personal relationship

Who Is There to Fear?

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Fear has a way of paralyzing or inhibiting us. Of course, some fears are based on real events and seem reasonable, like earthquakes, tornadoes, or perhaps a terrorist attack.

One fear that tends to inhibit us is related to people. This can take many forms. Some people are afraid to be in a large crowd or to speak in front of a crowd. We all have a fear of rejection in certain situations.

There is also a fear that causes dread and anxiety, while another fear is born out of respect.

Scripture

By David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of?

Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence ⌊in the Lord⌋. [vss 1-3]

I have asked one thing from the Lord. This I will seek: to remain in the Lord’s house all the days of my life in order to gaze at the Lord’s beauty and to search for an answer in his temple.

He hides me in his shelter when there is trouble. He keeps me hidden in his tent. He sets me high on a rock. Now my head will be raised above my enemies who surround me. I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy in his tent. I will sing and make music to praise the Lord. [vss 4-6]

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud. Have pity on me, and answer me. ⌊When you said,⌋ “Seek my face,” my heart said to you, “O Lord, I will seek your face.” 

Do not hide your face from me. Do not angrily turn me away. You have been my help. Do not leave me! Do not abandon me, O God, my savior! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take care of me. [vss 7-10]

Teach me your way, O Lord. Lead me on a level path because I have enemies who spy on me. Do not surrender me to the will of my opponents. False witnesses have risen against me. They breathe out violence.

I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in this world of the living. Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord. [vss 11-14]

(Psalm 27:1-14 GW) [Context– Psalm 27]

Key phrase— Wait with hope for the Lord

[bctt tweet="Wait with hope for the Lord" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the confidence David expresses in respect to his circumstances?

What or who is this confidence based on? Why do you think David has this confidence?

What is the one thing David asked of the Lord? Why does he seek this?

What are David's appeals in the latter half of this psalm? What are his confident hopes and encouragements at the end?

Reflection...

King David had several enemies who tried to kill him. Most of them were afraid of him. Throughout his psalms we see a confidence in his personal relationship with the Lord.

This is the bedrock of his faith, not the Law or religious practices, but his very personal relationship with God. God honored this in David's life.

Some times, the people we fear or are intimidated by are people who are intimidated by us for some reason. Many fears, especially that of people, are groundless and based on faulty assumptions, even ignorance.

What was the secret to David's confidence in the Lord? He knew God was greater than any enemy, far greater. David feared the Lord more than anyone or anything. Not a fear of dread that causes anxiety, but a fear of respect, awe, and wonder. This is why he trusted in and worshipped the Lord.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Who or what types of people intimidate you? Why is this? Are you willing to learn more about them to help relieve you of this fear?

Are there certain events or things you fear but have never experienced? If so, have you brought this to God in prayer and trusted Him with it?

Have you developed a level of trust in God that frees you from fear of people and things?

How have you learned to respect God for who He is—to fear Him in a biblical sense—so that your view of life and people is in right perspective?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Faith Greater Than the World

WS-devo_PMSDo I need to give more examples? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through their faith they defeated kingdoms. They did what was right, received God’s promises, and shut the mouths of lions. Women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others were tortured and refused to accept their freedom so they could be raised from the dead to a better life. Some were laughed at and beaten. Others were put in chains and thrown into prison.

The world was not good enough for them!

All these people are known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something better so that they would be made perfect, but only together with us. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭11‬:‭32-33, 35-36, 38-40‬ NCV)

This record of faith, people who trusted in the Living God, reveals the nature of true faith. It is far more than a belief system or ideology. This kind of faith is a personal trust relationship of substance and depth.

Do you trust in God this way? Thousands in oppressive regions do, and though we need to pray for them, we also need to emulate their faith and make it our own. ©Word-Strong_2014

Mindful Mystics Can Be Change Agents

Photo by www.Lightstock.com I think mystics get a bad rap in Christian circles. Not all the time, but they tend to be seen as, on the fringe. Maybe they are, but then again, maybe not.

