Fear is your friend

“Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Maggie Kuhn

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
– Paul, Apostle of Jesus,  1 Corinthians 2:3

 

I am guilty of judging content by delivery.  If someone is confident and smooth in their presentation, I sometimes give them much more credit that someone who is halting, trembles and shows their insecurity.

Fortunately God uses people like Paul who boasted of his weaknesses in order that Christ’s power would influence people, not his own power.

Last summer I stood up in front of about 100 people at a satellite campus of our church and presented a new ministry: hope for mental health.  My hands were shaking so badly I could not read my notes, and my voice was shaking as well.  But the comments I received afterwards about the content were positive, and we laughed about the delivery.

Perhaps you can relate less to the polished person than the trembling speaker, and you decline to talk about Jesus to others (friends, family, strangers) because of fear.

Fear is your friend.

If you trust Jesus with your eternity, trust him to fill you, and give you words and everything else you need to tell the people he died for, that he loves them.  Jesus takes full responsibility for you when you obey him.  And obeying Jesus is fun.  Being filled with Jesus and doing what he wants is the most fun I have ever had.  And I did it with shaking hands and shaking voice.  Fear was my friend because it drove away reliance on “me” and allowed Jesus to guide me, to do his work, his way, with his words.

Whatever your excuse for not doing what Jesus has commanded you to do is not worth holding onto.  Having the courage to obey Jesus does not mean you will not be afraid.  It means you love and trust Jesus more than your fear.

What’s in a name?

Does the same word mean different things to different people?  I grew up learning the definitions of words from the context of the experiences I was in.  Did you?  No, I don’t mean the context of the experiences you were in, but the experiences I was in.  Of course not, you say.  And herein lies the problem… or opportunity.  When I say, “father” what do I mean?  I think of my father.  If I am trying to describe to you my relationship with my Heavenly Father do you instantly think of my father?  Or, your own father?

I believe some people hate God the Father because they are really thinking He is like their own father.  And their earthly fathers did not fulfill their expectations at best, and were evil to them at worst.  Satan can encourage real or imagined hurts to grow into bitterness.  So when I talk of my Heavenly Father what do I mean?

Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God (Isaiah 1:16).

When Jesus was born He was called: wonderful counselor, mighty God, EVERLASTING FATHER, prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Because Jesus was and is God’s Only Begotten Son, He can perfectly represent God the Father to us.

So what is the character of this Father?  Jesus was patient, even when His disciples got it wrong again and again (as I would have gotten it wrong as well),  Jesus was kind, even when it cost Him.  And forgiving too.  He didn’t repay evil for evil.  When He was dying on the cross He prayed for His murderers (the religious leaders) and tried to help them discover His Forever Love by reminding them of Messianic Scripture.  Though God the Father created all things by Him and for Him, He was not proud.  He humbly seeks a relationship with us.  He never forces Himself on us.  He doesn’t hold our past mistakes and sins against us.  He loves us with all that He is no matter what we do or what anyone or anything else does.  He believes the best about us and encourages us to become all He created us to be.  He does not fail.  (See I Corinthians 13 and substitute “Jesus” for “Love”).

Does this sound like a Father you would like to have?  You can.  Just ask Him to forgive your wrongs and come into your life and heart.  He is waiting.  And you two have so much to talk about!

God doesn’t kill to advance His cause, He died

The “religious” leaders in Jesus’ day used intimidation and murder to keep and/or advance their power over others.  Claiming to be defending their “God” they could not have been any more against the one true God, Jesus (the very one who loves them and died for their sins).  Jesus said this would happen.  Jesus said that the day will come when anyone killing you (followers of Jesus) will think he is doing God a service.

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”  John 16:1-4 NKJV

 Killing in the name of “God” has been going on for millenia.  Jesus, who had all the power in the universe, did not kill to advance His cause of love, His kingdom.  He died, and more than that, He rose again, to advance His cause of love.  And His cause is to love His Father, and love people; all people.

You may be wondering if you matter; if you make any difference being alive in this world.  YOU MATTER TO GOD!  It has been said, God would rather die than live in eternity without you; and He did, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Now it is your turn to decide if you want to live with Jesus for eternity.

