April 10 – Fear – Fear When It Paralyzes Us

Read Romans 12:2

“Be careful little eyes what you see.”

(Slow Fade, Casting Crowns)

We can walk in faith or we can walk in fear. At a Promise Keepers Conference in Boulder, Colorado with 50,000 men in attendance, a speaker issued a challenge to men and family leaders to quit watching R-rated movies. He said it can help your walk in faith and start to prevent fear.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” This world refers to evil and corruption. Fear is promoted.  If we avoid viewing things that generate fear, then we can start to prevent paralyzing fear. The pattern of this world is to put anything into our mind, not just the noble and pure. We can be selective in what we watch and put into our minds. A key question is: Does it help my spiritual growth as a Christian?

Before an R-rated movie, the following can be seen on the screen: pervasive graphic violence, nudity, drug abuse, sexuality, profanity, other adult themes. An R rating as well as PG-13 represents a strong warning toward parents to investigate the content of a movie more thoroughly before they take their children to see it. How do these movies affect adult minds?

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

To be transformed is a process of change. Our habits are a key. What are your eyes putting into your mind?

“Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”Romans 12:2 NLT

One way for overcoming paralyzing fear may be a true love of God. A child who is fearful loses his fear when he has his mother’s arms wrapped around him. We can fall asleep if we are surrounded by those who love us. And when a person loves and has faith in God, he does not need to be a servant to superstition and fear.

As long as the Apostle Peter kept looking to Jesus (when he was walking on the water), he was able to stay above the water. As long as he was more conscious of the presence of the Lord than he was of the storm and the waves around him, he stayed on top. But when he stopped looking to the Lord, he began to sink. (see Matt 14:29-30).

Healthy fear of God can motivate action. Unhealthy fear can create paralysis. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

If we can Identify what leads to unhealthy fear, then some fear can be prevented. Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Tom Weckesser

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April 9 – Fear – Fear of the Unknown

Read Joshua 1:1-11

Have you ever looked at a decision, not knowing what to do because you don’t know what will come of it?

I used to be so fearful of making the wrong choice, a choice that is not in God’s will, that it debilitated me to move forward in any direction.

In our reading today, Joshua has a big decision to make and God helps direct him. He doesn’t give detailed descriptions of what is to come for Joshua, He just tells him to go! How often do we all fail at this?

I remember so many decisions before me and the Lord telling me, “Go and trust me!”. The biggest one was probably the decision to move to Ohio from Florida.

I chose Jake, knowing that he was called to Grace Church and I would be the one to uproot my life and move. I was so afraid before I was excited.

In Florida, I had a phenomenal group of women walking life with me and a great job. I was teaching the Bible to seasoned believers who had faith in my giftings. I led worship with friends who had tremendous giftings.

This was all I’d ever known.

As Jake and I dated, my heart for him grew and I knew that I was moving to Ohio.

The wonderful part of this story that looks like Joshua’s is that the Lord was going to honor any decision I made…I just had to go and trust Him. So, when Jake proposed, the excitement of what life in Wooster would be like grew too. 

It was hard to leave and it was mostly because I was afraid of what was to come. Despite my efforts, I moved with nowhere of my own to live and no job to walk into. The Lord used Dave, Julie and Jake to encourage me through that time. Then things started to line up and, though never easy, it was good. 

Here I am, with another phenomenal group of women to walk life with, getting to teach the Bible in the way I know best, discipling my son, serving on a wonderful worship team and in a job that the Lord is continually teaching me to rely on Him alone. 

Every choice we make may seem daunting because we have no idea what is to come. We rely on our own strength to hopefully get us through when we should be relying on Jesus. 

A very wise mentor once told me when I was freaking out over a decision, “When you are walking life hand in hand with Jesus, sometimes He just wants you to make a decision. He will honor it and, if it doesn’t become the best, He will guide you”. 

Allow this to be a reminder to us all! 

Joshua trusted the Lord when he had no idea what was to come. However, he loved the Lord and wanted to honor His Word. 

Are there some decisions you are facing, unsure of what is to come and the fear of not knowing is debilitating you to move forward? If so, let me remind you what the Lord told Joshua:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Kelly Lawson

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April 8 – Fear – Fear for the Future

Read Matthew 6:34

Being the grandmother of very athletic grandkids, I have spent many hours watching kids play all kinds of sports.  When they were in elementary school, I always found it amusing to see the coaches, in frustration, call for a time out and whip out their white boards and spend the whole time plotting their “plan of attack”. What was amusing was their continued frustration when their “plan” didn’t work.  One thing was missing in that plan and that was the players on the other team getting in the way!

