Love is NOT God!

God is Love2In the aftermath of the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, one of the slogans becoming popular is the phrase: “Love wins!” The argument behind the slogan is that, since God is love, then God approves and affirms the Supreme Court decision because God who is love, would not disapprove of two people of the same sex marrying one another because they love one another. After all, the God who is love surely approves of any and all loving relationships!

 
Well, let’s look at that argument for a minute! First of all, it seems to me that the proponents of this argument have made fundamental flaws in theology, biblical exegesis, and logic. It is true: God is love! 1 John 4:8 says: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (ESV) Verse 16 of the same book and chapter says: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (ESV) The text does say: “God is love!” But the text does not say that love is God! God is love; but love is NOT God! I think the proponents of the LTBG lifestyle have made a fundamental error in equating their definition of “love” with “God!” If love is God in the sense of that love coming from God and being the controlling force and motivation for all decisions and actions, that would be fine. But the “love” the LGBT community advocates is not the same love found in the biblical text!

 
There are four main words used for “love” in the biblical text. In the Old Testament, which was originally written mainly in Hebrew, the main words for “love” are the Hebrew words: “ahab” (pronounced; ‘aw-hab or ‘aw-habe) and “checed” (pronounced: kheh’-sed) ‘Ahab refers to human love for another, including family and sexual. In some cases it is used to refer to man’s love for God and God’s love for man. The Hebrew word; “checed” (pronounced: kheh’-sed) in the King James Version, is translated as: “lovingkindness.” This word refers primarily to the goodness, kindness, and mercy of God. In the New Testament, which was originally written primarily in Greek, the two main words are “phileo” and “agape.” Phileo, refers primarily to brotherly love. It is from that word that the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia gets its name. Agape refers to godly love. This is the love that used in the text that says “God is love.” Agape is unconditional love, love that loves in spite of, not because of! Agape is the love that God has for humanity and the love that humanity should have for God and all fellow human beings! However, there is no place in the New Testament where “agape” used to denote sexual love or the love that is subject of the discussion at hand! So, the argument that God must approve “gay-love” or “lesbian-love” because God is love is not theologically, exegetically or logically valid!

 
God is love, but the God, who is love does not approve of all loving relationships; not even all loving heterosexual relationships! God does not approve of any loving heterosexual relationships outside the bounds of marriage! Those relationships constitute adultery, which is sin! So if everyone was to subscribe the logic of the “love wins” argument, then everyone could do whatever they wanted with whoever they wanted to do it with, with no guilt in the name of love!

 
But there is no such thing as “absolute freedom!” There are rules and boundaries put in place by the Creator, that all are subject to! When we ascribe to the notion that love is God, we then find ourselves standing on uncertain ground! What is the love that is being talked about? Is it the emotional feeling experienced toward another person? Is it the sexual tension experienced between two people? If that is the love that justifies the Supreme Court decision, then there’s not really much to build a foundation upon! That “love” is conditional and changing! People fall in and out of love every day! No! Love is not God, and we are not justified to do whatever “feels” right in the name of love! To live in such a manner, we indeed, make a god out of love and as a result, fail to experience real love or know the true God!

HBC2: Re-blog

An Evangelical Statement on Marriage: Here We Stand

ELI5020_HereWeStand_FINALS_0624153_Landing_Page(This is a re-blog from the website of Pastor H. B. Charles, Jr. I was about to write on the subject myself, but why re-invent the wheel? I am in perfect agreement with the contents of this post and this is also my personal and official position on the subject.)

The following statement is found at the Southern Baptist Conventions’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website, where you can find other Christian resources in response to the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage. I fully affirm and joyfully signed this statement. Please consider the following my personal and official response to the SCOTUS ruling. 

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

The Charleston Revival?

charleston monumentOn the evening of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof; an avowed white supremacist, entered the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and sat for almost an hour in a Bible Class. At some point, he got up from his seat, began uttering racial slurs and proceeded to shoot and assassinate nine Black people in room! Among the dead was the pastor of the church, who also happened to have been a state senator. Some say that this was an attack against Christianity, but the shooter has admitted that his motivation was not religion, it was race and his intent was to start a race war!

