Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
Today’s Fresh Fire is our last in this series. It’s been a great adventure finding and studying verses that have helped me bolster my faith. I hope these verses have helped your faith journey as well!
The idea of hearing the voice of God makes me think of my dog, Tucker. When he was just a puppy, I made a commitment to train him much differently than our previous dog. When my other dog was a puppy, I also had two small children to train. And the dog was the last to get my attention! So, with Tucker I’ve made it a point to make him into a good walking dog. At this point in his training, he walks with a e-collar rather than a leash.
There were a few training goals which my husband poo-poo’d at the time. One, that Tucker be trained to only chase rabbits when I allowed it. And two, to only cross the street when he received our approval. When my friends walk with me and Tucker they know that at each street corner we must stop, look both ways and proceed. Tucker, even while walking slightly ahead of me, will sit at each corner and wait for me. A training feat accomplished!
But what does this have to do with the voice of God? You see, my real goal with Tucker was to help him not get hit by a car if say, he were to be in the front yard with me while off leash. So, when we approached a corner and a car was passing by, even if it was going parallel to us, I made him wait. I associated not only the changing texture of the surface he was on but also the sound of cars with his need to wait.
And I can almost swear he now looks both ways, looking and listening for cars. He has learned to listen to something outside his little doggie mind before he can proceed safely.
Isn’t that what God wants from us? To be so well trained to listen for Him that we don’t proceed until we hear what He wants of us?
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Throughout this series through verse after verse we have heard that to stay close to God we must pray, read His Word and listen through silent mediation. And the Bible shows us so many ways which God will speak to us – dreams, visions (like with Ezekiel), burning bushes, through others, signs, and the written word. If we aren’t listening to all His ways then how can we ever expect to cross the street safely? To move forward in our lives along His preferred path?
When Jesus made the statement in our verse today, He is telling us to listen up! To pay close attention! He tells us that a time is coming where when we hear His voice again it’s resurrection time. For those who hear His Word and turn to Him for the first time, that resurrection might mean tomorrow. Their dead souls come to live in new life. For others it will be when the believers are raised from the dead and enter into God’s glorious eternity. While still others will be resurrected and judged harshly.
But if we aren’t listening for Him, what will we miss out on? We miss the opportunity to be made righteous. We miss the opportunities to enjoy peace and grace and forgiveness right now.
This thing I know, that when I have neither heard nor read, I have yet felt the voice of God within me, and the Spirit has, himself, revealed some dark mystery, opened some secret, guided me into some truth, given me some direction, led me in some path, or in some other way has immediately spoken to me himself; and I believe it is so with every man at conversion;
Charles Spurgeon, The Majestic Voice
I was at my first women’s Bible retreat and we were challenged to go find a quiet place to talk with God. I found myself at a rustic, outdoor chapel of sorts. As I sat in prayer, I laid my heavy heart out for God. My constant prayer at the time was to help me find peace and a lightness of spirit. I felt so heavy with burdens. As I finished my prayer a flock of tiny birds flew directly in front of me from one side of the chapel to another. As they raced each other along their path they chirped loudly at each other – a flock of children laughing and squealing in some unseen game. The landed in a tree just above me and kept up their heavenly laughter. And I laughed along with them.
I realized immediately it was God snapping His fingers at me to say, “Wake up! There is joy to be had all around you! You see, even my tiny birds, who have only themselves, this tree and this moment are filled with laughter. You have so much more that I have given you!”
The voice of God is everywhere. It’s in us. He fills our dreams. He thunders with each storm and crashing wave. He gently rocks us to sleep with the croaking frogs. He loves us with the cooing of a baby. He runs laughing with us while getting that kite up in the air. To truly hear Him, to listen to what He has to say today, we just need a bit of practice and some well-planned training. The next time you find yourself needing to cross a proverbial street in your life take a moment to listen. He will guide you safely across.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
I’ll admit I’ve had a bit of a rough relationship with God the last few weeks. I have an on-going health issue related to my sinuses. For years I’ve suffered through swollen sinuses, infections, allergies, clogged ears, excruciating headaches and more. I’m in my third year of allergy shots and recently had a second sinus surgery. And I feel worse.
A few weekends ago I spent most of the time feeling like my head was either in a tight vise or underwater. Conversations were muffled and my eustachian tubes felt as though a needle was being jammed in them. I got on my knees and started praying desperately for God to heal me. While at church I prayed continuously for healing. And the pain continued.
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Have you ever felt the way the psalmist did when he wrote that verse? Like God just isn’t listening? That Sunday evening, I sure did. I was in tears. And so, I cried out to God even louder to please heal me. For a brief moment I even felt myself being pulled back into my old way of thinking that God didn’t care about me or worse, maybe didn’t even exist. But my faith journey has brought me too far to let me slide backwards.
There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season. He makes new men of them; He give them a new heart and He puts within them a right spirit.
My knowledge of God has led me to a place of greater wisdom. Instead of asking God to “wake up” I started asking Him if this was to be my thorn, my constant affliction to cause me to rely more and more on Him.
It also led me to put my pain and suffering in perspective. While my issues are painful and irritating, I am not debilitated. I can still rise every morning and serve Him and the people around me. And through a pounding headache I can still go out for a walk and experience a beautiful day. I put my troubles up against my mother-in-law’s, who through a year battling cancer and diverticulitis has managed a smile each time I talk to her. Yes, at her lowest she has cried. But I’ve watched her turn back to God in faith, searching for His hand in all things.
I want God to take away my pain. I know He can. He can heal me as I write this. And it is not for me to know why He doesn’t.
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
I would prefer not to be held to the same spiritual standards set by the Apostle Paul. To seek God’s goodness when I feel my worst. To feel His presence when my head is pounding. To do the work required of me when the pain is almost overwhelming. At times I just can’t. That’s when I beg God to help me, to rescue me.
I’m not going to stop asking for healing. But I’ve decided that I trust God that there is a reason He hasn’t. And I know for certain, that in trusting Him, one day we will all be free from affliction and experience His amazing glory.
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a “doer.” In the Bible, Martha is my spirit animal. I can so easily picture myself cooking and cleaning all day, getting ready for Jesus to come for dinner. Then while He is at my house I’m running around making sure the drinks are filled and people have enough to eat. Cleaning up spills and getting a jump on doing the dishes. All the while, slightly annoyed that others are sitting at His feet, enjoying His company while I slave away.
There’s a lot of pride wrapped up in that thinking. And I’ve had to learn to accept my “doing” nature while learning two things: 1) accepting that other people are born to be the type to relax and soak up the moment and 2) learning how to balance being a doer and not missing out on those special moments. Because Jesus admonishes us from His teachings in the gospels to His messages in Revelation to “return to our first love.” Meaning, Him.
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
This was the message to the church in Ephesus. They were doers. They took James’ messages to heart. They worked hard, served many and were also great at making sure false teachers didn’t enter their midst. But they forgot to be in awe and wonder for the Lord.
How often, when we feel like we are moving away from our faith do we turn to “doing” more rather than taking up Mary’s approach – sitting in awe and wonder at His feet?
Wonders are things out of the common, unusual things, extraordinary things. Usually they are unexpected; we wonder at them partly because they are novel and surprising. They take us aback; they are things which we looked not for. When they come they astonish us, and put us both in a muse and in a maze. We look, and look, and look, and cannot believe our eyes; we hear, and hear, and scarce believe our ears.
Sometimes I find myself listening to a story of wonder by a fellow Christian – a story where God has worked miraculously in their life – and I do a quick acknowledgement and move forward. As though this moment where God touched their life was so humdrum ordinary!
In a commentary on the restoration of our first love – the awe and wonder of Jesus Christ – Warren Wiersbe challenges us to take these steps:
Remember what we have lost.
Think back to when we were so excited about our relationship with the Lord. Remember when He has worked miraculously in our lives. Recall when we cried during our singing at church while we lifted our hands up to Him!
Repent (Change) our minds.
Decide that we want that awe, wonder and love back! It sounds obvious but if you haven’t done it yet, evaluate why.
Repeat your “1st Works.”
