Where are you looking?

Where are you looking? Nothing can steal God's vision for our life like the nagging things right before us. Worry about the next step we take or the enemies we may face can only paralyze our forward movement.

He almost crashed the helicopter. It was one of his first lessons and he was fighting the urge to look straight down at the controls. But the only way to keep the chopper stable was to lift his eyes, trust his hands, and look to a distant horizon. Now he was beginning to fly with fresh confidence.
She couldn't keep the car swaying from the center line and back to the far right shoulder of the road. It wasn't a drinking and driving situation. She was a new driver. It was a focus crisis. With a slight lifting of her head she looked far down the road and immediately the car traveled smoothly in the center of it's lane.

The temptation is to fixate on that thing right before us. But enemies will loom too large, mountains become too daunting, our next step becomes too fearful. But God! Yes, there is no other friend like God. And when we gaze upon him the pressure of the present is lifted – God carries our emotional load and gives us courage to move ahead. Where are you looking? Meditate on this wonderful passage of scripture.

Psalm 121
   I
lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

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. 

Habit of Timidity

You have the passion to take big steps of faith, but you keep waiting for your timidity to subside. It’s habitual because fear is the only tool that evil can throw at us when we long for extraordinary. Timidity taunts us with the “what ifs.” What if I get hurt? What if I stumble? What if I look crazy? And the worst is . . . What if I don’t make it? Timidity must be seen not as a feeling that will fade but an emotion to face and step through. This habit is actually best faced by being embraced. Timidity will never leave you, you must leave it.

I don't know that I would have followed through. I was 17 years old when I plopped down $1,100.00 to enter the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. After the money was on the barrel it became the thing that pushed me ahead even when I was buckling at my knees. What fear do you need to bust through and ask God how he might do that.

(I'd like to invite you into The Seven Series. Just click the link to the right and join the journey. You'll need a kindle or some kind of smart equipment. Volume 3 will be released tonight.)

Habit of Courage

Hey Friends, 
So glad that many of you are jumping into The Seven Series. Some have asked if I have this in print form and the answer is no...not yet. After all 9 volumes are released I may put them all together but until then you can read them on a Kindle or download a kindle app for your device. 

Here though is another taste from Volume 2 - Get Up.

When God says to “arise,” we’re being shown a way out from the ordinary and into the extraordinary. It’s an invitation to something beyond us. The habit of leaving is rare but awesome. Yes, it can be scary. But we’re being waved forward into a dream we’ve only imagined or slightly tasted. Now these aren’t empty, man-contrived fantasies; these are the God-given dreams that we’ve not yet dared to pursue or failed to take hold of in the past. 

There will be plenty of challenges ahead, but inactivity is too high a price to pay. The investment we make to get up and courageously get after God’s promises is minuscule compared to the pain and price of staying put. There is a cost to unrealized dreams, but no longer can we live in regret of missed opportunities. This is morning for you, and every new day has new mercies. It’s time to risk again and believe God for what is truly extraordinary. 

Now, the road out of everything familiar can strike fear into the core of our being. This is a painful reality for anyone who desires to walk with God: It will be scary and it will be lonely for long stretches of the journey. Many have set out to follow God’s greater plan for their life, only to return to what is familiar. God won’t demand we leave what’s familiar, he simply says, “Follow me.”

Leaving everything that is familiar requires courage, because some do turn back and the majority just won’t move. The promised life that God offers us can almost seem to be fake. We wonder why more people aren’t getting up and going after their God-given dreams. We can begin to think that we’re radical, rare, or sometimes we wonder if we’re wrong.

This fear must be fought with every ounce of our being. You can’t settle for less than God’s best. When God gives us a dream we must move on it. And when that God-sized vision for a better, richer, and fuller life is dropped in our heart, we can be sure of this: God never goes back on his promises—“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Put a deposit on it, sacrifice for it, and do whatever it takes to get up and after your journey to extraordinary. And when it feels like you’re alone on this quest, when most seem content to stay put, don’t let fear hold you back. Somebody has to go first, it might as well be you. Make a habit of leaving the mediocrity and everything familiar. Get up. Never settle for less than God’s best.

