Monthly Archives: May 2014

What are you afraid to face?

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Fear Woman

Most of us can easily think of the moments we’ve lived in absolute terror. Fear is like a tattoo on our souls, except it’s a permanent mark we don’t want to show others. In reality, everyone experiences the emotion of fear, however, that doesn’t help us feel any better about our own.

I hate the dentist. Actually, I don’t hate the person; I hate the experience. I have more fillings and root canals than most people have teeth. I’m pretty sure I’ve put a few of my dentist’s kids through college.

The entire experience is a nightmare for me. Of course, the minions who serve Dr. Toothenstein try to pull the wool over my eyes. The room is clean, and the music is soothing. Everybody smiles and treats me like I’m about to go for a quiet walk on a beautiful beach. I’m placed in a recliner, of sorts; but just out of sight is a neatly organized tray of torture devices used to rip into my mouth. The doc enters with a sadistic grin. He asks how I’m doing while washing the evidence of his previous victim from his hands. I’m thinking, If this is so safe, then why are they covering my eyes with safety glasses? They can’t fool me; in fact, as the chair reclines, every sinew of my body tenses up as if I’m about to be waterboarded.

According to waterboarding.org, “waterboarding induces panic and suffering by forcing a person to inhale water into the sinuses, pharynx, larynx, and trachea.[1] The head is tilted back and water is poured into the upturned mouth or nose.” Obviously, this is a horrible torture and nothing to make light of, but it’s exactly how I feel with my head titled back in the dentist chair and his hands in my mouth. Gag! Choke! Help!

Being a manly man (meaning proud and stubborn), I’ve typically said no to using any happy gas (nitrous oxide) during my visits to the dentist.  But that all changed after spending three hours in an endodontist’s chair in the summer of 2012. As she carved deeper and deeper into my jaw, trying to remove an obstinate root, I went deeper and deeper into the dark hole of terror. Frankly, I had my first panic attack, and I felt embarrassed, angry with myself, and even foolish.

Fear Dentist

Fear sucks.

Physically, emotionally, mentally, and experientially it robs us of so much. Even if you are an adrenaline junky who loves doing crazy things simply for the rush, you’d still have to admit fear can kill you. On the good-bad scale of things, fear is evil unless it’s used for good. Meaning, unless you have a reasonable fear that keeps you from doing unreasonable things, fear is bad. Sometimes tragically bad.

Unfounded fears cause unnecessary reactions that cripple us and cause us to withdraw from living the epic life God has planned. Too often we say no to God-given opportunities because we’re afraid. Too often we miss the chance to develop and grow, because we’ve chosen to play it safe and avoid any risks.

I’m the last guy on the planet to give you a hard time for being afraid. I get it. If you struggle with fear, we are brothers from a different mother. You’ll get no finger-wagging or shameful looks from me. But we don’t have to stay stuck in the grip of terror. We can live free. We can grow. We can choose to “fear not” rather than live bound by fear knots.

To live free, we need to consider a few things.

First, we need a change in our perspective. This life is temporary. Our bodies are “but dust,”[2] and we’re scheduled for an upgrade in eternity. When we remember that Jesus defeated death[3], it can change the way we view those things we fear.

Second, we need a change in our minds. Fear is often the result of bad thinking. We develop bad mental habits that become the emotional ruts we run into. I heard someone say once, “You fight bad thoughts with good thoughts.” I couldn’t agree more. We must teach our minds to dwell on whatever is excellent and admirable and to focus our thoughts on all that is true, holy, just, pure, lovely and worthy of praise.[4]  The Bible also says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”[5] In other words, a God-fixed mind is a peace-filled mind.

We also need to train ourselves to seek and trust God when terror strikes. I love these words of David, found in the Psalms: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”[6] When the unexpected happens (and it will), whom do you turn to first? Does your heart run toward God in prayer or do you run to the medicine cabinet for a Valium?

Prayer is powerful.

Prayer takes us to the one who is able to rescue us. Prayer shifts our focus from the earthly to the heavenly. The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Church: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”[7] And Peter challenged us to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us.[8] Years ago, I had a little placard on my wall that read: “Prayer changes things.” It does because prayer changes us.

Finally, we must learn to lose our fears in the sea of God’s love. In many ways, the root of all fear is spiritual. We doubt the goodness of God. We question the love of Jesus. We wonder if God is really mindful of us or paying any attention to our situation. But “perfect love casts out fear.”[9] Knowing we are deeply loved by a Father who always has our best interest at heart is critical to living an epic life.

