Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The world is scary but you don’t have to fear it

I’m a child of the ’80s. I grew up in a time when morality and faith seemed to be making a comeback. It was a time when you could almost trust strangers you met on the street. It was a time when things in the world were bad but not so bad.

Fast forward 30+ years later. What happened?

Do you ever wonder? How–in a mere 30 years–did we go from trick-or-treating outside at night to having to do it in daylight? How did we go from the personal accountability of my childhood to the government making laws so that people “do the right thing”?

I don’t think about it very often because it’s so sad. It breaks my heart to see what has become of us. Not just America. But of American Christians, who are just as guilty for the state of our nation and our world as those who don’t believe.

When I was a kid, the scariest thing we had to face was some unemployment or some local gang troubles. That was really it. Now? What kids face now? I don’t know how parents do it. I know so many precious, cherished friends with young children, and I don’t know how they help their children not be afraid when the world is falling apart.

ISIS. Ebola. Conspiracies. Oh, for the days when drugs were the scariest problem in schools. Now our high schools have daycare facilities because so many kids have kids of their own. Now you can’t travel from one place to the next without being frightened that you’ll contract a deadly disease.

But it’s even worse than that. I don’t know if the stories are true, but word is circulating now that wedding chapel ministers are being threatened with arrest because they won’t perform same-sex weddings. And there are other examples of people who are doing what the Bible says is right and they are being threatened because of it.

And if I’m not careful, I start getting afraid of what’s going to happen when that spirit stretches from sea to shining sea–when no one who believes in Christ and refuses to back down in His name is safe.

It’s coming. That day is coming. And if you don’t realize it now, you’d better wake up. You need to make that decision now before the time comes, before your faith is challenged, before it happens. Because you can’t make a decision like that in the heat of the moment. You have to make up your mind now whose side you’re on–your own or God’s.

And it’s scary. I’m not so “Christian” to tell you that a part of me isn’t scared. I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want to die for my faith. But I will. I made that decision in high school, and I meant it. I guess part of me just didn’t expect to have to face it in my lifetime.

And I’m so glad God knew this was coming. He told us it would come. And those who take Him seriously have been anticipating the day when our world breaks down and starts targeting Christ-followers as their enemies.

Over and over and over in the Bible, God says not to be afraid. Don’t fear. Don’t be afraid. And there’s a reason for that–because this world is scary. Life is scary. And there’s so much that we can’t control because we’re just people. We have so many limitations. So many faults and failures. But God says not to be afraid because He doesn’t have faults and failures or limitations, and He promises that He has everything under control.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 41:13.

For I hold you by your right hand—
    I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
    ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Don’t be afraid. God is here to help us. He promises that so many times–more times than I can count–and He never makes a promise that He doesn’t keep.

When you get right down to it, fear is a choice. Everyone fears. But you, Christ follower, you don’t have to. You don’t have to live in fear of anything. Not of destitution. Not of disease. Not of disgrace. Not of danger. Nothing.

That doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. It won’t be perfect until we get home because this world is broken and breaking more and more every day. But that means in this scary world, you don’t have to live in fear.

So choose today. Make the choice today what side you’re on. Set it firmly in your mind, and if you have already made that decision, reaffirm it. Because the day is coming when you will be challenged, and before that day gets here, you’re going to face all sorts of things that will terrify you if you let them.

Just know you don’t have to let them.

Our God is bigger than the world’s fears. Do you believe He can do miracles? Do you believe He is who He says He is over and over and over? Do you believe He is here to help you?

Good. So start living like it.

 

Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

What you miss when you judge others wrongly

Have you ever made a judgment call on someone else’s personality only to discover later that you were wrong? Yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing. And it happened to me yesterday.

The first leg of my flight went from Philadelphia to Atlanta yesterday around noonish, and I ended up tucked against a wall at the back of an MD88 next to a grouchy, irritable woman and her absent-minded mother, and of course we were sitting in front of an infant who wouldn’t stop crying for the entire two-hour flight.

So needless to say, by the time I got off the plane in Atlanta, my nerves were shot. So when I boarded the flight bound for Wichita, I was already in a pretty foul humor.

I walked up to my seat, and there was an old man in my row. I politely told him that I had the window seat, and he took one look at me and my WSU t-shirt and said: “Oh, you’re one of those #$%& Shockers.” And then he proceeded to mutter about idiots and morons as I climbed over him to get to my seat.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say or what to think, so I just tried not to do either. I responded politely, buckled myself in, and then plugged my earphones in for the rest of the flight.

What on earth could possess someone to say something like that? Or to be so mean in general? Seriously. It was extraordinarily rude.

Fortunately for my mental state, the seat between us remained empty, so we both got to stretch out a little for the short hop between Atlanta and Wichita. But I kept my earphones in because I really didn’t want to talk to him.

A little more than halfway through the flight, when the flight attendants came around with drinks and pretzels, he put the middle tray table down and indicated that I could set my drink there if I didn’t want to risk spilling on my Kindle.

After I finished my drink and my pretzels, I packed them up neatly and shut my eyes for just a moment. Well, I guess I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up later to discover that he had taken care of my trash too. And a few moments later as the plane began to descend, he started doing the cha-cha sitting down. I thought there was something wrong with him, but then I realized he had earphones in too and was rocking out to some kind of music.

It was actually kind of funny.

Shortly thereafter we were on the ground, and the grumpy old man and his wife disappeared in the rush to deplane. But it left me wondering if he really was as grumpy as he seemed. And maybe I missed an opportunity to have a really great conversation with someone.

Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Bright tropical fish beneath the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is John 7:24.

Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.

We hear it all the time: Don’t judge. Don’t judge. Don’t judge. Well, guess what, folks? We all judge. We judge everything all the time. If we didn’t, we’d all be making stupid decisions every moment of our lives.

We have to judge. We have to make judgment calls. If you never weigh two decisions against a standard, you never know what it is to make a choice, and you never understand what it is to make a wise choice.

What is interesting about this verse is that Jesus says it to the religious leaders of His time. They were attacking Him because He had healed someone on the Sabbath, the time when people weren’t supposed to work, but Jesus threw their attacks back in their faces. And rightly so. Because the religious leaders only grasped the letter of the law and not its meaning.

Every situation, every person, every thing in life is more than it appears. There’s always more to the story. There’s always more to a person than what you see. But if you make your judgment call based on something superficial, you may miss the point. And you may miss the opportunity to bless someone or to be blessed yourself.

Now I’m not saying you should throw caution to the wind and run out and do something foolish right now. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that maybe we should give people the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that grouchy old man had just gotten off a flight where he’d had to listen to a child screaming or had to listen to the psychotic ramblings of an angry passenger. Maybe he was at his wit’s end too. That didn’t mean he wasn’t worth talking to.

So the next time you encounter someone who might not look or act the way you think they ought to, don’t just write them off. Don’t just ignore them because you don’t think they’re worth your time.

You never know. God may have put you in their path for such a time as this–or vice versa. But if you pass them by, you’ll never know.