And Then There Is Fear

Since this turned into something of a series on abundant life and reigning in life (see The Day After and Abundant Life?), it probably would have been helpful to title them consistently and add numbers.  I guess hindsight really is 20/20.  Thank you for your patience, I am learning as I go and really enjoying the process.

The process, I use that term loosely, but what I mean by that is sitting down and talking to the Lord about the things He is doing and has done in my life and asking Him to help me articulate them…as much for me as for anyone else.  So if it ever seems as if I am thinking out loud on the computer screen, I probably am.

My thoughts turned to abundant life and reigning in life as I reflected on the importance not only on the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, but celebration of the Resurrected life.  The truth is, as believers the cross represents the crucifixion of our old self (our human spirit that was dead to God), our burial, and our resurrection (us made alive together with Christ).  Shouldn’t our lives be different?  If ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is true, well…that’s a total game changer, if we let it be.

Thinking about this it seemed the obvious place to start was with what abundant life is not, since that really is the part I am most familiar with :).  I think I made a good case in my last post for the idea that TRYING HARDER IS NOT ABUNDANT LIVING (is it true that when you use all caps it’s like raising your voice to your reader?  Please let me know because I want to scream that from the mountain tops)!  My life is an honest example of the truth in that statement.

Another honest example from my own life is that FEAR is not reigning in life.  The fact that I had so many of these to choose from (fear examples) made this post hard to write.  Fear based living could become a series within a series…or a book.  The easiest one to see is in how I mothered my girls.

Every decision I agonized over was based on the fear that if I made the wrong one their lives would be forever off-track, the perfect track, God’s track.  School was a big one for me.  I knew early on that homeschooling was not for us, but I didn’t feel public school was ‘safe’, so at great financial cost I insisted my kids go to Christian school for several years.  That way they would be in the right environment, with the right friends, learning the right Christian things to keep their lives on the right track.

It finally became financially obvious that we could no longer continue in Christian school, so we enrolled them in public school.  You know what?  In the beginning I felt very defeated by this, like I had failed and because of that the enemy had really gotten a victory.  However, it turned out to be the best thing we could have done for them (one more instance of lacking perspective).  Has it been perfect? No, but honestly the things we’ve faced in public school were not really any different from Christian school.  People are people wherever you go.

I am not advocating thoughtless, careless parenting, but at some point don’t you just have to trust that God is bigger than your mistakes?  I can’t protect them from every possible danger that can potentially come their way, but I can place my trust in the One who can.

While mothering has been a very pronounced example of how I’ve lived in fear, the truth is I’ve lived afraid of a lot of things.  Afraid that if I didn’t pray and read my Bible every day that I wouldn’t have God’s favor.  Afraid that if I made a mistake God wouldn’t love me, bless me, use me (fill in the blank).  Afraid that as a Christian I wasn’t representing God very well if my life wasn’t perfect (talk about carrying a huge weight – it’s a miracle I can even stand up straight any more).  Afraid that if I wasn’t doing enough for the Lord He might get angry.

What was I afraid would happen?  The absolute worst, whatever that was.

The apostle John had this to say about fear:

1 John 4:18 (NASB) – “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.”

John was exactly right.  I had met Perfect Love, but I didn’t really trust Him to be Lord.  I walked around waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting the punishment I was sure I deserved for all the mistakes I was sure I was making.

But you know how the Lord handles our mistakes?  He confronts them with His love, not His wrath.  Two of the biggest mistake makers in the New Testament, Paul and Peter, prove this.  Paul was actually murdering followers of Christ and was on his way to kill even more when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and you know what Jesus said to him?

Acts 9:4-6 (NASB) – “… and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am
Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the
city, and it will be told you what you must do.”

Paul wasn’t even a believer at that point, but Jesus simply confronted him with a question.  A question that immediately revealed to Paul (then Saul) what was in his own heart and who Jesus was.  And then He told Paul what to do.

Then there is Peter.  The disciple who swore his willingness to die for Jesus (John 13) and then turned around and denied even knowing Him that same night (John 18).  Talk about a mistake!  How did Jesus handle it?

