Are you afraid?


The point of terrorism is to instill fear; the use of heinous crimes to insight terror.  That is why it is called “terrorism”.  This fear and intimidation is utilized to gain political ends, either to influence or to overpower.  I have seen many of my homosexual and straight friends respond exactly as the terrorists desire in the last few days, citing attacks from all types of murderers to claim that we are not safe in malls, movie theaters, planes, churches, and now bars and they are afraid.  I have also seen many of my homosexual and straight friends muster up their pride and confidence to stand “firm” in the face of terrorism and not let a threat deter them from their normal life or activities.

Terrorism is not a new wartime tactic, but we did have a substantial relief its prevalence in the west after the end of the Cold War.  Gen X, by in large, did not grow up with the fear of being attacked in the same way the Baby Boomers did and now the Millennials are.

Are you afraid?  

Are radicals and wicked people influencing how you live your life?  Perhaps you are afraid to fly because someone might hijack or blow up your plane.  Perhaps you are afraid to travel because you never know who or what awaits you at your destination.  Perhaps you are afraid to go out by yourself because someone might kidnap or harass you.  The reality is that we live in a wicked world, and there are many who would seek the harm of others for a myriad of reasons:  political, religious, self-pleasure, and many many more.  We all live in this world and thus take calculated risks based on these facts every. single. day.  Some let the actual fear alter their decisions while others stand up in courage against the fear while still others look at the statistics and realize the chances of becoming one of the victims is so marginal that it truly should not affect our daily decision making.

God has an interesting vantage point on fear.  It is poignant and it is life-altering.  Through Jesus He teaches us,

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

– Matt 10.28

Jesus fundamentally teaches us that there is something much worse than physical death, and that is eternal damnation.  And the only being worth truly fearing is God:  the one who dictates who goes to Heaven and Hell.

Now, we see regular examples of people in the Bible being fearful of or not wanting to die.  Jesus Himself did not want to die.  Death is not a pleasant experience and most of us are not anticipating it – unless we are at the end of a very long and difficult battle with illness or peril.  But far greater is the weight of eternity and the potential future of condemnation, judgment and wrath without end.

Without end.  Imagine the worst possible pain, sorrow and misery going on forever.  When I was a child I used to cry at the thought of eternity – the fact that life would go on forever.  This is a glorious and beautiful reality if we are saved and will enter into eternity with God, but if we enter into eternity at enmity with God, we will spend that time in the lake of fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Where mourning never ends and in the presence of the Devil and all things wicked.  It will not be a giant party where our friends are present, God will be actively destroying our souls and flesh for eternity.

Therefore, the only thing and the only being worth truly fearing is Him.

When we know God, and our future is secure in His promise of salvation, and we consider life here and also life in eternity with Him, there is truly nothing to fear.  Why?  Because the worst that can happen to us is we can be killed and ushered into His presence.  If a terrorist blows up our plane, if we are shot at a movie theater or at a church, if we are murdered and our earthly goods stolen, we have lost nothing.

Thus we must ask ourselves, in what are we placing our hope and trust?  Are we focused on the here and now, making our lives as comfortable as they can be and living with a fear of death?  Or do we have a relationship with God and know that no matter what happens here on the Earth, we will spend eternity with Him without suffering or sorrow?

It is normal and natural to fear death.  It is also a sin to live in fear.  And the best way to combat that fear is to address it directly, praying for faith and claiming the truth and promise that we have nothing to lose and when we do die we will spend eternity with God. This, of course, does not mean that we live foolishly and make unwise decisions, but it does mean that we do not let the fear of mankind deter us from God’s calling or living our lives to the fullest.

Do not fear man.  Only fear God, and His power.  But also love Him for the provision that He has made and the promise that we do not have to spend eternity in Hell.

Why is grace amazing?

amazing grace

Perhaps one of the most well known hymns for the past 250 years.  Isaac Newton was born in 1725, and after his mother died just before his seventh birthday, his father took him to sea with him at the age of eleven.  He grew up on the boat, drinking and carousing and was ultimately enlisted in the British navy.  Hating the service, he attempted to desert and was whipped with eight dozen lashes and lost his rank.  He then served on a slave ship but did not get along with his counterparts, and they left him as a slave to a slave trader in Africa.

John’s father sent a rescue mission to retrieve him and the ship suffered damage during a storm, nearly sinking.  Miraculously, some of the cargo shifted into the hole in the ship’s hull, and John understood this to be the intervention of God.  He continued to work in slave trading, though he began to have more compassion on the slaves.

