Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is........

  We've all heard that infamous quote from Winston Churchill. "The only thing we have to fear itself." 

   From what I've experienced in my own life, fear can be one of the most confusing emotions one can experience. If the fear I'm experiencing is legitimate, it can save my life. On the other hand, if my fears are irrational and continual, they can stop my life from being all that God wants it to be. If they are profound and consistent enough, they can even shorten my life.

   We've all experienced both types of fear. We can all look back over the course of our lives and remember times when we've been afraid of something or someone. Hindsight being 20/20, we can now see very clearly which type of fear we were experiencing at the time. We can remember avoiding certain situations due to fear, and since we now know the outcome of that situation, it's easy to determine whether those fears were reasonable or unreasonable.

   As we look back upon those moments in our lives, it's almost certain that we're either regretful or thankful for the fears we were experiencing at the time. Maybe we were afraid to stand up for what we believed in or to speak up in defense of someone we cared about, and maybe we will spend the rest of our lives regretting those decisions. On the other hand, maybe we were afraid of a situation that would've ended horribly for us, and we're thankful that our fears stopped us dead in our tracks.

   What's fascinating about fear is that, while we're experiencing it, our bodies don't know if those fears are rational or irrational, and in response, our bodies act to defend us from whatever it is that's causing these fears within us. Our adrenaline kicks in, our pupils dilate to allow more light in, our heart rate increases, and our breathing becomes deeper. This is a response that is wired into our bodies to help us to either fight off, or flee from, whatever it is that is causing us danger.

   If these reactions occur only when our fears are legitimate, they can literally save our lives. But if, for whatever the reasons, we find ourselves continually living in fear, they can lead to countless physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual complications.

   As we read through our bibles, we can find countless examples of people who - even though we remember them as being people of incredible faith - they occasionally experienced incredible amounts of fear.

   If we read their stories carefully enough, we will also find them turning to God with these fears, expressing then to Him, acknowledging them, and many times asking God to remove the source of their fears.

   What I find fascinating is this: Whenever God had given them specific instructions to do or say anything, and when those instructions caused these people to fear the ramifications of saying or doing these things, God would quite often follow these instructions with the words "Fear not.........."

   As we look back upon these people of great faith, wouldn't their stories be far different if they had allowed their fears to stop them from doing what God had asked of them? What if Moses had said "Hey.......Lord......This whole let my people go thing.......Eh......I'm thinking that isn't gonna work for me. Thanks for asking.......I'm really flattered......but I'm just gonna stay here and tend to these flocks.? Or what if King David would've said "Lord, Goliath is a really big dude.......I think I'll just hide behind this rock and let one of the bigger guys handle this?"

   Of course, knowing what happened to Jonah when God asked him to preach to the people of Nineveh, it's quite possible that all of these people would've eventually been brought to do what God had asked of them anyway.

   So, what about the fears you find yourself experiencing? How do you know if your fears are rational or irrational? How do you know if your fears are saving your life or slowly destroying it?

   One of the most effective ways I've heard on how to identify your fears and deal with them is by keeping what is called a "Fear Journal." The premise is very simple. Beginning today, write down whatever it is that is causing you to be fearful, no matter how insignificant those fears may be. Leave some space after each entry. Determine for yourself how much time you would like to pass before reviewing what you had written. You can take a month, 3 months, a year, whatever. The choice is yours. At the end of that time period, read through your entries, then write something about how those situations worked out for you.

   It can look something like this: "November 23 - I was boarding a flight to New York, and I was terrified that the plane would crash." It might then be followed up with "November 23 - My flight landed safely in New York......and while I was there, I had this incredible experience."

   If fear is an issue that is causing you a great deal of stress, how powerful of a tool would this be for helping you to deal with those fears? What if you also included in these entries what you know beyond a doubt that God was telling you to do or say at that time, including the fears you felt about obeying, and the resulting emotions you now feel about your obedience or disobedience? How powerfully do you suppose this would impact your life?

   You might see this as being a great deal of work and not worth the effort. Maybe it sounds to complicated or time consuming. But it can be done in just a few minutes per day, and it can completely change your life from being one filled with fear and anxiety to one of faith, assurance, and confidence. Even if you don't believe you're someone who struggles with illegitimate fear, you may be surprised to find out how much fear stops you from being all that God has called you to be.

