Tag Archives: Fear

Truth, Trumpets and Cracked Pots

So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled.
Judges 7:20-21 (NRSV)

It’s amazing how our perceptions and perspectives affect us. God didn’t need 10,000 men to defeat the Midians. He needed 300 men with trumpets and jars to make the Midianites think there were 10,000 men. Once they were given to fear, they were easy to defeat.

The question I am asking myself this morning is this: How is the enemy trying to use this same tactic today against the people of God?

Wendy and I have begun to notice something each morning we sit down with the newspaper and every time we watch a news program on television. We hear the subtextual message “BE AFRAID! BE VERY, VERY AFRAID!” being trumpeted in the headlines and news stories until we feel surrounded by a giant unseen army in the cacophony of crack pot events and statistics misconstrued in the torchlight of political agendas. When headlines trumpet “God Isn’t Fixing This,” the spiritual assault has moved from subtle to frontal.

The resulting fear and anxiety gets absorbed by ourselves, our friends and loved ones. It seeps out on social media, in conversation, and in our behavior. We feel defeated, discouraged, pessimistic, fearful, defeated, and on the run. Which, I realized as I read the chapter this morning, is right where the enemy wants us. I perceive the prince of this world, who cannot make but only mar, using God’s playbook against us.

Today I am determined to find rest in knowing that “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” A spirit of timidity and fear does not come from God. That is a by-product of our enemy’s design preying on our own shame and doubt. God, however, provides power of which the enemy is ignorant, love that overcomes hatred, and self-discipline to perceive and believe Truth amidst the din.

 

Resting on Bedrock

The Rock, his work is perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God, without deceit,
    just and upright is he;
Deuteronomy 32:4 (NRSV)

A few years ago we noticed that our house had developed a few cracks in the walls that hadn’t been there when we bought it. The house was older, so it wasn’t a shock, but we knew we should investigate. The experts concluded that there was one section of ground beneath our foundation that had shifted. We had to drill underneath the house until we hit bedrock, then place supports under the foundation so that our house was resting on bedrock (see featured photo).

Just last week Wendy and I were having a conversation with friends. We had been asked to reflect on life and I mentioned that the past year and a half had been an incredible time of transition for our family. Madison switched jobs, moved twice, and struggled to figure out how she would finish out college. Taylor went through a divorce and moved to grad school in Scotland. My parents were both diagnosed with terrible illnesses. Both my folks and Wendy’s folks moved. Wendy and I felt led to sell our house, build a new house. Meanwhile, my company went through some of the most stressful change in its 27 year history. I concluded this litany of events by stating, “The tectonic plates of life have shifted beneath us.”

Life happens. Sometimes it feels as if the very ground beneath our feet is shifting. Cracks appear. We feel unsettled. If you’re like me, the result is usually generous doses of anxiety and fear.

In today’s chapter, Moses concludes his life and leadership over the people of Israel by composing and giving them a song. In the song, Moses uses the metaphor of “Rock” to identify God. David and the prophets would later pick up on this same metaphor. Jesus also used this metaphor. He taught us that when life happens, you want to make sure your house is built on bedrock.

Today, I’m thinking about this period of incredible life transition for our that continues to this day. I’m thinking about how Wendy and I have managed through it all. I’m thankful that our hearts are resting on the Rock.

Shift Focus

 If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt….
Deuteronomy 7:17-18 (NRSV)

There is a technical term used in movie making called “shift focus.” It’s when the camera is focused on one object while another object in the shot is blurry, then then camera shifts the focus so that the other object is in focus and the first object blurs out.  Filmmakers use this technique to transition the audience’s attention and to move the story along.

When things in life go wrong and times are tough, it’s easy to get myopically focused on our present circumstances. Our brains zero in on what’s happening in the moment and, as a result, our hearts can drive all sorts of negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, doubt and depression. These emotions can be spiritually crippling and paralyzing.

In today’s chapter, Moses anticipates that his people may find themselves in such circumstances. He instructs them to do a mental and spiritual shift focus as an antidote to their fears: remember.

  • Remember when you were slaves in Egypt and God delivered you.
  • Remember when the plagues hit and you remained safe.
  • Remember when the Egyptian army was chasing you and God miraculously saved you and gave you victory.

He could have gone on:

  • Remember when you thirsty and God provided water from a rock.
  • Remember when you were hungry and God sent bread from heaven.
  • Remember when you wandered and God sent both cloud and fire to lead you.

The shift focus from our present circumstances to past situations reminds us that God has been faithful in the past (So why shouldn’t I believe He will be faithful in my current situation?), that we survived in the past (So why shouldn’t I believe I’ll get through this), and that things eventually worked out (So why shouldn’t I trust that my current situation will work out, too?). The result is that our faith begins to counter our fear and our paralysis gives way to us moving forward.

Today, I’m reminded of the many times God has provided and protected me through the years. Why then, should I fear present troubles?

chapter a day banner 2015

 

Patient Response

Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.
Ezra 5:17 (NIV)

In less than two weeks I’ll finish my decade long tenure as President of our local community theatre. We’re a small organization in a small town so our troubles and travails are of little importance in the grand scheme of life. Still, I find it ironic that in the last few months of my term I have experienced more stress and anxiety than ever.

Our stage home resides in a very old building owned by the community that has served us well, but it is in need of extensive repairs and updating. The city is investigating the facility’s use and exploring all of the options available. This has created anxiety and fear for some people, and there have been strong reactions to the situation.

This came to mind this morning as I read of the Hebrews rebuilding the temple while their enemies and neighbors actively petitioned the king and worked political channels to make them stop. I can only imagine the diverse and passionate reactions they must have had among their people to the situation. It makes me glad that I’m merely dealing with a small community theatre and not a national crisis.

