Benefits of Fearing the Lord

As we talked about yesterday, the Lord is to be feared; however, fear should not leave us cowering to the point that we are not able to approach Him.  Hebrews 4.16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We should be able to approach God boldly, confidently, cheerfully, courageously, freely, and fearlessly with all assurance that He desires to hear our petitions. God wants to fellowship with us. However, we cannot approach Him like many children do their parents today—hateful, full of spite, and disrespect. He is God. We are to bow humbly before Him, showing great respect, fear, and awe because of who He is.  We should never demand anything from God.  We can share our pains, needs, wants, desires, fears, questions, and concerns, but we do this from a heart that realizes His plan is perfect, He sees the bigger picture, He knows what is best for us, and what will give Him the most glory.

The fear of the Lord prohibits us from approaching God in a selfish, entitled manner. In Psalm 8.3-4 (ESV) David says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  His fear of the Lord kept everything in perspective. He is God and Creator; we are the created.

For years I have read the Proverb of the day. These daily readings have shaped my understanding of the fear of the Lord.  Here are a few verses that help us understand the benefits of fearing the Lord.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” (Pr. 1:7).

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil…” (Pr. 8:13).

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

“The fear of the LORD prolongs life…” (Pr 10:27).

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Pr. 14:26-27).

“Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it” (Pr. 15.16).

“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Pr. 15:33).

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm” (Pr. 19:2).

Fear of the Lord brings knowledge, hatred of evil, wisdom, insight, prolongs life, confidence, is a fountain of life, is greater than treasure, and leads to a satisfied life. Things here may not always be easy; however, God is always faithful and one day will reward our faithfulness in fearing Him.

All Bible quotes taken from the English Standard Version

Whom Shall I Fear? GOD!

Yesterday I asked the question, “Whom Shall I Fear?” The answer is God.  Jesus warned us, do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10.28 NKJV).

Many try to limit the “fear of the Lord” as just having a reverent sense of awe toward God. I agree we should revere the Lord, humble ourselves before Him, and tremble in His presence.  However, this should not lessen our view of God as the omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent God of all creation. He declares what is righteous and holy. He has determined what is and is not acceptable. He commands and demands our obedience to that which He has declared holy.

When we lack a sense of fear toward God, we will find ways around His laws, commands, and ordinances. We will convince people truth is relative. We will give them the freedom to do what feels right and follow their own convictions, just so long as what they are doing makes them happy. By following this advice, we make ourselves god. We are wise, can decide right and wrong, and we can declare whatever we want to be right, just, and holy.

In twenty-first century America, we are way too sophisticated to worship wooden, clay, or stone idols. However, when we put ourselves in the place of God, we have enthroned a ruler who only pursues lust, envy, jealousy, and selfishness. We only seek that which fulfills our every desire. There is no longer room in our lives for a God whose commands leave us feeling guilty and inadequate.

Therefore, with broken and contrite hearts, we must avoid fashioning God into our image. We must remember we are sinners before a holy God. The following quote from a Charles Spurgeon sermon in December 1874 puts it this way:

Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty.

This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.” The God of Holy Scripture is love, but he is also possessed of justice and severity; he is merciful and gracious, but he is also stern and terrible towards evil; therefore unregenerate hearts say, “We cannot accept such a God as this,” and they call him cruel, and I know not what besides.

Sermon of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” December 6, 1874.

It is not for us to define God in a way that is more palatable. God has declared who He is, who we are, and how we are to live.  Let God’s Word lead you, and you will find the life of which you have always dreamed!

Whom Shall I Fear?

One of the worst memories I have of my school-years is of bullies. To this day, when I see a news report in which someone is being bullied a fire starts to build up within. Even as adults, we have to deal with those who try to intimidate us with fear.  They may threaten our job, family, health, or property. They demand we give them exactly what they want or pay for disobedience.

Bullying didn’t just start in the twenty-first century.  When we look back in history, we see that bullying today is nothing new under the sun. In the Old Testament, we can see how scare tactics were used against David; and yet, most of the time he responded in a godly manner. His trust in God allowed him to endure the trials of life. No matter what the threat or how difficult the circumstances, David’s trust in God led him to find peace which led to praise.

An example of this in Scripture is Psalm 27.1-6:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD” (Psalm 27:1-6 ESV).

A Killer Message!

I have been preaching God’s Word for over twenty years. I have preached all over the United States, Brazil, and London. I’ve preached messages that were meant to challenge, change, and convict those listening. Sometimes I have been soft-spoken, while other times I just cleared a spot and pitched a fit (that’s preacher talk for “I got loud!”). I try not to plan how I am going to preach, but I spend a great deal of time on what I am going to say. I want to make sure the message God has laid on my heart is what comes out of my mouth.  There is nothing worse than spending several hours preparing and then laying an egg on Sunday. My greatest desire is to be obedient to the task.

In Acts 6.8-7:60, we can read a killer sermon by Stephen, one of the first deacons.  I say “killer sermon” because after he had finished preaching, those listening took him outside and stoned him to death. They didn’t kill him because he was an inexperienced preacher, was too boring, didn’t use enough illustrations, or spoke too long. Nope, they killed him because he was right! Everything Stephen said was 100% correct, and they didn’t like it–so they literally killed the messenger!

This Sunday as we take a closer look at Stephen’s message, we will examine what he said, what caused such a reaction, and how this applies to us today.

I hope to see you at 10:45 a.m. this Sunday morning at Living Oaks Baptist Church.