John 21:15-17 (NASB)“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Jesus dealt with his mistake by asking him questions that caused Peter to think and then He gave him instructions.  Just like He did with Paul.  Their mistakes were confronted by Perfect Love, not punishment.

So, all that to say, living in fear is NOT reigning in life, but apparently living loved IS.

Advertisements

The Transformation of a Son of Thunder

A few weeks ago I shared about a great listening activity a friend of mine led us in on our girls’ weekend getaway at Riverbend this year.  Just to recap here’s how that activity went down:  we listened to the entire book of First John from beginning to end without our Bibles in front of us, without paper to take notes on, without stopping and re-winding, without talking.  We just listened.  It only took about 15 or 20 minutes.  Then we listened to First John 3, but this time we had paper to jot down anything that seemed to jump out at us.  Then we listened to First John 3 one more time.  Once we had listened we discussed what spoke to our hearts.

First, Second and Third John were all written by John, brother of James, son of Zebedee, disciple of Jesus Christ.  He also authored the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation.  I am probably telling you things that you already know about him, but there’s a point, it’s not just about the facts.  All of these tremendous books of Scripture, God’s Word to us, were written fairly late in John’s life and fairly late in relationship to the other books of the New Testament.  Scholars believe that all five of these books were written between 85 AD and 95 AD.

Let’s do some quick math, if Jesus was crucified around 30 AD that means fifty-five to sixty-five years passed before John wrote a word.  So what was this first-hand witness to the life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ the Son of God doing all that time?

Mark 3:17 introduces us to John this way when Jesus first called him to be a disciple: “…and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);”

It is believed that John was the youngest of the disciples and possibly an adolescent at the time of his call.  Therefore, he may well have been under the age of twenty when Jesus died.  During Jesus’ time on earth Scripture records John, and his brother James, at one point wanting to call down fire from heaven on some folks who wouldn’t receive Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).  It also records how John, and his brother James, requested to be seated on the right and left of Jesus in heaven (bold move, don’t you think?) (Mark 10:35-37).  Sounds like Jesus had good reason to call them Sons of Thunder.

Back to our listening exercise on First John, the one thing that all of us in the group zeroed in on was how frequently the word “love” is used in that book.  In fact, the word “love” is a consistent theme in all three of John’s epistles, as well as his gospel.  While the word “love” is not as frequent in the book of Revelation, it IS the revelation of Jesus Christ, Love Himself.

So how did John go from being a Son of Thunder to a messenger of Love?  How did he move from desiring to penalize people for their lack of understanding and exalting himself with Jesus, to a man who wanted nothing more than for all to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you (all) may have life in His name” (John 20:31)?  And how did he become a man who refers to himself in the third person (not the first person, as in the principle character) as the disciple whom Jesus loved?

While Scripture doesn’t record the details of those fifty-five to sixty-five years of silence (or anonymity?) they really make me wonder.  I think Scripture says a lot by the facts it includes, but I think it also says a lot by what it clearly leaves out.  And it certainly leaves out a large portion of John’s life.  The only two things we know for certain are that he cared for Jesus’ mother Mary and he was active in the early church of Jerusalem after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Beyond those two things we don’t really know what John was doing during that time, but we do know what God was doing.

He was lovingly transforming a Son of Thunder into a humble servant of Jesus Christ, into a man not only able to care for the condition of the flock, but a man entrusted with arguably the most powerful vision and message in all Scripture.  He was given the privilege of communicating The End of the story to those of us in the middle of the journey.

I’ve been asking myself, am I willing to live in obscurity for the purposes of God?  Am I willing to allow Him full access to every area of my life to do the transforming work that only He can do?  Just as importantly, am I willing to wait as long as it takes and let God do the work in me in His time?  (Let’s face it, we live in a culture that wants everything immediately…waiting fifty-five years for anything seems incredible if not impossible!)

Going back to the idea of Surrendering ‘The Plan’ from Monday’s post, am I willing to operate on a need-to-know basis and live moment by moment with Him?  Seeking only to know Him, allowing Him to bring me to the place only He can see?  As John stood at the foot of the cross I doubt he saw himself penning the book of Revelation or caring enough about young believers to write letters of love and warning to them.  Only a life of dependence on God, whether its years or decades, could produce such lasting fruit.