‘Fear not!’

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

Text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV-UK): “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

The above verses from John’s first letter, have been for me over the years, a firm anchor, which I’ve held onto when violent storms were raging overhead. They are fantastic.

Selwyn continues to discuss the issue of fear, in today’s study, these are the parts I like: “No one lived a life so completely free of every fear as did Jesus, the Christ. When we look at His life we see Him demonstrating the truth of today’s text: perfect love casts out all fear.

We should never forget that Jesus lived in our world and one of the reasons God became flesh was that we could learn what God is like and how to live the life of God on earth.

Jesus taught His disciple that fear (properly understood) for rebellious, sinful people has only one object  – God.”

The word fear is used in a number of different ways throughout Scripture. The Hebrew word for fear, covers a range of meanings; from the emotion that is felt when we are scared of someone or something, and we exhibit a ‘flight or fight’ response. In regard to God, the word we use in English – ‘fear‘ – is better translated as the ‘reverential awe we experience when we see God as the all-powerful Creator of all that is seen and unseen’.

In Proverbs 1:7, we read: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ I don’t think it’s accidental that the Hebrew word for ‘to see‘, has a similar spelling to the Hebrew word for ‘fear‘. To understand, or to see, that we are the created, and God is the Creator, is the beginning of wisdom. It’s interesting that words like overwhelming awe are not found to any significant extent in the book of Proverbs, but the Hebrew word for ‘fear‘ is commonly used.

Now to the reference that Selwyn uses from Luke 12.

Luke 12: 4-7 (NIVUK): “‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

These verses show why it’s so important to read Scripture in context. ‘Mankind’, in their fallen sinful state should fear God; that is, they – if they could see who God is – would be petrified with fear, to be in His presence. But we, are told – ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Why? Because we have been saved, through Jesus’ death on the cross – if we believe, our fate is not hell. Fear has to do with punishment.

Selwyn concludes his study as follows: “One of Jesus’ favourite phrases was ‘Fear not’. How was it that He was so free of fear? Because of His complete confidence in His Father who was, and is, on the throne, and knowledge that all His purposes were wise and good.

Assured of this His mind has no dark places in which fear could hide. May our minds become more like His.”

This is an important topic – too many people have a limited view of what it means to ‘fear‘ Our Lord. We, who follow Jesus, do not have a relationship with Him built on a type of fear that would cause us to be too scared to approach Him. That’s unthinkable!

As John states in today’s reading: ‘This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment.’ We, who are His children, will not fear the day of judgment. Can this truth be any clearer?

Your view?

Kick-back!

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 128 (NIV):Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots round your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you live to see your children’s children – peace be on Israel.’

We now move on to look at Psalm 128; this psalm tells us that those who know God, as the Creator and authority over all that is seen and unseen, will approach Jesus in awe and reverence. In one sense, anyone who has some knowledge of God should naturally fear Him.

In Luke 12:4-12 (NIV), we hear Jesus say: ‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

So, you can see, when we understand just who God is – then our reaction should be one of awe and reverence. Yet, those who are slaves to their sinful nature – just don’t even recognise, who they should really fear – their fears are centred on death. The wonderful thing is that those who follow Jesus and have a loving relationship with God – are told not to be scared of God’s punishment – because His perfect love, actioned through Jesus, drives out the fear of God’s judgement.

Selwyn writes: ‘The word contentment, I think, best summarises the thoughts of the psalmist in this particular song. Notice that those who are blessed by God are those who live according to two conditions: they fear Him and walk in His ways. When the Bible talks about fearing the Lord the message is not that we should be scared of God but that we should approach Him with a sense of reverence and awe.

When we walk in His ways we receive the benefits; when we walk contrary to His ways we face the consequences.’

All those people who don’t have a relationship with God, should (if they really understood their terrible position) fear Him. We, on the other hand, know that we must approach the throne of God with humility, awe and reverence; yet, the great news is this, as expressed by Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:14-16): ‘For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.’