This is His character:

But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  

 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.  In his name the nations will put their hope.  “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

I love the fact that “a bruised reed he will not break.” And “a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”  I have failed at my own and others’ expectations, done evil, been hurt by others and have been a “bruised reed.”  I have lost hope, wanted to die, wondered where God was, and if anyone cared. I have been  a “smoldering wick.” How about you?  Jesus heals the sick, he doesn’t kill them.  He binds up the broken hearted, he doesn’t crush them.  He will take care of you and me!  He loves us!

And what else is His character?

If you will seek first His Kingdom (Jesus as Lord, that is, obedience) and His Righteousness (Jesus as Savior, that is, trust what He has done to please God for you) then God promises to supply all your needs.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 NIV84

And,

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV84

Christ is still “dying” because of His love for people, in the form of His followers being murdered because they love people and love the Truth.  Jesus said that anyone who follows Him will never die.

  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”  John 11:23-27 NIV84

All the people of the world may hate us.  But there is One Who always loves us and is greater than the world: Jesus.  And He said,

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”  Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.  Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”  “You believe at last!” Jesus answered.  “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If you want to know Jesus, He is waiting to hear from you right now.  He has always loved you.  Because He loves you He wants you to turn away from the things that you are doing and thinking that hurt God, hurt others and hurt you.  God calls these: sins.  I have sinned, and you have sinned, and that’s why Jesus had to die; to take away our sins.  If you agree with God that you have sinned and resolve to turn away from them, trust Jesus’ death to pay your sin debt to God, and surrender to the leading of Jesus through the Holy Spirit who will live in you, God will make you His child.  Go ahead, talk to Him, He can’t wait to listen to you, to love you, and to make you His child.

It took going "crazy" to discover what real sanity was

I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me.  (But I would never want to repeat it).  Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.

Let me unpack that.

Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer.  I wanted to impress people with how smart I was.  I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.

Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed.  I thought they were crazy.  Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.

It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world.  God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him.  What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me.   That’s when God gave me mental illness.  And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash.  God humbled me.  I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.

For the next ten years I fought God and the meds.  At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds.  Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me.  I wasn’t interested.  Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.

That got my attention.

I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.

He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people.  Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness.  I encourage, give hope, and care.  And I love it.  It took most of my life to discover my life’s work.  And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.

You can choose to go to Heaven (Part 2)

Jesus has done almost everything needed for us to enjoy a relationship with Him forever.  We have a critical part to play in receiving and giving Jesus’ love.  Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  What does that mean?  Repentance means to “turn around and go in the opposite direction.”  Jesus’ gift of Eternal Life, and eternity with Him, is completely free.  It cost Jesus His life to be able to give it to us, but He gives it to us freely as a gift of love.  But what do we need to do, and what does Jesus need us to do, so that He can live His life freely through us?  We must be willing to turn from the principle of sin, and from the actions of sins; specifically, we must renounce that which hurts God and other people and ourselves.  You may be thinking, “Jim, I’ve tried to change before, I can’t do it!”  I can’t either.  No one can… not by themselves.  The Spirit of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, must remove the sin principle that is in us and give us His power to be “bent toward God” in order for us to leave our sins and truly love God and other people.  If we are willing to surrender control of our lives, and obey God, God is more than willing to give us His power to change and to leave evil actions behind and to live for Him.

Jesus loves us sinners!

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Whatever situation I find myself in, the preceding verse promises me victory.  The problem is that at first I didn’t want the victory… I wanted to sin.  Then when I tried to resist sin, the temptation was too great, or so I thought, and I gave in.  It wasn’t until I thought through the consequences of sin that I decided I wanted victory over it.  And I truly had to want victory over sin, more than I wanted the pleasure of sin for a season.

Then, I asked God to show me the way of escape and to give me the wisdom to take it.  This puts God in the lead and and me dependent on Him, which is the best place to be.  God says to resist the devil and he will flee from you:

James 4:7 – 10 (NKJV)

7Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This is for most sin.  One of the surprises I found from reading Dr. Chuck Swindoll, was that concerning sexual sin, God did not want me to stand and fight temptation.  No, He wanted me to RUN, to flee, to get out of Dodge.  This is what Joseph did when his master’s wife tried to seduce him.  He ran.

