The Battle: Fear vs. Faith

They square off in the ring of my heart, ready to rumble.
Who will win?

Fear always throws the first punch.
He shouts says, “I will wrestle with the future because I have no clue what tomorrow holds.”
Faith declares, “I will rest in God’s arms, content in the not-knowing because He is the all-knowing.”

Fear says, “I must frantically do ALL the things today, cramming in as much as possible, because it is up to me to keep all these balls in the air, irons in the fire, plates spinning.”
Faith says, “I will do the next thing in front of me today, working hard at the tasks of THIS day, and trusting that God is at work in all the tasks beyond today.”

Fear says, “It is only natural to be afraid – and that’s OK. You can’t help it so you might as well give in; after all, it is you and you alone who has to face ALL the things.”
Faith says, “I will not be afraid, not allow my heart to be troubled, because God goes before me, is the rear guard behind me, and walks beside me. There is nothing to fear because anyone or anything that happens to me has to go through Him first.”

Fear says, “I don’t have the strength to do all the hard things before me. So I will only do the things that are easy, letting someone else tackle the hard.”
Faith says, “I will do the hard things with a cheerful heart, knowing that I only need strength for this day and no others because this day is the only one that I know I have for sure. And God has promised me all that I need for THIS day.”

Fear says, “I can’t follow God in obedience because if I let go of these people, places and things I love, they might not be here when I get back. I am needed here; I am vital here; I cannot go.”
Faith says, “God loves the people you love more than you do. If you will let go of control, He can show you His mighty hand in their lives. You are not the center of any universe – and never will be. But He is the glue that holds all things together. He is the Savior, not you.”

And Fear, in its last gasps, cries out, “But what if I fail?”
Faith replies, “He will redeem your failures and bring about much fruit.”

Fear whispers, “But what if I’m not good enough, strong enough, smart enough?”
Faith declares, “You aren’t. But He is.”

Fear lives the life of a kicked puppy, cowering in the corner.
Faith lives the life of a beloved child, happy, laughing, carefree and joyous.

Fear lives the life of the unloved, unwanted, unprotected.
Faith lives the life of the beloved, cherished and fiercely guarded.

Fear stops the adventure.
Faith fuels it.

Fear throws up roadblocks.
Faith grows wings.

Fear whispers hot threats.
Faith belts out a glorious song of trust in reply.

Fear says, “Death wins.”
Faith says, “God wins.”

Fear says, “You are losing it all.”
Faith says, “You are gaining more of Him.”

Fear says, “It’s not worth the risk.”
Faith says, “It’s time to soar.”

Heartbeat to heartbeat, the choice marches on: fear? Or faith?
Who wins this moment?
Who wins this day?
Who wins the war?

Not fear. Not today.
And Lord willing, not ever again.

On Climate Change…

I have been thinking a lot about the climate this week.
Soupy, sauna-like, steamy weather has dominated the area.
And it has been intense.

It makes me wonder about “climate change”.
I have friends on both sides of the issue.
Ready with arguments at the drop of the hat – or the drop of the phrase.
Frankly, I can see both sides.

But regardless of what is happening in our weather, a much, much scarier climate change is real for the American Church today.
Our hearts are cold.
We have lost our first love.
And the coldness is terrifying.

Yes, I am speaking in gross generalizations.
I know of pockets of believers in the States that are on fire.
Their hearts are warm and soft, malleable to the touch of the Master’s Hand.

But in general, we – Christ-followers in the US today – are in grave danger.

We care more about what is happening with our weather than we do about what is going to happen in the future.
I have seen joking comments about this heat wave feeling like hell.
But the reality is that most of our friends and neighbors are heading there.
Into an eternity that the Bible describes as full of eternal flames and yet impenetrable darkness.
An eternity separated from God.

And yet we are busier about the business of politics or rhetoric or wringing our hands or not offending our friends than we are about the eternal realities of a world that is dying and going to hell.

The Bible is very, very clear that we have three tasks, given to every Christ-follower. Every. Single. One.
We are to:
Love God.
Love people.
And out of that love, we are to make disciples.
(Matthew 22; Matthew 28)

Loving God means putting Him first.
Making His Word and His ways a priority.
Not just with our mouths.
But with our actions.
Forgiving the unforgiveable.
Defining our lives in relationship to HIM before we take on any other definition.
So I am not a woman first – I am a Christ-follower first.
I am not a white woman first – I am a Christ-follower first.
I am not an American first – I am a Christ-follower first.

And when I put Him first, love His first, seek Him first, everything else falls into place.
He guides my steps.
He give me HIS love for the unlovable.
He changes my heart to match His own.
He works supernaturally in me to change my mind.
To pour out His love.
To serve well.
To shine.

Which leads naturally to loving others.
If my vertical conduit with God is clear, unblocked, and open to Him, then my horizontal world takes on a whole different light.

