Posts Tagged 'Faith'

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.”

The Power of Words: Do they Dictate Your Path?

I thought I was finished, at least for the moment, talking about the power of our words, but the Lord has been impressing on me the extreme importance of this topic. I’m always looking for confirmation in things I dream, hear, or that are put on my heart to research or blog, and, once again, this topic popped up. This week I was given confirmation when the topic kept coming up in a discussion group with whom I meet, which is made up of developmental believers anointed as prophets. After that I heard a teaching by Glen Berteau on this topic as well. Glen taught a new dimension that I hadn’t thought of when it comes to our words, so I want to share this with you today.

Glen taught from James 3, which likens the tongue to the bit of a horse bridle or ship rudder.

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers [and sisters], this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers [and sisters], can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Using the bridle as an example, Glen mentioned how a 2,000-pound Clydesdale horse can be guided from right to left simply by attaching a tiny bit that weighs ounces into the horse’s mouth. Clearly, our tongues act much like this bit and bridle. Unlike the horse, however, we don’t always have the careful guidance of the rider to move us from place to place. Instead, we move ourselves by our words, and those words move us directly toward the thing of which they speak. This means, for example, that we can move toward positive (blessings) or negative (curses) positions based on those words.

For example, let’s say you get a medical diagnosis, and let’s say it’s bad, like cancer. You can move toward the cancer by constantly talking about it, how bad it is, how unfortunate you are, how your family genetics likely caused it, etc. Or you can move away from it by using words of healing and thanks to God for a long and healthy life.

As another example, we may find ourselves constantly talking about something or someone that simply isn’t in the will of God for our lives. As a theological concept, free will means that you can speak those words and move toward that thing or person. But don’t be surprised when you ultimately recognize that the thing or person wasn’t the best thing for you and something you likely could have known by holding it up to the Word.

It’s like driving on the highway. You tend to veer slightly toward the thing upon which your eyes focus. So, it’s not just a spiritual law; the notion that you’ll move ever closer to the things you think, say, and repeat is also true in the natural world. What makes it different is that in the natural world people don’t necessarily have the grounding needed to focus and make this law work for them.

People with a natural worldview might say that there is “power” in positive thinking, or that the “universe” somehow moves to bring things about when spoken in the right way. With a biblical worldview, we remember a few important truths. First, what comes from the tongue indicates what is in your heart – “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) – but you can dramatically change your heart through your words, starting with words that confirm Jesus as God and asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Second, God moves when people are expectant of his power: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24). Third, the Bible actually tells us what we should focus upon: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8-9) By the way, if you haven’t figured it out already, these things are somewhat circular. The more you speak in faith, the more your faith grows; the more positive your words, the more expectant of blessings you become.

Where is your tongue leading you – to life or to death? To blessings or to curses? To the spiritual best for you or to secular notions of success? Once again, I ask you to take your words and thoughts captive and to pay attention to what you’re thinking and what you’re speaking. Even if your situation does not bear witness to the blessing at the moment (for example, prayers for healing often find immediate purchase in the spiritual realm but take time to manifest in the natural) continue to thank our Lord for his work on the situation and for His continued blessing and protection for you and your family.

Palm Sunday! Palm Sunday!

palm

Every Palm Sunday I’m reminded at how quickly things can change. Just five days after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he was crucified. But just two days after that, he rose from the grave to bring salvation to the world for all time.

Your life might take a bad turn, and it might take that turn fairly quickly. But remember that God is there to turn you back around even quicker. All you have to do is call on Him.

Happy Palm Sunday, everyone, and my God bless you all!

It’s True. All of it.

Denise took me to Star Wars the other day, and all I can say is, WOW! We decided not only to see the movie, but to see it in HD, 3D, IMAX, etc., and it was truly amazing. I swear there was one point in the movie when some starship looked like it was literally sitting in the seat next to me. And at another point, a guy from a few rows down went out for drink or something, and I thought he was a Stormtrooper dashing across the screen. For a brief moment, life and art were one. The whole thing was almost worth the price of the popcorn, for which Denise and I had to take out a short-term loan.

kylo-ren-rey-s-connection-revealed-in-new-star-wars-episode-7-photos-rey-and-finn-pre-710348

Anyway, the reason that little excursion makes it into a blog about the supernatural is because the movie itself kind of overflows with a good and evil, God and Satan sort of tale. I knew that going into it, and then Harrison Ford summed everything up. When Rey was asking Harrison’s character, Han Solo, about all the stories she had heard over the years, Han replied, “It’s true. All of it. The dark side. The Jedi. They’re real.”

It reminded me of what might happen today if someone was able to meet up with one of Jesus’ apostles, like maybe John. That person might ask, “Hey, I’ve heard all kinds of crazy stories in the Bible, and a lot of people think they’re fairy tales. What’s the deal?” At that point, I’m sure John would say, “It’s true. All of it. God. Satan. Jesus. The supernatural. They’re real.”

But all of that begs the question, which has been posed most forcefully by Del Tackett from the Truth Project series. During that series, Del often asked, “Do you believe that what you believe is really real? Because if you really believe that what you believe is real, then Christians will change the world.” He’s right. If we acted as if we really believed everything in the Bible, our actions would look radically different not only to the rest of the world, but likely even to us.

