Tag Archives: Faith

The Fallacy of Fear

thWhat exposes your fears? What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid?

Each of these questions reveals where you are in your journey with God. To grasp this post you will first need to answer the above questions—truthfully and completely. Otherwise, what you read will not make much of a difference anyway/

Fear (the kind that paralyzes us) reveals the black holes of unbelief in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Fear is unbelief, yet all of us struggle with it at some level. It may be apparent, or it may be hidden under layers of self-righteous gobble-dee-gook and a pseudo holiness camouflage. Fear is an emotion that creates a feeling of being out of control. Let’s be honest, none of us likes that. But the reality is, none of us are really in control—are we?

Fear causes us to act or react rather than to think and respond. It causes us to fall back on a survive-at-all-costs mentality or it insures that we seize and freeze up in our emotions, thoughts, and faith. No matter which of these options overwhelm us, we don’t respond to the situation or the circumstance with faith. Instead, we revert back to the B.C. (before Christ) mentality where life or death, failure or success, or heaven or hell, are in the power of our own hands. It is amazing, under stress, how quickly we forget the real truth about who is really in control.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7a) is not just a great verse to encourage us—it is a declaration of truth from the very lips of God to set us free. Fear (a feeling of dread that paralyzes) was not one of the emotions God hard-wired in human beings in the beginning. A reverent awe of God (sometimes translated “fear” in Scripture) yes, but not a suffocating paralysis that reduces a person to a quivering mass of protoplasm. Fear is a direct result of original sin and the fall. Fear when boiled down to its genesis is the dread of punishment for our sin. But through Christ, God replaced sin’s punishment with forgiveness and unconditional love

Fear has no real place in your life—at least not the kind that infects us with paralysis. Fear severs our ability to hear the Holy Spirit much like a muscle with a damaged nerve is unable to receive instructions from the brain. In the moment of crisis—you can’t hear anything but crickets chirping. And in a panic, your wounded soul chimes in with, “Where’s God? Why has he forgotten me?”—questions that reveal our underlying mindset of unbelief.

Fear and faith cannot reside at the same address. Fear is the absence of faith, but faith is an absolute aversion to fear. Fear empowers what we think—faith empowers what God says. Our partnership with one or the other determines our pathway.

Here’s a simple truth. When you were born again—born of the Spirit, Jesus Christ took full and eternal responsibility for you spirit, soul, and body. In that transaction called salvation, he, by covenant, agreed to take care of you lock, stock, and barrel. That was his promise to you!

Faith rests in that promise. Fear wrestles against it. That is the fallacy of fear.

Storm Kits for Life

The word “storm” is an adequate metaphor for those moments of chaos we all encounter from time to time as we walk out life. Rough and tough times, unforeseen pitfalls, and uncontrollable situations are common to us all. Trouble is an equal opportunity employer that never discriminates regardless of race, creed, social standing, or sex. At this moment in your life, you have just exited a storm, are experiencing a storm, or should be expecting a storm. It is not if but when.

Natural storms follow weather patterns so we learn to expect them. And so does trouble and tribulation, but our belief system is oddly different. We somehow believe “it will never happen to me.” Therefore it always seems to catch us unaware and unprepared. And boom—the storm hits and life gets turned upside down and inside out. Huddled in piles of anxiety and fear, we put our head in our hands and cry, “Why me!”

Job put it this way: “Man who is born of woman, is short of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).Trouble is on its way. The only question is—will it stop at my house today? Perhaps there’s a better way to deal with the inevitability of that trouble tornado or thunderstorm of trials than cringing in dread and despair. Perhaps we should all put together a simple storm readiness survival kit.

First, we need to be weather aware. Good times don’t last forever. The stock market that goes up will come down. You will not be 100% healthy all of the time. And people will disappoint you, disagree with you, disappear on you, and even die on you. There is some kind of storm on your horizon. So—be alert!

When the trouble hits and the winds seem like they will rip you apart, dig your feet in and stand firm. Storms are temporary even if they come in multiple waves. They do not last forever. Hunker down—God loves you and he is bigger than any storm that rages around you. You don’t have to hang on to him, because he has you by your hand and he will not let go. Even though you feel like the wind is tearing you apart—relax. God will not forsake you.Tuscaloosa, Alabama Tornado 2011

Next, find the eye of the hurricane—by that I mean find a quiet place in the midst of the storm and have a genuine conversation with God. For heaven’s sake talk to him. Tell him how you feel. Be totally honest and voice the fear, the despair, the discouragement, or the feelings of destruction or doom you are experiencing. Ignoring those feelings will not lessen their destructive impact. Release them before they have an opportunity to raze your faith. Then use what little faith you have left to thank God for his protection and his provision. Being thankful in the midst of the storm is a sure sign you will be standing when the gale ceases and the sun breaks out once again.

