Which would you rather have, faith or fear?

A Call to Christian Living –

Christ-Led Courage

Matthew 10:16-31, Jesus tells us to live courageously.

Mark 4:35-40, Faith should give us courage.

Matthew 14:22-31, Courageous faith should give us ability.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 7: Matthew 14:22-33, Walking on water

Acts 4:1-13, Courageous witness comes through the Holy Spirit.

Acts 6:8-7:2, Acts 7:51-60, Courageous faith sustains us to the death.

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Matthew 10:16-31, Jesus tells us to live courageously. (11/10/2008)

I have never quite understood "Prosperity Gospel," which as near as I can tell promises every Christian a rose garden.  In stark contrast, Jesus promises you trouble.  What he says is, "Don't be afraid of trouble!  God is bigger than trouble!"  In Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, the recruiting sergeant keeps saying, "You are my little lads, and I will take care of you!"  Jesus says the same thing, "You are mine, and I will take care of you!"  This does not necessarily mean that you will live a long and happy life on this earth, only that you will live a long and happy life in the bosom of the Father.

Mark 4:35-40, Faith should give us courage. (11/11/2008)

If I understand Jesus correctly, you can have faith, or you can have fear, but you can't have both.  These are hard words, because we are just soft little creatures, with no fangs or claws, and there's a lot out there to be afraid of. 
Do you remember the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff?  There's fresh green grass on the other side of the bridge, but there's a troll under the bridge.  The littlest goat decides to just go for it.  When he gets to the bridge, the troll comes out to eat him, but the littlest goat convinces him to wait for his brother, who is bigger and more meaty.  The middle goat does the same.  The biggest goat rams the troll and throws him off into the water.  Fortunately, we too have a great big brother!

Matthew 14:22-31, Courageous faith should give us ability. (11/12/2008)

I'm sure you've seen those shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and window decals that say, "No Fear!"  I've always half suspected that they are distributed by some Christian organization, because it is certainly a Christian message.  But let us say that our faith in Jesus Christ allows us to conquer our fear, then what?  Scripture says that we will be able to do some really incredible things.  The trick is to keep focused on Jesus and have faith in him, and not look around at the scary stuff.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 7: Matthew 14:22-33, Walking on water (3/10/15)

Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water emphasizes Peter’s experience. Today’s illustration is my least favorite of the three we’re looking at. Where is the wind? Where are the waves that were battering the boat? For that matter, why isn’t it dark, since we know that it was before dawn? Jesus and Peter look like they’re standing on the beach with little waves lapping their feet, not walking on the water “in the middle of the sea” (Mark 6:47).

On the other hand, I do like the way that not even Jesus’ clothes are getting wet. If your clothes are wet, you’re going to be uncomfortable, even in the boat or on top of the water. Jesus is perfectly at home and comfortable wherever he is. And the best part is the way Jesus has grabbed onto Peter with his left hand, even while his right hand is raised to scold him for his little faith. Even if your faith is small, Jesus will grab onto you and save you.

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Peter almost walks on water. Click to enlarge.
"Christ Walking on the Sea," from the Binns family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.

Acts 4:1-13, Courageous witness comes through the Holy Spirit. (11/13/2008)

Do you get stage fright?  I have terrible stage fright; however, as long as I'm teaching my Bethel class*, I can get up before any group of any size, with or without previous notice, and talk, often lucidly.  By the end of the summer break, I start having panic attacks at the thought of public speaking.  People who have seen me teach or speak have trouble believing that I once had - and still have - stage fright so bad that under my own power I can't even speak to a group of people sitting down around a table without trembling.  People who heard Peter and John preach and defend themselves in front of the Sanhedrin were astonished at how easily and eloquently fishermen from Galilee were able to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know exactly what was going on:  Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gave them both the courage and the ability to be a witness.  It even says that in vs. 8, but I suspect that people without stage fright don't fully appreciate it.
And by the way, note that in vs. 13, Peter and John are called "uneducated."  I get so tired of hearing – from people who should know better – that an "ignorant Galilean fisherman" would not be capable of this writing or that accomplishment, which therefore must be attributed to someone else whose name we don't even know.  These men were successful businessmen.  We have every reason to believe that they could read, write, and speak at least two languages.  They had been studying theology with a rabbi for three years.  The priests called them "uneducated" for two reasons:  (1) they didn't like them, and (2) Peter and John hadn't been to an accredited rabbinical school.  Our clergy readers know that people who haven't been to seminary are not necessarily uneducated.  The statement of Peter and John's enemies that they are uneducated should be taken with a grain of salt.

* Or, strangely enough, running this email Bible study.

Acts 6:8-7:2, Acts 7:51-60, Courageous faith sustains us to the death. (11/14/2008)

Stephen was the first Christian martyr.  He died about A.D. 34.  Because he had complete faith in God, he was able to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.  Naturally this got him into trouble with the religious leaders who thought they had solved their problem by crucifying Jesus.  When he was brought to trial on bogus charges, he could have tried to explain that he had said no such thing.  Instead, he took the opportunity to witness about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ending with an indictment of the very men who were to pass judgment on him.  He had to know what was going to happen, but his courageous faith first led him to be a witness, and then led him through death to victory.
By the way, "martyr" originally meant "eye witness."  Only after the deaths of many Christians for witnessing about their faith did it come to mean someone who has sacrificed life or liberty for the Christian faith or some other cause.

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Living So It Shows
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Five Spiritual Disciplines
Christian Character
New Life and New Standards
Living in the World
Love One Another
Again, Love One Another
And as a Final Word, Love One Another

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