Archive for the ‘ Fear the Lord ’ Category

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post, this post, this post, and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.

Groundhog Day, again …

While there may be nothing new under the sun, one constant we can trust is God’s wisdom. Get a taste at Proverbial Thought!

As I type this, the world has been reminded time and again about what groundhogs across the United States have said about the coming of Spring (or the extension of Winter). While the first official day of spring is March 20 (which happens to be six weeks from February 2nd), a lot of people are really wondering if there is going to be six weeks more of snow and cold or if it will come to an end soon.

What has been the primary mode for people reminding each other on social media of this grand revealing by a groundhog of the start of Spring?

Groundhog Day (1993) Poster

Groundhog Day (1993) poster, from IMDb.com

Talking about Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

The basic premise of this film is that a bitter man (played by Bill Murray) keeps waking up on February 2nd, the same day, over and over again. It is not until he learns to appreciate life that he can break the cycle.

The Bible touches on this, as well:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV

The Bible gives similar, albeit more focused, advice for breaking the cycle of repeating the same things over and over:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

But this life is not the end. As Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so we need the full story.

This little story out of Acts 16 (vv. 24-34) demonstrates where the fear of the Lord should lead us:

Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

An Evolution of Fear … of the Lord

Proverbial Thought officially finished going through the book of Proverbs this past Thursday, but it will always contain great commentary and wisdom!

On a similar note, I receive a daily devotional thought every weekday from a great friend. What is amazing about God is that, although I have discipled him, he often challenges me in my walk through his short texts and helps me learn more about following Christ.

Also this past Thursday, he sent out a question as opposed to a typical commentary-type message. Today, I share with you our exchange, only I will put in some the quotes of each verse(s) mentioned.

Ok, so I would like input if anyone gets a chance. I want to hear what your take on the “Fear of the Lord” is. I am doing some interesting lexical study and would like variety! Check on Proverbs 1 [v. 7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.], Isaiah 6 [note Isaiah’s response to seeing God and the message he is given], 11:2,3 [And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LordAnd his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.], Deuteronomy 28:56 I believe? Or 26:58 [Deut. 28:58: “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God . . .”] … Anyhow, give me thought, ideas, beliefs! What does fear mean in these passages. And I can tell you they are all the same Hebrew word, Yare, with the primary definition: to be afraid of or fear (in the very traditional sense). But his many other peripheral definitions that include the likes of reverence, awe, and deference. [This link is for BlueLetterBible.com with a look at the Hebrew.] Let me know what you think!
My response is as follows. Please keep in mind, I am speaking from my studies and experience and not necessarily according to a specific theological system.
From what I have learned it can mean all of those things. I stand with the idea that we begin with terror of the One who can destroy us, move to a simple fear as we come to faith, and grow into a reverent awe (respect, love, and amazement) as we are drawn closer in Christ. As we consider the fates, if you will, of others, we should find a healthy mixture of all. He has given us, as believers, a responsibility over our fellow Man, so we still face some judgment, though no longer condemnation. The more faithfully we live, the less terror we will and should have (from dread to simple fear to deeper humility).
What say you? Do you have any thoughts on this matter? He was appreciative of my comments, but perhaps I need to continue working on my understanding, as well!

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things …

As the book of Proverbs is finally “all commentaried out”, go catch some of the final wise words this week at Proverbial Thought!

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Psalm 119:37, ESV

I made a covenant with my eyes . . .
Job 31:1, NIV

A couple of weeks ago, I announced through Facebook that my wife and I were cancelling our Netflix and Hulu accounts.

This decision had very little to do with what we watch. We try to be rather discerning in what we watch because we do not want to let too many immoral and/or blasphemous things in our minds if we can help it.

Rather, the decision came after a comment made by one of seminary professors.

While working through the book of Acts, we were discussing whether Christianity was a threat to the Roman Empire. My reply was “Technically. I mean, look at when Paul got upset with the girl with the Serpent spirit and cast it out of her in the name of Jesus. The people who were making money off of her fortune-telling were suddenly out of a means of income.”

The conversation then focused on how Christianity messed with the economy of the Empire. This is because makers of idols, workers in pagan temples, and even tour guides around cities with temples would lose business throwing off the entire economy of entire cities if not the entire Empire.

Then the professor made this comment: “Imagine if Christians still gave up all of their idolatrous and ungodly pursuits. How many Christians pay for pornography in our society?

My initial thought was “I’m glad that is not us!” (Caitlin and me)

Then some conviction set in.

How much have Netflix and Hulu used their profit to produce shows or movies that glorify sex and nudity?

How much have Netflix and Hulu used their profit to produce shows or movies that mock or blaspheme Christians and God?

At first I tried to justify having these accounts:

How many Christian-based things do they show?

It is not like I watch those things!

Netflix especially comes in handy working in a school, for both my wife and me!

I found myself getting angry that I should have to give up something.

Why was I angry and finding such a need to justify my actions if I was doing nothing wrong?

More than anything, I needed to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

So, instead, I turned to my classmate and said “I am not very happy with the professor right now.” We then laughed about my silliness.

Most people I talked with about it went through the same justifications. A couple of them even said I was being too legalistic.

To combat that, a) I am not saying everyone needs to cancel Netflix and Hulu. This is a personal conviction. I certainly will argue for others to let go, because how much do we really need Netflix, Hulu, and television in general? This is especially true when we consider how useless most television is, how ungodly most television is, and how much God and Christians are blasphemed and mocked. b) We still occasionally watch TV. We enjoy being entertained as much as anyone, and not everything on TV is bad for us. c) We will still go to some movies (Speaking of which, The Lego Movie is rather fantastic in a purely entertaining vain!), for through this we might still be able to show Hollywood what kind of content we prefer while supporting some local businesses (or at least our friends who work at local businesses.

