Posts Tagged ‘ God ’

The Hard Knocks Life: Cursed to Bless

When life is hard, wisdom can be found to help at Proverbial Thought!

Last week I began a discussion on why our lives may be hard. I started with God leading to our difficulties for the purpose of strengthening our faith and preparing us for holiness.

As I said, it had to come first, no matter how much I wanted to build up to it, because God is always involved in some way with whatever is happening in our lives.

Now, before I hear any complaints or accusations about God causing our problems, hear me out.

Living with pain

3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

. . .

13 When they [the Sanhedrin] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Acts 3:1-10, 4:13-22

Here is a man who was born without the use of his legs. I am sure many people told his parents it was because of some sin in their lives. I am sure many people told this man that he remained crippled due to some unconfessed sin. I am sure many people questioned God’s goodness.

Yet, what do we see here?

This man was used to bring glory to God.

By his healing, many believed in Jesus as Savior and God.

Useful?

So many people grow up in and live through horrible circumstances.

Some grow up in poverty, barely living a life as they wonder if they will eat today.

Some grow up being abused by a parent or both parents, other relatives, friends, or some authority figure(s).

Some get into an abusive relationship with another person.

Some are hit unexpectedly with an illness or injury that turns their lives upside down (See Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8).

Some are hit with financial calamity.

Most who go through these ask a question something like this: “Am I good for anything?”

God says “Yes!”

God is in the redemption business. He can even redeem your pain, confusion, and loss.

God may not have been the primary cause of your circumstances, as was discussed last week, but in any event He is in control.

While that may sound like God is an evil tyrant, the truth is that He works with sinful man’s actions and orchestrates them out to His glory.

Are you useful?

For starters, you can appreciate God’s love, mercy, and grace in ways many other people miss or can not.

Secondly, you may be able to help others going through similar circumstances.

No two circumstances are identical. There will always be differences, whether great or small. However, the great connection found through the similarities offers a closeness and ability to help that few others may ever find.

Lastly, you bring glory to God!

When you believe Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord and live a life dedicated to serving Him, you bring glory to God.

When you ease the suffering of another human being, you bring glory to God.

When you help lead another person to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you bring glory to God.

God redeems your life to use you for His glory.

Your life may be hard, but it helps you appreciate God and love Him more.

Your life may be filled with pain, but it gives you the gift of being able to help others.

Your life may not be what you would have wished, but God will be glorified through your life.

That is the highest calling one can receive. It is the greatest gift one can be given.

As Paul instructed in Ephesians 5:20, we should be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” While it may hurt, cause discomfort, or create a living hell out of your life, God can use it for good.

Does God want you to suffer?

No. He does permit it, though, because He can see the bigger picture.

He wants you to spend eternity with Him. Sometimes, we have to go through pain to get there. (Like facing the needles to get antibiotics that can save your life.)

The Hard Knocks Life: When God Blesses Too Much

For a hard life, get some wisdom from Proverbial Thought.

There are three major reasons we learn things the hard way in this life.

The first comes obvious to too many of us: growing up in an abusive environment, whether it be physical, sexual, mental, or emotional from a parent, other family member, friend, or family circumstances.

The second reason rarely unknown to anyone: our own stupid decisions/mistakes with which we must live with the consequences. This can be seen through drug/alcohol abuse, gambling problems, trying to jump your parents’ car over the swimming pool, or a myriad other things.

Really, the third reason is most important, because it is involved with the other two reasons in some way.

The focus of this entry is the third reason: God.

A popular theme in Christendom as of late has been God blessing His people. There is nothing wrong with this, except that we either focus too much on His blessing and not enough on His discipline or take the idea too far into thinking He owes us blessings or we can create the blessings.

God does indeed bless us on a regular basis. Takes some of these passages for example:

Rich and poor have this in common:  The Lord is the Maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:45

We are each blessed with sunshine and rain (and yes, rain is good!) This can also be understood as “He gives us one more day.”

I mentioned that one first, because some people – usually those who fall under the first two reasons of a hard life – are not so thankful for a new day, let alone the day they were born. Some people find it hard to love or even believe in a God who could have allowed so much of their suffering.

Yet, there may be a reason for that suffering.

