Friday, June 22, 2018

Whenever I'm Afraid

The alternative to living in fear.

When signing copies of the novels in my Wake the Dead trilogy, I include this under my name: Ps. 32:7. It represents a computer code my transhuman protagonist discovers, one which gives him the superpowers he needs to protect himself. But he soon discovers it’s not just a code, but a verse from the Psalms. Only then is his power to serve and defend others unleashed.

Of course, hiding computer code in a transhuman was not God’s plan when He inspired the writers of the Psalms. But it provides an interesting plot twist. My character, Chase Sterling, needs a word from God after the dramatic reboot of his life leaves him in the clutches of hopeless fear. Though at first he doesn’t fully understand it, the verse speaks to him.

You are my hiding place. You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

It speaks to me as well. David wrote this Psalm when he experienced true repentance. He saw the evil inside him and confessed it before God. He accepted forgiveness and rejoiced in God’s mercy. God was his hiding place, the One who protected and delivered him. David wasn’t only set free from guilt and shame, he was established under God’s defense. God protected David from His own righteous wrath. The same cover of God’s mercy applies to all who are redeemed. Fear must have tormented David after his grievous sin. He must have felt he’d never be free of it. But God did indeed set him free.

The Bible has much to offer on the subject of fear—the good kind and the bad. Good fear isn’t necessarily the kind that teaches a child not to touch a flame. That’s healthy fear. It keeps us from walking into traffic. From standing too close to the edge of a cliff. From playing with fire—literally and figuratively. 

But good fear from a Biblical view means fearing God. If it seems counter-intuitive to fear the One offering security, understand the fear of God can be categorized as awe, respect, and reverence. While these responses to God’s character are appropriate, there’s something about the nature of God I find terrifying. Is it a good fear? Yes. Like the healthy fear that keeps me away from fire, I recognize God’s great power. He can do with me as He will—as His wrath demands. But since I’ve come under His protection I no longer fear His wrath. However, as His child I do fear His discipline. Not that I’m paralyzed by the fear of what He’s going to do to me. He’s a loving Father. But a note of warning to the unredeemed—be very afraid.

 But I shall show you whom you should fear; fear Him, who after He has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I say to you, fear Him!      
Luke 12:5

Whether suffered by the believer or the person giving no thought to God, the bad kind of fear is a stronghold of Satan. In its grip, there appears to be no hope. Sometimes my overactive imagination causes all kinds of fear to override my faith. It’s the same fear that fills the hearts and minds of everybody. We’re not so different in this respect. I worry like any other wife, mother, daughter, or friend. I fear stupid things. Unrealistic things. Real things I can’t control. But then I remember I’m not lost to fear. And God comes running after me, bringing hope and promise.

 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Many verses addressing fear seem to give a direct command: Fear not. But how can a fearful person just stop being afraid? Somebody had better come up with a better alternative. A simple verse, spoken by Jesus, makes such an offer.

Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:36

No, it’s not that easy. It can only happen by the fierce power of the greatly feared, perfectly loving God.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… 
I John 4:18

As my transhuman trilogy continues, Chase struggles to let go of his fear. He discovers another verse from the Psalms inscribed in an odd place. He considers it and then he believes it. It’s not a computer code, just the assurance that a child a God is no longer subject to the bondage of fear, for God has provided a way out.
Whenever I’m afraid, I will trust in You. Psalm 56:3

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Promises of God

One lie leads to another.

It's said that a lie only leads to more lies, so it’s best not to start that ball rolling. The natural progression is that a lie grows. Bob tells Sally he didn’t go there (lie), then Sally asks where he went. He tells her where he went (lie), and she asks what he did there. He tells her that he met up with some friends (lie), and she asks which friends. Now the ball is rolling.

But there’s also a natural progression to truth. In a perfect world, Bob and Sally show each other love and respect. Bob really doesn’t go there. Sally has no need for questions. Bob has no reason to lie. Why? Because Bob and Sally made a promise. And the progression is that one promise leads to another. 

Before Bob and Sally and all relationships among human beings, a great cascade of promises began when God spoke the world into existence, and it continues today. Unlike us, God speaks only truth. And His promises never fail.

It may seem strange that what is commonly referred to as the first promise in the Bible was spoken by God to a snake—that is, Satan. But really, the promise was for us.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal. Genesis 3:15

God makes it known that Satan will be defeated (his head gets crushed), while the One who comes to save will suffer and appear defeated. But then He will defeat even death.

This is the last promise in the Bible:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20

Some may see this as a promise unfulfilled since Jesus hasn’t returned. How long does it take to come quickly, anyway? But the reference is not to what we consider speedy, but rather suddenly. No one knows when, but when it happens, some will think they should have had more time. Besides, our understanding of quickly has got to be monumentally different than God’s.

In between these promises, in the pages of Scripture, God makes and keeps His promises. A Promised Land, victory over enemies, offspring too numerous to count, protection, peace, joy, the knowledge of God. Promises of salvation, sanctification, justification. Promises of Heaven, of eternal life. Promises of a Great Redeemer.

Too many promises to list in this short space flow from the Word and fill us with hope because those of us who follow Christ know Him, and we know His words are true. But there is one promise that seems to me to act as the hinge for all the rest:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.Isaiah 9:6-7

If it just makes you want to sing Handel’s “Messiah”, you’re not alone. But the promise here of the birth of Christ is presented in only the first few words. After that, it’s all about the promise of His second coming, about His rule and authority. And all this is accomplished by the zeal of God. Here’s the definition of zeal: great energy or enthusiasm to achieve a goal, fervent pursuit. This is God’s plan, His desire for His world. For us.

All the promises spoken by God revolve around the promise of the Son. They are for our good. To bring us to the realization of the truth and then to help us live victoriously. They are for God’s glory, that all should behold Him, and know Him, and know that He is good.