Fear Not, Shepherds

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid;
for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
which will be for all the people;
Luke 2:10

Fear not! Fear not! Fear not! Fear not! This is the fourth week we have heard these words. We need to be reminded to not be afraid numerous times throughout our lives. It is easy for us to be overcome by fear. However, God wants us to replace fear with faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” In the natural, we tend to become fearful of something we cannot see or understand. We feel anxious and uneasy. However, God wants us to trust Him regarding unseen things. He desires our respect and reverence.

Over the past few weeks, we have observed the evidence of God’s faithfulness to Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. They did not need to fear. Today we will study our final example – the shepherds.

It was dark. It was night. Shepherds were taking care of their sheep. Suddenly, the light of the glory of the Lord shone around them. Darkness disappeared and angels appeared. An angel spoke, “Do not be afraid.” The angel continued to tell the shepherds good news – the Savior of the world had been born.

So much for the shepherds to think about! I would like to have heard their conversation after encountering the angel. We only know that they decided to go see this newborn baby. (see Luke 2:16) Upon their arrival, the shepherds discovered that the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 was fulfilled before their eyes, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” What a wonderful experience they encountered because they were not afraid!

The shepherds did not let fear prevent them from going to see Jesus. Neither should we allow fear to hinder us from developing a personal relationship with Jesus. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

During the time the shepherds traveled from their flocks to Jesus, they exchanged scared fear for sacred fear. We, too, must let go of our terrifying fear and grasp hold of reverential fear. Proverbs 3:7 warns, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD.” Psalm 34:9 exhorts us, “Fear the LORD, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing.

Psalm 103:11 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.” The heavens reveal the vastness of God love. While watching their sheep this particular night, the shepherds saw angels in addition to stars in the sky. The angels may have caused them to be fearful but God’s love helped them overcome their anxiety. Sacred fear is more powerful than scared fear. Psalm 103:17 gives us an awesome promise, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children.

John Bevere explains that moving from fear to faith (reverential fear) involves an inner transformation of the heart. He goes on to say, “Holy fear gives God the place of glory, honor, reverence, thanksgiving, praise, and preeminence He deserves.” David asks in Psalm 56:1 NLT,I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?We will deny God what He deserves if we focus upon being afraid of what mankind can do.

After seeing baby Jesus, Luke 2:20 NLT says, “The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Their joy overflowed. When the shepherds refused to yield to emotional fear, they experienced reverential fear. Psalm 128:1 NLT declares, How joyful are those who fear the LORD–all who follow his ways! Now it is our turn to decide whether we will act out of fear or in faith. Psalm 145:3 NLT says, “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.”

In just a few days we will celebrate Christmas. Let us exchange fear for fear. Celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord with reverential awe and adoration. He is Emmanuel – God with us! Psalm 147:11 says, “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

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Fear Not, Joseph

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:20

 

We are now in our third week of Advent – preparing our hearts and homes for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Joseph is the next Christmas character we will consider who faced fear.

Mary had broken the news to Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He had to decide what he was going to do. Being a righteous man, he considered quietly divorcing Mary as his way of getting out of this predicament. God had other plans and He needed to get Joseph’s attention.

God spoke to Joseph a dream.

Let’s think a little more about dreams. The Lord says in Joel 2:28-29, I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.Chronologically, Joseph was a young man. However, I believe his spiritual maturity qualified him as an older man. Joseph’s dream was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This prophecy was also fulfilled at Pentecost. (See Acts 2:17.) The Holy Spirit still speaks through dreams. Be alert. The Lord may choose to help you overcome fear through a dream.

God gave Joseph instructions through a dream – and he obeyed. Joseph’s obedience is a good example for us. Jesus says in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Since God could trust Joseph to hear and obey, He spoke to him three more times through dreams. Each time the Lord gave Joseph further guidance. There accounts are found in Matthew 2:1-12, Matthew 2:16-18 and Matthew 2:22. Joseph’s encounter with the Spirit of God was not a one time experience. The Holy Spirit also came upon the disciples more than once. Acts 13:62 NASB says, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit wants to speak to us as well. And, He will speak to us numerous times!

