Fearless Living or Living in Fear?


Ever wonder if you have enough faith? In a world filled with violence, political unrest, hunger, death and dying all around, do you wonder if you have what it takes to stand or would you rather run and, avoiding the places of our fear? Foundations of fear can be real or imagined and both elicit a response, a behavior. But as a child of the King of all Kings, if I had faith in that relationship, understanding by both observation and experience, the depth of his compassion and sacrificial love, would I live differently, more confident, from a place of conviction?

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not see.

Read that again… Faith is the assurance of the things hoped for and then the conviction of what you cannot see. Conviction implies behavior that is consistent with what is believed to be true. The example of sitting in a chair and trusting it will hold you is a simple but accurate. You see the chair, you’ve seen others of various sizes and shapes sit in the same chair, so you sit in the chair believing it will hold you. The thought process is assurance, the bending of the knees and lowering yourself into the chair is conviction. Thoughts and actions informed by beliefs.

Now think about the places you hope for something, maybe health or a cure for cancer, diabetics or other diseases. Maybe you hope to be in a different place, financially, physically or relationally. What does that look like? Does it look like whining, or complaining, fist shaking and blaming, running or hiding?  If you really believe there can be a cure for deadly disease or you can be financially, relationally or physically in a different place, how would we act? What would you do? How would you behave?

I have an Uncle who has faith that a cure for Juvenile Diabetes is possible and he takes actions consistent with that hope.  He spreads the word and encourages giving to research. His actions demonstrate his faith. Let’s move to a little more difficult topic. If I truly believe God is who he says, Jesus did what he did and accomplished my salvation, loves unconditionally, and accepts me as I am, how will that faith, that belief be demonstrated in conviction by my behavior? OR If I truly believe God is in control of this world, that He has a plan and is working it, how will that be evidenced in conviction and inform my behavior? Will I hide or will I stand? Will I be fearful or fearless?

Scripture supports this concept over and over in verses like these and many more:

And without faith it is impossible to please him (God), …… Hebrews 11:6

You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from you works and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18 (He provides examples on either side of this scripture)

When Jesus in John 21:15-18 ask Peter three times ‘Do you love me?’ and Peter’s response is ‘Yes, you know I love you Lord.’ Jesus instructs him to an action, ‘Feed my sheep.’  Jesus is asking for a tangible demonstration that Peter’s words, beliefs and behaviors lineup, that he lives a life of conviction informed by his faith.

If I believe by faith that God is in control and I am forgiven for all eternity because of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, these beliefs must inform my behavior, my conviction, they will drive out fear and I will and can stand in the face of all things and people who oppose that faith. Not with fist shaking and harsh words but like Jesus did. In Andy Stanley’s powerful and timely series ‘Tough as Nails’ ( http://northpoint.org/messages/tough-as-nails/) he addresses this subject with tremendous clarity.  He says Jesus was not fragile but fearless. He walked into the politically charged environment  that lead to the cross, surrendered to this humiliating death with conviction that his Father had a bigger plan for you and me. So we should stand with conviction by faith with love and compassion, willing to ‘stand down’ (as my friend Susan would say) to self and fear and stand up in love and service to a lost and dying world in need of a savior, whose image we reflect. I’ll leave you with this scripture to ponder your own faith, your convictions and how that looks to others in your world and spheres of influence.

II Corinthians 2:15

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saves and among those who are perishing.

‘A’ is for Abraham

I am in the early stages of writing a devotional book for my grandchildren about key people in the Bible. The second character is A is for Abraham. The goal is to help them cross the application bridge from the tension-creating circumstance in Abram’s life, his faith 6356388427610595271282450916_969748_10103227871636285_1801255318_nand their own circumstances and developing faith. Abram, later known as Abraham, offers rich life lessons with a multitude of applications. As I stated in Unchained to Change, yesterday, observing movements and behaviors across time in the lives of real people in real circumstance that resulting in change, is fascinating. The change described in Genesis was significant culturally, socially and personally for them, but also significant historically with application today.

