5 Universal Fears


Marcus Buckingham, in his book The One Thing You Need to Know, writes about Donald Brown and his work on understanding universal needs and fears. Brown discovered that all societies, though they each have their uniqueness in regards to language and culture, have a shared nature.

Though Brown counts up to 372 human universals, Buckingham distills them down to 5. These 5 are paired into what we fear and what we need. Here are the 5…

1. Fear of Death — The Need of Security.  All societies have a fear of death and have laws against murder and suicide. 

2. Fear of the Outsider — The Need for Community. In all cultures,  children fear strangers. All societies also make distinctions between those who are a part of the group and those who are not.

3. Fear of the Future — The Need for Clarity. Societies are anxious about the future.  Many cultures give prestige to those who can predict the future.

4. Fear of Chaos — The Need for Authority. All cultures have a story of how the world came to be. All also have a desire for authority and to have someone in charge.

5. Fear of Insignificance — The Need for Respect. In every society there is a craving for prestige and the respect that comes with it. There is also a concept of acquiring a positive self-esteem.

What needs to be emphasized regarding these fears and needs is that they are, in fact, universal. Regardless of nation, people, or race, all societies have some sort of fear of death, outsiders, the future, chaos, and insignificance. Buckingham writes,

The fact that these universals exist imply that all humans share a common experience, we share common virtues and vices, and therefor that, if we are inquisitive enough, if we listen closely enough, we should be able to emphasize with and understand one another (p. 136).

For believers in Christ, we trust that the answer to these fears is the gospel. But before we dive into how the gospel works at dissolving these fears, I think it’s important to realize how, according to Tim Chester, they “offer a point of connection with people, a hook, an opportunity to engage.” He writes that “we need to connect the gospel with the specifics of people’s lives rather than, or as well as, starting with big metaphysical questions.”

We understand the fears of others because we have those same fears ourselves. We understand the need for security, community, clarity, authority, and respect as they are the same needs as those we work beside. The only difference in us, as Christ followers, is that we have begun to trust in the gospel as the salvation from our fears and the fulfillment of our needs.

But though we place our faith in Christ, we still struggle. We are not immune to fear or doubt. After all, we are not super saints, but normal ordinary people in need of saving. And as a result, we are able to identify with those around us and to offer the gospel to others at their point of need.

(Specifics on how the gospel speaks to these 5 fears will be found in tomorrow’s post.)

A Prayer For Worship


Glorious God,
It is the flame of my life to worship thee,
the crown and glory of my soul to adore thee,
heavenly pleasure to approach thee.

Give me power by thy Spirit to help me worship now,
that I may forget the world,
be brought into fullness of life,
be refreshed, comforted, blessed.

Give me knowledge of thy goodness
that I might not be over-awed by thy greatness;
Give me Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God,
that I might not be terrified,
but be drawn near with filial love,
with holy boldness;
He is my Mediator, Brother, Interpreter,
Branch Daysman, Lamb;
him I glorify,
in him I am set on high.

Crowns to give I have none,
but what thou hast given I return,
content to feel that everything is mine when it is thine,
and the more fully mine when I have yielded it to thee.

Let me love wholly to my Saviour,
free from distractions,
from carking care,
from hindrances to the pursuit of the narrow way.

I am pardoned through the blood of Jesus –
give me a new sense of it,
continue to pardon me by it,
may I come every day to the fountain,
and every day be washed anew,
that I may worship thee always in spirit and truth.

-taken from Valley of Vision 

The Power of 3 Words


What 3 words are needed when we make a mistake?

I was wrong!

What 3 words can restore a friendship?

I was wrong!

What 3 words are necessary to build a strong marriage?

I was wrong!

What 3 words do our children need to hear?

I was wrong!

What 3 words show true humility?

I was wrong!

What 3 words help create unity in the church?

I was wrong!

What 3 words lead you to acknowledge that you are a sinner?

I was wrong!

What 3 words combat pride?

I was wrong!

What 3 words lead to forgiveness?

I was wrong!

What 3 words are a sign of a repentant heart?

I was wrong!

What 3 words end a heated argument?

I was wrong!

What 3 words show the world our need for Christ?

I was wrong!

What 3 words show love to others?

I was wrong!

What 3 words are needed to be a great leader?

I was wrong!

What 3 words show our need for the cross?

I was wrong!

What 3 words cause us to rely on the grace and mercy of another?

I was wrong!

What 3 words cause us to take full responsibility for a sin?

I was wrong!

