Don’t be afraid…

Over the last several weeks, the phrases “Fear not” & “Don’t be afraid,” have really jumped out at me during my Bible reading. Most of the time, God is speaking them as a command to a person/people to whom He has promised a blessing, redemption, &/or a assurance of His favor.

God says it to Abraham in the context of His promise to give him not only a son, but as many descendants as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 15:1). He says it to Jacob when He tells him to go to Egypt so God can make Israel a great nation (Genesis 46:3). God says it to the nation of Israel when they were under attack from Egyptians who were trying to re-enslave them (Exodus 14:13). He says it to Joshua when He challenges him to be strong & courageous as he leads the nation of Israel to the Promised Land (Joshua 11:6).  In the New Testament, Jesus tells the parents of a 12 year old girl that had just died, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” (Mark 5:35-43). I could go on, because this command about not fearing is EVERYWHERE in Scripture.

Why do you think that is?


My take is this: Upon hearing of God’s promises, His goodness, His blessings, & His care for us, our first inclination is to look around at our circumstances, our challenges, our own resources (or lack thereof.) & the enemies we’re facing… & when we just can’t see it in, we fall into fear.

Abraham was 100, but God promised him He would give him a son. Don’t be afraid.

Jacob & his family were only 80 people in total, & God was sending them to live in the most powerful nation on earth… & that in this place He would grow Israel into a mighty nation. Don’t be afraid.

The people of Israel stood defenseless, the Red Sea on one side, a fierce army of Egyptians on the other. God promised to fight for them. Don’t be afraid. God tasked Joshua & the Israelites with claiming the Promised Land, the land of 10 foot tall (& bigger) giants… saying He would be their fortress & deliverer. Don’t be afraid.

The little girl’s parents had just watched their child die. Jesus promised they would see her alive again. Don’t be afraid.

What I’m dwelling on is this: when God gives me a promise, my response will be to receive it, by faith. It’s not to look around at how IMPOSSIBLE it would be for God’s promise to come about. It’s not to revisit how inadequate I am in my own strength. It’s not to quiver in fear at what could be my impending doom. It is to believe. To declare in faith, “Yes, I’ll take it.” To resist the temptation to fear & to doubt God at His word.

Fear not. Don’t be afraid. The LORD God is with you!

Friends

This week at our church we’re continuing in our series, “Navigating Relationships” with this week’s focus being “Mutual Relationships.” As I’ve been studying for this topic, I keep coming back to an encouragement found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It reads:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, you up! But if there’s no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. The Message

This passage speaks of our need for close, trusting give/take relationships with people that will walk through life with us – in work & play, in times of celebration & mourning. People that will encourage us, help us, & ‘be there’ for us…. & then will allow us to do the same for them.

At times, this sort of mutuality has been a struggle for me – not because I didn’t have a dependable spouse or great friends that would stand with me – but rather because I lived a life of self-sufficiency. It felt ‘selfish’ to lean on people. Worse, it felt like I was not carrying my share of the weight of my life if I tried to bring others into the rough areas of my life.

Instead of leaning on others, I’d pray & seek God’s help – & He did help. But one day when I was praying, I felt God say, “I want to answer your prayers for help, support, & encouragement with PEOPLE.” Faces of friends flashed in my mind – & I recognized what God was talking about – these dear, trustworthy people were already there in my life as an untapped resource – they were people I wanted to support & walk through life with… & they were there to help pick me up when I fall. To be Christ’s ears, hands, & feet to me. I just needed to put aside fear of hurt, take captive the lying thoughts that would say, “You’re weak if you need people,” & be willing to risk. To ask for help.

I still wrestle with this self-sufficiency… but I’m much quicker to pray & then run to the friends who I know have my back, & who’s back I have as well. And as a result, life is much, much richer & much more enjoyable.

Thank you friends. I need you.

You didn’t let ME run!

“You didn’t let ME run, Dad.”

TheWeez’s comment took me by surprise. I had no context. “What do you mean Weez?”

“You sat up on the stage today after church, & there were like 100 little kids running crazy all over the church, & you just sat there smiling. And then later on, you pointed out that little kids run & make messes & are loud… & you’re okay with it, because they are also a great sign of life. But you didn’t let ME run!”

Hmmm. She was going back in the archives to the Olden Days. The days before Boys entered her world. Before self-consciousness had struck. Before there was anything else on her agenda for the day except getting where she wanted to go as fast as she could. And what she recalled was that when she was small, like the running mitey-mites that had filled the sanctuary today, I wouldn’t let her run. My daughter.

I remember THAT guy. Sometimes he feels like a completely different person than I was, but then I see that he has scars on his shoulders in the same places I do, & I can remember thinking what he was thinking, & knowing, KNOWING that I KNEW what was most important in life… & kids not running at church, especially my kids, was important. Sigh.