That is so true of life in general. “The best laid plans of mice and men can often go awry!”  Well planned days, weddings, reunions, parties, holidays or trips can turn into disasters by one person who didn’t see our “game plan” or had one of their own.  That is when the “Bridezillas” come out, when family arguments start, or hurt feelings that cause broken friendships start to fester.  We had wasted all our “todays” worrying about our “tomorrows”! 

This is no better illustrated in the Bible than with the disciples.  They had a plan for what they thought was going to happen in the future, but God had another plan. The conflict resulted in their fear, confusion, denial, betrayal and even suicide! It wasn’t until they stopped fearing, regrouped and made God’s plan THEIR plan that they moved forward in miraculous ways.

Back in 1980 I was scheduled for possible back surgery.  Doctors couldn’t see anything on the x-ray to tell them what was wrong with my back so I was sent to the hospital for tests.  I was told to expect pain.  Of course, the 3 week wait until I actually was scheduled to go only lead to more fear. By the time for me to go in came around, I was hysterical. The pain that I had built up in my mind through worry was way worse than what actually happened. It was only when I finally gave up control to God that I made it through the week of tests where I was stuck with a needle over 100 times (yes, I really did count). The subsequent operation and recovery was just fine.  The time I wasted worrying about what I had built up in my mind was truly wasted.

Lyrics from one of my favorite songs are this:

“Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.”

Do you know God is holding your hand as you face whatever tomorrow has in store for you? We aren’t guaranteed good health, wealth and happiness but we are guaranteed a Father in heaven who loves us and will NEVER let us go!  Reach out and let Him hold your hand today!

HE WON’T LET GO!

Pat Arnold

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April 7 – Fear – Fear Rooted in the Past

Read Genesis 50:15-21

The older we get, the more life experiences we acquire.  Some are successes, giving us great memories of achievements when an outcome went better than expected.  Others are failures, providing a more vivid and sometimes painful recollection of a time/event that left us scarred.  The common thread is that both events are points in our lives that develop us, based on how we respond, into the person we are and will become.

Joseph had one of those very painful experiences when his brothers sold him into slavery as a young man.  His brothers were so jealous of the favoritism shown to him by their father that they wanted him out of the picture by any means.  Having family that disliked Joseph so much to sell him into slavery had to have left strong feelings of confusion and despair with Joseph.  This event in Joseph’s life set him onto a path that would eventually lead to a position of success.  However, many years later, the tables were completely turned when Joseph had to address those past events that so drastically influenced his life, face to face with his brothers.

That event is pretty extreme in relation to family disagreements today, but the pain that results from arguments with family or friends can leave us regretting things we said or did.  How do we move past events that have happened that grip us with fear when we are around those we offended? Let’s take a look at it from two perspectives from today’s scripture:

 Joseph’s brothers

The brother’s fear was rooted in acceptance and how Joseph would treat them now that their father had passed and Joseph was in a position of authority.  Due to the harsh way they treated Joseph when he was young left them wondering if he would show them mercy or possibly payback! They approached Joseph just like we should with those we’ve wronged – in humility. It’s difficult to do, but acknowledge the mistake from the past and seek forgiveness from that friend or family member. 

 Joseph

Joseph definitely took the high road when it came to forgiving his brothers. The shock Joseph had to have had upon seeing his brothers for the first time in many years had to have been overwhelming, but he realized there was a plan in place as he explains in verse 20: “You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good.”  Amazingly, Joseph realized that God positioned his life-altering experience as a young man to set him up to save many lives, including his father, brothers, and their families.

When those thoughts of fear start to creep up and tell you that “you aren’t good enough to get past your failures”, give those fears to Jesus through prayer.  Talk to another church attender, Grace group leader, or friend and ask for their prayers for reconciliation with that person.  Then move towards that call, text, or email to that family member that you have a painful past experience with and let them know you were in the wrong. It’s a big step, but asking for forgiveness is freeing and can help move you in the direction of eliminating those fears.

Drew Hilty

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April 6 – Fear – Fear of Man

Read Proverbs 3:5-6 and 29:25

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

A “snare” is a trap hunters and fishermen use to catch animals, birds or fish. A snare is dangerous. If we get caught in a snare, we must do whatever it takes to escape.

The fear of man can be a snare in our relationships. This can happen through fear of failure or rejection. It can be such a strong fear that we may be living to please others rather than God.

This fear of man may be a force in our lives through the idea of what others will think or do. It may lead to withdrawal, if a person comes to the realization that they can never measure up. This fear can convince a person that their value is wrapped up in what others think!

The fear of man can bring fear of failure, which provides no room for mistakes. You know – perfection. The pursuit of perfection can prevent a person from making correct choices or to engage in relationships. It can cause insecurity in decisions and a dread of failing. God wants us to trust Him.

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”. Psalms 9:9

One definition of fear is “apprehension of evil that normally leads one either to fight or run”. You know – fight or flight. Your heart starts to beat really fast and you are ready to fight or flight. Fear is a normal reaction in life! By staying alert spiritually, emotionally and physically, you can focus on God’s plan for your life. Use your spiritual gifts.

Through the 1980’s I was a high school health teacher. I had about 180 sophomore students per day that I would attempt to teach. Many students were curious about the disease called AIDS. It was new with tons of misinformation and titled Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

One morning I nearly had a fistfight in my classroom. One young man claimed that you could get AIDS by spitting on fruit in a supermarket and, when somebody else buys it, they could get the disease. He took on the whole class. The other kids in the class disagreed. At first, I liked the class discussion but then I realized we were going to have a boxing match if I did not calm everybody down. There was no self-control or patience. This young man was fearful of the disease, did not want facts and he wanted to fight. Sound familiar? A few months later the facts came out describing the only three ways that AIDS spreads and after that there were fewer problems. The fear lessened.

The fear of man is a snare.

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Tom Weckesser

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April 5 – Fear – Fear of God

Read Proverbs 1:7

Ultimate truth is a concept that has tantalized and eluded deep thinkers for ages.  We even see this quest for truth evident in Jesus’ conversation with Pontius Pilate.  Jesus tells Pilate:

“…For this purpose, I was born…to bear witness to the truth.”

Pilate responds smugly, “What is truth?” ULTIMATE knowledge and wisdom begins and ends with the God of Israel as the founder, owner, creator and distributor of ultimate truth. This is part of what Proverbs 1:7 is telling us this morning.

Let’s start by establishing a proper understanding of “fear” of the Lord in the Proverbs context.  In America, we almost always associate ‘fear’ with being scared. Imagine the fear associated with jumping in the ocean and seeing a shark fin moving towards you.  Or the fear of what might result from an impending confrontation.  

In Proverbs, fear is translated from the Hebrew word “yirah”, a noun that has two possible meanings: it could mean literal fear or terror, or it could mean religious piety (the quality of being devoted to something) or reverence (ultimate respect) of something holy.  Solomon most assuredly meant the latter, and this is an important distinction to make.  Although being in the immediate presence of the Lord would most assuredly inspire legitimate terror or fear due to an immediate conviction of our own sin before Him, in this case, we need to think of “fear of the Lord” as being in awe of Him, devoted to Him, and reverent of His statutes and holiness.  

We have more access to useless knowledge (I mean, have you ever watched Jeopardy?) that humankind has ever had before.  It was estimated by BBC’s “Science Focus” that Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft hold 1.2 million terabytes of information.  Our brains could never hold all of the information stored on just those four platforms alone.  So, we must prioritize certain knowledge.  We are necessarily going to prioritize information that we need to live, work, and enjoy our lives.  However, if “Fear of the Lord” is the beginning of knowledge, what knowledge should we be prioritizing?   

Wisdom can also be folly if pursued wrongly; just look for the millions of “self-help” books available for anything that ails you!  The world tells us to pursue wisdom from Susie Says-a-Lot or Sammy Smarter-Than-You. However, scripture (Col. 2:3) tells us that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ. 

ALL means ALL.

Does God place people in our lives that we should use for wise council?  Absolutely! Proverbs is telling us, though, that the God of the Universe is FOUNDATIONAL for ultimate wisdom. 

Go to Him first.  

Let’s pursue godly knowledge!  Let’s READ our Bibles and ask for help to understand it better!  If the wisdom you gain seems hard to apply, you’re probably on the right track!  Be intentional about putting into practice any godly wisdom you gain through your journey and seek out accountability partners in your life that will help to hold you to God’s standards.  