In today’s chapter, I read how the political process continued to work itself out. Accusations were met with investigation and the investigation is unearthing the truth of the situation. It takes time, but the Hebrews did well to remain faithful in the task and to trust God to work things out through the process. It’s a great lesson.

Looking back, I see how my passionate reactions to situations in life, motivated by fear and anxiety, have led to unwarranted overreactions. I’ve come to believe that life situations are best handled through patient and thoughtful response. Remaining prayerfully engaged and letting the process play out is rarely a foolish choice.

 

chapter a day banner 2015

featured photo:  janicskovsky
via Flickr

Following and Fear

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.
Ezra 3:3 (NIV)

Last night was family pizza and movie night. Taylor invited her friend Curtis over to join Suzanna, Wendy and me. Wendy made homemade pizza and breadsticks as we all gathered around the island in the kitchen to share in a glass of wine and conversation.

In the midst of the conversation Taylor recounted a significant point in her life as a teenager in which she made a conscious decision that she was going to follow Jesus. Hanging out with a couple of her best friends shortly thereafter, she explained to them her decision. She shared with them that she needed to start making some different life choices. Things that had been  producing spiritual death in her needed to pass away. She needed to choose into things that would be life giving.

As she spoke, it brought back similar memories for me. After I became a follower a Jesus, when I was still a very young man, there was a period of time in which my new found faith created an awkward fear in me. Those who knew me as one thing, were now going to experience me as another. Old things were passing away in me. New things were emerging. And, while I still loved my friends very much, I knew that I needed to change. Whenever Jesus called someone to follow, there was a requisite of leaving things behind and striking out on a path toward new things.

Perhaps it was Taylor’s story and my memories that resonated as I read this morning of the Hebrew exiles returning to their homes. The temple had been in ruins for years, so long that those living near could scarcely remember it being a center of worship. Now, a new thing was happening. Life was returning to a place of death. The worship of God was beginning once more and with it came that awkward fear of how their neighbors would react. And yet, they continued to obediently follow the plan.

I’ve learned along life’s journey that following Jesus sometimes means obediently following where He leads, despite my fears or my nagging concern about what others might think. On a few occasions, it has meant following Jesus down paths He was leading me despite even my fellow believers thinking me cracked and accusing me of going the wrong way.

Choosing Life requires making choices and moving my life in directions where increasing measures of Life will be found. This necessitates leaving behind parts of my life, and even people in my life, who are sucking the Life out of me. I do this not because I judge these other people as bad or evil. In fact, I have tremendous amounts of love for them. I do this because, in the moment, I am called to pursue Life. In doing so I ensure that I may someday have an over flowing abundance of Life; Life I might someday have a chance to share with those same loved ones from whom I needed to distance myself for a time.

photo : redvers via flickr

Out of Gas

On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back at a post from yesteryear and re-blog one for newer readers. This was originally posted in August, 2006.  Note to reader: If you read my previous post today, I would like to point out that I have actually gotten somewhat better at this!

Yesterday Wendy and I headed to Des Moines in my new company car. I was low on gas, but the car’s computer told me I had 58 miles left. I did the mental calculations to figure out if I needed to stop before we got to the Doctor’s office and then kept my eye on the odometer. As we trucked down University Wendy asked if we needed to get gas. “Nope, we’ll make it!” I answered. The computer told me so.

As we got off the exit at 22nd street in West Des Moines I had 10 miles left and a half-mile to the doctor’s office.

That’s when I ran out of gas.

Don’t trust the computer – trust your wife when she tells you to stop!  :)

(Don’t) Be Afraid, (Don’t) Be Very, Very, Afraid

The Lord is good,
     a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him…
Nahum 1:7 (NIV)

The prophet Nahum lived and wrote his prophecy in troubled times. The kingdom of Israel had been split in two, the northern kingdom called Israel, and the southern kingdom called Judah. When Nahum wrote his prophecy the northern kingdom had been attacked and decimated by the Assyrians.

The Assyrians were known for their brutality and cruelty. When they conquered a city, they would mercilessly hack the limbs off their victims and then leave the limbs and bodies stacked like a pyramid outside the city gates. It was their calling card, the sign that the Assyrians had been there. Now that the northern kingdom of Israel had experienced it, the southern kingdom of Judah feared a similar Assyrian attack.

Fear and anxiety are common emotions. Today I find it common for people to experience economic fear (When will the economy get moving again? Will we experience what happened in Greece? Is the stock market going to collapse?) and fear of terror-ism (When’s the next 9-11? Are ISIS terrorist cells on our soil just waiting to attack? ). There is anxiety about global politics (Will Iran get a bomb and attack Israel?) and climate change (Will global warming  create disastrous change in weather patterns?). When Wendy and I watch or read the news we will often observe to one another that there seems to be one major theme: “Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Nahum also lived in a time of fear, and his prophetic message was to encourage his readers not to give into fear, but rather to trust in God. Nineveh (the capitol of the Assyrian empire), he prophesied, would be destroyed. His prophetic word was fulfilled. Assyria was destroyed by the Medes and Persians in 612 B.C.

It’s Monday morning as I write this post. The first Monday of a new month. For some of us, even the prospect of what the coming week holds brings anxiety. There is uncertainty about what we’re going to do in the coming month and how we’ll get through. Nahum’s message is a good one. Notice that he doesn’t promise freedom from trouble, but that we will find God a caring refuge in whatever comes our way.

Today, I’m choosing not to give into anxiety and fear, but to trust God to be a caring refuge for whatever comes my way.