ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: DEALING WITH FEAR, Part 6
September 26, 2014
The Fear of Man is one of the biggest “biggies” that infect and affect human behavior. It’s a topic that I can’t even begin to cover adequately in a few coffee break sessions like these, but it deserves more than a simple once-over.
Despite the fact that I had seen the Holy Spirit moving miraculously in my life from childhood, hearing and listening to a lifetime of criticisms and accusations from others about my supposedly being “super spiritual” created within me a need for acceptance.
So I’m odd. OK?
No argument. It’s taken years for me to accept that and be joyful in the fact that the Lord has done things with me, and taken me places very few folks ever get to experience. That joy hasn’t always been there, however. Being gifted by the Lord can be a real pain if you listen to the lies that come out of the Fear of Man. And I have been gifted by the Lord – from my youth on.
Being gifted musically has sometimes made me the target of others who are jealous over the fact that I can play dozens of instruments. When I was in public school, my teachers decided I was gifted academically. I skipped half of third grade and half of fourth grade and did both years in one year. Then my seventh-grade teacher decided it was a waste of time for me to be in that class and advanced me mid-year into the eighth grade.
When I was finishing eighth grade (that same school year), my teacher decided they needed to use me as part of an experiment the state of Alaska was conducting. My folks thought it was a great idea. (The state of Alaska has since discontinued this experiment, but it lasted for something like six to ten years.) Instead of going on to high school, they put me directly into college courses with the University of Nebraska. I was getting college credit at the same time I should have been in high school. By the time I was eighteen years old, I already had four years of college – three with the University of Nebraska, and one with Southwestern Bible College in Waxahachie, Texas. The result was that I never got my high school diploma, but I was accepted at Bethany Bible College and later at Fuller Theological Seminary without that diploma.
In the years that followed, whenever I applied for some top-level job I knew I could do in my sleep, employers always asked for my college diploma. It was nothing but a miracle of the Lord that put me working for NASA with America’s top scientists and engineers at Lockheed when I didn’t even have a high school diploma, much less a college degree in engineering.
It was weird. I never had a problem with employment in those early years, but people always asked me for my certificates and diplomas. I really began to want those things. They became really important to me. The fact that the Lord always opened the doors for me seemed to escape my spiritual awareness. Not having the academic recognition and the “piece of paper” always ate at me.
The fact was, it was the Fear of Man.
In 1971, when I was “ordained” at Full Gospel Assembly in Salt Lake City, I had my first “piece of paper.” Man! That was gold! Ironically, when the ordination was taking place, among other things, Bill Christopulos – the big Greek senior pastor – said, “We can’t ordain you. The Lord has already done that. All we can do is to say that we recognize His anointing and His ordination.”
It took a long time for those words to sink into me. Years, in fact! Brother Bill was saying, “This piece of paper isn’t really worth anything as far as the real facts go. This is just our way of saying, ‘we know what the real facts are.’” I put a great deal of importance on the piece of paper for many years before I realized how shallow it was. Man’s recognition was worth squat! It was God’s recognition that really counted!
Unfortunately, I got cheated out of understanding that recognition for many years by the Fear of Man.
I still have my ordination paper. But it isn’t hanging on the wall of my office. It’s in a folder somewhere – where it deserves to be. My gifts, my callings, my skills and talents all come from the Lord. It is He that opens the doors for me. It is He that creates opportunities. It is He that flows through me. Anything that gets accomplished accrues to His credit – not mine. If I get credit for anything out of all of this, it is simply for being obedient to His Word and His Will.
If folks get impressed by what they see and hear, fine. But they need to recognize that it is the Lord doing His Will, His Word and His Work through me. Then they can be impressed by the Lord and give Him the true glory and praise for what He has done.
Sure took me a long time to learn that, though.
Over the years, I’ve had my share of experiences where I realized there were absolute barriers I could not cross – even though my ego would certainly have benefited had I done so. Go figure. At the same time, there were times when I was able to recognize the need to refuse The Fear of Man's demands.
In the summer of 1959, returning from Waxahachie, Texas where I had attended Southwestern Bible Institute, I stopped off in Portland where my mother was waiting to attend a summer camp meeting in Brooks, Oregon. The speaker for the week was J. Robert Ashcroft, John Ashcroft’s (our former U.S. Attorney General) father. As it happened, John Ashcroft – who was something like 17 years of age at the time – was at the same camp meeting. He and I joined our musical talents together to provide an atmosphere of praise and worship music. I played guitar, and John played bass. An Indian fellow from Aberdeen, Washington joined us with a second guitar, and we had a threesome for the week.
