Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Regardless of your bent towards or against the right to or harm in celebrating the Halloween festivities, I find interesting our culture's preoccupation and revelry of the fearful during this time of year.  I cannot flip through the television channels during any part of the day without confronting Jason, Freddy, or any number of other fiends spawned from the limits of our nightmares.  And we enjoy these - at least someone does or they wouldn't be on television, wouldn't have been box office successes in the theaters. 

But, for the most part, we all compartmentalize this fear into the harmless "carnival-ride" variety with little impact on our day-to-day lives.  Once the season is over with we go our merry way...walking in the fears that truly bind us - the fear of living our own lives to their God intended potentials. 

I am fond of the verse in Hebrews that states
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1 NKJ

Along with many other verses, it underscores the reality that all existence hinges upon faith - that faith is the creative force behind everything.  By faith God spoke the worlds into existence.  By faith we obtain salvation.  By faith we exist, live, and shape our future. 

But fear is also a form of faith.  Fear is faith in death and the power of the grave over a risen Savior.  It is faith in powers outside of the Word of God.  It is faith in the whispered lies of the enemy over the promises of the Father.  Fear is born of ignorance where faith is walked out in knowledge.  Fear is faith in the enemy's ability to steal, kill, and destroy with little or no restraint ignoring a new blood covenant that has been cut between God and mankind - a covenant that names you the redeemed, capable, healed, more than sufficient victor in this life.

And we walk in so many fears.  I could name several that I alone struggle with.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of pain - the list goes on.  We are familiar with the psychological term "phobia" derived from the Greek word for fear.  The list of documented phobias is enormous.  What do you think of the below sampling from this exhaustive list of medically documented fears?

Aulophobia- Fear of flutes
Barophobia- Fear of gravity
Chionophobia- Fear of snow
Dendrophobia- Fear of trees
Euphobia- Fear of hearing good news
Geniophobia- Fear of chins
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words (my favorite)
Ideophobia- Fear of ideas
Koniophobia- Fear of dust
Lachanophobia- Fear of vegetables.
Metrophobia- Fear of poetry
Nostophobia- Fear of returning home
Omphalophobia- Fear of belly buttons
Politicophobia- Fear of politicians (timely - don't you think?)
Rhytiphobia- Fear of getting wrinkles
Soceraphobia- Fear of In-laws
Thaasophobia- Fear of sitting
Uranophobia- Fear of heaven
Verbophobia- Fear of words
Walloonphobia- Fear of the Walloons (a french speaking culture in Belgium)
Xerophobia- Fear of dryness
Zemmiphobia- Fear of the great mole rat.

Though somewhat humorous, the above list is also tragic.  Every one of the above listed conditions is a documented phobia that has tormented and bound some individual, no matter how absurd it might seem to the average person.  These fears have ruled lives.  What fears are ruling yours?  This is a hard look but one I need to make because I am at a crossroads and God is calling for His faith filled children to step over the lies of the enemy and walk in the freedom they are called to so that they can effect the change on this earth that He desires. 

The great news is we are not required to undertake this in our own strength.  We'd fail if we were.  Bear with me as these scriptures are a bit of repeat from a recent previous post, but the truth here is potent.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

This word "power" literally means the backing of armies/forces.  God's strength, might, and forces are backing the power that he has placed within each of us.  And the enemy of our souls recognizes that power and hates it.  He will do everything to keep us from realizing we possess it from keeping us in condemnation and feelings of unworthiness to outright depression through hardship and sickness.

"For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood contending only with physical opponents, but against the despotisms, against the powers, against the master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly supernatural sphere."
Ephesians 6:12 AMP

How many are already well aware of this?  I doubt many of you had to physically contend with very many people today, but how many felt that tug, that pull, that gnawing of emotion, drawing of will, assault upon your peace?  It could have been the rude person in line in front of you or the confrontation you had with a loved one.  It might have been concern for plans that have been circulating in your mind for days upon days, weeks upon weeks.  Concern, worry; these are names we give to our fears to delude ourselves into the lie that we are not actually fearful.  "I'm just worried about..."   "I'm just a little concerned..."  Do these worries and concerns follow you to bed, chase you into your dreams?  Look what the Lord said to Solomon;

"When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; yes, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet."
Proverbs 3:24  ESV

When is the last time you enjoyed "sweet-sleep"?  Peace?  Tranquility of soul?  We would indeed serve a cruel Father if He were to dangle this in front of us as a promise and never deliver, but that has never been His character.  If He states it, it is His intent that we receive it.  Jesus said to his diciples:

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

We are the victors in this eternal endgame, not because of any merit of our own, not because of anything we have or haven't done, but simply because of who resides within us and His incomprehensible love for us.  When we catch a glimpse of this love and simply reciprocate, fear melts away.