Craig French

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April 4 – The Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 28

Read Matthew 28:1-20

Did you ever wonder why, when Jesus was arrested, all of his disciples fled?  He was the one who they left everything for.  The person who they gave up their livelihood to follow.  He gets arrested and they bolt!  He is tried by the Jewish leaders and then is crucified and only one disciple, we are told, was present. 

But something happened.  Something life changing.  As a matter of fact, it is the greatest event in the history of the world!  You see, these same disciples who fled Jesus when He was arrested had experienced something so amazing that they ended up taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, suffering greatly and dying violent deaths.

They saw the risen Jesus Christ!

Three days after being crucified, dying an excruciating death and being buried, Jesus rose from the grave.  Their leader had been killed so one would think that those who wanted Jesus dead would expect the entire following to cease to exist. 

This would have been a good time to go into retirement or go into hiding for the fear of their lives.  After taking the gospel, the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth, this is what happened to the disciples of Jesus:

  • Peter:  crucified upside down in Rome
  • Andrew:  scourged and crucified
  • Thomas:  pierced the spears of soldiers
  • Philip:  hung to death
  • Matthew:  stabbed to death and beheaded
  • Bartholomew:  severely whipped to death
  • James:  stabbed to death
  • Jude:  shot to death with arrows
  • James (the Lesser):  crucified
  • Matthais (who replaced Judas):  burned to death
  • John:   exiled to the island of Patmos after escaping being cast into boiling oil

Had the resurrection not occurred, do you think they would have faced such persecution to share the Gospel? 

But they witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  For 40 days following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers and proved He was risen.  They saw Him and walked with Him and spoke with Him.  They saw the nail pierced hands and feet. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the very cornerstone of our faith. 

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would have no hope in our future resurrection. We would have no salvation from sin.  The resurrection validates that Jesus was who He claimed to be.  It was proof that the testimony of Jesus and the prophets before Him were true. And for those who witnessed the resurrected Christ…

Their lives would never be the same. 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave them a final charge.  If the gospel was going to be taken to the world, it was going to take action on behalf of the followers of Jesus.  And He said:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

It’s our time.  It’s time to rise up and take the gospel to those around us and beyond.  It is time for us to tell the world. 

HE IS RISEN!

Nate Mills

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April 3 – The Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 27

Read Matthew 27:1-66

This chapter is heavy. It’s raw. It’s humbling. In these 66 verses, we have a front row seat to read exactly how much we are loved by Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. Before reading ahead, take the next couple of minutes to pause and read Matthew 27 to yourself.

I rarely make it through this chapter without tears in my eyes. It is sobering to read the final accounts of what everyone thought was the end of Jesus’ life. In just 66 verses, He was betrayed by a follower, arrested unjustly, denied by a friend, put on trial by enemies, mocked by the masses, bruised and beaten, pierced by nails in His hands and feet, killed on the same cross He carried, and buried in a tomb that was closed off to His mourning friends and family.

The emotional and physical pain that Jesus felt in just a mere 24 hours is unimaginable.

These pages in our Bibles, from start to finish, scream of suffering and heartbreak. The darkest day in history is recorded right here in this chapter. But, friends, don’t miss it. Intertwined through every hurt that Jesus felt in these moments…

He was thinking of you.

Let that sink in.

As He breathed His final breath, you were on His mind.

Not only were you on His mind, but you were His motive to endure what He did so that you could experience eternity with the Father. Christ’s purpose – His life and death and resurrection – has always been to make a way for us to know our Creator.

Isaiah 53:5 – ‘He was pierced for our transgressions.’

Romans 5:8 – ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

1 Peter 3:18 – ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…’

There was never a moment that Jesus didn’t know what He was doing or the why behind it. He was in this to save our broken world.

He was in it for you.

In the following hours that lead to Resurrection Sunday, take a moment to fix your mind on Jesus. Thank Him for the selfless, unconditional love that He has for you!

Becca Harbaugh

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April 2 – The Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 26

Read Matthew 26:1-75

Today (the day of this writing) was a great weather day. It was in the upper 60’s, breezy, sunny… the first day like that in months.  I enjoyed God’s creation today, even the little things like music in my car, a nice walking path, delicious food from the grill. It was perfect. God wants us to enjoy these common graces, but momentary pleasures can easily distract us from enjoying Jesus Himself.  If you’ve ever missed something of God due to being focused on present circumstances, know that you’re in good company… Jesus’ disciples did it too!    

