Breaking Fear: Part 2, The Antidote

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You may already know this, but in the NIV version of the Bible, because each translation works out a little differently, there are 541 references to the word fear or afraid.  That’s only a little over 100 less than the number of times the word love appears. 

Why? 

Because humans are scared. 

I am chief scaredy-cat. 

This has nothing to do with your willingness to bungee jump or ride motorcycles or take on towering rollercoasters.  I’ve done all of those and loved every moment. 

This is fear of sickness or war or loneliness or mayhem or need or the unknown.  Scaredy-cat actually minimizes what’s really going on in our hearts and heads here.  In certain moments, the fear is more akin to terror and can paralyze us. 

In this fall’s study, Breaking Fear, we’re going to tackle those kinds of fears and understand what the Bible says about them.  But before we dive into what those fears are, let’s look at all the places the Bible counteracts fear without a single reference to the word. 

First, my foundation for this entire study is I John 4:18:  God is love so… There is no fear in love.  Guess what?  Love is referenced 686 times in the NIV version of the Bible.  See, even in the Scripture, love beats fear

Second, there are many other Biblical antidotes to fear:  Peace (mentioned 249 times in the NIV), Comfort (mentioned 75 times in the NIV), Deliver(er) (mentioned 252 times in the NIV), Rest (mentioned 508 times in the NIV), and on and on the list goes with the ways in which God delivers a balm to our fear. 

If we go into this study knowing God offers peace and comfort and deliverance and rest from the fears which threaten to throw us off course, then we can tackle our individual fears confidently.  We can rest assured He has the perfect antidote

What is one of the most powerful responses to fear?  Besides love, I believe it is TRUTH. 

If you have a relationship with Jesus, then you have the truth IN YOU.  It’s already there.  See this promise in John 15:26:  But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

The Spirit of truth has already been sent to you.  And just a few verses up in this same chapter of John, God tells us what else is living in us as a part of a mad-powerful concoction against fear:  As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

So we’re starting out with this: Truth!  Love!  Joy! 

Take that Fear!

What else do we need?  Well, I can still shake in my boots when fear assails me.  Paul, who should know after everything he went through, offers this guarantee in Romans 8:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is nothing, nothing, nothing, which can separate you or me from the Love of God.  Once we know, from our foundational verse, there is no fear in love, then we must acknowledge nothing can separate us from the safe place where fear cannot exist.  

Not only that, look at all those things in the list of things Paul says can’t separate us from God’s love:  death, life, distress, peril, famine, powers, things happening now, things happening in the future, any created thing, etc.  What does that list look like?  I don’t know about you, but that list looks a lot like a list of my fears. 

Sit with that for a minute. 

Nothing you are afraid of today can separate you from God and His love.  {===>Click to TweetAnd in His love, those fears are not allowed to live. 

You just annihilated your fears with His love.  

Imagine a video game and the death blaster is His love and all you need to do is point it at each one of your fears.  Game over.  Love wins. 

As someone who has sat in deep fear and anxiety on a regular basis, I recognize it doesn’t work out quite so simply in real life.  But I wonder if I’m not complicating it all.  

If we stand on this TRUTH, then our fear must die. 

Homework:

Memorize I John 4:18.  Have it at the ready when your fear comes calling.

Study and mediate on John 15 and Romans 8.  These are such foundational scripture passages.  They contain so much goodness beyond their link to love and fear.  Particularly focus on Romans 8:31-39 and John 15:9-17 and 26-27. 

Make a list of your fears.  Let’s tackle each one of them this fall.

Share what God is teaching you either in the comments here on the Facebook link.

 I’m so grateful to share this journey with you. 

Breaking Fear: Part 1, An Introduction

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I’ve never physically been under attack.  I’ve never had a gun pointed at my head.  I’ve never experienced terrorism up close and personal.  I’ve never been beaten and robbed.

