Friday, November 27, 2009

Do not be afraid...

Quite often in the Bible it is recorded that when God shows up one of the first things he says is "do not be afraid." Adam was hiding from God after he sinned, Moses was approaching a burning bush, Abraham was leaving his home, Mary was pregnant, shepherds where in their fields, Jesus disciples were meeting in private - God or his angel shows up and says "do not freak out and run away."

Fear so easily drowns out that inner voice telling us that we are okay, that we are loved, that we are secure. Fear blasts it's voice and creates a reaction that shakes our foundation to the core. Our response is to run and hide like Adam or stand and fight like Jacob (later named Israel). I wonder if when God talks about man's "hardened heart" if that is not a result of fear. Fear is a response at self -preservation, self-defense, protection. Is that not a hardening that puts a defense around our being to avoid being hurt? Why would God come toward us and say do not be afraid?

He desires for us to be open to the message that He has for us - if we are defending ourselves and protecting ourselves we are closed not open. God's desire is for our soft hearts to receive the message that he has for us not to harm us or make us freaks but to mold us and shape us and create in us a pure heart.

As I look at this journey that we have been on and as I look at Jacob there are of course times of intense fear. Even now in the midst of being thankful for the miracles that have brought us to this point - there is fear - that brings us to the point of tears - that wages war and puts up defenses. God whispers "do not be afraid, do not go into hiding, open yourself up to me." I have been told since high school Sunday school to fear God and that means to revere God. I accept the difference between God saying do not be afraid and yet being told that fearing God is good. I can get it - but then I really do not always get it. How do I fear God and yet not be afraid of him?

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." Ex 20:18-20

God is good all the time. He has no evil at all. Fearing God is not the same as fearing what is evil. In fact fearing God is fearing because he is perfectly good and it is I who am evil. How in the world can I stand in the presence of holy perfection? God's grace is perfect too and it allows me through he cross of Christ to draw near to God - not stand at a distance - but to draw near. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30

In the midst of this suffering - in the midst of your suffering Jesus says come close to me. Hold on to me. Allow me to be your rest. For us to do this we strive to keep our hearts soft and open to the message that He has for us - that we would come out of hiding and share our hearts with one another and allow God to speak through the community of those around us - and he gives us rest.

The opposite of fear is not bravery - rather it is rejoicing...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:4-9

Fear puts you in hiding but rejoicing sends you to the streets as you join the parade like King David dancing around in his underwear singing praises to God as the Arc was brought back to Jerusalem. Nothing could keep him from rejoicing. (Not even the disdain of Michal his wife) (see 2 Sam 6 for a very cool response from Davd when confronted by Michal.)

I guess that is my deep pray today - that we would not be in fear but rejoicing.

Grace and peace,

Tom (Daddy)

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