fear, faith, & other musings…

Fear paralyzes us. It stirs up doubts. It rises up in opposition to faith. It crowds out every other thought, dominating the mind. It is a primary weapon used by our enemy, the devil to attempt to manipulate & control us by taking our eyes off of Christ, & putting them onto our circumstances. Fear promises us an alternate future, one void of the good & faithful promises of God.

In Acts 9, one particular disciple, Ananias, had to confront fear & make a choice: would he let fear or faith direct his life?

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12

Saul.

Ananias knew who he was. Everyone knew Saul of Tarsus. The stories of his zealous persecution of the Way had spread like wildfire. The believers he’d personally thrown into prison, the families he’d destroyed, & the stonings he’d been party to were numerous.

While every other believer in Damascus was looking to hide FROM Saul, God purposely was sending Ananias to FOR Saul. To pray for him. It didn’t make sense. Ananias wrestled with it. He discussed it further with the LORD.

And then he boldly went, found Saul, & healed him in Jesus Name.

One of the main purposes that Jesus gives His followers the Holy Spirit is so that, in the face & threat of fear, we would be filled instead with boldness. And in those moments when we’re wrestling, where fear is attempting to ensnare us, we can have the Divinely provided fuel to reject the temptations to fear, & to purposefully & boldly give ourselves to obedience to God’s purposes & plans.

Living with bold obedience to Christ affects not only my life, but those that I come in contact with. And because Ananias chose faith over fear, God used him to help Saul the leading opponent &persecutor of the Way, to become Paul, God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel over the known world.

LORD, fill me with Your Holy Spirit today – that I would recognize (& reject) the temptation to fear, & choose faith instead. May I be boldly given to Your purposes & plans.

Three things I never want to be, & other musings…

Three things I never want to be: Stiff-necked. Hardened in heart. Resistant to the Holy Spirit.

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart & ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? & they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed & murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels & did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53

Reading over this section of Scripture, I keep getting stuck on verse 51.

Stiff-necked. Uncircumcised hearts. Resisters of the Holy Spirit.

These are strong & prophetic words from Stephen, who reached into Israel’s history to challenge & rebuke the Jewish Religious Council for their opposition to God’s purposes. The hardest thing for the Jewish leaders to hear had to be that their actions were just the latest round of thousands of years of stubborn, hard-hearted resistance to God. And the bizarre thing was, they professed to be diligently & faithfully serving the very One who was correcting them through Stephen.

Several things stand out to me:
• As Stephen is being dragged to the place of execution, the Jewish leaders have covered up their ears as though by doing so, they can keep from hearing anything else Stephen says. Their response to his prophetic challenge graphically portrays the state of their hearts & minds that Stephen was testifying to.
• To be stiff-necked is to be unteachable. Stubborn & hardened. Resistant to correction. Proud. Each time this phrase is used in the scriptures, it refers to a willful, determined disobedience to God’s specific commands, directions, and ways.
• Stubborn resistance to God’s purposes & plans originates in our own hearts, minds, & will, but it is hellishly motivated as well. This is evidenced by the vicious & murderous responses to the prophets & to Christ that Stephen recounts from Israel’s history.

I want to be teachable, set apart to God in words & deeds so that I can be easily be directed by & responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This requires that I keep a close watch on my heart – that I cultivate humility & a lifestyle of repentance. And that I never forget that no matter how long I’ve followed the LORD, I never get to the spot where I don’t desperately need His guidance, direction, & grace.

what a difference a day makes, a new future, & other musings…

Jerusalem was jam-packed with Jews from all over the world; they’d gathered to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This was the context God chose for the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples & gathered believers.

The city was buzzing – hearing these ‘common,’ unschooled men & women speaking the praises of God in the tongues of far-off peoples generated all sorts of intrigue & questions. Some said the disciples had just drunk too much wine, but others knew that wasn’t it, & were desperate to know, “What is going on here?”

Peter answers.