I have, however, experienced acute anxiety.  The kind that wakes you up at night.  The kind that sends you running to catch an earlier flight out only to then worry the earlier flight you caught will crash.  The kind that makes you reach over to jostle your napping child to make sure he’s still breathing.

I believe there is anxiety which needs to be medically treated.  I fully support those who are able to find respite through a psychologist or medication.

I also believe there is a spiritual component to our fear.  As I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist, this ten week study looks at the way to wage spiritual war on the fears which can cripple us.  For some, the spiritual knowledge will couple with the medical knowledge in combatting their struggle.

This is a relatively new battlefield for me.  While I’ve always worried a little, the white-knuckled terror I’ve faced on and off recently emerged only in the past two years.

It’s not surprising so many of us are struggling with fear.  We live in a 24 hour news cycle.  The more heinous the crime, the more media attention it garners.  Our iPhones light up alerting us to beheadings and explosions.  We hear the horrific stories of sexual exploitation and bear up under the heartbreaking news there are more slaves in America today than in our nation’s history.  I can’t watch YouTube videos of anything knowing it will only add to my restless sleep.

Forty million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder.  That’s nearly one fifth of our country’s population.  Yet, comparatively, we’re one of the safest societies to live in.  Our planes rarely crash.  Our buildings rarely blow up.  Our soil hasn’t seen the genocide or terrorism common in other countries.

Why are we all so terrified? 

I believe…

I started writing that sentence over and over and couldn’t finish it until God asked me, “What DO you believe, Gindi?”

I believe God is love.  I believe in His Love there is no fear.  I believe perfect Love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment and there is no fear of punishment in perfect Love.  (I John 4)

 

I do believe those words.  I’m just not always sure how to make sure the fear is driven out.

 

So this ten week bible study is really a journey we’ll be going on together.  A journey from fear to freedom.

 

It’s time for Breaking Fear. 

 

{To follow this study, you can enter your email to subscribe to the blog or follow our conversation on Facebook.  This study is only intended to focus on what God says about fear.  If you suffer from crippling anxiety, I encourage you to visit your doctor. }

Gideon: The Study, Part 7

This is our final week with Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study.  For those of you following along, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

We caught a glimpse of what our study would tackle this week during last week’s review of Audio Session 6:  IDOLS.  Now in modern day America, we don’t call the things we put in place of God idols, we call them hobbies or work or exercise or parties or relationships, but they can all look exactly like the idols of Gideon’s day.

Week Six looks at two ways that we can have idols by reviewing what Israel did in Judges 8:22 when they asked Gideon to rule over them and by reviewing Gideon’s response to their request in the verses that follow.  “Israel’s problem was making an idol out of someone else.  Gideon’s problem was making one out of himself.”  Gideon, Week Six, Day 4

Have you been on either side of that?  Have you ever made a “god” of something or someone?  Have you ever put yourself up on that pedestal?  Well, I can answer yes to both of those questions.  And not from some way back distant memory but from this past week.

Idols sounds like a fancy Bible term so we don’t relate it to our every day life, but all an idol is, “anything in the visible, created realm that begins to operate in a role that should be reserved for God.”  Gideon, Week Six, Day 1

So the first side of the coin here is Israel.  In Judges 8:22, the Israelites ask Gideon and his sons to rule over them.  Gideon, Week 6, Day 2  Even iinherently good things, gifts God has given us, can become the most harmful idols since that is the sneakiest way to build idols.  Examples are as simple as a successful career, until you’re willing to comprise your values for it; a committed significant other, until he consumes all your attention; a plentiful bank account, until you rely on that for security; your favorite pastime, until it’s all you think about and make time for in your life.

Each of these things at the outset is such a blessing, but we can make it into our idol when they become our rulers and pull us away from God’s plan for us.  I wish I could spend this whole post on Israel’s idolatrous history, but if you look at Exodus 32, you will see the people asked Aaron to build them idols WHILE THEY WERE WAITING for Moses to get down off of the mountaintop with God.  Y’all, they were so impatient that they couldn’t wait to hear what God had to stay after direct conversation with Moses so they tried to set up a golden calf image WHILE Moses was in the middle of conversation with God.  Can you imagine how blown away he must have been when he came down from the mountain???

