Monthly Archives: April 2012

We Have Nothing To Fear But . . .

Fear is a powerful force in our world.   Many live with anxiety or stress which most often has fear as its root.  God designed us to have healthy fear to protect us.  Being afraid to walk into a yard with a vicious dog is a good and healthy fear, but being afraid to go outside because you might run into a vicious dog is an unhealthy fear.  The fears we live under most often are unhealthy fears.

The Bible has much to say about what to fear and what not to fear.  God tells Isaiah in chapter eight not to fear what everybody else fears.  In other words, don’t be afraid of what is happening in the world around you.  Don’t be afraid of what might, or conversely, might not happen to you.  Don’t be afraid of what others think of you or say about you.  Don’t be afraid of losing income, or possession, or even your life or the lives of loved ones.

But God also tells Isaiah what is a healthy fear.  “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” (NIV)  When we regard something as holy we set it apart, hold it up and allow it to control us.  This verse is saying what you fear you hold as holy.  So when you fear anything but God you are controlled by that fear.  But when you fear God, the verse goes on to say, he becomes your hiding place or your sanctuary.

So how does a person fear God and quit fearing anything else?  That whole passage in Isaiah 8 is referenced or quoted numerous times in the New Testament as finding its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.  The point being that when we focus on him, place him at the center and as the purpose and motivation for everything we do and say, we hold him as holy and he frees us from all other fear.

Don’t hear in this that life becomes easy, or that everything then works out the way you want it to.  Isaiah still suffered greatly after this.  And the New Testament speaks extensively that we should expect to encounter difficulty and suffering.  But you won’t be controlled by fear.  You will have peace that is untouchable by any circumstance you may have to face.


What Is In A Name?

Language is a funny thing.  As language evolves a word that was understood to mean one thing at a certain point in history can come to mean something quite different years later.  Communication becomes even more challenging when one individual or group uses the same word with a different understanding or intent than another individual or group.  One of the words that this has happened to is “Christian.”

Few people realize that this word was originally used with disdain and contempt.  In Acts 11:26 it says that it was in Antioch that the people who believed in Jesus Christ were first called “Christians.” The context makes it clear this was not intended as a compliment.   Late in the first century a Roman author named Tacitus wrote that “The vulgar call them Christians,” again indicating that it wasn’t a term of endearment.   It was not until the second century that believers began adopting the term as one of honour.

It seems to me that in our time the title “Christian” has, to some degree, fallen again into disrepute. It has been used to sell stuff, as political leverage (both for and against), and even to identify opposing combatants in warfare.  Because of such misuse of the term it no longer universally holds the meaning it once did, and has even at times again become derisive.

For many the word is simply identified with a religion or religious system that’s used to control or manipulate people. But when the label was first applied it was typical of the way in which the Romans identified followers or disciples of a particular person, in this case Christ.  So a “Christian” was simply one who followed Christ; a “Christ Follower.”  I kind of like that.

I have noticed that there are a growing number of people today who are referring to themselves as “Jesus Followers” instead of Christians.  Not that they would deny being a Christian, but they wish to get past all the preconceived perceptions that come with that term and express what, or rather who, their life is centered around.

All this leads me to ask a couple of questions of myself and of you.  If you consider yourself a Christian does your day to day life show that you are also a Jesus Follower?  Would the people who are closest to you recognise you as a Jesus Follower?

The Bible says that if you’re a “Christian” your life will be characterised by the things that characterised the one you follow:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Amazing Wild Oat

Have you ever looked closely at a wild oat?  I remember as a kid my dad showing us a wild oat seed in the palm of his hand.  A wild oat is longer and much more slender than its domesticated counterpart.  It’s most distinguishing feature is a long, stout and slightly bent bristle, called an awn, that grows out of the head of the seed and sweeps back along its side extending more than twice the seeds length out behind it.

Dad spit on the seed in his hand and, to my astonishment, the seed began to slowly rotate.   Apparently when the awn gets wet, the bend in it begins to straighten causing it to twist and thrust the seed forward.  When the awn dries the bend constricts again to its original shape while tiny hairs along the seed act like barbs to keep it in the ground where it has been pushed to.  This process is repeated each time the awn gets wet ensuring that the seed is inserted into the soil where it can geminate.

That’s pretty amazing but I have wondered, even as a kid, why the oats we don’t want would have that advantage over the grains that we do want.  I was reminded of this again as I was looking at the story Jesus told of the farmer sowing his seeds.  The story, or parable, is allegorical with the seed representing the message or word of God, and the varying soil the seeds landed in representing those who hear that message.  (Go to Matthew 13 to read it.)

