Posts Tagged ‘fear not’

Day Two – Lent

2 Timothy 1:7   For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. [NLT]

Mary Geisen quotes author, Annie Downs, “There is no formula and there are no rules. There is the Bible, our guidebook for all things, but other than that, being brave is organic and spiritual and a unique journey for each person.”

Geisen adds, that we can usually identify moments of brave faith when we are most uncomfortable. In other words, we have stepped out of our “box,” our comfort zone and we are navigating new terrain. One’s comfort zone can be large or small, but whenever we step out, it’s a step of faith.

I have always been tuned in to people’s feelings. Unfortunately, my response is usually to make them feel better, to make peace, to avoid conflict. I will be the chameleon. And although that can be a useful tactic, there are also times when I need to stand strong. Instead, I want to be liked, to be appreciated. I don’t want people to be angry with me and so I will adapt to the moment, edit my words, and so forth. It’s the way of the cowardly lion.

Some of this discomfort happened this year after the U.S. election of Donald Trump. I have never been a political person before, but this was a turn of events that frightened and angered me. I decided to get out of the comfort zone of being apolitical, of being an “independent,” and of not alienating people who were more conservative and happy with their new president. It has been a painful process to lose connections, to be mocked for my opinion, to be called a liar, to be called out for not matching the views of many evangelicals. My faith in Jesus Christ has been questioned publicly because of my political stand.

I continue to pray for wisdom and for truth and for protection for our country. I don’t feel particularly brave in this arena, but it is definitely uncomfortable.


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Facing My Fear

fear not

Photo by Tom Ryaboi

According to the verse counters, there are more than 500 verses in scripture that address the matter of fear. Some of them say, “be not afraid,” some say, “fear not,” and others compare the power of fear against the power of God (no contest). And yet, we continue to fear.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid? [Psalm 27:1, NIV]

Fear can be defined as an emotion induced by the perception of threat to oneself. As a result, we have responses such as flight or fight. If the threat is completely out of our control, fear may be partnered with anxiety, and then our set of responses is diminished because anxiety often causes a shut-down or meltdown (note, anxiety can exist without fear but the combination is lethal).

Life prepares us for fear . . . or not. So much depends on our experiences. If we have successfully navigated a difficult situation or person at one time, the next occurrence will be less fear producing (but of course, the converse is also true). If we are thrown into circumstances for the first time, despite their newness, there is usually something we have done before that will drive our response (even if it’s the last time we tackled a new environment, activity or person). In other words, how we respond can become habitual.

The question then is critical: If God is God and I believe God is “for me” and not against me, why do I continue to fear?

Because I continue to leave God out of the equation.

It’s time to build a new set of responses, consciously, if necessary. Like breaking any habit, it will take some time and some practice, but it’s time to really stand in the promise of Presence.

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When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

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photograph by Angelica Cotos

Whether it’s angels, prophets, or the “son of man” speaking to a human, at least seventy times in scripture, they each instruct people not to fear. A clue: their appearances and proximity must be downright terrifying, and I infer, equally hard for the human to describe or process. What is happening to me?

Revelation 1:17-18
When I [John] saw him [“someone like a son of man”], I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

God is so different from us and even Jesus, who walked as human among us for those short 30 +/- years, altered after his resurrection. Oh, I know, most paintings or prints of his resurrected self show him looking pretty normal, but I’m thinking that normality was only during his 40 days on earth before he finally ascended [see Acts 1:3]. After that, I think he went on to a different manifestation, perhaps more like his transfiguration on the high mountain with Peter, John & James [Matt 17:1-13 & Mark 9:2-13]. Here is a whisper of the brilliance and light, power and energy, the “otherness” of the Christ.

Years ago, I used to joke with my husband that I wouldn’t go on a mission trip to some remote or dangerous place unless Jesus sat on my bed and told me to go. It was a silly way to insist that mission work was not for me. Eventually, I did travel to Africa and I’m grateful Jesus didn’t have to go to one of those extremes to get my “buy-in.”

Transfigured appearances of the Christ are significant. Anyone who has had a supernatural experience should know. And I’m guessing the phenomenon would be no less terrifying to us today. I would have strong doubts of any story was told otherwise. God light encompasses and penetrates the soul.

When John heard a voice and turned to look at its source (verses 12-16), he describes what he saw as best he could: 7 lampstands, “someone like a son of man” (which I interpret to mean that he looked human-like but not completely) who appeared to be dressed in white with blazing eyes, glowing feet and a voice that sounded like rushing waters (very loud, in case you haven’t stood by a mountain stream lately). John lost all composure and collapsed to the ground. Would I do any better?

And yet, this bright one, touched John and spoke, “Do not be afraid.” Everything John saw and felt gave him fear. It was all outside his experience; it made the mountaintop transfiguration seem like nothing.

John also described a two-edged sword coming out of the Christ’s mouth. There is nothing appealing to me about an image like that. I have seen artists depict this sword and it gives me the creeps. As I ponder the idea of a two-edged sword that cuts through anything and everything, back and forth, one swath at a time, I imagine, instead, John experiencing the truth of his life uncovered and revealed. Whatever the self-deceptions had been were exposed. The sword, the breath, the light, cuts away the dross.

And perhaps, then, the fear is not just from the presence of a holy God but from the impact that holiness has on us. The bonus is that Christ embraces us all the same.

The mystery of the sacrifice, once and for all, allows us into the Presence. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit recognizes God and vice versa.

Do not be afraid of the two-edged sword and its revelations. Do not be afraid of the Light that illuminates us both within and without. Do not be afraid of Spirit that transfigures us. Selah.

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