Overcoming with Jesus

April 11, 2017 – Tuesday
Overcoming
Read:  John 16:16 – 33, NIV
Focus:  v. 33, NIV

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Isn’t it just amazing how the Holy Spirit uses the different personalities of the various writers found in the Bible? Each has specific tasks to perform for the presentation of the Good News about Jesus Christ. I think that John, the Beloved resonates with me better than most of the other writers in either the Old or New Testaments. That being the case then I need to pay closer attention to the others for they also have something I need to know and understand about my God. But, I do get to read some more in John’s Gospel for this devotional. Whoopee!

This portion of John apparently comes not long before the events of what we now call Holy Week containing what led to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This particular segment emphasizes that their grief will turn into joy. Now, I would rather talk about joy anytime and talk about grief – maybe never!  This interesting passage brings the disciples face to face with something Jesus has been trying to warn them about and prepare them for. Jesus is speaking about “in a little while” this and “in a little while” that and the disciples got confused. They did not catch His “drift” – as some of us would say. Verse 18 says they “Kept” asking each other about what Jesus meant by “in a little while.”

Jesus, however, knew that they were confused about what He was saying. He plainly asked them, “Are you asking one another what I meant . . . ?” Then He went on to explain what He meant by the words “in a little while” and other things He had spoken of. Then they seem to “get it” and thought He was finally speaking clearly. He told them that He had been speaking figuratively but the time was coming when He would speak “plainly about My Father.” See verses 28 and 29 which make it appear that now they understood what He was saying to them. The truth is they did understand some of what He was saying but not all of it. In the first place the time of the “in a little while” was coming closer each day and was almost upon them. I guess they understood the substance but not the total essence of Jesus’ remarks. This is obvious in the events that unfolded. It became something immediate very quickly and they did not adjust well to it. And did many of the things He said they would do.

There is an important section in here that we do not have time to enlarge upon for this devotional. It has to do with something that is often misunderstood by believers and misquoted because of it. That is the latter part of verse 23. Read it for yourselves and see if you can figure out what He meant. Hint: Pay special attention to the words “in my name.”

This whole section is about the special relationship His disciples (we are also disciples) can have with Jesus. Joy is the hallmark of the Christian. Troubles may come and troubles may go but our joy is made complete through Jesus Christ. Peace, brothers and sisters, is because in the end Jesus won it for us. Jesus never sugarcoats anything. He tells it like it is. Someone asked me about my medical clinic experience recently and I told them I greatly appreciated my caregiver. She didn’t sugarcoat anything but gave me the options straight up. That is what Jesus will do and even more. Real peace is ours even when there are troubles all around us. Peace is found in our relationship with Jesus. He is real and He really loves us. In John 14:27 Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Day 31 – The Fear of Rejection

Friday – March 11, 2016

Day 31 – John 15:1-16:4a rejected

Focus: vs. 15:18

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

Going through school, as a child, is a gauntlet of social interaction. Being a fairly athletic child I was rarely picked last for sports teams – I was rarely first but almost never last. The kids who were picked last were generally the least athletic and the least popular. Those were the rules of the playground and they can scar you for life. No one wants to be rejected, especially during our most formative years. What about you? Were you generally first, last or somewhere in between?

The fear of rejection is one of the greatest fears around and it can cause us to do a lot of strange things. It can cause us to put on a mask in life and always try to show people what they want to see rather than our true selves. It can cause us to become people-pleasers who can never say no in an effort to retain friendships. It can cause an avoidance of confrontations as we pretend our own needs don’t matter. And it can cause passive-aggressive behaviors like procrastination, complaining and laziness as we try to reject others before they can reject us. This is a phobia that can really cause a lot of heartache.

Our scripture reading for today talks a bit about rejection. In verses 18-20 Jesus tells us to expect the world to reject us because of Him. He says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.” You often hear Christians talk about the “world” in reference to our lives on earth with unbelievers all around us. The “world” often refers to all those things on earth that pull us away from God’s ways. The “world” is that which rejects God. Jesus is telling us to have to no fear of rejection. Don’t get all worked up because the world is against you for following Christ. Don’t be surprised if you are treated badly because Jesus was treated badly.