In Matthew 26, Jesus’ disciples; the CHOSEN twelve who heard EVERY WORD Jesus spoke, witnessed EVERY miracle He performed, missed the eternal (in spite of being DIRECTLY told by Jesus what would happen) because they were blinded by temptations, pressures and thoughts of the present moments they were experiencing. Let’s take a closer look.  

At a dinner, a woman pours oil on Jesus’ head as an anointing. The disciples judge this as wasteful; the wealth represented by the oil would have been better used to feed hungry people.  The twelve would have chosen temporary alleviation of hunger over preparing Jesus’ body for burial, a burial that was necessary for His coming resurrection.   

Judas struggled with his faith and betrayed Jesus, in spite of Jesus foretelling Judas’ betrayal at the Last Supper.  Not even Jesus predicting this could dissuade Judas from his chosen course of action.  Jesus allowed Judas his choice, because Jesus had an eternal perspective.  Judas chose thirty pieces of silver.   

Peter was proud and full of bravado, willing to stand for Jesus in the face of persecution, not believing he could fail. Peter’s machismo even swayed the other disciples. By admitting he knew Jesus, Peter had nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Instead of choosing the Savior of the World, Peter chose pride in one moment by arguing with Jesus, and self-preservation in the next by openly denying Jesus.  Jesus chose to forgive Peter in spite of his momentary weakness, because, for the future of Jesus’ eternal church, Peter would play a crucial role. 

Simon Peter, in a seemingly righteous display of anger and protective friendship, cut the ear of one of the priests’ servants with his sword as the servant approached Jesus.  In that moment, he chose anger, violence and earthly brotherhood instead of an eternal future with Jesus.  The New Covenant was at hand, which required the coming crucifixion in order to be obtained.  

We should be careful of judging the disciples here, as it’s easier to see it all now, post-resurrection.  In these moments, the disciples simply didn’t understand what was happening from an eternal perspective.  They reacted the best way they knew how, and from the only perspective they had.  Oh Lord, let us learn from this.  Ask God to show you HIS perspective on your circumstances.  Ask for godly men and women to speak into your life so that you might see how God is working things for your eternal good. God’s always working in your life and answering your prayers…just not always in the way you expect.

Craig French

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April 1 – The Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 25

Read Matthew 25:1-46

How do you invest your time? How about your money and your abilities? In the amazing book “So the Next Generation Will Know” by Sean McDowell, the author says many young people in 2021 are impatient, fluid (blurring of lines between fact and fiction in areas of sex, gender and family), think that there is no such thing as a normal family, and are overwhelmed, lonely and religiously unaffiliated. Many are seeking relationships with older people who can be a Christian role-model. Can you be a Christian role-model to at least one young person?

In the “Parable of the Talents,” Jesus uses a story to encourage His followers to be ready for His return at all times. “Be on the alert,” He said, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (24:42).

In 2021, a “talent” is a spiritual gift or a natural ability. In A.D. 50 – the approximate time that Matthew was written – the word meant a large amount of money.

So, Jesus describes a man who goes on a journey, entrusting his servants with his wealth in his absence. To one servant, the master gives five talents, to a second servant he gives two talents, and to a third servant he gives one talent.

The parable goes on to say that two of the servants, the one given five talents and the one given two, were good stewards of their master’s money, investing it in such a way that, when the master returned, they handed back double what he had originally given them.

But the third servant dug a hole in the ground and fearfully hid his master’s money.

When the master eventually did return, the servants who were faithful were praised and entrusted with more of the master’s wealth. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the master said to each of them. “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (25:21). The servant who was fearful and negligent, however, was swiftly reprimanded by his master, who called him “wicked, lazy, and worthless.” His talent was taken and given to the one with ten talents, and he himself was thrown out of his master’s presence (25:30).

The master in this parable represents Jesus. The servants are Christ-followers. Similar to the parable, Jesus has also given responsibility to His followers, and similar to the parable, He, the Master, has promised to one day return.

Jesus has entrusted his servants to:

  • Spread the gospel (28:16-20),
  • Forgive (6:14-15),
  • Love others (5:43),
  • Be a role-model to the world (14:13-16),
  • Feed the hungry and thirsty (25:25).
  • Care for the poor, the prisoner, and the sick (25:36),
  • Be hospitable (25:35).

Are we good stewards of what belongs to God? Or do we bury our time, talent, and opportunities? It’s up to us to decide.

Consider investing your talent in someone.

The Master is planning His return.

Tom Weckesser

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