Overcoming Fear

Contrasts help us understand ourselves and the world around us.  Some people are more contrast-oriented than others.  You know the type…”black & white” personalities that see everything through worldview-lenses that turn everything into one extreme or the other.  It helps them make sense of things by comparing them to the contrast-types they carry around in them.  I’m kind of like that.  It has its benefits & detriments, just like all character traits.  (Hm…benefits & detriments in itself is a contrast…).

Anyway, for most of my life I thought that the opposite of LOVE was HATE.  It ends up, I think I’ve been wrong about that.  Love and Hatred as emotions are secondary….but both can become deep-seated enough in us as to because part of our default personality settings.  However, there’s a difference.  Love begets love.  We love because we have been loved….We hate because of something deeper and more sinister.  we hate because we’re afraid of something.  Perhaps we’re afraid of appearing weak or stupid, or afraid of not being in control.  Fear, in the end, is a lack of trust in God’s Sovereign Goodness, it’s giving-in to the belief that God is responsible for the pain & suffering in the world, and that He cannot totally be trusted.    
Today I’m being challenged on this, and reminded of the Godly Truth we have access to because of Jesus.  I pass along that challenge to you.  Let’s live in love…doing so overcomes fear by definition.
1 John 4:7-21

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 13This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.


Zephaniah’s Promise

“The LORD your god is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

It’s always vital that we interpret the messages of scripture through the lens of itself, rather than importing our own ideas & values and imposing them on the message.  Getting this right is tricky, not just because of the language & culture barriers between our lives today and those of the original writers & recipients of scripture…but also because it takes time.  We don’t tend to like things that require lots of time & attention, we like microwaves and smartphones for a reason.  But then again, the most important things in life are not quick & easy.

This passage comes after several pages full of judgments and forecasts of doom against the historic enemies of God.  At that time, before the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the “Chosen Family Of God” was limited to the Nation of Israel.  Messages of warning and condemnation were leveled against people & nations who were operating in active defiance against God’s purposes, including some within the fold of Israel.  In a nutshell, the posture of most of Zephaniah’s book was him waving his arms and saying “Wake up people! You cannot spit in God’s face forever!”  Some of these admonitions were contemporary, others looked forward to the end of time.  Timeless principles are woven through the fabric.

At the end his prophecy, Zephaniah’s tone changes as he addresses those who remained true to God in the midst of all the hypocrisies of their contemporaries.  People who, though imperfect, repeatedly came back to the place of faith in God…refusing to allow themselves to get swept along by the lies and temptations to give-up hope that God is actually among us, that He is good, that He is ultimately in control, and that we can put our trust in Him no matter what’s going on around us.  The words are meant to give hope and promise and healing to those who have suffered in the pursuit of God.

“The LORD your god is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)


Part 2 – Your Spirit Is A Muscle

“Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

I wrote a blog on Tuesday correlating physical training with spiritual training.  As I exposed in that blog, I tend to lapse into inactivity and apathy when I don’t have a physical goal I’m working toward. So….that begs a question.  THE QUESTION.  What is the goal you’re striving toward in your walk with Jesus?  That you’ll have a comfortable life? That things will go well for you and all your circumstances will be “blessed?”  This seems to be the mindset we often fall into, making God out like He’s some kind of Celestial Santa Claus who exists to fulfill our desires.  Not so. In fact, DESIRE ITSELF is a ongoing foe that we must bring into conformity under the Lordship of Jesus in our lives if we want to experience TRUE BLESSINGS.

A lot of people believe lies about God’s intentions for us…His desires / aka His “will” for us.  Indeed, he wants us to be happy, but He defines happiness differently than we do.  His definition doesn’t include dependence upon circumstances going “our way.”  In fact, it often is experienced most powerfully and transformationally when things are NOT going our way!  We have a fine way of wanting God to meet our needs in ways that don’t require us to posture ourselves so that we can.  One classic & common example is the phrase “God wants me to be happy”….which is used all the time to justify decisions and alliances He would never want us to make….and will not bless.  We all do stuff from time to time that mutes God’s voice in our spiritual ears.  How do we position ourselves to hear Him better, find His path for us more readily, and give us courage to DO IT?

