Fear

I said earlier in the month that our difficulties were as diverse as our personalities. Our fears are diverse as well. I don’t write or talk about this often because I’m ashamed of it, but I have a real phobia of dogs. Intellectually I know not all dogs are the same, and that it’s unlikely I would be bitten by a dog in a public place, but I still tense up if I’m with somebody and a person with a dog walks past us.

1 John 4:18 says perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and that the one who fears is not made perfect in love. Really, this is logical. If I had the same love for dogs as I do for people, I wouldn’t distrust them. Perhaps you’ve known someone for a while, and there’s something about yourself you’re afraid to admit to them. If you could be sure they loved you perfectly, that fear wouldn’t be there. Fear of the future is considerably less for me because I know my God loves me and delights in my wellbeing.

Maybe you’re telling yourself that as humans, we can’t show that perfect love to each other, but Jesus commands His followers: “Love each other as I have loved you.” With His Spirit living in us, we have the power to show extraordinary love.

Let’s be people whose love calms the fears of others.

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Doubting his Calling?

I was reading the beginning of Acts 11 this morning, and it got me thinking. You know how in those stories you know really well, an earlier part can remind you of what happens later? Yeah, it was a bit like that.

I was reading about when Peter returned from telling the good news about Jesus to Cornelius and watching his household being filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people thought this good news should only be told to Jews, and Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, so Peter came in for a bit of criticism. Fresh from witnessing God’s power, this opposition didn’t faze him at all. You see, Peter himself had been reluctant to associate with non-Jews, but in Acts 10:9-20, God had shown him a vision of animals Jews were forbidden to eat and said: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean.” So, Peter described the vision he’d had in the previous chapter as his reason for visiting Cornelius. Great! What a transformation!

But later on, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that Peter ate with non-Jews, but when some strict Jews came along, he started to back away from them. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opposed Peter to his face ‘Because he stood condemned’. (I love how Paul confronts these issues.) Why did Peter stand condemned? Because God had already revealed how He wanted him to treat people: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean”, but instead of being led by the Spirit of God, Peter was acting in fear – backing away from the non-Jews because he was afraid of those who were Jewish like himself.

What about the vision? What about the power God had given Peter to communicate with non-Jews? Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to that day in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent came along. “Did God really say …?” As time passes, it can be so easy to let doubt creep into our minds, but Paul tells us: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Instead of walking in the flesh (in our fears or doubts), let’s walk according to God’s Spirit and be faithful to our callings.

The Thing About Curses

“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest” (Proverbs 26:2).

 

I wanted to share this verse today because when I’ve heard in the past about people being cursed I’ve felt some fear, but I think this does something to dispel that.  The New Century Version is the Bible I read most, and this verse in the NCV makes it even clearer.  “Curses will not harm someone who is innocent; they are like sparrows or swallows that fly around and never land.”

 

The thing about curses is, they needn’t rest on us.  When we put our trust in Jesus, God looks at us through Him, and it’s as if He’s looking through rose-tinted glasses.  Because of Jesus, our guilt is gone.  God sees us as innocent/blameless, and that’s what gives us authority over our enemy, the devil.  In this authority that Jesus has passed on to us, there’s power available to break every curse.

 

There are some times (and this is one of them) when I feel that what Jesus has done for us is too high and too wonderful for me to fully comprehend it, and all I can say is thank You.

Behind Locked Doors

“The lazy person says, ‘There’s a lion outside!  I might get killed out in the street’” (Proverbs 22:13).

 

Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve never said that, but I have had that kind of attitude.  In worrying there’s a lion outside, what’s the lazy person doing?  Finding an excuse not to go out.  If I don’t have the confidence to do something, I’ll find excuses too.

 

I’ve never had much confidence on buses.  I’ve been on them before, with somebody helping me on at one end and someone else meeting me the other, but never by myself.  My excuses?  There’s a whole list.  I know bus-drivers have to run to a timetable, and that bus companies aren’t always very sympathetic to the passengers.  I can just imagine a driver speeding away while I’m still fumbling around with my cane, trying to find where the steps are to get into the bus.  Some of the seats on buses don’t have seatbelts, and a lady I know fell off one of those seats when the bus lurched forward, thankfully not breaking anything but ending up very bruised.  Trains are better because you can book the assistance, but you can’t on buses, so if I ever had to change buses to get somewhere, the thought of getting off one bus and finding where my next one has stopped all by myself is very daunting.

 

See what I mean?  But I know blind people do manage not only to get on and off buses, but to swap between one and another.  To tell you the truth, I’m embarrassed I can’t do it.  I think I’d have a fuller life if I could, but where to start?  With my local shops near enough to walk to, it’s so much easier just to carry on doing only the things I need to, and keep my list of excuses.

 

Maybe I’m just like that lazy person …

 

But I shouldn’t be.