We live in a world that loves conformity. Conformity isn’t always a bad thing but isn’t always a good thing either. Do you remember your mother asking you “if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it, too?” Peer pressure is another way of exploiting a fear of rejection and a desire to conform to the standards of our peer groups. Since conformity is in our human nature, it’s important that we seek positive standards and peer groups. No one wants to be rejected by another person but, if it must be so, be rejected for refusing to conform to standards rejected by God.

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, help me to stand strong for You. Help me to conform to Your will and to Your ways. Help me to love You more than this world. Amen.

Have No Fear

Advent-Logo“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10a).

What causes you to feel afraid? Some people like scary movies and seem to take pleasure in being scared out of their wits. Of course, if the nightmare became reality and a mask-wearing machete-wielding maniac was after them, they would feel a mortal fear like none other. Television and movie theaters are safe places to experience a little fear but no one wants to experience their mortal fears for real.

What would you do if an angel showed up in a bright flash of light? Would you jump and clap for joy or would you be like the shepherds who were afraid? I suspect I’d be like the shepherds. I can understand why the angel told them not to be afraid. The sudden appearance of an angel, shimmering in the darkness, would be enough to make the strongest shepherd shiver in his sandals. However, God’s intention was not to frighten but to enlighten. It still is.

The angel that appeared to the shepherds that night was there to deliver a special announcement about the birth of the Messiah. Sure the shepherds were afraid, at first, until they discovered the reason for the visit. I think I’d have wanted to sit down on a rock and let my heart calm down for a spell but these guys were filled with wonder and headed to Bethlehem to see what had happened.

Fear may be our initial reaction at something we don’t understand but God offers calm assurance beneath the surface of our fears. Emmanuel! Our God is with us! Do not be afraid! No matter what the fear, no matter what the reality, God is with you. He can bring a calm assurance to your troubled soul no matter what that trouble is. Trust in the God who is with you – even this second.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the calm assurance You give when we are frightened.

What Now?

What Now - Scripture LogoWe live in Nebraska and I’m sure we’ve all learned by now that storms can come out of nowhere.  Journalist Steve Tracton recently shared the story of a memorable event in our region you may have heard about.  He writes:

“On the morning of January 12, 1888, a blizzard swept down suddenly on the unsuspecting inhabitants on the prairies of the upper Midwest (especially portions of Nebraska and South Dakota) with unprecedented ferocity.

One moment the air was clear, calm, with spring-like warmth. Then, in a period of just [three] minutes the sky darkened and temperatures dropped 18 degrees, and vicious winds drove tiny snow flakes (described as “ice dust”) which almost instantaneously created a whiteout with visibility near zero. Blizzard conditions continued until about midnight as temperatures fell precipitously to double digits below zero with a wind chill of -40. An estimated 4-5 feet of snow had fallen, although drifting undoubtedly made accurate measurements virtually impossible.

By the next morning (Jan. 13), hundreds were killed (235) with a high proportion of children among the storm’s victims as they attempted to return home from school.

The storm is most commonly referred to now as “The Children’s Blizzard”.

The Children’s Blizzard ranks 5th on the list of all time worst U.S. blizzards and affected a large area with the death toll held down largely by the much lower population density.

What made this storm especially deadly was the unusual warmth in the region before the storm struck.

Anyone who ventured outside wasn’t properly dressed for the Arctic weather that was on its way. As fate would have it, parents sent their children off to school in the morning without heavy coats, boots, hats, or mittens, being totally unaware they could be caught in a raging blizzard on the way home that afternoon. When the blizzard suddenly struck, some teachers hunkered down with their charges in the small school houses. Many more apparently panicked at the raging storm and dismissed their classes relying on the children to somehow find their way home.

Scores of children, along with parents, teachers and other would-be rescuers, experienced severe hypothermia from rapidly falling temperatures, fierce winds and blinding snow which buried the landscape and encased school houses in tremendous snow drifts.

David Laskin, author of a book about the event, vividly describes several individual stories that end tragically. For example, dozens of kids got lost in the whiteout and froze to death or suffocated beneath the rapidly accumulating snow. One woman died after unsuccessfully searching for her child just feet from the safety of her home not visible through the blinding snow.

On the other hand, there are several suspenseful accounts of the harrowing travail of many who survived. Some children managed to find temporary shelters or bundled together for warmth in the open prairie. In one case, the teacher kept the children in the schoolhouse until the storm abated, surviving the night by the warmth of a fire fueled by the foresightedness of the teacher’s stockpiling of fuel.

More Stories:

Plainview, Nebraska: Lois Royce found herself trapped with three of her students in her schoolhouse. By 3 p.m., they had run out of heating fuel. Her boarding house was only 82 yards (75 m) away, so she attempted to lead the children there. However, visibility was so poor that they became lost and all the children froze to death. The teacher survived, but her feet were frostbitten and had to be amputated.

Holt County, Nebraska: Etta Shattuck, a schoolhouse teacher, got lost on her way home, and sought shelter in a haystack. She remained trapped there until her rescue 78 hours later by Daniel D. Murphy and his hired men. She soon died on February 6 around 9 A.M. due to complications from surgery to remove her frostbitten limbs.

In Great Plains, South Dakota, the children were rescued. Two men tied a rope to the closest house, and headed for the school. There, they tied off the other end of the rope, and led the children to safety.

Mira Valley, Nebraska: Minnie Freeman safely led thirteen children from her schoolhouse to her home, one half mile (800 m) away, after the roof to her schoolhouse blew off. As the story goes, she used a rope to keep the children together during the blinding storm. She took them to the boarding house she lived at about a mile away and all of her pupils survived. Many children in similar conditions around the Great Plains were not so lucky, as 235 people were killed, most of them children who couldn’t get home from school.

By the way, the story of Minnie Freeman is enshrined in a mural located at the State Capitol building in Lincoln.

For a few weeks now we’ve talking about dealing with the storms that come up in life.  We’ve talked about why these storms happen and, more specifically, why they happen to you and I.  We even talked about how God can use these storms to discipline us and fit us for His kingdom.  This week I want to take the next step and talk about our reaction during stormy weather in our lives.  We’re asking the question “What now?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

What do I do when the storm comes?  How do I react?  When real-life weather hits, how we react sometimes determines whether we live or die.  So, this morning, I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom from the scriptures about how to survive the storm.  It all comes in the form of three lessons I’ve learned about dealing with storms: first, take cover; second, pray it out; and third, learn to be prepared.

While in seminary in Jackson, MS, I was the youth pastor at a United Methodist church.  We had a game room there and often, after the meeting was over, we would gather there to play games.  I remember one particularly stormy evening where I was shooting a game of pool with one of the boys in the youth group.  He had just missed shot and now it was my turn.  As I maneuvered around by the window to take my shot there was a bright flash that lit up the room and one of the loudest cracks of thunder I’ve ever heard.  It was really bright, blindingly so, and you can be sure that every one of us in that room was a little startled.  I glanced toward the window and back at the young man I was playing against and started to say something when I realized that he wasn’t there.  In fact, he wasn’t even in the room.

The lightning had struck a tree about 30 feet from the building and it was still smoking when I looked out the window.  The boy I was playing pool with was somewhere down the hall, he ran just about as fast as that lightning when it hit.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  If someone were timing him, he would have run the 40 yard dash in about 1 second, maybe less.

I can’t blame him for running.  He was just following his most basic instinct to take cover from the imminent disaster.  He walked sheepishly back into the room a moment later and we all shared a good laugh over it.  Then we called 911 to have the firemen come out and take care of the smoke we were seeing since we thought it hit the house next door, not the tree.

When the storm hits, the first thing we should do is take cover.  In Psalm 57:1 the psalmist writes, 1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

One particular Sunday in Bartlesville, OK, I had the opportunity to experience a day of tornado sirens going off.  Some friends of mine and I had gotten out of church late that afternoon and missed our opportunity to eat in the cafeteria on the college campus.  That wasn’t always a bad thing.  So this Sunday we all went out to Subway and enjoyed our subs while the sirens went off for two separate tornados that came through the area.  This was the storm, in case I mentioned it before (and I think I did) that had clouds swirling around the city like it was doomsday and we were about to be sucked up into the heavens all at once.  It was awesome!

The other guys were getting antsy and I had them drop me off at the church since we were within about 45 minutes of the evening service.  The service never happened as the weather forced us into the basement for even more sirens and warnings going off.

Now, I’m a little looney when it comes to this kind of weather and I was outside taking it all in.  First Wesleyan Church sits on a nice hill looking out to the Southwest.  If you’ve experienced many tornados, you know that they almost always come out of the southwest and move North and East.  So I was out watching the storms move in and, all of the sudden, a dark gray cloud drops down out of the sky and starts to billow in towards me.  It sounded just like a freight train, believe it or not.

I knew what that was.  It was a wind cloud that was coming in just ahead of the tornado and it was my cue to take shelter.  I turned to my left and got hit by a very strong wind that threatened to blow me over as I walked the 15 feet back to the door of the church.  It was really strong.  A few minutes later we came back out and surveyed the damage caused by shingles from the church being blown down into the cars in the parking lot.  A window in the church was broken, the sign for McDonalds was messed up, and all the air conditioners from the roof of the old Walmart were ripped off and carried a few miles away.  Neat!

I had to know when to take cover in that situation.  I am fascinated by crazy weather but it’s not hard to get fascinated to the point of putting myself in danger.  So when that wind cloud came towards me, I knew it was time to take cover.

Storms in life happen.  We can stand out in the rain, wind, and lightning, or we can seek shelter.  Nahum 1:7 says, 7 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble.”

When life storms hit we need to seek shelter in God.  We need to take cover in a safe place where we can wait out the storm. 

When I was growing up in Lincoln, we (us kids) always got nervous when mom and dad went out of town.  We would have to go stay with some family friends and it never failed that, when mom and dad went out of town, the storms would come running our direction.  The vast majority of tornados I remember from growing up happened when mom and dad were out of town.  I remember one tornado-filled evening spent in the basement of a friend’s house.  These friends were close by and they were always ready for the next tornado.  So when the sirens blared, we headed for the basement, turned on the TV for the weather update, and found a safe place under an old mattress.

Basements are really important in some parts of the country.  It’s the best place to go when the storms hit.  We’d always head for the basement and wait out the storm.

Psalm 61:1-4 says, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

When the storms in life hit, we need to take cover in a place where we can wait it out.  More importantly, we need to pray it out.  This is what it means to take shelter in the Lord.  When the big bad storm comes our way, we need to get on our knees and pray.  “Oh Lord, please help me through this.  Let me take refuge in You.”

Psalm 138:3 says, “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.”

The problem that happens when we get caught in the storm is that we often experience fear.  We worry.  We realize the danger we are in the midst of and we begin to worry that we’re not going to make it through.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It’s during the stormy weather in life that we learn to trust in God.  We learn to stay faithful to Him as we learn how faithful He is to us.

I’ve learned in my faith that I am ready to go.  I mean that.  Anytime, anywhere.  I know that, no matter what happens, I am going to end up with Jesus in Heaven.  If a tornado comes along and takes me out?  I’m ready.

I understand fear and worry.  But this is what we must fight against.  We can rest secure in the arms of our Lord.  Are you concerned about your relationship with God?  Fix it.  Fix it right now.  Don’t wait.  You can be sure of your eternal destiny.  Don’t leave that to chance.

When you rest comfortable in the Lord, you can wait out any storm and let the fear go.  If you’re not ready, well, we’ll make sure and give you the opportunity to be sure in a little bit.  And that brings us to our last lesson to learn this morning.

Growing up in tornado country has some unique twists.  I’m sure every place has its uniqueness but I’m most familiar with this kind of uniqueness.  In school we were always preparing for the worst.  We would do tornado drills several times a year.  This would include going to our designated safe place to get into our protective positions (on the floor, legs tucked in, leaning over and hands covering the back our heads) and wait out the storm.  The designated safe place changed depending on what grade you were in.  One year it was out in the hall next to the lockers and the next it was inside one of the bathrooms down the hall.  Curiously, the procedure was the same if a nuclear war happened.  And, curiously, I felt just as safe in that eventuality as I did if a tornado were to come along.  It was during the Cold War after all.

One year we actually had to put this procedure into play.  No, there wasn’t a nuclear warhead dropped near the school.  A tornado hit the area and we were moved to the hall where we assumed the position and waited out the storm.  It was a frightening one.  In those days we were taught to open the windows to prevent the changing pressures from shattering the glass.  So, in this case, the windows were open and the winds were really howling outside.  We could hear the desks and stuff moving around in our classroom.  As it happened, the storm passed over and we went back to our class.  After picking up a few desks and papers, we resumed the lessons of our day.

Always be prepared.  That’s the motto of the Boy Scout, right?  We were always preparing for bad weather or some other horrible disaster back then.  And that’s a big lesson to learn about the storms of life as well.

In I Corinthians 16:13, Paul says, 13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 

How many of us carry blankets, flares, and other tools along with us in our vehicles just in case we get caught in some sort of emergency?  How many of us keep water around in jugs during the winter in case we get snowed in and the electricity is out?  What kind of events are you prepared for in life?  The storms of life are no different.  We must be prepared.

The time to get your relationship right with God is not when you are in the middle of the worst storm of your life.  That’s a recipe for faith-failure.  It should never happen.  Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith.  Paul is right.  Read up and pray up.  Talk with God every day.  Read your scriptures.  Don’t let the sins in your life go un-confessed before the Lord.  Get yourself right, and keep yourself right.

The storms in life have just hit.  What now?  Are you ready?  What lessons have you learned for dealing with storms?  When the storms hit: take cover, pray it out, and learn to be prepared.

Psalm 46:1-3 reminds us that, “1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

That’s what it all comes down to.  When the storms hit I need to react by taking cover in God, my refuge and strength.  He is faithful.

I want to leave you with Psalm 16:8 on your mind.  It says, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Empty Space – Reaching Out Blog #20

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . ..”

Isaiah 61:1

“The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.  Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”

I’m a busy person – often too busy.  I don’t like busyness but I find myself overwhelmed with work on a regular basis.  I find it’s difficult to carve out empty spaces in my life where I can just be me.  That’s a desire of mine – to just be me – to have that freedom.  Why is it then, that I have a hard time offering that same freedom to those around me?

In the quote above Nouwen is beginning to further define hospitality and how it is different from hostility.  He’s noticing that once we understand our inner hostilities we can move towards the opposite, which is hospitality.  Both involve empty spaces.

Nouwen writes , “Empty space tends to create fear.  As long as our minds, hearts, and hands are occupied we can avoid confronting the painful questions, to which we never gave much attention and which we do not want to surface.”

Empty space.  Moments of freedom or slavery.  It’s all in what you make of it.  We avoid empty spaces in our lives because, all too often, that emptiness creates a moment for the painful questions to rise to the surface and enslave us in fear.  That’s hostility.  But what if we could do something different with those empty spaces in our lives?  What if those spaces could be places of freedom?

For Nouwen, an empty space is a concept.  In relation to hospitality it can be defined by what I do with an opportunity when a stranger comes knocking on the door.  The question isn’t just “do I let the stranger in” but also “does he have to fit into my own acceptable mold to be let in?”  Am I more concerned that the stranger be who I want him to be or do I offer the freedom that the stranger can be who he is?  Do I fearfully or lovingly accept the possibility of who he is?  Do I mold the stranger or do I offer a place where the stranger can be free to find himself?

This is a tough concept and I find myself wrestling to fully understand it.  I have expectations for all newcomers in my life to meet and I am often disappointed.  How much force should I exert on those around me to help them become the people I think they should be?  Or is that the problem in the first place?  Could it be that I’m more hostile than hospitable even when I think I’m the opposite?  By exerting any force at all am I circumventing the only One who has a right to mold and shape lives in the first place?  Am I just getting in the way?  As a Christian I know that God can use me to minister to others and share His will with them.  But where God ends and I begin is the moment of hostility.

Nouwen quotes Thoreau who says, “I would not have anyone adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.”

Hospitality means offering “the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own” life.

Oh Lord, help me to never exceed what you are doing in the life of another.  I thank you for the opportunity to be used by you to help mold others into all you want them to be because I know that is truly freedom.  Help me to stay in Your will and Your time.

I Protest – Reaching Out Blog #15

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

Proverbs 24:11-12

“It would be paralyzing to proclaim that we, as individuals, are responsible for all human suffering, but it is a liberating message to say that we are called to respond to it.  Because out of an inner solidarity with our fellow humans the first attempts to alleviate these pains can come forth.” (Nouwen)

This book has been filled with “ouch” moments.  If you’ve come this far in this series of blogs I hope you have already picked up this book for yourself.  You’re never too old or too young to be changed by God.

In the last blog we opened ourselves up to the suffering world around us.  We connected with humanity and realized we are all a part of the human race.  Nouwen calls this the “burden of reality.”  It’s impossible for us to truly bear this burden.  It’s too much.  And yet isn’t this what Jesus did on the cross?

Nouwen goes on to say, “When the answer to our world remains hanging between our minds and our hands, it remains weak and superficial.  When our protests against war, segregation and social injustice do not reach beyond the level of a reaction, then our indignation becomes self-righteousness, our hope for a better world degenerates into a desire for quick results, and our generosity is soon exhausted by disappointments.  Only when our mind has descended into our heart can we expect a lasting response to well up from our innermost self.”

That’s what it takes.  It takes our mind descending into our hearts.  It’s deep in our hearts where our own humanity connects with the humanity of those around us.  It’s where we understand the pain and suffering and form that “inner solidarity with our fellow humans.”

Perhaps this is why we avoid solitude so much.  Maybe this is why we fill our lives with constant entertainment and refuse to retreat within ourselves.  For it is deep inside that we will connect with a God who will call us to accountability.  And, perhaps worse, it is there that we will connect with the condition of our race.  It’s an open and dark closet in the dead of night.  It’s where the monsters under our bed come from.  It’s the chilly eerie feeling you get when you walk into a dark and unfamiliar space at night.  It’s where we are confronted with the human condition and it’s more than we can bear.

I’ve tried to cultivate a confrontational attitude in my life when it comes to fear.  If I find myself hesitant or fearful, I find another desire even deeper that rises to confront that which I dread.  If I fear the monsters under my bed, I find the desire to get down off the bed and crawl underneath to meet my foe.   If I am fearful of what I will find in the solitude of my heart, perhaps now is the time to delve deeper still.

As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to notice the difference between the average person and the world-changer.  There are some who are able to step past indecisiveness and move to action.  Many are capable of doing something significant in life but those who actually do are the ones who decided to do something about it.  It sounds redundant but that’s only because it’s just that simple.

Here is the hope in what Nouwen talks about:  if I’m willing to connect with God and my own fallen race I will find the strength to do something about it.  It is there that I will connect with the very heart of God – a heart that wants desperately to save the human race from sin and is willing to do whatever it takes, even though it would cost Him His one and only Son.

Many times I’ve seen a need but didn’t do anything about it.  Maybe the solution required more from me than I thought I could give.  Maybe I was too afraid of getting hurt emotionally or physically.    The cost was too great for me and I failed at serving my God because of my own fears.  What if I could face those fears just like the monsters under my bed or in my dark closet?  What if I chose to serve God fearlessly, set my eyes on the goal and ignored all that caused my hesitations?  What if I opened myself up to allow God to use me?  What am I so afraid of?

Jesus has already done more than any of us ever could to help the human race.  He’s paid the price.  And, if we are willing to let Him, He will use us to reach out to the suffering around us in a tangible and human way – fully human by the power of God.