Archive for Fear

Oct
02

Your Table is Ready

Posted by: | Comments (0)

I like to try new restaurants, but I’m challenged with a problem you may find relatable. I have chronic order envy. If you’re not familiar with order envy, its basically evaluating my order against the orders made by others in my dinner party and comparing mine to theirs. It seems that I usually wish I had ordered what someone else ordered.

Psalm 23:4 makes a shift in location. The Psalmist transitions from being out of doors…green pastures…still waters…a valley of shadows…to indoors. In Bible times, people only ate with trusted friends and family. The table was reserved for the closest, most trusted relationships. But in Psalm 23, this table is set in the presence of enemies. It sounds strange to us, but it was even more strange to David’s original audience.

But King David was not the only one who experienced this phenomenon. Hundreds of years later, Jesus found himself in a similar position at the last supper. John 13:1ff tells the story of Jesus inviting the disciples to “table” to observe the Passover in preparation for the crucifixion that would happen the following day. Who are his guests?

One of the guests was Peter, who denied him later that night. Another was Judas Iscariot who had already planned the insidious act of betrayal of Christ.

Yet Jesus was resolved to behave with radical inclusivity as a means of introducing the Kingdom of God. He humbly served those at the table, Peter and Judas included, by washing their feet. He behaved with a redemptive spirit as he offered Judas the “sop” as an act of honor and an invitation to friendship. Then he relinquished control as he watched Judas exit the dinner to carry out his plan.

Paul does not directly cite this event in Romans 12:17-21, but I think it must have been on his mind. He counseled the Roman readers to do the right thing by overcoming evil with good and then leave their enemies in hands of God. The behavior of those who wish me harm is not my problem. The behavior of those who attempt to do wrong does not make me exempt from doing the right thing. That’s hard, but Jesus did it. And he expects me to do the same.

Categories : Fear
Comments (0)
Sep
26

Block and Tackle

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Football season is in full swing. For many, its the most wonderful time of the year. I remember when my son started playing tackle football. One of the key components of practice was The Oklahoma Drill. Football fans and former players alike know the Oklahoma Drill as a measurement of strength on strength. Two players are lined up across from each other like gladiators and compete against each other. The drill reinforces the fundamentals of the game of football. Blocking and tackling. As the television analysts like to say, “the game is won or lost in the trenches.”

Old Testament shepherds were also concerned with the basic fundamentals of caring for the sheep. Psalm 23:4 reminds us that “Your and and your staff protect and comfort me.” Shepherds were equipped with these two devices. The rod was a short stick that may have resembled a billy club. Legend has it that young shepherds had to cut a sapling and then carve their own rod, making it a custom piece that fit his hand. The rod could be used to club an animal that threatened the sheep. It could also be thrown with deadly accuracy. The purpose of the rod was for protection.

The other piece of equipment was the staff. We have envisioned the staff as a long stick with a crook at the top. The staff was used by the shepherd to guide the sheep and keep them on the proper course. The purpose of the staff, therefore, was to provide guidance.

Looking at Psalm 23:4 as a unit of thought, we learn that God’s presence, protection and guidance all go together. The protection and guidance of God is based on relationship more that responsibility. Meaning, the closer we draw to God, the more we experience his presence. And the God who is present in our lives is armed and equipped to guide us brings comfort to our souls in the midst of all fears.

Categories : Fear
Comments (0)
Aug
29

Present Tense

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Like some children, I grew up afraid of the dark. My strong, depression era dad could not justify the electricity expense for a nightlight, so I was left to sort it out on my own. My mother did help by offering these comforting words: There’s nothing there in the dark that isn’t there in the light. Believe it or not, that calmed my overactive imagination.

Fear establishes the limits of our lives. If you’re afraid of heights, you stay low. If you’re afraid of water, you stay dry. If you’re afraid of the dark, you stay near the light.

Psalm 23:4 describes evil through the imagery of a valley of dark shadows. Darkness is often a metaphor for darkness in Scripture. For example, at the crucifixion the sky became dark during the middle of the day for “a space of about three hours.” Paul said that evil people prefer darkness to light because light exposes their evil deeds. The good news is that Revelation reports that the lights are always on in heaven!

