The Fear of God

“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery” (Brennan Manning).

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

The fear of God was the topic of tonight’s sermon from Kairos. I don’t mean fear as in uncontrollable terror, but more as a reverential awe. A healthy fear of God means that I can’t stay comfortable in my own sin, but this God who loves me as I am won’t leave me that way, but does all that is in His power to make me just like Jesus.

This God of the Bible isn’t a daft old grandfatherly type who will wink at your misdeeds and sins. This is the God who is completely Other, whom we could never hope to know if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself to us.

My favorite illustration of the fear of God comes from John Piper. He said it’s like witnessing a mighty thunderstorm from the safety of a shelter. You see the majesty and power of the storm but are protected from the danger of it.

This God of love is also a God of holiness. Jesus Himself said that God’s standard is perfection, yet Jesus also met that standard on our behalf. He said not to fear those who can kill the body only, but to fear Him who can kill the body and the soul, namely God.

I’m thankful God poured the wrath that my own sins deserved on Jesus. I hope I never take for granted that my sins always are costly and always bring death in some form. I hope I never lose sight of the wonder and awe and mystery of God who has made Himself known in the person of Jesus.

 

The Fear of Being Known (Stolen from Kairos)

It’s odd that we long to be known, yet at the same time we have a fear of being known. I think we want to be known by our best self we present via social media and not all the parts that we try to repress and hide.

To be fully known is to be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. It means taking the risk of rejection, but the reward is the realization that you are not alone in your struggles and insecurities and addictions and flaws.

I think all of us have at one point thought something akin to “If you really knew me, deep down, with all that I’ve done, you’d walk right out of my life and never look back.”

I believe one of Satan’s greatest lies to keep us isolated and alone is “You’re the only one who struggles with _________. You are a freak and a pervert and a disgusting human being because of your sin or habit. You don’t deserve to be known.”

As I once read, demons die in the light. Lies die in the light that comes from accountability and disclosure within a small and trusted group of people who will encourage and challenge you.

No one ever finds healing in isolation. You need community to help you find your truest and best self. God never meant for there to be any Lone Ranger Christians. And even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

As you know, fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. The reality is that everyone struggles and sins and falls headlong into temptation. Everyone has addictions and habits and sins that they’d prefer to keep hidden.

I always remember that God knows me more fully than I even know myself and still loves me unconditionally. He accepts me as I am but refuses to leave me that way. He calls us to love each other in the same way and to accept from each other nothing less than God’s very best.

H. A. L. T.

Note: I’m not taking credit for any of what follows. I’m only trying to reproduce it as faithfully as I can.

Everyone knows that you’re most vulnerable to temptation when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired. Any one of these is tough to overcome, but a combination of two or more makes it even harder.

At Kairos tonight, Chris Brooks suggested some methods to deal with these emotions.

When you’re tired, you need to fill up on God and His word. As strange as it sounds, the best way to do that is to fast, whether that be from food or social media or anything that can distract you from or take the place of God in your heart.

When you’re angry, it’s best to seek awareness of what it is that is causing that emotion. Rather than always blaming something or someone else, you need to look within to find what’s off in your own life. The best way is by spending time in silent reflection.

When you’re lonely, you want to seek to be united in the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ. You want to seek to love and be loved. Sometimes, that takes the form of seeking guidance by asking others to speak into your loneliness or sometimes you need solitude to be better able to interact with others out of a place of wholeness and not approval-seeking.

When you’re tired, sometimes you need a time out from doing. God created the Sabbath so that we could rest and worship (and sometimes the best worship can be resting). No one was ever meant to go full-steam 24/7.

Something that grabbed my attention is the idea of secrecy– that is, doing an act of service and kindness for someone else with the intention of no one finding out. That way you take the attention off yourself and put it on another.

Again, I’m parroting what I learned tonight. I’m probably leaving out a good deal of important information, but I myself am tired, so I will make use of Chris’ advice and get me some rest.

 

 

A Royal Waste of Time

Tonight, Chris Brooks talked about wasting your life . . . in a good way. The idea is that you give up pursuing what society and the media and culture tell you are worthy pursuits, and you spend your time, your talents, and your treasures to reach out to the least of these that the world calls nobodies.

You waste your life (according to the world) if you live selflessly and sacrificially and deliberately choose not to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.

You waste your life if you serve and give to those who will most likely never have the means to pay back what you’ve done for them.

You waste your life if you give up a promising career to go halfway around the world to serve the poverty-stricken in a third world country.

You royally wasted your time and your life (according to everything the world tells you) every time you lift your voice and your hands in worship to celebrate a baby born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough and who favored the outcasts and the marginalized but who is now the Risen King who lives forevermore.

If that’s a waste of time, let me be the first to waste my life for the God who didn’t spare any of His own life for me but lavishly wasted it on me in the person of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the book Chris mentioned in his sermon:

Sabbath Rest

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still. Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God— the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness” (Mark BuchananThe Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath).

I’m still mulling over what Chris Brooks said at Kairos tonight about Sabbath rest. We don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest.

Most of us go non-stop full speed ahead for five days and then come to a screeching halt for two days. Then we start the madness all over again.

Some never stop. They go all out, thinking that sleep and rest can wait. Unfortunately, their bodies often have different ideas.

I think very few of us know how to work from our rest as a form of worship. That’s what the Hebrew word for work also means– worship.

Rest sounds really good to me right now. Actually, sleep sounds great. I think I’ll take myself up on my own advice and call it a night, but not before leaving you with this little nugget.

May you find the rest of God by resting in God, staying your mind on Him throughout the day and working not for but out of your approval as a son or a daughter of God.

