fear

A Scary Story

A Scary Story

“Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear,  and do not dread it.  – Isaiah 8:12

So I’m at a conference last year and I go to a workshop to hear one person I wanted to listen to. Turns out he wasn’t the main speaker. Liz bailed about 20 minutes into the talk…I wanted to, but there weren’t many people left at that point, and I felt guilty.

Nothing stuck out to me about that talk until the very end. The speaker decided to share a story about a taxi ride he had taken recently. The story had seemingly had nothing to do with what he had been talking about. (Though to be fair, I wasn’t paying close attention by this point.)

He told us that his taxi driver was a Muslim.

He told us that this taxi driver was going to marry multiple wives and have multiple children with each.

Why? Because that is how they plan on taking over.

And the moral of the story?

Your governments should not be letting all these refugees into your countries, or else “they” will take over.

Do you feel that?

Do you feel the fear creeping up the back of your neck? I did.

That little story fit a narrative many of us have been conditioned to believe. The “other” has sinister plans, and wisdom requires us to keep them at arm’s length to ensure our safety and survival.

My biggest problem with that story? Jesus.

Whenever fear about personal safety makes us want to cross the street to avoid the bleeding injured man in front of us, it is a good time to reconsider what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What did he say about the hurting person…about the person in need? (Let’s not even get into Matthew 25.)

I’ve thought about that story many times since. And it makes me angry every time.

I don’t know if the conversation actually happened, or if the speaker made it up.

If it did happen, I don’t know that this isn’t just one random taxi driver who believes he is going to procreate his way to world domination. (Make love not war!)

But I do know that the speaker tried to make us afraid. And if we allow fear to take root, we become willing and able to turn our backs on those who are in need. Not only that, at the same time we are able to feel justified, righteous, and godly while doing it.

Love calls us to faith-filled abundant life. Fear causes us to bunker down and protect what is ours.

But what if? What if the story is true?

I don’t know. But I know I choose love over fear.

(the image with this post is one I saw this summer…and shows the perfect example of choosing love over fear)

This was originally posted at thewilsonsindublin.com on 8 October, 2018

Posted by bob in faith, 0 comments

Willing to be Wronged

thewilsonsindublin.comIt was probably about 25 years ago when I first noticed it. I mean I’d read it before. In fact it was in what has always been in one of my favourite books of the bible…
1 Corinthians. But it was the first time I really realised what it was saying.

And I had a choice…ignore it…because it seemed like most did…or do what it said. (While often falling well short along the way.)

First Corinthians is one of those letters where you can almost feel Paul’s frustration as he writes it. “Don’t you know?” is a phrase he uses over and over. After all this time, how are you still living at this level…you really should know better.

The passage that hit me that day is in chapter 6. Paul is writing here about the Corinthians taking each other to court.

At first it appears that he is amazed that there are no mature people among them who could handle the various squabbles they were having.

But then he takes the conversation to another level by asking two simple questions, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” Instead of finding someone to solve this, why don’t you allow yourself to be wronged. For the sake of…(the other, the community, your witness, etc)

This is where the internal dialogue kicks in…

“Wait you mean, if I’m in a situation and someone lies about me…or takes advantage of me…I should just allow it?”

“Yup.”

“Well, you’ll need to forgive them as well.” **

I did not like that passage.

In fact it still goes against my natural inclinations. I can go through situation after situation in my life, explain the circumstances and you’ll see that what happened to me should not have happened. And perhaps you’ll agree that I shouldn’t have to be treated that way.

But regardless of the circumstance, at the end the question is still, “Why not allow yourself to be (using the more modern vernacular) screwed over?”

While this goes against the grain for most people, as an American, I learned the phrase, “I have rights,” from a young age. People fought for our rights. We need to defend our rights. Our rights are costly.

After 25 years of wrestling with that passage, when something happens to me, my rights pretty quickly come to the forefront of my mind. My legal rights…or even my relational rights…”after all I’ve done, this is how I’m treated.”

(am I the only one who thinks like this?)

And yet our example is someone with more rights than we could ever imagine, laying all of them aside…for us.

In fact laying down his life despite the fact that at any time he could have called legions of angels to come to his aid to protect and defend him.

But like so many things it really comes down to fear and trust…what if I allow this…if I don’t defend myself? Well, then you place yourself firmly in God’s kingdom.

I was thinking about this topic again last week before hearing the comments of the president of Liberty University encourage people to carry weapons so that they can kill their enemies.

“Take up arms. Kill your enemies.”

“Take up your cross. Deny yourself.”

That is a pretty wide spectrum. And we all fall along it somewhere…the question of course is “Where?” Which citizenship do we more closely align ourselves with?

What wins…trust or fear?

Where do you normally feel that tug to defend your rights rather than laying them down?

[note: **Please do not read this as a call to remain in abusive situations. There are times when we are wronged, we forgive and relationships are restored. And times when we need to work at forgiveness, while just as importantly getting ourselves out of that situation. Likewise do not read it as saying there should never be consequences for behaviour. We can allow the legal system to mete out the punishment it deems necessary, but we are called to not take revenge, rather we are called to seek good for the other.]