What struck me was that, unlike a wild oat, God’s won’t force himself on anyone.  And this truth isn’t just aimed at those who are not yet Christ followers.  If I am not careful I can allow tradition and religious activity, or busyness and pressures of life, or complacency and self-satisfaction to contaminate or harden the soil of my life so that I am not receptive to the messages from God.

Christ follower or not, if you haven’t recognised God speaking to you lately you need to examine the soil condition of your life.  If you have received something from God, act on it immediately.  Nothing chokes out God’s word more quickly than disobedience.  Don’t wait.  Don’t debate or rationalize.  Don’t even seek counsel from others.  If God has spoken to you then act on it now.

Eternity Eyes

An elderly friend of mine used to say to me, “Oh David, don’t get old.  It’s no fun at all.”  I am by no means there yet, but I’m beginning to understand what he was talking about.  Recently I was driving to Calgary on a particularly sunny day and it seemed that the right lens of my sunglasses was smudged.  I took them off to clean them and realized it was my eye that was the problem.  My left eye is sharp, but the right eye is somewhat cloudy.

An informal diagnosis by a friend who has some experience in ophthalmology suggested I may have juvenile cataract.   Apparently it may be treatable at some point in the future, but prior to finding that out I wondered at what some of the consequences of failing vision might be.  Even now cloudy vision in my shooting eye is going to be a blessing to gophers, but a frustration to me.  If it continues to get cloudier will it affect my ability to drive?  I love snorkelling or diving but if I can’t see there’s not a lot of point in going underwater.

All of these considerations and more went through my mind as I continued my trip to Calgary.  But it wasn’t with any anxiety at all.  It was more a “hmm, I wonder” kind of contemplation.  Here’s why.  In all honesty and humility, the overriding thought in all of this was,” oh well, I can put up with this for the next twenty or forty years, however long I live, because I know that after that it will be better than ever.”  Seriously, that was my thought and attitude.  It’s perspective Paul  expresses in 1 Corinthians 4.  He says that while our bodies are wasting away, our spirits are being renewed daily.

He described the troubles we go through now as “light and momentary” when we look at them with an eternal perspective, and believe me, his troubles were much worse than cloudy eyesight.  He says we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on the unseen, because the seen is temporary while the unseen is eternal.

So how does one gain an eternal perspective?  It begins by entering into a relationship with one who is only seen by faith, Jesus Christ.  And it grows and strengthens in direct connection with the growth and strength of that relationship.  Feel free to contact me if you want help developing an eternal perspective.

A Half-Hearted Horse

I was once given a pretty little red roan Quarter Horse filly by a friend who was unable to keep her anymore. She had come from a PMU barn and my friend had chosen her because of the quiet disposition of her mother. The genes stayed true and this little horse was the most gentle, and yielding thing you could imagine. Halter training was a breeze and when I took her into the round pen as a two year old I stepped into the saddle in less than two hours with nothing more than a couple of half hearted attempts at kicking up her heels.

From there it didn’t take long to move to the arena and then to the open field. At every step she hardly gave any resistance let alone bucking. In little more than a month of riding I was able to use her to lead tourists on trail rides through foothills of Bow Valley Provincial Park. Her only problem was that she was too compliant. Let me explain what I mean.

After a couple of months of working with her it became evident that this little mare would not fight against anything I asked of her, but neither would she do it whole-heartedly. For example, I could move her quite easily from a walk to a trot and, with a little more encouragement, into a canter but as soon as I took my leg off of her she would be back down to a walk. She would do what I asked, but unless I stayed right on her with every stride, even with spurs, she wouldn’t maintain it. She would not resist my commands, but never truly gave me her heart.

There is a lesson in that for us who are Christ followers. Too easily we can fall into the routine of Christianity and get comfortable there. We obey all the rules, and do all the things that are expected of a good Christian, but do we passionately give our whole being to following Christ?

I would much rather be like my old mare, Nina. Sure, at times she would try to do things her way, but even then she listened to me with her whole being. And when she submitted we were so connected that she became just an extension of my will. There was nothing we couldn’t accomplish from crossing mountain rivers, to draging calves to the branding fire, to teaching a child to ride or just a quiet ride at the end of the day.  And we loved doing it together.  Lord give me the heart that makes me an extension of Jesus to the world around me!