Lamentations 3:22–23; John 6:66–67; 2 Corinthians 1:20

A Christian Response To Terror

The tragic events in San Bernardino have rocked the soul of our nation. We now know there are people in America that hate our values and aim to send shocking terror through the fibers of our culture. How we respond is critical.

Yes, strong boarders, national security and vetting processes are imperative if we wish to protect innocents and leave our children's children a legacy of peace. But what can't be lost is our calling - that the world may know of a life found only in Jesus.

We have a powerful message, as Christ followers, and to carry it into the world involves a high level of risk. There are no assurances that we will be safe this side of heaven. The only sure thing we can count on is persecution. Jesus said "you will be hated for my name's sake".

There is an even greater threat to our lives than terrorism. The greatest threat we face is fear, followed by retreat or hateful aggression. This will only steal our joy and rob us of the many blessings of witnessing lost people break though into the blue sky of salvation.

We have a calling and a hope! Our "ministry of reconciliation" is too rich a reward to cower from neighbors. And if we pray for our enemies to be conquered it should be, first and foremost, that their hearts are conquered by the love of God. God is still turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh!

Lean in! Carry the message of hope with uncommon boldness. There are many millions of people who have yet to hear the message of the gospel and understand the greatest freedom known to mankind. Peace...

Matt. 10:23, II Cor. 5:18, Ezk. 36:26

Barrier Breaker

Who constructed that barrier that's holding you back? There's a good chance you face a barrier that is not constructed by God. Yes, God will block us at times, but more often we face barriers that are not of God at all.

Barriers of fear, shame, blame, and deception are more often the cause of us getting spiritually stalled out. There is one barrier breaker and he left behind a document that crushes half truths and lies. We need to tear down everything "raised up against the knowledge of God". Taking thoughts captive that have frozen us in our tracks will crush barriers and allow us to walk forward in Christ's confidence.

II Corinthians 10:4-5

(Check out this little video...it proves how much potential God has placed in us)

Man To Man (Remix)

Every man needs a shot of courage, pep talk or just someone who believes in him when he doesn’t believe in himself. The biggest threat to chivalry isn’t the culture we live in, it’s the resistance we experience between our ears. Self doubt and timidity can seem to creep in through the slightest cracks. This is why we all need an honest talk from time to time–man to man.

There was a young follower of Jesus who had a mentor named Paul. Paul wrote Timothy a couple letters and every word drips with passion and relevance. One epic verse hits Timothy and all men today, right between the eyes of our soul. "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Tim. 1:7). Let’s break it down, there’s some great stuff to digest here.

  • FEAR and cowardice is not something God places within a man. It’s not to be tolerated and fear is never to become a part of our operating system. Simply put, if God has not given us this spirit of fear it can only have evil origins and evil intent.
  • POWER is the deposit of God that enables us to take the spiritual high ground. God’s power makes us king of the mountain with fear only trying to take us down. This power is a “controlling influence” that enables the man of God to stay faithful.
  • LOVE is the pinnacle and essence of God’s power. When a man pushes back fear with God’s power it doesn’t enable him to be reckless or selfish, it empowers him to love–chivalry is the man under the power of God.
  • SELF-CONTROL is more than the ability to not be fearful or cowardly. Self-control here implies the gaining of wisdom and depth. 

Here’s an alternate translation model by Daniel C. Arichea.

For God did not cause us to be cowards. Instead he caused us to have hearts full of strength, to love other people, and to keep control over ourselves.

What an amazing challenge for any man. Paul told Timothy that when you feel kicked down and on the ground, get back on the proverbial horse and ride. Nothing more tests what a man is controlled by than when we are called to be biblically chivalrous. But never surrender to fear. And when you feel like you’ve succumbed to timidity, remember the words of Paul to Timothy. We all need to hear it man to man. 

Don't Let Fools Get You Down

Some people, motivated by fear, anger, or envy, will attempt to beat you down but don't let it happen. Even Jesus, when dealing with demons and seeing a precious mute man set free, was labeled "the prince of demons". Jesus couldn't win for losing.

