Category Archives: Fear

Bonhoeffer on Overcoming Fear

In January 1933, shortly before Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer preached this sermon at a vespers service on the evening of the second Sunday after Epiphany. It was a time of great tension in Berlin, and of widespread fear. The Hindenburg government was tottering, indeed was about to go under, and with it Germany’s fragile first republic, created at Weimar after World War I. There was fear of Communism — the “Red Tide from the East” — and other extremist movements, and danger from open fighting in the streets. In the midst of this storm, Bonhoeffer was no more certain of the future than anyone else, but he was sure that followers of Christ should know where to turn.

Matthew 8:23–27: And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

The overcoming of fear — that is what we are proclaiming here. The Bible, the Gospel, Christ, the Church, the faith — all are one great battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. Fear is, somehow or other, the archenemy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.

Now fear leers that person in the face, saying: Here we are all by ourselves, you and I, now I’m showing you my true face. And anyone who has seen naked fear revealed, who has been its victim in terrifying loneliness — fear of an important decision; fear of a heavy stroke of fate, losing one’s job, an illness; fear of a vice that one can no longer resist, to which one is enslaved; fear of disgrace; fear of another person; fear of dying — that person knows that fear is only one of the faces of evil itself, one form by which the world, at enmity with God, grasps for someone. Nothing can make a human being so conscious of the reality of powers opposed to God in our lives as this loneliness, this helplessness, this fog spreading over everything, this sense that there is no way out, and this raving impulse to get oneself out of this hell of hopelessness.

But the human being doesn’t have to be afraid; we should not be afraid! That is what makes humans different from all other creatures. In the midst of every situation where there is no way out, where nothing is clear, where it is our fault, we know that there is hope, and this hope is called: Thy will be done, yes, thy will is being done. “This world must fall, God stands above all, his thoughts unswayed, his Word unstayed, His will forever our ground and hope.”

Do you ask: How do you know? Then we name the name of the One who makes the evil inside us recoil, who makes fear and anxiety themselves tremble with fear and puts them to flight. We name the One who overcame fear and led it captive in the victory procession, who nailed it to the cross and committed it to oblivion; we name the One who is the shout of victory of humankind redeemed from the fear of death — Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Living One. He alone is Lord over fear; it knows Him as its master; it gives way to Him alone. So look to Christ when you are afraid, think of Christ, keep Him before your eyes, call upon Christ and pray to Him, believe that He is with you now, helping you . . . Then fear will grow pale and fade away, and you will be free, through your faith in our strong and living Savior, Jesus Christ.

From the Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Isabel Best copyright © 2012 Fortress Publishers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor and theologian whose striking theological journey and public witness against the Nazi regime led to worldwide fame after his death in 1945. He authored many classic books, including “The Cost of Discipleship” and “Life Together.”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Fear, God, Hope, Jesus, Peace, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

Zombies? Really?

This is reblogged from a fellow writer. I’ll leave a link at the bottom in case you want to check out her blog. (Highly recommended!)

If I were to compile a list of possible topics for this blog on connecting dots to God, zombies would never enter my mind.  Ever.  But, after reading an Associated Press news article yesterday about a recent internet interest in ”zombie apocalypse,” I’m going to connect some dots between zombies and God.  Work with me here…

Apparently, the phrase ”zombie apocalypse” is (or was) #2 among Google’s trending search terms

Why? 

Tamara Lush, in her AP article, suggests that recent bizarre and gruesome events have sparked a fascination with a scenario in which a mutant virus, on the loose from a government lab or introduced in an act of bioterrorism, turns people into zombies. It is preposterous of course, but we live in an age in which many absurdities have become reality.

So, whether Google searches for “zombie apocalypse” are done in comic book type fun or out of genuine fear, they reveal a sense of foreboding as described in Lush’s article:

“Symbolic of both infection and evil, zombies are terrifying in a way that other horror-movie iconography isn’t, says Elizabeth Bird, an anthropologist at the University of South Florida.

