How To Escape Your Fears

Jesus is ChampionFear is crippling. Fear robs us of seizing opportunities. Fear cuts short the abundant life God desires for us to have. One definition of fear captures it well: F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Oversized fears can turn into what psychologists call phobias. One website actually lists 543 unique phobias!

Where does this fear come from? Why are so many plagued by fears?

I believe the answer is found in this: fearful people aren’t looking far enough ahead. They are looking at their fears, and not the Champion of their fears.

King David knew what it was to have assassins stalking him, to be on the run for his life, to not know if someone was a friend or foe, to not even know where he was going to sleep at night. So he begins his second song of ascent with this thought: “If the Lord had not been on our side, here’s a list of really bad things that would have happened to us.”

Notice the “if” statements. David is not saying “if there were no God,” of “if God didn’t care for us.” In other words, David is clearly saying that God exists, and that God is for us!

I like this—Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t go off and leave us. He didn’t abandon us defenseless, helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs (v. 6, in The Message).

David is not telling us how to escape our fears, but to begin celebrating that we have already been freed from our fears! 

We seem to think that satan and Jesus are still duking it out, that the outcome of the struggle is still up for grabs. I’ve got fantastic news: Jesus already won! He is already the Champion!!

We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird. Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight (v. 7, The Message).

Speaking of birds flying free, J.B. Figgis wrote, “Do you find yourself asking, ‘But am I to step out onto nothing?’ That is exactly what the bird is seemingly asked to do, yet we know that the air is there and that the air is not nearly as insubstantial as it seems. And you know that the promises of God are there, and they certainly are not insubstantial at all” (emphasis added).

What fears plague you? Jesus has already set you free from that. The battle has already been won. You just need to find the promise of God in the Bible that tells you how He has canceled that fear.

Now begin to swing that promise like a sword at your fear every time it raises its ugly head! Stop being crippled by your fear, and lift your eyes up to the Maker of heaven and earth who has set you free!

Check out my full message on this song of ascent—

How Christians Can Overcome Ridicule

Much ridicule and contemptHave you ever been…

  • …told to keep your religious beliefs to yourself?
  • …laughed at for living out your biblical convictions?
  • …excluded from the “in” crowd?
  • …put down because your morals are too strict?

The writer of the song of ascent in Psalm 123 must have experienced this quite a bit. He uses phrases like we have endured much contempt and we have endured much ridicule.

These are not words which the songwriter could easily brush off. One translation says, “our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning” of these ridiculing people. In other words, it’s not something he could just brush off by thinking, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Literally translated, the phrases exceedingly filled mean bad things multiplied 10,000 times! 

The ridicule and the contempt hurts! So the psalmist cries out Mercy! three times. This isn’t like saying “Uncle,” or having your cornerman throw in the towel, or even tapping out in a UFC match. This is a soul crying out, “God, if You will give me Your gracious favor for one more round, I will not tap out, I will not go down, I will go through!”

So he looks to the only One who can help him—my eyes wait upon Jehovah. Just like a servant who is completely dependent on his master for his daily bread, just like a maid who is trusting her mistress will give her favor, this guy says, “My eyes are fixed on Jehovah! If He can’t help me, no one can.”

The songwriter’s conclusion is this: “I will continually lift my eyes up to You, to You Whose throne is in heaven.” There are distractions, and hurts, and those who ridicule me—lots of them!—but I will develop the habit of redirecting my eyes UP to look to God.

  • When I feel anxious: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I feel scorned: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I’m hurt by others: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I’ve had my fill of ridicule and contempt: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I don’t think I can answer the bell for another round: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • No matter what: I will redirect my eyes UP!

Check out the full video of this encouraging message. And if you are in the area, join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent.

5 Blessings You Should Expect From Your Church Experience

Place of peaceKing David loved God, and he loved God’s people. He was passionate about everyone getting as deeply connected with God as he was, so he wrote worship songs, setup worship teams, and organized the temple for worshippers.

The first song of ascent he wrote was one anticipating how good it was going to be when everyone got to the temple in Jerusalem to worship.

In fact, David was so excited about what he was expecting to happen in their worship together that he practically glowed with joy! Really! The word for rejoiced in his song means to be so cheerful and happy that you make others around you bright by your happiness. 😀

What was it that David thought was going to happen? First of all, we need to look at the name Jerusalem. Traditionally this means the City of Peace, but the two words that make up “Jerusalem” are much richer than that. Yes, -salem means “peace.” But the first part of the word (yara-) literally means water flowing through, or an arrow being shot out.

In other words, David anticipated that we are going to a peaceful place to be sent out full of peace, to take that peace to others who don’t have it, but desperately need it.

