When Security Masks a Spirit of Fear

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in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:11 (ESV)

Another week goes by, we hear another story of a gunman invading a space and taking innocent lives. Calls for gun control quickly ring out in the media. Feelings of justice, fueled by anger and pain, trigger that deep down knowing that the world should not be this way. That we were not meant to deal with nor experience death, separation, brought on by a single choice made back in the beginning.

The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56:11 that we should put our trust in God. There is no reason to fear when we put our trust in the Creator. Right? And yet fear percolates and permeates the atmosphere we breathe. Even in our churches, where Safety Teams equal Security Squads, fear rages. Played out with armed church members, unofficially, watching over the flock while services take place. A new defensive cultural norm.

NOTE: Please, do not misconstrue my words here, I’m all for keeping the Church safe. But I’m not okay when the spirit of fear drives a weekly version of security theater.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Keeping silent. Toeing the party line. Those seem like the obvious responses. But I believe God calls us, as Christians, to more: Power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

What do you do when a spirit of fear infects a church?

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You’re Going to Hell

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“If you wore your hair past your ears, you were going to hell.”

“If you wore a colored dress shirt to church, instead of a white shirt, you were going to hell.”

“If you were at a stop light and looked poorly at a woman and then got into a wreck and died, you were going to hell.”

The list of rules and unofficial law went on and on. Deep diving into the insanity of whether you wore a short sleeve shirt versus a long sleeve shirt, to church, determining your eternal destination.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“God’s grace was something that was preached but not understood.”

God reminded me this past week that we all come from different places. Even members of the same church, who are fellow believers in Christ, have prior built foundations. Rules and family situations, that may have felt true and normal at the time, which turned out to be built on lies of men.

I’m reminded that if the backdrops of our lives can differ so much with those that are around us, what about those that we encounter online?

I think we can easily assume that others are just like us. Raised, perhaps, in stable families; Raised in churches that were more about God’s grace versus invented “Biblical” law.

“I was afraid to read the Bible.”

We assume so much in our day-to-day interactions. This week, when I was able to actually listen to someone, I heard a different story than my own. I had assumed, perhaps projected my own experience, and I was wrong.

God is teaching me to listen more intently. I can’t imagine growing up without the peace that God has shown me through his grace. I can’t imagine thinking that my slightest action was going to send me to hell. I’m sure my wearing shorts to church, more often than not, would secure me a permanent place there… if the laws I described above were founded in truth. Thankfully, God, in his grace, isn’t concerned about my clothing.

The lies of the devil are prevalent. His lies even infect the church. Be aware. Listen. Lift a fellow brother or sister up. Speak truth.

Peace.

We Cannot Bring About Lasting Change In Anyone

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Labor Day has thrown me off this week. I keep thinking that it is Tuesday when it is really Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to share my notes from teaching through Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family in Sunday School. Each week has been a good reminder of what I’d call Christianity 101. Foundational Biblical truths we all know, as Christians, and yet forget to live out.

Sunday morning, our topic was on Inability (Chapter 4). The key principle was: “Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.”

We started out by reading the following quote:

If you are going to be what God has designed you to be as a parent and do what he’s called you to do, you must confess one essential thing. This confession has the power to change much about the way you act and react toward your children. It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child. If any human being possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, again, Jesus would not have had to come! The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand as clear historical evidence that human power for change does not exist.

And then shifted to talking about our inability to save ourselves from the punishment we deserve for sinning against a holy God. How only faith in Jesus Christ can bring about lasting change, in our lives, and save us.

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

We then went over the Gospel presentation that our Children’s Director goes over with our kids. I think it’s helpful to know what our kids are going over AND the simple presentation is good for us adults.

As a class, we read through the following scriptures noted in the presentation:

  • Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8; Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9-10, 13.

Afterwards, discussing what Tripp calls “The Three Most Often Used Tools of Parental Power”.

  1. Fear – “the power we buy into here is that we can issue a big enough threat that creates a big enough fear to change our kids.”
  2. Reward – “This may be the most popular way we fight our inability to change our children. We manipulate them to do what we want them to do by holding certain reward in front of them.”
  3. Shame – “Shame and guilt are power tools that parents use more frequently than we recognize.”

Coming to the point where we realize that we cannot bring about lasting change in others, apart from Christ, is freeing. Whether in our friendships, relationships, or parenting, Christ is the only one who can bring about lasting change. We CANNOT change anyone, no matter how hard we try.

“Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God.”

Remember who you are in Christ

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Social media is a mess. Everyone seems on edge. Nerves raw after what felt like a prolonged election cycle. Ready to explode when given the hidden signal or somebody sneezes on accident.

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My twitter feed has become a water pitcher filled with fear and adult temper tantrums. I get it, people are upset over the Presidential regime change. When you spend 8 years with one President, you are bound to feel shaken. Especially when the newly elected President is Donald “You’re Fired” Trump.

As a Christian it is easy to get caught up in the political vortex, to lash out without thinking. Easy to forget your identity.

Pastor Paul Tripp said it best in his devotional New Morning Mercies. As you go about your day:

“May God give you grace to remember your identity as His child in those moments when remembering is essential.”

Remembering is essential. As Mufasa told Simba in The Lion King, “Remember who you are.”

I want to challenge myself. I want to challenge you. Remember who you are when:

  • You are hastily typing out responses to a debate on Facebook
  • Your co-worker goes on a political rant
  • You feel compelled to correct someone in an un-Christlike manner

There is no need to pass along the negative emotions you are absorbing as you scroll through twitter.

Listen first. Limit your social media time/exposure. Be who God created you to be, remembering that you represent Him, now.

On the Verge of Fear

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There is a fine balance between acting in a responsible manner versus reacting in fear. The church has a responsibility to ensure that all are safe that walk through it’s doors.

The responsible church has plans for inclement weather. Plans to guard against predators who prey on children.

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16 (ESV)

What happens when the church falters from responsibility into fear? I have been wrestling with this question. Wisdom and innocence alight in a dance. Chuck Norris hired to defend the front door.

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My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody

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My Name is Mahtob is written from the perspective of the daughter from the book and motion picture, Not Without My Daughter; Mahtob Mahmoody. She shares her memories of how her mother and her escaped Iran and made it back to the United States. Only to live the rest of their lives in fear that her father would come and take Mahtob back to Iran. Her story also included how she forgave her father for what he did and continued to do in her life. She tells of how her mother, family friends, teachers, and the Lord helped her reach a place where she did not hate her father for the wake of destruction he caused.

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The recurring theme throughout this book is forgiveness. Her mother, realizing that Mathob was growing bitter, sought out ways to help her remember her father as a person, not the monster he had become. And also showed her that her heritage was not a bad thing, but something to be celebrated. Another recurring theme in this book is the fact that neither Mahtob nor her mother would say anything ill of the man who kidnapped them.

My Name is Mahtob was a page turner from the very beginning. My heart ached for the five/six year old girl who ran away with her mother from her father. I wanted to protect Mahtob, as a young adult, when her world was shattered once again by her father. My favorite part was in the last few chapters. Mahtob is still affected by the abuse her father caused but time and distance has made her realize a few things:

  • She has sorrow for a father that let his “dysfunction rule his life”.
  • That her own adaptability was due to her father’s absence in her life.
  • Her memories of her father were not “distorted” by others.

I thoroughly enjoyed my journey into Mahtob’s life.

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.