Posted tagged ‘fear’

Leaning Not On Your Own Understanding

July 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 20, 2016


“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”   (Proverbs 3:5 from The Message)

Today I helped a group of middle school church campers rappel down a cliffside. For almost all of them this was a first time experience. Actually, it was my first experience also. For about four hours I held a rope and said things like “Awesome! Great job! You can do it! Keep going!”

I asked the question to some of them: What does Proverb 3:5 say?

Trust God…and don’t lean on your own understanding. I learned today that you must not lean forward in fear, but lean back and trust. In essence, we were telling the students to not do what seemed the understandable solution…leaning into the mountain, but rather to lean back and give up control.

A few of the students had a hard time getting past their fears and letting go. For some it took just a little bit of encouragement from the top to get them going…just a small dose of guidance from the top, and belief that they could do it. After the first fifty feet their camp friends down below took up the encouragement.

Another young man came to a point of hesitation, a place between the top and the bottom where he froze and became unmoving. Kent, our lead person, finally rappelled down to him and “unfroze” him. The young man had to be almost pulled along all the way to the bottom. His ego was a bit bruised, but he got to the bottom. Sometimes people need to be pulled along in their spiritual lives, and lives in general. They need a guide who pulls them…an AA sponsor who says the hard things, a coach who won’t let them settle for mediocre effort, a tutor who says “If I have to, I’m going to sit here all day until you get this!”, a pastor who pulls them away from the errors in judgment.

Some people need to be pushed, or in rappelling…pulled! Discomfort is not accepted easily, but sometimes taking people to an uncomfortable place is the needed ingredient for spiritual growth.

A couple of the campers rappelled alongside a friend who was struggling. One young guy, Jacob, knew his friend’s fears were real and inhibiting. Even though he had the ability to rappel down at a much quicker pace, Jacob slowed down to encourage his friend each step of the descent.

Sometimes we need a brother or sister to lean on as we take that next step. What each one of us needs is someone who slows their pace to stay with us. Sometimes we ARE the ones who slow down in order to be with. Last week I officiated at a funeral for a twenty-four year old. I didn’t know the deceased, but I know his dad. Next week I’m going to try to get together with him for a cup of coffee and continued conversation as he rappelled down the mountain of personal loss. He may have some moments in the coming weeks where he “freezes.” I know that I’m probably one of the people that God has placed in his life who needs to help him unfreeze…to continue in the heart wrenching journey of grief.

And it always seems to come back to “trusting and leaning.” Trusting in the Lord with our whole heart…leaning back and experiencing the loving arms of God.

Fear or Faith-Based Ministry

November 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 21, 2013



    In the group of pastoral colleagues that I meet with for a half-day each month I am always made to think by observations, personal statements, as well as humorous statements. Yesterday was our gathering for November and one of my dear colleagues, Mike Oldham, made a statement about ministries- both pastoral and congregational- that are fear-based, others that are fame-based, and a smaller percentage that are faith-based.

Although it was Mike’s thought it go me thinking about it more as the day went along.  “Fear-based ministry” develops out of a mindset of loss, perhaps even resigned to defeat. It is the church that operates out of a fear of losing people. In the marketplace it reminds me of businesses in communities where Walmart has announced they are coming to town. Over the past couple of decades there has been a number of businesses who just automatically throw in the towel over that developing situation. It’s resigned defeat. Many churches have a similar mindset. The basis for ministry originates out of a fear that people will leave and go somewhere else. In this time it seems that the church is having an identity crisis. We’re often not sure who we are, or what we’re about. The result is that we are often fearful of what we might become.

Pastors fear that being truthful will alienate them from their congregations. Alienate is a nice word for “getting fired.”

Congregations fear that they will grow older and not have younger generations to keep the ministry of the church alive. Sometimes they hire a youth pastor because they think that will solve the problem. Hiring a youth pastor does not solve the problem of fearing the loss of younger people.

A few congregations fear the loss of their pastor. (I stress “few!”) If the pastor leaves for another church, or gets disgusted with the people of the church who don’t bow to him, the congregation is afraid that the “pastor void” will cause chaos. Better to have a pastor who orders people around than not have a pastor that result in disorder. Bottom line! There are a few pastors who might be named Rev. Donald Trump!

Some congregations fear progress! It throws the whole familiar system out of whack. Better to keep things steady and the same than to change. Change creates fear. The motto of such a church is simple: “Fear change!”

It is hard, but so scriptural, for the church to be faith-based. Faith is feared many times. Even though Jesus mentions having faith…a whole lot…we fear it. Stepping out in faith is putting yourself out there. Most of us don’t like to put ourselves out there. We like to stay put.

The faith-based church does not mean it is huge in size. Being faith-based, in fact, has nothing to do with size. Size sometimes suffocates faith that otherwise would emerge. Faith-based is a little too fluid for most people. I mean, what will people think if we follow the leading of the Spirit half-way through a budget year and initiate a new ministry to the poor and disenfranchised?

Let’s be honest! We talk about faith, but we live by fear. It took faith for the Hebrew people to step into the mud path of the Red Sea, but it was fear that made them long for the glory days of slavery back in Egypt. It took faith for Peter to step out of the boat, but fear brought him back to his senses about the laws of nature.

It’s a constant struggle for the people of God to live by faith. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy. The bottle of snake oil would be right behind their back.

Each day I seek to be faithful…and each day I fall short.

But thanks be to God, he hasn’t given up on me yet!

The Pursuit Worth Pursuing

May 15, 2009

Many years ago I knew a lady who was passionate about collecting buttons. Not buttons that you sew on to your coat, but rather buttons that you pin on to your coat.

Political campaign buttons. Buttons with pictures. Buttons with smiley faces. Buttons with slogans. Buttons with American symbols, and buttons with British symbols. Buttons from states, and buttons shaped like different states.

Her home was populated with buttons, thousands and thousands of buttons! But she used buttons to facilitate “that one thing” in her life that she pursued with passion and purpose. Her buttons were used to initiate conversations, but “that one thing” in her life was Jesus. Buttons opened the door to conversations about Christ.

I would say that a vast majority of people can’t point to “that one thing” they desire to pursue. It’s that one thing that is like an emerging flame within their spirit. That one thing is not a hobby, or even an activity. It’s “the pursuit worth pursuing.”

It’s Adoniram and Ann Judson pursuing a new calling to be missionaries to Burma as a result of being convicted that baptism by immersion was what the Bible talked about. The conviction they felt, listen to this, was during the voyage they were on to India, where they were to being sent by the Congregational Church to be missionaries. All of a sudden the pursuit worth pursuing…that one thing…changed their plans. They went from being commissioned, financially-supported missionaries to un-commissioned, non-supported, un-employed missionaries. Luther Rice, who was another commissioned missionary, whose views on baptism had also been changed, sailed back to America and went from Baptist church to Baptist church raising support for the first American Baptist missionaries overseas. If Luther hadn’t come to understand that this was the pursuit worth pursuing the Judson’s wouldn’t have been able to spend the rest of their lives sowing the seeds of the gospel in Burma.

This was not meant to be an article about American Baptist missionaries. It’s just to illustrate the point that I’m not sure how many of us come to that point of knowing what in our life is “the pursuit worth pursuing.” We might re-word it for our situation, but its realizing the “heart” of Paul’s passion. He wrote “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12, 13b-14)

We focus on trivial pursuits that “flame out.” “Temporary flings” is the phrase that best sums up what consumes the bulk of our energy.

Why is it that our attention is so easily diverted? It could be because the pursuit worth pursuing is also a little intimidating. Like the dust clouds rising behind a speeding car on a dirt road, there are accompanying doubts that trail closely behind the pursuit worth pursuing. When the drive forward is halted the dust settles in around us making the way unclear. The “what if’s” surround us.

What if I go full speed forward and I fail?

What if I pursue and I fall flat on my face?

What if the flame flickers out while I’m pursuing?

What if I’m just meant to be mediocre?

The pursuit worth pursuing is not a problem for most people, because they never get started.

I’m more afraid of another “what if.” What if “that one thing” that God has planted in my heart…that pursuit worth pursuing that He is entrusting me to be about…what if that one thing is the pursuit I never pursue?

That would be a tragedy!