There are plenty of times when our vision and actions are anything but godly, but let people without an agenda speak into those things. Love and passion for your life and liberty will be the hallmarks of those people. We simply have enough adversity in our lives, we don't need to borrow trouble.

Some may think it's godly to put yourself at the mercy of anyone's counsel or correction. No, counsel with personal agenda is like listening to "lips of a fool" and you don't want to be close by when those words "consume him".

Get up and go. Don't let words of the past, present, or future keep you from God's best. The best isn't always easy but it's only found through the love of God and man.

One added note: Make certain that we counsel from the rock of Christ's love or it's better that we not speak. Thoughtful heart checks and seeing people as beautiful to God can provide us with words "like apples of Gold in a setting of silver".

Matthew 9:32-34, Ecclesiastes 10:12, Proverbs 25:11

Fear Drives Us To God (or it can)

Some people use fear as a way of measuring courage or emotional strength. The more fear, the lesser the person, or so some believe. But this leaves out huge variants, like the size of the battle or the nature of what's striking fear into a person. Also, we can't know from where a person began and what they've overcome. But most importantly, scripture is clear that we don't have to be slaves to fear but God never implies we'll become fearless. This "fearless" pursuit is timeless. It has never gone out of style to try and overcome fears by believing they don't exist. But fearlessness ignores reality and is inherently man-centered. It actually seems to driven by the fear of fear.

Fearlessness leaves faith on the shelf and renders the mystery of trusting God as wimpy. But the essence of faith in God isn't the absence of fear in life. Faith stares fear in the eyes and crosses over by a power outside of ourselves but deposited within us. What God can do for us is amazing. And yes, he can address our fear in any form it may take, as it attempts to crush us. 

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ""Abba," Father."

This is real straight forward. Fear helps us connect with God! When God removed our slavery to fear it didn't eradicate fear, he ushered in a new Spirit to deal with that fear and direct us to God in our darkest days. Trying to shake fear is like running from our shadow. It's exhausting and we'll never get away. The running must stop. The craziness of "fearlessness" must end. Stop measuring your worth by the amount of your fear. God's not that small and the fears we face can confirm that we're on the right path - fears don't have to stop us dead in our tracks, they can drive us to God.

Romans 8:15

Hope In Your Eyes

Hopelessness can stop us dead in our tracks, but hopelessness never has to get the last word. It's not the desire of any person to arrive at a place without hope. It can be true that people grow comfortable in a state of hopelessness, but no one has to stay there. Hopelessness can feel like the end of the road, but God! If there is the slightest breath in us, God wants to speak a word of life into our soul. Hopelessness never has to get the last word. 

Hopelessness is the result of tough circumstances and an apparent inability to believe that God can change it. Getting into a funk is rather easy. We can see injustice, feel personal pain, and even have seasons when it feels like God is either deaf, impotent, or both. We must remember that feelings of hopelessness is never a problem, staying there is. God has provided a way of escape, that hopeless people have leaned into for thousands of years. These are some practical and powerful words: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." So it's a forced internal perspective shift. And when this shift happens, it changes everything. But this shift can't happen until we know a subtle truth about hopelessness.

Hopelessness is not a measure of weakness, it's a measure of untapped strength. That's right. As long as we attempt to pull ourselves out of the ditch of hopelessness we will continue to slide back in. In truth, the more God is out of the equation, the more we will most certainly feel a sense of hopelessness. This is where an internal shift must happen.

We need to drag our eyes to see God again - even in the small things. We must lift our voice and praise God again - even if the sound is faint. And we must thank God for our salvation, even though the circumstances may shout something different. This is not a mind game, it's a forced perspective change. It says, "I won't sit in a dark room any longer". Will the hope return over night? Yes, glimmers of hope will come in the morning if we chose to put our hope in God!

Psalm 43:5

Don't Worry...Watch Birds

Fear can get a grip on us and it involves two strongholds, provision and protection. But God breathes hope and confidence into us by inviting us to watch birds. Yes, bird watching is a great discipline when gripped by fear. So what can we learn?