 
But I would like to think that Dylann Roof has indeed started something, but it is something far removed from his original intent! I am reminded of what Joseph told his brothers when they stood before him as he administered food to them in Egypt: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good. . .” (Gen. 50:20 NKJ). I am praying to God that this event, which Dylann Roof perpetrated with the intent of starting a race war will indeed start a real racial dialogue that, in turn will stimulate a real revival! A revival of love that will supplant the smothering racial oppression that is yet alive and well in America today! There is evidence of the potential revival already apparent! The statements from the various families of the victims expressing forgiveness; that’s evidence of a potential revival! A renewed discussion about the removal of the Confederate flag from state buildings and state flags in the southern states; that is evidence of a potential revival!

 
Race is an issue that we don’t like to talk about in America today! Many would like to think that just because we have a Black President, all the major racial issues of the past have been resolved; but the fact of the matter is: they haven’t! In fact, I believe much of the opposition and criticisms weighted against President Obama are so, simply because he is Black! No other president has had to endure such ridiculously childish and unfounded opposition from Congress and others! We can pretend that it is simply politics if we want to; but the real truth is that many White Americans just can’t stomach a Black President! Even in 2015, the racial division in America is very much real!

 
Evidence that racial division is real was seen even in the apprehension and arrest of the Charleston shooter! He was not treated in a rough manner and was even reportedly given a hamburger from Burger King by a sheriff’s deputy when he said he was hungry! The bikers in Waco, TX, were seen sitting comfortably on the sidewalk with police standing casually nearby! But whenever there are Black suspects, police respond with riot gear and violence! When the police arrived at the scene of a pool party, they immediately zeroed in on the Black kids, chasing them down and treating them roughly while totally ignoring the White kids who were there! Oh yes! We STILL HAVE A RACE PROBLEM in America today! Do you honestly think if it had been a White church and a Black suspect, the police would have responded the same? Do you honestly think they would have given a Black suspect a hamburger? If you do, then you are part of the reason the racial issues have not been resolved! Issues that are denied and therefore not addressed can never be resolved!

 
But let me get back to my point! I didn’t write this article to vent my frustrations over the racial issues in America. I did write it to point out that the Charleston shooting has the potential of being the start of a real dialogue and an honest effort to deal with the elephant in the room that America wants to deny the existence of! In the Bible, death often preceded life. May the blood of the Charleston Nine, like the blood of Jesus, be a source of revival and new life! May the blood of Pastor Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Dr. Daniel L. Simmons, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, and Depayne Middleton-Doctor cry out from the ground and remind all of us that we are indeed; our brother’s keeper and motivate us to make this country indeed a place of justice and racial equality! May their deaths indeed be the source of a revival of real racial brotherhood!