What are those? It was when you were devoted to prayer, mediation, Bible reading, service in His name, and worship
Thankfully, the world and God need both Marthas and Marys. When I get caught up in my “Martha-ness” I remember that Jesus had His own special relationship with Her. It was Martha that ran out to meet Jesus after Lazarus had died. She proclaimed to Him that she believed Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
For some people, life may be monotonous and meaningless; but it doesn’t have to be. For the Christian believer, life is an open door, not a closed circle; there are daily experiences of new blessings from the Lord.
I want to always be in touch with my “First Love.” I want to live with that sense of awe and wonder. And when I feel it fading I need only to sit in quiet mediation and allow His Holy Spirit to rekindle the flame within me.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
I was having lunch the other day with a friend and she shared with me a disturbing trend in her two Bible study groups. She said to me, “I’ve had it. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to hear either side anymore.” You see, the Christians in her group forgot who was in charge of their lives and the great gift of peace bestowed on believers. They started arguing about politics. In fact, one of her groups completely dissolved because of this.
When we think about the status of our faith, we usually concern ourselves inwardly. But throughout the New Testament we are charged with guiding our fellow believers closer to God’s truths and blessings.
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
So often that “bitter root” that gets fomented in our churches, faith groups, Bible studies, etc causes people to disconnect from their faith journey. And if we have joined in creating that situation, we must count ourselves at least partially responsible for the results.
It is easy to throw stones at others, but glass houses should whisper caution.
Charles Spurgeon on A Political Dissenter
That’s not to say we aren’t to discuss the worldly goings on and the effects they have on our lives. But our primary focus should be always on God and being peacemakers.
When the Covid pandemic hit and a Bible study I was in was still meeting we were discussing our fears and such. The group leader proclaimed, “I believe God is sending us this pandemic as punishment for what we have done to the environment.” I’m sure that just caused everyone reading this to divide into camps. Now, I love the environment but I’m not an “environmental activist.” And that statement didn’t sit well with me. But instead of going on the attack I kept my mouth shut for once realizing that nothing I might say would change her mind or be helpful.
We seem to have evolved into a society where our opinions absolutely must be heard and must be accepted or else we are prepared to judge our “adversary” in all manner of ways. And when this happens within a Christian group, I can tell you one thing for sure, Satan is quite happy.
This quote by AW Tozer is a bit long but he handles this issue very well:
One thing must be kept in mind: We Christians are Christians first and everything else after that. Our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are grateful for political freedom. We thank God for democracy as a way of life. But we never forget that we are sons of God and citizens of another city whose builder and maker is God. For this reason, we must not identify the gospel with any political system or make Christianity to be synonymous with any form of government, however noble. Christ stands alone, above and outside of every ideology devised by man. He does not join any of our parties or take sides with any of our great men except as they may come over on His side and try to follow Him in righteousness and true holiness. Then He is for them, but only as individuals, never as leaders of some political faction. The true Christian will be loyal to his country and obedient to those in authority, but he will never fall into the error of confusing his own national culture with Christianity. Christianity is bigger than any country, loftier than any civilization, broader than any human ideology.
I’ll be honest, I’ve really struggled with this issue for the last few years. I want to live in God’s peace but I also am a lover of freedom and America. For the last few months each time I work myself up to being outraged over some issue I’ve turned to God. I remind myself that He is ultimately in charge. I remind myself that my job, as a Christian, is to share His Word and live faithfully by it. That means showing grace and compassion. It also means “allowing” God to handle everything until He tells me He needs me to do my part.
When we truly desire to be peacemakers and have Christian solidarity as a goal, we change our conversations and words. Instead of sending around an inflammatory news article or Facebook post to our Bible study group and letting it drop like a bomb, we should share with them the struggle we have with the issue and where we see God in it.
The apostle Paul dealt with strife amongst some of the churches. Because let’s face it, our churches are just made up of people. People with varying points of view and opinions.
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:2-6
We should not be “waging war” like the world does. Our fight should not be with each other – working to destroy one another’s faith. We need to turn our focus back on to God and help our brethren to do the same.
…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.Habakkuk 3:18
According to Psychology Today we make an average of 35,000 decisions each day. That’s about 2,000 decisions per waking hour. I remember when I was working as a public relations and marketing executive at a mid-sized company. At the end of each day I felt exhausted. I couldn’t even think about what to make for dinner. I realized at some point I had decision-making fatigue.