"Look at the birds of the air". They don't plan, plot, or plant, but God feeds them every day. "Provision" is name for God and since he provides for them, Jesus asks, "Are you not of more value than they"? The answer is - absolutely! So the provision will be there in the morning. We just have to go get it.

Birds are precious creations of God, but in comparison to us, their real value is just a fraction (half a penny per sparrow in Jesus' words) of our worth. So if he has a birds back and will not let them "fall to the ground", how much more does God have our back? The bottom line: God protects his kids and "in Christ" we are fully protected. Even the life we live here doesn't end, we simply get an eternal promotion–the ultimate win/win.

There are two caveats for all of the above. These involve bird watching as well. 1. Birds get up early and get after it. They don't hang out in the nest and wait for a worm to crawl in. That won't happen. 2. Birds also look out for themselves. They stay away from anyone and anything they can't explicitly trust. Nests are built in safe areas and they naturally look out for each other. The ways of a bird are awesome. But such frail creatures prove that the provision and protection of God is even better!

Matthew 6:26, Matthew 10:29

Go Over!

Every one of us has a river in our life. That river stares us down and dares us to take that first big step.Your river stands between you and God's great promises for your life. It has to be crossed because a river can't be walked around. At times the river taunts us and tells us to not even make plans for the other side. But make no mistake, your river is cross-able by God's grace and power. Joshua couldn't taste the promise without crossing the Jordan. There's a crossing in your life and it's just ahead. Taking that first big step is often the toughest step to take. It's a huge fear to step out because there are so many unknowns. "Will I make it" and "will it be worth it" are just two of the questions that will bombard your mind with fear. But to get on with life we have to go over a river, we just have to take that first big step.

You can do this. You can get where you need to be tomorrow by crossing something that seems impassable today. When you've imagined long enough. When the moment has finally come. When God gives the nod, it's time for a crossing. We simply can't let the fear of taking that first big step keep us from walking with God - and that's the cost of never moving. Too many people live with regret of what would, could, and should have been - don't be one of those people. And don't think that because you missed an opportunity in the past you've disqualified yourself today. Get on with livin' and get on with life. It's the first big step that sets adventure in motion, creates compelling stories, produces brave kids, floods us with waves of fulfillment, and launches us into our God-given adventure. 

This first step is gateway fear and evil knows it. If evil can scare us into being a lifelong dreamer it's just fine with that. But God's not okay with that, that's why he said to Joshua and to each of us "go over", take that first big step. Overcoming this fear creates space between the pain and regret of the past, and moves us toward the anticipation and expectation of a richer future. This fear must be overcome because life on this side of our river is just plain empty, no matter how we may justify it. Dealing with this fear has two big benefits. It causes us to have deep questions about our own ability. But this can lead us to more fully trust God to pull off what is clearly beyond our capacity. The ultimate reason to face our fear and make the move, is because taking that first step is how God is glorified and God-given dreams are realized. Let's "go over".

Joshua 1:2

Fight With Light

Get in the fight for faith and never leave, until we break through to the other side! The only thing worse than facing an enemy is the wounding we receive when we turn away. Don't walk away from the goals you've discovered. Never stop dreaming. Don't doubt your gifting. Never neglect your calling. The price God paid to get you on this path was high and the promises of God are too rich to be denied. Each day may appear like a flat-line trajectory, but even holding the ground we've gained can be a lift-hands-high victory. Fight for faith!

There is one thing that changes everything in our fight for faith. God shines light into the darkness. He doesn't leave us groping and guessing. God let's us see that our fight for faith is..."against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." So let God's illumination be your ammunition. If you have a sliver of God's light of truth, stand in it. If you hear the darkness uttering lies, speak the light of truth into it. If you feel the forces of evil deceiving you, ask Jesus to shed the light of truth directly on it. The greatest way to fight for faith is with light.

Every word of God you speak into "this present darkness", lights a torch of truth that let's you make a little more progress. God's word is "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path", so get some light on every situation. Guess and grope no more. Open up the truth, pour in the truth, speak out the truth, and watch your world light up! In our fight for faith, God is not constrained by the weapons of common warfare. Flip on the switch of truth, fight with light, and I'll see you on the other side!

