Hurts So Good

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." Proverbs 27:6

What do we need most in life? I'd say tops is Jesus transforming us from the inside out. Right behind that is spiritual allies. Allies are those unusual friends who help, prod, encourage us and wound us - wait...what?! Yes, wound us. Allies are mutually honest even if it causes pain.

I both hate it and love it! My bride is my friend, lover and a wounder. Yes, Junanne loves me enough to tell me the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. There have been a few critical moments inI've benefitted from several friends who knew the need to speak the truth in love and run the risk of wounding me. You need this as well.

Wise people know those true friends don't sign off on everything. If you’re asking your friends to sign off on your decisions, wink at sin in your life, or not talk with you about an area that is “off limits”…you’re asking your allies to become your enemies!

If you allow no one to speak truth to your life where it’s needed most, you might find a few fans but you have no friends, let alone allies. 

Fans kisses leave us sick. Allies wounds make us well. It hurts so good!

Hate Helps

Hate is not commonly seen as a virtue, but it is. Proverbs 6:16-19 outlines six things God hates. Romans 12:9 tells us to abhor or "hate what is evil".

Hate actually helps us "cling to what is good" (v.9). Without the hating of evil and sin we diminish our ability to love. Love without a sharp contrast of what we need to hate just dulls the definition of love and our passion to love. To "let love be genuine" (v.9) we need to hate some things deeply.

I've been searching the scriptures and find that our love for righteousness can be stoked by hating anything that flys in the face of truth. Hate in the hands of people who don't know and trust God turns into self loathing or taking vengeance into our own hands. But hate turned over to God is a breeding ground for love.

Hate helps us deal a blow to sin in our own lives. Think about that sin that keeps creeping up on you. Instead of winking at it or dumbing it down - hate it. We don't like holding onto what we hate so give it a go. Hate helps and love conquers all!

Walk in Truth

Truth is the anchor of substance. Without truth, there is no baseline or starting point. People who can't speak or live the truth are in a race to the bottom - and there is no bottom.

We've all seen that people who can't be truthful or persist in embellishment for their own ends are bound by the law of bravado and movement. They race to diminish one person and soon move on to the next big thing. Drama becomes the necessary mode of operation. Noise is the friend of liars. Quiet reflection on communication is too risky - it may result in the need for confession.

What should we do? Truth telling must begin "in our heart". A heart that is hurting needs to be tended to by God. The unattended or unnurtured heart perpetuates the very pain they've encountered. But here's the real danger – a heart that is not in step with the Holy Spirit will serve almost any other spirit. From the overflow or abundance of the heart, "the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).

I have a close friend who saw a need to break the habit of lying and twisting the truth. This happened shortly after they surrendered to Jesus many years ago. They decided to double back and correct any falsehood or half truth immediately upon realizing that they had not been truthful. It took some people off guard and blew away others with their candor. But soon lying or twisting the truth was no longer a part of their life - the pain of confession was replaced by the habit of truth.

Truth is solid ground. We sleep better in truth. The need to justify and dramatize dissipates - peace fills the void. Truth is the bedrock of hope. Truth is the launching pad of a healthy legacy. Walk in Truth!

Who gets to sleep is a sacred tent or live on a Holy Mountain? "He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend." Psalm 15:2-3

 

Grace - Safety Net for Sin and a Whole Lot More

When Christians think of grace it's often assumed that Grace is God's favor to us and that this favor is unmerited. But we tend to think of Grace only being leveraged when we're losing not when we're winning – Grace becomes the safety net for sin. There is more, a whole lot more!

God's Grace was so overflowing in Stephen that it gave him an uncommon power to proclaim the gospel. For Stephen, Grace was so powerfully at work in him that it cost him his life – he would say the tradeoff was worth it as many surrendered their life to Christ and the gospel spread like wildfire. 