So many of our decisions are ones we don’t really think much about – if we are going to get up and go to work, if we are going to brush our teeth before leaving the house, if we are going to get dressed. We just sort of do them out of habit or necessity.
But what about our faith lives? How many of us have, along our journey, made the decision to fade away from our faith? Not realizing we’ve made a decision to shut out God. For some people, because of issues at their church or maybe a difficult time in their life they actually made a conscious decision to completely turn away.
There are basically three types of people shown in the Bible. First there is the nonspiritual person who has not accepted God at all. Second there is the person who has accepted Jesus as their savior but still lives by the world’s expectations. And third is what is considered a “mature believer.” This person learns to do the will of God no matter how he/she feels or how difficult it is.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.1 Corinthians 13:11
This is where the term “baby Christian” arises. It’s the second type person described. Picture how a baby lives its life. Crying and throwing a tantrum when things get uncomfortable. Babies are very self-focused people. They don’t care if you haven’t slept all night or exhausted from a long day at work. They want, they need, they demand. If they don’t get it, they aren’t happy. They live off feelings and wants and needs. It may sound harsh, but how many of us are living our Christian lives this way?
No matter what level we are on, we should want to grow , but if we find we are still in the baby stage of Christianity, we should certainly make a commitment to God to start working with His Holy Spirit toward maturity.
That’s why I like the verse from Habakkuk today. Prior to verse 18 the prophet lists all the things that are going wrong – the fig tree isn’t budding, there’s no grapes, the olive crop is failing, and there’s no livestock. Yet he will rejoice.
Great faith is maturing faith. Great faith is growing faith. And great faith is becoming stronger and great faith is standing on the truth of the Word of God. Not feelings, not other people’s opinions, not the past, great faith stands on the truth of the Word of God. Here’s what God is saying. And the focus is on God. Great faith is always focused on God.
And growing faith means choosing to be faithful. We humans don’t tend to like to be the cause of our problems. We want our lack of commitment to God to be about something that happened to us, an absence of the right feelings, or because of the world’s demands. But it’s really about where we have placed so many of our 35,000 decisions. In how many of them did we even consider God’s desires for us?
When you feel like quitting or running away, remember that you can’t run away from your troubles and you can’t run away from yourself. The solution is not running away; it’s running to. It’s running to the throne of grace and finding grace to help in time of need.
Take the time today to consider your decision making and how it relates to your commitment to God. Sometimes we are tasked to just decide to run to Him – not waiting for a feeling or some grand emotion to well up inside us. If we can make the decision to get up and go to work today or the decision to do the laundry or get the kids off to school we can make the decision to open our Bible. We can make the decision to have a conversation with Jesus.
Most of the 35,000 decisions we make today will be for the world of the flesh. How many can we carve out to be the ones that matter for all of eternity?
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
I’ve been thinking a lot about separateness lately. As the world seems to move farther and farther away from the message of Christ, I find myself feeling separated from so much of the goings on. Politics, social and moral issues that the world promotes appear to be so upside down. At times I’ve asked, “Where is God in all of this?”
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
“What on earth is He up to?” is, I suppose, the better question. Since the beginning of time God’s work has been about separateness. He separated the dark from the light. The land from the sea. The heavens from the earth. He even set apart man from beast. And when He commanded that there would be light it also meant He would set apart good from evil. From that day on He started working in our hearts to bring us into the light. The light that Jesus gave direct access to through His sacrifice.
I’ve been visiting a new church with my husband. The pastor is Adriel Sanchez. Some of you may recognize him as one of the duo from Core Christianity – a podcast and radio show heard around the world. His church has begun a new series on Genesis. And he spoke on the creation of light and dark.
God created beauty, order and light and He didn’t need ingredients. He made them out of nothing, darkness.
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
He went on to put the Jewish (and eventually Christian) creation story in to context. The Jews were most likely wandering in the desert when this story was possibly given to Moses from God. Their lives were dark and chaotic. And while other religions of the time, just like today, have their own creation story, those religions created gods out of what was created – the Sun God, Moon God, God of Nature, etc. You’ll notice in Genesis that the sun and moon aren’t called those names. Possibly to avoid man from elevating them to a worshipping status. God created all the things that these other religions made into little gods.
