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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

By Mike Edwards

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Many grew up with a view of God that encouraged fearing God. The threat of Hell was used to encourage such fear. Who doesn’t want to avoid being kept alive to be tortured forever? Good news! Hell doesn’t really exist. See here. So, since Hell doesn’t exist maybe God didn’t create us to whip us into submission.

What does the Bible really say about God? 

I am not going to quote you Bible verses to defend God is loving or wrathful. Verses can be quoted to suggest God is an angry son-of-a-bitch and you better get in line. Then, I could quote you bible verses that defend God is merciful, graceful, and loving. I am appealing to your common sense about love. Why would a Creator desire anything different relationally that what we were created to desire from others in relationships? 

Why would a loving God desire fear?

How do you want to be treated by your parents? Do you want to visit a parent who demands or instead seeks to earn respect? Do parents want us to fear them and visit out of obligation or like just hanging out. Do you want to be able to go to your parents for support or rebuke when you continue to mess up? I have a hunch God knows also fear doesn’t lead to change.

Where does fear get you?

Fear doesn’t work in spiritual or human relationships. People may suck up to you because you have something over them. They need a job, they need money to survive, whatever. Good luck when they don’t need a job or money. Genuine relationships happen not in an environment of fear but mutual respect.

Fear of God doesn’t make you a better person. 

Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or do you think God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for breaking free from habitual habits or bad behaviors. God isn’t looking to pile more guilt on us. God already knows we heap enough guilt on ourselves. God seeks to continually assure us of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love so we don’t every give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. 

But, don’t we need fear to control selfishness?

Has fear of consequences always stopped your selfishness? Fear only leads to trying to not get caught or doing enough to soothe others’ feelings. A great advantage in being a God-follower is being secure in knowing good enough isn’t enough. Relationships aren’t about just being good enough or not as bad as other partners. I have the “want to” to be perfect. My God allows me to pursue perfection while not being paralyzed by guilt when failing.

God’s approval can be a breath of fresh air.

Some parents beat down their children all their life, reminding them constantly how worthless they are. You aren’t thin enough. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t successful enough. You are worthless! God will never betray us like parents or partners can. A relationship with God always entails mercy, acceptance, and encouragement when seeking change.

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Questions are interesting things, especially those that give you pause and make you think about something you’ve never considered before.   That’s exactly what the following question is.  It was posed to me by a minister years ago and I’ve never forgotten the way it made me stop for consideration.  Here it is:

“If fine china and dinnerware is supposed to be reserved for important people, why do we only utilize it when we entertain guests?  Are the guests more important and matter to us more than the family who reside under the same roof?”

While this question could easily be answered with practicalities and conveniences, it presents the idea of why are we often guilty of not giving our families the best of us: the best of our time, the best of our attention, the best of our love.  After all, our families are the ones who truly see us unplugged.  Staying with this musical analogy, when we put on the facade of our “best” for others, we are essentially musicians using amplification, distortion, effects, and sound modifications to make the acoustic sound of who we really are into something we assume they will find pleasing.  Pondering this idea is what prompted me to slow down and examine what love really is and begin this whole series on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 on, what is considered the day of love, Valentine’s Day.  (See Love Amplified.)

1-cornithians-13

For a detailed look at 1 Corinthians 13:4, see Love Unplugged, part 1.

1 Corinthians 13:5-6 from The Amplified BibleIt is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].

Love is not rude.  To be rude is to be ill-mannered, impolite, discourteous, uncivil, and ill-behaved.  Quite simply put, as translated in the NIV, love does not dishonor others.  Love respects others and never dishonors them.

Love is not self-seeking.  Love is not selfish.  Love does not think about itself and does not demand its own way.  Love does not ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Love is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered].  Depending on your personal perspective, one of the greatest (or worst!) things about marriage is learning how to push your spouse’s buttons!  There’s nothing that feels so liberating as a justified retaliation for a supposed wrong endured by the one you cherish most . . . of course, that’s also the quickest to ensure you go to bed angry at each other and possibly go days without speaking!!  Love resists the urge for “button-pushing.”  Suffice it to say that in our nearly twenty years as Mr. and Mrs., refusing to provoke each other and forfeiting sensitivity is not something that has come easily to us but thankfully it occurs at a far, far greater frequency than once upon a time.   To know how to truly provoke another and refuse to do so is love.  This point actually displays how truly vulnerable love is. C. S. Lewis says it this way, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  According to Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins.

Love does not take into account a wrong endured.  Combining the four versions of this scripture pictured above let’s describe this one as love keeps no record of being wronged because it thinks no evil and is not resentful.  You will never hear love ask, “What about me?”

Love does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].  There is no evil in love.  There is no part of love that enjoys evil.  Love grows in truth and dwells in truth.  I’ve heard it said that the only reason for dishonesty is fear of not being loved if the truth is known.  However, love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear (1 John 1:18).

I pray you are enjoying the practical applications of love we are exploring together.  Once again, this is not something we can do on our own.  We love each other because He first loved us.

Rocky

(This post originally written March 5, 2017.)

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by Rocky Glenn

I am in the process of teaching my son to drive.  The first time we were out of a parking lot and out on the road I believe I held the steering wheel as much as from the passenger seat as he did from the driver’s seat for a short fifteen-minute trip.  Next time we sat down for the same trip, I only reached for the wheel to assist on three occasions.  We’ve now traveled the same path multiple times and I’ve not reached for the wheel since the second trip.  This past weekend I took him on roads he had never driven and no corrections were made other than simple verbal guidance.  He is learning and will likely be a much better driver than I was starting out.

