Tag Archive: Fear


We were driving to Maryland a few weeks back.  Since the family doesn’t care for my eclectic choice of music, I put the ear buds in and turned them up.  A few minutes in, one of my favorite groups, Carbon Leaf, was shuffled in.  It was “Life Less Ordinary.”  I sat back in the seat and enjoyed the ballad.  

Suddenly, my eyes popped open.  The line “live a life less ordinary, live a life extraordinary with me,” woke me from my long journey funk. While the song is talking about a human relationship, this line was like God was speaking.  

Often we as Christians try to figure out how to live a life with the least amount of disruption possible.  We kind of drag God along with us.  After a while of “ordinary” life, we begin to doubt the greatness of our God.  This allows thoughts and philosophies of this world to invade not only our daily function but our practical theology as well.  It ends up being an ordinary life that happens to hope Jesus is for real.

Open the Bible.  Seriously.  Open the Bible.  Every time God shows up there is no such thing as an ordinary life.  It’s full of crazy stories where man is always getting himself in trouble.  Why?  We weren’t made to be ordinary, and when God isn’t in our life, we will do all sorts of things seeking the extraordinary.  Did you catch the last word of the last sentence?  It’s the combination of two words, extra and ordinary.  We are made for the fantastic, wonderful, and not-so- predictable life with God. 

How ordinary was it for God to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden?  How ordinary was it for Abraham to abandon the security of family and, by God’s command, travel (not by car, bus or plane) to what we now know as Israel?  How ordinary was it for a young David to pick up a few stones and slay Goliath as he boasted his invincibility?  Was it ordinary for Joseph to go from shepherd boy to 2nd in command of Egypt and then forgive his abusive brothers to redeem his family?  Let’s go fast forward.  Was it ordinary for the disciples to drop their nets and life to follow Jesus?  Was it ordinary for Paul to abandon his beliefs to follow Jesus after he got knocked off his ride?  Was it ordinary as the women came to the tomb to find it empty?  Every time God shows up, life immediately goes to extraordinary!  An exclamation point doesn’t do the word justice.  

Here we are entering 2020.  I meet so many fellow believers who have no plans at all, even for an ordinary life.  They are struggling to survive the day, and others are waiting to leave this world since th- cultural shift has left them feeling disconnected.  They fear.  They live disappointed dream busted lives.  There is a lessening sense of purpose and hope.  The ordinary is swallowing them.  

We recently celebrated Christmas.  In Luke chapter 1 we have the angel Gabriel coming to the virgin Mary and announcing she would give birth to Jesus.  How ordinary was that one?  She questioned Gabriel as we all would have.  Gabriel gives her a response that remains true to this day.  He said, “Nothing is impossible.”  Hold on for a minute.  That is not Gabriel’s total response.  He actually said, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  

Ordinary leaves us thinking, believing, and functioning without the amazing.  We pray with no power. We wake up dreading the day.  The past holds us in it’s clutches, telling us there is no extraordinary and impossible.  Live a life for Christ?  Why?  

We tend to not have a life less ordinary as we cling to the ordinary.  As believers, we aren’t made for the hum drum anymore.   The vanilla, gray, mediocre life is for those who are not called by God to not just believe but to follow.  It gets scary to follow.  The ordinary talks to us.  We all hear it.  “God wouldn’t call me to do that?”  “You can’t.”  “God wants you to be comfortable.”  “It’s too late.”  “You are not skilled, talented or educated enough.”  “Live a life ordinary.”

This week we begin a new year and a new decade.  Maybe you are thinking about goals to achieve in the next 365 days.  Maybe you are thinking about the next decade and what there is to achieve in the next 10 years.  They will come plenty fast enough.  Join me.  I don’t want to spend the next 365 to 3,650 living a life defined by the ordinary.  I thirst for the impossible.  The only way to shake out of the ordinary is to have the response Mary gave Gabriel.  She said, “Behold I am a servant of the Lord….”  Her life was not so ordinary after she placed herself in position to serve the Lord God Almighty.  Interested?  I’am.  

Americans like to fix things.  We struggle with the idea that something can’t be fixed.  When something reaches that state, if not before, we throw it away and go looking for a replacement.   

If we deem an item unfixable or, better yet, too expensive to fix, we throw it away.  I was told by a car sales manager that they design most sales campaigns for the desire to own the next model, not obsoleteness.  Few wait till their car is on it’s last legs to purchase their next car.  Not only are we bent on fixing things we can be quick to throw them away as well.

We like to think we don’t don’t function that way with people. When it’s people, there are issues that cannot be fixed. There is this group of men I meet with on Tuesday nights.  It’s called Pirate Monks.  Pirate Monks is for men who are struggling in life with anything at all to come and participate with our #1 goal in mind.  That goal is to speak honestly from the 1st person perspective.   

Every meeting we remind the participants to allow someone to get their words out, and we are not there to fix them.  We remind each other to only ask questions after someone speaks.  It doesn’t take long for the men to go down a rabbit hole.  The questions turn into statements.  The statements are directed to the “honest” participant in order to fix them.  We will deny it, but we really do value our own opinion.  

