Archive for the 'Characteristics of Believers' Category

“Evangelical Christians”

I recently saw a post on Facebook about “those Evangelical Christians in Washington, DC.”  I started to reply, but I ultimately erased it. Still, the whole thing bothered me. That’s because more and more I hear this phrase – “Evangelical Christians” – used liberally on all media, and it’s never used in any kind of a good way. The more I think about it, the more I’m disappointed and distressed by the current use of both the words “Evangelical” and “Christian.” So, I want to address each term separately, but then together to indicate how I feel.

I became disillusioned with the term “Christian” many years ago as I noticed how often people would utter it with disgust. At the time, I had to admit that this particular word came with a lot of baggage. Centuries of “Christian” elitism, laws crafted by Christians dictating the acceptable religions of the day, the Crusades, Manifest Destiny, and other atrocities or otherwise immoral acts perpetrated by groups claiming to be Christians tend to cause a repulsive reaction to a word that people think sums things up. My husband grew up in a neighborhood in which his famous neighbor – a self-proclaimed Christian – used to fly flags and banners saying, “God Hates Fags.” You’ve probably heard of him, and there wasn’t an ounce of love inside of him. Yet, everything he did was done in the name of Christianity.

By the way, the term “Christian” (from Christianos – followers of Christ) appears to have been coined fairly early on as a way to designate this new group and differentiate them from other Jews. It’s first seen in the Acts, and gradually replaced what the Christians themselves preferred to be called, which was “saints,” “brethren” or “disciples.” One researcher has noted that the infrequency of the term “Christian” in the New Testament indicates its non-use then, and has surmised that because the word “Christos” and its ties to anointing meant little to outsiders, those outsiders, instead, settled on calling these people descriptors based on the word “Chrestos,” which meant virtuous, good, or moral, and seemed to be an apt description for the people who so often showed a different sort of moralistic, sanctified behavior. His theory is that as the term Chrestos caught on, often with some scorn and perhaps even as a pun, the followers of Christ felt pressured to adopt and emphasize a more accurate word to reflect who they were and who they were following. This should not take away from the fact that Christians, as a group, have been vilified, often due to the message, but just as often through their own behavior. It also means that we aren’t necessarily wedded to the word.

And the baggage continues to pile up today. I’ve seen my share of “Christians” in the public eye not appearing to live according to the words of the Bible. Indeed, we seemed to have reached a fever pitch with this stuff in the last few decades with so many televangelists falling due to their immoral, hypocritical, and often criminal behavior. At its very basic level, a “Christian” should be one who allows the Holy Spirit to tell them when they’ve done something wrong, willingly asks for forgiveness, and then makes serious amends for his or her mistakes. But there have been so many “Christians” that don’t even appear to follow the general thrust or themes of the Bible that I have discarded the name altogether. In my heart, I know that most Christians are not immoral hypocrites, but even a small percentage of people can do a great deal of damage to a label over hundreds of years. Accordingly, while I’m not ashamed of being a Christian, I tell people outwardly that I’m a “follower of Jesus” or a “follower of Christ.”

And by doing so, I’m not doing anything that Jesus might not also have done. When Jesus was with us in the flesh, he continually denounced the hypocrisy of those in the church. Dr. Stanley D. Toussaint of the Dallas Theological Seminary often said that, “The Lord’s strongest words of invective were not against murderers or thieves or sexually immoral people. His strongest words of invective were against hypocrites.” To Dr. Toussaint, hypocrisy is a sin that affects every single person today, but also a sin that is “particularly loathsome to God.” And yet, despite the clear theme (see, e.g., Matt: 23) we see so much hypocrisy today that we take it for granted. In politics, we’ve grown to expect it.

The bottom line is that lots and lots of people have used (and still use) the term “Christian” to describe themselves, and yet they act in overtly non-biblical ways. This, in turn, causes people to stop even seeking God. And stopping someone from seeking God has got to be one of the worst possible things you can do to someone on this Earth.

In addition to “Christian,” the word “Evangelical” is rapidly evolving into a term having at least the same amount of baggage. And, similarly, I find I need to distance myself from what would ordinarily be – and used to be – a great descriptive word.

