Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lust

Here is the final installment in this series on temptation.  If you want to read more about Stress or Anger, then check out part one and part two in this series.

Just as brief recap...check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.  

In the first post, I talked about Sal or Tessio being one of my favorite characters from The Godfather because of the insight his role provides for understanding temptation.  Sal was an underboss for the Corleone crime family but when it appeared they had lost power, he betrayed them and conspired with a rival family.  This is what temptation is in our lives..it's opportunistic, crafty, devious, and always scheming for a way to take advantage of us...and Lust is certainly one of those temptations lurking outside the perimeter of our self-control trying to invade our lives.

The best book I have ever read about sexuality as it relates to men is "Sex, Men, and God" by Doug Weiss.  This is a must read for any man and if you are married, you should read this book together like my wife and I did about 12 years ago.  If you have male children, you are responsible for not only understanding your own sexuality but you are responsible for teaching them!  Don't fail them as too many fathers have before us.  He also has a book for women entitled "She Has A Secret."  Even if you would not characterize your temptation as an addiction, these resources are a must read to truly understand how God created you as a sexual being and the right way to celebrate our capacity for pleasure.

2 Samuel 11:1-4 gives us three powerful insights into how men fall prey to the temptation of lust.  In the account of David's horrific actions pursuing Bathsheba, committing adultery, and eventually murder in an attempt to hide his transgressions, we can see how temptation led to these egregious trespasses.  I want to talk specifically to men today...

The first clue is in verse one where the Bible tells us "...David stayed..."  meaning that David should have been with his men at war instead of remaining in Jerusalem.  Isolation will always lead to vulnerability to temptation.  If your life isn't immersed in relationships with other Christian men, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust!  And our personalities must stop being permission to withdraw from the depth of relationships that we need in order to build up our defenses.  Even the most introverted person should have a few men who they know at a deeply personal level and who know him at a deeply personal level.  Every man should also have some men in their life who are a little farther along in their spiritual journey who they can trust and rely upon when they need to talk about their struggles.  Those conversations about struggles should take place with their core group of friends and those they trust to lead them.  Men, you are responsible to pursue these relationships.  Passivity will trap you in a place of always waiting for these relationships to form...and they never will if you don't engage.  Make room in your schedule for men's groups, be at church every weekend, serve in ministry, go on missions trips, and participate in special events.  If you don't share time and space with other Christian men, you are not creating the opportunity for deeper relationships to form.

The next clue is in verse two where the Bible tells us "...David looked..." meaning that David allowed his eyes to intently gaze upon an image he knew would would be sexually arousing.  Men, the rooftop of our modern world is technology.  If you don't have a plan to limit your access to everything you could see, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust.  Pride needs to stop being permission giving in your life!  Pride keeps us from asking for help!  The web link above for Dr. Weiss will offer you a myriad of resources to help limit your access.  If you have a modern cable service for home entertainment, they come with a multitude of parental controls and ratings/channel blocks.  If this is a struggle in  your life, set up these restrictions and give the passcode to your wife.  Pride is cowardice!  I'm telling you men...if you don't take these steps and you fall prey to the temptation of lust because you didn't limit your access then you will never lead your family as strong as you should because you will feel morally compromised.  Your eyes must be tethered directly to your will.  What you see is your responsibility.  If my vision (eyesight) is not under the control of my will that is in turn committed to pleasing God then my life's vision (direction in life) will be misguided by lust.

The final clue is in verse four where the Bible tells us "...David sent..." meaning that David had a sense of entitlement to satisfy his sexual pleasures.  Sexual pleasure is not a right.  Sexual pleasure is a privilege.  This privilege does not belong to me.  The privilege of sexual pleasure belongs to my wife.  This is what the Apostle Paul was trying to communicate to the Church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4.  Until you see your capacity for sexual pleasure as a responsibility to protect instead of a desire to satisfy, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust.  And if you are not married, your capacity for sexual pleasure belongs to your future wife.  And if you have no plans to ever be married, then your capacity for sexual pleasure becomes a sacrifice to God.  We are bombarded every day through entertainment, creative arts, advertising, opinions of popular figures, and a collective societal view that misleads us in our beliefs about sexual pleasure.  If you are one of those men who diminish the success of other men because you think your libido is just too strong to resist, you are demeaning yourself.  Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13 and see that every person is expected to resist every temptation because God does not allow us to be tempted beyond your ability to overcome.  Let's stop being entitled and start being responsible.