I imagine I will wrestle with some fears for the rest of my life, but I cannot afford to let them control me or my destiny in Christ. The key for you and me is to press beyond them to walk through the fear threshold before us. Why? Because a life beyond our wildest imagination is waiting for us on the other side of the fear barrier.

 

{Note: the above is an excerpt my second book manuscript called Epic Life. Let me know what you think! What resonated with you? What didn’t? Can you relate to my stories of fear?}

 

[1] Yes, there really is such a site: http://waterboarding.org/.

[2] Psalm 103:14

[3] I Corinthians 15

[4] Philippians 4:8

[5] Isaiah 26:3, NLT

[6] Psalms 34:4

[7] Philippians 4:6-7

[8] 1 Peter 5:7

[9] I John 4:18

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16 Responses to What are you afraid to face?

  1. Excellent writing Kurt! What really got me was the part about “To Live Free” and “Prayer is Powerful”. May God bless you as you work to finish your book. I can’t wait to read the finished work. Jay

  2. well, my biggest fear is cancer – and the enemy hit me hard the last month stirring it all up again in my life – but God is faithful and even though I went through numerous exams, biopsies, medical “torture”, and surgery, I have no cancer – just a benign tumor removed. My community of believers over here really supported me and prayed for me as well as my close friends in the US – I felt weak and unable to hold on to the promises God has given me my whole life that I would suffer the things my mom has suffered (like cancer). But every person who prayed for me here said “it is not cancer, don’t be afraid.” So, another chapter has been added to my testimony and I am deeply in love with Jesus, once again! He took me through the fire, and I was not scorched!

  3. I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Last fall when you were at Summit, I had been up all night before tossing and turning about possible permanent solutions to a HUGE temporary problem that is ongoing and possibly resulting in serious consequences. You spoke and I read the book. God’s timing – saved my life. I turn to it often when I’m feeling like I can’t go on. I’ve confessed to my family, but not those directly affected – possible criminal consequences. Huge amount of fear, but realize I need to move on and face the music, whatever that means. Thank you so much for your perspective and writing.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this encouraging comment. Know I am praying with you and for you. Still amazed by His grace. You are loved.

  4. Hi Cousin,
    Your first book was a blessing in my life…your second will be also. The 3 greatest fears I had for my life all happened. God brought amazing blessings to my life through these 3 happenings. Wouldn’t want to go back to who I was before.
    We are up in Anchorage visiting Jeff & family. Beautiful & wonderful!
    Love you,
    Cindy

    • It’s cousins like you that make our family such a gift to me. Knowing your story makes what you said even more powerful to me. Give my love to all!

  5. Wonderful! So many people need to hear and grasp this truth.
    My greatest fear used to be that I would be alone. I would stay up all night worrying that something might happen to Floyd when he was trucking but one night I came across the verse that says God did not give us a Spirit of fear and I felt the presence and closeness of God that night and when Floyd had his stroke in 2012 and Satan tried to stir up that fear in me again,I began to hunger for God like I never had before.He is literally my lifeline and I know I will never be alone.
    Can’t wait to read your new book!
    Oh, yea, Floyd got a big kick out of your picture. He just had emergency oral surgery yesterday morning; lots of laughing gas:)

    • Wow! Thank you for sharing a bit of your story, Linda. Love and appreciate you and Floyd. Glad my picture made him smile. You both are loved!

Naked Truth ~ Guest Post By Author Tammy Strait

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Naked Truth

One of the greatest oppressors we live under today is the belief that perception is reality.

We live in a time when the ad campaigns run not only the external, but the internal dialogue of our lives. We’ve bought into the marketer’s pitch that perception is reality and it’s tearing us apart.

It’s tearing our marriages, friendships, relationships and our churches apart. No longer are we content to live and love with our whole heart and have that be enough. Rather, we’re thrust into the competitive dance for worthiness that leaves us comparing and competing for our worth and identity.

A trap so mired with rejection, abandonment, critical spirits and the slippery slope of judgment.

We’re so quick to judge the path we have never walked, and the story we have never lived, because we’re too afraid to deal with the pain in our own life. Afraid to address the lies we have believed from the time we were too young to understand, the relationships that are tearing us apart, and the judgment and idols we cling to for security in this world.

And so we turn our angst, our fear and insecurities into walls, believing they will protect us.