According to Websters, the definition of “evangelical” is “of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels.” I once visited the National Association of Evangelical’s website and, in addition to other statements of belief, saw that it said evangelicals are “serious” about the Bible. Unfortunately, I increasingly see people who claim to be evangelicals who are decidedly not serious about the Bible. In fact, and quite unfortunately for me, I consider myself to be an evangelical and so I see lots of social media posts from other so-called evangelicals. And lots of times those posts really upset me. For example, how – and, I’m really serious about this – how in the world can an evangelical post something about God one minute and then turn around and post something showing hatred, judgment, or scorn on someone the next? I actually saw someone post a picture of Jesus and something about love, followed within minutes by a post wanting to kill all “liberal democrats.”

I suppose you can see where this is going. The term “Christian” is a goner for me. It’s got too much baggage and suffers from extreme hypocrisy. I choose the term “follower of Jesus,” because at least then it’s a more direct line toward holding up my behavior to the ultimate moral model. The word “evangelical,” on the other hand, doesn’t have centuries of problems, but it has become a gigantic problem today with so-called evangelicals – people proclaiming to be serious about the Bible – showing so much hypocrisy and politicization that the term itself is almost uniformly uttered with scorn. Again, like Christian hypocrites, evangelical hypocrites do more to harm the Kingdom of God than anything else of which I can think. How do you stop a child from wondering about God and perhaps beginning a search toward finding God? The best way (likely devised by Satan himself) is to show him or her various vocal “Christians” or “Evangelicals” who simply do not follow the Bible. Show the child an “evangelical Christian” who hates people. That’ll do it. I think God hates hypocrisy so much because it keeps people from even beginning the journey that might lead to his Kingdom.

Today, we unfortunately hear the two words together: “Evangelical Christian.” Two perfectly good words – indeed, words that used to fully describe me – ruined by hypocrisy and politics. Whenever you hear them together you can hear the scorn and disgust. And, you can almost assuredly envision some child somewhere saying, “Well, whoever they are, I’m not going to be like them when I grow up.”

Of course the world hates “Christians.” Of course it hates “evangelicals.” Who wouldn’t, given some of the things I’ve seen? But being scorned for hypocrisy is a whole lot different than being scorned for righteousness. Personally, I hate the fact that I can’t even use these two words anymore. Moreover, the world doesn’t hate these labels because all Christians and evangelicals are bad. Nope, the people of the world simply do what is entirely human to do, which is to watch those who identify with the labels most vocally as they behave in a decidedly un-Biblical manner, and then brush off the whole lot. And I don’t blame them. As a one-time evangelical Christian, I’m just sorry about the whole thing.

So, what do we do? Well, in my case I tell people I’m a follower of Jesus and that I have a Biblical worldview. But I do more than that. I now go out of my way to say, “Please realize that I am nothing like those people who claim to be evangelical Christians but who demonstrate hatred, judgment and immorality.  If my introduction to people were in the form of a document, it means that I’ve added a paragraph – an aside – to try to distance myself from a group that I call “political Christians,” a group that, sadly, keeps people from God because it has pushed a world agenda ahead of God. If it weren’t so sad, it would be ironically funny – evangelical Christians, the group who would tell you (these days quite vocally and with some amount of political fervor) that they’re only trying to bring more people to Christ – are actually driving people away from Christ. More and more each day.

Still, there’s always hope for the world and even hope for the most hypocritical and politicized members of our churches. But it means taking a hard look at how far we might have moved away from God. If we hear someone talk about God, and the first thing we think about is the Supreme Court, then we should realize that we need to get back to basics. God is real. Satan is real. God hates hypocrisy. Satan will try to turn you into a hypocrite. It’s a battle for good and evil that we’re losing, and in losing we’re actually dissuading other people from seeking God. And, by the way, if people hear this warning and don’t heed  it, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they’re called to account for willingly turning people away from God for some short-term, often political but always worldly, gain.

Now, of course, hated of the followers of Christ has been foretold, and people will occasionally try to justify their unbiblical actions by claiming that the public’s scorn is just a part of the overall persecution of Christians predicted in the Bible. Even Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved,” and “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”  (Mark 13:13; Luke 6:22). But – and this is really big – Jesus did not mean, “They’ll hate you when say you follow me but act in a completely opposite, worldly manner.” No, he meant “they’ll hate you for doing exactly what I have told you to do, acting exactly as I have told you to act. And I told you to love God and love others as yourself.”

