Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Now This Makes Sense!I receive an email each week from Focus on the Family that highlights news they think will be of interest to their readers (in this case pastors). One recent news bite made me go searching for more. As many of you know, I'm good friends with Dr. Peter Jones and serve on the board of CWiPP the ministry that employs Dr. Jones. Over the last 10 years I've been highly influenced by Dr. Jones and his insightful work on the ongoing reemergence of pagan spirituality in America and across the developed world. With this background perhaps now you can understand why this article makes perfect sense to me. Go read it and tell me your reaction. Okay, did you read it? What was your reaction? I suspect something along the lines of being horrified. But to me - with Dr. Jones insights in the back of my mind - this makes perfect sense. The school is ELCA affiliated. The ELCA long ago abandoned Christian orthodoxy for radical Liberalism. Back in the 1920's J. Gresham Machen in his classic Christianity and Liberalism (which you ought to immediately go buy and read if you've not) pointed out that Liberal Christianity was not just an aberrant form of Christianity but rather it was paganism. Okay fast forward to St. Olaf hiring a Hindu to run their Religion Department. For a moment think of a beautiful cherry pie. Paganism teaches all religions are actually unified at their center. All the wedges of a cherry pie unite at the middle. Paganism realizes that all religious are not duplicate thus the reason that wedges of pie have some differences at the edge of the pie plate. But at their core - according to paganism - all religious are one. This is the kind of theology that St. Olaf has bought into. If all religions are one, then who cares whether an adherent to a religion other than Christianity heads up the religion department of a historically Christian school? Though - to an ELCA pagan - their version of Christianity and Hinduism have minor differences they are united at their core. This is the reason why this hire makes perfect sense.

BTW - this is also the reason why multiculturalism and diversity training are so big at colleges and universities these days. Cultures flows from worldviews which in themselves are inherently religious (I know that's a packed statement, see the articles at this link for background on that statement. Thus if all religions are one and none are thus superior then no worldview and thus no culture can be superior. Instead all distinctions must disappear and absolute leveling of cultures and religions must be forced upon people as the most basic tenet of pagan faith.

Fear, Worry, Stress and Anxiety - The School I've Been InRecently a friend related she struggles with stress and worry. This struck a chord with me. Probably for my whole life in Christ, these particular concerns (fear, stress, worry, and anxiety) have marked my path prominently. But in the last year or so, theHoly Spirit has opened up my heart to me so that I might see what lies behind these sins. I thought it might benefit my friend as well as others if I shared how God is at work in me.

Before I do so, I should commend a book and an article to the readers of this blog. Although written for women, I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone Elyse Fitzpatricks Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. You can buy the book
at this link. I read this book quickly some years ago so as to know if it would help a struggling parishioner. For all I know all I say below is basically reiterating the book without me knowing it. I hope not, but at least youll know that the book is there.

The article is by Randy Alcorn whom I love as an author. You can find his ministry website at and a very helpful article for the worriers of the world at this link.

Now that Ive given you some resources written by others let me share what it is that God has been working in my heart.

Life is hard. We live in a broken place as broken people surrounded by broken people. Life is filled with many unknowns. Its filled with much pain, frequently from the hands of other sinners who sin around us causing havoc. My points below are not to minimize any of this. We are prone to think because of what the previous sentences say that our fear, stress, worry, and anxiety are acceptable, legitimate, or even necessary. I have thought this in the past. Im becoming convinced that those descriptors are untrue.

As Ive pondered with the help of the Holy Spirit my own heart, Ive recognized a major contributor to my fear, stress, worry, and anxiety is the fact that I cant see the future. Duh you might be thinking. But think more carefully. Who is the only person who knows the future? God alone knows the future. I can predict the future at times but usually Im worse at it than your typical meteorologist.

How many times have you and I stressed, worried, fretted, been anxious and fearful about something that never transpired? For me, it is 95% of the time. The 5% of the time what Ive worried about has come true, it likely not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I look back on a life filled with worry as a wasted life. I spent much time and energy worrying instead of working.

As I indicated above, God is changing my perspective. I sense that God is seeking to convince me that Im only a creature and all He expects of me is to fulfill my responsibilities as someone who only knows the past and present, not the future. Let me unpack those two insights.

Im only a creature. The temptation Satan used against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden revolved around them becoming like God. We still fall for the same thing only more subtly. Wed never say out loud to anyone that we want to act like God. But what are we seeking to do when we fear, stress, worry, and are anxious? We are seeking insight into a future that is unavailable to us. We are fighting against the fact that we are merely weak creatures and we dont like it. We are seeking to have the knowledge only God has and getting emotionally upset because we cant have it. But yet we keep trying to get something which we cant have, werent designed to have, and would be dangerous for us to have.

The second insight is move from habits of heart to habits of daily life. What God is teaching me is to ask a particular as I go throughout my day. Heres the question, Lord, what do you expect of me right now.Why this question? I have found to my great shame that Ive been consumed with seeking knowledge and taking responsibility for matters for which God doesnt hold me responsible. Ridiculously, Ive been holding myself to a standard that God does not. This sad result of this is that things that God would have me do, I havent done because Ive been busy doing things He doesnt expect me to do.

An example would probably help flesh this out. This past Saturday I had the privilege of moderating a portion my local Presbyterys quarterly meeting. A few minutes before the meeting was to start the moderator approached me and asked if I would moderate a portion of the meeting because he wanted to participate in the debate. I acceded to his request but immediately began getting anxious. I thought to myself, Well if I knew that this was coming up, I would have brushed up on my Roberts Rules, I would have prayed more ahead of time, I would have .... In retrospect I was anxious because I was surprised and didnt like it. I didnt like the out of control feeling of it all (even though I was honored by the request). Frankly, I didnt like being a creature with limited knowledge at that moment. I sought in that moment to be responsible for preparation that was impossible for me to bring about and that is what caused my anxiety.

What did God expect of me in that circumstance? He didnt expect me to be prepared. He didnt expect me to have any time to pray or practically prepare except for a few moments of desperate pleas for grace for a responsibility Id never undertaken before. He expected me to lean not on my own knowledge or strength but to lean on Him, His knowledge, His grace, and His power at work despite my weakness. This I find is what Im resisting in the midst of fear, worry, anxiety, and stress. Im resisting simply being a limited, dependent creature and resisting in the form of rebellion that goes by the name self-reliance.

So heres the practical way Im seeking to move forward and perhaps a way you can move forward if you struggle with stress, worry, fear, and anxiety by Gods grace. First, I ask myself as I begin to struggle, Is knowledge about what Im stressing over (or fearing, worrying, being anxious about) available to me as a creature? Second, ask myself, What does God expect of me regarding this circumstance?

Why do these questions help? What I find is that the first question gets me off my own hook that I put myself on. I couldntknow that my friend was going to ask me to moderate a portion of that meeting last Saturday, so I have permission to not beat myself up that I wasnt prepared. I couldnt have been prepared. The second question makes me realize that a hook of Gods making exists and thats where I need to go. I need to go there because God does know the future, He loves me, what is going on doesnt surprise Him in the least AND He has a good plan for how He is going to work all things out. When Im tempted to worry I need to know what He would have me do TODAY regarding an issue rather than speculate about a future I cant know as a mere creature.

Seems simple doesnt it? I agree. But as I ponder my anxiety, worry, fear, and stress these are the things going through my heart. Im seeking a control I dont have. Im seeking a knowledge that is impossible for me to obtain. Im seeking to be self-sufficient and smart enough to anticipate the future and avoid embarrassment over being simply a creature. Im seeking to be independent of God instead of radically dependent.

Let me know what you think in the comments about your experience with fear, worry, anxiety and stress and how God is at work in you revealing your heart sins and producing heart change.