Did He Really Say That?!

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Luke 12:4-5 ESV

Today’s verse introduces a summer feature which I will call “Did Jesus Really Say That?!”. “But why Pastor Pete?” some of you will probably ask. “Why bring up those kinds of verses? Why not focus on the sweet and positive things that Jesus said?” Well, I guess the first answer is, “Jesus is way smarter than you or I.” If He tells us something, then in spite of how it sounds, He still has something good in mind. Take today’s verse, for instance. Jesus starts out by telling me not to be afraid of those who want to kill me. Now, in general, this does not calm my heart. Instead, I begin glancing over my shoulder, wondering who is planning what to do me in. But if we would scratch a little deeper beneath the surface, we would see that Jesus is teaching us to swim in a spiritual sense. Of course, it feels like He just tossed me into the deep end of the pool and said, “Go for it!”. But in reality, He is bringing a warning to our attention that far outweighs anything that an enemy could do to us. The life that Jesus wants us to focus on is beyond the horizon of this world. If He were to fail to tell us about God’s judgement, as to how we have lived our lives, He wouldn’t be doing us any favors.

Lately there has been a lot written about how the Chinese Communist Party is learning all our private information, in preparation for some future day. On my part I am not so sure that all the data which Google, Facebook and the American Government has on us is a whole lot better! But instead of worrying about what people would do to us, Jesus is telling us to chill. Don’t worry. Stop fussing about what other people can do. If you think the Tik-Tok folks know a lot, imagine God, who counts every hair on our head and knows every word, before we speak it.

"Bless those who curse you, think what they would say if they knew the truth." Mother Teresa

And yet, our God who knows everything about us, cared enough to send Jesus into our world to save us. Yes, there are difficult things He would have to say to us, just as when a mother screams at her child to get out of the road when she sees a car bearing down on us from behind. Jesus wants us to be aware, awake and focusing our fear where it will do us good. Only then are we ready for what He has to say next!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. 
Luke 12:6-7 ES

Call 9-1-1!

My enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? 
Psalm 56:3-4 ESV

We had just started dinner, when we were interrupted by the all too familiar sound of a crash. “Call 9-1-1!” I shouted as I headed for the front door to get a better look. Because we lived on one of the main avenues near the center of our city, car accidents in front of our house happened regularly. We called so often that we knew the drill. “This is 911. Where is your emergency?” the operator would ask. In the Bible, Psalm 56 is God’s 9-1-1 number. Though I have often heard that one of the most repeated commands in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” I must confess that I am often still afraid. What I need is more than just a command to stop. I need to learn how, and today’s verse encourages me because it tells me I am not alone. David: the giant killer, who also killed a lion with his bare hands and who wrote most of the Psalms, was just like me. I love how he doesn’t mince words. He says straight up that, he is afraid – but – in his fearful moments he dials Heaven’s 9-1-1 number and begins to tell God about it! He says, “Help me, Lord! I am having a crisis here!” and we can do the same. When we dialed 9-1-1 in emergencies back home, we didn’t know who would pick up the phone, we would never get to meet that person or even know their name. But when we dial Heaven’s 9-1-1 number, we know who is picking up on the other end and we can trust that He won’t hang up. God will answer the call. He will listen to our emergency and He will come. Where is your emergency today? It’s time to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1!

He is Near

…The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:5‭b-‬6 ESV

Just a brief encouragement today for those who like me are seeking God’s direction yet feeling as if we are at a dead end. Thankfully Jesus specialized in showing up for his disciples at times just like that! In storms, in locked rooms or at gravesides Jesus came near. And when He came, he always began with same message. “It is I. Don’t be afraid! In today’s passage Paul begins by reminding us that our reason for confidence and peace in our prayers begins with one fact. Jesus is at hand. He is so close that we can reach out and touch Him just as Thomas did. So as we go about our journey we can put anxiety to rest with three simple truths. He is near, He is listening and He promises to answer. May God bless us this weekend as we rest secure in knowing that He is within our hand’s reach, He listens to our prayers and calms every fear with His message. “Do not be afraid!”