There will be some who, on their last day, will say, “But, Lord, I’ve been a Christian all of my life. In fact, I’m an Evangelical Christian.” And on that day, the words of Scripture will truly come true, and just has he said he would, Jesus will reply, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

“I never knew you.” (Matt 7:22-23).

Seek God. Follow Christ. Read the Word. Remember the commands. Focus on love for God and others.

Your Spiritual Footprint

Some time ago, I was studying the Word and I was distressed over our climate and how we seem to be gradually destroying our environment. In particular, I was thinking about those articles that talk about reducing your carbon footprint to help out the environment. Now, I try to be a good citizen and neighbor and I’m constantly trying out more energy-efficient and earth-preserving things, like fancy light bulbs (and solar power for the house, which we have), recycling, growing food, pesticide-free gardening to help the bees, but it all seems overwhelming. I mean, after all, who am I but just one person? Do I really make a difference?

Then I heard the Lord say, “Okay, I get what you’re thinking about your carbon footprint, but what about your spiritual footprint? What are you sowing for others in our kingdom? What are you doing to spread my love and my word?”

This got me thinking hard about the term “spiritual footprint”? If our actions, in this world, create a physical “carbon footprint,” doesn’t it make sense that our actions, thoughts, behaviors in the world also create a “spiritual footprint?” More importantly, our spiritual footprint affects not only the supernatural aspect of things, it can also definitely affect how you continue to participate in the natural world. Think about it, spirituality is largely invisible and so is the supernatural world, and so, of course, what we do spiritually is going to have some effect there. But we also see the manifestations in our physical world of things we do in and for the spiritual world. In fact, there’s a huge overlap. For instance, prayer is activated in the physical world and the spiritual world at the same time when we pray out loud or silently, but then the answer to prayer, which might be immediate in the supernatural, becomes part of our natural world manifestation of the whole act. Thus, our spiritual footprint is affected in both realms.

We create our spiritual footprint by everything we do in the world, — whom we touch, whom we are kind to, how we act toward all of God’s people (saved and unsaved), how we share the pearls of wisdom given to us by God, whether we act selflessly instead of selfishly. In fact, every seemingly insignificant thing can affect your spiritual footprint. Moreover, each of those things can have enormously good or devastatingly bad consequences. By the way, watch out for the bad stuff – it’s like throwing a tiny cigarette butt out of a car window that can’t even be seen from the road, but that leads to an enormous forest fire. Every tiny, seemingly insignificant action forms at least a part of our spiritual footprint. Because these actions can be positive or negative, it’s up to us to constantly see what we’re doing in the natural world and thinking about ramifications in the spiritual world.

And sometimes it’s not the action itself, but the motivation behind it. I might give to the homeless, but if my motivation is one of glorifying myself, then I’ve messed up my spiritual footprint even though I’ve done something that the world might say or think is good.

Lately I’ve been taking an inventory to write down what I’ve done for others or when I’ve shown or talked about God to others, along with my motivations. Also, I’ve been writing down the instances when I can remember being unbecoming of a follower of Jesus. I try to do it daily, and then I ask, “Which list is bigger?” When I have things on the negative side – the list messing up my spiritual footprint – I ask the Lord to forgive me and to bless anyone on that list whom I have harmed. Then I tear it up. That’s how I remind myself of God’s forgiveness, which is a reminder of God forgetting our sins as an act of grace.

One day we’ll meet the Father and we’ll become instantly aware of the entirety of our spiritual footprints. Let’s work together to make sure they’re the kinds of footprints that reflect our belief in God and our following of Jesus Christ.

What Does Your Lake Look like?

Wow, there’s so much happening in the U.S. and the world these days it is hard not to succumb to the prevalent negative mood and attitude. But this week my Pastor talked about how we need to silence the noise. He said we need to get into a quiet place to detox from the things that are polluting our minds and hearts with the natural world view and to obscure our Christian world view. I was pleased that he reminded me that words themselves have spirits behind them that are either good or evil and that promote life or death, health or illness. Watching the words you allow into your brain is key.