Most people don't take mystics seriously, because mystics don't seem to take life seriously. They're different and disengaged from the normal pace of life. That's why we see them as mystics.

But I think mystics are more plugged in than we think. Mystics can be mindful in a practical way.

Mystics as change agents

As a culture, whether US Americans or the western world in general, we prize people who are change agents. People who impact life in some beneficial way.

Change agents aren't always popular until after a beneficial change takes place. In fact, some memorable ones have been killed for the change they sought. Some modern examples are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. These men were also mystics in their own right. They believed in God and saw beyond what everyone else saw, which moved them to become change agents.

There are plenty of biblical examples of mystics who were change agents—Moses, King David, and John the Baptist are more notable ones. Their relationship with God seemed to exceed the norm, and they were often misunderstood.

God worked through their lives and brought significant change. I don't have time to expand on this, but if you read about their lives in the Scriptures, it's apparent.

Practical mindfulness

Last week I started looking at what mindfulness is, especially the popular version of it. I posed a question about this popular pursuit of mindfulness—is it really mindfulness or mindlessness?

This week I want to consider how mindfulness can be spiritual and practical. When mindfulness includes both elements, it enables people to become change agents. I see this as Jesus' intent for His followers from the beginning. He said His followers would do "greater works" (John 14:12).

The final instructions Jesus gave His followers spoke of them as change agents in the world (Acts 1:8). It is also known as the Great Commission (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15). An essential part of Jesus' followers being change agents is to be filled with the power and presence of God's Spirit (Luke 24:46-49).

How can we be mindful mystics?

My perennial question with most everything is how? How could a person be a spiritual mystic and a change agent? Is it really possible? If so, how would that happen?

Perhaps some wonder why they would want to or need to be a mindful mystic. That's a fair question too, but I'll let you figure that out for yourself.

Some simple suggestions on ways to be mindful—

  • Be in tune with God—disengage from preoccupation with yourself and others.
  • Be still with God— spend some time in quietness, so you can listen and be receptive to God's Spirit.
  • Be reflective—throughout the day, take time to be thoughtful, considerate, and empathetic.
  • Be attentive—as you go about life be alert, observant, and seek to have the eyes and heart of Jesus.
  • Be awed—with God and in life, by both the simple and majestic around you.
  • Be humble—have a humble and surrendered heart to the Lord. (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5)
  • Be ready and responsive—neither controlled by, nor trying to control, the circumstances and situations of life.
  • Be engaged—do what you do with all your heart, mind and soul. (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17)

How can you get to a place where this becomes more reality than theory?

  1. Learn to still your heart before God in prayer, so He can fill your heart with His presence. (Psalms 46:10a; 131:2)
  2. Take your thoughts captive and surrender them to the Lord, and fill your mind with the truth of His Word. (2 Cor 10:5; Rom 12:2; Col 3:10)
  3. Respond to Jesus and His call to follow Him daily (Luke 9:23), and be surrendered to Him and filled with God's Spirit.

Not a checklist, but a way of life

This is not a checklist to follow, but a guide for how to be mindful in the daily flow of life. These are not things to perform, but ways to engage with God and His creation, so you can be a mindful mystic and change agent.

It's the way of life Christian believers are called to, and what our hearts long for though we may not realize it. Do any of the above suggestions ring true for you?

How have you found it possible to grow in personal intimacy with the Lord, yet carry on with everyday life? If so, I'd like to hear from you.

If you'd like to know my own thoughts about Christian mysticism, click on this link– Mystics-mysticism.

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?

©word-strong.com/tkbeyond

Evangelism. What does this word bring to mind? Typically, most people think of street preachers, revival tents or mass crusades, and handing out gospel tracts.

But the most effective means of evangelism, since the time of Jesus till now, is personal evangelism. One on one (or two or three), relational, intentional sharing of God’s Story—the gospel—in a personal way.

Some people are called to be preachers, whether on a street corner or in an auditorium. Others are quite bold and confident in approaching people in any circumstance for the sole purpose of sharing their faith.

But not everyone is like this. I’m not.

