Tag Archives: Fear

Fear In the Christmas Story

Christmas Sermons

You may have never considered it, but it’s a challenge to come up with Christmas sermons year after year without being too repetitive. Sure, one could simply preach through Luke 2 every year, but a little creativity can go a long way.

This year I will preach a couple of sermons I have preached in other places, but they will be new to the folk here at South Soddy Baptist. The first Christmas sermon of the year will be based on the notes I’m going to share with you this morning.

To Fear, Or Not to Fear

Did you know there are actually some honest-to-goodness phobias related to Christmas? Here are just a few.

  • Selaphobia – the fear of flashing Christmas lights.
  • Ghabhphobia – the fear of presents or gifts.
  • Krikophobia – the fear of church services.
  • Cyssanophobia – the fear of kissing under the mistletoe.
  • Festivalisophobia – a phobia of the whole Christmas thing.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be any wonder that we can find several places in the Bible where angels told people to “fear not.” Folks back in Bethlehem around 2,000 years ago probably didn’t have a fear of kissing under the mistletoe, but they had every reason to be frightened by talking beings clothed in bright light telling them about babies in mangers, virgin births, and wedding plans.

The story of Christ’s birth is associated with great joy, but it was also full of great initial fear. At least one person in the story (King Herod) never got over his phobias and paranoia, but he never heard an angel tell him “fear not,” either.

Below are my notes/outline from which I will deliver this morning’s sermon at South Soddy Baptist Church. When you have a moment, read the Scriptures I reference. See for yourself what the Spirit has to say.

“Fear In the Christmas Story”

1. Luke 1:12  Zacharias (a faithful, praying priest) was “troubled” (G5015, tarasso), and “fear”(5401, phobos) fell upon him.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not…thy prayer is heard.”

2. Luke 1:29  Mary (a confused young girl) was “troubled” (1298, diatarasso)

The angel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.”

3. Matthew 1:20  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (hurt and scared) in a dream and said, “fear (phobeo) not to take Mary thy wife…”

4. Luke 1:65  “Fear (phobos) came on all that dwelt around” Zacharias and Elisabeth when Zacharias’ “mouth was opened…his tongue was loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”

5. Luke 2:9  The shepherds were “sore afraid” (phobeo phobos megas) …see also Daniel 10:7-8 and Revelation 1:17.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

6. Matthew 2:3  Herod, because the wise men asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews,” was “troubled” (taraso), and all Jerusalem with him.

7. What should we take away from this today?

  1. True holiness will expose humanity’s sinfulness.
  2. Godly fear will be answered with peace, result in obedience, and respond with praise.
  3. The fear of Christmas will manifest itself in hate, a lack of peace and joy, and no hope.
  4. If you trust in Jesus, He promises the peace of Christmas year-round. John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Boston Psychotherapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin (an agnostic) said: “[Some atheists are] not unlike the bully who pushes other people down in order to make himself feel better. There are atheists who have a very uncomfortable belief about [their non-belief] they feel the need to push other people down. There is an emotional confusion among some atheists that drives them to promote their product on others [to make them feel better about themselves]. – From an interview on Bill O’Reilly, 12/2/14

 

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Just Hold On

This might be a little out of the ordinary, friends, but I feel led to do something a little different for you today (I can do that).

Are you discouraged? Do you feel like the world is coming down around you? Do you feel like there’s no one you can talk to, no one who can understand?

Are you under attack? Are people out to get you? Do you have people around you that would rather you fail than succeed?

Do you need a place to hide? Do you feel like crawling up into a little ball and hiding in a corner, away from the noise and confusion, away from the messes you may or may not have created?

Believe it or not, I have felt every bit of that at one point or another. And, I regularly have people wishing they could have my head (and if I were in some countries it might have already happened). But not too long ago, when I was under so much stress and burdened with worry and sorrow, God showed me two verses from Psalms, chapter 57…

“[1] Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. [2] I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” 

Whatever you are going through right now, know that you can cry out to God, and He will hear. Just hold on until “these calamities” pass over, till the storm passes by. Be humble and trust in the One who can do all things.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try, for there’s no end of sorrow; there’s no hope by and by.” But I know thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise, where the storms never darken the skies.

