Sunday, November 2, 2014

The F word

During a devotional recently we read the scripture in which the Israelites and Moses arrived at the border of Canaan and sent spies in to check things out. 10 of the 12 spies came back with reports of terrifyingly big and scary inhabitants. Caleb and Joshua assured them that God would protect them but fear overcame the Israelites and they refused to enter.  “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?  And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:2

I was reminded of a conversation I had with our Muslim tour guide in Jordan.  After visiting Mt. Nebo, where God showed Moses the promised land for the Israelites, I asked him why there was an issue with Israel today.  I could see the emotion rising right up to his neck but stopping before it got to his face.  He remained pleasant and smiling.  He explained that, yes, God had promised the land to the Israelites but when they rejected Him, their punishment was to be exiled until not one person was in the promised land. (Clearly, his interpretation of scripture varies from ours.)  In that moment, I realized true peace in the Middle East is a pipe dream until the Messiah returns/comes (depending on your religion.)  The Israelis believe the land is theirs by covenant with the Lord, the Muslims believe the Israelites gave up their right to the land.  This difference has been in place for thousands of years, not likely to be resolved any time soon.

But what really struck me the other night were the consequences of the Israelites' fear.  What if they had followed the advice of Caleb and Joshua to trust in God and entered the promised land?  Isn't it possible that we are suffering the consequences today of that fear thousands of years ago?  

I am surrounded by people here who choose faith over fear.  I have been spending alot of time with the safe house girls.  Despite their backgrounds and the credible ongoing danger, they laugh (alot!) play, pray, and raise their hands in praise while worshiping the Lord who brought them to us.  Our staff goes into dangerous neighborhoods to offer hope of a better life through our micro-credit programs.  The micro-credit clients refuse to give into the gangs and find ways to keep their businesses open.  The children in Flor leave violent homes and neighborhoods to come to school, learn, play, and praise God.  It isn't that they don't feel fear.  They do.  They fear physical harm, our teens fear rejection, all fear failure.  But they don't give themselves over to fear.  They have faith.  They step out in faith, managing their fears, trusting in God.  Two of our safe house girls are graduating from vocational school next Friday.  They have overcome fears we can't even conceive of and are excited about their future.  We also have many first time volunteers who are very afraid of coming to Honduras. They choose faith over fear and return home transformed.

And yet, on Facebook and in the little news that I follow it seems that people in the US are choosing fear over faith.  I see misinformation, rumors, and even outright lies spreading like wild fire.  In the land of plenty, plenty of everything, why do Americans feel so vulnerable, so frightened of just about everything and everyone?  What happened to faith?  What are the consequences we are suffering now and will suffer for years to come by choosing fear over faith?  Already we see divisions between groups of people, people reacting to fiction, not facts, hatred rearing its ugly head.   How far will we go down this path before we remember "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deut. 31:8

Brothers and sisters in Christ, which F word will guide your life?  Fear or Faith?  

Do not be anxious 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.  Phil. 4:6-7

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