Peter. The one who, days before, had denied even knowing Christ three times. The one who had trembled in fear & wasn’t able to acknowledge his relationship with Christ to a servant girl.

Peter addressed the crowd of thousands & explained what was happening:

…Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice & addressed them: “Men of Judea & all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, & give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘& in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…”

Peter is an example of one who has been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, & to give witness to what God has done & is doing in, through, & around us. His fear & timidity have been replaced with boldness. His past failures, fears, denials & inadequacies did NOT dictate his present & future, in Christ.

I believe that there was a moment as Peter gathered himself to speak to the crowd that he was bombarded with thoughts of fear & memories of his denials of Christ. It’s what our enemy does; he accuses us before God, & he reminds us of our past sins, failures, & the like. And then there’s the accusation, the lie that sounds a lot like this– “if you try to talk you will fail. You’ll look stupid. You’ll be a failure. Again.”

This accusation is one that is directed at & against the character of God – because the LORD has promised to fill our mouths, & tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us at that very moment what to say.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit’s boldness means being willing & able to reject the accusations & reminders of the enemy, & being willing & able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings for the situation at hand.

Peter did it. So can we.

living downstream from faith…

Paul & 275 others were in trouble. Their tiny ship was sailing towards Italy, & had been caught in a winter storm that raged without stopping for more than two weeks. It was so severe that the most experienced sailors had given up all hope of surviving (27:20.)

But not Paul – he knew that God had told him he would witness on His behalf before Caesar in Rome (Acts 23). And since God had told him, he believed it with all of his heart.

…last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said…

I’m struck by how Paul’s faith in God’s ability to keep His promises, even in the face of a deadly storm, not only saved Paul, but also everyone else on the boat.

When we exercise faith, we may not always know just how many other lives will be touched & influenced by it; faith is contagious, & the LORD looks for those who will take Him at His Word, & strengthens them. And then, like with Abraham, He blesses others through His faithful ones.

The eyes of the LORD run to & from throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him… 2Chronicles 16:9

a little encouragement to stand, & other musings…

I really appreciate the “little” reminders of God’s faithful protection and grace in my life. It’s not that I need to hear something every morning to keep me going, or come across The Perfect Verses Of Encouragement in my scripture reading to stay on track. In fact, it seems that most of my life has been “…a long obedience in the same direction.” However, some of my most difficult life situations were able to be navigated because of a well-timed encouragement from the LORD in prayer; or a note written by a friend who’d been praying for me & was prompted to pass something on.

One specific time, Dick Mills, a well-known and very prophetic Bible teacher, picked theBean & I out of a church service and quoted 2Samuel 23:11,12 – He said, “You’re going to go through hard, hard things. But you’ll remain standing, & will come out smelling like a rose!”

Sure enough, over the next months, we endured some of our most challenging times in our ministry and personal life… and many times, revisited and rehearsed the word we’d received, holding tight to God’s promises to bring us out the other side. He did, and I’m still thankful for those timely words.


In reading through Acts 23, I think that the Apostle Paul appreciated the encouragements he received from the LORD. He’d been stoned at Lystra. Survived a riot at Ephesus. Navigated mobs at Thessalonica and Berea. Been threatened with violence and death countless times. And that’s not even considering the death mobs in Jerusalem. So when the LORD stood by him one night and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome,” it had to be a point of celebration, and a boost to his faith. Not because he was a fearful man, but because God was reminding him, “Don’t look at your circumstances. Don’t listen to the threats and plots against your life. I am your protector, and you still have a mission.”

So the next day, when he was informed there were 40 killers lying in wait to murder him, he didn’t worry what might happen next, for God was WITH him, and with absolute surety, Paul knew that He would never leave him or forsake him. No matter what.

And God even cared enough to encourage Paul, a little reminder of His goodness.

This is our God.

Thoughts on Acts 15…

Acts 15:10,11 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15 tells of a crisis in the church… the number of believers in Christ was growing daily, & not just among Jews anymore. Now, even the Gentiles were coming to Christ! So what’s the crisis?