This past week I had to turn to one of the guys and state, “Ask a question!”  Eventually it all kicked in, and we began to ask good questions.  A good question is not for the speaker to gain information.  A really good question makes the responder think.  A great question will stick with someone a long time.  

Jesus asked great questions.     From time to time, those he asked questions to could not respond.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t.  The answer penetrated the heart.  In the old days we used to call it “meddlin.”  However, a good question from someone that loves us isn’t meddling but rather great love.  

Some of the hundreds of questions Jesus asked stick out.  He didn’t need the answer.  He needed others to see the answer.  Some that stand out to me include:

“Why do you doubt?”

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

“Where is your faith?”

“What are you looking for?”

“If I am telling  the truth, why do you not believe me?”

These are just a sampling of what I call “questions of the heart.”  My favorite is, “Who are you looking for?”  While this piercing question was directed at the soldiers who came to arrest him, it is a question we can ask every day.  We all seem to be looking for someone, not so much something.  We are looking for someone to love us, care for us, encourage us, validate us, and stay with us no matter what.  Oh, there are plenty of people that speak enticing words to us.  We get so easily seduced with words. When we get tired of empty words, we tend to resort to things to fill our yearnings.  The sense of peace doesn’t last long.   

I was reading a book the other day that revealed the first recorded words between God and man.  It was something I didn’t think about.  The question can be found in Genesis 3.  God asked, “Where are you?”  I have not been able to get that one out of my brain since.

God knew the answer.  Man was hiding from him.  God wasn’t waiting to hear the answer.  His question was for Adam and Eve to hear their own words.  From the beginning we see the amazing art of a good question.

As Christians we live in a world that is sick and tired of us telling them what they have to believe and what they have to do.  I can’t say I blame them at all.  We often expect others to live like Jesus, and, when they don’t, we act surprised.  Once, someone else reveals his or her issues, we think have to fix em.  Do this.  Do that.  All you need is my formula.  The list of fix-its go on forever, and we become god.

God didn’t show up in the garden and say, “I know where you are Adam.  Come on out and get what’s coming to you.”  Not at all.  He needed Adam to grasp the situation.  He wanted Adam to hear his own words.  It was Adam who needed to figure out where he was.  It was Adam in his relationship with God that had to say, “I’m afraid.  I’m naked.  I’m hiding.”  Ahh, the right question reveals the heart.  It’s the heart that needs change, not the behavior.

Next time your spouse is in a bad place, try a good question and don’t expect an answer.  Next time your kids got your blood boiling, ask a really good question and look out for the answer.  Next time a friend is running crazy, ask a great question and be prepared to walk that extra mile.  Till we learn to ask a good question, let’s try shutting up so we can hear their heart.  A little prayer seeking the right question goes a long way as well.

So, where are you?  What are you looking for?  Who are you looking for? 

A frequent reader asked if I would take a week and address “respect” as a topic. At a weekly Friday morning meeting the issue of respect constantly hits the table. So, I thought this week I would try and tackle it.
Respect is one of those topics that is hard to pin down. It’s sort of like humility. Humility is one of those topics one doesn’t want to discuss. Why? If someone thinks they have it and talk too much about it, it disappears. Respect is close. One can demand respect but not deserve it. One can give respect and not receive it back. What do we do then? I’m not sure I know.
Let’s start with a dictionary definition. The definition I found is this: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Let’s look at the Bible. I Peter 2:17 is probably the best verse that encapsulates respect. It reads, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Now, let’s put the two together. The Apostle Peter, along with a lot of other Bible authors, talks about our faith in Jesus Christ moving us to honor or respect others. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This is the very message of Christ when he talked about loving God and loving others. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ moves us out of our own world and invites others, regardless of any distinction, in.
The dictionary definition says we have respect or a deep admiration elicited by someone’s abilities, qualities (positive, if I must add), or achievements. Jesus should automatically gain our respect since His achievement is the giving of His life for mankind’s redemption. This is the very essence of respect either as a receiver or a giver of it. This concept of giving our lives to others is parallel with the apostle John telling us that the love of God is to lay our lives down for the sake of another. Thus, respect happens.
The other characteristic of respect involves leadership. Many from the older generation feel that they should be given respect simply because of their generation’s achievements and age. However, when one generation demands respect without laying its life down for the next, respect will be hard to find. Respect does not really happen because of achievement. Respect happens when you know someone loves and cares for you.
President Trump is an example of this concept. He has some amazing achievements as a businessman. Being elected president is quite an achievement. However, how he handles himself tends to lose him respect even from those who voted for him. Why? There is an air of self-righteousness that diminishes any sense of true public service. This is probably the reason there is very little respect at many levels of leadership. Leadership that does not care for the underdog will not engender respect.
Jesus was constantly caring well for the underdog. In my lifetime, I think Mother Teresa is an example of someone who garnered immense respect. Everyone knew she laid her life down for the downtrodden. She was not weak. Her life backed up her words. Now, there is an unwritten element of respect.
Most of the older generation want to talk about respect because they feel it is demanded. However, get them to talk about where they have failed as parents, leaders, and followers of Jesus Christ, that is a different creature. Respect can not be demanded. It is lived.
God is the foundation of all respect. The Father gave his Son, Jesus, for his creation humankind. We can not be good enough to reestablish a relationship with Holy God. The Father gave us his Son to redeem us from our unbelief. As a parent, I’m not sure I have met any human for whom I would give my son. That’s just it. His love and action encompass what we are seeking through great achievements without sacrifice.
Finally, take Jesus out of the respect equation and what do we have? I don’t think It’s spelled, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. The end result is selfishness, blind ambition, avarice and any other word that can be used to define self-absorption.
Did you catch the elements Peter gave? Love, Fear and Honor were the big three. Of course, Paul said anything without love is like a sounding gong. Take a closer look. Respect…Donald Trump or Mother Teresa?