So let me make you an offer that you can't refuse.  No, not the kind from The Godfather that is coercion.  This offer is from Jesus and is irresistibly good!  John 10:10 promises us a life lived to the fullest possible measure!  We have been created by God with a heart for an appetite for life that will only ever be fully satisfied when we are fully committed to a life of devotion to Jesus!

Pastor Fred  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Anger

Welcome to part two of a three part series on temptation, specifically Stress, Anger, and Lust.  If you want to read more about Stress, then check out part one in the this series.  Here is a brief introduction and an excerpt from Stress.

Check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.

Anger.  Gary Chapman is wonderful author whose works continue to help scores of people grow and mature in their relationships with one another and with God.  The Five Love Languages was ground breaking in its contribution to romantic relationships, family relationships, and even friendships.  He has another exceptional work exploring the emotion of anger.  Listen to what he says in Anger, Taming A Powerful Emotion.

"Anger is a cruel task master.  If you struggle even a little with anger, you know how it feels to get mad too easily.  To lash out at someone you love...to hold onto frustration.  You might even notice others seem uneasy around you.  You know anger is hurting your life, but you don't know how to fix it.  There is hope.  When you understand why you get angry and what to do about it, you can change the course of your life for the better.  Whether your anger is quiet or explosive, if it's clouding your judgment and hurting your relationships, it needs to go.  Learn to handle anger in healthy ways, starting today."

If you feel like anger is something of a temptation for you or if you are way beyond temptation because this emotional trap has a grip on your life, then Chapman's book would be a great start for you!

People have always struggled with the temptation of anger.  Consider Cain and Abel.  The first children of the world, Adam and Eve's two sons, record the first murder of history...anger.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find guidance for how to deal with this ancient temptation.  I love Paul's encouragement to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, "But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you."  (NLT)  

Paul knew that Timothy would be tempted by anger, especially in the face of brutal persecution.  His instruction to "keep a clear mind" was a warning to not capitulate to the emotion of the moment.  And Paul's directive here is not a list of miscellaneous tasks.  Paul is teaching Timothy and us there is a causal relationship between having a clear, calm mind and being diligent in pursuing our assignment!  So many times, the anger that is manifesting in a situation is born out of frustration with ourselves because deep inside we know we are neglecting something that God is asking of us.  Too often, the anger of the moment is bleeding over from a separate circumstance.  Paul is reminding Timothy that life is going to bring enough temptation for anger.  And that if he becomes negligent in his calling, his assignment, that internal frustration will make him even more vulnerable to anger.

Verses like these are an opportunity for us to examine our lives and see if we are truly submitted to the authority of Scripture.  I can believe the Bible is true.  I can value the wisdom I find there.  I can feel loved because of the great many promises God speaks over me in His verses.  But at some point I must reconcile my life to the boundaries of God's Word.  Scripture is instruction, sacred instruction from our perfect God.  And here in 2 Timothy, we find a profound insight for dealing with anger.  Ask yourself, "Am I neglecting anything that I know God expects of me?"  If you can answer yes to that question, you are vulnerable to the temptation of anger.

There is no easy fix to dealing with the temptation of anger, especially if this has been a struggle for you.  Temptations can become patterns in our lives.  Our humanity can grow familiar with certain temptations like anger to the point we become accustomed to acquiescing instead of resisting.  But there has to be a starting point for your counter attack!  And I believe that for many, that starting point is to find your resolve to recommit yourself to whatever expectation from God you have been forsaking!

In 1991, my first year as a devoted follower of Jesus, I began to read the Bible in earnest for the first time in my life.  I began to read with a heart that was ready to embrace the authoritative voice Scripture must be for us all.  And I remember coming to Exodus 34:6 and I can't recall the version I was reading that day but I memorized this rendering about God, "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and truth."  

May we all be a better reflection of His character to our world...slow to anger.

