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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Walk In Truth and Love

Today’s reading is 2 John 1.

If John is interested in anything in this very brief letter, it is clearly 1) Truth and 2) Love. He loves the “elect lady” in truth. So do all who know the truth because truth abides in us. He rejoiced because some of her children walk in truth. He asked her to follow the old commandment to love one another. Of course, loving one another means walking according to the commandments. The reason truth and love are important is because deceivers have gone into the world. Don’t greet these deceivers otherwise you have become a partaker in their lack of truth and love. Truth and love. Love and truth. They go together. In fact, they cannot be separated. If you aren’t walking in love, it isn’t truth. If you aren’t walking in truth, it isn’t love. How will you walk today?

Tomorrow’s reading is 3 John 1.

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On Rules and Relationship

Today’s reading is John 14.

We hear people today say, “It’s not about rules its about relationship.” And, in some ways I get that. However, I wonder what Jesus would say to that. “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Today, make it about your relationship with the Father. Today, live so the world will know you actually love the Father. Today, keep His commandments. Because asserting that you aren’t going to worry about His commandments because you are more about your relationship with God than the rules of God simply doesn’t make biblical sense. Love God today.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 15.

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Listen to Jesus

Today’s reading is John 13.

Poor Peter. He just didn’t get it. But I completely understand why he did what he did. I can almost imagine as Jesus was washing feet that Peter thought this was a test. He was sure that because Jesus was the Christ, He shouldn’t act like a servant and wash feet. When Jesus got to him, he wasn’t going to stand for it. But Jesus was patient. He explained this wasn’t a test. If Peter wouldn’t allow the foot washing, he had no part in Jesus. So then Peter went the other way, “I want a huge share in you. Wash not only my feet, but my head and hands as well.” But he still didn’t get it. And this is the struggle when we try to intuit what Jesus wants instead of just listening to what He says and watching what He does. We are supposed to judge with a right judgment (John 7:24). Not everything gets spelled out. Some things are implied. We can draw some conclusions based on those implications. However, we need to realize that just because some judgment seems logical to us, doesn’t make it so. We need to trust that Jesus knows what He is about. Rushing ahead of Him in our haste and in our judgment is dangerous business. Trust Jesus. Listen to Him. Don’t get ahead of Him. Just follow Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 14.

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God’s Glory Matters; God’s Authority Matters

Today’s reading is John 7.

Why does the issue of authority matter? Is it because we have to prove we are better at keeping rules? Is it because if we don’t cross all the Ts and dot all the Is we’ll go to hell? Is it because we have to earn our way into heaven by following the pattern? No. None of these things is the reason. The reason authority matters is because God’s glory matters. When I act on my own authority, I’m seeking my own glory. When I’m seeking God’s glory, I act on His authority. It’s just that simple. Whose glory are you seeking? How can you tell?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 8

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Charge That to My Account

Today’s reading is Philemon 1.

Talk about walking in the footsteps of Jesus. If Onesimus owed Philemon anything, Paul says, “Charge that to my account.” “I will repay it,” Paul says. And then he points out, “To say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” There is just so much in this statement. First, Paul was willing to pay another’s debts. He was willing to act as Jesus did paying our debts. Second, he was asking Philemon to exact the payment from him instead of Onesimus, but then reminding him that the account was so far in Paul’s favor that when Philemon charged the debt of Onesimus to Paul, Philemon would still owe Paul and not the other way around. Think about that for a moment. Isn’t that exactly the way we should treat the sins of others? Jesus went to the cross to the pay our debts. When others sin against us, He is asking us to charge that to His account. He will pay the debt. However, we are so far in His debt that when He pays the price for those who have sinned against us, we are still in the red ourselves. Let’s keep in mind that when we are forgiving others, we are really charging those debts to Jesus’s account. Then, let’s remember how much He has already paid on our account. Is there anyone today whose charge you need to lay on Jesus’s account?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Timothy 1.

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Disbelieve and Disobey

Today’s reading is Hebrews 3.

We often get into arguments about salvation, wanting to know which matters more: belief or obedience. Today’s reading gives some insight. But it answers a different question. Which matters more: disbelief or disobedience? The answer is…both. God told those who were disobedient that they wouldn’t enter His rest. But they were disobedient because they disbelieved. In other words, you can’t really separate the two. Disobedience stems from and follows on the heals of disbelief. If you have one, you automatically have the other. I can tell someone doesn’t believe because they refuse to obey. This answers our other question. People obey when they believe. They disobey when they don’t. If they don’t believe, they won’t obey. If they believe, they won’t disobey. The point is, biblically, you really can’t separate faith and obedience. They go together. They are heads and tails of the same coin. And so, the author of Hebrews tells us we need to believe and obey Jesus better than the Israelites did Moses, because Jesus is better. Believe Him, obey Him, and enter His rest.

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 4.

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