0512-0705-3017-2448Finally, once the wind subsides and the sun pops out, assess the damage, clean up the debris, and get on with your life. Don’t allow trouble to deter you from your purpose or freeze frame you in a place of less than or self-pity. Move forward—don’t live looking back. Find others who have survived similar storms and share your stories together. Learn from their experience, as well as yours. Experience is actually a good teacher if we learn from it. If we don’t learn from past experience, rest assured—history will repeat itself at some point in the futuTrouble is a part of life, regardless of the depth of your faith, the demeanor of your influence, the development of your pocketbook, or the discernment of your wisdom. You can’t avoid it, no matter how well your storm shelter is constructed. But—you can survive it and even thrive from it, if you strive in your preparation for the next one. Just check the radar—at some point another storm will blow in. Prepare now, you will be ready!

Requiem for a Warrior…Russ Calvin

photo_20150609_AL0068019_0_russcalvin_20150609A requiem is a lament—the wailing of a heart broken—a song of sadness that emanates from deep within the soul. Throughout human history these songs have accompanied the death of a warrior. Russ Calvin was such a warrior—a man who battled and wrestled in spiritual realms so that we might enjoy God’s blessings in the physical one. He was my friend, Worship Pastor, and brother-in-the-faith. And today I choose to put my sadness in words to encourage others on their own journey. Perhaps it will push you farther, higher, or deeper in your own excursion through life.

Russ was a gentle giant, whose passionate pursuit of God leaves deep footprints to follow for those of us still chasing after God. Russ finally caught the Savior whom he had run after throughout his short lifetime. Thirty-seven years seems so young—so brief, yet Russ accomplished more in that limited span than most of us will in a long lifetime. He made time count, knowing that none of us is promised tomorrow.

Russ was soft-spoken, not loud and boisterous. But when he spoke, the volume, tenor, and depth of what he said often rang like a clap of thunder. When he spoke of Jesus, it was not the platitudes of a preacher or the clichés of a theologian, but rather the experience of a lover who had experienced the heart-to-heart connection of genuine intimacy with God. Russ knew God, not facts and figures about God. They were on a first name basis—a beloved Father and his treasured son. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake what it’s like to have been in the intimate presence of God. Russ knew—he’d spent long spans of precious time in that secret place.

Russ was also a man who knew and understood God’s Word. His grasp of God’s promises was not a shallow one. No, he staked his life, his marriage, and his ministry on the fact that God cannot lie. In the midst of the suffering he endured as he battled heart and kidney issues, Russ refused to let go of or give up on any of the promises God had whispered into his spirit. He tenaciously hung onto those promises like a bulldog. He stood faithful when many who were treating him gave him no hope. Russ believed God, and he acted on that faith. He spoke it. He prayed it. He shared it with doctors, nurses, technicians, strangers, and friends. He obeyed the words God had given him—he acted on the revelation whispered to him by the Holy Spirit. Obedience is the outward sign of an inward belief. Russ heard the Word—then he acted by obeying the Word—the promises given to him by the God who cannot lie!

Russ was a spiritual warrior. He understood the battlefield and his ancient foe. His calling was a simple, yet profound one. He had been commissioned to enforce the victory of Calvary, to destroy the works of the devil, and to be a vessel God could use to set the captives free. Spiritual warfare was not a theory to discuss for Russ. No! It was a daily life and death wrestling match to engage in. He knew what it took to snatch souls from the jaws of the hounds of hell and he was willing to engage those demonic mongrels if it meant freedom for another person. He was feared by hell and empowered by heaven.

Russ did what he could do with what he had to work with. His complaints were few—just a wish that he could do more, serve more, share more, or worship more. He was limited by the weakness of his heart—but not anymore! He fought through debilitating pain, weakness, discouragement, and frustration—but not anymore! He was limited, constrained, and unable to do many of the things he longed to do—but not anymore! Russ is now free—free to worship without restraint or limit. He is free to dance. He is free to lift his hands like an eagle spreading its wings to heaven. He is free to run, to jump, and to spin in utter unbounded joy. And best of all, Russ is free to sing with an unrestrained voice that cannot be silenced by disease, death, or even the devil.

I could sing a sad lament, a wretched requiem, but if I did it would have to be about someone other than Russ. Yes, we are separated from Russ for a time, but Russ is not dead. No he is more alive than he has ever been. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living according to Jesus. You see—God cannot lie! Russ is alive and he is enjoying the literal presence of the One whom he chased after so hard.