Pastor Fred



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stress

This is part one of three part series inspired by the message I shared on Father's Day weekend at our Newport News Campus.  The focus of that message was directed toward men but the challenge these three temptations present are true for both men and women.  If you are struggling with any of these three temptations, I hope these words encourage and motivate you to lean into the wisdom and Scripture and the insights of some authors I will recommend.

Sal or Tessio is one of my favorite characters from The Godfather because of the insight his role provides for understanding temptation.  Sal was an underboss for the Corleone crime family but when it appeared they had lost power, he betrayed them and conspired with a rival family.  This is what temptation is in our lives..it's opportunistic, crafty, devious, and always scheming for a way to take advantage of us!

Check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.

SAL has put out a hit on the character of men and women and their names are stress, anger, and lust!  I first heard these three temptations shared together at a men's breakfast sponsored by our church, City Life Church.  One of the men who shared talked openly about his struggle with each of them.  I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me that Saturday, "Talk about these on Father's Day weekend."  I felt that same whisper last weekend..."Keep talking about these!"

Stress.  Some of you are so stressed out you are finding it difficult to sit still to focus on this blog.  Don't relent to the temptation to stop reading!  The temptation of stress doesn't want you to be free from it's treacherous grip!

A Stanford neuroscientist, Robert Sapolsky writes,

"Stess hormones are brilliant, adapted to help you survive an unexpected threat.  You mobilize energy in your thigh muscles, you increase your blood pressure and turn off everything that's not essential to surviving, such as digestion, growth, and reproduction systems in your body.  You think more clearly, and certain aspects of learning and memory are enhanced.  But non-life-threatening stressors, such as constantly worrying about money or pleasing your boss, also trigger the release of adrenalin and other stress hormones, which, over time, can have devastating consequences to your health.  If you turn on the stress response chronically for purely psychological reasons, you increase your risk of adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, and a host of other health risks."

First, consider picking up a copy of John Ortberg's book "Soul Keeping" as it is a wonderful resource that not only talks about dealing with stress but also how important it is for each of us to be good stewards of our own well-being.  So often people are so consumed with caring for others, they neglect themselves.

What about Scripture?  Does the Bible have anything to say about stress?  Yes!  Here are three ways I defend against the temptation of stress in my own life:  prayer, power, and people.

Prayer.  Philippians 4:6-7 must be a mainstay in every Christian's battle against stress.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of worry over things we cannot control.  The simple difference between praying and worrying is talking to God instead of yourself when facing something beyond your control.  We have all been in those places where we are obsessing over a situation.  Thoughts are flooding our minds at times seemingly uncontrollably.  A situation just keeps replaying in our heads, an unrelenting hounding.  Prayer is how we are supposed to deal with situations like this.  We turn that worry into prayer by converting obsessing into praying!  Direct your thoughts to God.  Talk to Him out loud if that helps you.  Ask someone to spend some time in prayer with you.  Prayer reminds us that God is sovereign and in control of our lives and every situation affecting us.  We may not see an immediate change in our situation but there will be a change in our outlook and emotions.  The peace that we read about in Philippians 4 begins to displace stress and worry because we are connecting our sense to peace to God and not to our circumstance.

Power.  Colossians 3:15 is a powerful verse challenging us to take control of ourselves.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of believing we can't control the impact of our emotions.  This is one of the devil's most insidious strategies.  He wants us to obsess over things we can't control and ignore the areas of our lives that we can control.  In Colossians 3 note two words, "let" and "rule" are keys to this verse.  First, we must "let" or choose to resist stress.  We can't avoid the onset of emotions.  That is part of the human experience.  But we must control their impact and our actions in response to those emotions.  If the peace of Christ is going to "rule" in our heats as commanded in Colossians 3 then we must believe that we have power to control how our emotions direct us.  God gave us emotions to serve us and enrich our lives.  We are not supposed to be a slave to our emotions.  They are to serve us!  Some people have diagnosable chemical imbalances in there lives.  Others may be dealing with conditions like PTSD...those situations need professional help and oftentimes life long assistance.  But if our situation does not fall into one of those exceptions or something similar, we must find a place of power over our emotional life if we are going to resist the temptation of stress!