So, as an exercise, think about going to a crystal-clear lake in which you want to take a swim. You can see to the bottom and the water is blue and clear and smells fresh. This embodies an environment of kind, loving, healthy words circulating in our atmosphere. Then think about going to a lake that is polluted, putrid smelling, filthy, with scum floating on the top and dead fish washing up on the shoreline. This is a lake of hatred, unhealthy words. Is this the kind of lake in which you want to swim? Well, if you surround yourself with hate, ugly talk, negative thoughts, misinformation, and an overall lack of love, you may as well be swimming in exactly this sort of scum.

I don’t know about you, but I want the clear, beautiful, fresh smelling lake as my environment, and so I’m making a constant choice to keep my lake (home/environment) clean and clear. I admit, though, that sometimes I have to take a net out and scoop out some leaves or the occasional dead fish, but overall, I want to keep my environment welcoming and loving. I want the kind of environment that glorifies my Lord and makes Him smile and proud of me as His child.

Take a look at your individual lake – the environment in which you swim each day. Close your eyes and try to notice how you feel when you envision your lake. Do you feel anger? Do you have vengeful, ugly thoughts or feelings about a person or topic? Do you feel depressed and hopeless? If yes, your lake might need a good scrubbing.

If so, take a break from social media and the news and pick up your Bible. Look up the words “blessing” or “hope” in the back and read the scriptures it references. Then remember who you are (a child of God, a saint) and how much our Lord loves you. I pray that all of us who follow Christ as our example will have clear, clean lakes. If enough of us do, then others will want to be around us and use us as an example. Together, we can make a real difference.

You already know that love conquers everything. As Philippians 4:8, encourages us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” That passage is especially relevant today, and if you think about and focus on those more positive things, your lake in life – the place where you do all your spiritual swimming – will be a clear one.

Am I Bitter?

This past week I’ve heard some teachings on bitterness and the peril in which we place ourselves when we harbor it, feed it, and participate in sharing it with others. As you may know, I always ask the Lord for confirmation on what to share with others, and this one has come up many, many times over the past few weeks.

I have to admit that the first teaching I heard really convicted me because I realized I was doing all three things that I mentioned above – harboring, feeding and participating or sharing bitterness. If I can compare it to something, I would compare bitterness to a spiritual yeast dough. If you give it enough time and the right circumstances it will completely take over the bowl of your soul. I’ve also lately been increasingly distressed by the hateful attitudes, selfishness, and overt lack of concern for others, especially during this time of pandemic. I’ve mentioned more than once for us to put aside our political leanings and to love each other as the beautiful beings our God created and yet, I found myself getting worked up and feeling bitter over what people are saying (political and otherwise), especially when those people claim to be “Christian” brethren when what they’re sharing seems anything but something Jesus would have us share.

For those of you who might not know, I’m considered a charismatic Christian and I have a fabulous Pastor who only moves on the word/command/prompting of God. Lately he’s talked in several sermons and coffee talks about how and what are we doing to keep our Spiritual wellbeing guarded, nurtured, and healthy. He has mentioned several times for us to step out of the fray of world of negative politics, he said-she said bickering, conspiracy theories, social media, etc., as an easy method for managing our mental wellbeing. He’s encouraged us to focus on using this quarantine time wisely – to learn more about God and to press into getting to really know Him better.

It wasn’t until I found myself cursing out loud when talking about the news of the day (if you knew me, you’d think that pretty crazy) that I knew something wasn’t right with my soul. You know what the Bible says: the things that come out of the of mouth come from the heart, and out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak. (Matt 15:18 and Luke 6:45). So, you can imagine that if I heard myself cursing out loud, I must have some pretty toxic overflow going on. About the same time, I heard a teaching on bitterness and, as I listened, I thought, “Hmmmmm… I might have a real issue here.”

That’s when it hit me. The instructor said that when we hear about someone/something and the first thing that comes to our minds is something negative or unlovely, it’s a sign that we need to deal with bitterness. I was convicted. Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” So, it’s pretty clear that outright bitterness must be suppressed. And yet, as followers of Christ, there are times when what we hear sparks righteous outrage that causes us to seek or administer correction. That’s the dilemma we face. I think the whole thing is settled by what you allow into your brain to begin with.