He left the slave trade and became an Anglican priest, and thirty-four years after leaving the profession, John began fighting against slavery and wrote a pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”.  His efforts ultimately led to the outlawing of slaver in 1807 under the leadership of William Wilberforce.

John wrote the first verse of Amazing Grace while his ship was being repaired after the storm:

Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound,
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

While hunting in Londonderry, Ireland, Newton was climbing up a steep embankment and was pulling his gun behind him.  The shot gun went off, he describes it thus:

“As I climbed up a steep bank, pulling my shotgun after me, in a perpendicular direction, it went off so near my face as to burn away the corner of my hat.”

He understood this to be God’s intervention yet again, teaching him to fear – and finding fear’s only true hope:  Jesus Christ.

Grace indeed is amazing.  But what makes it so amazing is that which it counteracts, and that is the wrath of God.  Without the “bad news”, there can ultimately be no “good news”.  We often diminish the Gospel by placating ourselves and believing that we are good people at the core, that God loves us because of who we are, and that admittance into Heaven is just the icing on the cake.

The Gospel, however, teaches us that we are hopelessly wicked and deserve damnation.  Unless we believe in Jesus and are transformed by the Spirit, we will perish.  We have already been judged and the wrath of God is poured out upon us (John 3.18).  We must grasp this reality in order to understand and appreciate grace.  Otherwise grace is not amazing.

Grace is us receiving what we do not deserve:  eternal life.  The more deeply we understand Hell, damnation, and the wrath of God against ungodliness, the more fully we can appreciate the magnitude and glory of grace.

And it is grace itself which teaches our hearts to fear.  Did you go through a season where your heart feared damnation and a godless eternity?  Did you come to a point where you understood your sin and wickedness?  That was grace revealing your true state.  And grace turns around and relieves our fear by giving us hope through salvation.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

How amazing is God’s grace to you today?  Let us embrace the holiness of God and His wrath against ungodliness so that grace can be all the more sweeter and glorious in our lives today.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear


The Bible is full of tensions and and truths that we must study and try to understand in our daily walks with the Lord.  Mutual responsibility (God’s sovereignty and our accountability), the coming of the Kingdom of God (Jesus has brought salvation in part, but it will be completed in fullness when He comes the second time), and the like.  But one that regularly leaves people in different camps is how we best relate to God:  Is he almighty judge?  King?  Or father?

Scripture teaches all of these truths, and to try to pick one out as better than the other or as our primary method of relating to God is dangerous at best and detrimental to our faith at worst.  If you think of Jesus as your “homeboy” as the tee-shirt suggests, you are in grave danger of disrespecting the king of the universe.  Jesus will not be snowboarding with you on the New Earth, He is king and judge and will reign from His throne (Matt 19.28).  But if you only think of Jesus as the eternal judge, you miss out on His tender, loving side by which we know we have been adopted as sons and we can crawl up in His lap and call Him “daddy” (Rom 8.15)

Should we fear God as the king, and as the judge?


“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

– Matt 10.28

And, No.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

– 1 John 4.18

There is a tendency in our culture to choose to elevate grace above all other attributes and gifts of God.  God’s grace is indeed glorious and deserving of our praise.  It is by grace alone that we have any hope for eternal salvation (Eph 2.8-9).  But we must be diligent, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, not to cheapen grace.  God’s grace is not an excuse for us to live however we want, we must be diligent to fight sin in our lives (Rom 6).  It is by grace that we are forgiven, but we cannot crawl up in God’s lap if we have unrepented sin in our lives (Matt 5.22-24).  He cannot and will not look on wickedness (Hab 1.13), and if we go on sinning after we receive salvation we prove ourselves to not be saved (Heb 10.26-27).

But yet, it is by grace alone that we are saved and we can not and will not earn favor with God by obedience.  We only love because God loves us, forgives us and welcomes us into His presence, and when we understand God’s love, we are not to fear Him.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  We love, because He first loved us.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

– 1 John 4.16-20

Consider this today, that the king of the universe who will judge all without partiality and without leniency has offered you salvation through the life, death and resurrection of His son.  He will adopt you as children, but the proof that we have been adopted is our obedience.  Love Him.  Know Him.  Call Him father, daddy even.  But do not become so comfortable as to think that He will excuse you and accept you irregardless of how you act.  Prove yourself to be His follower by loving and obeying Him.  Everyone who encountered any heavenly glory immediately fell to the ground and covered their eyes in fear.  We will have the same reaction on that day when we meet Him.  But He will welcome those who have abode in Him as beloved children.  Wrestle with the balance of love and fear.  Do not let one win out over the other.  God deserves to be revered and respected as well as loved and cherished.  Seek His face today.