People.  Proverbs 12:25 reminds us we need the encouragement of others.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of false loyalty to relationships that are unhealthy.  People tend to hold onto relationships longer than they should because they are more concerned about their image than they are their character.  Sometimes you need to change your crowd if you are going to change your outlook on life.  Surround yourself with people who are hopeful about the future because of what they believe about the goodness of God!  Now all you evangelists out there might cringe at this advice because you feel this will undermine people's efforts to reach others with the love of God.  On the contrary.  I am not suggesting isolation from everyone except those who can encourage us.  I am saying that we must be wise in regards to who is in which circle of relationship.  I should have an inner circle of people who I can trust and can lean into when I am struggling with the temptation of stress.  These people need to be mature Christians who can offer the word of encouragement referenced in Proverbs 12.  I still need to have people I am trying reach with the love of God, being careful in those circles to be the one doing the influencing!

My prayer today is that you find the peace of Christ and not be overcome any longer by the temptation of stress!  Stop giving stress permission to wreak havoc in your life!  Prayer, power, and people are an impenetrable defense!

Pastor Fred


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Failing

Jesus' conversation with Peter in Luke 22:31-34 fascinates me.  I can't help but wonder why God would give Satan an audience with Himself.  And based on the events that follow, it appears that God grants Satan his request!  Imagine there is a knock at your front door and you discover that the individual standing there is someone you know with certainty is trying to destroy your children.  You invite them inside as your wife is coming around the corner.  She exclaims, "What are you doing!"  And you say, "I think we should at least hear what he has to say."  Now I don't know about your house but at that point, I am now outside knocking on the door!

The act of sifting was an agricultural process of separating at harvest the useful, consumable portion from the parts that would be discarded.  Satan's implication is that some of the disciples were not worthy and the only reason they had been faithful to date was because God was an overly protective parent.  Satan is challenging their character.  He wants to be given access to them to prove their "faith will fail."  The Expositor's Bible Commentary points out that "you" in verse 31 is plural in the Greek (hymas) which reveals Jesus' warning to Peter is for all the disciples.  But then in verse 32 "you" is singular in the Greek (sou) so Jesus' focus has now shifted to Peter directly.  Does this mean God only granted Satan access to Peter?  Does this mean Jesus did not pray for the other disciples?  Does this mean I should take a morning break and drive to Krispy Kreme to see if the hot sign is on (sorry I was momentarily distracted)?  Because Luke is the only Gospel writer that gives us the details of this conversation, we are left with several questions because Luke does not offer any further explanation.

The truth I draw from this exchange is that we must remember there is difference between failing in a moment and failing in our faith.  I am writing this morning because I believe that someone reading this has failed in some moment in their past and has been held captive by their mistake.  You have believed a lie from Satan that because you failed in a moment, overcome by some temptation, became weak resulting in some indiscretion...you feel as though you have failed in faith.  Watch the transition from the beginning of verse 32 to the second half.  Jesus says that he has prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail.  And then Jesus goes on to say, "So when you have repented and turn to me again..."  So if Jesus prays for Peter, shouldn't that be enough?  If Jesus prays for Peter to not fail in his faith, why would Peter need to repent?  Not failing in his faith does not equate to resisting the temptation.  Not failing in our faith means that we don't abandon our pursuit of being a disciple of Jesus when we fail in resisting temptation!  Faith does not keep us perfect in moments of temptation!  Faith moves us to repent when we fail.  And we will all fail!  Sometimes those failings are when we do the bad things we shouldn't do and sometimes those failings are when we don't do the good things we ought to do.  Failing in our faith means we don't repent.  We don't accept responsibility for failing.  We don't ask for God's forgiveness or the forgiveness of others if our failing involved people.  We don't work to build personal accountability into our lives to be better prepared for temptation next time.  We don't...and the list continues...that is failing in our faith.  Failing in a moment is inevitable.  What we do in the aftermath of those moments determines if we fail in our faith.  That was Jesus' prayer and if we read Acts chapter 2 then we know Jesus' prayer from Luke 22 was effectual...because there we find Peter giving the very first sermon of the Christian Church!