Consider Job

Job was one who cursed the day he was born (Job 3), rather extensively, actually. Why?

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Job 1

Therefore, Job lost all of his possessions and his children. But that was not the end:

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Job 2

Job also lost his health! You can see why he would curse his birthday! (This was his sin, by the way. He told God He had made a mistake.)

Yet, because Job stayed faithful to God, he received twice as much as he lost and had the most beautiful daughters in all of Israel.

God put Job through the fire to purify him and prepare him for greater things.

Consider Jacob

On his way back to his home, where his brother lived, Jacob asked God to show His favor on Jacob. He sent his family and possessions across the river ahead of him, then the story got more interesting.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
Genesis 32

Some argue that Jesus is the one who wrestled with Jacob, but that is not the point.

The point is this: Jacob asked God to bless him, and he walked differently for the rest of his life.

When we ask God to bless us, it will always cost us something. Many times it will hurt. Most times we have to give up something. Every time we will have to reconsider what we know and believe about God, our world, and ourselves. His blessing may even be one of the reasons we go through the other two reasons for a hard life (see my entry at GrowUp318.com , “Stupid Prayers“).

Most times, we ask God for blessings, and we forget that it may very well bring pain and will certainly bring change.

However, it is the only way we will grow closer to our loving Heavenly Father.

You could say the old proverb is true: Be careful what you wish (pray) for, you just might get it!

With God, it is always worth it in the end.

Besides, do not forget was James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

God Is Good …

… ALL THE TIME!

Here is a friendly reminder to see some of God’s goodness over at Proverbial Thought!

To end the month of February, I am going to keep this short and sweet.

God is amazing and good, all the time.

We may go through struggles, hear upsetting news, deal with pain and loss, but God is still good.

We may be on top of the world and having everything going well, and God is still good.

We must remember Him always. We must praise Him in all things. We must thank Him in all things.

God is a God who deserves our love and admiration, our praise and worship.

All I have to say today is this:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his love endures forever.
Psalm 106:1

Another Adulterous Wife and the God Who Loves Her

Once again, I remind you to get some wisdom from those inspired by God’s wisdom over at Proverbial Thought.

There was a man who was called by God to speak out against the wrongs and injustices in his nation.

He spoke out against the nation turning away from God to follow its own lusts. He spoke out against the rising violence. He spoke out against the rise in crime. He spoke out against the rise of disrespect for parents. He spoke out against the lies of the government leaders as well as the religious leaders. He spoke out against the partnership of those leaders with different religions and hostile governments.

While this could be someone from any moment in the past fifty years in pretty much any part of the world, you probably already guessed that this person is in the Bible.

The First Adulterous Wife

Hosea was told by God to take a wife who was little more than a prostitute. Even though Hosea and Gomer had three children together – a son, a daughter, and another son – Gomer began to live and sleep with another man.

When things began to go badly for Gomer and she found herself on the auction block as a slave, God told Hosea “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (Hosea 3:1) Hosea essentially paid his entire savings to buy his adulterous wife from prostitution and slavery.

The message was and is clear: Just like Gomer, Israel had sinned by turning from God to the false gods of other nations. They neglected their relationship with God, they neglected their children and parents, and they neglected common decency.

God’s punishment for these sins was exile. But God loves His people.

He brought the nation, at that time divided in two, back to the Promised Land as a united people.

Beyond that, and this is where the Christian Church comes in, God sent His own Son as payment for the sins of not only Israel but of the whole world! In essence, God sacrificed Himself in payment for the sin we are all guilty of committing: worshiping anything other than God!

Another Adulterous Wife

If only those who believe the truth of God sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins never strayed!

If you look around our world today, especially within the Western World of Europe and North America, there is much corruption.

Leave governments out of this. Except for the mini-nation of Vatican City, national governments are not of God. He may have established the governments of the world for this time (Romans 13:1), but they do not govern the matters of God. They govern the matters of people. (Regardless of what most of the world and the Conservative Right say of the United States of America, it is not a Christian nation.)

Read the newspapers and watch the news on TV. Hardly a week goes by without hearing of some sex scandal, controversy, or fraud from some church or denomination. Many congregations, leaders, and denominations choose to work more with governments and other religions than with other congregations, leaders, and denominations. Many compromise their beliefs to appease the masses, the government, other religions, or simply passing fads or ideas.