Back to Psalm 23:4. Even though we walk through the valley of dark shadows, we fear no evil. That reminds me that in those moments I am to be tenacious, not tentative. Evil is not diminished. It is real. It exists. God never promised that evil would never touch my life. He does promise that I don’t have to face it alone. I am not powerless in the face of evil, for God is with me. Even when all other companions must turn back, God is there.

My response to evil, therefore, is to not allow it to rule my life with fear. I am to be ruled by faith. I don’t have to be brave and courageous. I have to trust that God is bigger that whatever I’m facing. So what happens when my life is ruled by fear instead of faith?

Numbers 13-14 tells the story of the children of Israel at Kadesh Barnea. Having traveled some 200 miles from Egypt, spies were sent into the land of promise on a recon mission for 40 days. They came back with “an evil report,” meaning that while they could confirm the land was bountiful, there was no way the people of the land could be conquered. Discord set in and the people rebelled in spite of Caleb and Joshua’s protests. Imagine how they allowed fear to overrule their faith one mile from the promised land, especially in light of the deliverances they had experienced–everything from the plagues to the parting of the Red Sea!

Which brings me to this question. What will it take for you to trust that God is with you? What does God have to do to prove himself once again that he’s faithful? This is when we have to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves. God understands the pain of evil, which is why Jesus came to earth and went to the cross. But on the other side of that cross stands a garden of resurrection. That’s the gospel! Preach it to yourself!

Categories : Evil, Fear
Comments (0)
Aug
12

Know Fear

Posted by: | Comments (0)

What fears lurk in your heart? Crime? Racial tension? Terrorism? The political landscape? The economy? Failure? Disappointing others? Insignificance? Loneliness? Change? Missed opportunities? Aging? Illness? Dying?

Fear is a difficult thing to admit. Often we will use euphemisms like being stressed out or overwhelmed to avoid this confession. Regardless of what you call it, its real, and its presence is making itself known in American culture like never before.

The primary Greek word for fear is phobos, as in phobia. It is considered a neutral word, meaning that our understanding is based on the context of usage. On one hand it can mean cowardice, and on the other it can describe a truly religious person.

It was used in three ways in classical Greek. First, it could convey the idea of running away from danger. Second, it could refer to the opposite of courage as one seeks to avoid danger. Finally, it could describe the awe or reverence one possesses for an exalted ruler or person who is infinitely superior. In all, the word is used some 47 times in the New Testament, and generally speaks of fear in a positive sense as in the “fear of the Lord,” or as a description our appropriate response to evil.

It goes without saying that fear is part of our neurological hardwiring. It can produce a necessary and helpful signal that we need when facing danger. With almost no conscious help from us, fear tries to keep us safe. Gavin de Becker even calls fear, “a brilliant internal guardian.” At the level of intuition, fear is a gift that can potentially save our lives.

Unfortunately, much of our fear is manufactured. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to call fear, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Like an illusionist, fear leads us to believe things that are not real. We see the magician saw the assistant in half, knowing full well its a trick, but at the same time wanting to believe what we have seen that cannot be explained.

I like what Paul wrote to Timothy about fear. He boldly said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT). Its interesting that Paul does not use the word phobos, but instead uses a stronger word — deilos. This word is always used in the negative sense, and refers to a deep cowardice that one has. Paul wanted Timothy, and us for that matter, to know that this kind of fear does not come from God. Did you notice that the word “spirit” is in lower case? So as we experience life we have to make a choice about which spirit is going to govern our thoughts and feelings. If my spirit is in control, I’m going to be vulnerable to all manner of fear. But if God’s Spirit is in control, I have the resources needed to prevent me from becoming paralyzed by something that may or may not happen. Power, love and self-discipline are resources available to me only through God’s Spirit.

In his book Unafraid, Pastor Adam Hamilton used an acronym of his own to help us navigate the fears that plague us. Check it out:

Face your fears with faith.

Examine your assumptions in light of the facts.

Attack your anxieties with action.

