“good news of great joy” (Fear not Part 1)

It’s Christmas and I am starting a new series called “fear not”, but fear not I am not writing this in-between eating my turkey and opening my presents. I wrote it in advance but the title is quite Christmassy don’t you think? When angels appear to Marry (Luke 1:30), Joseph (Mat 1:20) and the shepherds (Luke 12:4) they prefix their announcement with “do not be afraid“. When the angles say to the shepherds “do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people” it surely can’t just mean “don’t be afraid of us” (although it does mean that too). The words grow until they join with this refrain as it sounds through the whole of God’s word, filling the heart of the reader with courage to face a world in which, as Max Lucado puts it on the back of his book Fearless “each sunrise seems to bring fresh reasons for fear”. Mankind has lived in fear for so long, and this first Christmas marks the beginning of the end of that fear.

I was working on the next installment of my bible blog when (as often happens) I realised that the next few words that  I was reading in the bible where of monumental importance. Suddenly it seemed to me that the whole bible became a resonating box for these two simple words. As I read them over and over again, their meaning was magnified by what I knew of the whole story the bible told from Genesis through the Gospels to Revelation.

“fear not” Gen 15:1

My thinking and exploration of them lead me to a couple of books. The first is Max Lucado’s Fear not Promise book which is absolute dynamite for blowing away fear. It is a real firework box of verses that explode with noise and colour in my little room as I worship and read from it. It also contains excerpts from another book by the same author called Fearless and it is this one that I just have to blog through. I can’t let the amazing truth that it describes fall to the ground. I must collect it. I must meditate on it. I must live it. I must share it round.

I am currently blogging through two other books called “2000 years of Charismatic history” and “God’s greater glory“. Since I have not got very far with either of these I have no great expectation of completing this one in a hurry!

Before I start here are a few excellent verse form “Fear not”:

“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith” Luke 8:50 NLT

When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19

Don’t be afraid…Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful. Fight for…you sons and daughters, your wives, and your homes. Neh 4:14

Fearless starts by looking at the story about Jesus calming the storm. (Mat 8:23-24) He notes that getting into the boat with Jesus is no guarantee the life will be plain sailing. The word for storm is seismos. Matthew uses it only two other times. Once for Jesus’ crucifixion  (Matt 27:51-54) and the other at his resurrection (Matt 28:2).

When trouble came we wonder if God actually cars. We don’t tend to question his power but his love. When the storm hits the dispels accuse Jesus with the question “Do you not care!?” (Mark 4:38)

“When life spins wildly, we grab for a component of life we can manage: our diet, the tidiness of the house, the armrest of a plane, or, in many cases people.” p9.

When you are spinning and feeling sick it’s a good idea to fix on something that is not moving. Ballet dancers fix their gaze on a point as they twirl and then flick their head round to fix on it again.

The disciple saw demons scatter like bats out of a cave. “he drove out the spirits with a word” (Mat 8:16).

“the gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these 21 urge us to “not be afraid” or “fear not” or “have courage” or “be of good cheer”. The second most common command, to love God and neighbour, appears on only eight occasions. If quantity is any indicator, Jesus takes our fears seriously.” p10/11

I think I will list several of them here:

Mat 10:31   Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

Mat 9:2   And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (ESV)

Matt 6:25   “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (ESV)

Luke 8:50   But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (ESV)

Matt 14:27   But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (ESV)

Matt 10:28   And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (ESV)

Luke 12:32   “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (ESV)

John 14:1,3   “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (ESV)

John 14:27   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (ESV)

Luke 24:38-39   And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (ESV)

Matt 24:6   And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (ESV)

Matt 17:7   But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” (ESV)

Matt 8:26 “why are you fearful, you of little faith”

Me – Little faith can let in big fears. The antidote to fear is faith.

Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (ESV) Luke 8:50

Max then makes it clear that fear is not necessarily wrong in itself. Its right be afraid of angry dogs, or bullets whistling through the air. Fear can be a good motivator to back off or get out of the way.

“The promise of Christ and the contention of this book are simple : we can fear less tomorrow than we do today. p13

I want some of that! Fear not and have a very happy Christmas.

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