But the power to share the gospel is just one of the many ways Grace is at work in our life. Justin Holcomb, an Episcopalian professor from Knox Seminary, has assembled a comprehensive list of the ways God's Grace works in our life. Here's a look at the list:

"God’s grace grounds and empowers everything in the Christian life. Grace is the basis for:

  • Our Christian identity: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
  • Our standing before God: “this grace in which we stand.” (Romans 5:2)
  • Our behavior: “We behaved in the world … by the grace of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:12)
  • Our living: those who receive “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ,”(Romans 5:17) by the “grace of life.” (1 Peter 1:7)
  • Our holiness: God “called us to a holy calling … because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 2:9)
  • Our strength for living: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1) for “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9)
  • Our way of speaking: “Let your speech always be gracious.” (Colossians 4:6)
  • Our serving: “serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” (1 Peter 1:10)
  • Our sufficiency: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 2:8)
  • Our response to difficulty and suffering: We get “grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16) and when “you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace...will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 1:10)
  • Our participation in God’s mission: As recipients of grace we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Believers receive grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you” (John 20:21). God’s mission is to the entire world.
  • Our future: God, and his grace, is everlasting. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
  • Our hope beyond death: “grace [reigns] through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3)."

Yes, when we sin, Grace, is there to pick us up. But Grace is whole lot more. Grow in the grace of God today. I've learned that humility is the posture of receiving in the kingdom of God. Humble yourself under his hand and watch you life grow.

Blessings,

Karl

Bandwagoning & Rumormongering - (I believe it now more than ever)

Sometimes the impact of a writing comes back like a boomerang. That's the case with this blog. On Monday I wrote the blog below and posted it on Facebook. On Tuesday I did the very thing I despise. On the radio, I made a comment about Tiger Woods. My comment made the assumption that Tiger must have been drinking because he sure looked like he had in his mug shot. Well, within a few hours there were reports that Tiger blew 0.0 into the breathalyzer. 

Now I'm the illustration for my own blog! Please accept my apologies for being so quick to do the very thing that has devasted me personally in the past. I feel like God has used this in my life most which is always his intent. I praise God for his grace and believe every word you're about to read. Like never before.

We live in a speculative and rumormongering world. There is a bandwagon for anything. If you want to dislike someone or something - you can always find circumstantial stuff to support it...always!

This soul-sickness is what afflicted those who crucified Jesus. Anyone can condemn but fewer run to believe the best - saving runs counter to our nature of condemning. Just a few may drive the judgment train, but many join it because the fear of being left out of the gossip or standing alone is just too much to take. But one thing to remember: Someone always pays for cowardice.

I've witnessed this from both sides. I've made broad conclusions only to find out it was based on twisted truth or outright lies. I've also had the same occur toward me. This is the way of our world but we don't have to get sucked into this downward swirling bowl.

God didn't send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). If you lean toward condemnation you've turned and are leaning away from God. The only solution is admitting it all - times of refreshing will come. God will fill the sails of what has become the doldrums. We can be freed from trying to convince ourselves and others that we're okay.

I now trust almost nothing I hear or read until it can be substantiated with credible evidence. Even then, there is very little worth being consumed with unless we have the ability to effect change. And when our focus is directed toward belief and transformation, it is truly the way to honor God and impact the world.

The Church Launch Is Here...

180 Chicago is opening it's doors this Sunday. It's been birthed by prayer, grown to a small solid core, and has overcome some early challenges – it's a prevailing church! 

I'd love your help in two ways: Please pray for us as you feel led by God. And share this with whoever you believe would greatly benefit – maybe it's you.

Many blessings to you,

Karl

Things - Noise - Fools < Friendship with God

Loneliness is both a reality we'll face and an opportunity that has the potential to launch us spiritually. First, we need to call out those pretenders. There are three things that vie for our attention when we get hammered with a lonely heart. These three things promise the moon but simply can't deliver. 

1. Things: We could also call this "stuff". Things or stuff want us to reach into our wallet and try to purchase something to fill the void of loneliness. Even a shopping spree can dull the pain for a time, but the the pain of loneliness will return with even more power when the material buzz wears off. 

2. Noise: There isn't enough music or sit-coms to dull the pain of loneliness. Noise can be a distraction for an evening but when we head off to bed the silence within us can be overwhelming. For some, the noise of life has actually become our friend. But this friendship can never truly satisfy. It leaves us with a hollow sense of lifelessness. 