In the meantime, all of us need to get after it while we still can. Pursue God with all your strength. Russ did! Love people with all your heart. Russ did! Don’t worry about those things you can’t do—do the things you can. Russ did!  Worship the Lord with total abandonment. Russ did! Trust God’s promises, walk them out, and enjoy every one of them. Russ is!

Burn Your Boats!

Burn Your BoatsTotal commitment is rare in our culture. Most people would rather duck out of it when the going gets rough or tough. Commitment is a promise to be loyal to someone or something…to give oneself totally. It means “you can count on me no matter what!”

Many would rather sit back and wait to see what happens. If something is successful then they are willing to hop on the train. And…if not, then they will hit the eject button and they are out of there. Sadly this permeates our culture. And yes, it is especially true in the church.

Yet commitment is the foundation of success in whatever one chooses to do. In 1519, Hernan Cortez sailed from Spain to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with the purpose of conquering the Aztec Empire. He landed on the sandy shore with 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 or so horses (by most standards not a very impressive military force to conquer a an empire which had withstood every invasion for over 600 years).

Once on shore, Cortez began building the courage of his force, while at the same time fueling their dreams of glory with stories of the fantastic treasures that awaited them. For several days he held seminars in which he described the richs of the Aztecs. At night he had pep rallies to encourage and pump up his soldiers. As they trained on the beach and sharpened this military skills and maneuvers, Cortez spoke eloquently of the the glory and the riches that would belong to each man once their conquest was completed. These soldiers were eager, excited, and energized!

Once the day dawned for Spanish conquistadors to march inland, Cortez gave a simple three word command…”Burn the boats!” He then repeated the command, “Burn the boats! If we are going home we will go in their boats.” As they watch from shore, 11 ships, their only way home, went up in flames.

There was now no turning back. Cortez and his little army were now fully committed. History records that this little army conquered one of the mightiest empires in the Americas.

How? They were fully commited. They had no back up plan and no other option except death.

Jesus is still looking for men and women who are willing to give him that level of commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. You are either all in or you are on the outside looking in. Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:62: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn your boats! If you plan to get home you will have to go in Jesus’ boat.

Crisis: Religion or Relationship (Part 1)

 

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Crisis (Part 1)

Fasting is tough. I am eighteen days into a 40 day fast from religion, as are many of the members of Eagle’s Wing Church where I pastor. We are driven by a desperate hunger and a passionate desire to experience a genuine relationship with God. Our desire is to know God rather than the facts or things that point us to God. We want to personally experience God and his love rather than live off the past experiences others.

Perhaps you’re wondering—why a fast from religion? Isn’t religion a good thing? Isn’t religion all about God?

Let me define religion. Religion is a system that must be practiced so that perfection can be reached. On the other hand, relationship is a heart-to-heart connection with a real person. You can’t have a relationship with a system. Relationship requires two people (not a person working a system). Jesus came to pay the price of sin so he might restore our ability to walk in communion with God—to have a personal relationship with him. Relationship is pursued,  while religion is practiced. And in this case practice will never make us perfect.

Our hearts yearn for relationship. We are born with a hunger to be loved and to give love in return. God created us that way. And he created a deep craving within all of us that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with him. God is relational. It is a part of his nature. Relationship starts in the heart of God.

Humanity created religion because we like systems where we can achieve things on our own. For some reason, we want to do it our way, rather than God’s way. Religion demands a pseudo perfection that is somehow achieved through rigorous practice and good works. The problem with that is we can’t rise to the measure of perfection God requires. Otherwise the death of Christ on the cross was a tragic waste.

The modern Christian church is in crisis. Most preach salvation by grace but then we turn around and try our hardest to achieve God’s favor, love, and blessings through works and activities. That’s religion, not relationship. Most believers attempt to connect with God through religion—through the system. But the only way we can make this heart-to-heart connection is through relationship.

For the next several weeks I want to share the subtle deception of religion and the satisfying depth of relationship through this blog. I encourage you to join us in a forty day fast from religion. If you will commit—God will bless you and set you free from religion’s crushing coils.

How do you start? Simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your spiritual life that is smacks or smells of religion. That may be a belief, a doctrine, a cherished idea or practice. It could be anything. As the Holy Spirit exposes those hidden things, confess them and move on. Invite the Holy Spirit to examine all your beliefs, doctrines, practices, and way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to invite him in to those things—he should be at home in all of them or that belief is not from God. That’s it!

You may be thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. What are the rules? If you need more rules than I’ve shared, you can start right there with that thought—it’s riddled with religion!