That guy. Uptight. Grumpy. On the edge of angry most of the time. Easily frustrated. Defensive. Insecure. Immature. Trying sooooo hard. Working harder. Faster. Longer. Wearing out. Breaking down. Bottled up. Hurting. Confused. Tired.

He was so hard to be around; I couldn’t stand him. Its even harder to come to grips with when I know that I know that THAT guy was me. He left marks on the psyches of those he loved the most, theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez. Among others.

What I don’t remember is when that guy left. It seems that he might have lingered, neither here nor there, for quite a while, until finally he was gone, no longer welcome.

“You didn’t let me run, Dad. I just wanted to run,” theWeez said, softer this time. “WHY? Why didn’t you?”

“I’m so sorry Weez. I thought I knew what I was doing, but looking back, I was silly, in the worst grownup kind of churchy silly that I could be. I’m so sorry…” My voice trailed off. My eyes reacted with vigor to the dust-storm that must have just appeared in the room; otherwise, why would my eyes be so clouded…?

“If I had it to do over again, sweetheart, I would let you run. And I would run with you.”

“You would?”

“Yep. I would.”

She thought for a moment… “Yeah, you probably would.” Big smile.

“You’re HIM!” & other fun stuff from the last week…

Thanksgiving afternoon, while theBean was working for theBux, I took theWeez & iDoey to the moving picture show. I happened to be wearing my Nevada polo; the special one that Opie gave to the PastyGangster for his birthday. It is the special one that I stealthily (& without remorse) took from his closet & owned by sheer will power. I wear that polo 2x/week, because I want to, and I can, and it makes it easy for me to decide what to wear when I don’t have theBean’s yay/nay sayer available. But I digress…

As we gave the nice lady taking tickets our stubs, she saw my shirt & said, “ohhhhh! You’re him.”

ME: “Hmmm. Who me? I’m who?”

LADY: “You’re the guy from the football team. The coach. The Nevada man.”

ME: “Uh, no. I’m not a football coach. I do have a Nevada polo, but that’s about it.”

LADY: “Oh, I know you people have to say such things in public, but I KNOW its you. You’re him.”

ME: “I’m not the football coach for Nevada. I promise.”

LADY: “You must be an assistant then. I can tell. You’re him!”

By this point, a line had formed behind me, drawing curiously (and uncomfortably I might add) close to hear just WHO the nice lady was talking to. TheWeez & iDoey were amused.

I just wanted to get my buttery popcorn & sit in the dark theater, eating to my hearts content. But the nice lady wasn’t going to let it go. So I said:

ME: “Ok. You’re right. You got me. I’m him.”

LADY: “I KNEW it! See (to everyone in the line) I KNEW it. It’s HIM!”

I thought that would be the end of it, but no…

LADY: “Soooo. Why did you kick that guy off the team?”

I knew she was talking about THIS STORY because I’d come across it earlier in the week. So I recapped what I’d read, and told her, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

My kids thought it was hilarious.


I got my remaining wisdom teeth removed on Monday, 11/21. When I was 16, I’d had the two from the left side of my mouth taken out, but time, $, and other things had kept me from getting the other two taken out. So, 24 years later, with many thanks to SBux insurance & God’s timely provision, I am less wise than I was before.

I have several stories from when I was under sedation… Perhaps I’ll share one sometime.

I remember vaguely, like it was a dream, that I talked during the procedure, but I don’t know what I said. Of course, I wondered if I had scandalized the very nice & sweet dental assistant due to the fact that my Oh So Powerful Thought & Word Filter was inoperative due to the amount & type of medication that I’d been given.

When I went into the office yesterday for my checkup, I asked her, wincingly, if I’d been untoward or off in my comments. She only smiled & said, ‘You like football. A lot. And I know more about the 49ers because of you than I ever wanted to know.” Dr. Pete asked, “You remember ANYTHING from the procedure?” And I said, “Nope.” And the two of them, Dr. & assistant, just smiled at me.

Great.


Over the last week, I’ve been pondering God’s promises to me & mine. This includes my marriage, my family, my friends, & my church family. Sometimes the circumstances of life threaten to make me afraid, make me doubt, make me worry… the accuser throws out his classic line, “Did God really say….?” and I’m driven to my knees & to God’s Word to remind myself that God’s promises WILL come about, not for my greatness, but for His. Not due to my goodness or worthiness, but because of His. He delights in blessing & caring for His kids, & I am one of them. And I am holding on to what I know to be true. No matter what.

So say we all.

