Reflections

Anxiety, Fear? Or Peace and Rest?

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

To say we live in a world of fear is a great understatement. But nothing is new under the sun. Fears heighten and fears dissipate as threats (real or not) begin and conclude time and time again.

So, what gave the Psalmist here the ability then not to fear? What brought in peace where anxiety had breathed its deadly poison?

“I will fear no evil, for you are with me” says David the Psalmist. What was it? The LORD. My Shepherd. YOU are with me. YOUR rod and YOUR staff. In the temptation to fear the real evil, the real threat of death surrounding David, his hope was found not within himself, and not by ultimately escaping every valley of the shadow of death – rather it was found in relationship with the One who stands above and beyond even death: The LORD over death itself.

And JESUS, the LORD over death itself, said: “I am the RESURRECTION and THE LIFE. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

Friends, in Jesus we find the only Good Shepherd who brings His people to green pastures, who leads us beside still waters (‘waters of rest’), who restores our souls.

Because the sting of death in sin has been defeated by Jesus on the cross for all who put their trust in Him. So, then we do not need to fear even death itself…

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

Friends, we need what our world needs more than ever, to place our trust in Him, who took the punishment for all our sin.

In Him alone who can replace our fears with peace – in the certainty of His eternal love.

Reflections

The King over fear.

Reflection on Mark 5:35-36
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Our world is a place of constant fearfulness. We live in the 24-hour news cycle of stories that cause us heart ache, despair and to be filled with fear.

Stories of death and disease, stories of disaster and despair if we are not careful will give way to a despair in our own hearts and minds and we will be overwhelmed by, and overcome by… fear.

So, what can quell our fears? What can alleviate our worries and drown our despair? When our hearts are overwhelmed, anxious, troubled, fear filled… what can dispel the storm of fear?

Jesus says to this father who has just been told that his daughter has died not to fear but rather to believe. Jesus shortly after this raises his 12-year-old daughter back to life. Fear is overcome with “amazement” in these parents’ hearts.

Truth be told we live in a fearful world; we live in a place where brokenness surrounds us and indwells us and we are tempted to give way to fear. And we can come up with all sorts of phrases to seek to drive out these fears but in the end our fears can still dominate, and they can still become reality no matter how positive we try to be.

The Only Hope we have is the One who is the King over our fears. Jesus came to give us a glimpse into what His kingdom will be like: a place without death and disease, a place without disaster and despair… a place without fear.

Jesus came to destroy the one who has the power of death (the devil) and to deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus did this when He went to the cross and took on our all our sins, all our wrongdoings – He suffered for us, in our place to make us right with God, to take away our fear of judgement.

To trust in Jesus does not mean we will not suffer, even deeply so, but it does mean that we do not need to give way to fear like the world because Jesus has conquered our greatest fear, our greatest enemy: even death itself. And by trusting in Jesus we will enjoy eternal fearlessness in His love and freedom forever.

The King has triumphed over all fear.

Reflections

“I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Reflection on Psalm 25:5-9

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

David knew the sins of his youth were something that left to himself he could not cover up or deal with. The truth is that God sees all and knows all. This leaves us in a terrible predicament left to ourselves because we cannot do anything to erase our past, we cannot do anything to cover up those times we have hurt others and hurt God.

But David did not rely on what he could do to cover it up – in fact he did the very opposite, he confessed his sins (see also Psalm 51), he asked God to show him mercy, to pour out His steadfast love.

David turned the God who ‘instructs sinners in the way’, the God who ‘leads the humble’ and teaches ‘the humble his way’ – David turned to the God who does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.’… but instead …’as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.’ (Psalm 103:10-12).

Here’s the bottom line then. God is not looking for the pretender. He is not looking for the one who can put on the best show outwardly that they are good – but rather the one who admits they are not. And the one who in that turns to Him, to His mercy and His love – who turns to God alone to rescue them, to forgive them, to guide them, to save them.

John Newton the hymn writer who wrote the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ put it beautifully when he said: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

For the person who puts their trust in Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for their sin – their remains no more payment for sin, but total forgiveness and everlasting life with God as their Father – there is no other truth worth living for, and no other joy that arms us to face all our days. Oh, what a God! Oh, what a Saviour!

