Sunday, December 12, 2004

One Christian’s Fear

Gena Caponi Tabery, before I wrote this, I prayed for you.

When I hear a Christian speak these words, my heart grieves:

As a Christian, I have never been taught anything along the lines of the following:
BE AFRAID – BE VERY, VERY AFRAID. Because if people find out you are a Christian, then they will exploit you for their use. Just like Satan does. Because God cannot protect you. You might be a Christian but that does not mean you have an automatic saving grace. When the enemy comes in like a flood to use and abuse, God won’t be anywhere around to save you – so be afraid. He won’t be there lifting a standard against it, so be afraid. When others call you names and hate you – remember they hated Jesus first, so be afraid. There’s good reason to hate you. Just like Peter – who denied Christ three times… be afraid. The crowd will consume you. The opposition will gather around you. Where will you go? Whom will you call upon? Your God cannot save you. So be afraid.

I have been taught otherwise. I have never seen the dead brought back to life nor have I seen someone wounded or sick become healed. But that does not mean I will not. I just have not. And it does not take away from my faith. I believe very strongly that these things happen. But I must admit when I read your story, the thought came to me:
Who hired you to write this story? Are you really a Christian as your story claims? Or were you paid to write this article and to make it convincing enough to lead other Christians astray who are young, not fully matured? I was very disappointed to read the point of it.

I thought, “Score one for the enemy because of this garbage:

My 14-year-old son has attended two bar mitzvahs this year, and I'm thrilled for him to witness the serious commitment hit you didn't talk about for fear of causing offense: politics and religion. Today the two are so intertwined, you can't talk of one without the other. And when you do, them's fightin' words, pardner. Nowadays, so many people are looking for a fight.

I'm not. Neither am I afraid to pray in public. But I am afraid of my faith being hijacked to promote someone else's political agenda. I am afraid of my faith being used as a weapon in a crusade against anyone who dares to think or believe differently.

You contradicted yourself. You just got done telling the readers this:
When the food came, my husband held his hands out to say our usual family grace: "God is great, God is good ..."
I shrank back.

"I don't want to do this," I said.

He was startled.

So was I, but I said, "I don't want to be a Public Christian."

How much more can the enemy render the people of God ineffective against his ways? Strike them with fear. Silence them. Shut them up. Hide them away. (Make them think he does not exist.) But let them think that it was their own brilliant idea. That they came up with it. Make them own the idea so that they are proud of it. So they embrace it strongly and will fight before they give it up.

Praying together before a meal in a restaurant is nothing to be ashamed of. When I was introduced to doing that, I admit I was not comfortable with it the first time around. But I prayed about it later and got over it. I realized there was absolutely nothing wrong with doing it. I don’t care what other people think. They’re going to think what they want to think anyway. It’s not like we can control them. So don’t trouble yourself over something you cannot change. Just work on your own heart and be true to God.

As far as politics and religion - so what? People always try to look good by claiming to be this, that or the other. Using religion is just another way. If they could use last names, they would. The intelligent people know better: Just because someone claims to be anything does not automatically make them what they've claimed. The proof is in their actions. Faith without works is dead, my friend. So - shrug it off. These kinds of media journalists are hardly educated in Christ if they can spew out this kind of garbage. Name-calling and labels are the lowest common denominator to indicating that the attacker has nothing of intelligence to truly debate about. They're rendered helpless in their fury of emotions and resort to these base attacks.

The only time I do not want to display Christian traits is when I am in sin. When I am in sin, I do not want people to believe that God advocates what I am doing. Because He doesn’t. I know better. So that is the only time that I find myself shunning Christian-like behavior. But when I am not in sin, then I am not ashamed. (Funny how that works.) And when I am not ashamed, I give thanks and praise to God for His love and mercy. And it makes me realize all the more what a great God He is – patient with me, forgiving of me and the garbage I do and say… and I realize how much more awesome it is to be a Christian.

But knowing that you feel this way, I want to share some truths with you that perhaps you were a little naïve about. It is better to know and be empowered than to not know and make uninformed mistakes.

For one: I give you Job 5 in response to your letter. Please read that entire chapter as my response. Highlight 17 through 27. And then highlight Psalm 34:19.
Being a Christian is not a VIP pass to easy street. Christians are going to face many challenges. The enemy will take on many forms and will attack from many fronts. The Word is what you use against those attacks. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. Don’t forget that. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. You have to read the Word to know the Word…to effectively use the Word. And if you have not already, then I recommend you get filled with the Holy Spirit soon. If you already are, then I recommend that you begin seeking God to remove the spirit of fear that has seized you.

For two: Your words have power in them. Your tongue has the power of life and death in it. To curse or to bless. To speak of good or to speak of evil. And as we see, to speak of fear and embrace that fear. Or to speak of courage and embrace that courage. Be careful what you speak and end up giving the enemy advantage over. David says in Psalm 39:1 “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” The Word often compares the tongue to a sword and words to arrows.

For three: God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. As Jesus said to the disciples when they saw the storm rising up on the sea, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Mt 8:26). Don’t talk about fear anymore. The more you embrace fear, the more power you give it. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Ro 8:15) We live in a tumultuous world and in trying times… but fear is not in our vocabulary and is not found in our God so remove it from your speech and person. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (He 13:6) Do not be afraid to be a Christian. Be thankful and express your thanks openly – not in arrogance for all to see. But you can hold hands at the restaurant and quietly pray together…out loud for the occupants of your table to hear. If you acknowledge Christ openly, then He will acknowledge you openly. If you are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of you. You hear the phrase “What Would Jesus Do”. That’s something to think about. He was never secretive or ashamed of His Father. When He was brought before the Sanhedrin to respond to their accusations – he flat out told them, “ I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.” (Jn 18:20) Think about it.

For four: Fear God. That’s the only fear you should have. And it’s not a “be afraid” kind of a fear. It’s a reverent, acknowledgement of the holiness, might and power He represents. Only He can kill both the body and the soul. (Mt 10:28)

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