We weren’t created to serve the sun, the moon, or nature. They were created FOR man by God.
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
When you think about what God did for us humans it’s pretty amazing. Think about a gift you received that was the best gift ever. Do you remember how you thanked the person who gave it to you? Now imagine this gift that God gave us. The light, the land, the skies, the animals. How could we ever thank Him enough? All He has ever asked of us is to set ourselves apart from the darkness.
Our hearts are like the wilderness – dark and chaotic. And God says to our hearts, “Let there be light!
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
So let’s go back to C.S. Lewis’ imagery of rebuilding the house. God is working on rebuilding the world. God works on large scale projects while also working on our tiny little bathroom remodel. It’s the same work schedule He has maintained throughout history. There’s a lot of knocking down walls going on. And with that comes a lot of pushback from people who don’t want the light to enter in the room. They enjoy living in the darkness in order to put themselves and their desires at their center.
I’ve heard people talk disparaging about the Bible – its violence especially. Many uneducated about the Bible take issue with destroying whole towns and killing off all the residents. But put in context it was a major remodel taking place. Those cities were rife with termites and rot. Child sacrifices and unbridled sexual exploits all in the name of satisfying some fertility god were rampant. They were just plain evil.
And while God was using other people and the Jews to destroy those darkened places He made it a point to work in each and every Israelite’s heart. He cared about behavior but He cared more for bringing light to their hearts and minds. They were to act like people set apart from the darkness. He cared enough about us, as individuals, to first send His Son and then leave us with the light of His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us.
It’s hard to live set apart from the world. It may cause our faith, at times, to wane. But I’m finding when I change my question from “Where is God?” to “What on earth is He up to?” it helps me to see His work in me and the world. For when I see my Savior I surely want to be remodeled, a house full of light.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.1 Corinthians 9:25
I’ve been a member of various gyms over the years. Each time, after that initial enthusiasm of “this time I’m going to become a flat stomached, toned armed, no jiggle mama” I fell into a boring workout routine. And then I found excuses to not go to the gym – I was tired, I worked late, I didn’t sleep well, my kids needed me for something, etc. Next thing I knew the gym was making money off a person that wasn’t even using their services.
For some of us, at one time or another, our faith life and studying and living out His Word fell into that same pattern. There were times when my on-line giving to my church showed up a heck of a lot more times than my physical body.
Running is a fitting pace for a believer. Jesus Christ deserves that we should run for him.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
How many of us got up this morning and thought, “I need to get in my God workout today so I can be ready to win that race!”? We may not see our studies of His Word like a workout but that’s what it really is. The “prize” is the ability to carry through the days of our lives as Christians who take full advantage of the fruits of His spirit.
Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
There are a few keys to successfully training for a big race or event and those same keys work for keeping our faith life active and effective.
Have a Plan
A plan is not, “I’m going to study the Bible” or “I’m going to be a good person today.” A plan IS something that is measurable and specific. For awhile I thought the Bible was something I just opened up to a random spot and expected to be told all the answers to a problem. And although God does set before us scripture we need we also need to be able to figure out the true meaning. A specific plan might be to pick one book of the Bible and find a five week study on it and do the study at a certain time each day. Another plan might be to commit to one God-directed behavioral change like smiling and saying “have a great day” to 10 people each day for the next month. Ask God to help you with your plan and He will surely answer!
Any devotee of fitness will tell you that consistency, consistency, consistency is what builds endurance. So even when you go on vacation you find a way to stick with your plan. Just last year I started packing my devotional book when I travelled. I brought my Bible study booklets on the plane to keep up with the chapters. Each time we want to make an excuse for falling off our plan we need to remind ourselves of the benefits. When I don’t want to go for a walk I remember the feeling I have when I am done – happy and satisfied that I cared for my body. When we don’t want to take the time with God we must remember how that centering time helps us throughout the rest of our day.
