Recovering our Fear

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Advent is a season of waiting… remembering Israel’s wait for Christ to come, and the Church’s wait for his return in glory. As we wait, it is so easy to lose focus and get busied with routine joys and routine troubles while forgetting about Christ at all. This isn’t a new struggle.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor in the days leading up to World War II and was persecuted (and eventually killed at Hitler’s direct command) for his role in opposing the Nazi regime. The following quote comes from Bonhoeffer’s sermon on the first Sunday of Advent in 1935 as Hitler’s power in Germany was increasing. Keep Bonhoeffer’s context in mind as you read this excerpt from this Advent sermon based out of Revelation 14:6-13.

And the speech of the angel is so simple that anyone could understand it: “fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment is come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.” That is the first command of the gospel. “Fear God” and you will have nothing else to fear.

Don’t fear what the next day may bring. Don’t fear other people. Don’t fear violence and power, even when it comes to you personally and can rob you of your life. Don’t fear the high and mighty in the world. Don’t fear yourself. Don’t fear your sins. All these fears will die. From all these fears you will be set free. For they are no longer there. But fear God and him alone. For he has the power over all the powers of this world. The whole world is in fear of God. He has power to give us life or to destroy us. All other powers are a mere game.

God alone is real, seriously real. Fear God seriously and “give him the glory.” He would be acknowledged as the creator, as our creator; he would be acknowledged as the reconciler, who has made peace between God and man; he would be acknowledged as redeemer, who at the end sets us free from all our sins and all our burdens. Honor him and his holy gospel, “because the hour of his judgment is come.” And this judgment is the gospel itself. The eternal gospel is the judge of all peoples.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Remembrance Sunday: Who and What is Babylon?” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 111.

Bonhoeffer emphasizes throughout the remainder of the sermon that the gospel is the only message of salvation. Even while he states, “The eternal gospel is the judge of all peoples,” it is important to hear the rest of his message about the gospel – it is not a message of damnation, but of reconciliation with God and freedom from all fears. It is only through the gospel that men and women can live with the right kind of fear: fear of God.

However you approach the Christmas season, and much is often made about how difficult this season is for many, let this be a time to reset your fear. Do not fear death. Do not fear judgment. Do not fear all sorts of other fearful things…. fear God. For in the end, when everything else has been subject to judgment, He remains. He is victorious. This is Good News indeed.

What I Learned About Going to Church by Joining the Gym

It’s far more intimidating than “regulars” remember.

Stepping through the front doors, not knowing where to look. Ok, there’s the front desk. How do I ask for information without sounding like a moron? Just play it cool.”

Those were my first thoughts when I walked into Gold’s Gym about two months ago. I went in to get information about joining because there was a sign out front advertising a good promotion. It’s something I’d wanted to do for quite a while. I knew my health is important. I was an athlete in high school (not a very good one, but an athlete nonetheless) and since graduating from college over a decade ago I had pretty much stopped any regular exercise until jumping back into the game a few years ago.

Deadlift GripMy very non-professional observation about exercise is this: you’re a cardio person or you’re a lifting person. Very rarely do you genuinely enjoy both. We all know that both are important, but most people truly enjoy one or the other. I’ve always been a lifting person who puts up with cardio because it’s a necessity.

This is all to say… when I walked into the gym I felt like I needed to carry myself as if I belonged (even though I obviously didn’t). I felt the need to talk a good game. To prove why they should want meI know what I’m doing in here! Put out a strong vibe and hope they buy it.

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