Tag Archives: decisions based on fear

Your Safety Is Not Assured.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s not because I haven’t had something to write, but rather I’ve been a bit stumped as to how to write it.

Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for a while, it’s hard to think back to the way you thought about those things when you were still new. But recent events have brought me back to some underlying assumptions I had about missions when I was growing up and even as an adult.

Before I was a missionary, I always assumed that if my church was involved in missions somewhere and was sending people, it must be safe. I know from the statements that people say to me, and from observing what goes on, that this is still a very prevalent assumption that people make. Why is that?  Well, as a general rule, in most churches I’ve been a part of , that is the case. We only send people to “safe” places. But what makes a place safe?

The philosopher Jürgen Habermas deals with this in what is probably an unnecessarily wordy way. He says, “Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an antonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage.”  Dumbing it down, the ideas of love and justice in society are a direct result of the Judeo-Christian heritage which we draw from, even if our societies have moved away from that underlying paradigm.

If we look around the world, most places follow that general rule. The most dangerous places are those places that do not have a current or recent Christian presence. So if that is the case, then why are we going to the “safe” places? Is it because we are afraid to go the the places that God is really calling us to go? If a place is considered safe, there’s a good chance that a lot of missionaries have already been there. Do we go to the places that have already been evangelized because we feel that doing something is better than nothing? Is it our ersatz way of fulfilling the Great Commission?

It is said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I would like to amend that statement. I think what is even more dangerous than good men doing nothing is good men doing something that is neither good nor bad, but leaves them feeling as if they did something good. Rather than go to the places where God would actually call us to go, we give in to fear. We still go, but we go somewhere else.

Decisions that are made based on fear are almost universally the wrong choice. When we choose to do missionary work only in places where we feel safe and comfortable, we are not only disobedient to the Lord’s calling, but we carry that spirit of fear with us wherever we go. I read a quote this week from an indigenous Christian overseas. He was asked what his church learns from the Western missionaries. His answer was very telling. He said, “the Western missionaries teach us to be afraid.”

Why do we fear so much? I believe it is because many of us are building a kingdom, but it isn’t God’s Kingdom, it is our own kingdom. We seek to be gods of an empty universe of our own creation; kings of a kingdom with no subjects. We do what we want to do first and ask God to bless what we’ve already decided to do. As our towers grow taller and taller, they become harder and harder to maintain, and we fear they will topple. This is why Jesus says, “whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it.” This isn’t some trite conundrum. When we literally give our life, and our plans, and our finances, and our spouses and children, and our present and future over to Christ, all fear is taken away, because you can’t fear the loss of what you’ve already given away.

Most of Romans 8 deals with this, and so in closing I am going to sum up with the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a]who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shalltribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 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.”

It’s time to give up fear and go to the hard places.

What Would It Look Like?

There has been a reoccurring theme lately with random things I’ve read; with conversations I’ve had with people, and with the events in my own life and the lives of people around me. That reoccurring theme is the faithfulness of God and hearing God’s voice. The initial catalyst for this theme for me I think was the decision to go back to Ethiopia, but other things have built upon it since then.

As I’ve been drawn more and more into the events and the lives of people in Africa, I’ve become closer with certain people in ways I never would have imagined just a few years ago. I find myself wishing I could go back and visit with many of these people again, but there is only so much time and funding available for someone with a family and three kids. Besides, many times East Africa doesn’t necessarily need my physical presence, as many things can and should be done through and by people already there.

I talk a lot with a friend in Kenya, who has given up a lot to minister to kids who have been lost along the way somewhere. He ministers to girls in a reform school, many of whom are estranged from their parents, and to kids who are in prison, among others. He has given up any form of financial security to do this, as this is all volunteer, and any funds that come in are through the generosity of people who believe in his vision, and by the grace of God.

Last week, he asked me “how do I hear God’s voice concerning the things he wants me to do?” This question caught me a bit off guard, because I felt totally unqualified to answer it. For me, it was like Michael Jordan saying to me, “so tell me about this game you call basketball.” You see, the problem is that while he is out there doing, I am still currently unlearning what I have either been taught explicitly or by example from American culture. The great depression taught our culture a lot about security and setting up contingency plans. Our parents and grandparents swore they would never go through something like that again. Their children found a good job with a pension that would take care of them. They valued job security above everything else. Work that job for 35 years no matter how miserable you were; no matter how far from your true calling that job was. Get a job with health benefits, dental, pension, matching 401k. Wait until you are financially secure until you have children so they won’t have to go through the things you went through. Leave nothing to chance. Leave nothing to faith. Leave nothing to God. I don’t need God anymore, because I’ve got a contingency plan for everything. Life’s decisions became based on fear of the lack our parents had, and not on faith, or even on reality.

So here’s how that went. The children of the baby boomers who grew up with everything provided for them came to expect everything. They (we) still live on a fear based existence, unable to live without a well thought out escape plan from all of life’s struggles and problems, but now we expect to have everything handed to us. Well, let me tell you thing from the point of view of a business owner; job security is a myth, as fictitious as the Minotaur or the Medusa. There is no security in life, only the illusion of it, so prettily put together in a welcome packet with a brochure of your company’s stock options with a big red bow on top. We’ve given up our God given talents, our vision, that fire God placed into us to make the world a better place, and traded them for a matching 401k.

What would it look like if we started living by the seat of our pants again? What would it look like if we took risks? After all, there is no reward without risk, and we’ve given up an awful lot of reward.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking the only reward is financial, and in doing so given up our souls.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

I’m still pondering this idea in my head, and I’m not yet fully sure if it’s true, but my thought is that God speaks to us the most when we put ourselves into a position in which we MUST hear him. This is why I feel unqualified to speak to my friend in Kenya. He has given up everything, and put himself in a position where he has to hear from God if he’s going to move forward. I personally believe this is the way to go. It’s not a comfortable way, because there’s always that gap between hearing from God and when everything comes together, but the alternative is to live in a manicured facade of security that I know does not exist. I would rather live in a manner that fulfills the destiny God has placed me here for. As such I have started to wean myself off of the high overhead that comes with the  typical American life. I believe it’s healthier in the long run, allows me and my wife more freedom to do what God calls us to do, and is a far better example to my children. This has not yet all fully ruminated for me, so as I think further about this, I will probably write again. What I learn this time in Ethiopia may further clarify things for me as well. So until next time…

The girls at the reform school in Kenya where my friend volunteers.
The girls at the reform school in Kenya where my friend volunteers.