Last week we emphasized that Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This week we find Joseph was guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit. Both of them listened to the Spirit. Joseph was not fearful because he was not afraid of what God was doing.

Joseph entrusted Mary’s life as well as his own into the hands of God. Joseph felt no reason to fear the Spirit’s work – neither should we. Hebrews 13:5 NLT declares, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”

Jesus tells us in John 14:16, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.Different translations use different words to describe the Holy Spirit – Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Helper. All these terms help us understand the role of the Holy Spirit.

God had a plan for Joseph. Joseph was an integral part of the birth of Jesus. God also has a plan for each of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” With this promise, we need not be afraid. We are simply to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Georgio A. Dano has said, “Fear ends where faith begins.”

Fear Not, Mary

 

Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her,
“for you have found favor with God!
Luke 1:30

Today we continue our Advent study of Christmas characters who were told not to be afraid. May we also be encouraged to discard fear from our lives. We must remember that these are real people who had genuine encounters with God. We are not just reading fictional stories.

Let us look closely at Mary.

One of the first things I notice about the scripture of Luke 1:30 is that the angel addressed Mary by name. God knew her name! He spoke personally to her.

The Lord says in Isaiah 43:1, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God addressed Isaiah with these words. He spoke similar words to Mary approximately 700 years later. Now over 2000 years later, He still speaks these words. Place your name in the blanks and hear the Lord say, “________, don’t be afraid; I have called you by name. You are mine. ________, do not be afraid.”

What was happening for Mary before she heard God calling her name?

Mary lived in Galilee and was planning her marriage to Joseph. Suddenly there was a change in plans when an angel appeared. The first thing the angel told Mary was to not be afraid. However, being told not to fear, did not mean she would not encounter fear.

The angel gave Mary a revelation as well as a warning. She was told she would conceive a baby by the Holy Spirit. It would be scary for any unwed young woman to find out she was pregnant. But there was more for Mary to learn. Things got even scarier when she found out the conception would take place by the Holy Spirit. She could not comprehend how this could happen.

Mary needed to grasp that although she was in a scary situation, God was with her. She did not need to be afraid. Something good was coming – the birth of the Son of God and Son of man. Emmanuel, God with us, would be born through her body.

Mary did not have the scripture of II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” These would have been comforting Mary. The are reassuring words for us today.

Although we may be told not to fear, it is not always easy to avoid fear. Fear often leads to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The angel informed Mary that she had found favor with God. This meant He was pleased with her. He loved her. According to gotquestions.org, those who are favored of God know that God is with them and that nothing can happen to them apart from His good purpose. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Those who receive God’s favor also have the assurance that the Lord is attentive when they walk through difficult times. According to Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence. Isaiah 30:15 NLT tells us, “In quietness and confidence is your strength.”

When Mary followed the Lord’s plan, His plans were fulfilled. Mary had been preparing for her marriage celebration to Joseph. It didn’t go exactly as she planned. However, she did not walk in fear. Mary set an example for us. We must not become fearful when everything does not go as we have planned. Let us be impregnated with Jesus and His ways. God’s plans may be different from ours. Matthew 6:34 says, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Fear Not, Zechariah

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.
Luke 1:13

Do not fear” is a command given by God. Numerous people heard these words throughout scripture. God speaks similarly to us today. We must remember that these words are a command. They are not just a suggestion. It is interesting that God often follows this directive with a further revelation or interaction. When He requires us to do something, He helps us do it.

According to the Christian calendar, Advent will begin Sunday. This is a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. May we also use this period as a time of preparing our hearts to gain insight of how not to fear.

Between now and Christmas, we are going to look at four Christmas characters who were told to not be afraid. Today we begin with Zechariah.

While Zechariah was in the temple burning incense, an angel appeared to him. Luke 1:12 says, “Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear.” I can’t blame him! An angel would startle anyone. There were two reasons for him not to be afraid. First, he was not to be fearful of this heavenly being’s appearance. Secondly, he was not to be afraid that God had not heard his prayers.