Mastering Depression

depressed woman

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22 ESV

This is the last sermon preached in the series: “Mastering the Emotions.”
Disclaimer: I understand that in some cases, depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or other medical/psychological reasons, such as bipolar disorder. If that is the case, by all means seek the appropriate professional help. The depression I am addressing is the normal depression that all of us encounter from time to time that occurs as a result of no medical reasons.
Just as it is the case with all emotions, depression is a natural part of the human make-up! No matter how optimistic one’s outlook on life might be, from time to time, one will experience depression! Even the fact that a person might know God does not exempt or preempt depression! In fact, the Bible is filled with numerous examples of godly people who experienced depression. When Job was going through his afflictions, he got so depressed he cursed the day of his birth! The great Prophet Elijah got so depressed, he asked the Lord to take his life! David relates his battles with depression in a number of the psalms, particularly Psalms 42 and 43. The Prophet Jeremiah cursed his birthday and was known as the “weeping prophet!” Even the Lord Jesus battled with depression in the Garden of Gathsemane! He said to his disciples: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Yes! No matter who you are, the fact that you are human means you will experience depression!
But there needs to be a distinction made between experiencing feelings of depression and being in a state of depression. Experiencing feelings of depression is normal and natural, but being in a state of depression is not. One should not be overly concern or feel guilty about experiencing feelings of depression because we all get “down” from time to time. But when depression becomes a state of being, depression becomes a way of life and one should seek help! Yes! We all get depressed sometimes. But when the “Hee-Haw” song is adopted as a personal mantra, something is seriously wrong! You remember the Hee-Haw song don’t you? “Gloom, despair and agony on me! Deep down depression, successive misery! If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all! Gloom, despair and agony on me!” Yes! Something is wrong when you are singing the blues all of the time! David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me!” It’s not a problem to walk through the valley, but it is a problem to camp-out in the valley! Yes, we all go through some challenges in life. But we must remember that whatever we’re going through, we’re just going through! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning! Sometimes the night may be dark and long, but the morning will come! The storm will pass over! Troubles don’t last always! Whatever you’re going through, it will come to pass!
So the word today is not for those who have depression as an over-night guest. It is for those who have allowed depression to take up permanent residence in their lives! The message for you today is that you can and you must master depression because if you don’t, it will master and control you! Now, I hear you! You’re saying, “Well preacher, that’s easier said than done! You don’t know what I’ve gone through and you don’t know what I am going through right now!” No! I don’t know what you’re going through! I don’t know your story! But I do know that whatever you’re going through and whatever you’ve been through, it’s not something that nobody else has ever gone through and came out all right! You see, that is one of the reasons for and tricks of depression! Depression will often come because you think that nobody is and nobody ever has gone through what you’re going through! Depression will often occur because you think you are the only one! That is what was wrong with Elijah! After he had won the victory on Mt. Carmel, he found himself running from the threats of Jezebel! The Lord found him, exhausted and depressed. The Lord said: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” “And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” After the Lord had gave Elijah instructions on what he wanted him to do, he told him in a “by-the-way” manner: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we will think that we are the only ones trying to do right. And thinking like that will cause us to become depressed. Yes! Depression can be the cause and the results when we think we’re the only ones trying to serve the Lord! Although we may not be aware of it, the Lord always has somebody else! The Lord never leaves himself with just one witness! Yes! Depression often occurs when we become too preoccupied with what we are personally going through! Depression can occur when we are too focused on ourselves!
Depression can also occur because of an improper focus! After a loss, there is a tendency to focus on what was lost instead of looking at what is left! I don’t care how much may have been lost; there is always something left! We can master depression in the midst of loss by shifting our focus to what is left! Don’t curse life for what you have lost; thank God for what you have left! You may have lost your job, but you still have your health and strength! You may have lost your house or your apartment; but you still have relatives or friends who will provide you a place to stay until you can get back on your feet!