My personal observation

Even though I’ve preached in church pulpits, public outreaches, on the radio, and handed out tracts on the street, evangelism is not what I'm inclined to do.

Many people are not equipped, nor called to traditional public evangelism, but we are all called to be ready to share the hope we have within us—Jesus—and our relationship with Him (1 Peter 3:15).

The hindrance for many of us sharing our faith is timidity and lack of confidence, but the key is focusing on building relationship. (Click to Tweet)

The typical focus is on the mechanics of how it should be done, or the content of what needs to be said. But when we look at the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we see a very tailored, personal approach. He shows more interest in the person rather than the methodology or agenda of “getting them saved.”

This past week I shared on the topic of evangelism and biblical storying at the nearby YWAM base. I encouraged them to consider how each of their life stories connects with God's Story. Also, how they can use biblical storying to share their faith with others. Some of what I shared follows, and I hope it will help you in sharing your faith with others.

Jesus' example

Compare Jesus example to the more common approach of monopolizing a conversation with a prepared spiel, in an attempt to convince people they are sinners.

We see Jesus' example early on when He was in the temple among the Jewish leaders and rabbis (Luke 2:41-50). Jesus is found “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He isn’t preaching to them, but listening and asking questions.

Further along in the gospel narrative, we find Jesus engaging people with stories and wise sayings called parables. He often used questions when challenged by the Jewish leaders, asked questions of the crowds of people when He taught them, and used questions when explained things and to exhort His disciples in private.

Jesus engaged people from all backgrounds and stations of life. He seemed to tailor His interaction with people to their level and state in life. He treated those with questionable backgrounds and character with unexpected dignity. He rubbed shoulders and ate with prostitutes, drunks, unethical business people, political agitators, and the like. And His band of followers included uneducated fisherman and tax collectors (renegade IRS-agent types) to mention a few.

His tactics were different from anyone expected, which included His followers and the Jewish spiritual leaders. His tactics were different from what is customarily seen today. Different than what is found in most evangelism training programs and books on evangelism, let alone stereotypical evangelists, whether well-known or not.

Learning from Jesus' example

How can we learn from Jesus' example? It just might make sharing our faith with others easier, and more fruitful. (Click to Tweet)

People, worldwide, know they are sinners in some way or another, or at least that they are less than perfect. Most people, throughout the world, are lonely and often feel less than important. When someone shows interest in them and is willing to listen to their story, they take notice.

I have found this true traveling nationally and internationally on planes, and in airports, and other situations. People want to tell their story. One reason people seek out a counselor or therapist, even social networking, is to find someone who will listen to their story.

This can be the starting point for personal evangelism. Simply ask a person about himself or herself. Who are they? What do they do in life? Just show interest in them. Genuine interest.

This builds rapport, the beginning of a relationship. It establishes interest and even a sense of trust. It builds a bridge that makes it possible to share your own story, and the greatest story—God’s story.

It requires more than patience, it requires genuineness. Most people are perceptive enough to know when you are listening to them, or just listening for an opportunity to break in and say something.

Once you hear a person’s story, you have an opportunity to share your own story, your life story of faith. (Click to Tweet)

This isn’t a complicated or new approach. In fact, it takes place many times a day, often without any intention. It just happens.

Wouldn't it be nice if sharing your faith just happened in a natural way? (Click to Tweet)

I want to tell you a true life story of just that, but it's another story for another day.

Until then, think over what I've shared so far, and maybe take some time to look at how Jesus engaged people with the truth of His story—God's story.

In a couple of days, I'll post the follow-up to this... stay tuned!

Incomparable

Who in the skies can compare with the Lord?Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord? He is greater and more awe-inspiring than those who surround him. O Lord God of Armies, who is like you? Mighty Lord, even your faithfulness surrounds you. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne. Mercy and truth stand in front of you. Blessed are the people who know how to praise you. They walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They find joy in your name all day long. They are joyful in your righteousness because you are the glory of their strength. (Psalm 89:6-8, 14-17 GWT)

God is incomparable! And so is having a personal and true relationship with Him! ©DailyDevo2013

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!


[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”


This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel