Fear Factor

I don’t remember what sparked it, but either talking about fear last night or this morning with someone put a thought in my head that I’ve been off and on playing with today. I doubt I am in the minority of writers when I say I often write from my own experience. I have had a lot going on lately and in many ways, it’s one of those times where I want 2 + 2 to = 4 again.

I find I could be in good company. I always get a comfort when I read about Paul who talked about fears within and about how he wanted to see his friends so that he would have less anxiety. I remember a professor of mine once said you could put the Pauline epistles in one hand and a book of abnormal psychology in the other and you’ll find Paul had a lot of his own struggles.

Yet I find the fears I face are those from within, and those are the worst kind. Now there could be external factors involved. There is one event in my life I am still dealing with that came up recently and there’s also my preparing to go to Seminary which leaves one with a whole host of doubts and questions, as well as the realization that a friend of mine who I’m quite close with is getting married before I.

Yet I find the worst fears are those of uncertainty. They involve looking at one’s life and just wondering about all the events that have happened and what the future holds. I also find something else in this. I find that if there is anything that is good at destroying pleasure and happiness, it is fear.

<> Think about it. Can you really enjoy anything when you are living in fear? Can you be happy and afraid at the same time? Pleasure and fear are incompatible. Pleasure involves a relaxation and a freedom from that which is negative. Fear is always negative. I don’t think caution is. Caution is good. Fear isn’t.

I believe fear also gets us to believe that which isn’t true, but it does start with something that is true. I have a fear of heights for instance and I can’t stand being on ladders. Now I can be up somewhat and have the thought, “If I fall, it will hurt.” I think it’s quite likely that that’s true. However, it then becomes “If you go any higher, you will fall.” Then it’s “Don’t stand where you are. This ladder’s gonna collapse.” Fear always likes to play out the worst-case scenario.

But why does it make things false? Simple. If we saw the truth, we would not have fear. If we saw the God who is in control of all things, we would have no fear. Fear then is the making of something into what it is not. In my own life for instance, I find I can have a sort of “Crisis of the Week” that will seem to have the whole fate of my personal universe involved, and the next week, it’s gone. It’s not answered or refuted. Just gone. I look back and find I was making a mountain out of a molehill and say “I’m glad I’ll never have to deal with that again.” Unfortunately, those words never seem to hold over time.

If only for a glimpse we could break free of fear, and I think a good way to do so is to get off of ourselves. How many of you would like to rush into a burning building? Some adventurous thrillseekers might but most of us would say “No thanks,” when we saw the reality of one. Now change the scenario. Someone you love is inside that building and you can save them. Will you rush in and help? The number has probably sizably increased.

Fear is often about what happens to us. When we get off of ourselves, our fears can vanish. It is amazing how many of our fears can vanish when we have a case of infatuation for instance. However, something else along the same lines that makes our fears vanish is worship. Worship draws us into the presence of God and the celebration of who he is. How can fear reside with that?

I’ll grant all my readers this. Worship is hard then. It’s hard to worship God when you feel like you’re at your wits end and you’re not sure if you can trust him. We are to praise him in all things. The Philippians 4 passage comes to mind at this point. We are to praise him in all things. Whatsoever has what fits in that list Paul mentions is what we are to think about.

Dear Christian. Be released from fear today and pray that I am. Remember that even the shepherd needs some help every now and then.


At the last point today, I decided I’d blog about perfectionism. This is something I struggle with greatly, and chances are, a large number of you Christians out there do as well. Now do we believe in the idea of Christian perfection. Yes we do. However, we also realize that in the here and now, we have not yet attained it, but beat ourselves up for not having done so.

In some ways, this desire is in all of us. Why does the child cry at the store? Simple. The world isn’t perfect. They’re not getting their toy or brother is hitting them or Mommy isn’t giving them the attention they want. This longing in us is a good thing. Unfortunately, we put it at a time where it doesn’t apply.

<> This kind of thinking does not allow us to make any mistakes and if we do, we make the worst one of beating ourselves up for it. If we were really good Christians, we would not make such mistakes. No one’s justifying committing a sin of course. However, when we commit them, it doesn’t do us good to endlessly beat ourselves up for them.