The angelic messenger told Zechariah that Elizabeth would finally have a child. According to verse 14, Zech and Liz would experience joy instead of fear.

We can be assured that God will also answer our prayers. Psalm 91:15, “He will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.Calling is praying.

The Lord says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Zechariah heard things he did not understand. He was not confident about what he was hearing. In Luke 1:18, Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this?” After questioning God, Zechariah was not able to speak until his son John was born.

During this time of silence, I assume that Zechariah’s fear was replaced with faith. He had a lot of time for quiet meditation. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This verse applies to us as well as Zechariah. When we become anxious and fearful, let us be quiet and listen for the Lord. We must allow faith to overpower our fear.

Hebrews 11:1 NLT states, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” I also like the New King James translation which says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A note in the Spirit Filled Life Bible points out that this is not a definition of faith. This is a description of how faith works. Faith is the assurance of what God promises. Faith is being confident that God is constantly working behind the scenes in our lives even when we do not see any tangible evidence.

An anonymous quote says, “Faith allows things to happen. It is the power that comes from a fearless heart. And when a fearless heart believes, miracles happen.This was true for Zechariah. When he replaced the fear in his heart with faith, the miraculous birth of John the Baptist transpired with Zechariah and Elizabeth being the parents. God’s faithfulness was stronger than Zechariah’s fear.

Fear and faith cannot coexist. My Reader, may you not only hear God say to you, “Do not fear.” – also hear Him say, “Have faith.”

Closed Doors

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
John 20:19

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus a little over a week ago. Does that affect what you are doing or how you are feeling today? Let’s see what the disciples did after Jesus’ resurrection. Then, let’s find a promise for ourselves. What Jesus did for the disciples, He will do for us.

According to the gospel of John, the disciples hid behind closed doors after Jesus’ resurrection. They were afraid. Can’t say I blame them. However, this was not what Jesus intended them to do. So, Jesus walked through the closed door and extended peace. A peace that would help them overcome fear.

Have you allowed fear to close doors in your life? Jesus is willing and waiting to walk through your barricades. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

Has God put something upon your heart that He wants you to do? But, you are afraid. God will help you break down your barrier according to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him (Jesus) who gives me strength.”

Maybe you are afraid you will make a wrong decision. Remember the Lord’s words of assurance in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Lord will walk into your life and help unlock your fears.

I guess the disciples did not learn their lesson the first time because Jesus found them behind closed doors a second time. A week later, or seven verses later, they are still hiding behind locked doors. In John 20:26, we discover that Peter is with them while previously he had not been present. This visit may have been primarily for Peter’s benefit. However, Jesus extends the same blessing – peace. The disciples evidently did not remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Locked doors still felt safer to them than the threats of the Jewish leaders.

Jesus walked through locked doors to speak with Peter and the other disciples. Today, He is able to enter through our closed doors.

Our granddaughter shared the following testimony with me. She was invited to attend a national scholastic leadership conference for college athletes. However, as she weighed her options, she decided it was best not to miss classes. She turned down the offer. A few days later, a staff member of the athletic department met with her explaining the significance of her attending this conference. She thought she had shut the door but the Lord walked through her closed door to keep the option open. She attended the conference.

Yes, all of us will be tempted to close doors because of fear. But, remember that Jesus can walk through the doors He does not want us to shut.

We just celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. Now this same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to us. Does His resurrection make a difference in your life today? Paul says in Philippians 3:10 NLT, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” We will not be able to know this amazing power, if we fearfully hide behind closed doors.

I challenge you to envision Jesus walking through your closed doors and extending peace to you. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is risen and He still walks through closed doors!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

 

 

Sacred Fear or Scared Fear

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

When rereading The Fear of God by John Bevere, I was reminded of the confusion that can arise concerning the word “fear.”

Several years ago, we were in Australia for my husband’s work. We stayed at an apartment that had maid service. When one of the girls saw John Bevere’s book on my table, she was very adamant that we were not to fear God. Although we both spoke English, I could not adequately explain to her the difference between sacred fear and scared fear. I wonder how many others struggle with this concept.