While we are in our “Jerusalem” (for us in the New Testament, this is our “church,” even if it’s just two or three people getting together), here are five blessings you should expect—

  1. Unity—with all the “tribes” joining together.
  2. Praise—joining together to tell God how great He is!
  3. Learning—we come together to learn God’s statutes.
  4. Judgment—what?! How is judgment a blessing? If you are nervous about being judged, just remember Who does the judging in God’s temple: the Holy Spirit. He judges us in a loving way, and in a way that allows us an opportunity to see our sin, repent from it, and experience unconditional forgiveness. That is exciting!
  5. Peace, security, prosperity—the word shalom is used multiple times in the closing verses of this song. The best definition of shalom is: nothing missing, nothing broken. In other words, when we gather together to worship we should expect that God will heal any dis-ease we have, that He will supply what has fallen short, that He will fill up what’s empty.

With those five blessings in mind, here’s the declaration all Christians can make—

Inside these walls…
we live in unity
we praise the Lord
we learn God’s laws
we judge ourselves by God’s standards
repenting, confessing, forgiving, and being forgiven
we fight for peace
we bless God and one another
We descend back to the valleys
to take this message to valley-dwellers
that they, too, may pilgrimage
with us to Jerusalem
It starts here in God’s family!
It starts with me!

 

Check out the full video of this message, where I explain each of these ideas more fully. And if you’re in the area, join us on Sunday as we continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent.

The Key Decision For Influential Men

Influence like JesusNo matter how you look at it, being a Dad is hard work! Men have this constant balancing act between being tough and being tender. Guys have to have their game face on at work, and their family face on at home. They’ve got to work hard knocking down work competitors, and then work just as hard building up their family members.

But there is one key decision that will determine how successful a man will be at work, at home, in his social circles, and even in his relationship with God. 

In Acts 10 we meet a centurion named Cornelius. Centurions were professional military officers in charge of a centuria (usually 100 soldiers). Centurions were always “on the clock,” never letting down their guard nor their professionalism.

All of the centurions mentioned in the New Testament have noble characteristics associated with them. Whereas someone might be uncertain how a typical Roman soldier would behave, people felt more assured when the centurion was on the scene. Even Roman governors like Pilate, and Jewish kings like Herod, all seemed to fully trust the judgement, honesty, and resourcefulness of centurions.

Centurions worked hard to get where they were, and had some well-earned perks:

  • Good pay (one built a temple, Luke 7:1-5).
  • “Men of authority” with soldiers and servants reporting to them (Matthew 8:8-9).
  • Opportunity for advancement (Rome was the dominate world force).
  • A certain degree of autonomy (they had their own residences (Matthew 8; Acts 10).

In order to keep this position, they would have to buy into kurios Caesar (Caesar is lord). To do otherwise was to put their position and future advancement at risk.

Yet Cornelius was different. 

He was a trusted centurion, but something unusual stood out about his life. Luke the historian describes him as devout and God-fearing, mentioning his pious activities of prayer and giving to the poor. Cornelius’ own soldiers referred to him as righteous and respected by notable people in the community.

But probably most telling of all: God noticed how committed Cornelius was (see Acts 10:3-4)!

Cornelius had a lot to lose by rejecting kurios Caesar for, as the Christians said, kurios Iesous (Jesus is Lord). Yet after carefully weighing his options, he saw that trusting God was the best thing he could do for his family. His view of the eternal outweighed anything that he could gain in the temporal.

This one decision changed everything! 

Because Cornelius trusted God, look at the expansiveness of his influence, not only at home, but at work, and among his friends and extended family, and throughout his community:

  • His family—ALL his family were devout and God-fearing (v. 2)
  • His employees—a devout soldier (v. 7)
  • His community—respected by ALL the Jewish people (v. 22)
  • His relatives and friends—his relatives and close friends (v. 24)
  • In fact everyone around him—we are ALL here in the presence of God (v. 33)
  • And most importantly, with God—your prayers and gifts have come up as a memorial offering before God (v. 4)

Fellas, you can have this same level of influence if you, too, will decide to live karios Iesous: Jesus is Lord. If you will do that, you can have said about your life what was said about Cornelius and Jesus: “God anointed ___________ with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him!” (see Acts 10:38).

Overcoming Anxiety

God's answersI remember visiting Denver, Colorado. The scenery was so breathtaking, so I decided to go for an early morning hike. Quickly I discovered that my hike became breathtaking in more than one way! Even though I was in good shape, I had a hard time getting my breath because of the mile-high atmosphere.