The Gift

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Sitting up wide-eyed under the weight of a cotton quilt, a tussle-haired child hurriedly wipes the sleep from her eyes, drops from the bed to the cold floor and begins to navigate her way carefully and quietly down the dark hallway and into the den. Peering cautiously through the doorway, her eyes adjust to the dancing lights stationed like sentries on the small green tree in the corner. Darkness retreats with the onrushing charge of daybreak. Her searching eyes focus, like a lion about to pounce, on the prize that sits partially hidden under the evergreen boughs. A small box with a huge white bow wrapped in layers of bright red and green foil paper silently awaits her searching fingers and excited eyes. The gift she has anxiously awaited all year is finally hers to open. It’s Christmas morning!

Sitting in the darkness on the steep hillside watching their sheep, a solitary band of shepherds stare in utter amazement as the angels begin leaping across the skies like Roman candles in a holiday firework display. A fragile young wife and her frightened young husband welcome a child that refuses to wait any longer for his birth. Amid the stench of the cattle and the labor pains, the Fragrance of God makes his entrance into his creation and is gently placed in a stone feeding trough in a small, out-of-the-way town called the House of Baked Bread. No throngs or multitudes of family or well-wishers await the announcement of his birth outside this rather unusual delivery room. The Father of all good gifts has finally delivered the gift humanity has anxiously awaited throughout the centuries. It’s Christmas morning!

Kneeling beside a sick and broken addict, a young man shares a powerful story with compassion and purpose. For the first time in many years this shackled creature begins to consider what freedom is really like. Not freedom to do what he wants, but freedom to be what he was created to be. Calmly and carefully the young man shares a Scripture here and an experience there. The Holy Spirit hovers unseen, like a mother hen with her biddies, bringing forth eternal life. Through the sobs of hopelessness a confession is offered and a cry of faith is answered. A new creation is born. The gift received is new life conceived through Jesus Christ. It’s Christmas morning!

Christmas is more than a day we celebrate; Christmas is the gift we have been given. Immanuel—God with us—has given us the gift of abundant, eternal life in him. Share the gift with someone and watch God unwrap the real gift of Christmas morning.

Am I a Christian Zombie????

Am I a Christian zombie? Now that’s an interesting question you might be thinking. Freeze the first picture that went through your mind. Everyone knows what a zombie is. In our culture they have become folk heroes, video game celebrities, and movie icons. It might even be chic, bad, hot, rad, or cool (depending on the generational language you speak) to be a zombie.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page let’s get a working definition for a zombie. It’s a dead body that appears alive. I could give a more graphic description of one but this will suffice. We use the term “zombie” as a slang term to denote someone who is just one click on the life meter above a corpse. All of us have had days when we’ve wandered around in a funk or fog wondering what the heck am I doing? I’m breathing air, occupying space, but getting nothing done. You know what I mean—it’s a dead man (or woman—zombies are no respecter of persons) walking.

It’s very easy to go through the motions in our relationship with God. If we are honest, all of us have done this at one time or another. You may have been weary and exhausted, or caught in sin, or hurt by someone you trusted, and then, all of a sudden, you wake up two weeks later and find yourself mindlessly coasting—you spiritual gear knocked into neutral. That’s what I mean by a Christian zombie—going through motions but making absolutely no difference in anyone’s life including yours.

I’m not talking about being a Pharisee—a hypocrite. They belong to another class of zombies for which I do not have the time, energy, desire, or word space to describe. I am talking to regular people who love Jesus, follow Jesus, but without knowing it, are aimlessly wandering around in right field in the high grass near the bleachers desperately trying to find Jesus.

Right now might be a good time to test yourself and see where you register on the zombie meter. Today is a good day for a self-evaluation—a good time to check your spiritual oil.

  1. Am I existing but not living abundantly? In other words, am I just here getting by. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came that we might have life, and might have it abundantly. That means a life of superabundance, excessively good, over and above and life over the top. Am I living an abundant life?
  2. Am I modeling a powerless life?  Is it a life marked by religious piety—a mindless list of do’s and don’ts. A life externally shaped to look one way, but on the inside a life totally empty—a Hollywood movie set façade of powerless power. Do I hold a form of godliness, yet I have denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5a)? Am I living a powerful life?
  3. Does my daily walk require faith? Am I walking naturally or supernaturally? If the Holy Spirit decided to step out could I survive without Him? Perhaps I am walking without him—walking without any faith whatsoever? A faithless walk is a natural walk and does not require God to get by. Am I living a faith-filled life?
  4. Does my outward reputation match my inward devotion? Is there any passion or do I have it all—job, family, the right church, membership in the right organizations…? Do I look good on the outside but feel dead on the inside? Am I living a passionate life?

To sum it all up in one simple question: If Jesus had preached the gospel I’m living right now, would they have crucified him?