I think this also applies to our constant need for certainty. One reason I didn’t ask a girl out usually in High School was because I wasn’t certain about them. Geez. Who is? Unfortunately, I still find such a trait in me today. If absolute certainty over an issue doesn’t exist, then I am in anxiety over it. That 1% chance of being wrong is exaggerated to 100%.

What decision in life do we face with certainty? What man on his wedding day doesn’t have any case of cold feet? In fact, why would he have cold feet? Simple. He’s making an important decision. I don’t have anxiety about shopping at the grocery store because that’s not a major life event. I do about other decisions though that are major life events.

I also find this in the area of apologetics. Did I give the perfect answer? I think those of us in this field can fall into rough territory if we count our success by the number of converts we see. Christ, at the end of his earthly ministry, did not have a huge multitude following him. In fact, they were quite against him. Are we to say he was poor with his arguments? The synagogues ran Paul out. Was he poor with his? Felix told him that he was insane even!

Naturally, if our answers aren’t perfect, we will begin the comparison game. Who has the perfect answer? Well, it seems like everyone else does. However, if we were honest, we’d see they don’t even have what we have. Converts are actually few and far between in this field.

So what good do we do in apologetics? We do see converts of course, but we also deal with hard questions and remove any threat in them. Our answers are a blessing to those who are in the church. It has been a huge blessing to me when someone contacts me out of the blue and says something that is an encouragement to me based on something I’ve said.

What can I say on this? Don’t beat yourself up. Let the past go. Yeah. It’s hard. I wish I knew how to do it. In this, consider me a beggar telling other beggars where to get bread. I am merely a wounded soldier trying to help others with the same wounds.

Dead People Stay Dead?

I can understand in some ways someone doubting the resurrection. I can understand in some ways someone doubting miracles. Fair enough. These are questions that need to be answered and can be answered. However, there is one objection that I just don’t put up with. That is the objection that we generally observe that dead people stay dead.

This is where I get angry about the arguments against miracles. This kind of argument assumes that the ancients were stupid people. I would like to point out something obvious. From the beginning, we built tombs for the dead. Why did we do that? It’s this most amazing thing. Dead people stayed dead!

Where do we get off that people believed the resurrection because they were gullible back then? First off, they weren’t. Secondly, even gullible people have their limits. To believe that one ancient says to another “X just came back from the dead” and the other says, “Really?! Cool!” goes beyond reason.

In fact, we can see this with every argument against miracles that’s put forward. What case did the ancients not know about that we moderns do? Did the ancients not know that you can’t walk on water? Did they not know that virgins don’t give birth? Did they not know that food just doesn’t multiply instantaneously?

They knew what we know on these topics. That’s how they recognized miracles. No my friends. The ancients weren’t stupid.  They knew exactly what was unnatural and what was natural. Would that we moderns wouldn’t press our stupidity so often on the ancients.

Has God not said?

In the Garden of Eden, the first seed of doubt is planted by Satan in saying “Has God not said?” The lie worked incredibly well back then. It’s worked so well that I believe it’s the main lie used today. Imagine how different our lives would be if we really believed the great truths of Scripture. If we knew God said them and that we could believe him, our lives would be radically altered.

I was pondering this today as I wrestled with some past sins. There are things in my past I’m ashamed of. As I say such, I realize that it is 99.9% likely that I am not alone and the same percentage could apply to you having the same problem. I find it amazing that the hardest person to forgive often is ourselves. I used to think it might be that we were taking our sin too seriously, and maybe in some way we are, but now I suggest that it is us taking ourselves too seriously.

I can look at someone who has the exact same sins as I do and say “Oh God can forgive you! Your slate will be wiped clean!” However, I turn and look at myself and say “Oh no. Your sins are too horrendous to be forgiven.” How do I know I question their forgiveness? Because I still dwell on them and repent of them over and over.

Why can’t we let it go? Why do I say we? Because again, I suspect you’re in the same boat. I just don’t think we realize how awesome this grace is. What would God have us to do? Change the past? We can’t do that.  What could we do to possibly earn his forgiveness in any way? All he tells us to do is to ask to be forgiven and we are forgiven. It’s that simple.

I think that’s a large part of the difficulty. We find it hard to believe that it could be that simple. We live with the mindset of “There’s gotta be a catch.” We will watch and say “Did I really repent of that?” Did we say the “sinner’s prayer” right? Were we baptized in the right way? Depending on how you view salvation, these questions can come to mind.

