When Fear Drives

2016 will be a defining year for Christianity.

The year we let fear drive.

The year we let fear lead.

The year we let fear dictate
our attitude,
our emotions,
our outlook,
our reactions,
our responses,
our interactions,
our posts,
our tweets,
and our votes.

This is the year we let fear overthrow our faith, and Christianity will lose its identity in the aftermath.

When Fear Drives…We Get Lost

Fear causes us to forget who we are and forget where we’re going. This year we have become guardians, defending tradition and doctrines. We’ve abandoned our tasks as gardeners, failing to cultivate and nourish our neighborhoods and our relationships with agenda-less generosity and compassion. Fear has hardened our hearts and turned us inward.

We have become spokesmen and spokeswomen of who’s in and who’s out. We have lost our first love and replaced it for being right. Fear speaks first and serves last, or serves just so it can speak, instead of serving for goodness sake.

When we follow fear we wander away from Jesus, and his way is the last thing on our mind or our feed. We’re lost.

When Fear Drives…We Go Too Far In The Wrong Direction

Once lost, fear won’t let us turn around–repent–because we’re afraid the way back, or the right way, may be wrong. Or it might just be judged and condemned and blasted on Facebook. We become too affiliated with a party or a denomination or a view point or an opinion or an interpretation that it’s the only voice of God we can hear.

Any other way or possibility becomes nothing more than something else to fear.

When Fear Drives…We Will Wreck

Our relationships.
Our reputation.
Our witness.
Our influence.
Our legitimacy.

When fear leads, we’ll be known by nothing more than the lyrics of a Derek Webb song:

They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear

They’ll know us by the way we point and stare
At anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
Who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare
they’ll know us by our picket lines and signs
They’ll know us by the pride we hide behind
Like anyone on earth is living right
And isn’t that why Jesus died
Not to make us think we’re right

We’ll be known for slamming everything: Hillary, Trump, Joel Osteen, liberals, conservatives, Christians who are not like us, abortion, war, dancing, wine, Jen Hatmaker, MTV, CNN, NPR, pop music, processed food, global warming, gays, Oprah, tattoos, video games, Rob Bell, grown men who live with their parents, self-help, bi-racial relationships, single moms, Mark Driscoll, transgender, too much candy, quirky theology, women in leadership, and lists that a too short of things we don’t approve of.

We’ll be known for what we oppose, instead of the blessing we offer everyone.

When Fear Drives…We Can’t Enjoy The Ride

When we’re afraid of the dashboard lights going off all the time, we’ll never delight in the scenery.

If we drop the metaphor, fear will cause us to miss God because we’ll just be afraid of making him mad all the time. When we live by fear we can’t have joy. They can’t co-exist in the same space. Fear is a vacuum that removes wonder, joy, delight, and love from every space it fills.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When you live in fear of God, it’s impossible to experience the love of God (and share it with others).

We’re not the first to act this way.

A couple years ago, Jesus was asleep in a boat with his disciples, and they were freeeeeeeeeeaking out in the throws of a storm swirling around them. We are in the same boat. 2016 was the year we peed our pants of faith and abandoned all we believed in, while he was in our very midst. (Many Christians believe that the Spirit of Jesus resides within them.) We have forgotten he’s in the boat, and we’re fearfully trying to calm the storm on our own, instead of extending comfort and peace to those who are paralyzed by fear all around us.

We have not been given a spirt of fear, so stop quoting that verse until you can act like you believe it. Or at least fake it ’til you make it.

Stop letting fear drive. Let love drive instead.

Maybe we’ll start following Jesus again in 2017.

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Dad Of The Wild: Two Dads

 

There was an earthquake in Napa Valley over a year ago, and the first question they asked was, “Is everybody’s wine ok?”

It’s old news now but I’m still fascinated by a stat behind the natural disaster.

According to quake pro, David Oppenheimer, a scientist for the United States Geological Survey, “the quake was centered on the Franklin Fault, which has been dormant for approximately 1.6 million years.”