But buried in the fabric of our DNA is the God-given need for community. Deep inside us we know that the truth of our lives is raw and messy and imperfect and very real. Everyone has a story.

And we hide behind pretty.

We believe if we can look pretty, act pretty and talk pretty, we can protect ourselves from rejection and pain. We believe that if we live on the surface of our lives, we can protect ourselves from suffering.

But in doing so, we miss out on the only way to connect in true, meaningful relationship. We literally stand in the way of forging authentic community with people who live and breathe and dream in the same way we do because we’re afraid of being hurt. Because we’ve been hurt before and we’re just not quite sure it was worth it.

But above all else, aren’t we called to love? How quickly we forget to love ourselves. And the truth of the matter is the only way we can love others well is to first love ourself. To have the courage to step into the reality of our life and embrace our whole story, not just the parts that are pretty.

Here is an excerpt from my new book, Pretty: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life.

“Truth is always found in the open, by way of the light. Living in the open is scary because it requires vulnerability. Nakedness. It requires us to say yes to light, love, truth, honesty, forgiveness, openness, and wholeness. It requires us to lay down our deeply entrenched beliefs that perception is reality and find the courage to be who we are with our whole hearts. It means understanding that what we look for in others is the ability for them to be authentic and vulnerable with us—the same things we try to hide or suppress in ourselves.

I want you to have the courage to say yes to the spirit within you that so desperately wants to be loved and enough, and then realize that you already are loved and enough. “It’s the brave who say a prayerful yes, the brave and wise who believe that the faith-filled yes is what heals things.”

And maybe it’s as simple as that: choosing yes, saying yes, believing yes, every day when the difficult moment comes. Say yes to truth, life, love, grace, peace, and joy. Say no to jealousy, competition, critical spirits, dissension, and division. Proclaim a prayerful yes to all that is good and a firm no to all that destroys. Over time and practice, this courage becomes real; it becomes our authentic self. And we begin to speak truth and live truth and be our truth, wholly authentic, alive and free.

It’s the wise who find their identity in Christ. In the perfect masterpiece created when He made you wholly and dearly loved, adored, relentlessly pursued, and yet free. We are free to choose whether we will follow Him, read His word, and listen to His teaching. How much more does He long for us? We search in vain, hiding and fumbling in the dark, and all the while our fullness is waiting patiently by our side—waiting for the choosing, for us to say yes.

So it’s the choosing then that’s the hardest part. Choosing yes means we let go of our false sense of control. It means we open our hands and begin to have faith. It’s what makes our hearts flutter and our knees go weak. The giving up of our desire for concrete answers or carefully crafted plans, in exchange for cultivating our faith, is the belief in something for which there is no proof.

When our selfish hearts want nothing more than to say no to what we know will offer grace, love, gentleness, and peace, that is the precise moment we must practice courage. That is when we step out in faith and say yes—yes to light, yes to healing, yes to grace, yes to us and to who we are in this very moment. It’s one of the bravest things we do.”

You can watch a video trailer for this book right {here}.

{Note from Kurt: Tammy is an amazing author and friend. I highly recommend you also consider subscribing to her blog at Grace Uncommon – it’s awesome!}

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The Hardest Thing You’ve Ever Faced

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Life is Hard Wall

Life is hard. Of course, life is often good too, but there’s no denying the struggle most of us face on a regular basis.

  • You don’t get the promotion or raise you deserve.
  • Your spouse says, “I want a divorce.”
  • You have a miscarriage.
  • The doctor says, “I’m afraid this is going to require surgery and a long recovery period.”
  • Your twenty-something kid moves back home under difficult circumstances (again).
  • A precious family member or best friend unexpectedly passes away.
  • An in-law becomes an outlaw.

Yet life goes on . . . 

Maybe you’re one of those special people who can put a happy face on anything. Maybe you have the unnatural ability to see the struggles of life as an opportunity rather than a problem. If so, you can probably skip the rest of this blog. But if you’re so mad right now you want to hurt somebody or you’re so depressed you can’t get out of bed, keep reading.

You’ve probably heard me talk about or you’ve read in Epic Grace about the loss of my grandson, Phineas. Without a doubt, the weeks that followed his death were the hardest of my life. Phineas was my very first grandson, and he was a beautiful baby. One of my greatest joys in life is being a grandfather. It’s hard to describe the delight I have as “Gramps” and the blessing each of my children and grandchildren are to me.

