Sunday, February 23, 2014

Intimidating Fear

Dale Earnhardt was considered one of the best NASCAR drivers of all time. He won a total of 76 races over the course of his career and 7 Winston Cup Championships. His aggressive driving style earned him the nickname “The Intimidator.” When other drivers saw him coming they were intimidated by fear knowing they would need to be a fierce contender if they were to hold their position. However, Earnhardt was not the first to use this tactic. Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Black Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because he wore a hood, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart later said from prison that he didn’t need to fire a shot; all he had to do was to use fear to paralyze his victims. “Fear, the face of the unknown, was my weapon of choice, my weapon of intimidation.” Yet the one who first mastered the art, pre-dates both of those previously mentioned. His name is Lucifer. By utilizing fear he intimidated Eve into believing she was missing out, that God was holding something incredible from her. He terrified the disciples by the fear of a storm leading them to believe their death was imminent. He captivated Judas with the fear of poverty thus he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  And millions of others down through the ages have been overcome by the same emotional strategy.  While it is important to look at the past examples of those who have fallen prey, the person we must assess most is ourselves. “What fear is the enemy using against you?” If we are truthful and dare to look introspectively, the majority of us will have to admit that we are oftentimes motivated and manipulated by fear. The ironic thing is most of us do not realize it; because at times the results are evident but there are those occasions when we have no clue. For instance, more than once Jesus brought the subject of fear to the disciples’ attention. During the storm it was pretty obvious but what about those times when he told them not to be anxious about what they were to eat or wear. Although surprised, I’m sure reflection gave way to the reality that their actions were the result of primal fear. The same is true of us which explains why Jesus would use the phrase so often, “Fear Not!” Whenever confronted with doubt, feelings of insecurity, and our sense of peace, it might be good to reflect and ask “is this the product of circumstance or a bad case of intimidating fear?”  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Expression of Love

A man began a study with a few of his buddies at work that required them to complete various assignments. They finally came to the section in the book where the task was to do something nice for their wives. He responded by saying, “I can do this.” On the day when he was to demonstrate his affection he left work early. However, before doing so he showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, and bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door, saw him and began to cry. He thought what is going on. This is not the way she is supposed to respond so he asked, “What’s wrong dear?” She said, "Oh no! This has been a terrible day! First I had to take Billy to the emergency room and get stitches in his leg. After that your mother called and said she’s coming to visit for two weeks. Then the washing machine broke, and now this! You come home drunk!" Why would she think he is inebriated? Could it be because we husbands are notoriously naive when it comes to addressing the emotional needs of our wives? More often than not, we are like the man that came home from work one day very tired, but his eyes lit up as he stepped inside his house and saw a beautiful cake with seven candles on it setting on the kitchen table. He exclaimed, "A birthday cake! Whose birthday is it?" "Oh," his wife replied nonchalantly, "the cake is for the dress I’m wearing. IT’S SEVEN YEARS OLD TODAY." The truth of the matter is, most of the time we have to be prompted to do something romantic. We show signs of improvement on those special occasions like Valentine’s Day, when the advertisements are plastered all over the TV, Billboards, and the Newspaper. However, when the promptings are not there we fall way short which means we need to do better.  And to keep from sounding prejudicial let me include the wives here. Ladies love and intimacy must be reciprocal. Our mates are an incredible gift given by God and should be loved and cherished. But most often it is the men who need the prodding. Wives should be loved as Christ loves the church. When man was created, the Creator recognized that it was not good that he try and live to himself. That being the case He created woman. Hence, a beautiful relationship began which can only be re-created as we nurture the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of each other.  This means everyday should be Valentine’s Day—A Day when there is the expression of love!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feeling the Love

A few days ago while visiting my grandchildren in Georgia we decided to go to the movies. Now if you are a grandparent you know an outing like this is no simple matter to negotiate.  The process goes something like this: get everyone loaded up and buckled in car seats; choose the right theater. Upon arrival select the right movie; purchase the tickets, popcorn, drinks, and whatever else they con you out of. You make your way to the restrooms, then to the appropriate room where the movie is to be shown. Last of all you select the seats. Now you are ready to sit back and enjoy an entertaining show. It just so happens we had chosen to see “Frozen.” It was great and the babies loved it; mission accomplished. However, on the way home the five year old decided she was not a happy camper and began displaying a bad attitude. It goes without saying that although special, she is a feisty little girl. To give you an example, just recently when praying she prayed for her sisters and brother and then said, “God my name is Charlie and you might want to take note of that.” Well back to the story; in retaliation I said, “Charlie I’m not feeling the love are you?” I continued to say those words and eventually she started laughing. The attitude was gone. However, throughout my visit I continued to use those words when they began to act ugly. When you think about it I’m sure there are times God feels like saying, “I’m not feeling the love.” His goodness and mercy are taken for granted as we display unappreciative bad attitudes.  We don’t mean to be ugly, yet we are. Remember His love is unfailing and everlasting. He pours it out upon us without measure. Even when we are right and when we are wrong, when we are weak and when we are strong. He remains consistent. Because of this, should we not endeavor to make sure He always feels the love!     

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Unmet Expectations

For days the excitement has been mounting; the long anticipated evening has finally arrived—it’s Super Bowl time! However, what started out as a pleasurable evening has now turned into a nightmare. The reason, I’m watching my favorite football team struggle. They are getting beat by turnovers, the pass rush, and poor defensive execution. They are simply being outplayed.  Needless to say this is frustrating and disappointing.  Quite frankly my expectations are being shattered. I knew Denver’s opponent was strong but what I’m seeing is unbelievable. Praying for a miraculous comeback is tempting but I don’t really think God cares who wins, not to mention all of the Seattle fans who are praying for things to continue as they are.  Simply put this confirms the old adage that says, “On any given day the best of teams is beatable.”  Being beaten is one thing, but totally embarrassed is another.  At least it will not be a shut-out since Peyton just threw for a touchdown.  Am I unhappy about the events of the evening? Yes! Am I tempted to switch teams? No way! Why? There will be plenty of future victories to celebrate.  And although I don’t like to think about it, I realize that our spiritual lives reflect the same pattern at times. Just when we begin to depend upon our talents, giftedness, and seasonal successes we run into that formidable opponent. Maybe that’s why Paul said we are to take heed when it appears we are standing (playing well) lest we also fall—or get beaten. Greater still is the fact that God watches it all. When on the field of play, sweating, pushing, and exerting all of our energy the Father sits in the stands cheering us on.  He knows we are struggling but rarely intervenes. Could He miraculously give us a win? Sure! But He would rather we learn a valuable lesson.  The expectations of our fans and those of ourselves are often thwarted when we face the unexpected challenges of life. Yet we never give up! Denver’s team, coaching staff and management although disappointed will go back home regroup and prepare for next season. They will not be disenfranchised or forsaken.  God treats us the same way. He loves us no less and offers only words of encouragement. Looking at the score it appears the enemy is winning, however the game we’re playing goes far beyond four quarters. Unmet expectations today will be turned into incredible victories tomorrow for “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us and gave His life for us.”