I learned later that this is why many top athletes train in high elevation: it increases their lung capacity and endurance so that they now have an advantage when they compete against others.

God trains us on His mountains, but He made us to live and minister in the valleys. Our ascent into God’s mountaintop presence is so important for godly maturity!

In the first song of ascent, I noticed something unusual in the very first verse. Some Bibles translate the verbs in the present tense (I call on the Lord and He answers me), but some translations use the past tense (I called on the Lord and He answered me). Which is correct? Actually both of them are correct!

The verbs are written in the perfect tense—something done at a specific point in the past, but still relevant and powerful in the present. In other words, we can say it like this, “I called on the Lord in the past and He most definitely answered me. That gives me confidence to call on the Lord today, knowing that He will answer me again.”

Past answers lead to present power and future hope.

But—oh wow!!—check out how God answers us! The word literally means that God answers us in song. God so loves it when you trust Him enough to bring all your cares to Him, that He sings His answer to you. For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

If we don’t continue to recall how God has answered us in the past, we’re missing out on the blessing of hearing Him sing His answers over us again today. As a result, we begin to live in the world’s valley-level turmoil and anxiety.

Peace is longed for in verses 6 and 7. The Christian wants to live in peace, but the world loves turmoil. Want proof? Just look at what makes the headlines today! The solution is to keep going back to God again and again and again—

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Check out the full message to find the peace you are longing for!

If you don’t have a home church, please join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the songs of ascent, or you can tune in to our live Periscope broadcast from wherever you are.

Love = Patience

PatienceLast week I wrote about how we can be empowered to get along with everyone, everywhere. But something I didn’t mention (which might be obvious) is this: Connecting with everybody, everywhere is hard work!

We have to remember that relationship is the goal. We’re not trying to make converts to Christianity and rack up some sort of high score. We’re building relationships with people because we love people; and that love for them should motivate us to:

  1. Want what’s best for them
  2. Be willing to serve them

The Bible says this: And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Everyone?! There’s that word again!

This word patient has five parts to its definition. I’m struck by how these aspects of patience also echo the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13

  • Patience doesn’t lose heartLove is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4a)
  • Patience endures misfortuneLove is not self-seeking (13:5a)
  • Patience is slow to angerLove is not easily angered (13:5b)
  • Patience bears with the offenses of othersLove keeps no record of wrongs (13:5c)
  • Patience perseveres bravelyLove always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (13:7-8)

How are you doing in your relationships? Are you losing heart? becoming angry? about ready to throw in the towel on a difficult relationship? Ask God to renew your love, and your patience level will increase as well. 

Let’s all strive to love others—even the difficult “others”—the way God loves us!

4 Ways To Share The Good News With Everyone

Everybody EveryoneJesus told His followers that their ministry assignment was to take His message of salvation throughout the entire world. One requirement to do this, is to be able to communicate with lots of people. Actually to be able to communicate with everyone.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18)

Really? Everybody and everyone?!

Yes!

Jesus said our Helper would be the Holy Spirit. He would come to empower us to be witnesses to everyone, everybody, everywhere (Acts 1:8).

We have been learning how to communicate with others better, but noticing their communication style “accent.” Check out this post to get some more insight into this. In a nutshell…

  • Doers are action-oriented
  • Planners like to work out all the details
  • People want to make sure everyone is connected
  • Visions are imagining a better future

So if you are a Doer, and you’re trying to share the Good News about Jesus with a Planner, you can probably see a potential problem. The Doer is speaking in bullet points, but the Planner is wanting a lot more facts and figures.

This is where the Holy Spirit can help us. He has the insight that we don’t, and He can direct our words, just as He directed Christ’s words (see John 12:49-50).

Here’s how to talk their talk when you’re sharing the Good News:

(1) Doer

  • Keep it brief
  • Share more facts than stories
  • Stress now/today
  • Rely on the Gospel of Mark (action oriented)

(2) Planner

  • Tell them the who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Be ready for lots of questions
  • Give them time to process your information
  • Rely on the Gospel of Matthew (lots of background, lots of Old Testament references to answer the who, what, where, when, why and how)

(3) People

  • Develop a friendship first
  • Share more stories than facts
  • Don’t tell them, show them your personal life
  • Rely on the Gospel of Luke (lots of personal stories about changed lives)

(4) Vision

  • Share both the facts and the stories
  • Encourage them to “Imagine what would happen …”
  • Give them time to ask questions
  • Rely on the Gospel of John (very poetic and image-rich)

You can connect with everyone, everybody, everywhere and share the Gospel with them in an effective way. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the insight you need.

Check out how I describe this in more detail here…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,143 other followers

%d bloggers like this: