Archive for June, 2021

Facing Your Fear

Fear has two faces. Certain fears are normal and even helpful. To experience fear in dangerous situations serves a protective purpose by activating the automatic “fight-or-flight” response. With our bodies and minds alert and ready for action, we are able to respond quickly and protect ourselves.

However, there are irrational fears that result in anxiety becoming phobias. With phobias the threat is nonexistent or greatly exaggerated. One of the most common current phobias is nomophobia, the fear of not having mobile phone access. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is fear of the number 666. With all the complicated long names for phobias it was inevitable there would be a name for the fear of long words called: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

Irrational paralyzing fear poisons the mind and erodes the character. The only adequate shield for fear is found in a plaque hanging above the mantel of Hinds’ Head Hotel in England:

“Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.”

Faith disinfects the mind of fear. It serves as a distillate to fear. Following is a way to deal with fear.

Admit your fear

Identify your fear

Analyze your fear

Isolate your fear

Address your fear. Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Reflect on the first time you remember having the fear. See it. Think faith thoughts. Reflect on God’s kindness to you and His shield over you. Realize in that light it wasn’t so bad.

Now you can begin to put pressure on your fear rather than it putting pressure on you. You do so by —

Don’t be like a window shopper who appreciates, but never appropriates what is seen. Apply what Jesus said to His disciples on the storm tossed Sea of Galilee: “Fear not….” Resolve, “What time I am afraid I will trust in the Lord.”

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Boot Hill

For years it was my blessed good fortune to pastor a church with an international television ministry. It was a joy to receive correspondence from unique places. One that really caught my eye referenced a little sign beside a road reading:

“Powderville, Montana – Population 1:  
Mayor, Joe Hodge –  Sheriff, Joe Hodge – Fire Chief, Joe Hodge.”
“Drive carefully, the life you save may be —- Joe Hodge.”  

The gracious lady who sent it invited me out to their ranch in southeast Montana. I accepted with my housing being the old abandoned stage coach station lodge. Over the course of time I became close friends with her and her husband. On a later visit she said, “One of these days when you come out here I will be up on that hillside.”

I had been up there and knew what she meant. There was a little plot fenced in by barbed wire. I strained to read a little tombstone-like plaque stating: “Boot Hill Church, Deadwood Junction.” This was an unreal page out of a long lost past. What she meant was one of these days I will die and be buried up there on Boot Hill. Her prophecy was fulfilled. She knew she, like all of us, would die and she had prepared for it, not only physically, but spiritually.

I don’t want this Post to be morbid, but helpful, and above all encouraging by asking are you ready physically and spiritually to die? If so, today is a wonderful day to celebrate it. If not, now is a wonderful time to make preparation for that eventuality. Here are the A, B, Cs of how to do it.

A. Accept the fact your sin that has separated you from God, can be forgiven no matter the extent and extreme thereof.

B. Believe the fact that God loves you so much and He wants you to spend eternity with Him so badly that He “sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him might be saved.” This is a belief with consequence.

C. Commitment. Ask Him to forgive you and give you new life. Express your love and lifetime commitment to Him.

Thereafter remember: God said it, you did it, that settles it.

To set a reminder of this, here is a visual action. Using four fingers do the following.

Finger one: “God is God.”

Finger two: “I am not God.”

Finger three: “I sin when I get number one and number two reversed, and make myself God.”

Finger four: “Jesus came to help me get number one and two in order, and forgive me of my sin.” Rejoice, ask Him to enable you to get them in order.

Thank God for finger four and express your faith in Jesus as your Savior.

It Is Tell and Show Time

“Then Jesus said, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

A youth from China came to America desiring an education and in search of greater exposure to Christianity. He had been motivated by missionaries in his home country. After observing Christian students his curiosity turned to disillusionment, and his heart and mind turned from Christianity to Marxism. He became known as Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Communist ruler of China.

He was looking for persons who had taken up their identity as followers of Christ. If he had encountered you would he have become a follower of Christ to lead China into Christianity instead of Communism?

All around there are people looking for a living example of what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus. Jim, a young college friend, illustrates this. He had tried unsuccessfully to lead a teammate to Jesus. One day angrily his teammate blurted, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Jim replied, “Watch me and I will show you.”

The next day his teammate deliberately swung an elbow and knocked Jim down. Jim’s impulse was to physically respond. Instead his spirit showed a controlled demeanor. Such action eventually led his teammate to receive Jesus as Savior.  

For the early disciples who heard the primal call of Christ to “follow me,” the issue was clear: What would be the central focus of their lives?

When for us as for them, Christ becomes the central focus of life, He alone becomes the defining influence in life.

Jesus used a vital word, “desire.” Desire as used here is the emotion of longing or hoping for a person, object, or outcome. The same sense is expressed by words such as “craving.” When a person desires Jesus, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the thought of Him, and they want to take actions to obtain their goal of following Him.

Let me invite and encourage you to accept Christ’s call to discipleship. A disciple is one who learns from another and does that which is taught. True disciples are doers of the word and not hearers only.

All around there are people looking for someone to be Jesus to them. Desire today, and every day henceforth to be that one to show Jesus to others.

Set Your Standard

Isaiah gives a description of a group of ancient “wise men,” sophists, who were making a case for their deviate actions. “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitterness for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) 

Against Isaiah’s warning of “woe” we go along our merry way as though the warning does not apply to us. The consequence has always been as natural as it is for one plus one to equal two. That conduct always naturally results in what is summed up in the word “woe.” It always has and always will.

The ancient Greek Thucydides described this spirit in the Peloponnesian war when rashness was called courage; prudence, timidity; treachery, cleverness; and honesty, stupidity. He was describing a group of moral dissidents. Such distortion in all ages is the natural progression of a culture that doesn’t acknowledge God’s standards, and always ends in what is summed up in the little word “woe.” It is still part of the life equation.

The Bible speaks of a time when “Men will become utterly self–centered … full of big words … passionate and unprincipled … self-willed and conceited … loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God.” (II Timothy 3:2,4, Phillips)

Are we there yet?

Accepting that to be our culture does not mean we approve, or that it identifies us. How then shall we live?

First, dethrone the world’s standard of morality.

Second, accept God’s standard for virtue and morality.

Third, don’t put yourself in the way of temptation.

Have a little talk with yourself regarding those standards. If you agree with them, commit yourself to them saying, “Here I stand and will not waver.” Then no matter what the world throws at you, you have already prepared yourself for it.

Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

Scripture exhorts us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

The Art of Problem Solving

Most problems can be overcome, even the big ones.

We lived a block from the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Our children were small then. We would take them to the levee for play time. I marveled at how wide it was and what an effort it would be to cross it.

Years lapsed and my wife and I had a challenging thrill by driving the Lemhi Pass, the trail used by Lewis and Clark to cross the Rockies. We noticed there were no tire tracks on the “road.” It dawned on us that although we were on the trail, we were off road. Right at the highest point there is a small park with a tiny spring, the water from which flows across most of America and eventually down the Mississippi River past New Orleans. Knowing this I straddled the water flowing from the spring so I could say I stood on both banks of the Father of Waters at the same time.

If you have a big problem, look upstream for its origin and begin searching for the solution there. Scripture gives pointers in problem solving.

First, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6) Do that before going further. This is not directly related to the problem, but it is conditioning you to have a clear mind.

Next, pray. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Then read God’s Word. You might not find a text that applies directly, but it will open your mind enabling you to think creatively.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Relax, even get away from the problem for a short time if possible.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

This process can help you get to the root of the problem and find an answer.