He sat at the desk and called for his wife. She did not respond. That’s funny. She would always answer him with her squeaky voice. He walked out of his office and peaked in the kitchen. No wife to be found. He wandered from room to room wondering where she could be. Eventually he stopped and listened for her. It was deafly quiet. Maybe she went shopping and he forgot. He was getting up there in age. He looked in the garage. Nope, both cars were in the garage. As he turned to go back into the mud room he noticed the lack of her laundry. He was jolted from his denial. She was not in the garage. She was not in the house. His petite wife with the squeaky voice had succumbed to cancer a few weeks ago. He was alone for the first time in 48 years. His emotions got the best of him as the silence of loneliness penetrated his soul.
Meanwhile, the young girl sat in the counselors office telling her story. Her day started at 5:30 a.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m. with cheerleading and volleyball sandwiching her myriad of classes. She was active at school. She was active at church. She was constantly around friends, classmates and her bothersome little brothers. Something was wrong. Her parents sent her into the office since they couldn’t figure out her moods. As she laid out her complex days tears welled up in her big brown eyes. Her head drooped a bit. Her next words shattered the momentary silence, “I’m all alone. Nobody knows me.” “Impossible” the perplexed counselor replied. “You’re wrong” she insisted. “ I’m so busy I don’t have time for anybody and they don’t really have time for me.” Alone in a sea of humanity.
The 3rd account involved a young adult as sat eating her pasta explaining her guilt ridden Christian family. She had no one talk to. Her mom would have none of her deep and often troubled thoughts. Her dad, let’s just say he was a typical dad. Her brothers and sisters were driven by her parents desire for success. They had no time to hear her heart. All that mattered in her family was money. She was uncomfortable talking to her uncle. He sensed she needed some help. He asked her if she would like to have a lady to talk to. She immediately answered with a first time smile, “Yes, I really would.” He only knew of one lady who had a heart for teenagers. She was 82 years old. As he stammered though the idea of hooking her up with an 82 year old grandmother of seven she shocked him. With tears in her eyes as well she reminded him of the key value, “I don’t care how old they are, all that matters to me is will they love me.” He picked up the phone and made a quick call. She was suffering from the sounds of silence in a world of noise.
The last lonely traveler made a lot of mistakes in his life. His journey hurt a lot of people. His wife left years ago and the kids don’t care to see him. He somehow knows he has grandkids but has never seen them. He sat with his wine and his cats with no one around staring blankly as the television ran reruns over and over. He picked up the phone for the eighth time today. Nobody answered. He even was blocked by his last friend. His lonely drunken stupor made him forget the time. His multiple attempts to reach his old friend violated the man’s family time. His thirst to hear someone’s voice was greater then his thirst for another glass of alcohol. The only problem is he had worn out his welcome. HIs drunken ramblings ends every friendship he had. He couldn’t stop picking up the phone at 4 a.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. only to hear the endless rings. He heard the words of the Simon and Garfunkel classic…”Hello darkness my old friend.”
All these stories are true. Every one of these individuals had at one time attended church. They sat in the pews. They smiled when they needed to. When asked how they were doing they responded with American triteness, “I’m o.k., you?” No use telling them the truth. They really didn’t care.
There was a guy in the book of Acts who was in the same boat. Saul, a somewhat new believer in Jesus Christ had lost his old friends. In fact, they wanted to kill him. His new relationships did not trust him. He caused them a lot of pain and suffering. He was alone. If a guy by the name of Barnabas had not stepped up and basically said, “I got your back, let’s get going,” the story of Paul, the apostle would have possibly ended right there.
Loneliness is killing the gospel in our lives. Loneliness caused by death, busyness, flawed priorities and sin has become one of the greatest tools of the unholy trinity (the world, flesh and the devil) in a culture that deceives with it’s social media and technology. It’s the heart that is at stake. The future of Christianity is not who will be the next Billy Graham. The question is who will be a Barnabas?