“Fear”

Fear can be paralyzing and is mentioned throughout the scriptures. There are stories of people fearing each other, fearing to follow through on God’s instructions, fearing the presence of angels, etc. In many passages, the words “Do not fear” are also included and we’re encouraged by them. Then there’s Luke 12:4-7 when Jesus actually instructs us to fear; to fear God because He holds the ultimate power over life, death and eternity. He goes on to remind us of this:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” –Luke 12:6-7 NKJV

There is such a thing as healthy fear. It’s a deep acknowledgement within one’s self that “He is God and I am not.” The irony is that true “fearlessness” starts with a healthy fear. It’s not the absence of fear, but a properly placed one. What or who do you fear today?

“Peers”

The influence and pressure of those around us can be a powerful force.

Jesus had much to say about authentic faith, and wasn’t interested in outward appearances or social standing. One of His statements regarding the powerful “culture police” was this:

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” –Luke 12:1b NKJV

In the Jewish world of the first century, the Pharisees were social bullies and dominated the public discourse. By default, words, doctrines and attitudes acceptable to them was trendy. Speaking their “language”, being a fan of their preferences, and criticizing everyone else, helped to get their affirmation and acceptance.

As followers of Jesus, we must be careful to construct our words, doctrines and attitudes on Him (and His Word). The wind of peer influence is always blowing. Sometimes it’s a gentle breeze among friends and family, but other times it’s an aggressive squall. In today’s world, the idea of tolerance has become the supreme standard by which all others are measured. Debate is no longer about inherent truth, but the opinions of a few making their voices heard. So, as the social climate changes, and the wind picks up, what will your actions and words be based on?

“Asking”

When praying, we must remember that God’s parental perspective is far beyond ours, and even the best earthly examples fall short. As parents, we often struggle regarding “what, when and how”; but God doesn’t. He never paces the floor with worry because there are no “unknowns” and “what ifs” for Him.

In Luke 11:5-13 Jesus speaks of how a friend gives bread to a neighbor and then compares it to a good parent giving the right things. The “ask, seek, and knock” phrase in the middle of the story (v. 9) gets quoted a lot, but consider the bigger picture. God’s provision is perfect. It’s not about asking louder, seeking differently, or knocking harder; it’s about confidence in the character of the One we’re asking. He hears with genuine compassion, then chooses what, when and how to respond with our best interests in mind.

Are you asking for something today? Don’t lose faith because of time passing, or circumstances changing. He knows. He’s not forgotten. And you can trust His heart…always.

Before the Cross was Gold, it was Rugged

The cross is a familiar object. It’s been fashioned into jewelry, wall art, and various household trinkets, but before it was gold (or silver, etc.), it was rugged.

I. It was rugged by design

  • As a symbol – The Romans didn’t invent the cross, but they perfected it as their method to execute non-Roman criminals and rebels. It was a brutal reminder to the world that any who dared test their imperial sovereignty would get the cross as a consequence (which is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 to “take up your cross and follow” wouldn’t have sounded poetic, but sobering).
  • As a process – It was meant to be a slow, excruciating, humiliating death. It started with a scourging, which was done by an expert “Lictor” swinging a “Flagrum”. His choice of whip (one with leather only or one including metal/bone fragments) determined the severity of the lashes.

II. It was rugged as the altar for our sin

  • The Cup – when Jesus prayed in the garden prior to the crucifixion, He knew the physical aspects of what was coming, but “the cup” was the struggle. The cup was the full wrath of God to be poured out on sin. There simply was no other way, and He said “Your will be done”.
  • The Payment – during the three hours of darkness, the weight of mankind’s darkest sins and cruelties were laid on Jesus in a crushing blow of blunt-force trauma. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knew the full scope of sin’s price tag and still chose to make the transaction – “It is finished!”
  • The Veil – Once Jesus gave up His spirit (by His own choice), the great symbol of separation between God and man, the Temple Veil, was violently torn open. It wasn’t tenderly cut while soft music played, it was ripped with Divine authority as a permanent invitation to those “in Christ” to enter into the Most Holy Place and talk openly with our High Priest – Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).

III. It’s rugged because it confronts us

  • The reality – In Jesus’ great conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, while leading up to very familiar verse 16, He said this, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” As a Jewish leader, Nicodemus would have immediately recognized the symbol of Israel’s rebellion and God’s forgiveness. The cross revealed the ugliness of sin.
  • The response – In the end, Nicodemus stood up to be counted among the disciples of Christ. He personally help take and prepare the body for burial (John 19:39). He was no longer just privately curious, he was willing to be publicly identified with Jesus. How about you?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 NKJV

“Being”

One of the biggest struggles in the life of faith is the pressure to “do”. Spoken and unspoken, self-imposed and others-imposed; the expectation to be “doing” something for Christ can distract from the powerful reality of “being” something in Christ.

Martha and Mary are perfect examples of the contrast. When Jesus was in their home, Martha was busy with the work of being hostess while Mary was busy listening to the Lord. Of course the scripture teaches a strong work ethic, but not at the expense of being “at the feet” of Jesus. Consider the Lord’s comment:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away.” – Luke 10:41b-42 NKJV

Sometimes we simply need to “be” in the Lord’s presence. It’s not all about trying to keep up with structured reading (that we often fall behind on), getting a “quiet-time” checklist marked off (that can feel robotic), or trying to prove our dedication through activity (that can drain our spirits); it’s about pausing, exhaling, being in His presence, worshipping, and listening…

“Voices”

In our “connected” world, voices abound. In the first century, there was also a mixture of voices calling out. Even though there wasn’t electronic social media, the confusion was real all the same. For a disciple, Jesus gave an illustration of how a shepherd gathers his sheep;

“…and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” – John 10:3b-4 NKJ

In those days, when the market had multiple shepherds and sheep passing through, it was a chaotic scene for everyone…except the sheep. They had a singular focus on the voice of the shepherd. Not just a generic shepherd, their shepherd. The one they had known all along. The inflection, accent and language was unique to the one leading.

How about us as we follow? There are so many voices eager to be heard, but there is only one Voice worthy to be heard. Yes, there are faithful men and women who are gifted to teach and speak, but in reality, they can only be an echo of the Voice. What they speak must be in the spirit of John the Baptist (“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30) or they risk spiritual infidelity.

What voice are you listening to today?

“Know”

What do you know to be true?

In John chapter 9 a man born blind is miraculously healed by Jesus. Afterwards, the Jewish leadership verbally attacked the man and his story; questioning his integrity and disassociating him from the synagogue. However, in the midst of the conversation, the man makes a wonderful statement;

“One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.” – John 9:25b HCSB

There were a lot of things about the healing (and the Healer) that the man didn’t have answers for yet, but he could see. There’s great reassurance in thinking about what you know to be true. There are parts of the faith journey that come without explanations, but ask yourself, “What do I KNOW to be true?” Later on in John’s ministry, He wrote several epistles. In the one we call “1 John”, he uses the words “know” or “known” 38 times. He was telling the original readers (and now us) to be confident and “know”. He wrote;

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” – 1 John 5:13 NKJV

So what things do you know to be true today? Can you list some of them? Faith in Christ isn’t “blind” faith, it’s “seeing” faith (like the man in John 9). Our faith is in One we know, and we know Him to be faithful…always.

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