Genesis 39:11 – 12 (NKJV) 

11But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside,  12that she [his master’s wife] caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

Joseph had no choice, but for us, many times the way of escape doesn’t have to be that dramatic or at the last minute.  When traveling you can ask when you check in to the hotel to have the objectionable TV channels turned off.  Also, if you can, don’t travel alone but with a trusted friend.  Do a phone check in with your spouse or accountability partner at night.  Plan ahead and do whatever it takes to stop sin before it stops you.  Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!  (Matthew 5:30).  Of course this was exaggeration, Jesus doesn’t want you to be without a hand, but what Jesus meant was to deal decisively with sin.

God loves people.  God hates sin, not people.  God hates sin because it hurts Him and it hurts people.  The penalty was death for King David when he committed adultery.  But God pardoned him.  When a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus to have her stoned Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”.

John 8 (NKVJ)

3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”11She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”12Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John the Apostle said that if a man claims to have no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him.  

1 John 1:8 (NKJV)

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Therefore, we all deal with sin.  Those who brought the woman caught in adultery found this out, and so they all left.  But by what power are we delivered from sin?  The apostle Paul said:

Romans 7:13 – 25 (NKJV)

13Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.  14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  15For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  16If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  17But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  19For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  25I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8:1 – 11 (NKJV)

1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,£ who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  3For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,  4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  8So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  10And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

 Jesus is the friend of sinners, not so we can continue in sin, but so that Jesus can forgive our sin, cleanse us of sin and give us His righteousness and His Life.  Call on Him today, He is waiting to forgive you and give you new life!

From nothing to everything

God, the Father of Jesus, respects us, His creation, made in His image, so much, that He does not force us to love Him.  In fact, He has created this world in such a way that we can go through our whole life denying His existence and His rightful claim on our life.  God does not demand worship.  He is love, and love does not force others to love.  In fact, love cannot be forced.  He simply loves us continuously from before we are conceived until we die; and He orchestrates circumstances and relationships in hopes that at some point we will see that He loves us and that as a response we will freely choose to love Him in return and others as ourselves.

But, why would God send good people to hell?  What if no one ever told them about God?  God would be unfair to reject someone who was never told about Him, wouldn’t He?

Romans 1:18-20, NIV:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Before I knew Jesus and surrendered my life to Him I was scared to death of dying.  Occasionally, I thought the rapture (Jesus taking all of His people from the earth) had occurred and that I was left behind.  When I thought I was going to die, or I thought I was left behind, I had a brief moment of clarity.  I knew God was holy, I knew I was sinful, and I knew He was just to reject me.  And after those brief moments I rejected what I knew to be true and “closed my eyes” and went back to my life as usual.

I knew God was real but I didn’t care.  I had no love for Him.

But God had love for me.

He gave me mental illness, which might seem like hate, but it was really love.  The mental illness struck at my biggest source of pride and self-sufficiency: my brain.  I was paranoid and could not think logically and I could not emotionally relate to others.  Because of my mental illness I was rejected and alone, even in a crowd of friends and family.  After ten years of this “hell” I was still rebellious toward God and still did not respect or love Him.

But He loved me.

And, when I had absolutely nothing left to lose, God offered me a relationship with Him.  And it was only when God had taken away everything the world had to offer: intellect, money, jobs, cars, friends, family, that I grudgingly accepted Him; specifically because I had absolutely nothing left to lose.

Thinking that I was naturally “pretty good” I could not have been any more disrespectful to God.  And He humbled Himself and endured me until I accepted Him and His love.  He has transformed me from someone who hated love to someone who rejoices in love.  I have been forever changed by Jesus’ love and all the credit goes to Him.

If you want to know Jesus the way I do all you have to do is to reach out for Him with all that you are.  He said He will be found by you.  Tell Him that you have sinned against Him and that you are sorry and that you accept that His death on the cross paid for your sin debt in full.  Then tell Him that you believe He rose from the dead on the third day to make you just, forgiven, and holy.  And tell Him that He is now your Lord and Master and that you will follow Him for the rest of your life when at last you will meet Him face to face.

Next, tell someone what Jesus has done for you.  And find a church that believes and preaches the Bible.  Find someone who is farther along in their walk with Jesus and who’s life is worthy of imitating and ask them to mentor you.  And always read the Bible and pray, because God loves you most of all and He can help you most of all.