Facing Fear

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believeand tremble!

James 2:19 NKJV

I deliberated what to use as the “featured” image for this post. All of us fear something. Even the toughest-looking biker harbours fears in his heart. The toughest warrior is scared of something.

It’s in our nature.

Without fear, there can be no courage. Courage is that part of our nature that feel14bd5-robins the fear, but gets on and does what needs to be done anyway.

My fear has always been losing the ones I love. The small freak in the picture is my younger brother, Robin. It was taken in late 1984. A few months before he took a right turn on a bike and changed a lot of lives forever by losing his own. But he wasn’t my first loss. My dad’s sister died in 1981, killed in a house fire in London.

So I fear losing the people who matter to me.

For a long time I dealt with this by not letting anyone get close. I hardened my heart and refused to allow myself to care about anyone. Or so I kidded myself.

I’ve recently realised there were people in my teenage years that I actually did care about. Some of them have – courtesy of Facebook – come back into my life in the last ten years or so.

I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with fears from my teenage years that I didn’t let myself feel then, as well as the new fears that come with developing relationships as a 40+ adult.

So I do the only thing I know that genuinely works.

I lean on God.

Yep, it sounds trite to me too. But it’s what I do, and it works.

There’s a lot in this world we can’t control. But believing God isn’t one of them.

And yes, I didn’t say believing in God. Most people on this planet believe “in” God. It’s why Satan has been able to twist hearts and minds with false religions and idols. We are designed to worship, and even the most ardent atheist worships something. They just use a different label to describe their actions.

But believing in God and believing God are completely different.

Satan believes God – and it terrifies him.

Abraham believed God and Isaac was delivered from death.

David believed God’s promises and consequently he killed Goliath.

Joseph believed God’s promises and despite going from pit to slave to dungeon he held fast to the promises and saved Egypt and his own brothers who had sold him into slavery.

Josiah believed God and saw revival in Israel.

Esther believed God and spoke to the king, saving the Israelites.

Samson, even though he’d faltered, believed God at the end and saved his people.

Mary believed God, and we all got Jesus as a result.

They all overcame fear to believe God. Abraham had only one son, David was a youth not a warrior, Joseph was an imprisoned slave, Josiah was a child, Esther faced death for approaching the king, Samson had to face his own failure, and Mary could have been murdered for believing God.

Believing God is scary. Dave Duell used to say “if your dreams don’t wake you up at night, you’re not dreaming big enough!”

My dreams stop me getting to sleep.

My dream for this ministry is to help the people these words have touched in more than words. My brothers in 7d88d-truthKenya who have to worship under a tree because they have no money even for a tent. In Myanmar and Pakistan who meet in secret so they don’t get killed for speaking out loud what I take for granted.

My friends in America who are scared to describe themselves as “evangelicals” since November 9th 2017, and more who are accused of “hate speech” for simply speaking the Gospel as it has been written and settled for 2000 years.

At a time where “fake news” is anything that disagrees with the US President, we all should have some fear.

But we must face that fear and speak out the Truth.

People will ·put you out of [ban you from] their synagogues. Yes, ·the time [an hour; an indefinite reference to a future time but likely connected to the period after the death and resurrection of Christ] is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering ·service [worship] to God. They will do this because they have not known the Father and they have not known me.”

John 16:2-3 Expanded Bible

Make no mistake, in Germany after Hitler took power telling the Truth got preachers sent to Dachau and Auschwitz alongside the Jews. How long is it going to be before Guantanamo Bay starts getting preachers who dare to speak out? The holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers. It started with travel restrictions and registration based on religious views.

Some fear is warranted, based on history.

But we must face that fear. The Truth must be spoken.

“Humanists” in England tried to stop Andrew Wommack being allowed to speak at a Christian event a couple of years ago because he dared to say what the Bible says about sexual immorality in general, and homosexuality in particular – it’s sin. I’ve listened to a lot of Andrew’s teaching, and he does say that. Mind you, so did St Paul. Both of them also teach against greed, selfishness, idolatry and all the other things listed as things that drive a wedge between us and God, and the path back being through Christ.

But there’s something about sex that’s different. Even Paul noted it:

“Run away from sexual immorality [in any form, whether thought or behavior, whether visual or written]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 Amplified

I hate summer. It brings temptations every year that make fleeing thoughts very difficult. Clothing gets smaller, sometimes to the point where you have to wonder why it’s being worn at all. My wife and I hope to have a baby in the next year or two, and I fear the world they will grow up in given the current trend.

 But it’s time to face our fears.

I’ve not counted myself, but I’m told “don’t be afraid” or something meaning the same is spoken 366 times in the Bible. It’s a nice concept, but whether there is one for every day of the year, even in a leap year, or not all it took for Peter to walk on water was one word. A sentence should be enough for any of us!