3. Fools: When loneliness hits us we are tempted to find almost anyone to fill us up. Some lonely people have wandered into marital commitments with fools. More of us have given away our heart, our deepest longings, and our wildest dreams, to a fool. Fools can dress up in church clothing, talk with authority, and even feign compassion. But the person who, out of their own insecurity, is willing to trade confidences to climb a ladder of approval is dangerous. Fools will also contrive stories to climb in authority. Don't be on the same ladder with a fool. The temptation to become "tight" too quickly must be squelched. Watch and wait. See if they've thrown others under the bus in the past and stay clear until trust can be gained over time. 

The bottom line: Nothing, no thing, no noise, and no fool can fill the void of loneliness. Take the time, and sacrifice the time to cultivate a friendship with God when no one else seems to be there. The whole idea of salvation is that, in Christ, we now have a "friend". This could be the biggest prize in disguise–getting to know the greatest friend on earth. He has a vantage point like no other friend and he can overflow us with his presence. Yes, we need friends to fill us up. But let God touch our deepest needs, first!

John 15:15

A Personal Invitation

There are millions of people in Chicagoland who are looking for the life Jesus wants to give – they need to see & hear the truth that can set them free!

We are pulling together a launch team for a new church, 180 Chicago. We're looking for imperfect, passionate people who have tasted the power of God and want to pass it on.

God is still changing lives! If you have a passion for adventure and this strikes your heart, it just might be God calling. Join us on March 12th for "Vision Chicago". Click HERE and get signed up.

Chivalry Part 4 - Leading by Leaving

"...a man shall leave his father and his mother."

Sometimes things grow best, right after a fresh cut. Pruning is one of those universal metaphor’s of life. If you want more grapes, put a knife to the branches. If you need a stronger army, trim the ranks. If you desire to see more muscle, burn that fat. It’s no accident that God calls men to sever ties with family. Because the healthiest growth between a husband and wife requires getting some distance from the family tree. 

Yes, it is possible to get distance from mom and dad without dishonoring them. In fact, we must cut ourselves loose without cutting ourselves off. And love for our parents has no strings attached. Men, when we calculatedly do this, it sends a clear signal to our bride, “I’m-your-man”. Real men take the first cut. They demonstrate that this is a new day. Men send a powerful message of love for their bride when they walk her away from his tribe to start a new tribe. Intimacy and adventure are two huge benefits when men are willing to make the "first cut”. 

Some of us got this right away. But for some of us men, it takes decades to realize that we never made that first cut–we never really severed that relationship with our parents and it's hurt our marriage. Don’t condemn yourself another minute. God never wastes a thing and every courageous decision is followed by waves of God’s favor. But what does is look like to cut ourselves loose? Here’s a few categories to think through, you may have more. 


Cut Allegiances - We’re called to honor our father and mother, not defend them. As tough as it is to let down the old family flag, real men raise a new one. 

Cut Traditions - This is probably a huge list but you have to set them all down. Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t pick a few old traditions back up, it just means that you’re cutting them loose long enough to let you and your wife do some cherry picking of the ones you want in the new tribe. 
 
Cut Cords - Dependence cords are like umbilical cords for adults. Here’s the good news, men. It’s tougher to admit you have dependence cords than it is to cut them. Once you come to grips with all the ways you depend on good ole’ mom and dad, the sooner you can cut them loose. You may need to bare down, dependence cords grow strong over time.

Go ahead, make that first cut, your marriage will thrive!

You Look Dynamite

I'm not going to worry about wearing my Canada Goose parka any longer. I'm not even going to explain that I bought it long before they became popular and costly.

Life from God’s vantage point is radically different than ours. He looks past our appearance and sees right through our struggle for identity. God’s love plunges below the surface of our worldly thinking. God does value different things than we do and he has the vision to see what really matters. 

There are two reasons God told Samuel, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. First, God wanted Samuel to spot the future King, David. He would have missed him if he was looking for a strapping stud-muffin like Saul. Second, God wanted billions more people, like you and me, to be massively encouraged. To know that he can see the stuff that really matters and he has the capacity to make a heart beautiful is all God.

This is no knock of beauty that is skin deep. In fact, we are called to never measure anyone, whether they look rich or poor – God’s not so shallow as to rip on good looks or fine clothes. Here’s the point: God creates beautiful people – outside and inside. But what matters most is on the inside – it’s the game-changer. God is looking for gorgeous hearts. He’s scouring the earth looking for knock-outs (at a soul level) and each of us can become one. A gorgeous heart will gorge itself on the presence, power and grace of God. A gorgeous heart will get called out of the crowd. A gorgeous heart can drop giants dead in their tracks. But here’s the kicker. None of us were born with a good looking heart. It’s a God thing that turns a heart of stone into clay and then molds it into a masterpiece. And if our heart is fully committed to him, we get invited to the front lines of big battles but also big victories. God looks at the heart. Give him something humble and broken to look at. The rest will become history and legacy…

I Sam. 16-17

Get Wisdom

We’ll face several critical decisions in our life that require some deep wisdom. Where we turn for answers will dictate our direction. And the direction we take can have significant downstream impact on both our life and our legacy.

God never intended for us to have a flip-the-coin decision making process. God is much more available and directional than we might imagine. Life should never be a “throw of the dice” for Christ followers. He wants to pour wisdom into us so we’re headed in a healthy direction and making decisions that are measured, prudent, produces immense joy, and overflowing life.

One of the biggest reservoirs of wisdom is God’s Word. The proverbs are loaded with truth that can give us nuanced insight and specific steps. But often we need wise counsel. Words from someone who has lived longer and has diligently applied the scriptures can shed light on a situation so we don’t step into a mirage of blessing.

This is exactly where King Rehoboam blew it. He’s the son of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, but he opts for the wisdom of his friends. Rehoboam “abandoned the counsel of the old men”. This was a huge misstep that derailed his leadership and divided the kingdom. What we can learn from Rehoboam’s folly is powerfully preserving.

Wise counsel will tell us what we need to hear, not always what we want to hear. Find people who fear God more than they are enamored with us. Recognize that our peers usually have our same perspective and motivations. But don’t just find older people. Seek out counsel who is measured, has a good track record and wants us to get a win. We may well get some decisions wrong, but God has grace for those as well. The goal of seeking wise counsel is not perfection, but it is getting enough wisdom so we can feel confident in our decisions. Getting wisdom at the front end will give us confidence to move through trials to the very end.

Here's two classic books, full of wisdom and spiritual insight:
The Release of of the Spirit - Watchman Nee
Humility - Andrew Murray

I Kings 12

Breaking Free from the Illusion of Salvation

I was not only raised in a good church, I was a good kid. I walked the aisle, attended youth group, went to conferences, memorized verses, and even help lead a youth ministry – but I didn't know Jesus. I hadn't truly experienced the life-changing power of God. 

Yes, we can be so close and yet so far away from saving faith. The illusion of salvation is so blinding that no one is beyond the reach of its deception. Jesus says that preachers, demon casters, and even Christian workers can claim the name of God...and not be his kids.

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Here’s what this means for us practically:

  1. Don't make "getting to church" the goal for your kids. Settle for nothing less than "their life transformed by the power of Christ".
  2. Look at how God describes and defines new life (Soak in Gospel of John).
  3. Resist trying to convince yourself that spiritual activity equals spiritual life.
  4. Pray for spiritual clarity and freedom from deception. We can pray this, for ourselves and those we love.
  5. Never stand in judgment over someone's salvation, that's God's job. But do hold high a biblical vision for the power of the gospel.

God bless you in this season. May the life of Christ transform you and those you love!

"Hear", Oh Child of Mine

The Shema is found in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9. And it's repeated by Jesus, found in Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27. It's an anchor for devout Jewish people. But don't move too fast through this little passage. Take God at his word..."Hear"! Listen to the Lord. It's one of the least leveraged disciplines, but one of the most critical for our vitality. 

The potential for us to rise above the noise of a twisted and tangled world is real. The hand wringing, white knuckles and shortness of breath will never be fully eradicated but they can be radically reduced. So put this in the spiritual bank: When we desire to be blown away by the voice of God...we're in the will of God.

Here's a danger: We can let the power of time with God slip through our hands. Asking, sharing, praising, singing and a bunch of other "ings" are great, but without listening we're going to miss something that could well be mind-blowing. 