Zombies, after all, look like us. But they aren’t. They are some baser form of us — slowly rotting and shambling along, intent on “surviving” and creating more of their kind, but with no emotional core, no conscience, no limits.”

Creepy.

Lush goes on to write, “For some, the news stories fuel a lurking fear that, ultimately, humanity is doomed.” 

I find Lush’s article insightful, because there is some truth in the fears she describes. Humanity, in a self-gratifying sinful state, is in fact doomed.  Foreboding is justified.

Zombies are a fitting metaphor for the cultural rot, heartless self-gratification, and soul-less existences that are increasingly evident in this world.

It is creepy.

Thankfully, zombie fiction notwithstanding, sin will not devour humanity because  of the day that the Living God defeated death on a cross.  Jesus Christ offers eternal life in place of spiritually dead flesh and a loving heart instead of an empty emotional core.

Christians understand that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, the antidote for sin and the source of life, and we can share this hope in the face of foreboding.  Maybe zombie stories are an opportunity to do just that.

“‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  John 5:24

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My thanks to Judy for letting me share her insightful article. You can visit her blog here.

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Filed under Christianity, Culture, Death, End Times, Faith, Fear, Hope, Jesus, Sin, Truth

Is God Enough?

What is it you’re facing or dealing with that has you feeling like hope is slipping through your fingers like sand from the beach?

Is it keeping you awake at night? Distracting your thoughts during the day?

Remember…

There is not a single need you could possibly have that isn’t addressed by the words of Psalm 23.

Not one.

No matter what inadequacy or hardship you’re facing and how deeply you’re facing it, no matter how problematic or distressful or exacting it may be—if the Lord is your Shepherd, He can meet all of your needs.

The Twenty-third Psalm was David’s way of saying God is more than enough to meet whatever lack or constraint or extremity or impossibility you might ever encounter. ~ Excerpted from God Is More Than Enough by Tony Evans

Don’t rush through Psalm 23. Slow down. Take a few deep breaths. Calm your spirit. Take a few moments to remember that God is God. He is our Creator. He is Lord over all of life. And He is fully aware of everything that troubles your heart.

Now read Psalm 23 slowly, letting the words soak into you like water into a sponge on a hot summer day. Then take a deep breath and read it again.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.    
3
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

***

What aspect of God as our Shepherd is most meaningful to you?

Click here to read an excerpt from God Is More Than Enough
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Encouragement, Faith, Fear, God, Grace, Hope, intimacy with the Lord, Peace, Trusting God

Are we there yet?

We’ve all been there and we all have horror stories of our “worst road trip ever!”

“Are we there yet?”

Ours was coming home from Lake Michigan on a hot, scorching day in July. All eight of us packed (like Sardines) in an old van with no A/C! LARGE cups of ice got us home.

But that’s nothing compared to what the Israelites went through wandering in the desert for 40 years! Stop and think about it – 40 years!

When the people of Israel were led to Canaan – the Promised Land – they sent 12 men in to scout out the land. All 12 agreed, the land was amazing, but the people were HUGE!

Caleb and Joshua believed that God would give them victory in conquering the land but the other 10 trembled in fear as they related feeling like grasshoppers next to the people of Canaan. Fear ruled the day and they chose not to trust God.

The consequence of their unbelief was wandering in the desert for 40 years – one year for every day the scouts were in the land. While God provided for their needs, He also waited for everyone 20 years old and older to die off before taking the new generation back to conquer the Promised Land.

Unable to go into the new land himself, Moses offered these final words of encouragement:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!  You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Embrace life by trusting and obeying God or go the way of death by trusting in their own plans. It’s the same choice Adam and Eve had way back in the garden. It’s the same choice you and I make every moment of every day.

Will we love, trust and obey God today?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Courage, Faith, Fear, Loving God, The Story, Trusting God

Our divine Advocate!