In the last 12 months the world has changed completely. America had to choose between two candidates who were unsuitable for the office. Britain chose to leave the EU by a narrow margin. Globally racial intolerance is becoming “acceptable”.

There’s certainly enough to fear.

But God is bigger than the hate that pours out of the mouths of politicians and their drones.

As Christians we need to focus on Christ, not the rhetoric in the media. We need to reconcile in ourselves that there is a big difference between the action and the person. The thief on the cross faced his fear of rejection and was rewarded with Eternal Life. Jesus didn’t see his sin – He saw the man’s value to His Father.

We are called to do the same. If your answer to abortion involves killing the doctors who carry it out, you’re missing your own point. God doesn’t hate homosexuals, but the Bible is clear about homosexuality. Too many people on both sides fail to differentiate between the behaviour and the person. The sin and the sinner.

We fear the sin. As if somehow someone else’s behaviour contaminates us. But Jesus hung around with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors without becoming one Himself.

Time to face down the fear. It has no hold on us any more.

1984

The Church in Crisis
We live in a time where the Truth of the Gospel is challenged more fiercely than at any time in history.
Televangelists spout their message across the airwaves in such a way the Truth often gets missed in the message. No ministry can run indefinitely without funding, and there comes a time when funds need to be raised, but the World hears this and screams “All these preachers want is your money!”
Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes the ministry in question is questionable.
More often they’re wrong. A minister of the Gospel spends hours each day researching, learning, reading, praying, counselling, writing and teaching the Gospel of Jesus. It’s a full time job.
You never hear “All that doctor wants is your money!” when you go to the office with a stomach bug and he charges you for his time, his knowledge, his research, his counsel and the writing of a prescription.
The World ignores them because they don’t conflict with the World’s values.
Jesus dropped into 1st Century Palestine at a time when there was universal deceit. He spoke only Truth, and they killed Him for it.
Today you can be charged with inciting violence by hate speech in many countries, but these laws are never enforced on the people who use it the most: politicians. Rather they are pushed on simple and ordinary people. Bakers who don’t want their store associated with homosexuality because their understanding is that it’s sinful and they want to take a stand for their Faith, the Truth as they understand it. Clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the same reason. Preachers who have the audacity to say that a collection of writings from two millennia ago is still applicable in full in modern society, that God doesn’t change and His decrees are absolute.
In some countries they get fired or put out of business. In others they get decapitated. Both are persecuted.
Now I’m not saying I agree with everything here in terms of action. We are called to allow ourselves to be subject to the law of the land, sometimes that means doing what it says, and sometimes it means not doing it and accepting the consequences. Should the clerk issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple? The law of the land says yes. But what is marriage in the eyes of the law and what is marriage in the eyes of God can be very different things. In law, marriage is primarily a financial institution. In Faith it is much deeper than that and goes to the core of humanity’s sexuality.
Be subject to the laws of men. Eventually God will have the last laugh anyway. Two men may enter a non-sexual “marriage” in law so that they have a person they can turn to to make hard choices in the event of failing health. In modern terms, it could be argued that King David and Jonathon may have had a union of this kind as they are described as being of one spirit – yet there is no hint that they were sexually involved. I have lived with men as a younger man. One of my closest friends was my house-mate and confidante for over a year. I introduced him to his wife. At that time he knew me better than anyone else alive, but there was no hint of sexual intent on our part towards each other. We jammed music, ate, shopped, prayed and travelled together regularly. When his fiancee came to visit we found space. I wasn’t dating at the time, but if I had been there would have been the same consideration there as well.
Then came the “Politically Correct” crowd.
It started as a good thing. A moral compass led by men and women of value and principle who wanted to take a stand against the decay of society. But it got taken over by “equal” rights groups.
Language changed. Simple terms like “chairman” were designated as sexist. Describing an individual of African origin as “black” was racist. So we moved into a world where individuals were not short, they were “vertically challenged”, paraplegics were “differently-abled”, those considered not to fit into society’s image of attractive were “aesthetically challenged”. Schools could no longer stream pupils in terms of A and B because “B” would feel inferior. No matter that group “A” was working on quantum mechanics and group “B” was still learning the basic times tables.
And then the PC crowd turned it’s head to God.
Suddenly real Truth is offensive. Christmas has to be called “Winter Festival”, Easter “Spring Festival”. The Bible was removed from schools in America because it was not politically correct to “brainwash” children into believing in God, whilst the doctrines of atheism were planted firmly in place. It reached the point where public schools can’t put on a Nativity play in case it offends someone. This in a society that glorifies sex, violence, drug use, vampires and all kinds of nonsense.

