Friday, July 31, 2009

Is Fear Fate?

"For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me." Job 3:25 (ESV)

I've often told my congregation that the opposite of faith, at least in the active sense, is not unbelief but fear. Fear is the EMP that disables faith. How many times is ministry in the Bible prefaced by the encouragement, "do not be afraid," or some such like? 65, at least! The faith stifling affects of fear cannot be minimized.

Fear is the Devil's calling card, his MO. It is his means of controlling the herd and driving it to the slaughterhouse. If the Devil can induce fear in people, he's got them, or at least has immobilized them with a fiery dart and can come by later, at a more convenient time, and throw them in his satchel. Though it's not recorded, I've always wondered whether or not he said something to Adam and Eve to make them hide from God in the bushes.

Fear of punishment, fear of death, fear of loss or failure-- the Devil has game at any level. I cannot prove it factually (other than in Job's case), but fear, even secretly held in the breast, seems a harbinger of things to come. I've known people that wear their fear as a badge of honor, as if it proves they care. It only proves they scare. Fear will not deliver us from any ends (faith can I believe), but it sure seems able to deliver us to those ends. Perhaps fear is fate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When Emotions Run Away With Us IV

Judas was an opportunist. That's the way I see him anyway. Jesus Christ Superstar made him the hero of the drama, but he was anything but in real life. He was a thief, and a shameless coattail rider. Jesus was nothing but his avenue to a better life. When it dawned on him that possibility wasn't going to pan out, he shifted gears without any hesitation and started shopping his connection to Jesus for personal profit.

What was motivating him (beside the Devil, that is)? Emotionally, I would say Judas was driven by avarice. His appetite for personal gain overwhelmed every other concern and experience, and in his case, that's saying a lot. Think of what Judas saw and heard! Up in smoke all of it went because he was blinded by avarice. Those that are greedy for gain end up with destruction instead. As for Judas, so for anyone.

Barnabas had a great name in life, not nearly as great in history. He could have had both (not that we should desire such, but you know what I mean). He ran with the handpicked agent of God to the Gentiles, who understood God's voice and the Spirit's leading. Yet, over a favorite cousin, Barnabas got into such a sharp contention with Paul that the two had to separate-- Paul on to earth shaking ministry, Barnabas on to relative obscurity in his hometown in Cyprus.

What got in his way? Nepotism, pure and simple. He let his emotional attachment to family override other concerns and rejected the more objective judgment of his fellow missionary. As I read history, Paul was right and Barnabas wasn't. When we let our attachment to family override other ministry concerns, we don't help the family member and we undermine the ministry. Wouldn't it be nice if preachers today could learn this lesson?

Emotions are not the basis upon which decisions should be made. Where can we expect to go when we let the caboose lead the train? The biblical examples we've looked at teach us that. Though emotions are God given, they can't run the show.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Emotions Run Away With Us III

Solomon had an
auspicious start. His promise would have made him unique in history if he lived up to it. His name is great, no doubt, but so were his follies. The few things that God said a king of God's people should not do, Solomon did with relish. Hording silver and gold, horses, and whores (oops, I meant "wives" and concubines) was enthusiastically pursued: humility, faithfulness and obedience were tossed aside in his never ending search for broader experience and self-fulfillment.

Solomon may have been a poster boy for
Maslow's theory, but he was a disgrace to the kingdom of God. He let his emotional, self-absorbed quest for fulfillment overwhelm every other consideration in life. The result was a kingdom at odds with him, an existential depression with life, and a broken fellowship with God. Are dreams of self-fulfillment really that important? What will such emotional satisfaction profit a man if it cost him his soul?

Living under the shadow of ruthless conquerors, who had designs on you, your family, your nation can put a burr under any one's saddle. As conquerors go, I think it's safe to say the Assyrians put the ooh! in ruthless. Is any wonder that a person living in such a shadow would have implacable hatred for those pagan enemies, even
to the extent of not wanting a warning word from God promising judgment to reach them?

silence of God is not having a chance. In hearing, faith can erupt. Think, "September 12th, 2001;" how did you feel about Arabs and Muslims that day? Were your thoughts evangelistic? Vengeance belongs with God, it's an emotional fury we can't handle. It blinds us to the eternal significance of our enemies' souls. Instead of being like Ananias in Damascus, vengeance makes us like Jonah in the drink. Do we want to see God's enemies become his friends, or are we blinded by vengeance, and useless to the miracle of grace.

Still more to come...