Well, in that example in Exodus, the idol was a golden calf.  Fast forward all these decades later to Gideon’s time and look at Judges 6:25-26 – what kind of idols did they have?  BULLS.  They’d moved from a golden calf to idols of bulls.  “Idolatry never stays small.  What seems minor will spiral far beyond what we first imagined.  It won’t regress or retreat.  Left unattended, it will grow and mature until its grip is beyond what we ever intended it to be.  Calves become bulls.  Never forget that.”  Gideon, Week 6, Day 2

That has proven ever true in my life.  I allow something harmful to grow into an opportunity for the enemy to pull me away from God’s best plan for my life.  But Israel wasn’t the only one guilty.  Gideon did a pretty impressive 180 degree turn from listening to God’s voice, to believing his own accolades and trusting only in himself.

Priscilla is absolutely right, there’s nothing wrong when people celebrate and honor the work God’s done in your life!  It’s what you do with that admiration that’s important – where it settles in your head and heart.  Gideon, Week 6, Day 4  In Judges 8, we see Gideon’s progression in verses 21 through 31.  He took plunder from the enemy, the a share of plunder from the Israelites, he set up an idol and had many wives and sons.  Exactly contradicting what God had said He would require of a King.  (Deut. 17:14-15)

Gideon’s idol was supposed to be a way to hear God, but Priscilla reminds us this was his way of convenient Christianity.  Building an “ephod” in his backyard meant he could come to God on his own terms.  How do we respond to God’s plan for our life when it requires more effort or energy that we really want to give?

So how do we leave this study?  How are we going to be different?  Let’s make sure our story ends differently than Gideon’s.  Here is Priscilla’s charge: (1) meet the next battles differently than we did before; (2) come to a greater dependence on God; (3) have a hunger for the word of God and a passionate pursuit of Him.

Her parting prayer over everyone was freedom from fear:  He has not given you a spirit of fear!  How dare we live under a cloud of fear when the God of all power has paid such a high price to redeem us from it.

And a reminder that His strength is made perfect in our weakness:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  II Cor. 12:9-10

Gideon: The Study, Part 6 1/2

1stampWe are nearing the end.  One week of homework left in Priscilla Shirer’s powerful study on Gideon found in Judges 6 – 8.

This picture isn’t as reflective of a specific message in Gideon, but a request of God that Priscilla Shirer made for women doing this study during Audio Session 6.  That all we have learned God would set seal over our heart.  That He who began a good work in you would be faithful to complete it.  (Phil. 1:6)

That is my prayer as well.  That something you read would be a word God would speak in your life and would seal over your heart.

We skip a bit over our story from where we left Gideon last week.  He had stopped trusting and listening to God and he had set off on a personal vengeance mission.  Read Judges 8 to see what happens next.  As Priscilla puts it, Gideon starts believing his own press and stops deflecting glory from himself and turning to God.  In fact, even though he does eventually refute the crown offered to him and his sons, he does not refute the credit given him.

Gideon doesn’t turn and say, hey, don’t you remember, I was terrified.  This unbelievable win, this victory, that was ALL God.  No.  Instead he believes his own press.  And he called for them to give him an offering, not God.  Psalm 75:6 says, “promotion comes not from the East or the West but from the Lord.”  All too often, we give credit to someone or something tangible.  We take credit for ourselves, oh look what I accomplished in my own strength, or we give credit to circumstances or a mentor or timing.  All of those things are excellent, but they are God provided.

Gideon lost his allegiance to the God that rescued him and his people once he had won the war.  “We have to have the same allegiance coming out of the battle as we did going in.”  (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon Session 6)

The lesson for this week focused on WHO IS KING in our life?