ACTS, working out, & other musings…

This year, I’ve probably read through the Book of Acts at least 10 times for “me,” & another 10 times for a chapter-by-chapter blog series. Now, I’m going through it again, this time in ‘study mode’ for the ‘story by story’ series at Hillside. So, this morning I was reviewing my notes for tomorrow’s speech from Acts 8:3-25, & a couple of elements from Philip’s story hit me fresh. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I’ve read a passage, or how familiar it is to me, the Holy Spirit brings life to it, & shines a bright light onto areas I’d never seen, noticed or considered before.

Philip (& the other believers) were on the run from the wave of persecution that arose in the wake of Stephen’s martyrdom. All but the apostles had left Jerusalem & headed throughout the region of Judea, & even to Samaria… in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words from Acts 1:8. I guess the “Jerusalem, Judea, & Samaria” passages are so familiar that I never really considered that the very thing that drove the disciples out of Jerusalem (persecution & threat of death) led to the gospel message being spread everywhere they went, going places that they’d never even considered going before.

God didn’t CAUSE the persecution as a way of shaking up His people; rather, its an example of one way that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him & are called according to His purpose (ala Romans 8:28.) There was no master plan the disciples followed – they were on the run. And in the middle of their flight, their faith provided an anchor, a safe place, a point of encouragement to keep them going.

It gives me great hope to know that our faith is made for times EXACTLY like that – times of uncertainty, danger, threat, fear, illness, when the darkness is closing in. At those times, we find that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, provides for our every need. Sustains, strengthens, & gives us life. Love it.


Lately, I’ve got a new workout partner: theWeez. Its been fun hitting the gym together & getting to teach her about different exercises, free-weights vs. ‘the machines,’ & of course, kettle-bells. Today, she told me that she thinks that she’d like to get into MMA. As in mixed-martial arts. As in cage fighting.

Sigh. This should be interesting.

All I know, is I’m loving our time together.


It’s official. ThePasty Gangster is on his way to Knoxville, Tennessee. Countdown: 32 days.


I am an uncle. Again. Moe & Jen took baby TyWill home from the hospital last night, so 2 year old TBone has a little brother. I love that my brothers’ have little kids & that I have big ones. Family.


At no point in my life have I ever felt the need to try to plant flowers or plants in the ground, to nurture, water, & talk to them.

Until now. For some reason, I have a vested interest in seeing the 5 grassy willow-y plants in the backyard stay alive. I speak to them. Water them multiple times a day. Command them to survive in the spite of Nevada’s weather & my feeble attempts at caring for them. If they last, I may even post a picture.

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.

thinking on one of Christ’s promises, & other musings…

What would you say, what testimony would you share, what message would you bring if your life was on the line?

Paul’s was.

The trouble and opposition that had followed Paul from place to place on his missionary journeys came to a head upon his arrival in Jerusalem. It was assumed, wrongly, that Paul had taken a Gentile into the temple. Chaos ensued. Paul was attacked, beaten, and the crowds tried to tear him to pieces. Fortunately, Roman soldiers stepped in and saved his life – for the time being – and gave him an opportunity to speak. And speak he did:

• To a hostile crowd that wanted to kill him, and saw this as a prime opportunity to do so.
• To a Roman tribunal that trying to figure out WHO Paul the rabble-rouser was.
• To the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious council), which was looking, to build a legal case against him so he could be put to death.

How did he do it?

Paul was living in the grace of the promise that Christ gave His disciples:

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. Luke 12:11,12 ESV

The Holy Spirit will teach you what to say.

Christ’s promise.

You’ve filled your heart and mind with God’s Word. You’ve looked to put into practice and obey the LORD in every area of life. If (& when) you’re put on the spot, even hot, hot spots, don’t worry. Because the Holy Spirit was given to indwell us for just such moments, and fills not only our mouth with words, but our heart with courage and boldness.

So don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Instead, give thanks that what we say at that moment of crisis (or in the grocery line) is something that WILL BE given to us at the appropriate time by the One who will never leave, forsake, or abandon us.

thoughts about Paul’s ‘mission from God,’ suffering, perseverance, & other musings…

Acts 21 tells of Paul’s intent to head to Jerusalem, and also the fact that he received several prophetic words and pictures declaring, “If you go to Jerusalem, you will be thrown into prison.”

I never understood why, after hearing these multiple warnings from the Holy Spirit of the imprisonment, persecution and suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem, Paul still purposed to go to Jerusalem. I even tried to come up with possible reasons WHY he might be so intent to finish this journey; none of the reasons made sense, especially considering the man the Apostle Paul was. So I asked the LORD, “What would make a man choose this path and persist in the face of what looks like preemptive warnings of danger and trouble from the Spirit?”

Immediately, an earlier portion of Paul’s story flashed into my mind, from the time right around his conversion (Acts 9:10-19.) From the beginning, God revealed that He had made Paul His “chosen instrument to testify of Christ and spread the gospel, before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” And one of the first things revealed to Paul was how much he would suffer for the sake of the Name of the LORD.