Eph. 6, Ps. 119

Man To Man

Every man needs a shot of courage, pep talk or just someone who believes in him when he doesn’t believe in himself. The biggest threat to chivalry isn’t the culture we live in, it’s the resistance we experience between our ears. Self doubt and timidity can seem to creep in through the slightest cracks. This is why we all need an honest talk from time to time–man to man.

There was a young follower of Jesus who had a mentor named Paul. Paul wrote Timothy a couple letters and every word drips with passion and relevance. One epic verse hits Timothy and all men today, right between the eyes of our soul. "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Tim. 1:7). Let’s break it down, there’s some great stuff to digest here. 

  • FEAR and cowardice is not something God places within a man. It’s not to be tolerated and fear is never to become a part of our operating system. Simply put, if God has not given us this spirit of fear it can only have evil origins and evil intent.
  • POWER is the deposit of God that enables us to take the spiritual high ground. God’s power makes us king of the mountain with fear only trying to take us down. This power is a “controlling influence” that enables the man of God to stay faithful.
  • LOVE is the pinnacle and essence of God’s power. When a man pushes back fear with God’s power it doesn’t enable him to be reckless or selfish, it empowers him to love–chivalry is the man under the power of God.
  • SELF-CONTROL is more than the ability to not be fearful or cowardly. Self-control here implies the gaining of wisdom and depth. 

Here’s an alternate translation model by Daniel C. Arichea.

For God did not cause us to be cowards. Instead he caused us to have hearts full of strength, to love other people, and to keep control over ourselves.

What an amazing challenge for any man. Paul told Timothy that when you feel kicked down and on the ground, get back on the proverbial horse and ride. Nothing more tests what a man is controlled by than when we are called to be biblically chivalrous. But never surrender to fear. And when you feel like you’ve succumbed to timidity, remember the words of Paul to Timothy. We all need to hear it, man to man.

The Fear of Risking Everything for Something Empty (Part 1)

Going "all-in" with God is not a simple proposition. It can be terrifying to let go of whatever life we’ve made for ourselves and surrender to a promise God has given. We’ve all been burned by empty promises. Empty pitches from a salesman, empty words from someone we loved and trusted and empty dreams that filled our mind but never came to fruition. So many things come up empty in a broken world that even God-given dreams can seem risky. When we can firmly stake a claim to scripture and are fairly confident God has spoken, we question whether God will deliver. Fear can grip our heart when the time comes to risk everything. Many settle for too little because of the simple fear that the dream God's given, may come up empty. We need help with this fear. 

Nothing can drive out the darkness of fear, like the light of God's fulfilled promises. Nothing can inspire us like getting a taste of God's provision - it opens our spiritual eyes. Nothing can cause us to risk everything, like rehearsing all that God has already given us. God's promises are more believable when we have evidence of his faithfulness. It gets us motivated to chase our God-given dreams. Tastes of God's grace keeps us moving toward a richer future. Chasing God's greater plan is best done when reveling in the contentment of his presence and the work he's already done. 

So this fear must be dealt with at the cross. Laying down our fears to God is our greatest hope. God needs to quite our heart and bring stillness to our mind. When we allow God's peace to flood us, faith to risk everything can be born again. Fixing our eyes on both God's promises and the gifts he's already given us is spiritual sedative for our fears. A healthy mix of moving toward God's promises and resting into God's presence is the remedy for anxiousness, apathy, and even garden-variety discouragement. The way to deal with what we don't yet have, is to focus on what we absolutely do have. The only way to wait for what is yet to come, is to enjoy what has already arrived. Through the noise of fear God is whispering to us, "...I have given to you”. 

Joshua 1:3

The Fear of Taking that First Big Step (Part 5)

Don't Wait For Doubters, Stragglers Or Pretenders

Compassion is a dynamite character quality. It reflects the image of God to a cynical world. Compassion is the stuff that drove God to save us. But it's never compassionate to stay back with doubters, stragglers or pretenders when God says "go over…”. The very best leverage we can have in the life of someone we love or people group we care for is from a position of strength. God asks us to "seek first the kingdom of God". The best gift for anyone captive to the kingdom of darkness is to offer a lifeline from the kingdom of light. Don’t fear stepping away from doubters, stragglers or pretenders. When we keep in step with God we’ll have something to offer those we left behind.