Certain groups among the Jewish believers couldn’t imagine God calling and saving people that weren’t circumcised. After all, circumcision was VERY significant for the Jew, as it marked the establishment of their covenant identity with God. Circumcision marked them in most intimate way as a separate, distinct, people who belonged to the LORD.

I thank God for Paul, Barnabas and the Jerusalem council; when confronted with the pressing question, “What are we going to do about this?” they reminded their Christian brothers that the gospel being preached is one of grace and justification through faith. I imagine their debate with those that were demanding circumcision, wondering out loud what other hoops to jump through could have arisen if Paul and the others had given in. Dietary restrictions? Hair and beards? Rejection of one’s culture of origin to embrace the Jewish culture?

Here we are 2000+ later, mostly Gentiles reading this, wondering what the big deal was… in hindsight its easy to point out the Old Testament scriptures where God calls for the “inner circumcision,” a circumcision of the heart. It’s silly, because we know that we’d never put stumbling blocks in front of new believers, and for sure would never add to the gospel… Would we?

Hmmm. I remember as a kid seeing people different than my family and me coming to church. I know now that they were ‘hippies” – identified by their bare feet, old Levis, t-shirts, and mostly unkempt hair and beards. They really stood out…

I remember it was a big deal when they came to Christ, gave their testimonies of deliverance and expressed earnest desire for freedom from drugs, immorality, and their desire to be clean, whole, and experience real love. I remember the discussions that took place where church leaders wrestled with the influx of new people, and wondered how we could help disciple them… One suggestion rings in my ears:

“What they really need is some different clothes and a haircut. They need to know that they’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Ouch.

We do it too. Makes me wonder… are we adding to the “Main Thing” of the gospel? Are there “Louie-isms” that are being elevated to “gotta do’s”?

LORD, remind us that we are saved by Your grace, just as our brothers and sisters around the world are.

on the road again & other musings from an early Monday…

No, I’m not traveling; just reading.

TheBean’s schedule for theBucks means that several days a week, she’s up & at’em in the wee hours of the morning, often by 4. Perhaps there’s not a whole lot of ‘quality time’ one can spend with their spouse while they’re getting ready, applying makeup, doing hair, etc… but I can make sure that the coffee is hot. And ready. And delivered to her in person with a smile (or at least the best version I can summon at such a time.)

I need to be up – I purpose to be up – but my body disagrees, protests, & lodges a complaint against the management… which is why I made the decision to GET up last night, before I was in the spot to have to deal with my recalcitrant self. The early morning is for coffee, yes, but its also reading time. Stolen moments for pondering in the Scriptures.

Today it was Luke 24; what jumped out at me was the walk the 2 guys had with the (unrecognized,) Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. The time of discussion, supposing, wondering. Confusion, frustration, crushing grief. Having seen Christ’s crucifixion, they’re now trying to wrestle through the reports of “Christ sightings” by Mary & the ladies. Hoping beyond hope that it could be true. Fearing that its not.

And Jesus meets them. He hears their conversation & joins in. Challenges them for their slowness to ‘get it.’

And He said to them, “O foolish ones, & slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things & enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses & all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

When I see the word “fool” in the Bible, I can’t help but think of Mr. T. And then I remind myself that Jesus isn’t ‘pitying the fool’ the way Mr. T would. It helps.:)

The two men don’t recognize Jesus until the point where He’s breaking & blessing the bread – there’s an “A-HA!” moment, & He’s gone.

This morning I resonate with these two guys – so focused on the difficulties, troubles, & disappointments in my up-close-&-personal world, that I miss the living, risen Christ right under my nose. I think that’s what happens when one walks with one’s head down, eyes on the ground. The obstacles & worries on the road become the focus, & its easy to get stuck in the potholes.