What would it mean if we really believed we were forgiven? It would mean we were trusting God, but as I said yesterday, trusting God goes against our very nature. We are so fallen that we run from him every chance we get. We are more prone to believe the father of lies than the God of all truth.

God has said it. God has done it. We need to accept that. We need to move past our past and live in the present. There can be nothing that we can do to change the past. Now there might be times we need to go to other people and make up for some wrongs for them, but not to earn our forgiveness. We do so merely because it’s the right thing to do.

I wonder how awesome it would be for many of us if we had Christ appear to us today and say to us “I love you and you are forgiven.” Most of us would be on cloud nine for the rest of our lives after hearing that. The truth is though that he has said that! It’s no less him saying it because it’s contained in Scripture. Perchance we need to get into this book more and read about the awesome promises God has made to us.

Maybe then we can learn more to trust him. The more we see who he really is and not the way we think he is, the more we can see the good news. We are loved and we are forgiven. Welcome home Prodigal.

The Fear of Happiness

Where I work, we sell movies. One of the movies coming out tomorrow is the Pursuit of Happyness. I’ve never seen this one so I have no comment to make on this movie. However, I do wish to comment on another thought of mine. We in America live in a land where we are granted the right to the pursuit of happiness. However, I think deep down, we all have a fear of happiness.

What? We’re afraid to be happy? Why would we ever be afraid of such a thing? I think we are because we live in a very individualistic society. In our world, it’s every man for himself and we each live with our own independent worlds. Our worlds are built with such order and hopes and dreams that unfortunately, the castles we build in the sky can easily come crashing down.

I have this belief that when man fell, man not only fell from God. Man also fell away from his environment, he fell away from his fellow man, and he even fell away from himself. Man has been left to wander and he doesn’t really know who he is because his identity is to be rooted in God and he is estranged from him.

Man’s first sin was wanting to be God. We’ve never given up on that dream. Whenever we sin, we are ultimately saying that we want to be God. God is omniscient, but we will choose our way for life. He will not be the Lord of our lives. We will be the Lord of our lives.

What does this have to do with happiness? In order for us to be truly happy, we have to return to that place. We have to be living a life of full trust in God. That thought terrifies us though in many ways. We aren’t sure if God will keep his promises. We ask ourselves several “what if” questions. It is easier to worry than to rest in God.

Consider it though. If we did trust God, would we not be happy? Would we not realize that he does have our best interests at heart despite suffering? Would we not consider the joy of eternity? Would we not live each day in wonder and awe of what he is doing in the world and who he is especially?

Indeed, we would. However, to do that, we must give up our claims to deity, and that is something that we are very opt to not want to do.  We want to control our world, because we think it is safest when we do that. You’d think the years we’ve spent learning that it isn’t would teach us, but it doesn’t.

<> Today, I urge surrender. Get off the throne and see that God is the one on it. Let him be God and let you be you. Then, be happy.

Encouragement: Your Pastor Needs It

I went to another church this morning since one of my former professors from Bible College was preaching. I thought he did a great job and the compliments I got from him and some other former studentes were highly encouraging to me. After the sermon, I heard him talking about how when something happens to a pastor’s wife, everyone gathers around the pastor and it’s great for the church because they get to shepherd the shepherd. He then said that it’s a shame that there’s not an easier way for that to happen.

I told him there was. The congregation needs to just do it. This got us to talking about this kind of situation. He told me that Tony Campolo once said something along the lines of “If you knew what I was thinking and what was going on in my mind this week, you wouldn’t come to hear me preach, and if I knew what was going on in your minds, I wouldn’t be preaching to you.”

I’m not a real fan of Tony Campolo, but when he’s right, he’s right. Friends. Your pastor has his own struggles as well. Unfortuantely, it’s too often that pastors and leaders are put on pedestals that they don’t belong on. It needs to be realized that going to Bible College or Seminary or being ordained does not immunize you from life’s difficulties.

When I was at the church today and heard some of the compliments, that was exactly what I needed. Those of us in ministry spend a lot of time giving of ourselves. You can’t give all the time and not receive back. We need that encouragement. It could be simple. It could just be stopping to ask them how they’re doing. It could be sending them a card thanking them for a good sermon.

