Fearless

In nineteen eighty-nine, three enterprising young men created a clothing brand, billed as an ‘extreme sports brand with added attitude’. It now includes its own highly successful energy drink, and the brand has even been promoted by Hollywood through several of its ‘blockbuster’ movies.
The brand’s name?

No Fear

No Fear has been a global success story. So much so that the logo could often be seen on bumper-stickers, vehicle windows and, of course, on the clothing itself.

At one time, if you were to walk down almost any high street, you’d probably see the name – ‘No Fear’.

Fast forward to 2020 and what do we now see as we walk those same streets? We see fear. Despite faces half-hidden by masks, we see a population afraid. A demoralised people living in fear. But fear of what?

We’re warned of a dreadful ‘hidden enemy’ that stalks our land like a bacteriological Grim Reaper, striking down countless thousands as it cuts swathes through the nation. So goes the warning. But what do we actually see?

We see TV bulletins. We see headlines in newspapers. On the radio we hear an unrelenting chorus of pessimism and hopelessness every hour, on the hour. Of course people are afraid. Isn’t it inevitable?

But …

… what if that which people fear most is simply the bad news itself? They dread the next baffling bulletin, the next bizarre broadcast. What if it’s these things that are blighting their lives?

Like moths drawn to a flame, they can’t resist the urge to do that which causes their pain and they switch on, tune in and hang onto every word. Unbeknown to them, their greatest fears are being realised each and every day.

Fear.

Of course, there may be some whose desire is for us to be fearful; some who consider that fear renders us compliant, placid and helpless. After all, before 2020, were the headlines that much different? Were they, really?

Whatever the reasons may be, God doesn’t want us to be afraid.

“… do not fear for I am with you …”

Genesis 26:24

Any non-Christians reading the above verse may doubt the relevance of a phrase written fifteen hundred years before Christ. What validity does it have to those events occurring in the twenty-first century?

However, the bible teaches us that a fear-less life, living under the assurance of God’s love and protection was not something that was limited to Abraham’s generation all those years ago. The verse is a timeless one and applies to every single one of God’s children. I am one. As are you.

Despite the extraordinary and perverse events I see around me I don’t allow fear to dwell in me. I never allow it to gain purchase. That’s not to say that I’m a stranger to fear. I’m no more brave or resilient than the next man. Far from it. Fear has featured in my daily life for many years.

With God’s help, however, fear is now a temporary intruder, hastily evicted, rather than an unwelcome lodger permitted to squat in the basement of my psyche.

Such control over this unwelcome guest hasn’t always been the case. I’ll explain.

In 2017 I was invited by my medical specialist to give an account of living with uncontrolled epilepsy – a condition that goes hand-in-glove with stress and fear. This is what I wrote at that time:


Imagine if you will, driving your car down a busy road at night. It could be a narrow road such as those in North Yorkshire, flanked by dry stone walls. The walls have stood for over a century. They’re solid, rugged and unforgiving.

As you contemplate the stone-cold walls, you hit black ice and spin out of control. Please now focus on the nauseating fear you have in the pit of your stomach. Imagine removing your hands from the wheel—for you are no longer in control of your body’s motor function.

Now, remove all your lucidity, knowledge of the likely outcome; eliminate any memory you may have of previous such experiences. Disregard your earlier sense of logic— for at the onset of an epileptic seizure, logic no longer has a seat in the house.

You may fear crippling injury; you can’t influence the outcome. Anxiety piles on distress. You may die. Your fate is out of your hands.

Now, imagine how that feels. But let me tell you, you’re still not even close to experiencing the all-consuming fear of a seizure.

Consider the sickening sense of relief you experience as you regain control.

Your heart rate settles, the trembling in your limbs eases. Sweating ceases as your body and mind recovers.

Now, contemplate the dawning realisation that this will happen again later in the day. It will happen twice, three times maybe. And you have no idea of when they’ll hit you or where you’ll be when they do. Imagine the dread at facing a tomorrow loaded with the same constant threat— and every day of your life.

Now, put on a smile and carry on.