I love that Jesus tells Peter that after he repents and returns to his pursuit of being a disciple of Jesus, his priority should be the strengthen his brothers, the other disciples.  If you disengage for the being in community from other disciples, this too is failing in your faith.  Discipleship isn't just about my relationship with Jesus!  It is also about my relationship with other disciples!  If I isolate myself from Jesus, resist Him, run from Him...I am failing in my faith.  If I repent and turn to Him but isolate myself from other disciples of Jesus, resist them, rum from them...I am still failing in my faith.  Failing in moments are not failing in faith unless I allow them to rob me of being reconciled to Jesus and being restored to community!

Satan wants to sift each of us.  Jesus is continually praying for each of us.  Satan is great at temptation...Jesus is even better at prayer.  We are all going to fail in moments...but we never have to fail in our faith!

Pastor Fred

Friday, January 27, 2017

I Hate Catholics

Some should be executed, others imprisoned, most punished in some fashion and Catholicism as a religious practice should be abolished.  And if you do not share this sentiment then through your ignorance or indifference, you are propagating hate and injustice!

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day on August 24/25 of 1572 inspired the murder of thousands of French Huguenots not just in France but throughout all of Europe.  For the next two hundred years, my family suffered at the hands of hatred...torture, rape, imprisonment, murder...a conspiracy to dehumanize all Protestants perpetrated by Catholics with the aid and support of the French government and The Vatican.  The situation was in such despair that Abraham Michaux, born in 1672 of Sedan France, fled to Amsterdam Holland in 1690 with his father Jacob Michaux.  King Louis XIV of France continued the godless destruction of the Protestant church, causing thousands of refugees to seek asylum elsewhere in Europe.  Abraham Michaux appears on a the Dutch Reformed Church roster of January 28, 1691.  A the age of 20, Abraham married Susanna Rochet at this same church.  They met while working at a gauze and lace factory.  Susanna had her own harrowing tale of fleeing France years earlier.  Her family hid her in a barrel aboard a ship in order to smuggle her out of France and into Holland.  (facts taken from an historical genealogy blog)

My family, by the grace of God, was able to flee such horrific persecution and through a land grant from England, arrive in the New World to help settle the frontier.  Our family received 574 acres in what is today Powhatan County.  (I'm still a littler bitter all that James River water front property didn't make its way to me!)  We lived in Stafford County for a period of time after arriving here until 1705 when we settled in what was then known as Manakin Towne where our 574 acre land grant was located.  (facts taken from same blog referenced above)

There are still the remains of an Episcopal chapel there in what eventually became known as Michaux, Virginia.  A family cemetery plot is just down the road from the chapel overlooking the James River.  I have visited there many times, even taken my family to stand on this ground that is sacred to me still today because that is the beginning of my heritage in America.  My children are the tenth generation of Michauxs to live in this beloved Country.  There is a family Bible beautifully preserved in the archival collection at Union Theological Seminary.  I was allowed to spend time with this family Bible several years ago.  The feeling of gently turning its pages created in me a profound appreciation for the legacy that has come to me through centuries to cherish God's Word and worship Him fully.  Many names were written in its margins as this Bible not only served as a source of spiritual nourishment but also a proud family genealogy.

Here is another wonderful piece of Michaux history in Virginia...taken from a plaque placed at that little Episcopal Church.  The plaque was erected in 1937 and states, "This tablet is dedicated to the memory of Abraham Michaux and Susanne Rochet Michaux...their heroic spirit, their loyalty to truth, their fidelity to Christ we treasure as our richest heritage."  France was robbed of the contribution these citizens could have made because of hate and prejudice.  But thank God for Romans 8:28 and His promise of ultimate goodness in every circumstance!

By now I trust you have realized that I don't hate Catholics, that I have no ill will toward Catholics individually or Catholicism as a Christian religion.  Those opening sentiments were what could have been my emotional heritage.  I wonder if Jacob Michaux could have said that?  I wonder if Abraham Michaux or his wife Susanna could have said that?  Possibly their Christian character was strong enough to withstand such sentiments I shared in the opening of this blog?  But my suspicion is their humanity would have prevailed given the atrocities they most certainly witnessed first hand of the brutality of Catholics in France in the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries.  But which generation was the first generation to choose to forgive?  Which generation was the first generation to not make this hatred part of the emotional heritage given to their children?  If I were able to step back in time and observe the attitude of my ancestors, who would be the turning point?

