Fear! No Fear!

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Mary praises God saying, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Zechariah, on the other hand, says, “We, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74). Which is it? Does He have mercy on those who fear or can we serve Him without fear? Yes! I admit, it is possible Zechariah is referring to a fear of the enemies. That is, he might be saying that because we are delivered from our enemies, we can serve God without fearing them. That is a lot like the prayer we hear so often in worship assemblies today saying, “Thank you for letting us gather here without fear of persecution.” My struggle with that is when Christianity started, that is exactly what all Christians faced. Perhaps we can read this as we have no reason to fear our ultimate enemy, Satan. There is definitely truth to that. I can worship God without fear that Satan is going to win. However, I think this struggle we have between scriptural commands to fear God and scriptural promises that we don’t need to fear God comes down to a very simple principle. It was one I was taught back in my college days when I was trained as a trim carpenter. A table saw is a powerful thing. One wrong move, and a finger is gone or an artery cut, and you’re bleeding out on the wood (my boss was always more concerned about blood getting on the wood than leaving my body). However, when you recognize the power and fear it–not a paralyzing terror, but a healthy fear–then you take the proper precautions. When you take the proper precautions, you don’t have to fear the saw. Another illustration comes to mind. When driving, if I fear getting a speeding ticket, I drive the speed limit. When I drive the speed limit, I don’t have to fear a speeding ticket. As odd as it sounds, my fear removes the need for my fear. God has mercy on those who fear Him. Because of that, we have no need to fear Him. Today, because you fear God, go forth without fear.

Next week’s reading is Luke 2.

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Today’s reading is Revelation 4.

I find it interesting and a little bit challenging, when I search my photo stock using the word “worship,” especially connected with images of “Christian worship,” I am inundated with pictures of people standing up, eyes closed, faces to heaven, arms upstretched. However, when I look through the Bible at pictures of worship, what I find (Old and New Testaments) is people falling down, laying on the ground, bowing, casting off crowns. Don’t get me wrong, I know men are to lift holy hands in prayer. I know through Jesus Christ we are forgiven and undefiled, therefore we have confident access to God’s presence, and we don’t have to come into it with self-flagellation, scraping on the floor, and begging for entrance. Therefore, I don’t want to establish some bodily posture rule about worship. Nor do I want to paint with such a broad brush as to say every prostrate worshiper has the right mindset and every upright worshiper does not. But I wonder if this stark contrast in the majority of “pictures” between modern Google and ancient Bible demonstrates some kind of shift in our view of worship. Obviously, each of us must examine our own heart regarding what we are doing in worship. Here is what I do know. No matter how we are sitting, standing, laying prostrate, raising hands, worship is the casting down of our own selves and our own worthiness before the Lord who is the only worthy One. Whether our bodies lie prostrate or not, worship is the prostration of our hearts and minds before a holy God who was and is and is to come, who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because He is creator and we are creation. And whether we are actively involved in a worship action or not, this must be the state of our heart before God at all times. He is worthy. Praise God!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 5

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I Think I Can

Today’s reading is Matthew 17.

Sadly, more Americans base their lives on “The Little Engine that Could,” than on Jesus Christ. You know the story. The little train engine started up the hill and slid back down and tried again and again. Finally, as it started up for a final attempt, it repeated to itself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” and finally did. And now another generation knows that success comes from believing in ourselves. I’m sure there are some aspects of life where that really does work. However, it won’t work for spiritual success. When the apostles couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus wasn’t telling them, “If you just believe in yourselves more.” He was telling them, “If you believe in Me.” When we are climbing up the spiritual hill, repeating “I think I can, I think I can” will only lead to failure. We can’t. If we could, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die and God wouldn’t have needed to send the Holy Spirit. Rather, we need to declare again and again, “I know Jesus will; I know Jesus will.” Then take another step in the faith that Jesus will give us the strength to take that step and then another and then another. And in those moments when the enemy knocks us down and tries to convince us we can’t, get back up and repeat, “I know Jesus will; I know Jesus will.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 18.

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Suit Up and Fight

Today’s reading is Ephesians 6.

I love the parallels in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays that we may be full of God’s power, recognizing God’s power in us can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think. That leaves me wondering, “Okay, what must I do?” Do we just sit around and wait for that empowering? Do we cooperate in some way? Then Paul gets to Ephesians 6:10-20 and tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” He basically tells us to suit up and fight. Did you notice how? The armor of God is truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word. I can’t help but recognize something about that whole list. They are all found by us in God’s Word: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “All scripture is…profitable…for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13); “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17); “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15); “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Do you want to be strengthened by the power and might of the Lord?  Suit up for battle with God’s Word. There is no other way for us to prepare to fight. But then we need to fight. Did you notice how? “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” How many times do we skip prayer because we think we have to get into the fray? And then how many times do we walk away beaten and battered? Be strong in the strength of the Lord. Suit up and fight. Wear the Word; battle with prayer. If you haven’t done this yet today, get after it.

Monday’s reading is Philippians 1.

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God’s Power In Us

Today’s reading is Ephesians 3.

Talking about amazing examples of God’s power in us, have you considered the apostle Paul? God’s power raised Jesus from the dead and sat Him in the heavenly places above every rule, authority, and power. When we were dead in sin, His power did the same for us, sitting us alongside Jesus. But in case you have trouble believing that, look at Paul. The gift of God’s grace was given to Paul by the working of God’s power. Think about what that power did. It took a man who was the enemy of Christ’s church, who was a minion of the rulers, authorities, and powers who are against us, and turned him into an ambassador for Christ’s kingdom. WOW!!! Would you have thought that was possible? I can imagine first century Christians praying that God would deliver them from Paul, do you think any of them had Paul’s conversion in mind? That is the true power of God. Power that was not only displayed toward Paul in his salvation, but also displayed toward God’s kingdom by removing enemy #1 who was attacking, persecuting, destroying and directing all his talents and gifts in the exact opposite direction–growing the kingdom. That is power. And that is the power that can, will, and does work in us. Praise the Lord!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Ephesians 4.

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In Heavenly Places

Today’s reading is Ephesians 1.

As we read Ephesians, stay tuned to “power.” It’s a competition. There are powers attacking us. But there is Power for us. The attacking powers were demonstrated when Jesus was hung on the cross and executed. But God’s power was demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned Him in the heavenly places far above every other rule and power. Whatever comes at us, remember the Power that is for us. He is the one who provides blessings in the heavenly places.

Monday’s reading is Ephesians 2.

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The Real Strength

Today’s reading is Romans 4.

Can I correct what I believe is a common misunderstanding. To some, this may just seem like being worried about words, but I think the way we say things sometimes misleads us and has negative consequences. I have said and heard many others say, “If God commanded it, you can do it. God won’t command anything you can’t do.” I’d like to modify that. “If God commanded it, He will strengthen you to do it. God won’t command anything and leave you helpless to accomplish it.” Consider Abraham. God promised a descendant. But Abraham knew his body and Sarah’s womb were dead. Yet, he was fully convinced God was able to do what He promised. Abraham’s faith was not in his own ability to obey God’s precepts, but in God’s ability to keep His promises. Therefore, he kept stepping out in faith. He knew that with God, he could mount up on wings like eagles, he could run and not be weary, walk and not faint. So, he jumped off the cliff, he started running, he put one foot in front of the other, not because he believed he could do those things, but because He believed God would do those things through Him. Then when he was done, he gave the glory to God because he knew God was the strength. Don’t obey God today thinking, “I can obviously do this because God tells me to.” Instead, obey God today, take those footsteps of faith, thinking, “God will do this through me because He tells me to.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 5.

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