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 than 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.

I can’t hear you over my talking

Many people that I personally interacted with today are worried about what President-elect Donald Trump will do to them;  their relationships, their bodies, their jobs.  I didn’t understand until I thought:  Would I be concerned about my religious rights and freedom of speech rights if Hillary Clinton had won?  I am very scared of the trouble her presidency would have caused me and worried if I would be willing to stay true to Jesus in the face of unknown suffering.

These people are also tired of hearing, “Don’t worry,” “Get over it,” and other mindless remarks by friends, family, etc. that may show they don’t understand, don’t care or both.

What I am trying to do is listen with my heart for their heart.  We are all people and we all have a story.  If I interrupt, judge, give advice am I going to hear their story?  Do I really just want to hear myself talk and confirm to myself how brilliant I am in my own eyes or do I want to discover another beautiful human being and their unique story?

Everyone’s opinion makes sense to them.  If I listen long enough they may tell me why they feel the way they do.  Today I heard why someone believes in doing something I wouldn’t do.  And from their perspective it made sense.

This presidential election proved that most people want to be heard.  And “the other side” has feelings and concerns that don’t make sense.

Until you listen.

What is Jesus like?

What is Jesus like?  The Bible says: 

He is the [exact visible] image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a, KJV, brackets mine)

What is God like?  The Bible says

…God is Love. (1 John 4:8b, KJV)

What is Love like?

1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
4Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
5Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
6Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.  (1 Corinthians chapter 13, The Message)

This is what Love is like.  This is what God is like.  And this is what Jesus is like.  He never gives up on us, He’s always looking for the best in us, He doesn’t keep a sin scorecard (our sins are wiped away when we trust Him that He paid the penalty for them), He doesn’t think He’s better than us, He’s not stuck up, He doesn’t force Himself on us,  He doesn’t have to be first, He cares more about us than His own life.

This is one amazing Love…

This is one amazing God…
This is one amazing Jesus.

Jesus tells us to be "Meek" not Weak!

My son and I were watching an old 1950s era episode of “Denise the Menace”.  Denise’s Mom said to his Dad, “If you’re too meek and mild to stand up for what is right, I will”.  The Bible called Jesus’ mother Mary, “meek and mild”.  I always assumed by the way it was used with the word “mild” that meek meant weak.  Then I heard somewhere that the word “meek” meant “great strength under control”.  To find out what “meek” really means I looked in: online dictionaries, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias and Googled “What is the Biblical definition of meek?”

Some online dictionaries define “meek” as “weak” using its current common use as the definition.  W. L. Walker in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that: “[‘Meekness’] presupposes humility, flows from it, and finds expression in moderation.”  However the most help I received was from Mr. Grady Scott and his explanation of Matthew 5:5 found at the following URL:

http://www.christianlibrary.org/authors/Grady_Scott/matt5-5.htm

Mr. Scott describes Moses as standing up to the most powerful man on earth at that time (Pharaoh Ramses) and yet describing himself as the most meek of men.  Jesus controlled nature (stilled the wind and waves), demons (cast them out of their victims) and the elements (turned water into wine) and yet describes Himself as “meek and lowly of heart”.

Mr Scott describes the origin of the word “meek”:

An understanding of the root definition of meek in the original language and how it was used will help us in understanding what Jesus meant.
 1. Greek word praus
   a. Used to describe a soothing medicine.
   b. Used by sailors to describe a gentle breeze.
   c. Used by farmers to describe a broken colt.
 2. What do all these definitions have in common? They all describe great power under control.

So “meek” does not mean “weak”, rather it means having your strength under control.  When someone wrongs you, you don’t lose your temper.  You don’t seek revenge.  You do what Jesus did and entrust all things to your Father in Heaven and do exactly what He says to do.  To those who don’t know Jesus that may appear to be weak – forgiveness, grace, longsuffering, putting others ahead of yourself – can be misinterpreted by the masses.  But to the person whom you forgive, give undeserved favor, endure without retaliation, and put before yourself, you convey the unmistakable love of Jesus.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.