Sometimes depression occurs because we focus on the wrong time! We can become depressed when we refuse to let go of the past! Whether the past was good or bad, we must remember that the past is the past! You can’t get full off of yesterday’s lunch; you need food for today! Sure, we may have messed up yesterday, but the real power is in doing what we can do now to make the situation better today! Trying to change what happened yesterday is like trying to stop the rain from falling! There is no sense in getting down about it! You can’t change what happened yesterday and you can’t stop the rain from falling! However, you can make adjustments today and you can use an umbrella to stop the rain from falling on you! We can master depression by simply living in the present moment! Forget the regrets of the past and don’t be anxious about the uncertainties of the future: live fully in the now because now is really the only time we have!
And then we can master depression by looking with the eye of faith! Paul said, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Oftentimes we can get depressed when we look at what we see! We can get depressed when we look at what is, instead of looking at what could and what should be! We’ve got to learn to look with the eye of faith and call those things which be not as though they were! In other words, depression often occurs when we have no vision! Sure! It might look bleak right now, but the very fact that we can see it means it is in a state of flux! It’s changing, it’s only temporary! It won’t always be the way it appears! Don’t get depressed by what you see because whatever you can see will always change!
And then my brothers and sisters, we can master depression by looking in a different direction! One of the tell-tale signs of depression is when a person is always looking down! My brothers and sisters, if you keep looking down, you’ll start feeling down! It is a psychological and physical fact that we tend to go in the direction we look! But not only can you get depressed by looking down, you can also become depressed by looking around! Some people become depressed when they look around and see that people around them are faring no better than they are! They get depressed because they reason: “If I’m not making it and nobody else around me is making it, then the situation must be hopeless!” But you need to know today that there really are no hopeless situations! There are only situation in which there are people who have no hope!
But we can master depression when we stop looking down and around, and start looking up! David said: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Yes! My brothers and sisters, it is a psychological fact that by just changing the direction of your look, you can change your inner disposition! Look down and you will get depressed; look up and you will feel better! So look up and see the wonders of the heavens! Look up and see the wonders of a starry night! Just the act of looking up will uplift your down-cast spirit!
Yes! These are just some to the ways that we can master depression! And master it, we must, because if we don’t master depression it will stop us from being and doing all God created and called us to be and do! Just like fear, depression has a paralyzing effect! That’s why the Lord told Joshua to fear not, neither be thou dismayed or depressed. Depression will cause you to give up on a life that is worth living! Many people have committed suicide because of depression! And even though some people have not committed suicide, they have still stopped living because of depression! Oh! My brothers and sisters! Depression is a “show-stopper” and a “dream-buster!” But if we really want to master depression, we must have joy in our lives! The text says a merry heart, a joyful heart, a cheerful heart is like medicine; it’s like a cure! But a broken spirit, a crushed spirit, a depressed spirit, dries up the bones, saps your energy, and robs you of strength! It not only robs you of your spiritual and mental strength, it affects your physical strength as well! It’s a known medical fact that the condition of the mind has a direct bearing on the health of the body! When you’re depressed, you become more susceptible to sickness and disease!
Yes! It’s true what the Bible says: “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” That’s why we should take the advice of the Apostle Paul and rejoice at all times in all situations! We should be like the Prophet Habakkuk who said: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” We get depressed in response to what is happening around us, but joy comes from what has happened within us! I don’t know about you! I don’t know how you feel about it! But, I’m not going to let nothing steal my joy! This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me! The world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away!