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more, till the clouds roll forever from the sky, hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand! Keep me safe, till the storm passes by.

– Mosie Lister (“Till the Storm Passes By”)

If this has spoken to you, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.

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Overtaken vs. Granted

If you’ve been around this blog for more than a few years, maybe you’ve noticed that I have been going to the archives and bringing back some older posts. It’s not that I have writer’s block; it’s just that I don’t have as much time as I’d like and there is a lot of good stuff packed away in over 1,000 posts.

Some stuff is worth repeating, don’t you think?

Anyhoo, here’s something from 2014, and it’s still true…

Scary Things

There aren’t many of things that scare me now that I am an adult. However, as a child I lived in dread of a lot of things. I was afraid of vampires, clowns, Russians, and girls with cooties. Now I know that vampires can be killed with a good flashlight (the handle part, that is) and Russia is less of a threat than China, I think. However, clowns and girls are still a problem.

On the other hand, I used to love to fly in airplanes, drink from unwashed soda cans and public water fountains, and drive sports cars at ungodly rates of speed down curvy mountain roads. Now, as an adult, I know that it takes a long time to fall from 30,000 feet, germs are everywhere, and deer have a habit of walking in front of good drivers.

But the biggest thing is that most of the scary things in life are either in my mind, or avoidable. I have no fear of them eventually catching up with me. If killer bees get too close, I’ll just move. The wicked, however, have no such hope.

Gonna Getcha

The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. – Proverbs 10:24

I like the way the NIV translates the first part of this verse, “What the wicked dreads will overtake him…” This proverb is telling us that the wicked are running from something, while the righteous are running to something. And more than that, whatever the wicked are fleeing from will eventually catch up.

What do the wicked fear? What will eventually overtake them? A few things come to mind: being alone, pain, loss, falling, and death.  Huh…coincidentally, all of those will be present in hell. Go figure.

Gonna Grant It

But for the righteous…the ones who know every good gift is from God, the ones who know grace can’t be earned…their desires will be granted.

Amazing, isn’t it? What does the righteous desire? To be loved. To be healed. To have treasure that won’t decay. To be caught up. To have eternal life. Wow! Everything that heaven will bring!

But there’s one more thing: the righteous will welcomed into the presence of their greatest Desire – Jesus.

Don’t run from Jesus. Run to Him. Make Jesus your desire.

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My Verse. My Prayer. My Hope. 

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.”  – King David (Psalm 57:1-2)

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Filed under Christianity, current events, Depression, God, Struggles and Trials, worship

An Embarrassing Reminder

I was planning on sharing something different this morning, but then I read another post (from Matthew Winters) that changed my mind.

I won’t go into detail, for, as truth would have it, the Devil is in the details; I will just give you a thumbnail sketch of what happened to me a couple of hours ago.

Early in the morning hours I made a call over the radio on my school bus. It was not a serious call, just one to add a little humor into the day. I called into my dispatch (everyone could hear this) and said, “All of my elementary students are acting right for a change…please advise.” After a silly reply or two, a serious voice came over the radio from the head boss, the manager of the whole show, and asked to see me in his office when I got back to the lot.

Why did he want to see me? Well, it was nothing important, at least nothing I need to recount here. However, for an hour I had to think about what it was that he wanted to see me for. I kept thinking to myself, “What did I do?”

It wasn’t long before I was considering how I would explain to my wife and family my firing. How would we make it? How would I pay the bills? It’s already tough at the moment, but what would I do now? I was literally ready to hear the words, “We are going to have to let you go,” and I hadn’t a single reason.

I was shaking. I was nervous. I was fearful. I was ashamed of myself. I was faithless.

Once the short meeting was over, my boss, a Christian guy, asked me, “So, you still looking for a new church to pastor?”

I left his office feeling like a fool. I left embarrassed. I left with only one short prayer on my lips…”I’m sorry, Lord.”

This is how Satan attempts to defeat the children of God. He accuses, even when there is nothing for which to answer! He makes us look for wrong in ourselves, judge ourselves unjustly, and forget that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and watches over us. He seeks to destroy our faith with fear: fear of the unknown; fear of what doesn’t even exist.