You see, the fear doesn’t come and go with the seizure activity. It remains a constant feature, albeit at a fluctuating level each day.


That was my life in 2017.

Two years later, almost crushed by the burden of responsibility in an increasingly hostile and dysfunctional world, whilst at the same time struggling to maintain control of body and mind, I cast my cares onto God, and declared:

‘Lord, I can’t do this on my own. I need Your help in my life.’

I waved the white flag. But mine was not a flag of surrender, but one of victory, for that’s when my life changed.

That’s when my unwelcome lodger was finally expelled from the basement.

Worry and anxiety not only drain the spirit, but deplete our physical strength and consume our joy for life. Worry and fear are unacceptable. Jesus told us not to worry. He knows it can break us physically, mentally and spiritually – and this is not what he wants for us.

‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Phillipians 4:6-7

To further illustrate the secure, unflinching confidence of a life filled with God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, what follows is a statement written by a Christian brother. Before proceeding, you may read his brief testimony here.

Here is his declaration:


Declaration

Fifty-three years ago as a hard-drinking foul-mouthed soldier who tried to kill his friend who had become a Christian, God used that same friend to bring me to the cross of salvation.
God took me from the barrack room and anointed me to preach His Word.

He took me to nineteen different countries on four continents, some of them up to eight times. I have traveled on every type of transport known to man, and some that should not be known to man. I have slept in high-class hotels and under the stars. I have lived in villages and shanty towns in Africa and India, have walked through war zones and deserts, and have climbed mountains and traversed forests.

I have faced wild animals, been chased by angry mobs, had guns pointed at me and been caught up in riots (not of my making).

I have been with kings and politicians and with street beggars. I once climbed a mountain to minister to two dear souls and have preached to vast crowds at open-air meetings. I have conducted seminars for hundreds and Bible studies for two seekers.

I have worked with some of the finest children of God in all of the countries I visited. I have been inspired by their devotion to the work of His Kingdom and have counted it a great honour to have been able to work alongside them.

Now I am nearing my seventy-sixth birthday. I am still on fire for God and His Word; I am fit and (as far as I have ever been) am of sound mind.

I will not be cowered by a virus or intimidated by immoral liars of any political party. Nor will I be kept down by weak church leaders.

I am an eagle and I will rise up and proclaim the Word of God.



A final word on ‘fear’.

In the words of a song by American artist, Zach Williams, fear is also a liar:

Fear he is a liar.
He will take your breath,
Stop you in your steps.
Fear he is a liar.
He will rob your rest,
Steal your happiness.
Cast your fear in the fire,
‘Cause fear he is a liar.

To hear the song, click here.


A Proverbial Spider

I wrote this piece in February, 2020 and delivered it to my church in early March. At that time I had no idea how relevant it was to become.

I love old second-hand bookshops. I rarely buy anything but love browsing. While holidaying in Suffolk a few years ago, I did buy a book and it was this one:

‘The Diary of a Country Parson’

The book is a fascinating insight into the life of an eighteenth-century English vicar. One particular entry appealed to me:

1774 – October 15th

“I caught a remarkable large spider in my wash place this morning & put him in a small glass decanter & fed him some bread, & intend keeping him.”

Unsurprisingly, there’s no further mention of the spider in the diary, but I’ll get back to him later.

This was a bizarre entry but as the book reflects the man’s personal diary there is no reason to doubt his honesty. But in a world of Fake News how do we discern fact from fiction. Truth from lies. And how important is it that we’re able to do so?

What is the impact on us when our perceptions become skewed, whether that distortion be by accident or design? With this in mind, imagine a world in which 98% of the media is controlled by a handful of huge corporations. Six to eight small groups of extremely powerful people gathered in boardrooms controlling everything you see – and equally important, what you don’t see.

Their unwritten mantra may be along the lines of ‘control the information and you control the people’. This scenario shouldn’t stretch the imagination. Like it or not, it’s today’s reality. Extend that deception to academia. Our own education.

If that seems a step too far, how many Christians reading this believe in the ‘Big Bang’ and Darwin’s theory of Evolution? Yet, both are taught as fact through all grades of education and propagated through every natural history programme, publication and in every museum. Everywhere.