First, recognize how delicate and yet important the line can be between lashing out in bitterness and responding or even correcting with love. On the one hand, correcting is to be done out of love and encouragement. Bitterness, on the other hand, is a root that can destroy people, families, and even whole nations. Did you know that we actually defile ourselves and others by carrying it around? That’s because it is tied not to love, but to hatred. Because of this, we are advised in Hebrews 12:14-15 to pursue peace with all people and to be holy because without holiness no one will see the Lord. It says to see to it that we do not fall short of the grace of God to be sure that “no bitter root grows up” to cause trouble and defile many. These verses go on to remind us of the bitterness of Esau who sold his inheritance rights for a meal and then regretted it and wanted it back. Bitterness. Regret. They’re connected, and they can divide your family, too. So, we should constantly ask ourselves, “Is this thing I want to say out of love or something else.” Just asking that question will help rid us of bitterness.

Moreover, did you know that bitterness is treated like an open door for the enemy to lay siege to us or worse yet, for witchcraft? Why? Because bitterness, which turns people away from God, is sinful. Bitterness rarely acts alone, and often couples itself with judgment, jealousy/envy, unrighteous anger and finally, perhaps the worst yet, pride or self-seeking. If you’ve read the Bible, you’ve definitely heard about pride, as it’s mentioned some dozen times (and they’re always biggies) and implied about four dozen more, and never in a good way. We’ve at least heard that it triggers destruction (see Prov 16:18), and is usually mentioned in connection with judgement of ether Israel or Israel’s enemies. At its core, though, pride means relying on yourself and not relying on God. It’s a way of saying, “I know better,” at least when it comes to the folks that might find their way into your bitterness root camp. So, being prideful has to go if we want to be truly open to the fullness of the blessings and relationship with God. In short, consciously getting rid of pride will help rid us of bitterness.

I mentioned judgment, and that’s another thing that bitterness causes us to do. When we get so angry (like I was) at people that we start to judge them on their spirituality, their integrity, mental capacities/capabilities, that’s never a good thing. Empathy is a good helper when it comes to being non-judgmental. Think about something you’ve done, and then think about all the reasons for why you did it. I’ll bet there are plenty, and nobody else really knows what they are. Well, that’s the way we need to act around others. My husband said he used to get pretty peeved about things that an old friend of his would say, and then he learned that his old friend lost his only son that year to cancer. I think that’s why God makes it pretty simple to actually do the work of Jesus. It really only boils down to a few things, which include loving others and not judging them (for example, see Matthew 7:1-2). Once again, in short, consciously getting rid of any judgmental attitude will help rid us of bitterness.

And let’s not forget unforgiveness. Bitterness and unforgiveness go hand in hand, and yet forgiving others is a hallmark of the Christian faith. Indeed, the Lord’s prayer itself mentions it, and Jesus, when further explaining it, even says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6: 14-15). This may seem harsh to outsiders, but we followers of Christ understand what we call “the holiness of God,” which is a righteousness that is so extreme that it simply doesn’t allow sin in its presence. When we say God is just, we mean that he is the maximally great expression of justice – perfect justice – and you simply don’t allow anything sinful around that. Does it mean you’re not saved? Absolutely not, but unresolved sin like unforgiveness might be closing your communication to the Holy Spirit and thus to certain blessings; you know, like losing a signal from the supernatural radio. In short, forgiveness of the sort urged by Jesus will help rid us of bitterness.

Finally, Proverbs 10:18 says that whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. So, I know I need to stop posting things (spreading slander) on Facebook or other places that further my fleshly/worldly cause or justify my political position. I know that I need to remove myself from the fray of the deceit, lies, and overall time-wasting that goes on with that sort of stuff. I know that because it all leads to bitterness.
Now here’s the tough part. Sometimes you absolutely must – with a sense of righteous desire correct the church on something that really matters – say something that someone else might tell you reeks of bitterness. For example, I think some people looked at my last blog and thought “bitterness” simply because likely saw the word “Trump” at the very beginning and thus skipped through it. But my last blog wasn’t done from hatred or bitterness. It was done from love, and a sense that people in the church were propping up idols at the expense of God. It was warning about idol worship in all its forms, with an example that just happens to be in the news every day.

Like I said, it’s tough, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t cross that line between righteous correction and bitter rebuke.