Aha! I get it. Paul was on a mission from God.

The single-minded purpose to get to Jerusalem wasn’t an exercise of stubbornness on Paul’s part – he simply understood that this was part of the living out of the mission given to him by the LORD years before. The fact that his obedience and persistence could (and would) result in imprisonment and suffering were almost an afterthought; the mission, and the spread of the gospel, were preeminent.

I think that we might have an underlying assumption that suffering is to be avoided at all costs, probably because suffering hurts. Digging deeper, we may have an unscriptural ‘karma-like’ belief about good and bad happening in our lives, e.g. if we’re doing what God wants us to do, life will be good, and if not, then that’s when the bad stuff happens.

Jesus told His disciples, “The servant isn’t greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20) If I’m living a life of obedience to the LORD, living for eternity and not just for comfort in the here and now, I will suffer. The good news is that any “present sufferings won’t even compare to the glory that will be revealed” in, through, and around us in Christ Jesus and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18.)

Paul was sure about one thing – God had given him a mission, and therefore, whatever it took to complete the mission, he knew that God would provide it.

I pray for such a faith to grow in my heart and mind, and for that kind of faithful perseverance to the calling and mission that God has placed in front of me. LORD, help me live life with eternity and Your values firmly in sight, and with a single-minded focus on my mission.

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

Man Night, home, & other musings…

Sitting in the coolness of my office with a fan blowing on me drinking an iced-coffee. All to try to avoid the heat of the day, the heat that has been turned up to “11.” Thinking over the soon-to-be-happenings of Man Night. Proverbs 27, especially verse 17.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another

Got me thinking about the ‘act’ of sharpening… & how in order for a tool (like an axe, a knife, or a sword – c’mon, it’s Man Night, so I’m thinking of wielding Manly tools) to be sharpened, one has to strike the item to be sharpened, skillfully, in just the right places with an item or implement that is stronger & harder than the item to be sharpened.

So how does ‘iron sharpen iron?’ One way for this to work is for the ‘sharpening iron’ to have been tempered – or put through a process of controlled reheating to harden & strengthen the implement. Interesting….

I wonder how this ‘tempering’ translates to people, to me. What does the heating process do? I don’t think of getting heated to red-hotness being something that is desirable.

But the process makes the forever-changed implement useful. To shape other implements. Hmm.


Regret raises her head occasionally, usually at times where I’m most pensive & introspective. Kinda like when I’m doing the deep cleaning of a room at home… opening up ALL the drawers, going through the corners of the closets, making sure the lights are on in order to see just what is in there… & then I discover a Mess. A big Mess that I distinctly remember thinking that I’d eventually get around to cleaning up. A big Mess that was forgotten, due to the forgetfulness caused by falling into routine busyness. A big Mess that begs to be addressed. But it’s such a big Mess. The only way to deal with the Mess is to put on the special gloves & head into it. A little bit at a time.

Even if it hurts.


Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home. Erwin Raphael McManus – Soul Cravings – Entry 8

That resonates with me – I think its because when I think about home, I don’t think about a place. Granted, I live in Sparks, Nevada, & have been a resident of Northern Nevada within 35 miles of my current home, all of my life. But instead of Sparks, I think of people. Faces flash through my minds eye. People that are intimately associated with being ‘home.’ Home is people, & being in a place without those people would be unbearable. No matter how ‘cool,’ elegant, spacious, or desirable that place is.

I see that I have changed. I’m changing.. Will continue to change. At one point in the not so distant past, home was being in my Cave. The place where I could be by myself & get lost in a book, a TV show, or a good movie. Alone. Where I didn’t have to be WITH people. Looking back, I can see times where even in the presence of people I’d try to be apart from them, to be by myself, to isolate & withdraw in the name of my (very real,) introversion. I regret that. The lost opportunities to discover “home” with others. With myself. Where I’d been so focused on my own discomfort that often comes being around people that I missed the joy & wonder of being WITH people.

A hard thought: in not being WITH people, I missed out on things that God wanted to do in & around me THROUGH people.

I don’t want to ‘miss’ God & ‘miss’ others in the name of a misguided self-sufficiency. Fear has stolen enough from me: fear of rejection. Inadequacy. Pain. Being unloved & unlovable. Of making a mess. Saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing. (like the lyrics from REM’s “Losing My Religion” “oh no, I’ve said too much; I haven’t said enough…” ) How many things, friendships, experiences I missed out on because of fear. Knowing that if I couldn’t do it perfect, I wouldn’t try it at all.

Heavy sigh.


So I’m thankful for the process & act of redemption. That as long as its still called today, its never too late for things lost to be regained, restored, healed, & transformed.