To run is to be diligent. We should hardly call that running in which a man starts and stops, and starts and stops again. In some Christian works we are painfully conscious that the persons undertaking them, if they ever run, run only for a very short time.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Shake it Up
When I was training for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day I walked five to seven miles a day five days a week. Occasionally, I would throw in a 14 mile walk. I set aside most of a day to accomplish that walk. And in our faith lives we need that same occasional change. It might be that we go to a different church that has different music. Maybe we move our morning devotional to the outside and watch the sunrise. Or we write out our prayers for the day on sticky notes and put them around the house.
Don’t Try to Do It All at Once
A good overall workout plan focuses on different parts of our body on different days. My daughter once was on a swim team. Some days were “land days.” On those days they ran. In the pool they practiced endurance on certain days and others it was technique. I have a lot of behavioral changes I need to make to align myself closer to Christ. And if I think about fixing them all at once it’s overwhelming. So, I ask God to help me with just one thing at a time.
There are always rest days in a workout routine. Time to let our muscles re-group. The same is true with studying the Word. You might think that’s Sunday – but that’s another day of study, isn’t it? Hearing the Word from our pastors, taking notes, and being challenged to go out into the world is part of our workout plan. For me, my rest from study is Saturday. I’ll read a devotional to get me focused for the day and that’s it. Yes, I put into practice the different lessons I’ve learned for the week. But I also just rest in the beauty of God.
So run that ye may obtain. So run that the great cloud of witnesses may applaud. So run that the King may say, “Ye did run well.”
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Our days here are short. If we chose to lollygag and be distracted by the world we miss out on all the glorious wonders of God. If we strengthen our spiritual muscles through a consistent plan we can be God’s instruments for the day. He will look upon us as fit warriors, ready for any heavy burden, ready to stand firm, ready to be his standard bearer.
From the west, people will fear the
name of the Lord, and from the rising
of the sun, they will revere his glory. Isaiah 59:19
I admit it. I have a difficult time with authority. I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it. I’m not sure how this developed in me. It’s not like, as a child, my parents encouraged me to question. In fact, we weren’t to question at all for fear of punishment. I’ve heard it said that we either grow up to be like our parents or work so desperately to be the opposite. For me, I think I so wanted to be heard and to be “right” for once that the desire became my personality.
This desire has helped me in many ways. At work I was always seen as someone with new solutions and ideas. I could cut through red tape and simplify processes. And until I garnered some maturity, I did all that like a bull in a china shop. But this way of living life can make it difficult to submit, especially to a force that is unseen.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and
When you read Proverbs the very first words are about wisdom and instruction. And sure, we can study our Bibles, listen intently to our pastors while scribbling notes in our Bibles but true submission to our Lord is more than that.
For a long time, I really just didn’t understand the concept of “fearing the Lord” and submission. Of course, given my nature it wasn’t like I was interested in the first place. I also wonder how many pastors these days even talk about “fearing God?”
If God is love, then why does He command us to fear Him? The fear of the Lord isn’t about being afraid of God; it’s about revering Him above all else. When we do that, we position ourselves to receive all the benefits that come with putting God first in our lives.
Dr. Charles Stanley
We humans are afraid of a lot of things – some of which we don’t even realize. We fear being made fun of, we fear being left out, we fear being unloved. I saw a movie that really brought this concept home called Defending Your Life. The main character, played by Albert Brooks, is a worrier. His fears become so overwhelming that he is stuck in a never-ending loop of inaction and regret. And then he gets hit by a bus. He finds himself in a waystation of sorts where he needs to defend the pitiful life he had on earth. And he meets a wonderful woman played by Meryl Streep. She’s opposite of him – jumped in on all that life had to offer.
It struck me that our days are filled with decisions that are made either based on fear of the world or fear of God. Do we go about our lives trying to keep our head down so the world and people around us won’t take issue with us? Or do we acknowledge that our Lord is sovereign over all and He has behavioral and moral requirements of us? Do we submit to the flesh or to the spirit?
Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.
I’ve come to acknowledge that while it is okay to call Jesus, “Rabbi,” or teacher I also need to call Him, “My Lord.” Because when I do it places Him above me, above all. When I call Him, “My Lord,” it means I need to submit to His will. My fear comes in as a concern that I want to be sure to serve Him and Him alone. Am I living a life that would please Him, not the world?