How we view God is critical to our relationship with Him. But equally important is what we understand about how God views us!

Like a lot of people I know, I grew up with an image of God as an impossible-to-please task master who barely tolerated us and was always ready to smack us on the hand (or worse) when we made a mistake or stepped out of line.

We are told in Scripture to “fear the Lord” because He is God, but the kind of fear I walked in was not healthy or intended by God. As Mark Batterson puts it:

Ultimately, the only thing we ought to fear is living outside the umbrella of His authority. Nothing fills you with holy confidence like knowing that God Himself is your advocate. You don’t have to take matters into your own hands, because they are in the hands of God Almighty. You can bless those who curse you. You can pray for those who persecute you. You can love your enemies. Why? Simply because you know that God is your advocate. ~ Excerpted from Soulprint by Mark Batterson

Advocate: supporter, backer, promoter, believer, activist, campaigner, sponsor, encourager, one in favor of another…

God is our loving Creator who delights in us and is always there for us. No one on the face of this earth can fill that same role!

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? ~ Romans 8:31b

As we give ourselves to participate in His unfolding story of grace and truth we can have confidence that we face nothing alone! He is always with us and for us!

He is our divine Advocate!

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Filed under Courage, Divine presence, Fear, Fear of God, God, intimacy with the Lord, Love of God, Trusting God

Are we living by fear or faith?

Scott Rigsby’s story is amazing! What jumped out at me was his statement that fear was a greater obstacle than the physical limitations that he faced. What grip does fear have on us and what might be possible were we to live not by fear but by faith?

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Filed under Courage, Determination, Faith, Fear, Inspiration, Life in General

Fake owls and needless worry

I have to admit that when I first heard about it I didn’t believe it. How can a plastic, painted owl actually scare off birds? But I was tired of bird poo on the deck and willing to try anything. So I visited a local farm supply store and fought back feelings of silliness long enough to buy an owl. And guess what?

It works!

It’s a big, fake owl that doesn’t move. It just sits there. It looks menacing and intimidating, but it’s completely harmless. I can tell it’s not real, but the birds that claim our trees as home can’t. So they stay away from the deck… and the flowers by the deck where we have a second one.

That’s sort of what Satan does with us. He sticks these ideas in our head of what could go wrong or what might go wrong… and we tremble with fear. We shake in our boots. We loose precious sleep. We bite our nails. We do everything imaginable except the one thing we need to do.

Take it to God in prayer and thanksgiving!

Consider Paul’s advice to the believers in Philippi:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

We don’t have to let fake owls or fake fears get the best of us. Instead, we can take it to God and trust that He will work in every situation for the good of His kingdom. No matter what circumstances – real or imagined – you are facing, rest in God’s peace right now!

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Filed under Courage, Fear, Love of God, Peace, Praise, Prayer, Trusting God

I’m no country boy, but…

So last night Susan and I eat supper out and get groceries together. Not very exciting for most people but in our house – with six kids (four still at home) – it’s a big deal!

Susan takes one kid each week to do groceries so that they get some one-on-one time. They pick where they want to eat and what sugar cereal they want for Saturday morning. But every once in a blue moon I get to go.

Susan was impressed with how little I added to the cart beyond what was on her list – a guy thing she says – and we were making good time getting home. We were only a mile from our house when we pass a friend’s farm and notice a young calf on the wrong side of the fence.

I’m no country boy but even I knew this was not a good scenario, especially with the calf so close to a busy road. We check at the house… no one home. So we call their son and kept an eye on the youngling.

When Matt got there the calf was near a gate so he opened it to let him in. The calf eventually did go in but before doing so got spooked and ran head-first into the fence as hard as he could… more than once!

Why would the young calf do such a foolish thing? It panicked! It freaked out!

