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.


No Fears

“…new day & *no fears* because fears are just the bad stories we tell ourselves. *And your Father is far bigger than your fears.*
This is why ‘I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken’ Psalm 16:8. He pulls you right close & whispers it, ‘Do Not Be Afraid.’ He knows how hard things are. And He knows how *faithful He will be.*
That’s why He repeats it again & again, 365 times, so we don’t have need to fear any day of the year: Do Not Be Afraid. He holds every minute of this week & His grace & timing are *perfect.*
So we’re just going to go all out & Trust & be brave this week: It takes courage to listen with our whole heart to the tick of God’s timing, rather than march to the loud beat of our fears” (Ann Voskamp) 

Again, I remind you that fear is just False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear always looks to the future but fails to figure God into the equation. Fear always forgets what God has done in the past, but faith as the antidote to fear reminds us that God remains faithful in every circumstance.

Sometimes, fear comes over a specific circumstance, like a loved one being far away from home or the uncertainty of an undiagnosed illness.

Sometimes, fear is generalized and hard to pinpoint. You have anxiety but aren’t exactly sure why.

In either case, the cure to fear is still the perfect love of God. It’s believing that God’s perfect love can overcome whatever it is that you’re fearing.

Fear says that God is not enough. Faith says God is more than enough.

Once again, I say the words, “I believe,” even when my feelings tell me otherwise. I proclaim it until every part of me receives it and until I fully believe it.

God is enough.


“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm'” (Exodus 14:13-14, New Living Translation).

I think that we live in a culture where we are programmed to fear. A lot of advertising is based off the notion that you need a particular product or program if you want to avoid a dreaded catastrophe and if you want to stay safe and secure.

We live in a society where many fear what they don’t understand. Much of the time, that fear expresses itself in anger and outrage and putting up a wall toward anyone who has a different viewpoint than us.

But Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I.”

The way I look at courage has changed over the years. I used to see courage as bravely charging into a fearful situation or boldly standing up for an unpopular cause.

Now, I see that sometimes courage can be that quiet voice that tells you to try again tomorrow. Courage can be as small as taking that next step when everything in you is crying out for you to quit.

Courage can be showing up every single day, regardless of how bad the day before was or how bleak the future looks. Courage knows that while I myself may be at my weakest, what lies ahead of me is no match to what dwells within me– namely, the indwelling Spirit of Jesus.

Courage may indeed sometimes be bold and decisive, but often it’s continuing to be obedient in the minutiae, knowing that every little step matters. Sometimes, courage looks a lot like perseverance and patience.

My prayer is for courage for all of us not just in the dramatic moments but in the ordinary minutes and hours of every day humdrum. May we heed that quiet voice to always try again tomorrow.


Letting Go of Our Fear of God

“We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our ‘horror vacui,’ our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, ‘But what if …’

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love” (Henri Nouwen).

It’s one thing to be in awe of God and quite another to be afraid of Him and what He wants to do in your life. It’s one thing to be lazy and quite another to have margins in your schedule where you can be silent and still for long enough to see and hear God.

I am witness to so many who are so afraid of emptiness and silence that they run themselves ragged trying to fill every moment and every void with activity and noise. We need some silence for our mental well-being. We need down time and rest for our own sanity.

Many of the men and women of faith that we look up to prized that silence and stillness to the degree that they made it a priority in their lives and put aside noble and worthy activities to sit at the feet of Jesus.

My hope and prayer through the remainder this season of Lent is that I will learn to fill up the void of social media with a holy emptiness where God has room to come in and fill all the spaces and speak in all the silences.


Enjoying the Ride

I confess. I do like to go back and reread books and rematch movies. Sometimes, the second time is better than the first.

I can get caught up in the storyline and in wondering how it will all turn out. The next time, I already know how it ends, so I can relax a bit and enjoy the scenery a bit more.

I have another confession to make. I’ve read the last page in this Great Story and I already know how it ends. Jesus wins.

Knowing that, I can enjoy the journey more. I can look around and see the beauty in my life and actually be present in the moments as they occur.

There’s great peace in knowing that victory is the ultimate destiny for those who love God and belong to Him. I still love the idea that as believers, we fight not for victory but rather from it. Just as obedience doesn’t mean that God will love us more but that knowing fully the love of God can spur us to greater obedience out of gratitude than any sense of duty or obligation could ever incur.

At present, my story may not look anything like I hoped it would. It may not seem like it’s headed for a positive outcome. But what I read trumps what I can see with my eyes. God has told me how my story ends and even though I don’t fully know what it looks like, I do know it’s far better than any ending I could have devised on my own. It will be the perfect storybook ending.

I love the part in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Lucy reads the beautiful story and even though she tried her best to remember, soon forgets it all. Aslan later promises that He will be telling her story all the time to remind her.

The gospel is Jesus telling us our story and how it ends so that we don’t forget, so that we can be reminded when it feels like the present chapter can’t get any darker and that it will never get better.

Don’t give up on the Story. Trust the Storyteller to end it as only He knows how.

The end.


Get to Vs. Have to

Something my pastor said today in his sermon at The Church at Avenue South made me think of something another pastor from Fellowship Bible Church said.

Most of us, including me, have from time to time looked on the different aspects of Christianity as a drudgery– as in I have to read my Bible, I have to pray, I have to share my faith with others.

That’s the wrong perspective.

Maybe instead you should see your life of faith as a delight– you get to read your Bible, you get to pray, you get to share your faith with others.

Those who serve best are the ones who love best, and the ones who love best are the ones who know more fully than anyone else that they are loved best.

Once you begin to grasp the infinite love of Abba Father for you (and it’s something that not even in eternity will you ever fully get to the bottom of), then what He asks of you is no longer a chore and a drudgery, but a blessing and a delight.

