I find it amazing how many times fear drives my thoughts and actions. Fear of a ticket (and an hefty fine), along with a small amount of good intention, makes me choose to drive the speed limit. Fear of fines, investigations and prison, along with a small desire to pay my part, makes me choose to pay my taxes. I certainly am not consumed with those fears, but they remain in the back of my mind. That was probably the intent of those who passed such laws for the good of the community.
As an American Evangelical Christian, fear of hell and the devil used to make me choose only "Christian" books, music, television, websites, magazines, friends, etc. In that world of faith I had chosen, your outward appearance meant everything and represented your inner faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. If my husband playfully hung a plastic skeleton from a tree, to the delight of our kids, spread a little fake web and spiders or carved pumpkin, it ruined my week because of the poor witness I felt we were giving to others. If my children listened to the local rock and roll station, I feared the devil would influence them and we would be judged as not adequate by God and by our neighbors.
Do my fears and behaviors sound shallow? They were. Do I sound like I was poorly catechized in the faith? I was. Does it sound like I'm exaggerating? Not really.
So now that I have converted to confessional Lutheranism, does fear still seem to drive my thoughts and actions? I have been thinking about that this week. I no longer fear how I dress, how my family appears to my neighbors, which things are on that great "Christian" list in the sky. I listen to ELO or Beatles music with nearly the same appreciation as Bach or Mozart (just checking to see if you are paying attention). I read or watch Harry Potter with the same thoughts and reactions as Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. Except for things that blatantly go against scripture, and that list is long in today's world, our lives are not ruled by what is or is not "Christian".
Yet, I still struggle with fears now and then. I still fear negative influences which occur in that secret place called school, I fear negative thoughts being allowed to wander in my kids' minds unchecked because they no longer confide every thought to me; I fear not being able to state my thoughts on my own blog because of a secret watcher ready to ridicule or mock me; I fear that my wonderful husband, upon whom we depend so heavily, will get sick or be hurt or die; I fear being left alone in old age; and . That depressing list could go on and on, but the Holy Spirit is summoned up to proclaim through God's word the grace that is Christ Jesus. He won't allow my old Eve to wallow in stupid fears and He stirs up my new Eve.
This week, while wallowing in my fears, Sarah Groves song, The Word, kept coming to my mind. I don't usually listen to contemporary Christian music anymore, out of doctrinal protest, but she was one of my favorites and her songs still play in the jukebox in my head. KFUO played it the other night, much to my initial objections. But her song stuck in my head and here are the lyrics:
Been every place emotional
Trying to hear a new word from God
And I think it's very odd,
that while I attempt to help myself
My Bible sits upon my shelf
With every promise
I could ever need
And the Word was
And the Word is
And the Word will be
The old Word is the new Word is
The old Word is the new Word is...
People are getting fit for Truth
Like they're buying a new tailored suit
Does it fit across the shoulders
Does it fade when it gets older
We throw ideas that aren't in style
In the Salvation Army pile
And search for something more to meet our needs
I think it's time I rediscover
All the ground that I have covered, like
Seek Ye first what a verse
We are pressed but not crushed,
perplexed but don't despair.
We are persecuted but not abandoned
We are no longer slaves
we are daughters and sons,
and when we are weak
we are very strong
And neither death nor life
nor present nor future
nor depth nor height
can keep us from the love of Christ
And the Word I need
is the Word that was
who put on flesh to dwell with us.
In the beginning....
So, the Word drives out my fears. I am learning, slowly but surely, to drive out fears with the Word. What is the Word? Scripture tells me it is Christ Jesus.
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
What does that Word tell me? It tells me the gospel message. That we are born into sin, yet are recipients of God's love and grace. God not only wants us in heaven and sent His Son to die in place of us for our sins, He also sent His Holy Spirit to enable us to believe the gospel message.
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.
10"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Good posts on this topic of the power of the Word can also be found here:
More Than Words by Rob of Love and Blunder
The Proclaimed and Present Word by John of Confessing Evangelical
Reforming Youth Ministry, written David Fields featured on Modern Reformation. My favorite quote from Fields' article:
"Don't be afraid to teach the doctrines of the faith. Our students are capable of handling more than we give them credit for. They are at a point in their life where they want to "question" life. Let's give them biblical truths to deal with. Let them wrestle and search the scriptures for answers to their questions. We must all be sure we are properly equipping those in our ministry. Our young believers crave the nourishment of God's Word so they may grow (1 Pt 2:2). Give it to them! Paul says "Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16)"
The confessional Lutheran church taught me this: When the Word is proclaimed, Christ is truly present. We have more than a symbol of Christ, we have Him in truth. Until very recently in my faith life, I never fully understood the power of God. His power has literally silenced me. I am finally safe resting in His arms. I no longer try to help or manipulate God by my actions. The day I stopped "trying" to be a good Christian, He started to work through me.