This may require us to tear ourselves away from people who are not ready to "go over...". God uses people who are strong in Christ and fully alive to spiritually resuscitate the struggling. So the best gift we can give anyone is to never compromise our proximity to God, no matter how tough that love may appear. Love will leave people for a time, in order to watch God work over the long haul. Jesus said it, "YOU must follow me".

Connecting with people who are hurting is never an option. But compromising our calling to assist someone in danger is like a suicide pact, both of you will ultimately die. Yes we can help someone get a win, but only when we take a bold personal step toward victory. When God clearly says "go over...", don't wait for doubters, stragglers or pretenders. Doubters need to see the evidence of God's hand on our life. Stragglers need to witness the reward of courage and commitment. And pretenders need a vivid picture of how God honors authenticity. Never fear stepping out in faith, God can help people more through a healthy you, than an enabling you. 

Take that first big step. Never turn back until your foot is on the rock that God has set before us. If you feel like you're going it alone (from a human standpoint), you might well be for a time. But you're in the company of a loving, mighty and friendly God. Walk the road less traveled, climb the mountain that appears impassable, and swim the river if we must. But for God's glory, our joy and any who may be watching - "go over…".

Matthew 6:33, John 21:20-22

The Fear of Taking that First Big Step (Part 4)

Plan To Get Wet

When dealing with a fear of taking that first step we have to be honest enough to own what could potentially happen. When you put your toe in the Jordan that stands before you, you may witness a parting of the waters, but you may well not. God is always at work and He may do a miracle, but we might have to get wet. We can't impose on God how He delivers us, just know that He will. When Joshua was initially called by God to make his crossing he had no idea how the miracle of crossing the Jordan would happen. He didn't know if God would send rafts or provide the strength for the entire nation to swim for it. But Joshua knew one critical thing, and this we must allow God to etch on the walls of our minds: If God has placed a dream on our heart, he has the plan and the power to get us from here to there.

Every crossing in our life must be a God thing. But a “God thing” doesn’t come in a tidy package. Faith is at the heart of every crossing. And faith without a little trembling would be a little odd. So we need to anchor ourselves in truth when we step out in faith. God is "doing a new thing" and he will “make a way”. Just when we think we will die of thirst in a wilderness, God will bring river for relief and to quench our thirst. Faith doesn't remove fear, but faith in God to make a way can bust us trough our fears.

So we have one thing to do. Make plans for the obvious. If there is a mountain in front of us, plan to climb it. If there are tar pits, plan to weave carefully and step gingerly around them. And if there is a river, plan to get wet. The Jordan was ultimately stopped up and the river bed wasn't even damp - it was dry. But that came after the crossing began. Don't wait for the miracle. Maybe you are the miracle. Don't look around, jump in. In all the forecasting God gives us, he almost never gives us the details of the plan. That's for one simple reason: The dream God has given us can only been realized through utter dependence. Faith is what keeps us from falling away, and faith is what gives us follow-through. I don't know how God will get you there. He may do something for you he's never pulled off before. But either way, plan to get wet. 

Isaiah 43:19

The Fear of Taking that First Big Step (Part 3)

Get The Blinders On

That first big step requires narrowing our vision. We simply can't take a big step, let alone run a great race, without blocking out distractions. Where we're going is inextricably linked to where we're looking. God's greater plan and destination for our life will be challenged by fearful distractions. This is why one of the most powerful truths in scripture involves getting focused - "Don't look to the left or the right." Spiritual blinders are mandatory equipment when fear has a grip on us. This first big step can only really happen when we get the blinders on.