According to spelling, “sacred fear” and “scared fear” look similar. However, the fears described are different. Both are mentioned in scripture.

Sacred fear is a fear reserved for God who deserves our praise and worship. A person experiences awe and wonder when overcome with reverential fear.

Several Proverbs and a couple of quotes by John Bevere, help clarify the meaning of sacred fear. (or reverential fear)

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge. – Proverbs 1:7aNLT
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. – Proverbs 9:10a NLT
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. – Proverbs 14:27
The fear of the Lord is the beginning, or the starting place, of an intimate relationship with God.” – John Bevere
To fear God is to believe God. To believe God is to obey Him.” – John Bevere

Scared fear is a fear of man that causes anxiety and agitation. A person may become worried or panicky when feeling afraid.

The following scriptures reveal that scared fear can be overcome with sacred fear.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. – Proverbs 29:25
The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?Psalm 118:6 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- discipline. –
II Timothy 1:7 NLT
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1

Sacred fear of the Lord overpowers any scared fear of potential harm by another person. When we place a higher value upon God’s Word than man’s opinion, we turn our hearts to Him with reverential awe.

Hebrews 13:5 NLT says, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” To boldly and confidently declare this statement does not mean that bad things will never happen to us. But, it does give us courage during difficult times.

Scared fear is a force that opposes the spiritual force of sacred fear. While scared fear urges us to believe what is seen and doubt the unseen, sacred fear is the result of faith – believing what is not seen. (see Hebrews 11:1)

God knows we will encounter fear. He also promises to help us overcome our fears. We can cling to  Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

In conclusion, we can say that sacred fear reveres the Lord while scared fear dishonors Him.

John Bevere asks, “Are my actions influenced more by God or people?”
My answer is found in Psalm 56:11, “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?

What is your response?
If you are unsure of your answer, I encourage you to think about Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Sacred fear is full of awe while scared fear is awful.

 

Temptation can be Tempting

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temptation-2

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness,
where he was tempted by Satan for forty days.
He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
Mark 1:12-13 NLT

Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man. The divine became human. According to Mark 1:12-13, while in human form Jesus was tempted by Satan. He was tempted but He did not sin. Amazing!

In Genesis 3, Eve was tempted by Satan. She was tempted and she yielded to temptation. This resulted in sin. Not surprising!

Hmmm. If Jesus was tempted and Eve was tempted, then I should not be surprised when I am tempted. Will I yield to temptation like Eve or will I be able to resist temptation like Jesus? I notice that both individuals were tempted by Satan. He is my tempter as well so I heed the words of I Peter 5:8NLT, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” There are three things I want to remember when I am being tempted: I am not to be afraid. I am not to be ashamed. I am not alone.

I am not to be afraid. Like Jesus, I can conquer temptation by standing on scripture. God’s Word is stronger than any word Satan speaks to me. I can echo the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:7, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” The important thing for me to remember when I quote scripture is that I must obey the words of God as well as know them. Satan knew the scriptures but he did not obey them while Jesus knew and obeyed the words of His Heavenly Father. Paul says in Romans 8:31-39, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?… in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Will I overcome temptation or will I allow temptation to overcome me? I want my Heavenly Father’s factor to dominate the fear factor within me.

I am not to be ashamed. I can easily be embarrassed when I am tempted to submit to sin. I can belittle myself by thinking I am the only person who would ever consider doing something so foolish. However, I Corinthians 10:13 NLT tells me, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” I must remember this verse when the enemy tries to embarrass me.

I am not alone. Mark 1:13 NLT concludes by saying, angels took care of him.” Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted so He is now able to help me through my temptations in the best way possible. He knows what I need and He is by my side ready to care for me. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” “Never” includes times of temptation.

My Reader, are you being tempted by the enemy today? Jesus overcame temptation – and so can we. We do not overcome temptation by ourselves, but we can overcome with the help of Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” When temptation comes, may we remember that we do not need to be afraid nor do we need to be ashamed. We are never alone,

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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