Posted by bob in Something I've Been Thinking About, 0 comments

Playing it Safe

hideWhat if?
What if I start a new business and it fails?
What if I try to reach out and make a friend and they reject me?

What if…

Have you noticed that when our brains start playing the “what if?” game, they almost always focus on the worst possible outcome?

“What if I start a new business and it takes off and I am able to create new jobs for some people and provide a product that improves the lives of others.”
“What if I reach out to make a friend and we hit it off and they become one of the most important people in my life.”

Never mind…that probably won’t happen…it’s a great dream, but we know what happens to dreamers, right?

The thing is, this “what if” exercise we do is really about fear.

I’m afraid of what might happen…afraid I might fail, so I will do nothing. Even though there is a reasonable possibility that it could make my life so much better, I will just stay where I am…because it is safe here. And we all know how important it is to be safe, right?

The topic of fear and safety has been a big one the past week. That seems a normal response after what we all watched in Paris last weekend.

And it has led to one of the major humanitarian crises of our time being discussed and dealt with, by many on the basis of our fears.

What if we let them into our country and some of them are terrorists?

What if they come and destroy our way of life?

What if…

In response I’ve seen the story of the Good Samaritan shared a lot this week. Jesus telling us to love our neighbour…regardless of whether she is one of us, or an outsider…or a stranger. Or even of a different religion.

One of the arguments I’ve seen shared in response is, basically, “sure, we’re supposed to love our neighbours, but Jesus also told us that we’re supposed to be wise as serpents.”

The point being, Jesus wouldn’t want us to put ourselves in danger.

Which makes me want to ask, “have you actually read the bible?”

There are these people in history called martyrs. And actually, there are martyrs today living in places like Syria who have been raped, enslaved, beheaded because of their faith in Jesus. (I mean they haven’t had to deal with red coffee cups yet but that might be coming too.)

I posted this on Twitter yesterday…

Jesus didn’t tell us to love our neighbour with qualifiers. Love him unless he might be dangerous…unless you feel your safety might be put at risk.

I mean, think about these two verses for a minute:

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.

Luke 12:4

Wait, we’re not even supposed to be afraid of people who could kill us?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.

Luke 6:27-29

Jesus shares a parable where a guy gives some money to his servants and goes away. He comes back and asks what they did with what he gave it. While some of them made more money, one guy buried his money in the ground…to keep it safe. Because he was afraid.

And Jesus says, “Do see how wise this person was? He avoided risk because he was afraid for his safety and wanted to protect what he already had.”

Oh wait, it was the exact opposite.

Jesus doesn’t commend that guy…in fact in the story, he is the biggest loser.

Jesus said the reason he came was to give us life. Life to the full.

Follow me, live life as I live it and you will have an abundant life open up before you.

Why does the bible caution us so often to not fear? I believe it is because fear leads us in the opposite direction. Rather than life to the full, fear leads to a life that gets smaller and smaller as we try to protect our little scraps. Jesus tells us the quickest way to lose the abundant life he has for us is to try and save it.

When we put our efforts and energies into protecting the little piece of pie that we have, and miss out on the feast that God want us to share in.

We can’t trust God and be guided by fear.

We can’t love God, and not love our neighbour.

Posted by bob in stuff in my head, 1 comment

fear

As I was reading in the gospel of Matthew this morning, the topic of fear came up.  I don’t know about you, but I can look back over my life and find way too many decisions that I made because I was afraid. Afraid of what someone will say, afraid of getting in trouble, afraid of anything going on my permanent record.

I would love to say that I’ve put that all behind me and fear never impacts me at all anymore…However, I can say that one of the good things I’ve learned over the past year is that there are certain things that we think are so important that we need to hold onto at all costs, its okay if they go…in fact their departure actually make life better.

Of course there are other things that we still think, “if I lose that, I don’t think I could recover.”  Fear is pretty powerful stuff.

This past week an news story from the UK, referrenced in the YouTube Video, got me thinking about a line from the Wear Suncreen song, by Baz Luhrmann.  The line goes like this:

“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday.”

While we were in Ireland, we stayed on my father-in-laws farm. And being in a farming are, there were a lot of hay bales.  In fact, one day, I was given the job of going out & counting how many hay bale were actually on the farm since they were going to be sold. (I am a man of many talents!) I can say without hesitation that while I was other there counting hay bales, I was not afraid of them…at all.

Then last weekend, I read about one of the founding members of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Cellist Michael Edwards being killed in a car accident. When I was a teenager  and used my Columbia House account to get as much music as I possibly could, my ELO 8-track was
one of my favorites.

If you read the story, then you know that it wasn’t a regular car accident…Edward’s car was hit by a loose bale of hay.  Admit it…if you were to list the top 200 ways you’re afraid you might die, being hit by a bale of hay would not have made that list.  Edwards had also been treated for cancer recently, but it was a bale of hay, that ended his life.

How many decisions have we made because we were afraid of something that never happened?  Fear and worry have amazing power, and yet are pointless. Which is part of the reason that Jesus asked the: Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? [Matt. 7:27]

So what are you wasting time worrying about today?

Posted by bob in stuff in my head, 0 comments