The Fear of Flying.


Have you heard the news?  Planes have been falling out of the sky lately.  Malaysian Airlines lost a plane, Air Asia also lost a plane in the South Pacific, and most recently Germanwings had a pilot intentionally down an airbus in the Alps.  This, of course, has reignited for many a deep-seated fear of flying.

I have never been a very fearful person; I was always the child who was willing to try.  I climbed trees, straightlined down mountains on skis, taught myself how to do all sorts of flips off the diving board, and rode horses as fast as they could go; I enjoyed going fast.  As an adult, I ride a motorcycle, and travel wherever the road (or air) will take me; I just enjoy experiencing life.  In 2008 I moved to SE Asia.  Shortly before I arrived, there was an airline called Adam Air who lost two jets within a year.  Consequently they went out of business, but air travel was not the most certain thing in my host country.  Shortly after moving there, a few more planes went down, one even crashed in the city where I was living and killed 27 people on board.  I only lived a few miles from the airport and could often hear planes flying overhead.  The entire first year that I was in country I went to language school so that I could function in the country, and part of our discipline was reading the newspaper.  One day the local newspaper listed every plane and helicopter that had crashed in the past year in this country alone.  It nearly filled the whole first page.

Suddenly, one day, fear gripped my heart.  It was a new experience for me, as I used to love flying.  Heights never bothered me, and the excitement of going somewhere had me always ready to board the plane.  But here I was, as far away from home as I could physically be, terrified of air travel.  As I finished up language school, I began preparing for my job which required me to fly at least two, and up to six times a month.  I began scheming with my partner how we could drive instead of fly.  This was impossible, of course, in a country where there are no highways!  I had a slew of meetings where I had to travel to other countries back to back, and the simple act of driving to the airport would all but send me into a panic attack.

A well meaning Christian counselor prescribed me Xanax and a more potent medication to help.  I tried the meds, but they would make me fall asleep until the plane started moving, and as soon as we pulled onto the runway for takeoff, I was awake and as terrified as ever.  For one meeting I flew with a good friend and coworker who had three children at the time, and she joked as we boarded the plane that “God would not down a plane with such cute babies aboard”.  There was a slight comfort in flying with friends, but those 3 hours were still torture.

I started my job, and my partner and I decided that we would drive (a two day drive, instead of a 2 hour flight) for our first trip.  The day before the trip, plans changed and he decided that flying was the only option, so I chose to stay home.  At this point I realized there was a serious problem:  I was incapable of doing my job.

At the time I was working on my Master’s degree from Southern Seminary, and as part of the degree program I was required to take two counseling classes.  I signed up for my first one, and in the intro lecture the professor said we were each required to have a “Personal Sanctification Project”.  “Pick one thing in your life that you would like to change”, he said.  I knew exactly what I wanted to change.  I did not consider it sin, but I knew that I needed to conquer this fear in order to do anything – even if it was just to get home!

The personal sanctification project was an issue that we would bring to the Lord.  We were required to journal about the issue, anything the Lord was saying to us, any verses that He was pointing out to us, and how we were progressing with it throughout the semester.  The premise of the course was the assumption that any issue that was not a chemical or physical imbalance was truly a discipleship issue.  Two weeks into the course he addressed the “sin of fear”.  The second of the three lectures he actually focused on the fear of flying.

Now, in my mind, my fear was justified.  I am not an illogical person.  I like to think, reason, use my logic and make informed decisions.  The risk of flying in this particular country was higher than most, and planes crashed regularly.  I could have argued my logic to anyone, and many people shared my fear.  No one approached me and said, “Alison, your fear is a sin”.  But if they would have, I am confident that I would have defended myself adamantly.  But God had prepared my heart and readied me to hear this exhortation from a professor on a videotaped lecture.  Jesus commands us not to fear.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt 6.34

He simply asked the question, “What are you afraid of?”  He than began to reveal the fact that fearing death is, at its root, a lack of faith.  “Do you truly believe that when you die, you will enter into eternity with Jesus?”  he asked.  Conviction hit me hard.  I had not stopped in my anxiety and terror to consider that if we crashed and I died, I would get to go to my eternal home.  Yes!  He was right!  The logic began to set in, but it did not alleviate the fear.

At the time I was reading through the book of Hebrews in my quiet times, and as I began the very first chapter, verse three stood out to me:

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

Jesus is upholding everything that exists in the world by His word.  He is continually speaking you and me into existence.  He is speaking the airplanes into existence!  If He were to stop speaking, we would cease to exist.  Poof!  We would be gone.

So there I was, left with a promise that God is sovereign, He is in control, and He is literally speaking me and the airplane into existence.  I was also left with a command to not fear, and the reality that letting fear take root in my heart was sin, it was disobeying Jesus and it was a lack of faith.  I began to pray that verse to God.  “God, I know you are speaking me into existence and that you are in control.  I am going to get on the next airplane and trust your plan.”

I did not have to wait very long to follow through.  The next week we headed off to the airport.  I did not sleep the night before.  My stomach was upset the whole morning.  I sat terrified in the waiting room.  And I got on the airplane.  I prayed, “God, I know you are speaking me and this airplane into existence.  If we crash, I am coming home to you.”  I prayed that over and over for the entire two hour flight.  I was terrified.  But I got through the plane ride.  For the next six or seven flights I prayed that prayer without a breath in between.  I was on a flight that landed so hard that the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling.  I was on another flight that flew through the heart of a storm, but upon reaching our destination the airport had no electricity and therefore no runway lights (it was at nighttime), so we turned around and went back to our departure city.

I obeyed in fear.

But then, one day, just as suddenly as the fear gripped my heart, it was gone.  I was in the same country, had the same job, flew the same airlines, and suddenly God relieved me of the fear.  God gave me the faith to truly believe that if I did die, it was to my benefit, and the spirit of fear was overcome.

Fear is a type of temptation.  It can be a healthy reaction.  If an oncoming car swerves into your lane in traffic, adrenaline starts pumping and you react quickly.  If you are riding passenger when a car swerves into your lane, your fight or flight reaction kicks in, you might yell, you might gasp, you might grab the handle of your door.  This is a God-given response to danger.  But if you give in to the temptation to allow fear to reign or govern your feelings or actions, you have given in to sin.

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

– James 1.14-15

When you experience fear, because you will experience fear, turn immediately to God in prayer.  Examine your faith.  Ask yourself what it is that you are truly fearing.  Claim promises of Scripture.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5.8).  “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Phil 4.19).  “All things work together for good for those that love God” (Rom 8.28).

God is in control.
He is speaking you, and your vice into existence.
Ask Him to give you victory.
He will direct you out of sin, and into faith.

What ladder are you climbing?

What ladder are you climbing?  We are all at various places in our lives and careers.  Some of us are still students, while others of us are knee deep in retirement.  Some of us are dating and some of us have a handful of teenagers running around and causing grey hair.  But when you stop and think about your life goals, what is your main drive?  Are you reaching for the next rung financially?  The next promotion at work, so you can have more power?  Sending your kids to college?  Putting a little more each month into your 401K?

Many of us fear failure.  We hear throughout life that we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, to not take ourselves too seriously, and to take chances.  You will never succeed if you do not fail, right?  When I first moved abroad and was studying the language, I did not want to try to speak unless I was sure I was forming my words and sentences correctly.  I one time told a man that I had bought a new bicycle while emphatically pointing at my new shoes.  (The word for bicycle and shoes is very similar.)  And there was no shortage of laughter at my blunder.  I, however, was not amused.  I was quite embarrassed and frustrated.  But you know what?  I never made that mistake again.

Dwight L. Moody took a different position on the issue of failure:

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”

– D. L. Moody

Can you imagine coming to the end of your life and realizing that you have done nothing of eternal significance?  James says,

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

– James 4.14

It has been said that if you could draw a picture of the timeline of your existence, your life on Earth would be just a pin point dot, with a line stretching from it for as far as the eye can see representing eternity after death.  Our time of Earth is our opportunity to experience God as our Savior from sin, our strength to resist our flesh, and our joy.  Once we have shed our earthly bodies, we will reside with Him in perfect peace, if we have known Him as savior while alive on the Earth.

Jesus implored us to,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.19-21

Eternal treasures are eternal life, reward for caring for those who are unable to repay you, fellow souls who were won through your witness, and those things that will last forever.  Scripture speaks of crowns that will be rewarded:  the crown of life, righteousness, glory, the imperishable crown, and the crown of rejoicing.  Some interpret these as literal crowns, but because the Greek term used for crown means “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally”, I understand them to be figurative crowns.  They are the prize, the badge, the mark that we receive when entering our eternal rest.

Are you working towards the crowns of eternal reward in your upward climb at work?  Are you building up treasures in Heaven through your parenting and teaching?  Is your reward in Heaven as you date your future mate or continue your studies at the University?

Success in Earthly matters can be failure in eternal matters.  Jesus said that,

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

– Luke 12.48

Are you giving and serving in proportion to what you have been given?  Jesus also said,

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

– Matt 19.24

The more emphasis we place of worldly success and comfort, the less likely it is that we will enter Heaven.  Why?  Because where our treasure is, there our heart is also.  If we spend our time and energy investing in retirement, education, comfort or pleasure, our hearts are pouring into that which will not last.  And even if you are the most established for retirement, if you are the most comfortable and your wife does not have to work, if you have every toy you could ever want, we will be left wanting for eternity.

Let us weigh carefully our passions, drives and successes.  Let us test our motives and examine where our hearts and treasures lie.  Failure is neither the greatest thing to be feared nor the tool by which we should learn.  The wrong goal, success in anything apart from that which matters eternally, should be our greatest fear.

moody fear

Is God still good if I get cancer?


I have been contemplating my own mortality a fair amount lately. You know, the “Is God still good if I get cancer?” kind of question. We romantics think these situations will lead us to our greatest moment of faith and glorification of God until the first unfavorable medical report sends us into a tailspin of fear, doubt and disgrace revealing our faith to be a show that we put on for others and not a deep and true dependence on God for our sustenance and satisfaction.

Is God still good if I get cancer? Is God still good if my spouse dies? Or worse yet, leaves me? Is God still good if my child gets cancer? Or rebels and abandons the faith? Is God still good if I lose my job? Or my house? Or anything else I am holding on to?

The academic says, “Yes! God’s goodness is not dependent or determined by my pleasure, comfort or health.” The false prophet says, “If you suffer any of those things, it is because you have sinned and/or do not have enough faith”.  And the appeaser (and one who does not deal with trials on a deep, heart level) says, “Everything happens for a reason, just trust God.”

Yes. We know that “God causes all things to work together for good for them that love the Lord” (Rom 8.28).

But last night I sat at the airport for a couple of hours waiting on a delayed flight and sat another hour in the plane, on the runway, waiting for the weather to clear enough for our takeoff – chewing on this very topic. The storm clouds parted long enough for us to zip through to our detoured route which in theory would allow us to avoid the storms hammering much of the West, and we finally took off. The plane began bouncing wildly before we even left the ground and as we started to climb in elevation my contemplation of a drawn out death via sickness quickly turned to a quick demise via falling. From the sky. How strong does the wind have to be to make that massive steel wing bounce like a giant sling shot released from a child’s grip? Having been miraculously freed from the fear of flying a few years ago (you can read that story here), I never felt the terror of the act of dying if our plane crashed, but my stomach responded as it was designed to in the act of free falling.

Is God still good if my plane crashes?

What is the core of your faith? Do you exist to love God and enjoy Him forever? Or do you exist for God to make your life comfortable while you are here on the Earth? If you exist to know God, to love Him and enjoy Him forever, then what is death other than the gateway leading us from a life of suffering to an eternity of being with the one we love and desire?

But that complete abandon is a difficult place to live continually. We have responsibilities after all! A spouse, children, a job, a ministry, goals. And Scripture tells us that there is a time to mourn. If you are the most spiritually mature Christian, you will understand that children are a blessing from the Lord. They are not yours, but they are God’s and He has appointed you as steward over them for a season. You will love them perfectly as God loves and nourishes the Church. You will discipline them wisely, and teach them how to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of God. But if one is killed in a car accident, you will mourn. There will be a season of grief. Yes, you might find wonderful peace and comfort in the knowledge of his salvation and eternal resting with the God of the universe, but you will still miss his face, his laughter, his presence and you will grieve the loss.

Is the answer, “Everything happens for a reason” the best answer in such a circumstance?

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

– Rom 12.15

Yes. Academically we understand that we must take our doubts and fears captive and fight them with Scripture: with Truth. God is good. His plan is perfect. We will all die, and He will give us the grace we need in the moment. God’s goodness is not contingent upon our happiness, and often times we learn the most in moments of trial, struggle, pain or confusion.

No, our trials are not judgment or condemnation for sin or a lack of faith. When we are forgiven, when we are covered by the blood of Christ, when we are made new and found in Him,

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

– Rom 8.1

But we are real people and pain hurts. We must remember that pain hurts. Paul encourages the church at Rome to not approach someone who just found out that he has terminal cancer with a blasé “everything happens for a reason” and try to fix the situation or force the sufferer to get over it. Paul taught that very truth four chapters earlier and assumes that the church members already have a solid understanding of it.  The one grieving knows that God works all things out for good. Instead he says, “Go cry with them”. Be silent. Feel their grief, pain or heartache. Trust God to instill His truth that they already know as their sustaining hope.

It is if we get to the point of questioning God’s goodness that we need to worry. Why? Because by asking the very question we are blaming God. Yes, God is in sovereign control of every breath you take, and every breath your child takes – or does not take. Yes, God is in control of sickness, disease, terrorists, and falling planes. But if we allow our hurt, pain and confusion to turn into blame and anger towards God, then at the core we do not believe that eternity is the goal. We believe that happiness on Earth is the goal, and we do not love God – merely his benefits.

What is your goal? Think about it. We need to have right thinking before the trials come because the emotion of the moment will cloud our minds, and those truths need to be established deeply in our hearts and minds to stand the test of grief, sorrow and loss. And when that moment comes, when you hear the sentence: “three months left”, and fear, panic, grief or anger hits you, you can grieve well. We will all grieve. We will all suffer. We will all hurt. We will all die.  Let’s do it well.

“Concerning [the thorn in the flesh] I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Cor 12.8-10



You’ve done it again.

You lied about honorariums and tips on your income taxes and two years have passed without a thought, but you just received a notice from the IRS that you are being investigated.

You returned once again to that alluring pornographic website where you fantasize about women and situations other than your wife, but you forgot to clear the cookies in your browser and it popped up when your child turned on the computer.

That heat wave of primal instinct to fight or flee is washing over your body from head to toe and panic is settling into your heart.  Everyone is going to know.  You are ruined.

Shame is a unique experience, because it often is the resulting feeling of being caught in a sin.  Guilt is the conscience of the self condemning the sinner for his actions, but shame is the weight of the burden associated with losing one’s reputation.  Shame is not typically a concession to the sinfulness of the action committed but rather the grief of the knowledge that the action is sinful and it is now known to the world that the offender has acted without remorse.

As we mature, we become more crafty in covering our sins.  I saw a video floating around the internet this week of a young girl, perhaps five years old, who was telling her mother that a ghost had drawn on the table with a permanent marker.  “Call the police” she said, because the culprit needed to be caught.  By the time we are adults, we learn to redefine our terms and manipulate the facts so that we can assert that we have had not had sex with someone – meaning natural, vaginal intercourse – but oral sex preformed under the desk of the oval office slips by.

“Be sure that your sin will find you out.”

 – Num 32.23

Unfortunately, no matter how crafty we become in manipulation and self-justification, there will come a day when everything will be laid bare.  Our sin will find us out.  God will judge.  Everything.

“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

– Luke 8.17

But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

– Luke 12.2-3

And shame, while it deals primarily with pride and not the heart of the sin preformed, can be a factor that leads to our repentance and salvation.  One day whatever act you are doing right this moment will be made known – shouted from the housetops, as it were, and all who are standing in line for judgment will hear.  Now, we might try to appease ourselves to know that everyone will be in the same boat, but the standard is our holy and perfect God.  He will not be put to shame.

If your pride is your concern, it will be shattered.  But do you know that there is hope?

But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

– Ps 130.4

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

– Is 55.6-7

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1.9

Our pride and fear of being shamed can lead us to salvation.  As we confess that we know that we have sinned and ask God for His forgiveness of those sins, He puts His Holy Spirit within us who will convict us of sin such that we despise the very act of it.  It will no longer be the fear of being caught the drives us, but the hatred for doing that which God forbids because we love Him and want to honor Him.

Test yourself today.  Why do you do what you do?  Do you keep the rules?  And if so, do you keep them for your pride?  Or do you keep them because you love God and want to make Him happy?  Do you break the rules and cover it up?  If so, do you know that one day everything will be brought to light, if not on this earth than at the judgment?  There is hope.  Come to Jesus while there is still time.

Do you ever question God?

Do you ever doubt?  The faith as a whole?  That God is working a specific situation out for good?  Or that He is really coming back?  Does your doubting lead you to wonder if you even have faith at all?

Over the years as I have had questions and doubts, verses ring through my head like Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees who asked for a sign:

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”  And He left them and went away.

– Matt 16.4

And James says doubting prohibits one from receiving wisdom from God:

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

– James 1.6-8

This week, however, I was encouraged by the story of Abraham – the first of the patriarchs and one of the examples of faith Hebrews offers:

And [God] took [Abraham] outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”  Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.  And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”  He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?”

– Gen 15.5-8

The Bible tells us that God chose Abraham (Gen 18.19), He set him apart to be the father of Israel – the chosen people of God.  Abraham did not seek God out, or ask to be used, but God went to him, told him to leave his family and land and promised to make him into a great nation.  So Abraham obeyed and believed the promise that God gave him, “and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gen 15.6).

But then he questioned God.

God gave Abraham a promise.  A personal promise, one on one!  And Abraham believed, but then asked God for a confirmation.  “How may I know?”