So if you’ve been lied to about something as fundamental as the origin of time, space and matter; the origin – or genesis – of life, is it so hard to imagine they’d lie to you about anything and everything?

That said, now imagine a generation that has been systematically misled from cradle to grave.

It would be reasonable to suggest that under these conditions, instruction and advice parents have passed on to their offspring with all good intentions has therefore been flawed to some degree. Compromised. Now, extend that deception to academia. Our own education.

The result would be a second generation whose start in life has been influenced by misinformation and who then enter an academic environment structured on those same falsehoods while, at the same time, becoming increasingly influenced by a corrupted, unprincipled and increasingly pervasive media.

A whole generation then who live entire lives without ever knowing essential truths that should form the bedrock on which their characters are built.

What would be the consequence of such a deception? To help answer this, first of all consider animals in the wild.

Without ‘situational awareness’ the deck is stacked against them

Their survival depends on knowledge of their environment. They need to know where to find food, what foods sustain them and what doesn’t. They must know where to find safety in times of danger and routes they need to take quickly to get there. They need to know where to shelter for rest.

Without that ‘situational awareness’ the deck becomes stacked against them. Similarly, we need an ever-acute situational awareness. The information we receive shapes our perceptions, opinions, world view, decisions, life choices and actions.

Therefore, an environment dominated by misinformation and deliberate deception renders it impossible for us to make effective life choices. Like wild animals lost in an unfamiliar landscape, our odds of success in life become … diminished.

Clearly a trusted source is vital. A benchmark by which we may judge all else.

As Christians we know of only one fundamental and 100% reliable truth … the word of God. The Bible. How do we know this?

Simple. The Bible tells us so.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy we find:

‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3: 16-17

Scripture – our standard, or yardstick – therefore imparts undisputable conviction. It equips us with a road-map by which we need never lose our way.

In his earlier letter to Timothy, Paul had stated:

‘If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister in Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith …’

1 Timothy 3:6

We see here, therefore, that God’s word – his truth – is also nourishing. By extension it would be fair to say that those things in direct opposition to God’s truth – may be considered toxic.

Moreover, in an age in which a view expressed in Cardiff, Wales can be transmitted to Cardiff, New South Wales in little more than a heartbeat, lies are also contagious.

As contagious as a virus. Viruses and lies. Now there’s a topical consideration.

When I returned to the church following an absence of forty years I felt I had some serious catching up to do. I dusted off my bible and … two thousand two hundred pages, sixty six books written by over forty authors over 1500 years. Where do I start?

There are guides aplenty for this and each one has something unique to say, so I guess it comes down to personal choice. Whatever works for you is always going to be the best option. One piece of advice suggested the use of The Book of Proverbs in maintaining a discipline of daily reading.

Proverbs, at thirty-one chapters lends itself perfectly to a monthly rotational reading programme. Read a chapter each day, through to the end – then start again. For those months having thirty days only, read two chapters on the last day.

But for guidance in life in the twenty-first century what use is a book written approximately 700 years before Christ? To answer this I’ll quote the introduction from my own study bible:

‘Everyone knows the value of good advice. Listening to those who are wiser than we are gives us the benefit of their hard-won experience. Growing up, getting along with others, and holding a job all would be impossible without guidance from folks who have been there before.

The Book of Proverbs gives that kind of help. But the book is more than a collection of tips and tricks. It passes on a core of knowledge and experience that God says we must have if we are to live successfully.

These proverbs are not merely old sayings that concern people in far-off lands, but universal principles that apply to all people of all times. They speak of modern problems as much as ancient ones because they concern human nature and God’s ways.’

For anyone in any doubt about the relevance of Proverbs, here’s the clincher:

‘Human nature has not changed since Solomon’s time; neither has God‘s. Only the landscape around us has changed.’

So thirty-one chapters of sound advice that lends itself perfectly to modern daily reading … and, if you are using the King James Version, when you eventually turn to Chapter 30 you’ll find … a remarkable spider.


A Remarkable Spider