First, stick to the Word. If you’re addressing action that is clearly unbiblical, then you’re on the right track. Along those lines, research it to determine Truth. Again, the Bible will help you immensely in this effort; for example, I didn’t have to go far to see the negative aspects of idol worship. Then try to make sure that whatever correction you give is rooted in love, encouragement, and exhortation. That’s a tall order (which I don’t always do so well), and writing stuff down automatically means that some people will likely take it the wrong way. But we must do our best. Finally, ask God what should be said. If you keep getting the same answer, then you better say it (or pray it; a lot of the time, you can just intercede through prayer rather than actually confront anyone). Sometimes God has you say stuff that just has to be said, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But whatever you say or do, try to visualize Jesus saying or doing it. Jesus – the one person who, if it were in him, could rightfully express the most bitterness – never did, going so far as to ask forgiveness for those who put him to death. If we all develop our empathy, we’re going to start seeing people the way God sees them, and that will automatically make us less bitter.

Ok, now what? I admit that I’ve lapsed into bitterness lately. I’m ashamed that I’ve allowed unwholesome things to take up time and space in my brain. I’m not happy that I was reading everything going on regarding the political situation and the virus, all of which was triggering deep, negative thoughts, including anger toward people I barely knew.

So, I repent of all that. I repent of the bitterness that I allowed to defile my soul. I repent for feeding the agendas of the world and basically repeating the ugly talk that is so prevalent in our world. I repent for showing pride by thinking that I knew what was really happening to someone and what was truly in a persons’ heart. I repent for being unforgiving. Finally, I repent for judging people and I now ask for every negative, unwholesome word that I have spoken against/about people to be taken back and removed from them. I ask for God’s abundant wisdom, mercy, and blessings to be bestowed to those people in place of anything sent their way by me with bitterness as its root. I also pray for all people to know our Lord and accept the free gift of salvation so they can experience the peace that I am re-claiming as well as the love of the one True Living God.

So, Saints, let’s check our hearts, and start paying close attention to our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s ask the Lord to reveal any root of bitterness, any related hangers-on (judgment, selfishness, unforgiveness, pride), and any strongholds put in place for bitterness we may have shown in the past. Let’s ask Him to remove that root and instead replace it with mercy, love, humility, and forgiveness. Finally, let’s thank God in faith for doing all these things that we know he will do whenever we humbly seek His guidance.

Fear or Faith?

I’ve watched the news reports on the Coronavirus over the past several weeks, and I’ve watched the fear growing in our communities and the world. I think it’s great that we have highly educated, highly intelligent people at the World Health Organization and our own Center for Disease Control working on containment and a cure. It’s also great that there are so many resources out on the Internet giving us information about how to prevent getting it ourselves. But I don’t see very much Spiritual information to keep us healthy, so let’s explore that in this blog titled, “Fear and Faith.”

Okay, at its most basic level, faith is complete trust, belief, or confidence. Fear, on the other hand, is the emotion caused when you think something is dangerous. Theoretically, you could have complete faith in something really bad, such as the possibility that a virus will attack you, and then it would be compatible with fear. But when I talk about faith, I’m talking about faith in God. And when I talk about faith in God, then I just don’t think we can operate out of faith and fear at the same time. That’d be like saying that it’s day and night at the same time (it just doesn’t happen, and don’t be trying to argue about eclipses and whatnot). Trust in God means that we fear nothing except being apart from God.

Fear

While God certainly created the emotion of fear, it’s used most often as a tool of the enemy to distract our focus from our worship of our Lord. I lump ordinary worry into this toolbox, too, because fearfulness causes us to worry about what might happen. Once I read where someone said that FEAR means, “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and that’s a pretty good way to look at it. Usually, once we’ve had time to reflect, we can see that what we feared is actually false. But for some reason, we have a tendency to at least initially believe and fear the false evidence. God knows this, which is why In the Bible, virtually every time an angel of the Lord appears to someone (like when the angel appeared to Mary) the first thing the angel says is “do not be afraid.” God knows how powerful fear can be if it’s not used for its proper purpose, and so He wants us to keep it in perspective.

There are several verses in scripture telling us not to fear. Most of us have heard the familiar 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.” Similarly, Psalm 46:1-2 states, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 91:4-5 states that with trust in God, “you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Isaiah 41:10 states not to fear simply because God is with us, and in Romans 8:15, Paul writes that as believers we didn’t receive a spirit that makes us “slaves” to fear.