What 3 words must we speak from the heart?

I was wrong!

What 3 words spoken must never be followed by “but” or “however?”

I was wrong!

What 3 words are the most difficult for us to say?

I was wrong!


Around The Web


3 Ways To Recognize Bad Stats – We need to be shrewd when it comes to statistics and reality: things are not always as they seem.

Are Young Christians “Embarrassingly Ignorant” of Their Faith? – A Christian professor is tackling the claim that young believers are “embarrassingly ignorant” of their faith in a new book intended to answer some of theology’s most asked questions.

The Daily Routine of Geniuses – For these geniuses, a routine was more than a luxury — it was essential to their work.

Ten Things To Do During Suffering – We will all suffer, of that there is no doubt. It is strange, then, that we are often unprepared for it. With that in mind, a useful exercise is to summarize Scripture and identify what words of God can guide us when things are hard. 

Why It Is So Easy To Doubt Christianity – Christianity is the easiest religion to doubt. In fact, I think I would go as far to say followers of Christ doubt their faith more than followers of any other God.

This could be the solution to our addiction to smart phones!


A Little Book On A Big Topic


Throughout the history of the church, theology has played a vital role. It has led to revivals and reformations. Today however, some are worried that the theological task is becoming detached from everyday life and spirituality.  Kelly M. Kapic is one of those concerned and as a result,  has written a valuable  book called A Little Book for New Theologians (only 124 pages). 

“My worry,” writes Kapic, “is that in our day, for many of us, we have unintentionally cultivated what might be called theological detachment: such a view produces a divide between spirituality and theology, between life and thought, between faith and agency” (p. 9). Kapic, therefore, directs his book to those who are in the beginning stages of understanding the discipline of theology in hopes of guiding them away from its possible detachment from life and worship.

A Little Book for New Theologians is divided into two parts. In Part I, Kapic writes of why one should study theology. His basic argument is that one should embark on this pilgrimage in order “to know and enjoy God.” The study of theology therefore, should lead to worship. Kapic writes that when we understand the relationship between theology and worship, “we are moved beyond intellectual curiosity to an engaged encounter with the living God” (p. 37).

The heart of Kapic’s book is found in Part II. In this section, Kapic discusses the characteristics of faithful theology and theologians. These chapters are most helpful as he begins by insisting that theology not be separated from real life. He writes that “our theology can become corrupted because we neglect to attend to our lives, for true theology must always be true spirituality” (p. 45). We must, therefore, approach theology with humility and repentance, “ready to receive what God gives rather than impose preconceived ideas” (p. 75).

It is Kapic’s chapter “Suffering, Justice, and Knowing God” that I find most challenging. Kapic writes: “God judges our theology faithful or false by our attitudes and responses to those in need” (p. 83). In other words, the proof of us being good theologians is evidenced by how we treat other people. “Genuine concern for theological truth brings with it a concern for one’s neighbor,” writes Kapic, “because the true God is known by love” (p. 91).

After reading A Little Book for New Theologians, I felt the title was a bit misleading. There is no doubt this book will be tremendously helpful to those who consider themselves “new theologians.” However, I think this little book would be helpful reading to all believers. Kapic’s writing would be an encouragement to anyone seeking to understand the necessity of theology and its proper handling. After all, theology is not just for the classroom, but for the living room. Theology is for the church by the church.

So maybe a better title for the book could be A Little Book for Why All Followers of Christ Need to Be Engaged in Theology. The title’s probably too long, but nonetheless, I think it more accurately displays the purpose and importance of this book.




Behind Every Face Is A Story


We are quick to judge.

According to series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, “all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. And these quick first impressions, whether we like it or not, “play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated.”

This study by Willis and Todorov should not really surprise us. We see the same type thing recorded in Scripture. Remember when Samuel was told by God to find the new King of Israel from one of Jesse’s sons? When Samuel saw Eliab, the first of Jesse’s sons, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel:

 “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

 It’s not just the quick glance of someone’s face by which we form impressions however. I think other’s actions also play a significant part. Consider the man who takes up two parking spaces or the lady who cuts in front of you in line at Starbucks? Or what about the check-out clerk at the food store who slams your eggs in the basket? I’m not saying any of these actions are okay, but should we judge the whole person by them? If we knew the whole story of why they did what they did, it might make a difference in how we see them.

What do we do?