I don’t see the guy who cuts me off in traffic as the biggest jerk on the planet.
I see him as someone for whom Christ died.
I don’t waste my breath criticizing politicians on every level.
I spend it praying for them, for their hearts, for God to give them wisdom.
I don’t look at you and classify you by your race, gender, ethnicity, language, political party or socio-economic status.
I look at you as a fellow creation of Almighty God, another person who God loves just as much as He loves me, another person He wants to shine for His glory and your good.

And if I am really, truly loving others – if God’s love is pouring through me to them – then my greatest desire is to see them in heaven when I get there.
That’s the third task – making disciples.
Not just wearing a cross or a Christian t-shirt.
Not putting the right bumper sticker on my car.
Not just inviting them to church.
Not simply posting Christian memes or quotes or comments.

But loving them into the Kingdom.
As my friend says, “Loving them until they ask you why.”
Loving them when we disagree.
Loving them when they are ugly.
Loving them when we think completely differently.
Loving them when they don’t love me.
Loving them when they fall on the other side of an issue I am passionate about.
Loving them the way God loves me.

Without God, definitely impossible.

But in Him?
Through Him?
In a grateful response to all He has done?
In obedience to His commands?
By the same power that raised Jesus from the dead?
More than possible.
Because He is greater than every possibility.
He longs to work in you and through you.
In me and through me.
He longs for our hearts to be fully His.
He longs to see US make a change in this world.
For you and me to deeply and directly impact the climate of our individual worlds.
Starting with the climate of the heart.

So how about it?
Is your heart cold?
Maybe not completely – but does it have icy patches?
People you won’t forgive?
Habits you won’t surrender?
Obedience He is asking that you will not give?

Please, please – ask Him to thaw your heart.
To give you His eyes for your world. And the world beyond your world.
To give you His heart.
That’s the amazing thing – this isn’t about willpower.
You don’t have it in you to change the climate of your heart.
But you can ask Him to do it.
To show you what needs to change.
And then surrender to whatever He shows you. To obey whatever He tells you to do. Wherever He tells you to do it.

We desperately need every heart to beat for His Kingdom.
Not just the “professional” Christians – the pastors, the missionaries, the evangelists or authors.
We need you to show His love to the people in your path.
They are dying without Him.
And you have all that you need to change their climate for eternity.

First, love God.
Then allow Him to love others through you.
And share with them what He has done for you.

It is as simple as that.

Will you be an agent for eternal climate change?

1+1+God = 53

His father was a piece of work.
And addicted to alcohol.

Her mother was mentally ill.
And also abusive in a different way.

Human nature says that they should have repeated those patterns.
Become the sum of the nurturing they did not receive and the product of the harm heaped upon them.

And that probably would have happened.
Except God.

They both came to know Him as young people.
And not necessarily through the example of their parents.
His Mom sent him to church.
Her parents swung more to religion than to relationship with Christ, especially in those years.

But God.
He had a plan for them.
As He does for all of us.
If we will surrender to Him.
If we will yield.

I am very thankful that they did.
They met while she was in high school and he was starting out in the Navy.
A blind date.
Arranged by a human being, orchestrated by God.

And eventually they married.
53 years ago today, they promised to “love, honor and obey”.

They haven’t done it perfectly.
Not the marriage.
Not the parenting.
Not life in general.

Because they are sinners.
Just like you.
Just like me.

But God.

Long, long ago they committed to Him.
And then to each other.
God first.
Each other second.
My sister and I next.
And then everything else.

That was the goal.
And again, it wasn’t perfect.
But it was – it is – good.

Walking with Jesus for decades has not been an easy road.
Walking with each other for decades hasn’t been, either.
I remember years that were very, very lean as they made sacrifices to put us in private school, to work in ministries that couldn’t pay very well, to give generously to others.
I remember times when things were tense. When life got very hard. When the past came back with teeth bared. When they had to deal with the fallout of others’ choices – and their own.
And there have been many, many health situations over the years. Scary diagnoses. Innumerable doctors’ visits. Surgeries and procedures.

It has not been 53 years of “happily ever after”.
But it has been 53 years of glorifying God.
Of choosing to “trust in the Lord with all their hearts, leaning not on their own understanding.”
And that has led to 53 years of joy.

Perfect people?
Perfect marriage?
No such thing.
Perfect parenting?
No. Again, it doesn’t exist.

But loved by a perfect God?
Held together by His hand?
Choosing to trust Him day in and day out?
The only way they have made it.

Because life is hard.
Marriage is hard.
People in general are hard.

And it takes commitment.
And investment.
Trusting God in the storms.
Reveling in His goodness.
Letting Him heal old wounds.
And believing Him for great things.

So happy anniversary, Daddy and Mom.
Thanks for following the Good Shepherd and for teaching us to do the same.
Thanks for the lessons in commitment.
And the legacy you have built.
One day at a time.
One choice at a time.
One decision at a time.

I am more grateful than I can express.
For the model of “a long obedience in the same direction”.
For the introduction to Jesus.
For loving me. For loving us.
And most of all, for loving Him.

And that’s how 1+1+God = 53