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Despite Their Fear

While Pastor Rick is on study leave, our guest blogger this week is Dr. David Faust, Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church and an accomplished writer and speaker. For more information about Dave, visit http://media.east91st.org.s3.amazonaws.com/uploaded/d/0e2616215_1383668067_dave-faust-staff-news.pdf.


The Jewish people were scared. You and I would have been, too. They faced months and possibly years of difficult labor. Hostile tribes nearby were threatening to kill them. Their leaders faced criticism and political distractions. God wanted them to build an altar and offer sacrifices, but how could they build something positive to honor God when so many problems distracted and endangered them?


Ezra 3:3 says, “Despite their fear of the people around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed the morning and evening sacrifices.”


That’s a striking phrase, isn’t it? “Despite their fear.” It doesn’t say they had no fear. It doesn’t say they denied their fear. It doesn’t even say they overcame their fear. It simply says “despite their fear” they obeyed the Lord and did the right things.


If you wait until you feel no fear at all, you will never drive a car or fly in an airplane. If you wait until all your anxious feelings go away, you will never take a risk, never develop a deep friendship, never choose to marry or become a parent. If you say, “I’m too frightened to share my faith with a friend,” you will never do it. If you’re afraid to trust God’s ability to provide, you will never know the joy of tithing and generous giving. If missionaries wait until every question has been answered and every difficulty has been smoothed out, few will ever leave home for a foreign field.


All great achievements require courage. Mountain climbers press on “despite their fear.” Cancer patients undergo chemotherapy or surgery “despite their fear.” Ministers preach about truths that are hard to hear, young people go to college and tackle new jobs, and soldiers defend their country and stare death in the face “despite their fear.”


In the parable of the talents, Jesus told about three servants who received varying amounts of money. When their master came back, he commended the man who invested his five talents and earned five more, and he equally commended the man who invested his two talents and earned two more. The man who received one talent, however, received harsh rebuke and punishment. The problem with the one-talent man was not that he only had one talent. The problem was, his fear made him unwilling to take a risk! “I was afraid,” he tried to explain, “and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” There’s a good chance that the five-talent man and the two-talent man felt some fear, too, as they prepared to invest their master’s resources. But “despite their fear” they produced maximum returns with what the master had given them.


What took Isaiah from “Woe is me” to “Here am I, send me”? What moved Moses from “Who am I, Lord?” to “Let my people go, Pharaoh”? What transformed Saul of Tarsus from the “chief of sinners” into a great missionary to the nations? What changed Peter the three-time denier to the one who said, “We can’t stop proclaiming what we’ve seen and heard”? God’s grace, the Spirit’s presence, and Jesus’ resurrection power made all the difference.


Courage doesn’t mean you never feel afraid. It means trusting God in spite of your fear—refusing to let fear dominate your decisions and your actions. Psalm 56:3 says it well: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”


 

The Church is not Disney World 07/17/2014

While Pastor Rick is on study leave for the next three weeks, we will republish a few of his most popular blog posts as well as introduce two guest blog writers. This blog was originally published on 11/4/13.


If you're a church goer, how do you view your church?  Is your church like Disney World or a mission outpost?                       


Disney World is great, isn't it?  You enter a magical kingdom of a whole new world of fantasy and fun.  You escape the demands and pressures of the real world (unless you go in August with little kids).  Disney World is the mecca of consumerism where you are inundated with food, shows, rides and entertainment.  You don't go to Disney World to contribute.  You go to consume…a lot.  You don't go to Disney World to make a difference, but to be impressed and "wowed."  


This is how many Christians approach church: to consume more than contribute and to be impressed more than challenged.  Some Christians view the church like a Disney cruise ship more than a battle ship.  On a Disney cruise ship, the guests pay money for services, and the hired staff takes care of them.  On a battle ship, those on board are commissioned, assigned specific tasks, equipped and well trained, and when they enter into battle, everyone has a role, and they know what to do.  We've lost the sense of the call to battle.  We were made for wonder and grand adventure, but we have settled for lounge-chair Christianity.


The church isn't Disney World.  Disney is great for a vacation, but that's not where you live life, raise your children, or find your greatest sense of fulfillment.  Chocolate cake is nice as an occasional dessert, but if that's all you eat, you start to feel nauseous and malnourished.  If our Christian experience is just about consuming the productions that come from a stage, we will become spiritually weak and malnourished.  


It's time to awaken our spirits to a revolution of the high demand of discipleship.  The church is a mission outpost where we are training for spiritual battle between ideas and world views, and where eternity hangs in the balance.  Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:35).  This is a high calling which requires the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 3:16).  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17).  


So, the next time you enter a church building, see it as a mission outpost, and notice how that changes your attitude and perspective of why you're there.


 

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