 

Most children are taught sex education at primary school these days unless the parents specify that they must be witheld from that. I was horrified in England about 15 years ago when I was taking part in a church school activity to find the seven and eight year olds were coming from sex education classes. These kids knew about erectile dysfunction before they knew how to spell it.
Like the Roman Empire, we are desensitised to violence from an early age. An estimate in the 1990s suggested by the time the average high school student graduates he (or she – must be correct) has witnessed 100,000 murders thanks to television and film makers. I pulled out an old movie I enjoyed a long time ago recently, “Malone” starring Burt Reynolds. It was given an 18 certificate for graphic violence when it was released. Compared to films that today get 12 and 15 certificates it was nothing. Even “Highlander” as a movie in 1986 got a 15 certificate in the UK, but the TV series was more graphic and broadcast at peak viewing time just six years later.
I read 1984 by Orwell as a teenager and thought it could never happen. “Animal Farm” and “Lord of the Flies” were also on my reading list. The concepts in them were so inconceivable that we had to suspend disbelief to follow the story and remind ourselves that in a civilised society this could never happen.
Fast forward to 2016 and we have Government bodies regulating what we can say and where we can say it. A Christian TV channel in England moved it’s base of operations away from the UK because it was not allowed under UK law to air any program that stated Jesus is the only way to God because it might offend those who didn’t believe. In my experience with television if I tune in to an Islamic program I expect it to try to convince me that Islam is the truth. So I switch it off. Not so any more, the thought police of “1984” are beginning to arrive.
“Free Speech Zones” are another PC thing. Very Orwellian in their construction. You can say what you like, but it will never be broadcast.
There are certain issues which rightly need to be addressed. Men and women doing the same jobs should be paid the same salary. If a man and a woman have the same qualification they should receive the same compensation for their work as long as it is of the same standard. There should be no place for saying a woman is simply there to make a man look good or vice-versa.
Consider the Gospel for a moment. Jesus is teaching and the woman caught in adultery is thrown at His feet. What does He do?
He writes in the sand.
Huh?
Immediately the crowd take their attention off the woman and her humiliation and focus on Jesus. “What’s He writing?” “Is He drawing something?”
He could have been writing out the theory of relativity or doodling a cat. It’s irrelevant. His action restores the woman’s dignity by allowing her time to cover herself. These Politically Correct accusers are seeking to trap the Teacher. So He hits them with Truth. Instead of calling for the stoning or asking where the other party involved is, as adultery generally requires more than one active participant (or it did before the internet), Jesus simply says “Ok, but the first to throw a stone must be sinless himself.” Then he goes back to doodling or calculating pi or whatever He was doing.
Thud, thud, thud. The stones fall to the ground beginning with the longest grey beards and finally the youngest walking away leaving only the woman and Jesus – the only one qualified to throw that first stone.
And Jesus restores her. He tells her to leave her sinful ways, but He refuses to condemn her. Read the story in John 8. I love the version in The Message, but they all say it. Jesus refuses to condemn her.
Once a year in Cape Town there is an event called the “Sexpo” for a few days, and predictably there are the “christians” outside waving banners and shouting “You’re all going to Hell, Directly to Hell, Do not pass ‘Go’, Do not collect $200” like some transcendental Monopoly card. How different to the act of writing in the sand.
Researching an article I was working on some time ago I was looking for accounts of life changes and how acceptance works out in the real world. I stumbled on a blog by a writer called Jennie Ketcham called “Becoming Jennie”. I’d never heard of her, but I read an entry or two and found myself cheering for her as she told her story through this blog of leaving the sex industry and trying to find a place in the real world again. Hopefully in the not too distant future nobody will know her for her past, but for her skills as a writer on the Huffington Post, a published author and a counselling psychologist. I don’t know where she stands from a Spiritual perspective, but her actions show a clear repentance – completely turning away from her past life.
That’s what we are called to do. Repent. Turn away from the past and set out in a new direction. Learn from it, yes. But not repeat it. It takes incredible strength to turn away from past addictions. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or even things we don’t think of like washing the car. Anything that puts itself between us and God we need to turn away from.
I find personally that I’m a work in progress. Like Paul, I do what I do not want to do, and I do not do that which I want to do [paraphrase of Romans 7:19-20] and I find myself spinning in ever decreasing circles.
But thankfully, the thought police are there to remind me how despicable I am.
No, wait. That’s Orwell.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit witnesses inside me that I am the Righteousness of Christ. He convicts me of Righteousness and that gives me the strength to turn away from whatever the sin of the moment is. Currently the big one for me is coveting. Mainly because of things that I had in the past that the old me wants back. I covet the things from my past and trying to recapture them often gets in the way of doing what I know God has called me to do. Procrastination is another one.
The Truth of Jesus is becoming known as hate-speech. We need to guard our tongues and hearts and make sure what we say lines up with the Bible, not the twisting of specific verses to fit the current worldly morality, but the Truth that is constant through the entire Scripture. We need to remember that the Word of God is Jesus, not the book. The book is there as a way for us to find Him.
But if we’re going to follow a book, better the Bible than “1984”.