Here's the great news: When humble people take time with God, God speaks. The earliest Jesus followers received the biggest breakthroughs from God while opening their hearts and ears to God. While they were worshiping and forgoing some food, "the Holy Spirit said...". This "word" resulted in a massive movement of the gospel around the world. What a beautiful thing. No strategy sessions, no polling and no consultants (by the way, these have their place and are great gifts from God). But this time was just time with God - willing and ready to hear his voice.

Now the payoff! "Shema" ... God is speaking. We don't need a PhD in listening. All that's required is a humble heart and willing feet to go the direction God points. We can do this. My only advice is simple but a touch painful. Get a sharp spiritual knife and carve some time to hear from God. Keep a bible open in front of you and confirm what you hear with some wise counsel. But make no mistake: We set aside time with God...and we'll be blown away by what we hear. 

Acts 13:2-3

Leadership Checklist

Ministry, marriage, politics, business, and sports...it's all about leadership.

If you're in a role that involves leadership, lead. Check out how bold Paul speaks to the person with the gift of leadership..."the one who leads; with zeal". Zeal is a powerful word and defined as, "a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something".

Spiritual leadership is the ability to capture the hearts of people with a vision that is beyond the leader. God gave leaders to inspire and cause us all to believe, gain strength, and build on small victories. Not all leaders have the same capacity to move people but any leader can grow in follow-ability. I love the three C's of leadership. They help us think practically on how to grow.

Character - This is the engine room of the leader. Character is developed in the "war room" of introspection and communication with God. The spiritual leader who spends time on their knees is cultivating the "gift that was given". Time spent with God and his word breeds a leader who is alert to fools and seeks out wise counsel.

Capacity - Every great leader knows that energy is the most valuable tool they possess. More than time, energy is the thing that gives leaders the band width to make decisions that are wise. Capacity must be guarded and given to the gift of leadership before any and all other activities. Rest, sleep, and quiet time fill the capacity tank of any leader.

Chemistry - Leaders know who they are and who they are not. Chemistry is the ability to bring people around you with complementary gifting. Chemistry is ruined by allowing people to be coddled who are in competition for leadership. Give a competing leader a role large enough to fulfill their own gifting or cut them lose to find their fit elsewhere. Chemistry requires contentment with every key player.

Organizations thrive or shrink due to leadership. It's all about leadership...be the leader God has called you to be!

Romans 12:8

Special Note: I'm inviting people who have a passion for the gospel and spiritual adventure to prayerfully consider joining me in launching a church in Chicago. Click here for more information.

What do you want, God?

Trials are coming and we need to know what to look for when asking God for wisdom. Here's three questions and I believe they're biblically prioritized.

What do you want to change in me? This is the first and most courageous question we can ask. It's not natural and quite honestly it the most painful. Could it be that the pain of looking at ourselves is the most rewarded by God? The most natural thing to do is to be so fixated on the person behind the trial that we actually get stuck in a blame game. But the richest among us say with David, "Search me Oh Lord, try me and see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way". 

What do you want to take from me? Here's the tough news that we all know intuitively but it's tough to see it clearly when in a trial...God uses trials to pry things from our lives that we actually love. Not everything we fall head over heals for is good for us and God knows best. The only question is, will we trust him. That person we're dating, the job we're hanging onto, just fill in the blank...it may be that God is trying to take it from you. Please note: God does some of his best addition through subtraction.

What do you want to give to me? Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from God and this wisdom is a promise. When we ask the first two questions we'll have eyes to see number three! Hang on, because the prayer offered in faith will be rewarded.

Trials will come our way. We can't avoid them but we can deal with them in a way that will "make us mature and complete, lacking nothing".

James 1:2-8, Psalm 139

Plant a Church...Reach the World

I'm very excited about planting a church in downtown Chicago, even though the challenges are many. One of the most encouraging words I've received has been from Tim Keller. I don't know Tim personally, but an article he produced a few years ago is breathing fire into the belly of myself and church planters around the world. Read this article and you'll feel the burn to champion the church and church planters.

WHY PLANT CHURCHES?

