I am a fanatic about freedom. And I’m fanatical about coming at you hard in this book. I’m tired of seeing people beaten down by the world’s systems and by religion. I’m sick of seeing people live safe, predictable lives while their God-given passion dies. God’s offering real freedom. Get yours.
* We haven’t stayed in business for over 200 years by giving away free books.
The End of Fear
I am a fanatic about freedom.
When actor Charlie Sheen was using drugs, his dad, Martin Sheen, says he became a fanatic: “When a life is at stake and it’s your child’s, you become fearless in a lot of ways. I mean, you just become a fanatic. Nothing ever gets done unless it’s done by a fanatic.”
I’m fanatical about coming at you hard in this book. I’m tired of seeing people beaten down by the world’s systems and by religion. I’m sick of seeing people live safe, predictable lives while their God-given passion dies. I hate the assumption that getting close to God means more rules and restrictions. I’m also pissed that I’ll have to fight to keep the word pissed in this book because the publisher will want to cave to more conservative types who want to keep everyone boxed into a specific type of language.
Let’s get over ourselves. Let’s get over such fearful living.
Right now, I’m living in freedom and loving it. It’s the most helpful grid through which I make decisions, and it’s my biggest joy. Nothing else works for me--no set of rules, no self-improvement plan, no religion. My life isn’t perfect, and I’ve had to work through some hard spots, but now I’m experiencing the kind of freedom God offers--and it’s a blast. That’s why I’m writing this: I want you to experience the same thing.
As I live out freedom, though, the things I say might cause objections. Bible-thumpers could be concerned that I’m not honoring God. Psychologists could be concerned that I’m a narcissistic daredevil. Most Americans will be concerned that I’m being irresponsible. But like I said, I’m a fanatic about freedom, so I’m giving this all I’ve got. Tackling freedom is like joining a revolution--and that revolution is happening in the communities I encounter.
Jesus’ message floored His culture, just like it floors ours. His main thing was teaching about the Kingdom of God, and the freedom that kingdom offers is a revolution that gets people fired up because they’re experiencing God’s love and giving it to others. This kingdom was and is completely unexpected.
While people expected the Messiah to bring a huge street rebellion or a rigid institution of new religious laws, instead they got Jesus saying, “Love each other, love me, and you will experience the best of this life.”
We don’t need another book about the cross. As offensive as that statement might sound, it’s true. That important topic has been dissected every which way possible. But a book on freedom? Yes. We need it badly. Nearly all of the “Christian literature” you’ll find about freedom is telling us to limit our freedom. Really?! What about “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”? The Bible doesn’t say, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is restriction,” or “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is morality.” And the Bible definitely doesn’t say, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is fear.”
We sing that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It may be true that our Constitution protects our liberties like no other country, but if you look at the way we really function, it’s according to fear. A better descriptor of us today is that we’re the Land of the Fear and the Home of the Slave. Fear obstructs our understanding and route to freedom. In fact, it is the single biggest enemy of freedom, and it isn’t until you get to the other side of fear that you experience the good stuff.
Have you noticed how nearly all lead news stories are based on fear? “Your microwave could kill you! Shocking details at eleven.” Media is more enthusiastic about reporting on the economy’s downturn than its upturn, reporting rape cases more often than rescues, and broadcasting people’s mistakes rather than their successes. Even though we’re watching and reading to be informed, in reality most media organizations exist only to hold our attention long enough for us to watch the advertising--where they make the big green. Unfortunately for us, we’re drawn to things that strike fear and paranoia in us or things that make us believe that if we have this new “information,” the things we fear won’t happen.
We lead the world in popping pills to make us feel better and we go through endless therapy for things we can’t get freed from. We brace ourselves when something bad happens because “tragedy comes in threes.” We can’t fully enjoy a trip to beach because we’re afraid of getting skin cancer. We avoid the “bad” parts of the city and subconsciously teach our children to fear anyone who isn’t from our own culture. We’re too nervous about the reputation of Halloween and poisoned candy that we can’t sit outside with our neighbors and eat KitKats together. We won’t spend time with homosexuals because we’re heterosexual and we fear that maybe we’ll send them the wrong message, so we miss out on a person’s individuality and on becoming engaged in his or her life.
American Christians, especially, live in this Land of Fear. That’s ironic, because the core of the Christ-following life is about overcoming fear and bondage. The entire Kingdom of God is about freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.” We’ve been freed from sin, and therefore we are free to have joy. Why is that so hard for us to accept? The Bible says God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. This means that whenever we feel fearful, we are out of sync with the Spirit of God for that moment.