Our faith enables us to fearlessly live in the perfect love of God, our Father.

Any comments?

Divine adequacy

Notes on Every Day with Jesus (Nov/Dec 2013), a CWR publication.

Psalm 112:1-10 (NIV): ‘Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad newstheir hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn (dignity) will be lifted high in honour.

The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.’

In today’s study, Selwyn looks at the issue of ‘fear and anxiety’. He starts this study, as follows (I think he makes some really excellent points about fear and anxiety): ‘It is interesting that the very first negative emotion Adam confessed to after his declaration of independence was fear. (Genesis 3:9-10) Why was he afraid? Where did that fear come from? He had disconnected himself from God and, cut off from the source of inner security, he felt inadequate to handle the situation that arose.

Underlying fear is a sense of being inadequate to meet the problems of life and relationships. This is a key – all else is merely a matter of dealing with the symptoms. … When we feel inadequate we don’t know how to face life so we retreat into fear and anxiety. But when we learn to lean on God, then fear and anxiety are greatly reduced.

In the gospels we hear Jesus exhorting his children not to be afraid. In the Acts we see them poised and unafraid. This was not because there was nothing to fear but because they were unafraid of fear.’

The verses for reading and meditation (Psalm 112), are also worth considering; a key to understanding our sense of security when we are in a good relationship with Jesus is: ‘Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.’

Our fear of the Lord is not based on anxiety of the unknown but an immense awe of His holiness and power. We, as followers of Jesus, trust in His love and know that we will never be shaken, and, never be forgotten. We can live, with no fear of bad news, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts are steadfast when we trust in the Lord.

In a few days time, Selwyn will refer to this wonderful verse, 1 John 4:18, ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.’

The Psalm we have before us today, and many verses in Scripture (such as the one above) point to the truth that when we love God and trust in His love and unlimited sovereign power; that in all things – Jesus will work for our good – then, we cease to fear even bad news, which will definitely come our way – some day.

Any questions?

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

 

Detached – and defeated

Selwyn spends one more day, considering the escape route of detachment and withdrawal.

I think that the major driving force behind those people who flee to a place, where they close their eyes to reality – is fear. They fear that if they turn to face their known present or unknown future they may have to ‘do something’ – it could be to love someone by helping them with their load – it could be to forgive someone who has hurt or insulted them – it could be to deal with an ‘elephant in the room’. [That is, an obvious issue that should be addressed; outsiders can see the problem but those closest – those in the room – live their lives as if there is no huge issue to address.]

In addition there is the constant and paralysing fear of pending disasters, that many people suffer from: the loss of a job, a failed exam, the breakdown of a relationship, a health catastrophe (e.g. road accident, life threatening disease, heart attack  & severe dementia), social riots, terrorist events, earthquakes, fires and floods. In our daily news reports we are presented with a deluge of bad things happening – therefore, it’s easy to become apprehensive about something bad happening, at any time, to us. Consequently, it’s understandably that many people use different routes to escape from the looming threat of something bad happening – at any moment.

It’s fear mixed with a lack of trust in God that drives the majority of people living at the moment.

So, where do you stand – in this scene of turmoil and confusion?

The text for today, is 1 John 4:12-21 (NIV): “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Selwyn concludes today’s study with these words: “It must be said that fear can drive some into withdrawal and detachment, and cause them to mentally to run away from things. Reality means being willing to look at the possibility, no matter how intimidating it may be.”

It’s hard, I know, to face the storms of life without some degree of trepidation at times; but we can trust in the love of Jesus. He is always near us – He knows how we are feeling – all the time.

Just spend a moment to reflect on the following words, Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV): “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” ‘

Hold this thought close to your heart as you go through your day – even if you have a small and growing faith – you can cry out to Jesus, ‘Save me.’ Immediately, Jesus will reach out His hand and support you, when you at risk of drowning in dark and crippling fear, caused by bad things happening.

Your views?