Your pastor has struggles too. He’ll need you to be there for him at times. Please don’t put your pastor in a position he does not belong in. He can do a lot for you, but he is only human as well. Your pastor will bleed if you cut him and he has situations in his life that try his soul as well.

<> Yet imagine what a blessing you can be to your pastor if you just call him up simply to ask how he’s doing. How much he’d like it if you called him up and simply asked if he’d like to go out to dinner. Your pastor enjoys having fun just like everyone else does and needs a break from his study every now and then.

Today, keep this in mind. Encourage one another. It applies to your pastor as well.

Love and Worship

I am one of those C-type personalities. That means that I spend a lot of my time analyzing things to death. Unfortunately, one of those things that I tend to analyze to death and the analysis that I do is hardly constructive. I am also the one who is my own worst critic, which is another aspect of the C-type personality.

I was pondering today that I could spend more time thinking about more important things if I wasn’t so much thinking about myself. Now we have to think about ourselves to some extent. I have to pay my bills and buy my groceries and things of that sort, and I don’t see any wrong in looking for pleasure and looking for a wife as well. However, we can put ourselves first and Christ second too often. In fact, I would say every sin does just that. (Have we ever sinned to please Christ? It’s nonsense to even think of such a thing.)

Thus, while walking around tonight, I saw a beautiful lady on a music video at work and thought of that with the nature of beauty. Have you ever been in love? I have been in love once and lost it and it indeed was and is one of the most painful events of my life. However, that love is always focused on that which we find to be beautiful in some aspect.

I find this incredible about beauty. Beauty is always something that makes us lose ourselves. The most lucid man in speaking when confronted by a beautiful lady can find himself tripping over his sentences. Those who like to speak the most can be just awed in silence at the sight of an eclipse. Beauty is an enchantment that casts a powerful spell on us.

When you are truly in love though, you do lose yourself. You are so in awe of the other that you are willing to surrender your own personal problems in order to focus on the situation of the other. Could it be that this is why love transforms us so much? It doesn’t change the problem usually. It changes our perspective. Our problems are a trifle and we are focused on what matters to the other.

I think this is the same also with worship. I don’t believe worship changes our problems. I believe it changes us and our perspective. When we see God as he is, we can only worship him and we are in awe of his greatness and love then. We are also in awe of his intense beauty and we have the most powerful spell cast on us of all.

You know, this could lead to a great suggestion. Maybe we ought to worship God more? Maybe we ought to live our lives in such a way that we focus more on him. He must increase and we must decrease. We were created to worship him and when we do so, we are living the way that we ought.

To do so though, we must love God. To love God, we must know him. I believe this is where doctrine comes in. We need to know why the great doctrines about God matter. Can we know God entirely? No. We can love what we do know about him entirely. If you are married, you don’t know your significant other entirely, but you do love them. I don’t know any of my friends entirely and they don’t know me, but we share a mutual phileo love with each other.

Augustine once said “Love God and live as you please.” I think that’s a good point to close on. People often worry that the second part will get out of hand, but if the first is in the right, the latter will follow. Keep it simple. Love God.

Mr. X

I went to the bank today to cash my paycheck. The teller was a floater working at the bank. I had never seen her before, but she was cute and sweet (And had a ring on already unfortunately) and was glad to deposit my check. As I left, I was stunned when for the first time, she called me Mr. X (Last name concealed for obvious reasons). No one at the bank had ever called me by my last name with a Mr. before.

I’d never given my name, so she could have only seen it when getting my information off of my checks when I showed her my checkbook. Does it bother me? No. In fact, I was quite pleased. This employee took the time to see me as a name and in the end, thank me using my name as a respected person.

Isn’t there something nice about somebody really knowing your name? The theme song to the TV show Cheers, was that it was about going to a place where everybody knows your name. How many are pleased when they find this person they have a crush on does know their name? Isn’t it better to get mail from a friend with your name other than something generic like “occupant.”?

This makes me think of the Scriptures. In Isaiah 49:16, God says of his people that he has inscribed them on their hands. In Rev. 2:17, we are told that we will be given white stones with a new name on them and it looks like this new name will be something secret between the holder and God himself.

<> My favorite though is in Galatians 4:9. Paul talks about how we should live now that we know God, but then he adds, “Or rather, are known by God.” That’s a turnaround that I really like. It’s great to know God, but I find it incredibly more awesome that God knows me.

