Thursday, September 30, 2010

Proverbs 19:23 - Sermon - There's An App for That: Fear

Proverbs 19:23
There’s An App for That
Fear
10-03-10

• Ornithophobia is an abnormal, irrational fear of birds, especially pigeons.
• Dextrophobia: People with this phobia do not like having objects situated to their right.
• Cainophobia: this is the fear of anything new.
• Basiphobia: Those who are too afraid to walk or stand because of the possibility of falling.
• Hoplophobia: The fear of people who own firearms
• Porphyrophobia: The color purple causes some people to be very afraid and develop this condition.
• Phobophobia: a rare disorder and refers to the fear of having a phobia.
• Ecclesiophobia: The fear of church and going to church

We all have some fear. If someone states they do not have a fear they might be suffering from alethophobia or the abnormal fear of the truth. Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. If a hungry grizzly bear was let loose in this place right now, the emotional response of many of us would be fear which would cause a reaction, trying to leave. Fear is healthy because it is a basic survival mechanism. Fear can be unhealthy though when it controls our lives. People who have a fear of getting rid of things we call hoarders. They fill their houses with what many would see as trash but to them are special everyday items they need to hold on to. This can lead to unhealthy living conditions and put unneeded stress in their lives.

I have acrophobia, the fear of heights. I hate heights. If my feet are higher than six feet off the ground I start to get a little nervous. The most petrifying place I remember being is next to Yosemite falls. My Boy Scout troop took a High Adventure trip out to Yosemite and we hiked up El Capitan and then down the falls. The Yosemite falls are the highest in North America. There are two falls that actually make up the whole waterfall, the Upper Falls and the Lower falls. Together they are 2,425 feet high. The trail we hiked took us right up to the start of upper falls. This section itself 1,430 feet high and alone is in the top twenty tallest waterfalls in the world. The falls are as tall as the Empire States Building when you include the buildings lighting rod.

As the trail came close to the falls you could hear the roar of the water rush down and off into oblivion. As we approached the turn in the trail to the falls I was baited with excitement and anxiety about what I would see. I turned around a rock and this is the view I saw. Now notice where the rail is, it is against the rock. Sure there is a small fence a little below to catch you. That is all that is holding you back from a 1,430 fall. Needless to say, I took one look at that handrail, a quick look down, felt my heart and stomach in my throat and did an about-face back behind the rock and far away from the cliff. (see photo, Photo's source)

We live in a society that is thriving on making us live on that path, a fearful and scared life. If you are watching your favorite show and then the news comes in to give a promo about the 11 o’clock broadcast they are usually using a ‘fear promos.’ They make it sound like your life will end if you don’t watch the 11 o’clock news. Here is a quote directly from one of these promos pieces. Now the name of the station is changed because it could be any or all of them. “On Super Duper Action My Eyewitness News live at 11, police say a man is driving up and down a valley street looking for women to attack. We’ll tell you where you need to be on extra alert.” The was a promo at 6:30pm, the news wasn’t going to reveal the place this attacker was until 11:00pm. Four and a half hours of living in fear!

We are use to that stuff. I mean if we followed everything the news told us to be scared of we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t sleep because there is a bed bug epidemic. If you have a baby, well you have to keep them awake 24/7 because you cannot put your baby to sleep on their stomachs, sides, and their cribs cannot have blankets, lovies, bumpers or loose fitting sheets or they will die. We couldn’t go outside because of H1N1, the sun’s UV rays, the acid rain, the depleting ozone layer, the melting polar ice caps, gang violence, and there was some lady throwing acid on people. The good news is that last one ended up being a hoax. We couldn’t stay at home. There are at least 1700 household cleaners that can kill you and your children, we could be strangled by snags in the carpet, or die in a dishwasher related accident. We would have to constantly live in fear if we listened 100% to the news.

Fear creates caution, contemplation and a conservation of our actions. It protects us and in unhealthy ways debilitates us and paralyzes us from doing anything. Fear is a biblical principle. Adam and Eve, after eating the fruit, hid from God as God walked through the garden. They were afraid of God. Moses tells the people that the Lord told him, “I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth.” (Deut. 4:10) Isaiah at his commissioning by God’s throne attendants is scared to death and cowers in fear claiming, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) The three disciples at the mount of transfiguration hear the voice of God and “they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.” (Mt. 17:6)

There is Biblical principal that states we are to have a fear of God. But what does that mean? Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” The Hebrew for this passage puts it this way, “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah.” If we want to understand God, if we want to have any knowledge of who God is, than the first ingredient is fear. We have to fear God.
This goes against our modern idea of who God is. We do not like a God we cannot hold and fondle. We like a God we manage and make suggestions to. We think God is like Wikipedia, a place where knowledge can be learned but also edited to suit us. Yet read the Psalms and you will notice that God is lifted up and glorified because of his awesome works. Earlier in Psalm 111 the author writes, “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.” Our God is the one who created the world. He spoke and it happened. Or as he tells Job,

2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?
12 "Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

God goes on for almost three full chapters reminding Job and us that God is God. We humans think we can be God. We get caught up in our own self-righteousness that we think we can stand eye to eye with the creator of the world. Who are we? We are the little people standing on the side of a great waterfall we had nothing to do with. We are the created not the creator. We need to fear the one who has the power to control the world around us. We need to fear the One who is able to kill people with the sound of his voice. It is our job to be like the hemorrhaging woman who cowers in fear after reaching out and touching Jesus’ cloak. We must fear God.

Yet what is also interesting is that for all the places in the Bible it tells us to fear God there are almost as many where God tells us, “fear not.” When his angels come to Mary and Joseph they look at them and say “do not be afraid.” We are to fear God yet not be afraid. This sounds like one of those Biblical contradictions but it isn’t. When we have a correct fear of God we get understanding of who God is. Francis Chan puts it this way, “God wants you to fear him because that will lead you to a life you’ve never had, it’s a better life, a secure life, a life we were created for.”

Fear in God resets our priorities and places us where we need to be, behind the one who created everything. We like to think we can step in front of God but God is the one who is to be in front, protecting us for the world. Protecting us from the things we are fearful of in this world. Instead of fearing disease, heights, violence, terrorists, global warming, or whatever else we are to be scared of, we need to fear the one who truly has power. Who has control over eternity? That is the One we should really fear. Then the Proverb will become true for our lives, “The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

And all God’s people said…Amen.

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