Lucifer, in contrast, when he was tempting Jesus, was trying to get Jesus to prove Himself.  “If you truly are the son of God” Lucifer taunted in the first two temptations (Matt 4.3, 6).  For this mindset Jesus condemned Lucifer’s desire to test God: “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”‘”(Matt 4.7).  It was not a genuine request for confirmation or help in time of disbelief, it was disbelieving heart taunting God.

Abraham was counted righteous for his faith, and he questioned God in the same sentence.  Jesus had compassion on the disciples when they doubted that He had truly risen from the grave and showed Himself to them as proof that He was alive.  James promises that whoever lacks wisdom will be given it if they ask of God.  If we are doubting or are unsure, it is both normal and allowable.  God will comfort and assure us when we need it.

However, He hates and will not honor testing of a pessimistic nature.  He might respond, as He did with the prophets of Baal.  He might avenge His name like He did when Ananias and Sapphira lied about what they gave to the Church in His name.  But one should approach with caution when wanting to put God to the test for the sake of asking Him to prove Himself.  It will not turn out well for such a one.  However, if you have sincere doubts, fears and questions He will embrace you and reveal Himself to you.  Let our heart honestly proclaim,

“I do believe; help my unbelief!”

– Mark 9.24


All Roads Connect.

I was home over the Fourth of July and was able to hang out with a life-long friend, Therese. We were dropping her mother off en route to my sister’s house and because of construction had to weave our way through the cornfields of central Indiana.  If you are not familiar with the road systems in Indiana, they function on 1 mile grids, and the road numbers are increments of 100 delineating the distance from the county line.  As you can imagine, the numbering system can be quite confusing.  But the good news is that you can never get lost, as you are almost always heading a cardinal direction and there are major State Roads sporadically dispersed amongst the county roads, so if you know the general direction you need to go you can just keep driving until you hit one of those thoroughfares.


When Therese was young, she and a girlfriend had set out to go out.  Therese asked her friend if she knew the way and her friend said yes.  They got out onto the road and at an intersection Therese asked which way to go and her friend responded, “Whichever way.  All roads connect.”

We all recognize the absurdity of that statement.  Perhaps all roads connect, somehow, someway, but you have to be going to right direction to get onto the right road which would lead you to your intended destination!  And then of course you have roads on islands or in remote areas that do not connect intercontinentally…

Throughout history most people have adhered to a religion.  There have been phases of time when people attempted to deny the supernatural and claim atheism – but for the most part people understand that there is a power greater than themselves and a distance between them and God. The Bible tells us that God reveals Himself through conscience and creation such that all are without excuse (Rom 1.20), and those who would seek to deny that there is a greater power are suppressing the truth which is evident to and within them (Rom 1.21-25).

There are three responses to sin:  shame, guilt and fear.  Different cultures around the world tend to one of the three responses and we see carnal religions built on these.  Americans tend to function in guilt.  It is an internal response, thinking “wow I did that and I shouldn’t have”.  Most Asian cultures tend to be shame oriented.  Saving face is extremely important and if caught in a sin, the question is not if you did something wrong, but you are considered a bad person.  Tribal societies and hierarchical societies tend to focus on fear: there is a power greater than you (spiritual or natural) that will pay you back for what you have done.

All world religions are trying to make amends with God.  And based on these three foundational responses to the problem of evil, we see different religions built.  Hinduism and most Spiritism are based on fear – the gods are angry and we must appease them.  Islam and most monotheistic religions are based on shame:  you are a bad person and you need to make right your debt to God.  Buddhism and Eastern religions tend to be based on guilt:  removing one’s self from reality to realize that suffering and the physical world do not exist.  Each of the three forms merge with the others, no one society or religion is focused solely on one response to sin, but in general we can observe these reactionary tendencies.

The one thing that all of these have in common is man.  Man is the determining factor and the one who must make peace with God or the spirits at work.  Man is the one who can attain redemption, forgiveness, peace or release by that which he does or does not do.

And this is the beauty of Christianity.  If God is perfect and holy, I can never pay off my debt of sin to Him.  I can never appease His wrath, and I can never remove my guilt before Him.  There is non righteous, no not one.  There is none who seeks after God, and we are Spiritually dead in our transgressions without Him (Rom 3.10-11, Eph 2.1).  But God Himself make a way for us to be forgiven.  He, through the person of Jesus Christ, atoned for our sins on the cross and offers us forgiveness if we trust in His saving grace through the forgiveness of our sins by repentance.  I cannot do it.  But Jesus did.

