Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

Living Faithfully Amidst Secular Neighbors

June 28, 2016

I’m writing this on a plane heading toward “sin city”. A technical conference awaits me. Not the slots, the shows, the girls. I was pretty much a boring geek in high school, and I remain so.

On the other hand, Paul wrote letters to early Jesus-followers who lived in cities just like that (without the lights).

You see, those early Christians knew very well that they were living amidst a secular society. Paul urged them to live so differently that people would be attracted to their way of life. And in so doing, they could attract more disciples of Jesus. Just what we are supposed to be doing.

I have recently become a fan of John Fischer and his daily email The Catch. Yesterday he wrote:

In an article this weekend in The New York Times called “The Bad Faith of the White Working Class,” author J.D. Vance pointed out that the politi cization of the church has led to widespread thinking that the main enemies of our faith are external. The bad guys are all out there – the secularists, the “evil elites,” the Muslims, etc. And while preachers preach against all the evil out there, Christians on the inside are pulling further and further away from the world and more into isolationism and finger-pointing. This isolation and fear of encroachment from the outside and tendency to project complex problems onto simple villains is fueling both the current political campaigns here in America and the decision in Britain to leave the European Union. It is a widespread fear that has gripped the white working class in the Western World that the world as we know it is changing.

This¬† is true, but pulling in and building walls is not going to stop it. Actually, nothing is going to stop it, and as believers, we need to be better equipped to handle these cultural changes with grace and love. That’s why, here at the Catch, we emphasize the Gospel of Welcome and grace turned outward. God’s arms are open to everyone without discrimination, and the grace we have received, we are eager to extend out toward everyone, everywhere.

So many rural people that I know and associate with think that cities are (or should be) just like the little towns they grew up in. Everyone went to the same church. Maybe one or two families didn’t go to any church and were watched carefully.

But we Jesus-followers have always and throughout history lived in a secular society. People may have nominally belonged to a church because that’s where the social center was (plus you didn’t want to be ostracized in a village of fewer than 1,000 people).

The question we really need to ask is, “Are we living the kind of life that attracts people to Jesus, or are we living the kind of life that repels people?”

That is a crucial question. None of us are perfect. But are we living as forgiven? Or as Pharisees who followed rules and pointed fingers at whoever fails to follow the rules? Let’s see, which ones did Jesus prefer? It’s not a trick question.

Inappropriate Explosions of Emotion

April 19, 2016

I had a conversation with a coach yesterday describing an inappropriate explosion of emotion I experienced over the weekend. And no, it wasn’t me!

It dealt with a coach explosion on the sideline of a game and subsequent venting in public. The coach I was talking with said, “Hmm, I’d better learn from that. Take a deep breath. I can get carried away at times.”

There actually exists a time for anger. Sometimes you just have to show emotion. There is a referee I know who is very good. Her weakness? She is always too nice. Sometimes you have to have “the look” that tells players she’s unhappy with that action.

I bet she develops “the look” when she gets married…OK, we won’t go there.

The deep breath comment is worth digesting.

Most times our anger is not that of an honest response to a wrong. It rather springs from sources such as wounded pride or excess of ego. Some of the angriest people are also the most insecure.

Andy Stanly discusses “what have we got to fear” on his current Your Move series.

Security comes from a deep relationship with God. Usually that was modeled by secure parents. If you were not so fortunate, perhaps a spouse or other relationship. Perhaps you could be that model of relationship to help someone overcome the fear and anger that resides deeply within.

In normal life, the deep breath before shouting at the kids or referees will save both us and others injured feelings and discord.

I go to my model. Jesus dealt with all manner of interruptions and even hate with patience and even-temperedness. However, when he was unhappy with the way the religious leaders were ripping off pilgrims to the Temple, he did not hesitate to show his anger at the sacrilege.

Deep breath. Slow release. Ahhhh. Now go face the day.

Conquering Fear

March 8, 2016

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away–

Buffalo Springfield

Why is it that every time there is an encounter with God or a messenger of God, the first words are, “Don’t be afraid”?

I wrote yesterday about conquering emotions. We really need to recognize them and come to grips with them. Psychologists will tell us not to bury them acting as if they don’t exist. If you do, then you will be visited with even worse conditions.

Many writers and analysts believe that the emotion of our time is anger. Therefore the attraction of Trump and Sanders. Each is playing to very real emotions of “common people” who believe that the political establishments have let them down. It’s hard to believe the numbers about the economy growing when we aren’t making as much money and the world is exploding¬† worse than the 60s.

This is not to discuss politics. I studied that in graduate school–and left it behind to go into engineering, computers, and manufacturing. Something more understandable!

But the mood of the times is important. It’s important to know how many of the people around us feel. It’s important to know how we feel inside. It’s important to recognize and then deal constructively.

Fear leads to anger? “It starts when you’re always afraid.” The writers of the song nailed it.

How do we cope?

There are many ways, of course, but let’s turn to Jesus, who as a teacher leading us into living a better life now as well as in the future, always caught just the right edge.

Try Luke chapter 12.

“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food….”

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for you Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Meditate on those. For where we fix our minds, so shall our thoughts and emotions follow. We have the power to choose.

Fear, Anger, Lives Matter

January 21, 2016

My friend called this evening. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s not very social, but deep down he really wants to connect. On the other hand, connections with people are stressful. 

He asked what I was doing. Reading the news, I replied. He said, “I never read the news. Too depressing.” 

I agreed. Said I mostly read tech news.

He’s right about the news. We learn about almost every murder in the world. In fact, it’s always about murder, shootings, rapes, confrontations, hostility, war. “If it bleeds, it leads” was the old newspaper mantra. That’s even more important in this 24-hour constant news cycle where eyeballs on the screen are crucial to financial success. (I was in the business.)