What if we really believed that we were created in God’s image, that Jesus is God come in the flesh, and that by having faith in Jesus Christ we are able to live as eternal beings with God? And if we really believed that Jesus Christ is God, wouldn’t we strive every single day to act in ways pleasing to Him? We believe in the laws of the natural world, and we act accordingly. So what would our lives look like when we really believe in the supernatural?

I’ve spent many years studying various aspects of different worldviews and I’ve come to believe that there is universal truth, which points directly to Jesus and the Bible. That, in turn, has dramatically changed how I live my life. I don’t worry so much anymore. I walk in the supernatural. I fight demons. I talk to God. I talk to other people about God. I follow His will even when those in the natural world think I’m nuts. I know I’m about as far from perfect as someone can be, but I understand the concept of perfection and where to go to learn more about it so I can get better. If you don’t feel as confident as I sound, keep searching. Because if you go looking for truth – or, as Denise calls it, “Truth with a capital T” – you’re going to run smack into Jesus.

You aren’t going to have John the apostle or even Harrison Ford show up in person to tell you that everything is “really real,” but Jesus knew that. He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)  You can strengthen your beliefs and come to know Jesus better through a variety of other sources – most importantly through the Bible – because you’re hard wired to recognize Truth. Start looking, and I’m sure you’ll come to believe that God, Satan, Jesus, and the supernatural are true. It’s really real. All of it.

May the Force . . . er, I mean, may God be with you!

Belief

Denise and I were flying back from New York City this weekend, when it suddenly seemed like I was being bombarded by atheism. It started that morning with CNN running a story called, “The Friendly Atheists Next Door,” and extended into the night with 60 Minutes interviewing Neil deGrasse Tyson (who is claimed by atheists but who really isn’t one, as I’ll show you later), and through a variety of shows on FOX written by Seth MacFarlane (who is claimed by atheists and who really is one). I didn’t watch any of the shows, but it made me sad to think about the fact that there are people out there who not only don’t believe in God, but who really, really, want you, me, and our families not to believe in God either. It made me feel really distant to those people; the chasm between people who believe and don’t believe in the same thing seems awfully wide.

The CNN story was really a story about a couple who lost faith in the Catholic religion, and who then extended that unbelief in their church to unbelief in God. The sad part was that after they made their decision, they suddenly felt that they needed to share and promote this non-belief, and so the story documented how the couple was forming Sunday gatherings (yeah, I know, it sounds a little weird for atheists to come together on Sundays) apparently to talk to others about how and why they don’t believe in God. The story mentioned some things that atheists have in common: apparently they are mostly white, upper-middle class, college educated, and male, and most of them used to be Catholics. I’ll add another: They are also often handsomely rewarded by the natural world, and especially by other atheists, for “coming out.” For whatever reason these days, if you decide to become an atheist, even if you aren’t fully sure what that means, you’ll quickly find acceptance and apparently become newsworthy.

As Denise said in her book, though, there are really extremely few actual “atheists” in the world. That’s because it really takes a ton of work and research to even get close to coming to such an absolute stance, and even then there’s so much evidence for God that it’s hard to ignore. That’s why noted “atheists” like Richard Dawkins have said that they’re not really atheists – instead, for example, Dawkins says he’s agnostic. Same thing with Neil deGrasse Tyson, if you look here, you’ll see he doesn’t like being called an atheist, or any “ist” other than a scientist, and instead says that if you had to label him, he’s more likely agnostic: http://bigthink.com/think-tank/neil-degrasse-tyson-atheist-or-agnostic.

In fact, he finds the word “atheist” itself odd, since virtually nobody else tends to belong to groups mostly identified with what they don’t believe in. He’s got a point.

belief

All of this really boils down to our worldviews. We all have one, whether we know it or not, which makes up the entirety of our points of view. Knowing your worldview is handy because knowing what you believe can guide you through all of life’s tough times. Now, people who call themselves atheists have a worldview that perhaps partly includes unbelief in God, but I just wish they’d focus more on what they actually believe through their overall worldview instead of the thing or things they don’t believe. Agnostics have a worldview that involves saying they just aren’t sure what to believe about God, but you don’t see them holding meetings or actively trying to convince others also to claim ambivalence.

When I was younger, I went through a phase where I was probably best described as an agnostic because I simply wasn’t sure about what to believe, spiritually or otherwise. But then I decided to do the work needed to form a decently purposeful worldview. I ended up forming the spiritual part of my worldview after years of studying a variety of other spiritual worldviews and putting together the evidence that I needed to live my life based on what I believed to be the Truth. I suppose my worldview includes not believing in certain things, like eating gluten or maybe even atheism, but I’d rather focus on what I do believe. I believe in Jesus Christ, who was God come in the flesh. Because I’m a follower of Jesus, I believe everything about who he said he was.

If I could get atheists to focus on the things in which they believe, instead of the things in which they don’t believe, they might say something like, “We believe in human beings.” If they do, then this chasm between me and atheists might not seem so wide, because I believe in God, and God believes in human beings, too.


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