That thing was just waiting it’s turn, biding it’s time, building up steam, looking for the perfect opportunity to shift it’s tectonic plates. That quake was 1,600,000 years in the making.

It was just a matter of time.

Another fault line has shifted over the past year as well. It was just a matter of time. The plates have moved and the Supreme Court and local legislators have made their rulings. Now it seems our nation stands divided, and continually dividing, over the fault line.

The LGBTQ fault line.

There have been rumblings for decades, starting movements and causes and changes. It’s pretty incredible to say the least.

The area where the quake hit the hardest was the American church, especially among evangelicals, of which I’m associated.

The rulings have sparked a religious outcry and a social media riot.

We don’t know how to handle it and often times we’ve handled it the wrong way.
The harmful way.
The prideful way.
The toxic way.
The insensitive way.
The ungodly way.

A little while ago Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty told ABCNews, “I’m as much a homophobe as Jesus was. The people who are practicing homosexual behavior, need to know that I love them.”

Ugh.

As we know, the hard thing about interviews is that they can be chopped and screwed. Is this what Phil actually said, the way he actually said it? Did he mean to label Jesus a homophobe or was he saying he’s not because Jesus wasn’t? All we can do is interpret what we hear.

How do we know Jesus was a homophobe? Did He protest? Tweet hate?  Throw Facebook grenades? Slander? Joke about them behind their backs? Did he have those anti- bumper stickers on His donkey?

We have no idea, but what’s absolutely clear is that someone’s sexual decisions and preferences never got in the way of His grace and healing and truth and love. Fear and phobia never altered his course or disrupt His relationships.

Nothing, except religious stubbornness and self-righteousness, kept him from sharing the goodness of God with everyone He interacted with, whoever they were.

Homophobia is a roadblock, a stronghold that leads with prejudice and then shows “love” once their belief (or condemnation or judgment) is unmistakably voiced.

Is this how the church should react?

Is this how I want to respond?

Is this how I think we should respond?

Is this the response I want to be affiliated with?

I think this issue is so uncomfortable to so many people that they’ve never given intentional thought about the ethical and careful and interpersonal tactics necessary in light of the rulings.

Which makes me think about how I’m preparing my family to react.

More specifically, how am I preparing my boys to react?

What if one of their friends at school or on the ball field or maybe even at church has two dads (or two moms)? How do I want them to treat their friend? How do I want them to treat their friend’s dads? It’s inevitable, it will happen. How am I preparing them?

To turn the tables, do I want my boys to be
judged
labeled
taunted
ridiculed
bullied
rejected
shamed
shunned
or condemned because they have one dad and one mom? Do I want them to be treated differently because of their family dynamic?

Of course not.

Then what gives me or Phil or anyone else the right to do so?

I know it’s an uncomfortable scenario to discuss, but if we don’t address it appropriately we’ll get caught reacting insensitively, or even worse, sinfully.

I grew up afraid of blacks, and I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit the feelings and opinions that came with that fear. I have learned that fear will always put limits on love. I hope my boys won’t let fear keep them from loving their neighbor as they would love themselves, or from treating others the way they want to be treated. To do so I must constantly evaluate the results of religion on the lives and character of my family.

Are we becoming more or less loving?

More or less authentic?

More or less inclusive?

More or less compassionate?

More our less generous?

More or less like Jesus?

I yearn to raise my boys with a different knee-jerk reaction toward those who are “different” than them. The young and the old, the black and the white, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the able-bodied and the disabled, the single, married, and the divorced, the straight and the gay. All people receiving grace and goodness and honor. Instead of jerks, I hope to bring up Christ-like kids.

(This series, Dad of the Wild, and especially this post, has really been all about me wrestling with how I want to guide my kids as they grow, they path I want to point them to. Knowing they’ll ultimately decide. I know this discussion will bring up concerns about safety and caution, and there are ways to be cautious and there are ways to be alert without being heartless or compromising virtue.)

It’s common for religious debates to leave people afraid, wounded, scarred, calloused, and damaged deeply in its wake. Especially those of the LGBTQ community.

They deserve better.

Just as everyone deserves better.