When I began reading about Abram in Genesis, I was looking for life lessons for my grandchildren, keeping the concepts and applications simple. The first step for me was to look at Abram’s family tree, since family connections are important to young children. So when Abram was asked to leave his home and kin, he had to have faith and trust in this God he could not see. What struck me however, looking at Abram’s genealogy, was a purposeful and intentional God. The Old Testament is a love story about God and his people, Israel. This love story recounts a thread that can be traced from Adam to Jesus and ultimately to the followers of Christ by adoption.  Genesis 5 provides the generations from Adam to Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Chapters 6 & 7 tell us about the struggles of the flood for Noah and his family (N is for Noah will likely cover those struggles). Genesis 8:1 begins with, “But God remembered Noah and the animals” and covers Noah’s life aboard the ark, the trials that followed, up to the tower of Babel in chapter11. Towards the middle of Genesis 11, the genealogy continues with Shem, Noah’s son. Most would find this boring. However, reading their ages when they conceived the next key character followed by the number of years they lived is meant to give us something or it would not have been recorded.  It reminds me that God does not forget no matter how much time has passed, nor does he change his plan because of some crisis event. He is not surprised by the rise of terrorism in our country. He is not rattled by the events that rattle us. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. This lineage gives me hope and helps me see this world through God’s eye. He is not limited by time. Age does not matter in his economy. The people he uses are regular people with real struggles who mess up, just like me. God never abandons them and they never lose faith. It all works out for them as long as they keep their focus and the God’s plan is realized. There is real pain and loss in these stories. There is fear and wars, murder, hatred, restoration and consequences for choices, just like there is today for us. But God is in control and works his plan for his glory and our good, just like he promised.

As the Genesis account reaches Abram, God begins to test our faith in his promises. Genesis 11:29 says “And Abram and Nabor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai . . .  vs 30 Now Sarai was barren, she had no child.”  Since you know the rest of the story, you can almost hear the background music reflect impending doom (Dun, Dun, Dun DAHHHH). God goes to great lengths to connect his thread of love and faithfulness to Abram, our next key character. God’s promise of a great nation begins with a barren woman and an old man (by today’s standards). Our circumstance and limitations do not diminish God’s plan and purpose; not for us, not for his use, not for the world. What brings me hope in the midst of the fear-producing events of this world, is that for thousands of years God has kept his promises. He remembered Noah floating in a boat and cared and responded.  He created great nations from a barren woman and old man. He’s got this. I can trust him. I can stand when I want to hide. I can trust when I cannot see. I can love when it’s easier to hate. I can engage when it’s easier to isolate. I can relax into his faithful arms and believe He’s got me. A purposeful, intentional, merciful, faithful, loving God has got me and you.

Stench or Aroma?

I live in the country in an early 1970’s ranch built out of concrete blocks. It is cold but has some redeeming qualities; mainly its location, perched atop a hill in the middles of orchards imageand agriculture. I’m grateful for it most of the time but today I am caught up in the stench of a dead something flowing through the heating vents. From the outside looking in, no one would know there was a horrible smell in my house, but open the door or turn on the heat. . .  you get the picture. It stinks! I need professional help to exterminate or extract whatever is causing this headache of an odor.

This morning I was reading Psalm 96:7-8, that says:

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,

Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

bring an offering, and come into his courts.

 There has been a distance between the Lord and I because he’s been poking at some tender character defects in my life. This morning I wanted to reorder my day to include more time with him, to organize my thoughts and feelings and align them with his truth. Then the heat comes on in the middle of my prayer time and that stench demanded my attention. It drew me away from bringing an offering of worship and coming into his courts, as the Psalmist describes. In the midst of my acknowledging this self-created distance, recognizing my resistance to his probing, the heat comes on and . . .

God gave me a glimpse not only into the distance between my offering of stench and the sweet aroma he desires, but the stench has power to distract me from being fully present with him.

What’s your stench? Do you need to do some house cleaning? Do you need to call a professional? Do you need some extended alone time with God? Here’s what I know about stenches, sure they ultimately go away, but the place the rodents get in needs to be fixed so the problem does not continue. Ignoring God’s probing, even denying or delaying may feel safer or easier but stench cannot product the sweet aroma of entering his courts with an offering of praise and worship.

There is a great opportunity coming up here in the Central Valley for just such a day. He has faithfully met me each time I intentionally set this time aside.  Check out, Press Pause Ministries “Be Still” Day Retreat, February 6, 2016, 9 AM-4 PM, 5153 Santa Fe Ave. Oakdale CA 95361-8251. http://www.presspauseministries.com/  . If you not in the area, there are great resources on Jon’s website to create your own unhurried day to be alone with God.

Another great resource for identifying your stench is Andy Stanley’s Book, Enemies of the Heart, Breaking Free from the Four Emotions that Control You.  http://store.northpoint.org/enemies-of-the-heart.html

Happy house cleaning . . . .