Reflections

The Ruler shepherded by death.

A reading and reflection on Matthew 2:1-6; 16-18

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” …

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

The Ruler has come, the Shepherd of God’s people: Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the King!

Herod was set to kill him, to wipe out God’s chosen King. So too were Israel’s religious leaders who had Jesus killed.

But God allowed the anger and hatred, their murderous intent to succeed, to fulfil the purpose for which Jesus came: “to save His people from their sins”.

But only in His time. Children were murdered here while the baby Jesus was rescued, but soon He would be murdered so that all God’s children could be rescued. Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

The Ruler shepherded by sacrificing His life in order to save His sheep. The Ruler – King Jesus – I will worship all my days and forevermore!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

Reflections

God is my portion, Christ is my life.

A reflection on Psalm 39:4-7

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”

A thought has struck me recently… all those who have gone before us are dead.
Sorry to be so dim, but I think it is for good reason. For those who follow the Eternal God – who has ultimately revealed Himself in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ here is the heart of our faith, is it not?

God is my portion, Christ is my life.

God’s word sets forth this certain hope:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

Wow! Is this your hope?
It goes well beyond this frail and short life. It is a hope in God that reaches into eternity itself… where God is… the Eternal One… time without end… who keeps His word.

For those who trust in Him, our certain hope is in Him, in Him our God, in Christ our King – who has made God known, who has shown us the Father. It is because of Him that we can face today and tomorrow not without sadness – that will come as you know.

But we can face today and tomorrow with every confidence in the midst of sadness’s and hardships knowing that if our “life is hidden with Christ in God” then “when Christ who is our life appears then we also will appear with Him in glory.”

 The Almighty God has proven His love for us in and through Jesus Christ, in His life and in His death and in His resurrection for us. We need not fear the present, nor the future – because He holds us in His hands, He is always good, and always true and always faithful.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What a God!

Let us live in light of Him, placing our trust in Him alone.

Reflections

The sin of Un-thankfulness.

A reflection on Romans 1:18-21
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.”

I find this passage of Scripture so helpful in a world that constantly says “there is no God” – words spoken by the fool the Psalmist tells us (Psalm 14).

Here we are reminded that God has not left us without evidence of Himself. His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature are in fact ‘clearly seen’ in what He has made.

But something that I have especially found helpful from this passage is one of the many pictures it gives us on what sin is. When you ask a High School Scripture class what sin is or ask a group of people, a lot of time people will give a list of things that are sin: lying, murder, stealing, adultery etc.

These are sins yes – but there is a picture here that we don’t often think about in our world as a concrete example of sin and that is the sin of unthankfulness. The lack of thanksgiving to God seen not just in the denial of His existence but by the worship of everything else in His place and by the giving of thanks to everything else other than Him.

If you are wondering what God’s will for your life is: ‘what does God want me to do?’, ‘How does He want me to live?’

Well, His Word tells us: “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Under the category of ungodliness and unrighteousness are lives that do not stop to thank God, people who do not acknowledge the place that God’s Son King Jesus is to have in our lives. This is the great sin of unthankfulness.

The truth is, when we see the mercy and love of God for us in Jesus – when we stop and really take that in – we cannot grasp that truth and not be filled with thankfulness to God.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118).

Reflections

How are you responding to Jesus?

A reflection on Matthew 21-23
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
… “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (Matthew 21:9; 23:37-39)

There were so many different responses to Jesus. Amazement, praise, glory, anger, hatred and disbelief. I wonder how have you responded? And more importantly, how are you responding to Jesus today?

He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be the One who could forgive sins, and free those enslaved, and bring eternal life to the dead.

It is not enough to answer that we like Jesus, or that we are fond of Him – if that is all – we may as well be indifferent or opposed. As C. S. Lewis so helpfully put it:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.

He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

How have you responded to Jesus? And more importantly, how are you responding to Jesus today? If He is King and God then He has earned your all, the whole shebang, your everything. How are you responding to Him…