I would argue that we all experience all three responses to sin and have to process them with the Lord throughout our Christian experience.  But the foundation, the key, that on which we cannot falter is the fact that Jesus alone makes peace with us.  We do not make peace with Him.  We trust Him for that peace.

Therefore all roads do not connect.  If I am trying to appease the wrath of angry spirits, or if I am trying to do enough good deeds to balance out my bad deeds, or simply trying to remove myself from suffering and evil by convincing myself that none of it truly exists – I am not trusting Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14.6).   I am relying on myself.  And by consequence nullify the cross.

It is common sense that to get to your destination you have to know the way.  You cannot set out and simply tell yourself that you are going the right way, you have to study the map.  You have to establish the directions.  And you have to stay on the road.

“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

– Matt 7.14

Is Change Really Possible?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Rom 12.2

Do you think people can change?  Are people created with personality flaws that will be constant throughout their lives, or can God fundamentally alter sinful tendencies?  Do you get aggravated with someone and write him off thinking, “That’s just who he is”, or do you lovingly point him to the answer?  Do you settle into your own routine/habits, or do you examine yourself daily to fight sin?

I think that our culture is confused.  We have an abundance of counselors, self-help books and self-enrichment courses that encourage us to change and grow, but we also are inundated with messages about self-acceptance, being who you are and loving you for you.  Dove has a video on social media that has gone viral about learning to see yourself as others see you, because you are more beautiful than you think you are.  And the Christian community is just as confused, when we sing a song called “You Can Change Who You Are” immediately followed by one called “There Can Never Be A More Beautiful You”.

The message of Christianity is a message of hope.  We, in and of ourselves are an abomination to God because we are sinful.  God is holy and perfect, and any small sin is grounds for damnation before Him.  But God, through the work of salvation via Jesus Christ, offers forgiveness for sins and the ability to changed fundamentally.  People are sinful and so were “you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6.11).

So how do we change?  It starts with the mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul says that we as believers offer ourselves daily to the Lord and that we do that by being daily transformed by the renewal of our minds.  He explains it a bit more clearly in 2 Cor 10:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

2 Cor 10.3-6

Taking every thought captive.  That takes a lot of discipline.  What do you think of when you hear the word discipline?  Children being scolded by their parents?  Legalism?  A successful person who manages well his time and money?  There are spiritual disciplines that we can employ to help us in our journey – I highly recommend a book by Donald Whitney called “Personal Spiritual Disciplines” if you struggle on this front or just want to know more!

So how do we take every thought captive?  Let me give you a personal example of this in my life.  About six months into my time living overseas, I developed an uncharacteristic fear in my life.  I love adventure, trying new things, adrenaline…and I have always loved to fly.  But I lived in a third-world country where the airplanes had a strange affinity towards crashing.  Two jetliners went missing – large air-busses full of passengers!  One they think went down in the jungle, another somewhere in the sea.  There were so many plane crashes that there was an article in the national newspaper documenting all of the downed flights with numbers of casualties per flight in the first six months of the year.  Suddenly the fear of flying gripped me.  A plane went down in my city, killing all 27 people on board and I started developing a stress just to hear flights pass by overhead.  For three or four months I lived in terror because my job required regular flying: at least four flights a month!  I tried taking Xanex to relax me, and that did not help.  It got so bad that I actually refused an assignment for work.

But then I was confronted with the sin of fear.  Fear is, at its root, a lack of trust in God.  What was the worst thing that could happen?  I could die and go to Heaven!  I began reading through Hebrews in my quiet time and verse 1.3 caught my attention:  “[Jesus] upholds all things by the word of His power”.  Jesus is continually speaking you and me into existence.  If he were to stop speaking, we would cease to exist.  He is also speaking airplanes into existence.

It was with this knowledge and new found appreciation for the practical sovereignty of God that I began the discipline of trusting God and taking those thoughts captive.  As I packed my bags and would start to feel fear I would pray, “Lord I trust you and your plan”.  As I would sit in fear at the terminal I would pray, “Lord I know that you are speaking me into existence and I trust you.”  And as I would board the plane and imagine the crash I would pray “You are speaking this airplane into existence.  If we crash and I die, I’m coming home to you.”  I probably prayed that prayer and took captive my fearful thoughts a thousand times over four or five flights.  Then one day, the fear disappeared as suddenly as it came one.  I love to fly again.

You have to be aware of your sin before you can take your thoughts captive.  Pray to the Lord to reveal it to you and stay in the Word.  He will do it.  Then become aware of your thoughts and habits, and fight your sin with the Word of God.  Jesus, when He was tempted by the Devil fought with the Word (Matt 4).

Every.  Single.  Thought.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

Col 3.17