There’s another subtlety about fear. That fear that creeps up in us is looking for an excuse. Fear can find compelling reasons not to take that first big step. Without blinders, some distractions appear to look better than ever before. It's a mirage. The fear that grips us is always looking for a way out, or a compelling reason not to step out. Our fear just needs the smallest excuse to never take that first big step. There's a good reason why we need blinders. Our fear is looking for an excuse and compromise loves company. It's true, compromise can't stand to be left behind. Because of this you can't afford to take a peak. It's God who authored the vision for your life and it's God who will perfect it. Get the blinders on and let God get to work. 

But spiritual blinders aren’t nearly as much about blocking out the periphery, it’s more about getting so intently focused on our leader that nothing can distract us. Yes, Jesus is ultimately the only leader to follow so our full attention and affection must be fixed on him. He wrestled with big steps, but he broke through and ran the race to his death, so that we could live. But the grave could not hold him so we don’t fix our eyes on a cross or even an empty tomb, Jesus is risen. Get the blinders on, we have a big first step that we have to take.

Proverbs 4:27, Hebrews 12:2

The Fear of Leaving What is Familiar (Part 3)

Satan Will Never Shut Up   

If evil can't scare you to death, it'll scare you into clinging onto everything that is familiar. Evil's aim is to never give us a taste of victory. It fears that we may overcome our fears. Evil wants to paint such a hopeless picture of the future that we settle for what has always been familiar. For each vision given to us by God of something extraordinary, there's a competing snarl of lies that's laced with fear - Satan will never shut up.

No matter what we may think at any given moment, God's truth trumps our thoughts. And our thinking is shaped by information, most often it's bad information. No matter what message of fear you may have believed, this fear can be crossed over. It's never too late and we're never too old. We're never too worn out or too worn down. We're never too lost or too far gone. We're never too battered and never too shattered for God to pull it all together. God can do more through our frailty than we can ever pull-off through the best efforts of our sheer humanity. It's just not over until God says it is.

But the voice of truth seems to lose territory in our mind, because pep talks never seem to work in the night. When the rousing event is over, the meeting with our mentor is finished, and the party with good friends has ended, we're left with a good feeling - and a good feeling is no match for the conniving words of evil - Satan will never shut up.

So we need more or we'll be left quaking in our boots and stuck with everything that is familiar. When God says "arise" he's inviting us into an adventure. But he's not leaving us to fend for ourselves. We're never called to beat down lies, and the fear that follows, in our own strength or even with our own words. We have to let God do the talking for us. Jesus did this himself. When hammered by twisted truth, Jesus hammered back with straight truth - "it is written". 

If evil can't scare you to death, it'll scare you into never leaving everything that is familiar. There is only one way to deal with this fear, hammer away with truth in the face of deception. Never let a lie scare you into staying with what's familiar. Satan will never shut up, so never let anyone or anything shut your mouth from speaking words of truth and life.  

Matthew 4:1-11

The Fear of Leaving What is Familiar (Part 2)

We Can't Fix Anything 

Optimism is a strong trait, but blind optimism is a sign of weakness. Seeing a cup half full is noble, but if the cup is slightly cracked and can't hold water unless we keep filling it, then we're just being foolish. Sometimes we find ourselves in drawn out situations, toxic relationships, unwise endeavors, and general life circumstances that are simply broken. Since we live in a broken world and perfection is not our goal, God may call you to be part of the solution. But often times we are only hurting ourselves and preventing God from doing a great work, simply because we're in the way. We can't fix anything.

When God says "arise" it's because our time, where we've been, is complete. God will never move us on unless he's got a new plan for us and a better plan for all we'll leave behind. Fear is a natural response to leaving what is familiar. Fear will cause us to protest even when we know it's best that we go. It's in the familiar that we can so easily find our worth, our identity, and our security. But there in lies the problem. We were never designed to find those things in anyone or anything but God. God loves us more than to give earthly crutches. All the attempts to get strong while living with what is familiar leaves us weaker still. That's why God says "arise" because we can't fix anything, not even ourselves.

When we finally realize that we can't fix anything, the fear of leaving everything that is familiar begins to fade. Fear causes us to lean heavily on our own understanding, while trusting God with all our heart will stand us up and make our path straight. It's true you can't fix anything, but fear not, God's got everything you're leaving and wherever you're going, fully under control. 

Proverbs 3:5-6