 

Last Sunday, we sang a song at church:

“There is power in the name of Jesus

“To break every chain”.  We’ve sung it lots of times before, but this time, I thought about my life and really felt that God wouldn’t want me stuck behind my front door as much as I am.  Then my pastor preached on John 20:19-23 – Jesus’ followers after His resurrection, stuck behind locked doors for fear of the Jews!  The locked doors didn’t get in Jesus’ way.  He appeared despite them and His first word to them was ‘Peace’.  What if God wants to break our chains, and give us peace instead of fear?

Our Conquering

Over the Sundays of Advent this year, we’re thinking about the Christmas story.  This is part 3, and you can read parts 1 and 2 here.

 

Three months after Mary visited Elizabeth, John was born, and Zechariah got his voice back.  Picture that house in those first few months – baby John crying at the top of his lungs, Dad shouting and praising and laughing, Mum sleepless and probably wondering where that peace and quiet went!

 

And six months later, it was time for another birth.  People took commitment very seriously in those days and once you were promised to someone in marriage, you were virtually part of their family, so Mary had gone to Bethlehem with Joseph.  It was Joseph’s hometown and they needed to register for the census, which the government was taking.  All those years ago, Micah the prophet had talked about Bethlehem being the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2-4).  Now here they were in Bethlehem, when the time came for Mary’s baby to be born.  That must have filled her with wonder all over again.

 

The news was told to some shepherds outside the town.  If you can imagine a class system, shepherds would be the lowest of the low, and yet the angel of the LORD appeared to them.  “Do not be afraid,” he said.  “I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people” (Luke 2:10).

 

Soon a whole company joined the angel and the sky was filled with praises to God!  Then the angels left the shepherds to spring into action, but what would have happened if they’d all looked up at the sky, laughed nervously, shook their heads and said:  “Can it be true?  What would a Saviour want with scum like us?  We’re not sure about this; let’s not go to Bethlehem”?  If they’d let fear stop them, what a miserable night it would have been – no hurrying to Bethlehem; no finding Jesus in the manger; no glorifying and praising God; no bubbling over with joy and telling everyone they came into contact with …  Just another night watching their sheep.  As the years went on, the encounter with the angels might just have seemed like a distant dream.

 

Have you had good news lately that you’re afraid to accept?  In every area of our life, we’ve got to conquer fear before we can live in faith.  If you’ve had good news, can I encourage you to embrace it?  To celebrate it?  To live it?

Yesterday

I did something yesterday that I do just a few times a year; I went on a train-journey, and I want to thank God for the way He provided for me.  Although enjoyable it was looking to be a bit of a challenging day, so I said to Him:  “Please could I have a Scripture for the day, or more than one?”  And what unread messages do I open before I go?  This one with a tonne of Bible-verses in, and this reminder about grace.  They really helped.

 

If you remember my post about the 2 questions I asked God, you’ll know why fear bothers me, and yet it’s been a weakness of mine.  My big struggle has been a phobia of dogs.  On the train about halfway through my outward journey, a dog barked.  It was a few seats in front of me; I didn’t know exactly where, and I didn’t know whether the owner would let it walk around the train a bit.  I stiffened a little, but then I decided to get out the Bible-verse I had carried in my handbag for a month or so – the one that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I kept it in my hand for a while, and again this really helped – just to have a tangible reminder.  When I felt my body tense up, I told myself:  “I can do ALL things, even being on a train with dogs, through Christ who gives me strength.”  Eventually I put the card away and sat there quite normally, which was a miracle and I don’t say that lightly.

 

I got to where I needed to be and was all for doing what I could while I was there to do it, but once we’d done the most important things, my friend said:  “I just want to chat to you for a bit.”  Then God answered my morning’s prayer again and I thought of Martha and Mary.  Just sitting with one another is important too.

 

On the way back, when a train had stopped at the platform and no member of staff came to help me onto it, a lovely lady heading for the same train said:  “You’re welcome to get on with me.”  And when we had to wait for police to remove someone from the train, even though thanks to recent events in Boston my first thought was terrorism, I had complete peace that it was going to be ok.  We soon found it was just someone trying to get out of paying for his ticket.

 

So, don’t tell me God doesn’t care, because I probably won’t believe you.

A-Z: Questions

Q is for questions, and I want to tell you about a time I asked God some questions during one week, and didn’t tell anyone about them.  The questions were these:  1.  Is fear a sin? And 2.  What does yoke mean?  I knew the Bible talked about Christians not being yoked with people who didn’t believe, but what did that mean exactly?  Did it mean I shouldn’t have close relationships with non-Christians – shouldn’t spend much time with them?

 

When I got to church on Sunday night, it wasn’t our pastor preaching, but a man who was at the time a prison chaplain.  He gave his sermon a title:  “The Sin of Fear and Worry”, and guess what he slotted somewhere into the middle of it?  “Yoke means to become someone’s disciple.”  To become someone’s disciple – to follow their ideas in other words.  God really does hear our questions and answer them!

 

Is there a question you’d like to ask God?  Why not ask it this week and see what He does?