Mastering Fear and Anxiety

fearThis is the third of the series of sermons I preached some years ago on: Mastering the Emotions.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

John 14:27 KJV

Psychologists tell us we were born with only two fears: The fear of loud noises and the fear of falling! Therefore, if that is the case, all other fears are learned responses from environment or taught by parents and/or other authority figures. Now, there are cases in which fear is good! Fear is needed because it protects us from danger. It is part of our natural “fight or flight response” to our environment. The Bible says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” However, our fear of the Lord should not be a trembling fear of God’s punishment, but rather a reverence and respect for God’s character and nature. In other words, we shouldn’t fear God like a child fears the “boogie-man,” we should fear God in the same manner that a child respects his parents. The Lord desires for us to serve him, not out of fear but out of love! In fact, the Bible says that fear does not even come from God! 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” So these fears; the fear of falling, the fear of loud noises, the fear that alerts and protects us from danger and harm, and the fear of God are “good” fears that are natural or should be acquired.
In my research, I found over 518 phobias or fears that are officially recognized! There are even such fears as the fear of success, the fear of church, and the fear of preachers, on the list! Our world is so engulfed with fear, that most people think that fear and anxiety are the natural and normal responses to life! But, for the child of God, the one who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, being controlled and dominate by fear is not normal! Paul said that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And if we are to be who God created and called us to be, then we must master fear and anxiety.
Yes! For the Child of God, for the one who knows the Lord, fear should have no dominion in their life! Over and over again, in the Biblical text, God encouraged people not to fear! He did and He does so because fear will keep us from doing what we could, should, and want to do! Fear will hinder us from being and doing all that God created and called us to be and do! Fear is the enemy of our dominion! The ancient Chinese writer, Sun Tze wrote in his treatise: “The Art of War”, that a primary military strategy is to know your enemy. Before you engage in battle, you should learn all you can about your opponent! Well, the emotions of fear and anxiety can be enemies of our potential, therefore we need to know all we can about them and how they operate!
There are several acronyms I found using the letters: F-E-A-R, that will help us to know what fear really is! Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real: Fear paints a picture not supported by reality. Fear is an incorrect response because fear is a reaction, not to evidence that is real, but to evidence that only looks real! We can master fear by understanding that many times things are not always as they appear!
Fear is Failure Expected and Received! There are spiritual laws that govern the universe that are just a real and powerful as the Law of Gravity! Two such laws are the Law of Attraction and the Law of Faith. The Law of Attraction says that we tend to attract the circumstances, people and situations into our lives that are in agreement with our dominant and consistent thoughts. The Law of Faith says that whatever we believe with conviction, whether it be good or bad, positive or negative, it will eventually come to pass and be manifested in our lives. That’s why Paul wrote: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The things we constantly think about manifest themselves in our lives! Therefore, we should think good thoughts! That’s why we shouldn’t think about what we don’t want! We should only think about what we do want! The more we think about what we don’t want, the greater the possibility that what we don’t want will show up! In fact, we actually attract it because of the law of attraction! Some Bible scholars think the Law of Attraction may have been a factor in Job’s life because in the midst of his troubles Job said, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid is come unto me!”
In a sense, fear and faith are not really opposites, but in a very real way, they are two sides of the same coin! Fear is a type of faith because, like faith, fear is a conviction and an expectation. The difference is the conviction and expectation is in a negative and unwanted outcome. Fear is the substance of things not hoped for and the evidence of things not seen! Faith is belief directed toward what we want; fear is belief directed toward what we don’t want! We can master fear by simply not thinking about and not focusing our attention on what we don’t want! We can master fear by starving our fears and feeding our faith!
Fear is Forgetting Everything is All Right! The Disciples were fearful in the storm because they forgot Jesus was on board! And even when they remembered he was on board, they forgot who he was! They forgot he was the master of the sea! Yes! We fear because we forget that greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world! We fear because we forget that Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is because he has overcome the world that we can overcome the world! We fear because we forget that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of and He has promised to supply our every need! Yes! My brothers and sisters, we can master fear by simply remembering that no matter how it looks, the Lord says; “Everything is all right!”
Yes! We need to know fear! But not only do we need to know fear, we also need to know how fear operates! We need to know that fear is contagious! Therefore, we need to inoculate ourselves from fear because fear can be passed on and we can be infected with fear from other people! Listen to the instructions the Lord gave Moses to give to the people concerning war in Deuteronomy 20:1-4, 8: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. . . . And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.” According to the NLT, the officers said to the people: “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else!” Contagious fear caused the Children of Israel to spend some 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The report of the ten spies was motivated by fear and it was their fear that infected the multitude, who in turn, rebelled against the expressed command of the Lord to occupy the land! Yes! Fear is like a bad cold! If you hang around fearful people; you will catch it! Therefore, one way we can master fear is by isolating and insulating ourselves from fearful people!
Now, you might have noticed that our subject is “Mastering Fear and Anxiety.” Some people don’t think so, but there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotional response to a known or definite threat, whereas, anxiety is often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. It comes from the mind’s vision of possible danger. In other words, anxiety comes from our minds thinking of something that could happen! Anxiety is being worried about being fired from your job when there is no concrete evidence of it happening! Anxiety occurs because we focus, not on what is wrong, but on what could go wrong! The difference between fear and anxiety is that you have fear when you’re in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction with a knife! Anxiety is when you are in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction and you “think” he may have a knife! Fear is when you run a red light and you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Anxiety is when you haven’t broken any laws and you are uneasy when you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Fear may result from a real threat, but anxiety comes from just the possibility of a threat.
Well, I need to come to a close now! I don’t have to tell you the damage that fear and anxiety can cause. Fear and anxiety can elevate your blood pressure and body temperature. Fear and anxiety can cause fear and panic attacks during which there is severe shortness of breath, causing even further panic, which in turn could lead to strokes and heart attacks! In other words, besides preventing us from doing what we could, should and want to do, uncontrolled fear and anxiety is unhealthy and lethal! But, we can master fear and anxiety! The Bible says that we are to be anxious for nothing! When we’re fearful and anxious, we’re really saying we don’t trust God and that God is a liar! In the text Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of conflict, but rather the calmness in the midst of conflict! Peace in the midst of the storm! He said: “Don’t let you heart be trouble, neither let it be afraid!” If we are anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, make our request known to God, the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! It is the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace that gives us the power to master fear and anxiety!