The Bible speaks of the “fear of the Lord,” but don’t take that the wrong way. As Pope Francis correctly stated, “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us,…[It] is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace.” It’s a reverential respect for our Lord and a fear of displeasing Him so that we strive to walk more intentionally in obedience and repentance.

Faith

Like fear, the Bible has a lot to say about faith and belief – with hundreds of references to both terms. By the way, as a rule of thumb in the Bible (and in life), if something is important enough to mention more than a few times in must be really important. That’s certainly true of faith and belief.

Our entire relationship with our Lord is birthed out of faith and belief and grows from these foundations. If the enemy wants to get us off track, all he really needs to do is to plant a bit of fear, doubt, or unbelief, and that automatically starts to erode our faith. He did it in the garden with Eve when he said, “You will not surely die.” Just a little bit of doubt, and suddenly everything changes. Fear is especially potent because it’s such a strong emotion. “Sure, I believe in God,” one might say, “but I’m really afraid that I might lose my job (or house, or health).” That sentence, and others exactly like it, requires a “but” in the middle of it simply because deep down we know that the two things – fear and faith – are foundationally incompatible.

So, how do we combat fear? Through our recognition of faith. And there are lots of ways to do that. I know from personal experience that the only way I can have a measure of peace in this tumultuous world is to constantly feed my faith through the Word of God. I’m routinely assaulted by outside influences, so I have to remind myself of God’s Word, and I have to be in the Word daily. Reading the Bible strengthens my faith, just as playing a lot of video games might strengthen my thumbs. It’s just a natural byproduct of the action.

But there are other ways to recognize and build faith. My husband spends a lot of time looking up answers to thorny theological/philosophical questions. The more he knows, he says, the stronger his faith becomes. You don’t have to start with such complex topics, though; you can build your faith intellectually by reading other authors’ books, articles, and blogs about faith or their stories of how they built their faith. Other, more “spirit walking” ways include prayer, meditating on the attributes of God, and talking with other followers of Jesus. That fact is – as I wrote before in my book – the more you go looking for God, the more you’ll see God at work. And seeing God at work automatically increases your faith. These days, I look at a car driving down the street and marvel at God’s creation.

Paul talks about faith being a shield (Eph. 6:14) that can deflect all of the arrows of satan, so it’s defensive in the sense that it blocks the lies and fear thrown at us daily to take us out of alignment with God. But faith can also be offensive, giving us the foundation to confidently wield the sword of the Word and spirit-filled prayer. That’s why Jesus said if we have faith even as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) It’s faith that heals, faith that raises the dead, and faith that protects.

And that’s why our faith in God should cause us to look at this virus – or any virus – differently. Remember, saints, that although we are in the world, we are not of the world, and we are indwelled with the Spirit of the God who created the universe. So, bottom line, is that our faith should erase any fear of disease. Now here’s the hard part: that doesn’t mean that we won’t get a disease. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t die from a disease. It means that we shouldn’t fear it.

Throughout my book, I talk about understanding the supernatural world, but not forgetting to do the natural world things. So, yes, wash your hands! Cover your cough! Don’t sneeze on your friend! Sure, go ahead and buy supplies – you ought to do this anyway, by the way – and try to limit your exposure to places and things that can give you an illness. Do all this “world” stuff. But don’t worry, because your life in this world is only a prelude to the eternal.

Last week our pastor said that he had zero fear of the coronavirus, simply because if he got it, he’d either come through it on this side, surrounded by nurses giving credit to doctors and drugs, or the other side, surrounded by the angels of heaven singing praises to God. Either way, fear simply shouldn’t enter into it.

Faith Not Fear

This isn’t the first big virus, and it won’t be the last. And yes, one day it will be this or something else that takes you home. My personal belief is that God keeps us alive so long as we are completing our calling – the thing that God wanted us to do to grow the Kingdom. I call this a sort-of “spiritual immunity,” and it keeps me constantly working, making sure that when I do get called home I haven’t been called because I gave up. There’s really no time for fear in a life like that.

So, continue using your own spiritual immunity by helping others to see what a follower of Jesus looks like when he or she presented with something people think is fearful. Show them a life without fear. A life with faith. A life walking in the Spirit of God.

Romans 10:17 states, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” And the word of Christ, in this instance, is saying “do not fear.”


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