Being musicians, our talk occasionally turned to the kinds of instruments we were interested in. On my way back to Alaska from Southwestern, of course, I didn’t have my own guitar with me. The guitar I was playing was a Gretsch exactly like Chet Atkins often used, and I was having a blast. The instrument was on loan to me from a young fellow who normally played it for the camp meeting services. His dad worked at the L.D. Heater Music Company in Portland and he suggested I should go there after the camp meeting to look at a bunch of new guitars that had just come in.
You need to understand where I was musically at the time. It was in 1948, as I recall, that I heard Chet Atkins play his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Don’t forget. I was already playing the piano then – at age six – because my folks wanted me to be a pianist. Piano lessons were not my favorite thing in life at that age. Hearing Chet Atkins do the stuff he was doing on the guitar absolutely sold me. I made up my mind if he could do all that, so could I, and I eventually talked my dad into letting me take up the guitar – so long, of course, as my piano lessons continued.
I had poured myself into learning the guitar. It was hilarious. I’d wake up in the morning and go into the church so I wouldn’t wake up the family and practice until it was time to go to school. Lots of times when I got home at night, my Parki never came off before I grabbed the guitar and started practicing.
By 1959, I had become a reasonably credible musician and honed those God-given talents to a fare-thee-well – never mind the fact that I was only seventeen years of age. Following the Brooks Camp Meeting, I talked my mother into taking me to the L.D. Heater Music Company in Portland so I could “try out” some guitars.
One guitar really grabbed my attention so I picked it up, plugged it in, sat down and started playing. Like lots of musicians I know, I closed my eyes and was gone – oblivious to my surroundings, just lost in the music. (In those days, I hadn't yet come to recognize that my "getting lost" was just part of the spontaneous praise and worship that had become so much a part of me.) After some period, I opened my eyes and was surprised to find a gentleman standing there. He had been walking down the street, heard me playing, and come into the store to listen.
He nodded his approval when I caught his eye, and I kept on playing. After some 30 minutes or so – it was hard to believe he was still there – he introduced himself. (Sorry, I’ve forgotten his name.) He told me that he owned some clubs in Los Angeles, Los Vegas and Reno. “Come and play for me,” he said. “I’ll sign you to a contract for as long as you want. We’ll start you at $400 a night.”
Nahhh! Couldn’t be. It was a joke. 400 bucks a night? At seventeen years of age? I shook my head and turned back to the guitar.
This guy was persistent, though. “I’m serious, son! You’re unbelievably good on the guitar. You sound just like Chet Atkins. Come and play for me and I’ll hook you up with him. You guys can play together.”
Ouch! He sure knew how to hurt a guy! It still wasn’t real to me, though. I felt like this was all some kind of fantasy so I said to him, “No. I can’t do that. Besides, the only music I play is gospel music. I don’t play any popular music.”
He wasn’t about to let go. “Hey, I don’t care what kind of music you play. Play anything you like. Play your religious music. Just come and play for me.” Now he upped the ante. “Tell you what. You sign a contract with me and I’ll see that your folks get a new home. We’ll get you any kind of car you want to drive. Your family will be taken care of in style.”
This guy’s insistence was really beginning to get through to me. Maybe he was for real. No matter. “I’m sorry. The gifts and abilities I have come from the Lord. I promised Him a long time ago that I would use them to honor Him.” Now his frustration was beginning to show. Exasperated, he said, “Look! You name the ticket. Whatever you want, we’ll get you. Just come and sign a contract with me.”
All of a sudden, it was like I was seeing Jesus on top of the mountain being offered the kingdoms of this world by the devil. There wasn’t any way I could accept the offer. This guy might as well have been the devil for all I knew. He was trying to pull the same thing on me Jesus went through. He was offering power, prestige, material wealth – everything that folks need when they have to impress others.
“Sir, I really appreciate your offer. You need to understand that everything I have belongs to the Lord. I belong to Him. No matter what kind of offer you want to present, I just don’t see how my playing in one of your clubs so you can sell booze will be glorifying to the Lord.”
The words just came out. They weren’t planned. He scratched his head, muttered something unintelligible, turned and walked out the door, shaking his head in unbelief.
It was my first major victory over the Fear of Man. I just didn’t realize it at the time. There were lots of occasions in the years to come when the Enemy would remind me of my decision and point at my less-than-prosperous condition at the time and say, “See. Look what you missed out on!”
