Don’t be Scared to Follow

Picture1Fear is a subtle and sneaky thing. It steals good things, and turns them into bad things. It takes joy and excitement because of “what could go wrong.” And it happens so easily, and it happened to us a little while ago when we were trying to sell our house, and unsure why it hasn’t been moving.

And then through a series of unforeseen events, our house became sold. Which was great! This is something I had been stressing and worrying over, and it happened. But then rather than being excited, we got worried that we now have only have a little while to find another house.

All of a sudden this good thing, became almost a bad thing. All of a sudden something to celebrate became something to worry about. This is what fear does, but it also does something subtler and even more dangerous. It steals our gratitude towards God. Because all of a sudden rather than thanking God for what he did, we began to ask him about this worry or problem. Rather than appreciating the gift of our house selling, in his timing, we rushed forward to yet another issue for him to fix.

All of a sudden our focus shifted from God’s hand working in our lives, to what else we needed him to do in our lives.

But God is gracious, and good even when we miss the point.

So the next morning I went into my office to do my daily devotions. Still feeling a little apprehensive about everything. Knowing in my mind that God has the details worked out, but wanting to really know that in my heart. And the passage for my daily Scripture reading was, Number 13:31-14:25. A passage all about trusting, and not giving in to fear. A passage all about following where God has called you to go. A passage all about how God will provide, do miraculous things, and surprise you with the blessings he has for you when you trust. And in the margin I had wrote previously, “TAKE GODLY RISKS, Don’t be scared to follow”.

And while some people might just say it’s a coincidence that was the reading for today. Or some people might say I’m just reading into this, or it’s just random chance. All I can say to that is that it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like God was reminding me that he is with us, and has a future for us. It feels like God is reminding me that trusting in him is never wasted. It feels like God is drawing the attention back to him, and deepening my trust in him because that’s what it’s about.

So I share all this to just remind you of a few things. Don’t let fear steal the future God has for you. Don’t let worry shape your mind so much, that you lose trust in God. Don’t let the “what if’s” of life cloud the fact that God is with you, and for you. Don’t let our anxiety, and uncertainty stop us from taking Godly risks. Or as I needed to be reminded myself, “Don’t be scared to follow” in whatever it is that God has for you. Because the Israelites found out that fear just leaves you wandering in the desert, but trust is the thing that moves you forward.

Take the bite out of fear…

scooby-toy-1516278-640x480Here is the truth: fear drives us more than we’d like to admit.

For so many of us, myself included, fear can tempt us to make safe but not the best choices. Fear can tempt us into limiting what we reach for, or to not take the step we feel compelled to take. Fear seems to dampen our lives, to where we live with less expectations and simply seek to make it through. I believe that in general, fear always makes us live less than we are called to live.

But I believe too that the real power of fear is in how it lives unexamined. We let it whisper but don’t really let it speak. We let it tempt but not really acknowledge what it says. And I’ve found that through examining exactly what fear is sharing is one of the most helpful ways in overcoming it.

So what I do when I hear fear whisper, is I address it through asking…”what’s the worst”?

Because fear whispers to us that the worst will happen, but is never explicit about what the “worst” actually is. And that’s the power of fear, the unexamined and unnamed ominous “worst” out there. But once you name it, it loses its power.

So for example Krista and I are making a large change in our lives. And making this decision wasn’t easy because our lives are wonderful – but we felt called to something new and different. But here is what fear would whisper to me when we were praying about taking on a new job, new role, and new place of work:

  • What if you fail?
  • What if you can’t hack it?
  • What if you move, give up everything that is amazing here, and lose it all?

But honestly if you look at that what’s the worst? I fail, face some shame, have to start over, and if we lose everything and have to move in with my mom. I mean the literal worst is that we tried something and failed.

And this is how you beat fear.

You let fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen, but then never give it the last word. You think about the best, you think about what could come out of it, and you take the bite out of fear because normally the worst isn’t all that bad.