Let me raise the stakes even higher. I'd like to invite you to consider joining our church plant in downtown Chicago. Please join us for our first “Vision Chicago” meeting on Saturday, October 22nd at 10:00am. I look forward to sharing my personal story, why we're starting a church in Chicago, and what kind of church we believe God wants us to launch. You’ll be able to ask questions and walk away with a clear understanding of our vision and direction.

I'm looking forward to connecting with you. Let’s believe God for some great things ahead for all of us.

Please click HERE to RSVP. Feel free to forward this invitation to your friends. Be sure to have them register as well.

Blessings,
Karl

When you want to give someone "A piece of my mind"...TRASH IT!

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3

I thought my motivation was spot on, but I missed the mark completely. Recently I gave my son a piece of my mind that would have been better placed in the trash can of my mental hard drive. My words weren't harsh (I've done that plenty in the past) but they were absent of wisdom. They were born out of anxiousness and even sounded like they might make sense. But they lacked the focused and life-giving wisdom from above. The words I said were laden with discouragement that flowed from and unchecked mind – not the mind of Christ or of the Holy Spirit.

When we give someone "a piece of my mind", whether harsh or sweet, we're dipping into an empty well. The best we can hope for is impotent speech but oftentimes a crash is imminent. Someone always gets damaged because our mind, without the direct guidance of God, is a destructive force that spouts nonsensical ramblings that can only lead others in circles or produces lazar shots that leave people wounded or dead. How many people are wandering today because of words without wisdom? How many are injured because of powerful words given without the guidance of God?

The apostle Paul knew we ran the risk of being reckless at any given moment so his solution is clear – "being of the same mind". That means we submit our heart, soul, mind, and strength to Christ. It means that the Holy Spirit is allowed to fully vet our words before one is spoken.

Some may think this is a tall order but it's so doable through surrender. A surrendered mind turns loose rivers of living water. The piece of our mind that is guided by God is a beautiful mind. It doesn't mean that all words will be received with pleasure and joy. But it does mean that truth will be baked in love and life giving words will flow. It's our role to speak with the mind of Christ and to leave the rest to God. 

The next time you're tempted to give someone "a piece of my mind", no matter how justified you may feel, stop dead in your tracks before someone gets hurt. Trash it and hit the reset button of surrender. Look at that life before you as a precious creation of God and let flow the words of life. Nobody wins with the former, everybody has a chance to win with the latter.

 

The Answer For Fear Is ... Fear

I sat on the step unable to move. Perched on the edge of light, from the living room behind me, I peered into the darkness of the basement. I couldn’t go back because I was told to do a chore downstairs. But to risk the perils of descending into the dark…no way! What if I couldn’t find a light switch? What if someone grabbed me and I couldn’t even yell for help? Those images in my mind convinced me I might not come out alive. 

Fear is a powerful emotion. It caused Jesus’ inner circle to blow up – in the face of fear not a single disciple was found. He had performed unthinkable miracles, loved them perfectly, and promised them the moon. But fear caused those closest to our savior to flee.

Fear either drives us or paralyzes us. Fear creates workaholics, food addicts, ladder climbers, gossipers, homelessness, fatherlessness, shame, blame, and the pursuit of fame. Fear is the enemy of faith, unless our fear is... 

There has to come a time when we fear God more than man. Fear is the enemy of faith unless our fear is of God. But not just any fear of God will drive common fear from our lives. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). Demons possess fear of God but they have never tasted the life-saving fear of a good, good Father.

The Hebrew verb yare can mean, “to fear, to respect, to reverence” and the Hebrew noun yirah “usually refers to the fear of God and is viewed as a positive quality. This fear acknowledges God’s good intentions (Ex. 20:20). … This fear is produced by God’s Word (Ps. 119:38; Prov. 2:5) and makes a person receptive to wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 1:7; 9:10)” (Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, 2003, pp. 470-471).

The Greek noun phobos is a “reverential fear” of God, “not a mere ‘fear’ of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Fear, Fearful, Fearfulness”).

I had a good father. Not a perfect father, but a dad who I didn’t want to disappoint because I knew he had my best in mind. And I knew that he loved me enough to discipline me when I was out of bounds – yes, out of bounds of what he believed was best for me.

