19 April, Wednesday – Fire and Fear

19 April 2017

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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They recognised him at the breaking of bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?

I have a little calendar that sits on my desk about God-sized dreams. It is about finding and fulfilling your purpose, the purpose that God put you on this good Earth, no matter what the odds are. I look forward to turning each page, eager to read the phrase of the day. I find that it touches a lot on determining if that dream within us is a God-sized dream — it fills your whole being with a mixture of yearning and fear; yearning to learn and lean towards God for guidance and strength, and fear of not knowing where the road leads but trusting anyway that God will take us by the hand.

When Jesus came into the world to preach, he offered nothing but the Truth. Just as Peter said to the crippled man, “I have neither silver or gold but what I have I give to you”, Jesus is saying to us “I am offering you the Truth”. As humans, our natural instinct is to question if this is ‘the real deal’. How do we know if this is indeed the Truth and not some scam? Do we even believe what Jesus has to say? We think we know everything, and we are so good at being skeptics; indeed, how would we know?

The old adage ‘the truth shall set you free’ rings true. When something is explained to us and we learn of the facts, there is a dawn of realisation that descends upon us. Suddenly, we see things in a different light and we understand; and what we were afraid of before because we didn’t understand, we are now no longer afraid of anymore. The truth releases us from our own shackles of myopia and fear. The disciples going to Emmaus were downcast over the events that had happened, until Jesus came and interpreted the Scriptures to them, showing them that the things that had occured had to occur for God’s glory to come into being.

Understanding the bigger picture and God’s plan, they were released from their sadness. The cripple in the first reading accepted the Truth of Christ and was released from his deformity. How many more examples in the Bible of people accepting Christ and were released from what was holding them back! How about when we accept Christ in our daily lives, be it accepting Him for the first time or just accepting that we should surrender our problems, ailments, sickness, fears and worries to Him wholeheartedly, because He truly wants to save us. God’s glory will come into being if we lift our lives to Him.

Secondly, once we set our lives free, our human fear no longer has control of our hearts. God does, and He fills it with a gush of life, where fear once ruled. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” asked the disciples. It consumes us and makes us want to exclaim out loud! The fire that God sets alight in our hearts not only burns out the old doubts but warms our entire being. This is an everlasting flame, it cannot be extinguished so long as we take care of it through obedience to God. Yes, there is a fear of not knowing, but it is a good fear in that I am trusting God with this purpose that He has put in me, and I am nervous because it is so much bigger than I am. It is not a fear of failure but a fear of God in us, just like Moses was filled with terror at what God wanted him to do. But if we accept this, then God will always be with us. That fire will keep on burning for as long as we love God with all our hearts. That fire is a holy fire, it will fill us like nothing we have ever experienced. It will warm us and guide us, like a flame that will extinguish the darkness in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my heart will never be shackled by my human fear, that I will learn to trust more in Your complete plan for me, even though I may not see or understand it fully.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for setting our hearts on fire with your Word, and for setting us free from fear!

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