"There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love."
1 John 4:18  MSG

So refuse to live in fear of what God has called you to.  If it were up to you to succeed, you'd fail everytime.  It's His plan - trust Him, trust His love, trust his wisdom.  Pursue Him passionately and let your love feast for Him and others cause fear to take flight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trapped Within

This month of October has been an active month in my family, in my life.  I've scarce adjusted to the fact that we are in the tenth month of the year and already I am looking to flip the calendar page to the next month.  Very many and numerous challenges have presented themselves at work, within our home, with the social agencies with whom we work in foster-care, with our health, with the public offices that I hold, with problems friends have been encountering - all of these having the cumulative effect of creating that "perfect storm", the perfect gathering of events that have drawn down strength and will week after week, day after day.  I would love to relay the testimony that I have championed the faith in walking upon the waves of trials and tribulation, laughing at the enemy through it all. 

I'd wager that Peter is in good company in this area with many of us wringing out overcoats and in need of a clothes line but he, at least, had the sense to call out for a sturdy hand.  In my introverted-male-I-can-do-this folly, I have a tendency to let the waves close over my head, holding others at bay while I try to make the adjustments forced upon me by entities outside of my control.  The result is often a very stressed out, inverted, spewing volcano of silent brooding locked within a body that has recently been rebelling against its owner.  In my wisdom, I see my marriage struggling as a result so I "try" harder rather than connecting.  I see my work load compounding, so I redouble my efforts, stealing limited energies from my family, rather than speak to my employer.  I see my children acting out so I demand stricter obedience and impose harsher punishments rather than spend more quality time with them.

Needless to say the equation isn't working.  Increased effort to increased pressures has only been leading a worse "me".  I have been trapped within myself as I feel the crushing weight of the growing responsibilities and demands of life.  Further, I feel trapped in a life that I am ill-suited and unequipped to manage in my own strength...

...and there has been the problem all along.

Why is it such a reflexive reaction to address the challenges and trials of this life in our own strength, with our own mental prowess and reasonings?  Where I fail, continually fail is that my reflex is in my own strength, and not my Father's.  Where I am trapped is in my own limitations, instead of walking in the limitless supply of his capability, knowledge, and wisdom.  Where I fail to walk out love, is when I am self-absorbed in what the world is doing to me rather than what God has called me to do, to be in the world, to my family, to my bride.

And this isn't some spiritual force I have to muster or dragging of the flesh to the Word that has to occur.  This power to draw from is already within.  It is as present as the oxygen in my lungs.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

The Greek word for "power" here means two potent things.  It means "excellence of soul" and it means "a power dependent upon wealth, numbers, and armies/forces/hosts".

Agape is "a love feast".

The Greek for "self-discipline" is to "curb one's impulses, to keep safe and sound, fence in, block off, protect".

This verse is a power pill of spiritual truth that I need before my eyes daily.  God has already placed His Spirit within us.  His Spirit, gives explosive power for moral excellence and is backed by the armies of heaven, enforced by the God of the angel armies (I love how the Message Bible puts this).  Further we're empowered to always exude a love feast to others, even when this headache-y, tired, run-down flesh doesn't always feel like it.  And most importantly, I am empowered to build a hedge of protection around my home, my family, and my life through the Word by controlling my impulses, my tongue, what is before my eyes and ears.  This Word is life and power and when pursued diligently it protects and upholds.  When spoken into any situation it affects the course of that situation. 