It’s not a time issue. You always make time for what you love. It’s a heart issue. What truly matters to you and where does God end up on that list?

I write from the perspective of someone who’s not nearly there yet. I also speak as someone who is daily being transformed into that kind of person who can fully live out of the knowledge of being the Beloved.

Fear is a poor motivator. Eventually, you get tired of being afraid. Love, however, is the fuel that never runs out. As much as you are loved, you can love others, and the more you love others, you find yourself receiving even more love in return.

Those who live loved will live to serve. Those who live blessed will live to look for opportunities to bless and be a blessing.

The end.



Just Breathe

Sometimes, those moments of anxiety can be overwhelming. You know the feeling. You’re cruising down the interstate or sitting at your desk at work and suddenly, all those worries come crashing down on you. There may not be any logical reason for any of it, but you still find yourself fearful and anxious.

Just breathe.

Remember that today you will face nothing that Jesus hasn’t already overcome. Nothing will come up against you that He hasn’t already defeated on the cross.

He will work out all things for your good. It may not always look like you imagined it would, but in the end, it works out for not just the good but for the best.

Sometimes, you can say a prayer while you’re breathing in and out to calm yourself. I don’t mean a lengthy theological narrative, but a short one-sentence prayer. Maybe even a one- or two-word prayer along the lines of “Thank you” or “Help me.”

Or you can try this prayer I learned from one of Brennan Manning’s books.

When you breathe in, you can say, “Abba Father,” and when you breathe out you can say, “I belong to you,” until it becomes a kind of mantra. Say the words slowly and deliberately as if savoring and meditating on each one.

Repeat as often as necessary or until the meaning of the words finally begins to sink in and fear and anxiety loses their power over you.

It also helps to find a quiet, calm space to be alone for a bit. You may not be able to find a perfectly silent and still atmosphere, but you can find somewhere where you can hear yourself think.

Remember, God is with you. There’s nothing you will face that He can’t get you through. Absolutely nothing.

The end.

Listening to Your Fears Again

“‘Hush!’ said the other four, for now Aslan had stopped and turned and stood facing them, looking so majestic that they felt as glad as anyone can who feels afraid, and as afraid as anyone can who feels glad. The boys strode forward: Lucy made way for them: Susan and the Dwarf shrank back.

‘Oh, Aslan,’ said King Peter, dropping on one knee and raising the Lion’s heavy paw to his face, ‘I’m so glad. And I’m so sorry. I’ve been leading them wrong ever since we started and especially yesterday morning.’

‘My dear son,’ said Aslan. Then he turned and welcomed Edmund. ‘Well done,” were his words. Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, ‘Susan.’ Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. ‘You have listened to fears, child,’ said Aslan. ‘Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?’

‘A little, Aslan,’ said Susan” (C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian).

Everyone has fears.  Everyone.

Your fears may tell you that you’re not good enough– and never will be.

Your fears may tell you that people would never want to get to know the real you– and if they did, they wouldn’t like it.

Your fears may tell you that you can never change– and that it’s too late to try anyhow.

Everyone has different kinds of fears, but they all have one thing in common. All that fear is based on a lie. As a pastor once said, FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear leaves out Christ. Fear doesn’t add God into the equation. Fear says that it is totally and completely up to you and that you’re not adequate to the challenge.

That’s partially true. You by yourself are not adequate for the challenge. But the God in you is. And He hasn’t left you to face your fears alone. He has provided a way out and a way through.

Let your fears lead you to the faith that leads you to worship, remembering that God has been faithful in the past and will not fail to do so in the future.


A Sure Thing

“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing” (Isaiah 26:3, The Message).

That’s a good reminder for us all. In the Lord God we have a sure thing.

Jobs come and go. Relationships come and go. But God is a sure thing.

Those 401Ks and IRAs? Not so much.

When you’re feeling beat up and the week isn’t even over yet, remember that God is a sure thing.

When those people you counted on to be there suddenly aren’t, remember that God is a sure thing.

When you feel like the last of your hopes and dreams has turned to dust and ashes, remember that God is a sure thing.

When fear and anxiety won’t let you sleep at night and all you can thing about are possible worst case scenarios, remember that God is a sure thing.

When you have to say a last goodbye one more time to someone you love, remember that God is a sure thing.

Everything else will pass away, but not God.

Because you belong to God, you are secured forever, because God is a sure thing.



Don’t Be Afraid

So don’t be afraid. I am here, with you;
        don’t be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, help you.
        I am here with My right hand to make right and to hold you up” (Isaiah 41:10).

Don’t be afraid. I heard once that there are 365 instances in the Bible of “fear not.” I don’t know if that’s true. I do know that it’s something we all need to hear on a daily basis.

By the way, the best way to know if there are really 365 commands in the Bible to not be afraid is to read the Bible for yourself. Don’t just take it for granted that it’s true because someone posted it on the interwebs.

The important fact is that Jesus had a reason to tell us not to fear. That reason is that He is stronger than whatever causes us to fear. He is stronger than anything we will ever face. In fact, He has already defeated everything we will ever face.

Nothing can get to us that Jesus hasn’t already allowed. Nothing can come our way that Jesus hasn’t purposed to be ultimately for our good and His glory.

I love that about God.

So don’t be afraid. Trust God. Trust that He is indeed stronger than whatever fears are out there.

Of course, it’s much easier said than done. It’s one thing to tell someone else, “Hey! Don’t be afraid,” but it’s quite another when it’s you battling the anxiety.

The best way I have found to deal with fear is to pray through it, acknowledge that it’s real and something you can’t overcome on your own, and trust God’s promises over your own feelings. Trust that His perfect love casts out all fear. And keep doing it.

The worst that can happen is that God calls you home to heaven. Nothing can happen that will end God’s love for you or separate you from Him.