Fear wants to make it seem worse than it is, so you settle. But what if you don’t settle? What if you launch out and try that business, try that dream, try that thing you’ve been thinking about? Because settling never leads to your best, and fear is all about settling.

So push past it and see what happens.

Three Words to Change Your Life ~ That aren’t “I Love You”

6a012876cf8591970c01543608ca6b970c-800wiOn Sunday, for Easter, we explored Jesus first words he says after his resurrection. For the past 6 week’s we’ve looked at what Jesus said before he died. Now we wanted to look at what he says when he lives.

The key thing to notice first off is that words have power. They can both heal, or tear down. They can give life, or create death. Words have a power, a weight, an energy to them. And Jesus’ words especially have a power to them.

So the disciples are sitting in fear. They are filled with fear and worry and anxiety. Shame is covering their hearts, and guilt is seeping through their souls. They are hiding in a room and Jesus shows up. And before we jump to Jesus words, we need to first recognize one clear thing: for the disciples Jesus showing up would not seem like a good thing.

And at first that statement might seem funny – you might have even re-read it – but its true.

We know that Jesus comes with grace, and forgiveness – but the disciples didn’t. Remember at this point they are God-betrayers, God-abandoners,  and God-deserters. That’s who they are. They are not in the “good and righteous God followers” column or category. And they would have grown up in a world that talked about the “Day of the Lord” (the coming of God) as a good day for the righteous but an awful terrible day for sinners, gentiles, and the unrighteous. The Old Testament says if you are sinner, a gentile, or unrighteous that when God shows up it’s a day to be feared, it’s a dark day full of vengeance and punishment.

So when Jesus shows up we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that for the disciples this was instantly good. They were filled with fear, and shame and most likely didn’t think of themselves as “righteous and good”. They would be wondering if Jesus is here to settle accounts, to bring rightly deserved punishment, to bring vengeance and sentence.

And its into this highly charged, tense filled silence – where the disciples worst fears are playing with their imaginations – where shame is leading their souls further from God – that Jesus speaks some of the most beautiful words ever: peace be with you.

Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace to your sins. Peace to your shame. Peace to your betrayal. Peace to your disappointment. Peace to your fear.

Jesus shows up and gives out radical peace and forgiveness to a group of men who didn’t deserve it. Jesus first words are about peace, not  judgment. This is a beautiful radical thing that we need to get. Jesus here is not just saying a short hello, or a salutation – Jesus is revealing the heart of God as about peace. Jesus is giving the trajectory of his kingdom that it will be about peace and not punishment and vengeance. God’s heart is about peace.

This is a radically freeing three words. Because then God isn’t to be feared, God is to be embraced.

Some of us believe that when Jesus shows up it will be to punish us for sins. But that’s not what this passage reveals. Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin. He has already taken all the punishment. And he wants to free us by offering us his peace.

So that’s where we landed on Sunday – with the Prince of Peace saying – Peace be with you. We closed with inviting everyone to simply picture Jesus saying to each of them – peace be with you. Peace to your fears, peace to your shame, peace to your guilt, peace to your brokenness, peace to your imperfection…peace…peace…peace

And that’s a good way to end, and to begin – with the peace Jesus wants to give us all.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Peace be with you 

Teaching Points:

  • Words are powerful things
  • Shame is the heart disease of every era. People are dying from it – some quickly, others slowly. Shame deceptively but convincingly leads us to believe that we deserve to be shackled to it for the rest of our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to be free of shame. Silence always leads to more pain and guilt and shame festering inside. Pete Wilson
  • The disciples are not sure Jesus showing up is a good thing.
  • Jesus is saving the world, and creating the world in this moment through peace.
  • God at his heart is about peace
  • God is not someone to be feared, God is someone to be embraced
  • Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin
  • Fear and shame have no part of God’s Kingdom.
  • Peace rules in God’s Kingdom.
  • Resurrection means that sin is ended
  • Resurrection means that evil is ended
  • Resurrection means that shame is ended
  • Peace be with you, because I am with you – Jesus.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you ever thought about how the disciples would have been feeling? Do you think they might have been fearful of Jesus? Have you ever been fearful of God? Why are Jesus words “peace be with you” meaningful for you? Who should you share Jesus words with? Who needs to hear them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Why not actually practice this passage today with your kids. Ask them if they have any worry, any fear, any shame or guilt or hurt. Talk to them, and then talk to them about Jesus gives us peace. Share his words with them, and have them repeat them with you. Share the peace of Jesus with your kids – that’s a good way to start.