I share this story not so much because of my teenage boy, but more as a reflection of me.  Any parent who has ever taught a teenager to drive knows what a nerve-wracking and frightening experience it can be.  As I thought about what it means to enjoy the moment, I realized it only comes as we learn to let go of the distractions of regret, what’s to come, and expectations just as I have had to learn let go of the steering wheel and let my son drive.  With each trip behind the wheel, I grow more confident of his growing ability to maneuver the vehicle.

Teaching a young driver is a tense experience because you realize very quickly from the passenger seat you are not in control.  We fear things we have no control over.  We fear the shame of the past because we can’t change it so we live in regret lest our darkest secrets be revealed.  We fear the future not knowing what tomorrow holds and having no guarantee of the health and safety of our loved one so we worry and dread what may come.  We judge others and others judge us based on preconceived expectations fearing how scenarios may play out.  None of these things are within our control.

Reinhold Niebuhr captured the heart of releasing control, living in the present and enjoying the moment.  Niebuhr may or may not be a name familiar to you.  Admittedly, despite knowing his words most of my life, I never knew his name until researching his famous prayer first shared in the early 1930s.  Commonly known as The Serenity Prayer, it has been shared in multiple addiction and recovery programs, and has become a source of strength for many.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

To live in a state of serenity is to live in the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.  Living a life of serenity sounds a lot like enjoying the moment.  Unfortunately, unlike Niebuhr’s request, it is rarely something which is simply granted.  Much like learning to trust a new driver, learning to enjoy the moment and live a life of serenity is a gradual process and is generally learned through experiences of life both pleasant and unpleasant.

In the last two posts, we’ve looked in depth at the story of the prodigal son.  The story ends with the prodigal being ushered into a celebration in his honor clothed in the finest robes and shoes.  If it were possible to interview the prodigal after the celebration concluded, I wonder what he would tell us.  I believe Henri Nouwen gives us a glimpse in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son as he places each of us in the role of the prodigal:

“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life – pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures – and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not ‘How do I find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by God?’ And finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by God?'”  God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.

To humanize the story of the prodigal son, you would have to imagine the young prodigal and his older brother still struggled with the mindset of being truly accepted into the father’s love with absolutely no effort on their own.  Flashbacks of his frivolous living no doubt would haunt the younger brother just as his older brother must have certainly struggled with bitterness over the years of service he dedicated to earning favor which was already given.  Both of these are struggles we all face and must learn to let go of to enjoy the moment.

To conclude this series, I will remind myself and all of us of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:27 – 34 as interpreted by Eugene Peterson in The Message which teach us to how to enjoy the moment:

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

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Have you ever had one of those experiences that, at the time it happens, just doesn’t hit you how much it means? Maybe later on down the road it becomes more and more important to you?

It’s been four months now since my wife and I took what was for us, a vacation of a lifetime. We drove from Ohio to the west coast, up the coast and back to Ohio.

We covered just over 7,000 miles, spent 26 days away from home and went through 17 states. We saw sights that we had always heard about or had seen in pictures, but to see them in person was quite amazing.

I think as time passes, and the more we think back on everything we got to do and see, it sinks in more and more. At the time we were traveling and seeing everything, it was so overwhelming that it took time for the impact of what we did to really hit us.

Famous Sites

We saw the famous archway in St. Louis, stopped at Vaile, Colorado and went into the Grand Canyon National Park. We went on to Las Vegas for all the lights, entertainment and activities there. We drove up the coast to San Francisco, a city we had always dreamed of seeing, sitting by the bay and driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. We took an Amtrak ride from a town we found nice and interesting, San Luis Obispo back down to Los Angeles and saw many famous sites and landmarks there. Then we drove back up the coast to visit some friends in Klamath Falls, Oregon, then up to Seattle and Mt. Rainier then over to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where we had dinner with a couple other friends.

Hollywood

From there we went down into Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful, getting there just fifteen minutes before it erupted.  We went over to see Mt. Rushmore and the famous four presidents sculpted into the mountain. We finished up our trip with a stop in Chicago and a walk around Navy Pier and down the Magnificent Mile.

I think once we got home we were so tired and full of memories, it just didn’t sink in how much this affected us. As time passes, it hits me how much this trip means to the both of us. For me,  I got to spend this fantastic trip with my best friend and the person I love more than I can express, getting to see such beautiful and interesting scenery, famous landmarks and interesting sites. And all the while we were making wonderful memories that we will never forget.

Fear

One of the things that really hit me about this trip is the fact that I really had some fear about going. Not a fear that something would happen, but a fear of the unknown. I wondered how would we ever pack a car for a month, how would we find where to stay every night, and how would I ever be able to drive in some of those big cities. The truth of the matter is I could have told my wife I was very nervous about doing this and wanted to wait a while. She would have said that is fine and we would have probably gone to the beach like normal, and probably never made this trip.

The thing is, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was time to take the plunge and make the decision to give it a try and see what happens. Sometimes we just have to look past our fears, jump in and take off. That is exactly what we did and it turned out great. For my wife and me, we feel that God was watching over us along the way, protecting us and guiding our schedule. I know not everyone believes that, and that is OK.

All along the way, everything just seemed to fall into place at the right time and right place. We had great weather, got into nice hotels every night at decent prices, had no trouble on the road, and just enjoyed ourselves beyond expression. We got to spend a little time with some fellow believers, enjoying good conversation and good food, and to us, we felt we had better fellowship than we have found in most churches we were part of in the past.

So, I guess if there is any moral to the story, it would be look past your fears, make up your mind you are going to do what you feel is right and don’t let worry or fear hold you back. You might just miss a great time and lose those wonderful memories that last a lifetime.

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