I want to raise my boys to live like Jesus and lead with love.
To love, not condemn.
To love, not hate.
To love, not reject.

I want them to know they matter to God no matter how they live their lives, and that anyone can have a meaningful and enriching relationship with Him.

Instead of statements, I pray they make an effort to view everyone as people not another project. To make a difference not just another heartless point. To pursue a relationship, opposed to setting up another religious hurdle to jump over. To stand alongside all people instead of making destructive statements against all people. To remember that people are a priority to God. To bless first, and not curse at all. To honor above all.

To love, not judge.

Less judging, more loving.
Less judgment…more lovement?

However you view the issue at hand, I like how Andy Stanley provides a way forward by saying, You are more important to me than my view. When our views get in the way of our love, it’s our views that need to be reexamined so we can love without reservation.

And I can already hear the tectonic plates shifting:

“Yeah, but what about…”

Love not judge.

“What if we…”

Love not judge.

“What happens if…”

Love not judge.

If it’s true that if you train up a child in the way they should go, they will not depart from it, then I pray to train up lovers, instead of judges.

This is how I want to raise my kids, for it is a wild world out there, and I believe there is no greater force or fight than love.

But as we all know, it’s not our children who need to be taught how to love. They need to be shown how not to judge whether or not someone’s worthy of love.

Or how to unlearn it if that’s what we’ve taught them.

We know where condemnation and judgementalism lead.

What if we loved first and left the rest in God’s hands?

Is there a better way to respond to the earthquake?

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

I wonder if we really believe love is enough, and if grapes really matter more than people.

A Tale of Two Valleys

This story is one filled with the things our lives are filled with. Things like fear, frustration, disappointment, grief, anger, confusion, despair, doubt, and tears. It is an ancient story more relevant that we realize. It has the familiarity of déjà vu and the complexity of mystery, with a personal touch for everyone.

It’s where I’ve been, and still might be.

John, the Beloved Disciple, begins by telling us that Lazurus from Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha, was sick.

This is what I mean, we know this, we’ve been there. Our sibling or friend or parent gets sick. Croup or pneumonia or cooties. We avoid, we Lysol, we make gallons of chicken noodle soup.

Gallons!

The family was close friends with Jesus. (There’s another story of Jesus and the sisters working through the surface tension between work and rest, and the deeper friction connected with work and rest. A must read when you find space to process your own work and rest.)

They have to get word to Jesus so they pull out their tablets to FaceTime Jesus, I mean their rotary phones to call, I mean their telegraph to wir…

They sent word, telling Jesus that their brother was sick. Not just their brother, but as John tells us, Jesus’ dear friend. Was the message the ladies were communicating one of preferential treatment?

“You know Jesus, not just another blind guy by the wayside, or a raving madman in the caves, or a brush occurence in a crowd is ill.”

Your friend is sick. Wink. Wink.

You know Jesus, I’ve lived for you so long, I’ve tithed on the regular, I’ve sacrificed…

Jesus receives the request and responds with, “This sickness will not end in death, but glory.” His words never seemed to make it to Mary and Martha (the server was down, probably). Instead, he stayed where He was.

He didn’t come when He was called. He didn’t answer immediately. He kept them waiting.

Lord heal…
Lord give…
Lord help…
Lord save…

There’s a message somewhere out there that hasn’t come through, and He waits. So what should they do? What should we do?

There’s no evidence of doctors or treatments. That’s probably what they did. Maybe their request was their first response. Maybe their last. Maybe desperate. Maybe despairing. Maybe the medicine didn’t work as prescribed. Maybe the ailment was more savage than they realized.

But He made them wait.

Waiting exposes more about ourselves than it does about God. Flaws. Anxiety. Weakness. Fear. Motive. Impatience. And other issues like eye-rolling.

Waiting is where I also give God the most grief.

He didn’t wait long though, just long enough for a gap in faith to grow. After two days He made His way to Judea.

“Our friend is sick,” He said, “and his sickness will not end in death.”

There is an answer out there somewhere. Sometimes it comes sooner, other times later. Sometimes it seems permanently lost in the mail.