Challenge for the Week: Hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you”

When Fear Comes Calling in the Middle of the Night ~ Fear As the Opposite of Faith

Spooky old photoEarlier this week I was listening to a song that had a line that really caught my attention. It was this:

“In the middle of the night, when fear comes calling / Singin’ it all dies, awfully scared, alone / I’m looking into your eyes and feel your calm / Pretty thing that catches me so strong when I fall”

This lyric just put words, and emotions to something I know I feel deep down: that fear steals life. 

Isn’t that true? Fear steals life, it steals life while it’s happening proclaiming in the middle of the night that all dies, awful, and alone. Fear plays to our worst parts of ourselves, and calls them true. That’s why I really believe fear is the opposite of faith.

Whereas fear tells us that the worst is true, faith tells us that the best is yet to come. Fear tells us that life is over, faith tells us that life can begin again. Fear plays to death, faith plays to life.

The Apostle John after arguing that God is love, says that perfect love casts out fear. Or that God’s perfect presence banishes fear. In God’s presence, captivated by faith, fear is flushed away.

And while that song isn’t singing about God, for me those lines are true in relation to God. That when fear comes in the middle of the night, calling, luring, and lying to me, I look into the eyes of Jesus and feel his calm; his gaze catches me so strongly when I fall and reminds me of one thing: That in his love there is no need for fear.

Fearful Futures, to Trust in God’s Control

829311_28468256On Sunday we looked at how in reality we control so little of our lives. Most of the time we move through life like we have great control over the outcomes of our life: friendship, career, marriage, parenting, future, health, etc. The truth though is that often we don’t have control, and when we get reminded of that fact we move from Plan A to Plan B.

Plan B times in our lives is when we realize we aren’t sufficiently in control to make our desired future come to pass. It’s when we realize the plan and promises of God that we were moving forward towards seem further away than ever before.

This is when fear comes in. Fear fills the void of our lack of control. When we don’t have control fear starts to take a grip on our lives.

And on Sunday we looked at how fear must have gripped David. David wanted to be king of Israel. David was promised to be king of Israel, but David is in a “Plan B” time of his life. It doesn’t look like he will be king. Saul, the current king, is trying to kill him and David is just trying to survive.

So after being on the run for months, David and his men are hiding in the back of a cave as Saul and his men hunt from him. They are full of adrenaline, scared, and anticipating what might happen. When all of a sudden the most unusual thing happens. Saul the current king comes into the cave alone, and doesn’t realize that his enemies are right there hiding in the shadows.

David’s men quickly tell him, “This is the moment. This is your time. Here is an opportunity from God. This must be how you become King.”

And David faces a decision. He can kill the king, something he knows isn’t right, or do nothing and stay in this “Plan B” place. He can kill the king, walk out of the cave and become king of the entire nation and only one person would die. That’s it. It’s simple, straightforward, and immediate. He could kill Saul, walk out with his men, and take charge and lead. He could regain the control in his life he’s lost. He could stop having to hide in caves just to survive. And he needs to make this decision now.

Or of course…he could trust in God.

See the decision for David to kill or not kill Saul is really a decision about trust. Will he trust in God, or trust in his fear that this is the only time and way he will become king. Will he trust in God’s plans for his life, or trust in fear that says take control of your life and make this happen. David is placed in a place of tension choosing where to place his trust: in fear or in God.