Inundation of stories of killing raises fear in the hearts of many. Fear often plays out in anger. We have lots of anger in the world. Even in America where things are really pretty good (don’t tell my Facebook “friends” that, they glory in bad news).

It seems everything gets politicized. Every life matters to God. But some people think that Black lives don’t matter to the white majority in this country. So, we get another bumper sticker slogan. Which leads good Christian conservative people to counter with “Blue Lives Matter” (policemen).

I’m not following all the election stuff very closely, but I will admit to having occasional nightmares about a Trump/Sanders election. Where would the other 75% of the voters go?

None of this helps the discussion. Where is the peacemaker when we need her? 

John Fischer wrote on The Catch “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” He pondered the thought about what would have happened in the 60s with the pent up anger and frustration of black people without the non-violent leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. Think of the riots after he was killed.

I read my Facebook news feed (more infrequently now) and see anger, fear, racism. I know most of these people. If asked, most would deny being angry, fearful, cynical, racist. But their words belie them.

Bill Hybels expressed his wish of the same thing last Sunday following a talk on race relations at Willow Creek. Our church stands firmly for good relations among those of various races, he said. “If you don’t agree, don’t let the door hit you in the back on your way out.” He’s just that strong–and concerned.

It’s not one of Richard J. Foster’s 12 Spiritual Disciplines, but I view peacemaking as a Spiritual Discipline–or Practice, if you wish. 

I’m way too low key. Most of my “talking” is with my fingers on a keyboard. Those of us who have perspective and take Jesus seriously for what he told us, need to step up the game.

Fear Keeps Us From Ourselves

July 30, 2015

The story of David and Goliath. We know it. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s interesting but somewhat inaccurate book, many more know it.

Little boy (probably not that little) kills giant warrior while the entire army of Israel cowers in fear.

Out alone watching the family flock of sheep, David learned to deal with his fear while protecting the flock from wild animals.

Is fear holding you back?

Sometimes we are not as successful at what we wish to do as we could be due to an underlying sense of fear that prevents us from going all out for achievement.

I was that way. There were people who encouraged me. They actually thought I was intelligent and could do the work. But I held back–for years. Insecurity, fear. Then one day it was gone.

There is someone now in my life who has all the trappings of success–spiritual background, faith, degrees (plural), position. Yet, something holds this person back from being everything God has laid out in the path of life.

Self-help gurus latched on to a little psychology research and preached this message since the beginning of self-help guru movements. Even so, it’s true.

How did David overcome the fear? Every day making the little acts that added up to larger acts that led to killing the mighty warrior of his enemy.

It’s not that he didn’t know fear. Read the rest of his story. But he could overcome his fears and become a great leader.

Is fear holding you back?

Take those little steps in faith to live out your spiritual gifts. Start today. Do one thing that moves you forward. One practice. One conversation. One gift given.

Fear or Faith

August 7, 2014

Yes, I’ve been traveling again. Conferences start too early in the morning for me to keep up my daily routine. But I’m in Austin, Texas and enjoying my early morning runs along Town Lake like I’ve done for the past 16 years at this conference.

A remark was made Sunday that people can react to circumstances with fear or faith.

Psychologists who study such things have noticed for years that people have fears they may not even recognize.

People in business often fear, not failure, but success. For some reason, they are uncomfortable with success and do something to screw it up. It’s worth thinking about in your own life. Are there projects or ministries or businesses where you reacted with fear of the unknown that comes with success or with faith in the future?

I’ve been contemplating the horrors of the Middle East with this latest invasion of Gaza by Israel. So much of that conflict is where fear meets resentment. And it seems like a vicious circle. I’ve been to Israel. I’ve sensed the underlying fear. I’ve been around poor people and talked to a few Palestinians. I also sensed this in Egypt several years ago. The resentment. Even educated people with no prospects.

Fear and resentment played a part in US history–remember the summer of riots in the late 60s.

Both sides in all these cases claimed a faith. But the reactions are fear.

And what of us? Do we step out in service in faith? Or do we shrink from helping others from fear?

Time for a personal check up?

Is Fear Ruling Your Life?

January 30, 2014

I’m on a business trip to Austin, Texas. When I checked in, the agent said that there were two rooms open. A king bed on the first floor or doubles on the second.

I said, “I don’t care. Let’s check with my friend and see what he prefers.” He said that he preferred the higher floor. So, I took the first floor. The agent said that few people want the ground floor and that almost no woman traveling alone will take the ground floor.

Either I am clueless; or, I just don’t have fear on my mind. I am neither violent nor particularly physically strong. I just “decided” a long time ago not to live in fear.

Last week I was talking with a friend at lunch at a McDonalds. He nodded over to a guy sitting down to lunch with (I presume) his wife and young daughter. He neither was in uniform or looked like a policeman. He had a large handgun in a holster on his belt. I said, “I bet he feels secure, sort of, but I’d prefer not to get caught between two people living in fear and armed.”

There is so much fear drummed into our heads through incessant media coverage of all manner of things, when the reality is that things almost never happen–especially where I live. Most of the violence we read about is drug-related. If we stay out of that culture….

Scanning the magazine rack at the local Kroger in Sidney, I counted 21 gun magazines. I used to know of about 2. Even six months ago there were not so many. (I’m in the magazine business. I stop and check out titles and covers periodically.)

Matthew and Luke both tell of the time Jesus said, “Don’t fear those who can kill the body but not the soul. Instead fear him who can cast your soul into hell.”

My trust is in The Lord.