Release your cares to God.

There’s a lot of unpacking there that I could do, but I’ll let the four principles speak for themselves. The point is that God has already provided the resources you need to live unafraid.

Categories : Fear
Comments (0)

I’ve previously shared a couple of posts related to Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. One of the helpful sections of the book relates to the subject of fear. Tripp contends that, “The dirty secret of ministry is that much is done out of fear, not faith.” Point well taken. Common debilitating fears include fear of myself, fear of others, fear of circumstances and fear of the future. I’m sure you can think of more to add to those broad headings.

Tripp continues his section on fear by helping the reader understand how to address it. He believes that in a fallen world filled with fallen people there are legitimate reasons to be afraid. He writes, “Faith does not require you to deny reality, so there are things that should concern and sober you and cause you grief.” Even though we should acknowledge the reality of fear, at the same time we cannot be governed by fear. Even though fear is real, it can be a good and godly thing. The problem comes when a person allows fear to overshadow what we know and lose sight of who we are.

So what’s the solution? Tripp offers five things.

1. Humbly own your fears. They will never be overcome by denying their existence.
2. Confess those places in your life where fear has produced bad decisions and wrong responses.
3. Pay close attention to your thought life.
4. Preach the gospel to yourself. Tripp states, “No pit in life is so deep that Jesus isn’t deeper.”
5. Cultivate an awe for God.

The only thing that can overcome our fears, according to the author, is our awe of God. Awe of God overcomes our mediocrity and presses us to excellence. The glory of God will cause us to do things we would never expect of ourselves.

Categories : Books, Fear
Comments (0)
Apr
30

What are You Afraid of?

Posted by: | Comments (1)

The second post resurrection saying of Jesus cuts straight to the heart of where many of us regularly live. Check this out:

Early on Sunday morning,a as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there” (Matthew 28:1-10, NLT)

Jesus second saying? “Don’t be afraid!” It’s interesting how somethings never change. What are you afraid of? Some of our fears are common place, such as snakes, spiders and mice. But many of us are gripped by fears that lie beneath the surface of our skin. What do we know about these phobias? For one, most of our fears are false. In the late 1980’s I attended a conference and heard motivational speaker Zig Ziglar say that fear was an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Not only are our fears usually false, our fears are usually negative. No one says, “I’m afraid I’m going to earn too much money” or “I’m afraid all my dreams will come true.”

How does the risen Lord help us deal with fear? There are three things from the text that are helpful to us. The first is worship. Worship is beneficial in that it increases and magnifies the greatness of God. One lesson we learn from the story of David and Goliath is that the size of your giant in life depends upon the size of your God. When we regularly engage in the spiritual discipline of worship, God becomes literally larger than life and all that life throws at us.

Not only does the practice of worship help us deal with fear, faith helps us as well. Did you notice the simple phrase, “just as He said” in the passage quoted above? Three times in the last six months of his ministry Jesus predicted that he would be killed and rise from the dead on the third day. Unfortunately the disciples forgot what Jesus had said as his claims became swallowed up in the sea of circumstances that surrounded the first Easter weekend. Until God’s voice becomes the prevailing voice in your life you will face fear after fear. In reality, we don’t overcome our fears. We replace our fears with faith in what God has said.

The final piece of the story is obedience. Jesus summonsed his followers to meet in Galilee. Why Galilee? If the disciples wouldn’t go to Galilee to see the risen Lord, they wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth on behalf of the risen Lord.

Worship, faith, and obedience. That’s how Jesus’ followers overcame their fear. After the giving of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, fear evaporated. While the gospels record numerous times the disciples huddled in fear, fear is virtually absent from the Acts of the Apostles. Have you ever noticed that? Do you wonder why? I think its because Jesus’ followers had such a high view of the risen Lord that no other voice mattered. Proverbs 1:7 states that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. When the fear of the Lord is absent from our lives we become enslaved to lesser fears. If you’re struggling with fear, don’t focus on the fear. Focus on the God who created and sustains the universe. He’s the same God that knows you by name.

Categories : Fear, Jesus, Resurrection
Comments (1)