Do not be Afraid

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As an aged priest performed the ritual of burning incense, an angel of the Lord appeared and spoke the first words that heaven had uttered in four centuries: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:13). God knows His creation so well. He knows that, because of the curse of sin, we live with fear. Fear makes us run. Fear makes us hide. Fear makes us cry out. Fear makes us worry.  So the very first thing God said after 400 years of silence is “Do not be afraid.”

I wonder this morning who needs to hear those words. I know I do. Every day the media bombards us with murders, hate, riots, and disease. Every day it seems evil becomes stronger and good withers away.  Every day satan stokes the fires of fear with his lies.

When fear tries to overtake me, I do two things. First, I ask God to flood my mind and heart with His peace. I don’t mean peace that sticks its head in the sand and ignores the realities of life. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and [here it is again] do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  Then He gave us the basis for this peace: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33). We can have peace in this world because Christ has overcome the world and all the things that make us afraid. Trouble is a reality, but trouble cannot defeat the Lord Jesus Christ nor His people.

The second thing I do is remind myself of the wonderful, all-consuming, love of God. 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and the love of God is a perfect love. Maybe that’s why the angel spoke those words as his greeting to Zechariah. Perfect love was coming from heaven to the earth.

Beloved, whatever fear has gripped your heart, grab hold of these two things: Jesus has overcome the world and God loves you. That ought to fill your heart with peace.

Don’t be Afraid, the End is Near!

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I am very dependent on my glasses to see past the nose on my face. This morning as I was getting out of the shower, I saw something I couldn’t make out on the towel rack – and my glasses were on the counter several feet away.  A lizard? Or a baby snake?! Maybe it was a piece of trash that missed the can below.  As I got closer I realized it was a shadow from the fold of the towel. What I thought was ominous turned out to be something else entirely.

A lot of scary stuff has been happening lately. The pandemic has turned the whole world upside-down and inside-out. Violence is rampant. Jesus warned that “Nation will rise against nation” (Matt 24:7), but here in the U.S., our nation is rising against itself. He said that there would be famines and earthquakes marking the beginning of the end. The UN sounded an alarm about famine as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and major earthquakes are on the increase worldwide. But the most critical evidence of the nearing end is in the hearts of people. Paul prophesied that “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim 3:2-5). If you don’t recognize all this in our world today, you’re living in a cave. It is very threatening.

I’m not about to say that the world’s problems and woes are simple, but for the believer in Christ they are not as frightening as they are promising. These are indeed signs of the end times, but looking closer we recognize them as signs of Christ’s return. Jesus warned that there would be an “increase of wickedness [and] the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). But He also said, “When you see all these things know that [the Lord] is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33).

Speaking of the last days, the angel of the Lord told Daniel, “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Dan. 12:10). Beloved, now is not the time to be frightened – it is the time to be wise. It is time to keep one eye on the eastern skies with great anticipation. The King is on His way!

Do Not Worry

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As I prepared the lesson for our Ladies Bible study group this week, I knew there was a lot of fear in a lot of hearts and minds because of this virus. So I asked God what message He wanted to bring to the group. He led me to Luke 12 and the Parable of the Rich Fool. A parable about greed. Thanks God, that’s gonna be real helpful.

But one key of studying the Bible is to look at the surrounding passages and as I did I began to see what God was up to. Let me set the stage. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who, after a bountiful harvest, decided to hoard up all he had, even though he had more than he needed. Sound familiar? The man would not enjoy his harvest though, for that night he would die. That’s pretty straight forward. Don’t be greedy. But look at the bigger picture. Before and after this parable, Jesus says over and over: “do not be afraid,” and “do not worry.” (Check out John 12:7, 11, 22, 25, 26, 29, 32.) He followed the parable with the famous discourse of the Father providing for the birds and the flowers – “how much more valuable are you than they?” (v. 24).

Worry and fear cause us to “run after” the things the world chases (v. 29-30) or to hoard up what we have in fear of not having enough (v. 16-19). Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been living out the illustration of this message as stores are stripped of basic necessities and people are stockpiling toilet paper. Jesus told us not to worry. Why? Because “your Father knows that you need [these things].” And because it delights the Father to provide for His children.

God knows all about this pandemic and the ripples it’s causing. He knows that these are scary times. He knows what you need. And He says, “Child, do not be afraid.” Beloved, your Father is the King of Heaven and Earth – what could you possibly have to worry about?

Peace When I am Afraid

“Peace! Do not be afraid.”  Judges 6:23

At Christmas we celebrate our loved ones with gifts.  We consider the recipient and choose carefully something that will have special meaning or significance to them.  I love to give gifts that I know someone would love, but that they wouldn’t get for themselves.  When God considered us, He chose to send us a gift that we couldn’t give ourselves – the gift of peace. This Advent season we rejoice in His promise of peace in the face of our fears.

One of the biggest barriers to peace is fear.  We have all experienced fear of some kind.  I have a fear of heights. One of my friends has a fear of crowds, another a fear of tight spaces.  Some fears are good for us, like the fear of snakes.  Some are common to most of us as in the fear of the dark.  For some people fear takes on irrational proportions and becomes an unhealthy psychological problem.  We live in a world that breeds fear and causes us to look at others with a question, “Should I be afraid of you?”

There is also fear that invades our minds and hearts – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death.  With so much to be afraid of, is there any way to be at peace?  Yes, because we have a Prince of Peace and His word to us is “Do not be afraid.”

In fact a search of those words shows at least 76 times in Scripture that we are told “do not be afraid.”  God knows us so well.  He knows that we will become fearful at times, and He knows we need His peace.

How can we have peace when we are afraid?  Psalm 56:3 is the perfect answer: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.”   The answer to fear is trust.  We can trust God and rest our fears because He is faithful.  His Word is filled with His promises, promises that will bring us peace if we will trust in the Promise-maker.  We have the promise that He will always be with us, as He told Joshua – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). We have the promise of His strength – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We have the promise of His deliverance – “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose” (Jeremiah 15:13).

We have the promise if His blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

This Advent season hear the angels proclaiming the greatest news man can ever know:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14 (KJV)

 Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our peace, I have your promises to bring me peace when I am afraid.  Thank you for knowing Your child so well and for giving me the gift of peace.  Amen.