Friday, December 25, 2015

“No Fear!” God Is Near!

From the mid-1990’s into the early 2000’s, “No Fear” was a popular clothing brand marketed by No Fear, Inc. through various retail and company-owned stores.  Although Americans now rarely wear this message on their outerwear, many of us wish we could express “No Fear” in response to the circumstances of today’s world.  Instead, many of us carry at least some “Fear!” 

What do you fear most?  If we are honest, here are some of the things high on the list:

1.   ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
2.   Immigration – How many terrorists are we admitting?
3.   Insolvency – Can I keep up with my bills?
4.   Infection – What microbes are lurking out there?
5.   Intolerance – Will I offend by word or action?
6.   Insecurity – Can I still hide who I really am?
7.   Invasion – Are my home and privacy secure?
8.   Impotence – When will I lose my virility?
9.   Incompetence – Will I remain effective in my work?
10. Infinite – the seeming number of other causes of fear.

Fear can be a constant companion.  We can slip into a fearful mood at any time, often without any particular reason.  The unknown, the uncertain, the invisible, and even the indefinable factors around us may cause us to be unsettled and uncomfortable.  It is part of the human DNA to have fears.  The Bible teaches that there is a place for fear.  We have been created with the ability to have fear; and then, to react in a way that preserves our lives from danger.  Fear and reverent respect are strong motivations against acting upon temptations that lead us to sin, sorrow, and possibly spiritual and physical death.

God our Creator and Sustainer not only uses fear for our good, but He also has made provision to calm and even erase our fear.  Nowhere do we see this fact more clearly than in the biblical account of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ as it unfolded to bring about that first Christmas over 2,000 years ago.  On each occasion in which God through the angel Gabriel announced a miracle about to transpire, He immediately attempted to address the fear that would be a natural response.  God in all of His great power and might came gently and lovingly to members of humanity, knowing the human tendency to react in fear.

Consider three occasions in which the angel’s glorious appearance was accompanied by a heavenly effort to assuage human fear.  First, when the angel Gabriel appeared to John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias while he was taking his turn to offer incense in the Holy of Holies, the angel said, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard…(Luke 1: 13).   Later, when Gabriel appeared to a teenage girl named Mary who would conceive miraculously to bear God’s Son, Jesus, the angel again immediately addresses the “fear factor,”  saying, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God (Luke 1: 30a).  And months later, the angels appeared to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, saying, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2: 10b).

The message of Christmas comes to us today, post marked with the words, “Fear not.”  It is not a sin (rebellion against God) to have fear. But if we reject God’s Gift Who is Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” then His intended peace is not present in our lives and fear becomes our constant companion.  Someone has said, “When fear knocks at our door, and our faith answers, there is no one there.”  On the other hand, Jesus says in Revelation 3: 20:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

And this Jesus is the One of Whom God spoke centuries earlier through the prophet Micah who predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5: 2) when He said (emphasis mine),

And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.
This One will be our peace.
– Micah 5: 4-5a

This Jesus, the Scripture teaches, is the One Who did come that first Christmas night, and Who now offers peace to the fearful because He faced all the familiar fears we have listed above and more; and, went to the cross, died, and rose again to purchase us victory over sin, fear, and death.  And, as Micah states above, He is coming again to bring peace …to the ends of the earth—to every dark corner—when He sets up His kingdom for which Christians pray.

An estimated 100,000 Christians die for their faith annually.
What do you fear?  Which item on the “list of ten fears” above is at the top of your list?  I’ll admit it.  At times, I’m afraid of the threat of ISIS when compounded by the possibility that even one terrorist could slip through our porous borders.  But then, I realize that God has called me to faith, not fear.  He calls all of us who bear the name “Christ-ian” with these words …love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…(Matthew 5: 44b-45a).  Christ came into the world full of grace and truth (John 1: 17).  Even at the hour of His birth on that “silent night” the message was proclaimed, Fear not…!  Christ had only the earthly possessions he could carry with him.  He had no place on Earth to call His home (Matthew 8: 20).  Jesus was misunderstood, mistreated, violently seized and abused, and finally nailed to a Roman cross.  Through all of this, He displayed no fear; only gentleness and forgiveness.  Before His death on the cross, Jesus spoke these words to sinful humanity, Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23: 34).

When I am fearful, I try to picture my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who daily face persecution and even death for claiming faith in Jesus Christ.  Over the past 10 years, an estimated 100,000 Christians die for their faith each year!  Thousands of Christians endure forced displacement from their homes, brutal persecution, and even death as a testimony of their love for Jesus.  Would my faith in and love for God be this strong?  Would I have “no fear?” Or, would I deny Christ and refuse the call to join the millions of Christian martyrs over the centuries who follow in the holy procession beginning with Christ’s own procession to Calvary?

"Fear not, for I bring you good news...." (Luke 2: 10)
May God help us to be fearless in these troubling days so that we might glorify Him in the routines of our lives.  May we be faithful to pray for those who stand on the front lines for Christ today.  And if we are threatened with severe persecution, may we too remember that Christ has come and suffered persecution while giving back nothing but love and compassion for the many He saw as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9: 36).  This is the Savior of Whom we sing this Christmas, the first verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem:”

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light,
The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in thee tonight

Those who claim faith and obedience to God, can claim this slogan:  “No fear!  God is near!”

Family Christmas Letter (click to read)
Here is our family Christmas letter if you’d care to read a brief summary of our year, 2015.  In truth, our family faces many of the same causes of fear that confront you.  If you are a believer, know God personally, and have put your faith in Him for your daily walk, we covet your prayers that each of us will remain true to our responsibilities and commitments as we enter the New Year, 2016.

How About You?  You may have read this article and are left with a sense of confusion, uncertainty, and even fear.  If you have never encountered the “Good News” or Gospel, let me help.   The “Good News” is summarized in an outline called “
Steps to Peace with God” which explains God’s love, our predicament (sin and separation from God), what Jesus has done to address our predicament, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with a Holy God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at

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