Looking around today seems to show a Church which has left its Groom (Christ) to have relations with those who do not believe in or even mock the God of the Universe.

God’s Love

Even with all of the sins the people within the Church of our Lord continue to commit, He still loves her.

His Bride continues to allow many sins to be committed in His name, but I think there are good reasons He has not brought the same judgment on the Church as He did on Israel.

For starters, His faithful are still loving the least of these and showing God’s love.

Among those who rob God are those who give more than their fair share.
Among those who compromise their bodies are those who remain chaste and pure.
Among those who compromise their beliefs are those who remain steadfast in faith.

Secondly, God holds back His wrath because of His promises.

He has promised that His wrath was poured out on His Son.
He has promised that His wrath is not for His faithful.
He has promised that He will wait until He separates His faithful from the world.

Lastly, God holds back His wrath because of His love.

If God is not willing that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9), would He not give us time to repent, to choose His love in our hearts?

Hear the Truth and Turn

We each, in our own time, sin against God, yet He so desires to be with us that He died on a cross for our forgiveness and waits to destroy the world until His proper time.

As Peter said:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:10-15

Let us not worry about the sins going on around us in the name of the Lord. Instead, let us focus on our own relationship with God. In the process, God working in our lives will either cause guilt leading to repentance or guilt leading to further sin.

In any event, we are to remain pure to God to the glory of God.

Destroyed and Renewed

During the trip to Colorado Springs for the Desperation Youth Conference we had daily devotionals with our kiddos. It was a blast. Here is the second one we did with them (with a few modifications for the blog!):

God’s Fire

There are two parts to fire: Destruction and Renewal. We throw a piece of paper into a fire to get rid of it, but crews will go into a forest and purposely burn swaths of land to create a barrier to stop a forest fire from spreading. God has one fire, but it can both purify and destroy. Trusting in God tempers us so that we endure and are refined. Without trust in God, all one can expect is destruction.

1. The recent wildfires destroyed tens of thousands of acres (hundreds of square miles) of forest and several hundred homes. Overall, though, that destruction provides nutrients to and restores the soil, and this can help forests grow stronger in the long run.

2. Do you know how a silversmith knows when he has removed most impurities from silver?

This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.
Zechariah 13:9

God will put us in the refining fire to work out impurities. This can be through circumstances and conviction by the Holy Spirit. There will be pain involved, but it is to make us better (like a forest being burned to create more and sustaining life).

3. Many people lost everything: homes, mementoes, belongings. Most will realize they still have their lives. Like the forest, they may rebuild and even become stronger. With insurance they may even get new and better things. As we go through life we will endure many trials and suffer many losses, but we shall be rewarded for our faithfulness.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
Zechariah 3:1-4

How does the silversmith know when the impurities have been removed from the silver?

After putting the silver in the fire, all of the impurities float to the top and are scraped off. This is done until the silversmith can look at the silver and see his (or her!) reflection shining back.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Luke 3:16

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27

Jesus baptizes us with fire to purify us. The Holy Spirit both pushes us through that fire and strengthens and encourages us as we pass through. When we come out on the other side, the Father can look at us and see His Son Jesus Christ shining back!

The Bittersweetness of the Living Water

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
John 7:38

There are many songs today that declare the greatness of life in the Spirit, who is often called the Living Water. Many teachings discuss the great life Christians have through the Holy Spirit.

One teaching was lacking in many churches, especially those which reached and some still reaching very large audiences, has been what life in the Spirit was promised to truly be like.

Life is indeed amazing when the Holy Spirit is free to move through us, but a better understanding of “great” should be made clear.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Jesus said we would experience trouble. With or without Christ, life in this world will be hard. In fact, it can be even harsher on Christians due to persecution in many different ways.

In other words, the gift of the Holy Spirit might be exactly what causes much of our grief:

Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
John 16:7-11

People do not like feeling convicted. Especially in our Western culture in which we are told we are to love ourselves as we are, that we are born the way we are supposed to be and cannot really help some or all of the things we do, being told we need to change can be dangerous. If the Holy Spirit moves through us to touch the lives of others, we should expect to be on the receiving end of at least some backlash of a frightened and wounded soul confronted with its sin.