   The bottom line is this: We have all been called to live in faith. We have all been called to trust God completely and entirely. We have all had moments when we've done so, against all odds, and have seen God accomplish miraculous things through us. We have all experienced moments when our faith was lacking, and we've all experienced the regrets of that lack of faith. Fear is the direct opposite of faith, and it's effects can be absolutely devastating. Why not make the effort? Why not take the time to learn about how we hold ourselves back from living lives of incredible faith, and experiencing the richness and rewards of that kind of a life?



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Collateral Damage

   Within any reasonable debate, there are two opposing sides attempting to make their case. Unfortunately, the longer these debates rage on, the more hyperbole can be heard within the arguments. Extremists on either side of the issue will become frustrated with the other side's unwillingness to see things their way, and will begin to cloud the root issue with bold claims that aren't necessarily the truth. They will also resort to citing extreme cases as evidence as to why their way of looking at the issue is the only reasonable answer.

   Those of us who would prefer to remain reasonable, seeing the value within both sides of the argument, tend to get so lost in the constant bombardment of alleged "facts" we will eventually walk away from the issue because we've simply grown weary of the entire argument.

   The abortion issue, in my opinion, has become one of those debates.

   Before you assume that you already know where this is going, consider this: The information I'm about to share with you contains actual facts and figures compiled by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, or (AGI), which is Planned Parenthood's special research affiliate. Do you find it interesting that I, being a Christian Conservative, would use information compiled by an affiliate of Planned Parenthood? Wouldn't any case you might assume I'd be making look far more compelling if I used the numbers compiled by a Christian Conservative organization? Of course it would. But I'm not interested in bolstering my argument with facts and figures compiled only by those who already agree with my point of view.

   Nobody, on either side of the argument, will disagree with the fact that an abortion is a very serious, very horrible procedure. Nobody would ever wish that any of their loved ones would have to experience one. Keeping away from the extremes on either side of the argument, it is my belief that before we can come to any form of agreement on whether or not it should be legal, we'd have to first come to some sort of agreement as to what it is, who is doing it, and why it's being done. It is only within that context that we can come to reasonable answers as to how we allow it to occur. It is also the only way we can clearly examine the arguments being proposed as to why it should be legal in all cases, or limited in some form.

   From the most recent studies performed by AGI, here are the numbers pertaining only to the U.S.

   - There were 1.2 million abortions performed in the U.S. in 2008.
   - 22% of ALL pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in the U.S. end in abortion.
   - Women in their 20's account for 57% of all abortions.
   - 1% of the abortions performed involved cases of rape or incest.

   With regard to when these abortions are performed:

   - Less than 9 weeks - 61.8%
   - 9 - 10 weeks - 17.1%
   - 11-12 weeks - 9.1%
   - 13-15 weeks - 6.6%
   - 16-20 weeks - 3.8%
   - 21 or more weeks - 1.5%

   What are the reasons being given as to why these abortions are being performed? Multiple answers were given by those who were asked. Of those who answered;

   - 75% Cite concern or responsibilities to other individuals
   - 75% Say they cannot afford a child
   - 75% Say having a child would interfere with work, school, or the ability to care for dependents.
   - 50% Say they do not want to be a single parent, or are having problems with their husband or partner.

   In other words, the vast majority of the reasons being given are strictly matters of "convenience."

   For those of you who already have children, please allow me to ask the following questions. When that child was born, did it:

   - Interfere with the responsibilities you had to other individuals?
   - Put a strain on your finances?
   - Interfere with work, school, or your ability to care for other dependents?
   - Cause problems between you and your husband/boyfriend?

   The follow-up question is even more important.

   When you look at that child now, given all of the hardships you faced in raising them, have you ever regretted giving birth to him or her?

   Here's the bottom line, folks: Having a child is hard. There's no way around it. Doing so will put some degree of strain upon every area of your life. But no other species on the planet eliminates their unborn offspring due to the difficulties they will experience in caring for them. No other species on the planet eliminates their unborn offspring because the timing isn't right.

   In the case of rape or incest, those answers are very different and they should be handled very differently. While some women in those situations choose to keep those children, I don't believe that any reasonable person would feel justified in demanding that they do so. But remember, we're only talking about 1% of the abortions being performed in this country falling into that category. Health risks to the mother are another thing that should be accounted for. If a woman's own life would be put in danger due to carrying the child, then she should have the right to decide whether or not she wants to take that risk.

   But if we've really come to a place as a nation where we believe it's morally acceptable to kill well over a million unborn children every year, almost entirely due to our not wanting to experience inconvenience in our lives, then we are far more depraved than I would've ever imagined.