So here comes the irony.  My family left France because of barbarous acts.  I wonder how may of my ancestors became guilty of such acts against Native Americans...against Blacks.  I find it terribly sobering and highly probable that persons in my family became the "Catholics" they abhorred.  Meaning, there are families here in Virginia and elsewhere whose heritage of hatred doesn't trace itself back to a religion or a political entity...but to my family name.  They suffered at the hands of Michauxs.

I'm inspired to share this blog today because few people in this life don't have a heritage of hate working through their family.  The question becomes whether or not I am willing to be the person in history who decides that a different heritage is going to be gifted to the next generation.  For some, this challenge is much more difficult because their persecution, their suffered injustice is not historical, on the contrary, it is devastatingly present.  I know for me, not only am I committed to teaching my children the sacred virtue of being forgiving, I am also praying, talking, asking, studying, reading, and striving to determine how God is asking me to help route out injustices that are taking place today, here in my city and beyond.

Who were the people in France who sat idly by while thousand of Huguenots were killed?  Citizenship means that I not only fight to preserve equality that serves me but equality that serves all.

Pastor Fred

(www.letspraxis.com)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"All of this..."

As I was reading yesterday, I was struck by the the phrase "All of this..." we find in verse 22 of Matthew 1.  I have read that verse many times in my life and have never stopped to consider their implication.  Of course we know the first chapter of Matthew 1 chronicles for us the genealogy of Christ through Joseph and also gives us details about how Joseph learned she was pregnant with the Messiah.  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write those words in verse 22 because He wanted the world to know everything that is about to follow in the story of Jesus in this gospel (and all the gospels) is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  Matthew1:22-23 is a grand declaration of the sovereignty of God at work to save the world!

But yesterday when I was reading, I realized "All of this..." wasn't just referring to the details regarding Mary.  "All of this..." is inclusive of all the details which means even the details regarding Joseph.  For Mary, she had no knowledge of being pregnant until after her angelic visitation (Luke 1:29-31).  Not so with Joseph.  Matthew 1 is very clear.  Joseph already had knowledge of Mary's pregnancy prior to his angelic visitation.  In fact, based on his intentions given to us in Matthew 1:19 he assumed that Mary had disgraced herself and their engagement by betraying her vow to Joseph by becoming sexually involved with another man.  Why is this important?  Because God intentionally allowed Joseph to feel betrayed before He intervened.  God could have easily said to Gabriel, "While you are there telling Mary she will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit make sure you tell Joseph too.  We don't want him to feel betrayed...he should know."  Did Gabriel forget?  Not likely!  Matthew 1 says "All of this..." meaning the timing of Joseph's notification was by God's design.

Why would God do this?  I believe God was preparing Joseph to be the kind of father to Jesus and husband to Mary that would be demanded of a man who had been given such a grand destiny.  Can you imagine the kind of character required of a man to take on such a responsibility?  Our character is not formed in the ease of life.  Our character is formed when tested, when tried.  The stress of life accelerates the growth of virtues in us.  God wanted Joseph to face the appearance of betrayal, the sting of public humiliation, and the weight of shame.  God was preparing Joseph for his purpose in life, to be the earthly father of Jesus and the husband of our Savior's blessed mother.  God had Joseph in a season of virtue growing pains.

Are you in an "All of this..." season as you start this new year?  Are you facing hardship that feels overwhelming?  Do you feel as though you are suffering in innocence, meaning your hardship is not the consequence of your own foolishness?  My encouragement to you is find patience.  Psalm 27:13-14 might be your verses for this season!  Trust in God's goodness and His timing to reveal that goodness to you!  He is making you ready!  You have a divine destiny!  You are chosen!  You are special!  I guarantee that your pain now is far less than what it could be if He allowed your purpose to approach you only to find you unprepared.  God knows what you need to be victorious in this life.  He shapes us so that we can serve Him... "All of this..."

Pastor Fred

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fear

Fear.  This is one of the most prevalent words in conversations leading up to and following Tuesday’s Presidential election.  My hope is that people who do not share the same fears will not belittle or disparage the fears of others.  Fear is one of God’s great gifts to humanity.  And that idea may be foreign to too many Christians.