I do that same thing sometimes. A situation in life looks hopeless or overwhelming and I give in to feeling all alone. I panic! I freak out! I forget that God is still present, still in control, and good beyond what I can fully comprehend. I forget…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

With ALL your heart! With every fiber of your being! In every waking moment!

What is it you’re facing right now that you need to trust God about? And who do yo know that needs this same encouragement?

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Filed under Animals, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, Trusting God

The one healthy fear!

In his book Fearless Max Lucado shares the following account:

At 8:17 on the evening of March 3, 1943, bomb-raid sirens bansheed through the air above London, England. Workers and shoppers stopped on sidewalks and boulevards and searched the skies. Buses came to a halt and emptied their passengers. Drivers screeched their brakes and stepped out of their cars. Gunfire could be heard in the distance. Nearby antiaircraft artillery forces launched a barrage of rockets. Throngs on the streets began to scream. Some people threw themselves on the ground. Others covered their heads and shouted, “They are starting to drop them!” Everyone looked above for enemy planes. The fact that they saw none did nothing to dampen their hysteria.

People raced toward the Bethnal Green Underground Station, where more than five hundred citizens had already taken refuge. In the next ten minutes fifteen hundred more would join them.

Trouble began when a rush of safety seekers reached the stairwell entrance at the same time. A woman carrying a baby lost her footing on one of the nineteen uneven steps leading down from the street. Her stumble interrupted the oncoming flow, causing a domino of others to tumble on top of her. Within seconds, hundreds of horrified people were thrown together, piling up like laundry in a basket. Matters worsened when the late arrivers thought they were being deliberately blocked from entering (they weren’t). So they began to push. The chaos lasted for less than a quarter of an hour. The disentangling of bodies took until midnight. In the end 173 men, women, and children died.

No bombs were dropped. An enemy attack didn’t kill the people. Fear did.[1]

Is there anything we can do to keep from being overwhelmed by fear? Yep! Develop a healthy fear of God. Proverbs 1:7 states:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

And Jesus, in Matthew 10:28, stated:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

This does not mean that God wants us to live in dread of Him but to recognize that when we are struck with how big and powerful and awesome and fearsome God is; then we don’t have to fear anything else in life. A big God translates into big courage. A small view of God generates very little courage. David had a big view of God and in Psalm 27:1 he declares:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

When Christ is great, our fears are not!


 

[1] Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2005), 232-33

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Filed under Courage, Fear, Fear of God

Which voice will we listen to?

Frank Furedi documented an increasing use of fear in the media by counting the appearances of the term at risk in British newspapers. In 1994 the term appeared 2,037 times. By the end of the next year, the total had doubled. It increased by half in 1996. During the year 2000 at risk was printed more than eighteen thousand times. (1)

Has world danger really increased ninefold in six years or has fear begun to run amuck? For the first time since the end of the Second World War, parents expect that life for the next generation will be worse than it was for them. (2)

Reporter Bob Garfield tracked health articles in major publications and discovered that, among other health issues:

  • 59  million Americans have heart disease,
  • 53  million Americans have migraines,
  • 25  million Americans have osteoporosis,
  • 16  million struggle with obesity,
  • 3  million have cancer,
  • 2  million have severe brain disorders.

Reportedly, in total, 543 million Americans consider themselves to be seriously sick, a troubling figure since there are only 266 million people in the country. As Garfield noted, “Either as a society we are doomed, or someone is seriously double-dipping.” (3)

What about we who profess Jesus as Lord? Will we give in to this doomsday mentality or will we turn to our Maker, and because we do, fear less? As Max Lucado puts it:

“Courage does not panic; it prays. Courage does not bemoan; it believes. Courage does not languish; it listens. It listens to the voice of God calling through Scripture, ‘Fear not!’

Which voice will we listen to?

PS – Join us this Sunday at Hagerstown Congregational as we wrap up our Fearless series.

(1) Frank Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisited, xviii
(2) Ibid., 68
(3) John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, 132

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Filed under Courage, Faith, Fear