If the illness will not cause Lazarus to die, the disciples wonder, then why even go? They’re perplexed so Jesus becomes more transparent, “Lazarus is dead.” Their friend is dead. The news reverberates in their minds. Mary and Martha’s brother is dead. This reality shatters their world. And the gap grows a little more.

Can you hear the unspoken questions, or the murmuring among disciples, or the weeping between sisters? It cuts to our hearts too.

Upon arrival they all discover that Lazarus has been dead and buried for at least four days. And the gap grows again.

Martha discovers that Jesus is near and rushes to meet Him. We can only imagine what is swirling around in her head, and locked and loaded on her tongue.

“Lord!”

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

It’s very easy, scary easy, to blame God. Much much easier than praising Him for all the life and blessings that sprout up around us. Bitterness is so natural.

Martha is in a valley. Her dialogue with Jesus exposes it. They go into a seemingly impersonal discussion on theological matters resulting in Martha giving the church answer and returning home.

Soon enough Mary visits Jesus too. Martha’s confrontation was brutal enough, but Jesus was willing to endure her sister as well.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Identical reactions.

Mary is in a valley too. Her posture before Jesus reveals it. Weeping, she invites Him to the tomb. At this point we get a glimpse into the humanity of Jesus. He was troubled to the core. Shaken in His spirit. Moved by her tears.

And He weeps. God cries.

With her. For her.

With us. For us.

Martha is walking the valley of bitterness.

Mary the valley of brokenness.

Both run parallel. Easy to mistake for one another. And Jesus has a unique response for each one. Responses that reveal specific qualities of His character.

To Martha He said, “I am…”

To Mary, “I know.”

This story deals with the specific bitterness and brokenness of two sisters. From the cross to the empty grave Jesus spoke specifically to all our bitterness and our brokenness, saying, “I am,” and, “I know,” as well.

I am able.
I am willing.
I am present.

I know your pain.
I know your suffering.
I know your sadness.

“I am He who is able to heal your bitterness for I know the depth of your brokenness.”

We most likely will walk both valleys multiple times throughout the journey of life. Jesus doesn’t expect us to climb out ourselves because He was willing to enter both to bring us out with tender power.

Jesus would go on to raise Lazarus from the dead. But as life goes, it would not be the last time He would raise Mary and Martha from their valleys.

If we’re willing to let Him in our valleys, He’s is willing to lead us out.

Choose Fear

Because it’s easier to think that everything is out of control.

That there’s a limit to God’s provision.

That God is out there with a cosmic paddle ready to spank everyone who sins.

That our hearts are better off kept to ourselves.

That no one is dependable.

That the “storms” are beyond God’s power and intervention.

That everyone will let us down.

That our comfort zones are harmless.

That pleasing people is better than obeying God.

That the risk isn’t worth the reward.

That Christianity is a straightjacket.

That she’ll never go out on a date with a guy like you.

That if we don’t give the homeless our money we’ll save them from drugs and alcohol.

That we’re protecting ourselves by not following Jesus.

That dreaming is a waste of time because dreams are made to be crushed.

That everyone always has a hidden agenda or ulterior motive.

That if we give our lives over to God we’ll become fake or we’ll have to become monks and nuns.

That the unknown should stay unknown.

That the status quo is more thrilling than possibility.

That giving up control would make things worse.

That nothing is possible.

That if God found out about _____________ He would definitely reject us.

That we’ll be taken advantage of and exploited if we give our lives away for the benefit of others.

That we’re too young, too old, under qualified, inexperienced, washed up, or out-of-date.

That befriending those of another race or lifestyle will harm our reputation.

That standing up for the outcast and overlooked will cause us to be rejected.

That failure is the only option out there.

That we really care and love someone if we withhold the truth from them.

That we shouldn’t share Jesus’ love, truth, forgiveness, and freedom with others because we’ll offend people.

That Jesus only died for the clean cut, the prettiest, those with a perfect record, and those who go to church.

//

Trust is hard.

Choose Jesus. Choose trust.