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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Hope, God, & Godliness

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 4.

Our hope is set on God. He is the Savior. He alone is the Savior. Our hope is not set on wealth. Our hope is not set on health. Our hope is not set on family. Our hope is not set on our job. Our hope is not even set on ourselves. We are not our own saviors. We cannot save ourselves. God is our hope. The natural consequence of our hope is not what many believe. Today, when some hear that God is our hope of salvation and we are not, they believe the natural consequence is godlessness. That is, they believe this truth about God’s grace and salvation will lead us to abandon God’s will. After all, if I don’t earn salvation by obeying God, why obey God at all? But this is not the natural consequence of our hope. The natural consequence of our hope is actually godliness. It is reverence for and submission to God. Really, it makes sense. If God is my hope, I won’t abandon Him or ignore Him, I will seek Him and serve Him. He is my only hope, why would I respect and respond to anyone else? God is our only hope, let us, therefore, search Him out and surrender to Him. Let’s do this today.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

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“Jesus is Lord!”

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.

Okay, wait a minute. Paul says, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus is accursed!'” And yet, Paul, speaking in the Spirit of God, just said those very words. What’s up with that? His point is not that someone in God’s Spirit can’t even utter those words in any context. His point is people who abide in God and His Spirit know Jesus is Lord. Anyone who truly denies Jesus’s lordship is separate from God. No matter how spiritual they seem, no matter how nice they are, no matter what good works they do, they are not in God and God’s Spirit is not within them. In like manner, his point about those who say, “Jesus is Lord” is not that people separate from God are physically unable to say those words in any situational context or that they are unable to fake it. Neither is he saying that anyone who makes this claim is automatically right with God just by saying these words. His point is everyone who sincerely and truly confesses and surrenders to the lordship of Jesus has the same Holy Spirit we do. They may not have the same gifts, abilities, opportunities, and resources as we do. They may be at a different level of spiritual maturity. They may have a completely different ethnic background, skin color, gender, national history, language, socio-economic class, but they are filled by the same Spirit. Since we have the same Spirit, let us work together in the same Body, remembering we are not only members of that same Body but members of one another.

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.

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Keep Watch

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 4.

Paul is talking to Timothy as an evangelist, a proclaimer of the gospel, a disciple-making disciple. His instruction? “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Do you want to make disciples, saving those who hear you? Morning and night, waking or sleeping, at home and out in public, keep watch on yourself and on what you teach. Let’s face it. We’re all going to mess up sometimes in deed and in word. However, that isn’t permission to be reckless in either. Practice what you teach. Immerse yourself in it. Then be amazed at how you grow in it and how others even notice, though you aren’t doing it for that purpose. Keep watch and be a disciple maker.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

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Winning People with Gentleness and Respect

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 3.

I know we men really like to hone in on 1 Peter 3:1-6 about how our wives are to respect us and be adorned with a gentle spirit even if we aren’t faithful to the Lord so they can win us. However, have you ever noticed what it says in 1 Peter 3:15? It tells all of us that we are to conduct ourselves with gentleness and respect so that we might win others. In other words, men, God isn’t asking anything of wives He doesn’t ask of all of us. We are to conduct ourselves with gentleness and respect toward others even when they are enemies and we are having to defend our faith. How much more do we win wives, children, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and even Twitter followers and Facebook friends by gentle respect, conducting ourselves in purity with a quiet spirit? That is being a disciple-making disciple.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Peter 4.

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