More importantly, though, is that we want to not only obey God in our lives but push others toward Christ by refusing to be a part in causing others to stumble:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Everyone will be salted with fire.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Mark 9:42-50, NIV

We both felt that our continued subscription to these businesses supported content that could cause others to stumble or even be led astray. We would rather not have these forms of entertainment and be closer to Christ than have to have our conscience troubled if what we are doing is moral and godly. Christ and other people are more important than our temporary enjoyment.

How many things in our lives do we devote too much of our time and money to instead of focusing on loving God and people?

In our culture of instant gratification, pleasure, and stuff, how often do we unplug, sacrifice, and get quiet?

What Love Do You Have?

Today I offer part two of the devotional time from the recent trip to the Desperation Youth Conference. Again, it has been adapted for the blog.

This devotion is taken from 1 Kings 3.

Have you read that?

Good.

Seeking Wisdom

Many Bibles title that chapter “Solomon Asks for Wisdom” or something like that.

I now invite you to read the entire book of Proverbs. (You can also head over to Proverbial Thought for some excellent commentary!) If you do not read it all right now, I understand.

Solomon made the right choice. Wisdom is the ultimate thing you can get. If Proverbs 8 is compared to John 1, we understand that Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God.
Wisdom helps us understand what God is doing in our life: Wisdom guides us to God; Wisdom helps us understand when the Holy Spirit is working in us or God is working in our circumstances

The usual theme for this passage is Solomon’s wisdom shining through.
It is a good example. Imitate Solomon in this regard!
But this is not the theme of our lesson today.

These two women are prostitutes. This helps explain why they were living together, they both had children, and there are no fathers mentioned.
In a previous devotion we discussed crazy things: Things that happen to us, things that we hear about hapening to others, and things God calls us to do. Imagine being labeled a prostitute, kind of like being called a slut in school or the workplace. Everyone knows you have this reputation. Would you be willing to go before anybody, let alone a king, to fight for your rights if everyone thinks you are practically worthless?
These women going before Solomon would be like school bullies going before the principal saying one stole the other’s stolen lunch money. Society did not look very highly on them! This is a crazy or even silly situation (at face value).

The real point of this devotion, however, is this:
What is your most favorite thing or person?

Would you … could you give that thing or that person up? Would you be willing to let your worst enemy take it? Would you be willing to let your girlfriend/boyfriend go to another person? Would you give up your child?

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:37-39

One of my favorite definitions of hate is that it means you love something more than another thing.

And the Wisdom that leads us to God, is Christ Himself. If you claim to love Jesus Christ, are you willing to give up your life for Him? Do you love Him enough to give up your life?

Just like prostitute who cried out to let her baby live with the other woman if it would spare his life, are you willing to say “Lord Jesus, take my life and do with it as you will!”?

Fearing God

Last year, I wrote on why I fear God. This past weekend I saw a video from Francis Chan on the topic, and I realized I did not finish my thought last year.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

I mentioned last April that fearing the Lord includes respect and awe at His Holiness and Awesomeness. This is true and necessary.

We also need to understand what it means to respect. In that post I had a picture of a man sitting on the edge of canyon wall. I think this image can adequately demonstrate the need for respect. Ask any rock-climber, highrise construction worker, bungee jumper, deep-sea diver, hang glider, or any other dangerous profession/activity, and (the honest ones) will tell you that you must respect the danger. If you forget to respect the danger, you are that much closer to death (because you can make a mistake that will cost you).

This is the other part of fearing the Lord we must remember. God is ultimately the One who has power over life and death and everything in between and beyond either end. Many have taken the verse from Mathew 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” to mean God is the One who should be feared.

“Die in your sins, and suffer in Hell,” is how many preachers have put it throughout history.

Let us not forget God is also the One with the wrath!

This is all very important and must be remembered. However, this is not my focus, today.

If you were to look up the phrase “Do not fear …” in the Bible, it is used every time the Lord or one of His angels appeared. Most of the time, the people who were approached were relatively good people. Why would they have to be told to be unafraid?

Here is my take on this:

  • Many times, these guys show up unannounced and out of nowhere! Here you are, sitting by yourself, doing work or minding your own business, when FLASH! “HELLO!” That would be pretty freaky, man! I know I would need to be told to calm down!
  • These people were always given pretty big news, and that can be over-whelming. Imagine you are hanging out at God calls you to sacrifice your son. Or you are preparing the ingredients for bread, and God calls you to lead an army to overthrow conquerors. What if you were sitting quietly and then told you would have to raise God’s Son? You have been going along attacking people, and now you get the word from the Man Himself that you are now going to be a leader of these people. Scary prospects.
  • I think this one is the real crux of the matter, though: Imagine you are sitting there when a perfect being with amazing power and radiating holiness arrives. You will immediately become aware of how imperfect, not powerful, and offensive you really are. Daniel was a righteous man, blessed in all he did. When the angel Gabriel showed up, he fell down in fear. Afterward, he felt ill for days. Isaiah was taken before God, and he was instantly aware of his sins, crying out how unworthy he was. Saul/Paul was confronted with the Lord and was so over-whelmed that he called himself “the worst of sinners.” (There is an interesting dialogue about this phrase over at 3-Fold-Cord)

To go back to my original analogy, we must remember that we are dealing with Something rather intimidating: God. Therefore, we have to remind ourselves of Who He is. If we approach God as merely our friend, it is like acting blasé about a cliff-face and slipping due to carelessness. Carelessness and a lack of proper fear and respect can be fatal. So it is with God.

Any thoughts? Have I over-stepped my bounds, not gone far enough, or do you think I am right on the mark? Have you learned anything about the fear of the Lord?

Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.