My dad called out, “everything okay, Karl”? I must have muttered something incoherent. Dad met me on the step that night. He didn’t mock me. Dad took me by the hand and showed me that my fears were unfounded – my mind was swept clean of certain calamity. I grew a foot taller that night and I’ve walked into darkness now for 52 years.

You might have had a poor father figure or no father at all. That’s okay, God sees you on the step. He knows what’s driving you or paralyzing you. He longs for you to say, “Father, could you take me by the hand”? He’s a good, good father…that’s who he is. Call out to him and walk into the dark. It will be as light to you. 

Tough People - God's Promise

"No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Here we go again, another passage that reveals a common challenge. The reason God affirmed this promise is due to Joshua’s (and our) propensity to believe we’ve been abandoned. It’s tough to think straight when we’re facing challenges but especially those challenges that come at us in human flesh. 

Face this reality now. Your battle for spiritual conquest will be opposed by physical beings. Negative words, glances, scoffing, belittling, and doubt will hit us in the face when we are in need of some encouragement. Alignment with God is critical for any pursuit of extraordinary, but alignment with good company is equally important.

Resistance will come at you and it won’t stop. But I should be careful even saying that. It could be that a tactic or ploy of Satan is to give you several miles of victory only to crush you with enemy attack when you lose focus and attention. Paul’s call for us to be alert is grounded in the fact that Satan is unpredictable. The only thing certain is that new ground will not be conceded easily. 

Yes, evil will use people. Resistance will come by way of overt enemies and sometimes by friendly fire. But remember that when facing tough people, God holds out a promise. Keep moving and watch him deliver you.

The Battle Is Real

Satan is not only real, he is ruthless! He has co-laborers–demonic forces. I like to call them The Committee. The "roaring lion" metaphor in first Peter wasn't for dramatic effect. The Committee works fast and goes after those who are weak, alone or woefully unprotected. They spit, snarl, intimidate and they love the taste of Christ-follower. Satan clamors for strongholds and if he can't get that, a toehold will do. But don't look for blatant manifestations of Satan. He likes to stay low key. He's a stealth, serial killer. Satan's best work is done in the shadows, just on the edge of light. If Satan can find an angle to plant a little concoction of temptation, accusation, condemnation and intimidation he's got you where he wants you, neutralized!

This is why we're hit with a stern warning, "give no opportunity to the devil". This warning is for anyone who's passionate about taking hold of abundant living and spreading broadly the "good news". Here's a reality of war: The only way Satan won't target you is when you've given up the dream and settled for a "normal' life. Just look around, normal is not enough. 

But the real battle is in the way The Committee hammers our mind. Satan led Jesus on a temptation tour, enticing Him to sell-out cheap for something that looked very good. The Committee always uses tantalizing bait and will swap-out bait until we bite. And when we bite on a lie, we get dragged through desert valleys of shame until we're left for dead. Because of this a warning is critically important. Most of us have joked about "hearing voices" in our head. But it's no joke, it's very real! Our mind IS where Satan goes to work and he brings his friends. His aim is to shame us, blame us, tempt us, crush us and sometimes just discourage us. If it goes unchecked, Satan will reduce us to living in utter emotional squalor. The real danger is to live in this pitiful place so long that you can no longer imagine a different place. It's time to take the war to the enemy.

We have a weapon of war that's designed for hand to hand combat, the truth of God's word! We need to build our lives like Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem, a brick in one hand and a spear in the other. Deal with each wave of attack, one at a time. Tell the enemy that your identity is secure in Christ, you don't need the approval of man. Tell the accuser you're loved and useful, you're not taking the "loser" label another day. Tell The Committee you resist bitterness and tonight the sun won't go down on your anger. Tell those terrifying whispers coming from the shadows that "perfect love casts out fear". Tell the lion in the weeds that the depression you seem to battle is not to be mistaken for abandonment or weakness, you're still God's child and under the protection of the "good shepherd". Fight back now! Cry out to God. Reject and renounce lies. Come back tomorrow for another battle, it never ends. But here's the kicker, "the gates of hell will not prevail". Tune your ear to God's Word and His voice. Listen closely, that's the voice of truth, love and life, cheering for you! 

I Peter 5:8, Eph. 4:26-27, Matt. 4, I John 4:18, Matt. 16:18