I don’t want to be like that Albert Brooks character when I face my Lord. Full of regret for having missed opportunities to place God as my life director.
I have a friend who is fascinated by all things British royal family. She knows just about everything you’d want to know about the monarchy. Shouldn’t we be that way about our one true Lord? Sitting in awe at His feet. Anxiously awaiting His orders. At the ready to do His bidding. Hoping to please Him at every turn. And fearing His disappointment.
By faith Noah, when warned about things
not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark
to save his family.Hebrews 11:7
If there were ever a man who had a lot to fear when it came to being judged by the people around him it was Noah. I mean, what a lunatic! Building a giant boat with no water to be seen. His “holy fear” kept him aligned with the will of his Lord.
It’s so easy to fall into a humdrum world-centered life. And it’s easy to make our prayer and worship life be rote. But if we can just picture that each morning when we rise, we step into our Lord’s magnificently built palace. Are you ready to approach His throne and submit to His Holy authority? Are you sitting in awe at His feet today, marveling at His awesome power and might? Let’s all sing at the top of our lungs today in worship of our Lord — and let the world tease us. We know who is smiling.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the
fiery ordeal that has come on you to test
you, as though something strange were
happening to you.1 Peter 4:12
I’d wanted to get my motorcycle license since I was 16 years old. For any of you counting that’s about 37 years ago. Back then, my mind and body were young and better equipped to handle the fast moving issues surrounding the dangers of riding. So, when I finally made a lifelong dream come true, I decided to take a motorcycle safety class. In order to pass the class, we were required to learn and practice a few emergency maneuvers. In one situation we were to swerve, at a fairly fast speed, to the left and to the right in a tight “z.” In another we had to learn how to safely make a quick stop. In both, the decision had to be made in a blink of an eye to stay in the fight to be upright or to take flight from the bike.
The key to both safety maneuvers is where our focus lay – straight ahead. Our tendency, as new riders, is to look down at the front wheel. This is a sure fire way to crash, as I found out during one quick stop practice.
I’ve now been riding for about four years. But it is in the back of my mind at all times that I’m not sure how I will react when faced with a real emergency. I have the knowledge but not the wisdom of experience. Will I stay in the fight or take flight?
Isn’t our faith journey a lot like that?
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
We, through our faith teachers and reading the Word, gather up our knowledge of God and how His son, Jesus, loves us so much. But until we have faced an emergency, a faith testing, we cannot truly know how we will respond.
I think one of great crossroads in the New Testament is when Peter professes to Jesus that he will always stand by his friend. And when the faith trial came, he fled. Not once, not twice but, three times. And we ask ourselves, what would we have done?
Peter had the knowledge of Jesus but not the wisdom of a faith tested. And even after he realized the truth of the situation and witnessed Christ’s death, he still turned away for a time by going back to his old life of fishing rather than carrying out his friend’s commission.
I’m so grateful that the one player in the story of humanity never takes flight from us – God. He is the “long sufferer” in our thousands-year old journey. At each turn where we have either forgotten or abandoned Him, God has stayed the course and given us grace.
I once was so angry with God that I made the decision to stop believing in Him. I remember yelling up to the heavens, “I don’t trust you and I don’t believe in you anymore!”
I spent the next few weeks in a tug-o-war of sorts. At one moment I would find myself arguing with God and then another reminding myself not to talk to someone I didn’t believe in. And He never left me.
And let us run with perseverance the race
marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
I’ve had minor emergencies while out on my motorcycle – cars swerving in front of me, lights quickly changing from green to red – where I’ve accessed that knowledge from my safety class. It’s wisdom building. And God has given me minor trials along the way. With each opportunity to decide whether I stay upright, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus or to take flight, I build up my wisdom and faith muscles.
Peter, who although had the blessed opportunity to stand alongside Jesus for three years, had to face his own trials in order to fully mature from knowledge of God to having the wisdom and faith of His character and ways. When he took his eyes off Jesus, he was given grace. Jesus returned to him over and over.
As Christ followers, we know the entire story from which draw upon. And at every life emergency my hope is that we continue to stay upright with eyes fixed on Him.