Socrates once said the great goal of man is to know thyself. Calvin added in to know God. Unfortunately, we can’t really know either. Our own selves are often quite a mystery to us, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. In fact, he has an intense fascination and wonder with us.

It was once said that a good friend is someone who knows all there is to know about you but likes you anyway. I find it amazing that the God of all creation knows my sin and how much I screw up against him every day and yet, he still wants to love me. In fact, he wants me to love him. It is an honor to get to love God. We could not love him though unless he had loved us first. We cannot give what we don’t have, and we only have love because he has loved us already.

This is something I try to keep in mind. I am known by God. As one who is my own worst critic, I have to face the fact that I am loved by God as I am. It’s not saying that I am perfect and that there aren’t areas to be worked on. There are. It’s just realizing that I am loved regardless.

Quite lovely isn’t it?

Aiming to Please

In a past post called “Every Woman”, I wrote about an Elizabeth Withers song. Now I’m sure she’s a fine lady, but I wonder how much thought went into this song. I can understand metaphor, but I don’t like metaphors that can convey a terribly false meaning.

I am thinking again of the line where she tells the man “Tonight I’m gonna be every woman in your fantasy!” Now I doubt it’s much of a secret to women that men are very visual and one glance can be all it takes to get a girl locked into the memory banks forever.

I wonder about that. Why be every woman? I have said earlier that I think that the lady should be a specific woman. This is the point. The true lover does not want his lady to be another woman. He wants his lady to be her. He rejected all others in choosing her. Why should she try to be another one?

This is such a point with love. When you are in love with someone, you want that person to be them. You want to accept them as they are. What you treasure is not what the person does but who they are. Their sheer company alone brings utter delight to you.

Yet as I think about this, someone will ask “Well what about God? Doesn’t he change us?” YES! Of course he does, which actually shows the point. Only God knows who the you that you are really is. Not even you know you as well as God knows you. Frankly, not many of us even know who we are anymore. It could be a relief that there is someone who does.

And what does he do? He doesn’t turn us into who we aren’t. He turns us into who we are. God cuts away from us all that does not belong to us so that he can have us as ourselves. He doesn’t want us plus our works. He wants us. It is not how we perform. It is who we are. Of course, who we are will work out in how we live, but he doesn’t want to love an action. He wants to love a person.

Thus, our true love on Earth is to be the same way. Unfortuantely, too many men and women engage in pre-marital sex where one’s sexual ability is tested to see if it passes. It is the couple in the covenant who can love freely, for they know that they are accepted regardless. They “perform” without fear.

Let us go to the throne today just as sure that we are accepted.

A Cure-all?

Last night was a hard night for me. I’ve been dealing with an issue of trying to recover from a past loss. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come as easily as I’d like. Last night was such a night. It was a night that in the depths of my sorrow, I got up and started writing poetry. I haven’t shared what I wrote with anyone, but getting it out helped.

<> It made me think later throughout the day on how we Christians sometimes give a cliche healing. I can think of a few who would say that I should simply pray that the pain goes away. Don’t you think that I do that? Of course I do. However, I don’t think that this was the reason God gave us the gift of prayer.

Prayer is a lifestyle. I have a hard time with that honestly. My mind doesn’t always focus like it should and to really concentrate and pray for something is incredibly difficult. However, my life is always to be one of giving thanks to God. I am always to keep him in mind in all that I do.

My concern then becomes that we make prayer something it’s not. It is as if I or any person suffering from anything would not have this problem if we would only learn to be more spiritual. In fact, I hear a number of counselors say that when they talk to a Christian in a hard time, the Christian usually says something like “And please don’t tell me to pray more or read my Bible more.”

<> Prayer and Bible Study are great things, but they’re not about us. They’re not meant to make our problems go away. They can help in many times, but because we are in distress it does not mean we are less spiritual. I think God gave us many things as outlets to help us. I use poetry. There’s also such things as conversations with great friends.

In fact, to say to such a person that they are not praying enough is exactly what might not be needed. What does that say to a person in doubt that they are not praying enough? What about the one who fears they aren’t good enough for God? Our cures have often been the poison of many a churchgoer.

Will I make it through my valley? Yeah. I will. I will be praying and I will be studying the Scriptures, but I will also be using the other gifts God gave us. I hope you’ll remember that in your valleys as well.