And David chose to trust in God. That God will get him to become king, but not through regicide hiding in a cave. God will be faithful to him, even though David has no idea how God will accomplish his promises.

Fear tempts us into trying to take back control. God asks us to trust that he is in control.

So on Sunday we ended with the main point that when we are in the “Plan B’s” of life we can either trust in fear, or trust in God. And fear will always drive us further from God. Fear casts out God of our lives, and leads us into difficulty every time.

So we ended by asking two simple questions: Is there any area of our lives that are being driven by fear? And do we trust God?

First, if fear is driving something in our lives, we need to recognize it and challenge it. And we challenge fear, not be debating or entering into a discussion with it. We challenge and root out fear by trusting in God. 1 John 5:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. Love is the antidote to fear. So we overcome fear, by trusting in God, and his love. We choose like David to not believe in fear, but believe in God.

So we ended the service with one clear and simple challenge. That whenever fear grips our hearts this week, to turn to God and focus on his love and his promises that we do not need to fear, but can trust in him. So may you this week experience all of God’s love, and see fear loosen its grip on any part of your live. Because we get out of our Plan B’s of life not by following fear, but by following God.

 

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: We need to choose to trust in fear or to trust in God

Take Aways…

  • The fact is this: we are not in control as much as we think we are
  • the natural and normal response to a loss of control is fear.
  • “When life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it was going to turn out, you may think you’re losing control. But the truth is, you never had control in the first place” Pete Wilson
  • A decision made out of fear will never be a good one.
  • Two options: To fear and grasp for control, or to trust and let go of control.
  • A bad option when things are good seems like a good option when things are bad
  • Whenever fear asks you to make a decision it is the wrong one
  • But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice: it always plays to our fears. Jonathon Martin
  • Fear casts out God in our lives. Jonathon Martin
  • Is there any area of your life – being driven by fear?
  • Do you trust in God?
  • Trust in God and his love, and get rid of fear

Adult / Group Discussion Questions

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

When have you been in a “plan b” in your life? How has fear gripped you in “plan b” times? What areas of your life are filled with fear right now? Can you relate to the temptation David faced to force things on his own? When have you ever had to make a choice like David’s? How can centering on God’s perfect love for you, help to cast out fear of your life? How can you trust in God deeper this week?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about fear, and how it can grip us. Talk to them about what makes them feel better when they are scared (parents, friends, God, etc). Share with them how when we get scared focusing on God and his perfect love for us can help us to get rid of fear. That God is always there for them. Share from your own life how God’s love has helped in a time of fear.

Challenge for this Week

Trust in God and his love, and get rid of fear

Is fear driving your future?

Spooky old photoOn Sunday we are looking at the topic of fear. And here is the truth: fear grows when we feel we are not in control. The less control we have in our lives, the more fear takes hold.

And this can happen all over the place. We lose our job, and fear is in charge. A friendship breaks down, and fear directs our decisions. Our Plan A’s turn into Plan B’s and fear has a heyday.

The point is this when we lose control, fear grows.

The problem is that we aren’t ever really in control. I mean I know this is not a fun thing to say – but we actually control so little in our lives. We live with the semblance of control. We plan, prepare, and proceed if we are in control. But things shift, the economy changes, a phone call from our doctor, a friendship fails…and we find out we aren’t in as much control as we thought. That’s when fear fills that void.

But that’s not the only way it needs to be. The options aren’t pretend control, and fear. There is a third option. One of trust that we are going to look at on Sunday.

But before we get there I think there is a good question for us to ask today:

Is there any area of your life that fear is driving?

Because fear is subtle, it is hidden often just below the surface, but it so often drives our decisions, thoughts, and lives. So spend some time asking that question and reflecting on it. Because here is the truth: a decision made based in fear, is rarely the right one. So on Sunday we are going to look at how fear drives us, but also how we can live free of fear. Because there is a beautiful promise in 1 John 5:18, “perfect love casts out fear”. So we are going to work this all together, where hopefully we can leave with less fear, more trust, and most importantly, more hope.