Here’s something else to think about: fear is the starting point of purchasing insurance. There isn’t another society in the world’s history that has had as much insurance as modern-day Americans. I’m calling myself out here, because I have every kind of insurance known to man: life, disability, medical, auto, home, canine. (Okay, I don’t have canine insurance, but I’m sure I have some type of coverage to protect me in the event of Stanley’s untimely demise.) Now, given my stage in life and my financial standing and obligations, I think it’s responsible for me to have this coverage, but I can’t help wondering if an unrealistic fear of the unknown doesn’t cause me to pass this off as “responsible” when it might just be really neurotic. Is insurance bad? No. But what’s bad is that some of us are trying to purchase security. Insurance can’t give us security or power; only God can.
When I was a kid, I broke bones three times when riding my bike. Yet, I kept riding. Without a helmet, too--as God intended. How many of us had helmets when we were growing up? If you are over forty years old, you know where I’m going with this. No one wore a helmet while riding a bicycle. If my friends caught me wearing a helmet, they would have beaten me about the head with blunt objects. We didn’t go river rafting with a helmet. We didn’t do ropes courses with a helmet. Yet, if I’d invested in helmet stock when I was eighteen, I’d be a millionaire right now.
I’m not really against helmets. What I’m against is their representation of our fear. (I don’t mean to offend you, but if you put a helmet on your three-year-old when he’s in the basement riding his tricycle, you are overly fearful, and you’re probably conditioning your child to be fearful--and there is little chance you are going to read any more of this book.) Remember the controversy around the Beijing Olympics when China’s female gymnasts were called out for being too young to compete? In the MSNBC article, “Why Restrict Ages Anyway?” it said this: “The reason the Chinese might have to tell a fib? Simple, young girls make perfect gymnasts, with their bodies and minds uncluttered with the fear of falling and failure.”
I don’t want to live a life cluttered with the fear of falling and failure. One statement I make to myself--and this represents my opposition to fear--is that when riding my motorcycle in states that don’t require helmets, I don’t wear one. I hesitate to write this because I anticipate that many of you will immediately lose respect for me and give me guilt. You’ll think I’m reckless, selfish, or stupid. Okay, maybe I am stupid. No doubt that if I wreck and suffer brain damage that a helmet would have saved me from, I’ll regret riding with only my bandanna. But on all those days that I don’t wreck, I win. I don’t have wind fighting my helmet, and I don’t get those endless vibrations that slightly blur my vision. My head is cooler, and of course, I look cooler. There’s a tension, of course, between acting responsibly and acting out of fear. I recognize that. But God regularly embraces people who do dangerous things.
A guy named David kills a lion. Samson takes a donkey’s jawbone and uses it as a hatchet to kill his enemies. Esther risks death and confronts a king. Paul continually gets in situations where he’s shipwrecked, beaten, and abused. If we think something isn’t “safe,” we think God’s not into it. It’s time to change that mentality, because God was in all of the above and in much of what we may be denying ourselves or running away from. Fear might keep you from going places you could enjoy, talking with people who could expand your thinking and trying things that will grow you.
I also believe that fear is not just a negative emotion--it’s a cancer. It’s a full-on assault from an evil force who wants you belittled and your life (your living-life-for-all-it’s-worth-and going-for-the-gusto life) destroyed. If we saw someone in a casket at the end of his life, surrounded by people saying, “He was responsible, rational, and upstanding,” then we should conclude, No, fear sapped the vigor out of who this guy really could have been.
I don’t want that for you. I want you to experience what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
God’s primary mission is liberation. He not only wants to liberate us from our fears, grievances, addictions, petty preoccupations, and dozens of other distractions--but He’s also about freeing the very planet we live on: “That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
By the way, I’m going to use a lot of Scripture in this book. I’m not assuming you believe everything in the Bible, but you’ll see that these freedom thoughts are ancient. If you do believe the Bible, you’ll see that you can’t get away from the freedom message.
This book is about you having a life void of fear and rife with freedom. It’s about casting off whatever hinders you and going after the grand adventure of experiencing God while you experience all of life. You can have peace--living free from the burdens of your past mistakes and others’ expectations.
You can wake up excited and full of hope. You can have the sort of joy you thought only kids could have. And best I can, I want to help you get there.
If you are up for this message, strap on your helmet and let’s get started. Or better yet, take it off.