A False Theology of Death

tombstonesWe live in an increasingly violent society and in view of the constant senseless tragic premature deaths that occur in our society on a daily basis, many people are formulating a false theology of death as a coping mechanism. It is just part of the human make-up to “make sense” of what are otherwise “senseless situations.”
Now, the reason why people are formulating a false theology of death is because of an ignorance of what the Bible says about the subject. But, the surprising thing to me is that while one would expect people who are non-religious and/or who don’t attend church to be ignorant on the subject, much of the false theology of death being promoted is coming from “church people,” even people who are preachers, pastors, and church leaders!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica these words: He said, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . .” (1Th 4:13 KJV) In that particular text, Paul used the word “asleep” as a euphemism for death. There were people in the church at that time who were anxiously awaiting the coming of the Lord and they wanted to know what would happen to those who had died prior to the Lord’s coming. They were apprehensive because they feared those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Therefore, Paul wrote this section of the text to allay their fears. He didn’t want them to be uninformed or in the dark about what would happen to those who had died when Jesus came back. Yet, over two thousand years later, people are still largely ignorant and uninformed concerning those who have died! Not so much about what would happen to them when Jesus comes back, but rather, about what happens to them when they die.
In promoting a correct theology of death, I think it would be beneficial to cite some of the false beliefs that are prevalent. A few months ago, I was shocked to witness an example of a false theology of death in a church resolution! I was sitting in the funeral service of a dear elderly mother who had spent years serving in the church. All was going well, until they read a resolution to the family by the church. After many “whereas” and “therefore” (I don’t know how to write these in plural form!), the clerk read this: “Whereas on (date) God looked down from Heaven and plucked a gentle flower named (the deceased) from His earthly garden to array His Heavenly bouquet. . .” To be honest with you, I almost fell out of my seat! I mean . . . seriously? I wouldn’t have been so shocked if someone from the congregation had said such nonsense in their remarks, but this was an official church resolution! Now you might be wondering what’s so terrible about the statement. But think about it! The statement implies that God “killed” this dear mother, just to beautify Heaven! I know we say things, trying to comfort the family in their time of grief, but statements like this is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible says about death and the character of God!
First of all, GOD DOES NOT SPONSOR DEATH! Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV) God is not in the business of killing people! It’s God will that we live long, prosperous and productive lives! And if we studied Genesis carefully, we would discover that death was not part of God’s original intent. It was God’s original intention for man to live forever upon the earth! Death came about as a result of sin.
I encountered another case of a false theology of death while attending a visitation for a young man who had been murdered in a shooting. I was walking out the door of the funeral home when I overheard and elderly woman trying to comfort a grieving young person. The woman said to the young man: “Well you know, it was just God’s will and God just called him home!” I almost stopped in my tracks! Seriously? It is NEVER GOD’S WILL for a 24-year-old to be shot and murdered! God doesn’t use murder to “call people home!” It is more beneficial to God and to us to live a long life because we are more useful to God on earth than we are in Heaven! Where are we getting all of this foolishness? We need to learn to call it for what it is! There is a story in Matthew about a man who planted a field, but when it was time for the harvest, the workers discovered tares among the wheat. They asked their master: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them: An enemy hath done this. . .” (Mat 13:27-28 KJV) People attribute all deaths as being the work of God, but the truth of the matter is: The enemy hath done this!” And the enemy doesn’t want people to know what he is doing because he knows it is really difficult to truly praise a God that you think is responsible for your grief!
I’ve got one more false theology I want to address and then I will be through with my rant (for now). For some reason, many think that death is a promotion to angelic status. But the truth of the matter is this: Angel will always be angels and people will always be people! People do not change into angels and they do not get wings when they die, even if they were good people! I know we sing the song about two wings to veil our face, two wings to veil our feet, and two wings to fly away, but nowhere in the Bible is it even implied that we will get wings! The song has good rhythm but it has bad theology!
Well, I’ve shared the false theology of death; now let me leave you with the true theology of death! The true theology is this: We live in a fallen world! Because of that, life is often cruel and unfair! Many times the good die young, while people who raise hell seem to live forever! It’s not fair for the life of a young person with potential, dreams and goals to be violently taken by someone who only lives for themselves! It’s not fair for a father or mother of a young family to be killed in an automobile accident while the person who caused the accident, whose license had already been suspended for driving drunk, walks away! No! Life’s not fair, but don’t blame life’s unfairness on God: The enemy has done this! But, in the end, it will all work out! The Apostle Paul said: “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:17 NLT) Paul also said that for the believer, to be absent from the body (dead) is to be present with the Lord! And the Bible says that in His presence is the fullness of joy! The Apostle John received a revelation on the Isle of Patmos, listen to what he saw: “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev 21:2-5 KJV)

Until then, be not over-whelmed with the worries and tragedies of this present world! Use them to motivate you to be all that God has called you to be in the short time that life allows! If and when tragedy strikes in your life or in the lives of those around you, know and offer the hope that is available in Christ: “Jesus said unto her, (Martha, the sister of Lazarus) I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26 KJV)