Where I have been relying upon my strength to overcome the challenges of the last month, I had given only a polite nod to the very real truth that

"...we are not wrestling with flesh and blood contending only with physical opponents, but against the despotisms, against the powers, against the master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly supernatural sphere."
Ephesians 6:12 AMP

And be warned; when you move to rescue hearts and invade the territory of the broken you will draw the attention and malice of the enemy.  It is no coincidence that in traveling to Africa, in fostering two children, in adopting another, the greatest victory the enemy could have against me would be for me to become a harsh, impatient, and withdrawn husband and father in his own home - to hurt and harden the ones I am called upon to serve as Christ served the church.  No greater personal loss could occur than for me to openly proclaim James 1:27 to the masses and model a self-centered lifestyle driven in my moods and bents by the difficulties and challenges continually faced.  "But how can I change who I am?  How can I stop this?"

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

This peace is the "blessed state of a soul assured and confident of its salvation through Christ, unafraid of death because of the reward on the other side of it".   It is the paradigm shift of the eternal versus the here and now only.  We (I most particularly) need to live for the eternal every single day, every hour.  It is only in the perspective of God's eternal provision, His residing Spirit, and abilities that He has equipped us with versus our own limited flesh that we can be fully free in this world.  When we walk in these, we'll no longer be trapped within.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rap Sheets

This one hits a raw spot for me and some will know why.  I've recently had the unfortunate experience of helping to put a man behind bars.  This person deservedly needs to be taken out of society's picture to protect another.  Two things particularly will enrage me to violence; 1.) the purposeful harm of children and 2.) the purposeful harm of defenseless women.  I have been gnawing on much rage these past weeks as a result.  None-the-less, it is an unpleasant and messy affair and has, obviously, garnered the hatred of this individual towards myself, my friend, and my family.  The friend I seek to protect from this individual is innocent in the affair other than seeking to extricate themselves from a demonic and consuming history of abuse and fear. 

As with all whom I would consider "adversaries", I have begun to study this individual - to learn as much about them as I can.  I have poured over online public records.  Little to my surprise, I have learned of an extensive history of court appearances, sentencings, and read about a track record of abuse, drug use, criminal activity, and an overall disregard for society's laws.  But this is never enough for me.  I desire to study what motivates the mind, what has shaped it, formed its thinking to action and behavioral patterns.  This has led me down the path of investigating this person's parents, siblings, etc.; all in the effort to compile a composite of their upbringing and values.  Again, not surprisingly, I've learned of a history of repeated law-breaking by the parents and siblings, disregard for societal norms, abuses, domestic disturbances, and even imprisonments.

How very, very easy for me to sit justified.  I, in my spotless criminal record staring down a small book of copied printed materials numbering nearly a hundred pages on the offenses of others. 

"Thank you Lord I am not like them".

" ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’  Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’  Jesus commented, 'This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God.'  "
Luke 9:11-14 MSG

We have all carried a rap sheet.  The first entry on mine was "Joshua was born".  Only our sentence wasn't so light as a 6'x8' room with bars, a bunk, and a toilet.  Our sentence involved an eternity of moral darkness, torment, and horror as we found ourselves terribly alone with a host of fallen angels and others as lost as ourselves.  This was the damnation created for the fallen ones that Adam bought into and condemned our entire race to with the disobedience in the garden.  This was the end God never desired for us. 

But in the only miraculous manner in which He alone could, God provided the once-for-all, overwhelming bond-payment for our trespasses - the ones you and I were born with. That payment was the blood of His most cherished Son and it obliterates your record, fulfilling the maximum penalty and sentence.  Ponder this.  Ponder yourself the above listed offender and that the above physical description of the countless pages of offense  are yours, only infinitely longer.  Ponder the failures, mistakes, swearing, moral misteps, and terrible misdeeds you've embarked upon.  Ponder that document suddenly and irrevocably expunged - wiped clean - spotless. When the Judge looks at your criminal activity report now, He sees only an empty white page.  Crisp.  Clean.  Not even a speck of lint on it.  Blank.

Because of this blood, God looks at you in His court and sees His righteous, His holy, His coveted and marvelously sinless child.  You have access to Him through this blood and He cannot be approached by filth or sin so this says much on your state when you approach him with a repentant heart, doesn't it?  From the scripture above, Jesus would rather we be the stumbling 'tax man' than the pious pharisee, because when we approach Him with this repentant heart, He can wipe away even the daily Rap Sheets.