We need daily reminders to avoid putting our faith/hope in things, circumstances, and people that will never “make us happy”, so that our souls can firmly rest on the Solid Rock of Christ.  THAT is the goal….connection to Him.  And the starting point is SURRENDER/SUBMISSION.  When we are walking in His love, acquiesced to His leading; we will see through His eyes, be filled with His heart, and speak with His words.  I want to surround myself with people who want to be sold-out to Him, and will help me as well.  Training partners.

Here are some scriptures that are inspiring me this morning:

Colossians 3:1 – “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is youra life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.b 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

1 Peter 2:11 – “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”


Your Spirit Is A Muscle

I’m in the middle of training for my annual Summer Triathlon.  I tend to take care of myself best when I have a physical goal to work toward….something big that I’m preparing for that won’t go well unless I prepare for it…you know what I mean?  Without the goal, I easily fall out of shape, muscle atrophy, and I gain weight quickly; but WITH the goal, something inside me drives forward and creates new abilities as I work toward it….this is especially true when the race costs money up-front!

I didn’t actually start exercising seriously until 2005-06.  During that time, I signed-up for a big race and trained hard for 9-months.  I lost 35 pounds.  Since that time, I’ve done about 2-3 race events each year to keep the fire burning.  I seem to vacillate back & forth with weight, but have stayed in relatively good shape…AS LONG AS I’M WORKING TOWARD A GOAL.

I’ve seen that this is also true of my spirit.  Did you know that your spirit is a muscle?  Not literally, but it requires and responds to activity & goals just like your physical body does.  Why would we think it to be different than that?  Scripture teaches all kinds of things about our spirits.

  • Each one of us is made uniquely, wonderfully, in the Image of God…aka we have “God Stuff” in us, which differentiates us from everything else in creation.  
  • We are God’s sons and daughters, made for relationship with Him. 
  • We are given special gifts to contribute with those around us as well as the world at large.
  • When we come into the Lordship of Jesus, we become part of His Body, His physical presence in this world….His ambassadors…..His agents.
  • God’s favor & power flows freely through His people who are fully connected & committed to Him and His purposes (Kingdom).  The more we focus on His reign in us and through us, the more we experience of Him.
  • God’s Kingdom is continuing to advance, behind the veil of human history, until one day it will break through what is temporal and become fully, unreservedly, inaugurated.  We have very little idea of what that will look like, but we put one step in front of the other each day in faith.

So if this is reality, why do we often find ourselves living as if it were not?  If this is our priority, why do we become distracted & enamored by temporary pleasures and hypocrisies?  If this is the type of life we are meant to live, why do we settle for the mundane, apathetic, purposeless model of the secular culture around us?  We allow ourselves to fall out of spiritual shape, and our faith-muscles to atrophy!

Most often, the aspect of God’s character that we need most is His GRACE.  It reminds us that He loves us no matter what, and that He’s there to help us no matter how much we screw up.  That’s something we will always need in liberal quantity!  But sometimes we need a big kick in the ass also!  God’s grace is His part, and although there is certainly no effort involved in our SALVATION in Christ…there is certainly is effort involved in our SANCTIFICATION in Christ.  That’s a big churchy word that means “becoming set apart for Him.”  What would happen in your life if you…

  • Read your bible for 30-minutes every day, because You knew that without it your mind would be full of your own thoughts?
  • Prayed daily that God’s Kingdom would be manifested through your life, and prayed for the people in your life, whether you like them or not?
  • Adopted an attitude that each of your days belonged to God, not you?
  • Viewed relationships as opportunities to benefit others, rather than benefitting from them?
  • Looked for opportunities to serve others and share your hope Christ when ask why?
  • Truly believed that you were God’s agent, and that your life’s goal was to become who Jesus would be if He were you?

This is the kind of training mindset I need to have in order to compete in a Triathlon…working for a prize that will not last.  More, I want to live in order to build my spiritual endurance and strength so that I can become more able to be like Jesus today.


1 Cor. 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Matt. 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their lifef will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 

1 Thess. 5:15 – Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22reject every kind of evil. 23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.