So how do we become less judgmental? How can we become more understanding and compassionate?  I think the place to start is to realize that behind every face is a story. The lady who is rude to you while buying your morning cup of coffee has a story. The gentleman who looks a bit unkempt at the drugstore has a story. Even the person who appears to have it all together has a story as even in laughter the heart may ache (Proverbs 14:13).

We should seek to understand. We should seek to listen to the stories behind the faces we encounter. We should seek to see people as people. Is this not, after all,  what it means to love your neighbor as yourself? (Matthew 22:39)

Several years ago, I discovered the song They Don’t Understand by Sawyer Brown. It speaks to what I have been referring to above. Therefore, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to end this article than to place some of the lyrics below.

A mother riding on a city bus
Kids are yelling kicking up a fuss
Everybody’s staring not knowing what she’s going through
Somebody said don’t you even care?
Do you let ’em do that everywhere?
She slowly turned around, looked up and stared
She said “Please forgive them
But they’ve been up all night
Their father struggled but he finally lost his fight
He went to heaven
In the middle of the night
So please forgive my children”

A man driving on the interstate
Slowing down traffic making everybody late
Everybody’s staring not knowing what he’s going through
Somebody honked from the passing lane
Yellin’ out the window, I ain’t got all day
The old man looked around and he caught his eye
He said please forgive me
You know it’s been a long life
My wife has passed away and my kids don’t have the time
I’ve been left all alone
And its getting hard to drive
So please forgive me 

(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s busy with their own situation
Everybody’s lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurry it up trying to make a dream come true
(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s living like there ain’t no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
Cause you never really know what your neighbor’s going through
(They don’t understand)

Remember, behind every face you see today, there is a story!

How Do We “SEE” Those Around Us?


What do you “see” when you look at those you come into contact with each day? How do you see the check-out clerk? Your boss? Your secretary? Your wait staff at the local restaurant? The barista who made your coffee? The stranger in line at the post office? The UPS driver?

Do you see people as people? Or do you see them as something else? Alicja Awanska, a Poland anthropologist, did a study of the people living in the northwestern United States. What she discovered was that they tended to divide their world into three categories…

Scenery. This includes things such as nature, weather, politics, and other things in which people have no control.

Machinery. These are “tools” that are used to help people accomplish their work. Machinery is anything used by people “to do the job.” They are possessions.

People. These are human beings who are seen as caring and feeling individuals. They relate well with one another for they are culturally alike.

 An interesting discovery in Awanska’s study is that the group she observed did not see everyone as people. They saw “strange people,” such as the American Indians, as scenery. They visited them much like one would visit a zoo. And they saw workers, such as Mexican migrant laborers, as machinery. They were valued only for what they could produce. The only ones viewed as people were family and friends (see chapter 3 in Paul G. Heibert’s book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries for more info on Awanska’s study).

Though Awanska’s study has obvious implications for cross-cultural engagement, I think it also speaks directly to how we tend to see those we encounter in our daily routines. Those we consider scenery are not only individuals who are strange to us, but also those we tend to not notice at all. They are like background music. This is especially true in our world of technology where smart phones continually have our attention.

The ones we see as machinery are usually administrative staff, the wait staff at restaurants, and any other individual that serves us. These are the ones that work for us in one way or another. We ask them, “Can I have more coffee?” “Can you mail this first class?” Can I have fries with this order?”

We must see people as people however. We must see others as ministry instead of scenery and machinery.  We must see others as Jesus sees them. The gospel writer Matthew records that Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).

Jesus saw people in need and had compassion. When he saw the woman at the well, he saw a woman with unmet desires (John 4). When Jesus met Zacchaeus, he saw a man confused about what would make him happy (Luke 19:1-10).  It was they, and us, whom Christ came to serve and to lay down his life (Mark 10:45).

So how do we see those around us? Do we see them as Christ sees them? Do we realize they are the ones for whom Christ came? Do we see them as people created in the image of God? Or do we see them as just scenery and machinery?


Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health


Are you spiritually healthy? Many times we evaluate spiritual health with actions such as church attendance, etc…, but spiritual health is much more than just activity. It involves the motivations and attitudes of the heart.

Donald Whitney, is his book Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, is of great help in guiding us to think about our spiritual growth. Listed below are the ten questions he asks us in order to analyze our spiritual health…

1. Do you thirst for God?

2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?

3. Are you more loving?

4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?

5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?

6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ (the church)?

7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you? (ie. Bible study, prayer)

8. Do you still grieve over sin?

9. Are you forgiving of others?

10. Do you yearn for Heaven and to be with Jesus?