incapable of doing anything. Sometimes I get angry, as a follower of Christ, as one that relies upon faith and expectation for healing. My inner most places believe my Father holds my son capably in His hands but what my natural eyes see often seem to overrule and cloud my thinking, in the moment.

Yes, I know there are children living with terminal illnesses. Yes, I know that there are children with handicaps and mental illness. But this is my son. This is our life. I’m absolutely thankful that for the majority of the time our son is healthy and whole. I am grateful and I want to be clear that I’m not overlooking that fact.

So, yes, I am one of little faith. That is the ugly truth. I waiver, I fear. I wrestle between my natural thinking and the mind of Christ that I’ve been given. I’m flawed. I’m in desperate need of strength that I, in myself simply do not possess. So, where do I turn but to the Lord Who tells me that in my weakness He is made strong? As my wife and I always arrive at the same conclusion, what else is there for us to do but embrace this reality, pray and eagerly wait in expectation of a healing. Whether we see a change or not is the challenging thought. Will I waiver if my son spends the rest of his days with these physical challenges? If at the age of twelve, we’ve not seen changes, do I forsake my faith and abandon my expectations? Of course I cannot. As a follower of Christ, my response will not be limited to what my eyes cannot yet see. As the man in the Gospels told Jesus in regards to his son, “I believe… help my unbelief”. I do believe, I really do. But I’m also often riddled with unbelief.

So we forge ahead into the unknown future. Every experience with my son's health gives me yet another opportunity to stand spiritually strong in the moment, relying upon the strength of my Saviour. He alone can enable us to properly respond in our thinking and rightly assess our views upon whatever unfolds in these fragile lives that we’ve been given. Time and time again I’ve tasted and seen His miraculous healing, in me and in others. I rejoice that one day, we’ll all be freed from this fallen state. No longer will we be confined to bodies of corrupted flesh, freed to be healthy, whole and raised to new life eternal. Until then, I choose to instance-by-instance lay down my fears, my shortcomings, my unbelief. Lord you know my heart, help me. Help us all. We’re in desperate need of You.            

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Embrace The Suffering: 1 Peter 4:1 & 2


1 Peter 4:1&2

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

STRONGS HEBREW/GREEK ORIGINS

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered (pascho: to be vexed, to feel and have a sensible experience, to sadly be in a bad plight, sick) in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone), arm (hoplizo: furnish with arms, to furnish one's self with a thing) yourselves also with the same purpose (ennoia: mind, intent, consideration, meditation, conception and thinking), because he who has suffered in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) has ceased (pauo: leave, refrain, no longer stirred by incitements and seductions) from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) no longer for the lusts (epithumia: desires and cravings for what is forbidden) of men, but for the will (thelema: desire, pleasure and purposes) of God." 

SUMMARY 

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in sadness and plight, experientially in His body, arm yourselves also with the same mind and intent, because he who has suffered in his body has refrained from being enticed by the seductions of sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the body no longer for the forbidden desires and cravings of men, but for the pleasure and purposes of God.

MEDITATION

I remember as a child being reared within the organized Baptist church, sin was always openly discussed. It was always made clear that my sin made me vile and despised by God and so therefore I must “make a decision” and somehow cease from sinning. Of course little beyond the hollow “try harder”, “be better” and “go to church more” approaches were every taught so off I went into my life, ignorant, na├»ve and entirely ill-equipped for spiritual success. Alongside these teachings it was insinuated that if you were uncomfortable, unhappy or experiencing anything deemed as “bad”, you surely did something wrong to encounter such suffering and likely “backslid” in order to encounter such calamity.  

Fast forward. Here I sit this morning within mere weeks of 41 years of age being added to my vapor of a life. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot over the years, post-rebellion. Not in an arrogant way, but just a satisfaction that I’ve chosen to embark down the path of studying and embracing the realities of this mysterious Christ-life. I don’t run from the difficult things that make me confront my comforts or misconceptions about true Christianity any more. In fact, the more I read, the more I contemplate the vast depths of the Scriptures, the more I see how vital the challenges and sufferings are for spiritual growth.

So you want to stop sinning do you? Me too! But, incrementally, we must embrace the suffering in our flesh, arming ourselves with the purpose of Christ. It is not a simple matter of the will, it will take decision-by-decision action. Action that is rooted and established in complete surrender to the mind and will of Christ Who indwells the Believer. Our purpose, our intent and goal must be joined with that of Christ. Then and only then can we live out our post-regeneration lives for the desire, pleasures and purposes of our Father.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered”. What a beautiful thing it is I’ve found: to embrace this life I now live in the flesh, and the sufferings that come, trusting that it is giving me the opportunity to learn obedience as Jesus did. He fully knows that our absolute only hope is found in Him and He has left us in this physical body post-salvation for a reason! May we embrace the sufferings of this flesh and then be empowered to cease from sin.    

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Residence" Now Available Online

A short story that I wrote several years ago is now available for free as an ebook. Spread the word.