Fast forward to 1982. Having moved the CBN ministry to Fairbanks from Barrow had produced unexpected results. A new fellowship sprang up around the CBN operation. Many of the folks who had become counselors and people who responded to telephone calls from people in need wanted a separate fellowship. The churches they were a part of weren’t meeting their needs and they saw the potential for something new.
I wasn’t interested in competing with the local churches, so I set our meeting time for Sunday afternoon instead of the morning. I had rented a ten-bedroom home from another ministry to use as our interim headquarters. It had a pretty decent-sized living room, and folks began to congregate there on Sunday afternoons. In no time at all – a few weeks, if that – we had an average of 40 to 70 people gathering on Sunday afternoons.
Without the income from Arctic Slope Audio or North Slope Communications to fund us, I asked CBN in Virginia Beach for funds to help us get into a new operating center. It was the first time in nearly six years I’d ever asked them for anything. They responded, and we contracted with a builder to remodel a warehouse and turn it into offices and broadcast studios.
Before the place was even finished, we started moving our Sunday fellowship meetings into the main studio so we would have enough room for our gatherings. The growth of CBN’s operation and the sudden departure of a lot of folks from some of the local churches to participate or become part of our local House of Praise fellowship became an instant threat to some pastors.
It didn’t take too long for a letter-writing campaign to get under way from local church leaders as they launched attacks on me. One of the accusations was that our local ministry wasn’t answerable to anyone. It was a spurious charge, of course. We were answerable to CBN.
At an Area Directors’ conference in Virginia Beach, I asked some of the other directors how they would deal with the commotion. “Do you have a board of directors with your local ministry?” they asked. “Are you showing yourself as responsible and cooperative with the local ministerial community?” I didn’t want to appear as irresponsible and “out of submission” – never mind the fact that I had always felt that boards of directors were unscriptural. In order to please my detractors, therefore, I picked a group of people to serve as CBN-Alaska’s board.
Are you getting the picture? “In order to please my detractors…….?” Right!
Sitting in a board meeting one November Friday night with our newly formed board, I suddenly had a chill down my spine and the very real sense that I had just slammed the door on an otherwise-prospering ministry by trying to appear like everyone else. Listening to some of the new board members argue over their respective titles and positions was both disgusting and disheartening.
Funny part of it was, though, I was in the middle of teaching on the Fear of Man. The following Sunday, in the midst of teaching, I suddenly realized that I had succumbed once again to that spirit of fear in order to “please the people.” My prayer might surely have been different that day, had I realized the consequences of saying to the Lord, “tear it down, Lord! Tear it down! Don’t let this ministry simply become another clone or copy of all the other ministries that go through the motions and fail to become your voice and authority in the earth.”
Whewww!!! Better know what you’re praying and what’s going to happen when you mean it! Just six months later, CBN-Alaska closed its doors. The letter-writing campaign against us didn’t cease with the changes: they only increased. By March of 1983, things were unbelievably intense. I flew to Virginia Beach and offered to resign in order to defuse the opposition. No deal! They didn’t want my resignation.
Nevertheless, a corporate decision was made just weeks later to disband all affiliates around the country such as ours and re-centralize all CBN’s operations in Virginia Beach. Did the attacks on CBN-Alaska play a part? Perhaps. Other centers were getting some of the same opposition, though.
The decision to shut down came just as we were in the midst of dedicating CBN-Alaska’s new headquarters. From a personal standpoint, the timing couldn’t have been worse. From God’s standpoint, however, it was His mercy. He had clearly and unequivocally answered my prayer.
I have never established a board of directors for any ministry since, and have encouraged others to follow suit. There’s a big difference between having an advisory council and having a board of directors who can legislate decisions God has not directed the local shepherd or primary leader to follow. Titles are meaningless with God. They don’t impress Him one bit. The Fear of Man promotes decision-making that simply de-thrones God’s authority. It promotes titles, offices and positions that only puff up one’s ego. I’ve never regretted my prayer in spite of the consequences that followed.
Again, if you are in need of healing -- especially if you have some terminal disease or prognosis of a very short time to live from the doctors -- please join our prayer conference calls on either Monday or Wednesday of each week at 7:00 PM Eastern. Once again, the number to call is (805) 399-1000. Then enter the access code: 124763#. To get into the queue for prayer, when Randy opens the call up for everyone, hit *6-1 on your keypad. Let us minister to your need for healing!
Blessings on you!
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