A song comes to mind, a reminder to lift my eyes up – its from one of the Songs of Ascent – something that the Jewish pilgrims returning to Jerusalem for feast & festivals would sing on the journey up the hills into the City of David.

I lift my eyes up/to the mountains/where does my help come from?
My help comes from You/maker of Heaven/creator of the Earth
Oh how I need You, LORD/You are my only hope/You are my only prayer
So I will wait for You/to come & rescue me/to come & give me life –
Psalm 121 – I Lift My Eyes Up – Brian Doerksen

Day 1 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Travels

Left early on Wednesday morning for the airport with my favorite Transporter, theBean, in the drivers seat. We had the full gamut of emotions on the trip, from laughing to tears. It’s hard to leave home.

My flight from Reno the LAX was uneventful, but the gate for my LAX  to Washington-Dulles flight was on the other side of the concourse. Which meant a sprint. And a prayer to hope that the baggage handlers were sprinting too… :)

On my flight, I felt the LORD dealing with me about faith & believing – specifically in regard to anxiety that I have had about this trip, most pointedly about the “Revolution of the Soul” mini-seminar I’ll be doing in Frankfurt this Saturday. I’d like to say that I’ve been the picture of a man of faith, full of resolve & confidence about what I’m doing, & about what is happening. But if I said that, it wouldn’t be true. I’ve been anxious. Worried. Stressed. About the unknown. And even some of the known.

I felt the LORD saying that He’s given me everything that I need for what I’ll be doing – the mini-seminar included. And that by worrying, stressing, & being anxious, I was not believing Him for that provision, for the words, for the direction, & that somehow, someway, whatever happened good or bad, was somehow MY responsibility.

Ooh. Not good.

So I repented. Asked forgiveness for my ego-centrism, worry & preoccupation. Prayed for a heart & mind  renewal. Thanked God for what He’s preparing for Saturday… & that I get to be a part of it.


After my 4 1/2 hour flight to Washington Dulles, I looked around to see what gate my Washington-Frankfurt flight would be departing from. It wasn’t listed. That made me a little nervous, so I checked with a couple of United personnel to see if they had a clue. No dice. I pushed away my anxiety, & thanked God for the peace that I knew He gave & will give, a peace that I determined to contend for.

Walked to the other end of the C Concourse to the United Customer Service desk – & on the way, called United Customer Service as well. The automated ‘agent’ on the phone was very helpful & told me exactly what I needed to know, & where to go. The personnel at the airport were having some troubles locating the airplane & gate, & my flight never did end up showing up on the Departures board. I did however board my flight. Right where the automated agent said it would be. Thanks Hal!


Landed in Frankfurt, & picked up my bag (Yes!) then headed out to meet Eddy, the pastor of our sister church, Treffpunkt Leben Foursquare Church (TPLF.) We took a few minutes to catch up as he drove us back in to town to pick up his 2 oldest boys from school. On the way, he took me by the site of the old TPLF building – there is literally NOTHING there – The entire building, all the way down into the ground, was torn down & the rubble removed. A new building will be built in its place as soon as a new foundation is being poured. I hope to get a picture or 2 of it when I go on my walk this afternoon.

We took a brief foray by the new TPLF church offices, said hello to the multi-talented & imminently gifted Elena, then made our way back to Eddy (& Laura’s)  house for lunch. I have to confess: one of my favorite things about staying with Eddy & Laura is the FOOD. Spaghetti & meatballs. So. Good.


It was about at that time that I passed out on the couch, & woke up… slowly. It took me a while to realize who (let alone) where I was. Turns out, I slept for about 30 minutes, then stumbled around groggily to get my bearings. Took my daily “EmergenC” & myVitality. And my brain turned on, & I took a few minutes to catch up on the election coverage from the vote Tuesday, & decided to blog a bit.

The sum up: I’m well, encouraged, jet-laggy, in a safe place with great friends, in one of my favorite cities & places in the world. Praying for focus, clarity, & the ability to see what is really important for me to pay attention to & do today. I’ll post pictures later, God-willing.