 

 

Finding Rest for Your Souls

“We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health” (Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less).

Tonight’s topic at Kairos was keeping the Sabbath.

It was not the usual guilt trip about how you shouldn’t go to Wal-Mart on Sunday or how if you skip church you must be a heathen pagan.

It was more about how God designed the seventh day for rest. Not merely sleeping in one day a week (though that is a good thing in my opinion) but truly resting in body, mind, and spirit.

Chris Brooks, the Kairos pastor, pointed out that we don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for work can also be translated as worship, so even our labors can have an element of rest in them if we view our jobs as offerings of worship rather than just tasks and to-do-lists.

I still love what Macrina Wiederkehr said: “Work is love made visible.” When we see that our job isn’t something we endure to get to Friday, but an act of worship and a demonstration of love, then it becomes less of an ordeal and more of a joy.

In a world where busyness is glorified and justified and promoted, God says to rest. God says that you can get more done in six days with a day set aside for rest than you can by charging ahead full speed for seven days without a break.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

Take Your Time

One of my favorite Kairos moments from back in the day when Mike Glenn used to lead the prayer time.

Put both feet on the floor, he’d say. There’s nothing that will come up in the next few minutes that’s more important than what God’s saying to you right now. Relax and breathe. All those errands will still be there later. Right now, all you need to do is focus on God.

We live in a culture that celebrates busyness. Not necessarily productivity. Just busyness. The mantra of the age is that we don’t have time because we’re so very busy doing God knows what.

The idea is to never have a dull moment or any down time. We have all these time-saving gadgets that create more time to get more done. As a result, we have less leisure and free time than ever.

Maybe the most freeing words anyone will ever tell you– take your time. That was my takeaway from tonight’s Kairos message.

Sometimes, it’s good to focus on your breathing. It’s good to be silent and still. It’s good to rest. Above all, it’s important to be in the moment, not always thinking ahead to the next big event or thinking back to the what if’s and the could have been’s.

“There’s no present like the time.” That may be my new favorite line from a movie. Time is not infinite. You get a precious few years to live, too few to waste in busyness. Life is to be lived and savored and not merely gotten through.

Take your time.  Wherever you are, be all there. Do less but do it with everything you have, offering it as your spiritual act of worship. Enjoy the little things and pay attention to the moments in your life.

Also, take plenty of naps. Those are good.

 

 

 

Finding Rest for Your Souls

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

That’s the key. That’s how you can navigate through a busy life without becoming harried and hurried.

I heard today how Pastor John Ortberg had become overwhelmed with busyness and asked his mentor, Dallas Willard, what to do. Willard’s response was simple: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

The key is to define yourself in terms not of your performance but in your identity as one dearly loved by Jesus. Once you work from your true identity and not for a false one, everything changes.

It’s good to create margins in your schedule and take seasons of rest and rejuvenation. Sleep is good. Naps are good. Finding a hobby that inspires and relaxes you is good.

The point is that none of us were ever meant to go nonstop 24/7. That’s not a sustainable way of life. Being in a hurry all the time actually causes you to get less done and to miss out on so much that’s important in your life.

I love the way one writer puts it:

“It’s ironic that in a culture so committed to saving time we feel increasingly deprived of the very thing we value. … Despite our alleged efficiency … we seem to have less time for ourselves and far less time for each other. … We have quickened the pace of life only to become less patient. We have become more organized but less spontaneous, less joyful. We are better prepared to act on the future but less able to enjoy the present and reflect on the past” (Jeremy Rifkin).

That Faith Chapter

“All these I have mentioned died in faith without receiving the full promises, although they saw the fulfillment as though from a distance. These people accepted and confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on this earth because people who speak like this make it plain that they are still seeking a homeland. If this was only a bit of nostalgia for a time and place they left behind, then certainly they might have turned around and returned. But such saints as these look forward to a far better place, a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God because He has prepared a heavenly city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16, The Voice).

I thought about the next blog post as I drove down Concord Road on my way home. I had the windows rolled down, inviting the balmy and breezy night air in as Ray Charles bemoaned in the background. That really has nothing much to do with what follows, but I thought it might enhance my cool hipster factor a bit.

Here goes.

God is not ashamed of you. That’s the takeaway from tonight’s Kairos.

In Hebrews 11, there’s a long list of heroes of the faith. By faith, they conquered their circumstances and clung to faith in God in the midst of overwhelming odds.

Just about every one of them also had a major blunder or two on their resumes. We’re talking about adultery, drunkenness, lying, and the like.

Yet they’re heroes.

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that the real heroes are the ones who persevere and keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. They readily acknowledge their weaknesses and grab hold of God with everything they’ve got.

God is never ashamed of anyone who reaches out to Him in faith. God will never despise anyone who calls out to Him in the midst of a great despair.

It’s not about great deeds of heroism but small acts of kindness and faithfulness over a lifetime that leave a legacy. It’s the determination to keep going in spite of repeated failures and mistakes.

Ultimately, it’s much more about God keeping His promises to us than it is about us keeping our promises to Him.

God is not ashamed of you. The end.

 

Let Your Light Shine

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message).

That’s what lights do– they shine.

My takeaway from Kairos tonight is this: being a light and shining is not about me trying harder, like one of those wind-up flashlights that constantly needs winding. It’s not about me generating my own light by better morals and doctrines.

Being a light is about being plugged into the Source at every moment and reflecting the light. It’s not about self-promotion or increasing your influence or growing your brand. It’s about being God’s flashlight to help those in a very dark world find their way home to God.

If you do it right, God gets all the attention and the glory, not you. After all, the cure for a world full of broken and hurting people is the true Light of the world.

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine” (Dwight L. Moody).