Almost three years ago, my doctor told me I had prostate cancer. Within weeks after that less-than-glorious moment, I was under the knife and wondering if my life would ever be the same (or continue).

In the last few years I’ve lost some very special family members. My stepdad, Frank, my uncle, Don, and several others who were heroes and mentors in my life.

Added to all of the above, 2013 was the toughest year I’ve ever had in ministry. Enough said.

Even so, there have been many majestic moments too. I now have three grandsons, I had my first book published with Tyndale, and I’m coming up on thirty-nine years of marriage to my very best friend. Yes, God has been good (too good) to me. I am the recipient of His amazing kindness and favor on a regular basis. But life is still hard at times.

Life is Hard Bolder

So what have I learned about life and hardship? 

Glad you asked!

  • I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to not be quite so surprised when trials do come.
  • I’ve learned to stay the course no matter what the course may bring.
  • I’ve learned that I’m not nearly as godly or Christ-like as I need to be. (I’m still in process.)
  • I’ve learned that grace, God’s unmerited favor, includes his incredible patience with me.
  • I’ve learned to be humble and utterly dependent on the Father for everything.
  • I’ve learned to embrace the mystery of life with hope in the One who knows all things.
  • I’ve learned to fix my eyes and heart on the One who has never left me (even though I’ve doubted His presence at times).
  • Speaking of doubts, I’ve learned that God can handle my questions (go figure, he’s not intimidated by my questions).

Life is Hard Mom & Kid

What are you facing right now that is gnawing on your soul? 

Where are you struggling with questions and doubts? Read this next part very slowly: God never promised you an easy life. He never assured you an answer to everything, not on this side of eternity. 

But you protest, “Wait a minute, I thought God was good! I thought he would fix everything! What good is he if he can’t take care of my life? Why would I trust him if he can’t help me understand the why of my life?”

Well let me ask you, if we’re guaranteed answers to everything, how do hope and faith play into the mix? Just because God is omniscient (all-knowing) does not mean you and I have a right to know everything too.

Jesus praised those who believed even when they didn’t see (John 20:29). The apostle Paul wrote, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The normal expectation for Christ-followers is faith in the face of the unknown and trust even when we are baffled by life.

The hard reality . . . 

Is it easy? No. Does walking by faith always fill us with warm fuzzies? Nope. But here’s the last thing I want you to hear about all of this: Though we have no guarantee of an easy life, we do have the promise of his presence. No matter what, we are never alone and never left to wade through the mud and muck in our own strength. (Check out Hebrews 13:5 and Psalm 23:4.)

Literally hundreds of times in my life I’ve felt completely inadequate and overwhelmed by the challenges before me. I have a long list of things I plan on asking Jesus when I see him. After all, I’ll have eternity to work through all my questions (though it probably won’t matter then). But from personal experience, I can assure you of this—Jesus is Immanuel—he is with you, always has been, always will be.

What’s the hardest thing you are facing right now? Please know you are not alone even when surrounded by darkness and despair. You can’t know everything, but you are always connected to the One who knows all things. So hold on even when, especially when, life is hard. 

 Life is Hard but beautiful

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8 Responses to The Hardest Thing You’ve Ever Faced

  1. Thanks, Kurt. Needed this more than ever right now. Our life drastically changed a month with the arrival of a struggling 15 year old. This was just what I needed to read today and be reminded of… God’s got this. Bless you for sharing your struggles to help us wade through ours.

Voices Everywhere

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Voices 2 Many Words

{Introductory note: I believe in listening. I embrace the wisdom of getting counsel from godly men and women. By no means am I encouraging any arrogant attitude of isolating ourselves from the voices of others. However, we must be careful to listen first and foremost to the Voice of the only One who is our Lord. Furthermore, too often we worry too much about what others think or we let even our self-voice distract us from “a whisper” clearly from Him.}

So many voices

Multiplied choices

A word here

A comment there

Sounds everywhere

A thought

A lot

A terrible plot

Now left to wander in despair

 

So many tears

Multiplied years

A regret here

A failure there

Cries everywhere

A look

Some took

Forsook

What hope is ever found near

 

My eyes are dry

My heart is bruised

My mind confused and lacking

But in this moment

Despite the cracking

I hear another voice break through

 

A whisper clear

A song so dear

A melody of peace

Hold on, it rings

Stay close, it sings

Press on amidst the stings

 

One voice

One sound

One hope is found

One way to be set free

One moment now

One heart to bow

One Lord is all I need

Voice of God

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