When our internet connection slows down, in most cases we blame our computers first, when it is something with the internet itself (such as high traffic).

When the hot water in the shower turns cold, we get upset with the shower head or the knob(s) which control the water, when it is the water heater being unable to keep up with our consumption of hot water.

When we feel convicted, we blame the person delivering the words that reveal our shame and guilt, when God is the One who convicts of our mistakes and sins.

Notice, however, that at the root of all of these is human activity. This, though, is another topic for discussion later!

In all of this bitterness, our Lord has promised sweetness, as well:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

We can have hope and peace in the middle of trouble and persecution through the Holy Spirit. Also:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him
James 1:2-12

Trials help to prepare us. They prepare us for eternity, but, in the more immediate, to help others.

As stated, the Holy Spirit moves through us to convict others and bring glory to God. More often than not, we are used to help people who experience something through which we have been.

There is a definite bittersweetness to life as a Christian, but as the Living Water flows through us we are strengthened and are used to strengthen others. Ultimately this is all to bring glory to God.

Endure. Persevere. Be a part of bringing glory to God.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 05/20/2012

Did you know that the reason Oprah says she cannot believe in the God of the Bible is because it says He is a jealous God? Like so many other things in our world by so many people, this comes from a misunderstanding of what is being said.

This is not the reason I wrote this poem. I wrote this poem because I read one of the passages describing God as jealous for us (not “of” us, as Oprah understands it).

jealous one

all He wants is our devotion
all He craves is our attention
when we look to other things
when we make our made up kings
He burns with righteous rage
He scorns what we have made
but He tries to sway us back
but He gives us a little slack
He lets us learn on our own schedule
He wants to fill us to more than full
we must hurry before there is no time
we must hurry before we are left behind
the reason He cares is for us to come
the reason is He is the Jealous One
so let us join with the Holy God
so that He may come and make us good

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 65.

Something Hallmark Will Never Express Adequately

I do not care whether you think Saint Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic days of the year or the scourge of the calendar. For my thoughts on this day, see my posts from last year here, here, here, and here.

The point we all need to see is this:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 3:16-24; 4:7-21, NIV

Happy Valentine’s Day!

May the love of God fill and overflow from your heart!

Hating What I Love?

In my first official post ever (52 weeks ago today!) I made an argument of why religion is not as bad a thing as some people today make it seem. It seems fitting that on my one year anniversary with this blog I discuss the topic again!

Perhaps you have seen the video going around the web, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus by Jefferson Bethke, but, if not, go watch it now. It has caused quite a stir, especially between the liturgical sections of Christianity (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etcetera) and Evangelicals of various stripes.

I have found some great, balanced responses online, particularly from Richard who has covered it from top to bottom. He also shared a video from Make a Friar (find both videos here), and honestly it is quite amazing. (Even Jefferson Bethke totally dug the video!)

I have also seen people on both sides (and other sides, such as atheist and other faiths) attacking each other by calling names and questioning character and salvation.

To those people, I give a hearty GROW UP!

To everyone, I think it is time for a reminder.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

As some on the blogosphere have said, Jesus was also about religion. Consider His words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) As a refresher, the only religion Jesus hated is what we now call “legalism“. Religion itself is not wrong, it just how people implement it.

Clearly (oh, yes, I said “Clearly”), Jesus does not hate religion, and there are certain things He expects of us. As listed above, some of those things are to care for others in need. He also calls for us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.

What does this mean?

We should look back at what Jesus said: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Now, Jesus did call some people names (such as “snakes”, “brood of vipers”, and even “Satan” … poor Simon Peter), but He was revealing their true nature or intentions for what they were: not godly.

When we do it, especially in circumstances such as over this video, it is nothing but childish name-calling and wickedness. When we do it, we are acting like the very people whom Jesus scolded. When we do it, we are being “religious” in the way Jefferson Bethke hates … the way Jesus hates.

When we do it, we are pushing our hate on Jesus.

It is okay to hate “religion” and love religion. It is not okay to hate each other. When we act this way, remember Jesus’ other words:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40

This is a little out of context, but hear me out. The things we do or do not do to and for people is done or not done to Jesus …

 

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?