Gideon’s story ends, sadly, exactly where it started.  With Israel enslaved.  Why?  Because Gideon refused to give the glory to God.  He allowed the Israelites to raise him up instead.  And the idol he made from the spoils of the war, “All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.”

What has become a snare in our own life?

Who or what has authority in our life?

Who have we been giving the credit too?

Do we deflect glory back to God?  Keep anything that belongs to God?

Who is King?  Is it a relationship?  A hobby?  A job?  An addiction?  Media?  It’s where we spend our time, where we give our focus, where we allocate our resources that shows what actually governs our life.  I’m certainly going to spend time praying this week about what I’ve been placing above God in my own life.  I imagine each one of us has an opportunity for radical transformation if we will lay some things down and put God back on the throne.

Gideon: The Study, Part 6

Sorry for a delayed Gideon post, but as you may have caught on Tuesday, I had no power because of a March winter storm in Houston – don’t ask…. Today we’ll cover some of Gideon’s Week Five homework and finish it and the audio instruction next week.

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I love the focus at the week’s beginning: Unusual Weapons.  Priscilla Shirer reminds us that Gideon not only went into battle outnumbered 450 to 1, but he also went into the battle armed with three crazy nonsensical weapons – a torch, a trumpet, and a water pitcher.

A what?  That’s right!  A torch. A trumpet. And a water pitcher (see Judges 7).  And from the account we have, it doesn’t appear any of the 300 chosen men even questioned the instruments of war they were given!  Well, the same goes for us when our traditional weapons of talent and strength and money fail.  God gives us the less obvious, but incredibly powerful, weapons of prayer and faith and praise and scripture.

Here is what Priscilla says was so perfect about the inexpensive water pitchers that the men carried into battle with a lamp lit inside.  They carried them with the light hidden inside all the way down to the enemy’s camp and then broke them so the torches could shine in the night.  “The pitchers’ value was twofold.  First, the pitchers importance didn’t come from their composition but from their contents.  The vessels needed only enough material and maintenance so the burning flame inside could be protected, ready to be unleashed at the sound of Gideon’s battle cry.  Second, the pitchers’ importance came from their weakness.  The pitchers were frail.  Easily breakable.  But the weakness was not a liability; it actually made them effective.  If the pitchers were made of an indestructible substance that wouldn’t shatter at once, the torches would have remained concealed.  The pitchers’ frailty benefited their ultimate purpose – allowing the light to be seen.”  Gideon, Week Five, Day 2

Wow.

Remember the tag line?  Our weakness, God’s strength.

It’s in our weakness that He can shine brightly.

It’s what comes next that comes as a surprise.

After God uses these 300 men and some crazy weapons to accomplish a total victory over the Midianites, the story turns.  Here’s this man who has been called by God and, after some testing, bravely stepped out and did just as God asked of him even when it seemed to fly in the face of everything logical.   But after all that, big God-breathed wins, something happened to make Gideon stop listening to God.  His divine mission turns into one of “personal retribution.”  (Judges 7:23-24, 8:18-21)

Gideon was done with what God had called Him to do but he kept pursuing the Midianites.  He even calls back soldiers to his battalion that “probably consisted of the twenty-two thousand who had been eliminated…”  (Gideon, Week Five, Day Two)

Priscilla points us back to a pattern of Gideon stepping outside the direction of God to “pacify his insecurity and timidity….Instead of continuing to trust in the one true God, Gideon reverted back to his previous reliance on human strength.”  (Gideon, Week Five, Day Two) (e.g., Judges 6:27 – he was too scared to tear down the altar in daylight.)

What if we listened to where God called us, did what He asked, but released it when it was time?  “I wonder how different Gideon’s story might have turned out if he had been satisfied with simply doing what God has empowered him to do.”  (#lessonsfromGideon)

The challenge is twofold today – bravely following God into the battle where He calls us, no matter what the odds are or the weapons look like, but then being willing to step aside when God tells us it’s time to pass the baton to someone else.  Hard lessons to learn.  But so worth it in the end.