Some of you are already quoting 2 Timothy1:7.  That’s not prophetic…just predictable!  Let’s talk about this wonderful verse.  I like to start with the last word in the verse, a wonderful Greek word, “sophronismos.”  I like this word because there is only one appearance in all of Scripture and this is the solo performance in 2 Timothy!  Some translations choose sound mind, others use discipline, while another is sound judgment.  The best would be to combine them all.  My spirit when renewed by the Holy Spirit should transform my mind in a way that is Biblically sound leading to self-discipline and good judgment.  I should be characterized by this description as a devoted follower of Jesus.  Now, let’s read the verse.  Paul says to Timothy “spirit” not “emotion.”  Too many people misuse this verse to demean an emotion that should be present in us all.  While I should not be characterized as a fearful person, fear as an emotion must be present in an emotionally healthy Christian at proper times.  When “sophronismos” is a word that best describes me, I am able to experience the emotion of fear without emotions taking control of my life and becoming the shaping force and influence on my spirit.

So if someone talks about their fears related to this election, spend time listening before you bludgeon them with a verse that was given to us to inspire…not wound.  Especially if you are the one needing some correction, in regards to how we should cherish fear.

Might I share some examples?  We readily acknowledge the importance of the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 15:33, Revelation 15:4).  My capacity for fear was created by God and is vital; take for example Jesus admonition in Luke 12:4-5.  People like to restate “fear” in these texts as “respect” but that is not what the Holy Spirit chose.  Don’t edit the Holy Spirit!  Is respect a component of healthy fear?  Most certainly, but that does not change the essence of fear…it is to be afraid!  And as long as that feeling of being afraid remains a healthy emotion, it will not displace the virtues of courage and faith.  My capacity for diverse emotions is evidence of emotional health.  And my strength of character (that “sophronismos life”) becomes the boundary that keeps those emotions from becoming spiritual traits.

So if fear is necessary in my relationship with God, are there other applications where fear should be embraced?  Yes!  Fear saves lives.  When I am unsafe, the emotion of fear is an alarm that prompts protective action.  I would like to suggest to you that fear is also an indispensable facet of choosing political leaders.  If you suppress healthy fear in others, you are a dealer in shame.  And if you are devoted follower of Christ, you should be ashamed of your shaming!

This is a time for people to talk about their fears.  Last night I met with a new friend to talk about our fears.  His fears are different than my fears.  And my fears are not more important than his fears, neither his relative to mine.  I must seek to understand the fears of others if I expect others to value mine.  If you can’t accept that Christians were legitimately divided at the polls on Tuesday, then you are part of the problem that divides this nation.  You are a person that is belittling the fears of others.  You are a person that is a shame dealer.  My fears are always going to be more present in my life than your fears.  That is the nature of fear.  We are not able to manufacture emotion.  But, as you have heard me say many times, right feelings follow right actions (Matthew 6:21).  If you don’t understand the fears of others, put in the time to talk with them, hear their story, ask questions, reflect, ponder, contemplate their feelings!

The progress we need in this nation should start with The Church.  And that progress will begin when people who have divergent fears begin to feel the fears of others because their right actions led to shared feelings.  So do me a favor, don’t reach for 2 Timothy 1:7 prematurely.  Let Romans12:15 reach you.  I believe this verse in not just limited to the emotions of joy and sorrow.  I believe this is a fill in the blank text.  I believe this verse is about emotions.  In fact, when I look back to the beginning of this chapter, I find a command that my mind should be renewed!  That sounds like a “sophronismos life” to me!  Paul, in one of the most celebrated doctrinal books of the New Testament, is making a demand of all Christians that emotional empathy is the minimum!  Emotional empathy expects me to have an appropriate, gracious, understanding response to the feelings of others.  Romans 12 tells us we should actually share in their emotion, regardless of whether or not we share in their circumstance.

So this is my question to you…if you voted for Donald Trump, have you found some people who did not that you can sit with and ask them about the fears that helped to motivate their decision?  If you voted for Hillary Clinton, have you found some people who did not that you can sit with and ask them about the fears that helped to motivate their decision?  If you don’t know anyone who voted differently than yourself, you are intellectually and emotionally isolated!  Next, here comes your prayer.  Ask God to help you experience Romans 12:15.  We need to feel one another’s fears.

Be all about that “sophronismos life!”

Pastor Fred