In my weakness, partly because I didn’t start my day with prayer, I fell victim to the enemy’s lies and nearly defeated myself.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

“…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:20

Next time the devil starts whispering those accusations in my ear, let me be reminded Who’s side I’m on and Who has already won the victory for me. That might save me some embarrassment when next I fall on my knees.

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From Fear to Joy

An Update

It is truly wonderful to sit down and type on a real keyboard, not an iPhone! I finally picked up my computer yesterday, new hard drive and all, and just plugged it in. It’s like Christmas came early 😉

The only downside is that my wife now thinks I will never get anything done around the house, because I will be here clicking away for the next two days 😦 Wait! why a frowny face? Typing is good for the soul! 🙂

Actually, if you want to know the truth, we have a whole house full of life that has to be packed and moved by December 29th; I don’t have time to sit and write a lot. We were finally able to secure a place to live just yesterday, so we will be moving out of the parsonage after Christmas. What a way to spend your Christmas break, right?

Fear

There is a great temptation to fear the future. For example, I recently suffered two/third’s cut in annual pay with no idea how I’m going to make that up; we are moving into a house that is not ours and is only guaranteed through April or May; and the company I drive school buses for is now facing huge law suits because of the Woodmore bus crash. The future is definitely uncertain.

But fear is nothing new. Take the time to read the Christmas story in its entirety and you will find several times where true, bone-shaking fear engulfed many. First there was Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, then Joseph in Matthew chapter one, and then Mary and the shepherds in Luke 2. Each of them, when confronted with angelic messages, were greatly troubled. And why not?

Have you ever been confronted by a real angel in all its glory? Me neither. I have gotten messages from God, though. Yep, I sure have. For example, resigning the pastorate of one church without anywhere else to go was a clear message from heaven saying, “Trust me.” At first the message brought fear, but when I heard His voice saying, “Fear not,” I was able to begin to enjoy the thrill of a new chapter in life.

Joy

Believe me, I have every reason in the world to worry about the future. I had every reason to tremble in fear when I learned I would be homeless by the end of the year. But just like the shepherds tending their sheep, I have been comforted with the knowledge that my Savior was born. He was the fulfillment of the promises of God, and the promises of God are still true.

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? … 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. … 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Mat 6:25-26, 28, 33-34 HCSB

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. If Joseph and Mary could carry on with life after such shocking announcements, surely I can carry on with wondrous expectation.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Jesus

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Filed under Christmas, Faith, Future

Proper Fear and Persuading Others

Not long ago I preached a sermon to my congregation, the following text being one of several that I used.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” – 2 Corinthians 5:11a

There is so much talk about terrorism these days, so much talk about fear, yet very few talk about the fear of God. Why is that? After all, aren’t we commanded to fear the Lord? Isn’t it the wise thing to do?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

The problem is that we get so distracted by the common, temporal fears of this world and forget about the eternal. Our minds are so cluttered with all the stresses of this life that we forget about what comes after.

Both of the previous verses also talk about “knowing” and  the “knowledge” of God. In the first passage (2 Cor.5:11a) the Apostle Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians: “Hey, it’s because we know who God is and what He’s capable of, not to mention the fact that we must all stand before Him one day (5:10), that we do our dead-level best to tell it to you like it is!”

In the second passage, wise King Solomon is telling anyone who will listen, “The more you know God, the better you’ll understand how life works.” Knowing and understanding who God is will produce produce fear: terror in His enemies; reverential fear in those who love Him.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [emphasis added]

So, while ever-present bad news will tend to make us want to run and hide or take matters into our own hands, keep everything in its proper perspective. Those who serve the Living Savior; those who are reconciled to God by the atonement of the cross of Christ; those who were once strangers, but now have been made children of the Father, can find peace and rest in the fearfully omnipotent hand of our faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter 4:19 

The only ones who should be living in terror, in fear of what may come today or tomorrow, are those who have never known God, have forgotten God, or worse, mock Him (Romans 1:18-32).

When we persuade others to fear God in the proper way, they will come to know His love and love Him in return. Then, instead of living in terror, ironically, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 

Are you living in fear? Can you call God “Abba, Father” (Daddy)? A proper relationship will produce a proper fear; terror is the product of rebellion.

If you don’t fully understand what I’ve written, or if you’d like to know more about how to live in peace without terror, click on the Eternal Life tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions.

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