Unconditional Love

This was written by Robertson McQuilkin six years after stepping down as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary to care for his wife, Muriel, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Seventeen summers ago, Muriel and I began our journey into the twilight. It’s midnight now, at least for her, and sometimes I wonder when dawn will break. Even the dread of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t supposed to attack so early and torment so long. Yet, in her silent world, Muriel is so content, so lovable. If Jesus took her home, how I would miss her gentle, sweet presence. Yes, there are times when I get irritated, but not often. It doesn’t make much sense to get angry. And besides, perhaps the Lord has been answering the prayer of my youth to mellow my spirit.

Once, though, I completely lost it. In the days when Muriel could still stand and walk and we had not resorted to diapers, sometimes there were “accidents.” I was on my knees beside her, trying to clean up the mess as she stood, confused, by the toilet. It would have been easier if she weren’t so insistent on helping. I got more and more frustrated. Suddenly, to make her stand still, I slapped her calf–as if that would do any good. It wasn’t a hard slap, but she was startled. I was, too. Never in our forty-four years of marriage had I ever so much as touched her in anger or in rebuke of any kind. Never, wasn’t even tempted, in fact. But, now, when she needed me most…

Sobbing, I pled with her to forgive me–no matter that she didn’t understand words any better than she could speak them. So I turned to the Lord to tell Him how sorry I was. It took me days to get over it. Maybe God bottled those tears to quench the fires that might ignite again someday.

Recently, a student wife asked me, “Don’t you ever get tired?”

“Tired? Every night. That’s why I go to bed.”

“No, I mean tired of…” and she tilted her head toward Muriel, who sat silently in her wheelchair, her vacant eyes saying, “No one at home just now.” I responded to Cindi’s question, “Why no, I don’t get tired. I love to care for her. She’s my precious…”

Love is said to evaporate if the relationship is not mutual, if it’s not physical, if the other person does not communicate, or if one party doesn’t carry his or her share of the load. When I hear the litany of essentials for a happy marriage, I count off what my beloved can no longer contribute, and then I contemplate how truly mysterious love is.

What some people find so hard to understand is that loving Muriel isn’t hard. They wonder about my former loves–like my work. “Don’t you miss being president?” a student asked as we sat in our little garden. I told him I’d never thought about it, but, on reflection, no. As exhilarating as my work had been, I enjoyed learning to cook and keep house. No, I’d never looked back.

But that night I did reflect on his question and turned it to the Lord. “Father, I like this assignment, and I have no regrets. But if a coach puts a man on the bench, he must not want him in the game. You needn’t tell me, of course, but I’d like to know–why didn’t you keep me in the game?

I didn’t sleep well that night and awoke contemplating the puzzle. Muriel was still mobile at that time, so we set out on our morning walk around the block. She wasn’t too sure on her feet, so we went slowly and held hands as we always do. This day I heard footsteps behind me and looked back to see the familiar form of a local derelict behind us. He staggered past us, then turned and looked us up and down. “Tha’s good. I likes ’it,” he said. Tha’s real good. I likes it.” He turned and headed back down the street, mumbling to himself over and over, “Tha’s good. I likes it.”

When Muriel and I reached our little garden and sat down, his words came back to me. Then the realization hit me; the Lord had spoken through an inebriated old derelict. “It is you who is whispering to my spirit, ‘I likes it, tha’s good.’” I said aloud. “I may be on the bench, but if you like it and say it’s good, that’s all that counts…”

I think my life is happier than the lives of 95 percent of the people on planet Earth.

At Peace With God’s Pace

Graceway MediaThis morning I would like to introduce you to Steve Roll, founder of Restoration Ministries. Steve is a godly man who longs to see others enjoy the healthy spiritual life God has planned for them. He has committed his life to be a helping hand and word of encouragement to those who are hurting.

I believe his insightful post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will give you simple advice on how to enjoy the life you’ve been given. Personally, I want to go through life at a pace which allows me to enjoy living. I don’t want to live at a frenetic pace feeling like a contestant on “The Amazing Race” going to different places but never having time to enjoy them.  God’s pace will always allow us time to smell the roses.

I pray Steve’s post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will bring you hope of enjoying life and not just rushing through it!

“The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3
 “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23

“Are we there yet?” Like kids on a vacation trip trapped in the backseat of the car—we are an impatient people. Rather than enjoy the journey, we clamor to arrive at our destination. And we want to be there NOW!

Everyone is in such a hurry today. You and I run here and there, and there and here, like chickens with our heads cut off.  We have been duped into thinking that the fast lane of the rat race is where it’s at. Who says we have to run the rat race? I guess the rats do! So many people labor and live at a breakneck, feverish pace in order to keep up with the Joneses. If I read my Bible right, Christians are to keep up with Jesus, not the Jones. 

When you study the life of Christ, you find that He paced Himself during His three year ministry. His steps were established (ordered, directed, laid out) by the Father. You never see Jesus stressed out. The Lord never put pressure on Himself to perform or be successful. In the midst of intense opposition and adversity, Jesus experienced the peace of God. Why? Because I believe He was at peace with God’s pace on the way to the cross and resurrection.  

Someone said hurry is often the long way around in life. Hurry, scurry, and worry keep many people frustrated. Many people lack inner peace in their lives because they don’t pace themselves. No wonder we have so many stressed out, burned out, freaked out people in our society. 

I have always been a high energy person. At times, high gear has been my Achilles heel. As a young boy, I remember watching my first long distance track race. The starter’s gun sounded, the runners took off.  I was so disappointed that the runners weren’t sprinting and running in highest gear. The race was 5,000 meters. The distance runners knew something I didn’t. 

They understood the principle of PACE. To complete the race, they had to pace themselves over the distance. They couldn’t possibly run the whole course full throttle. They would run out of gas before the finish line if they ran full blast.
As Christians, we are running a faith race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Lord’s will is for us to finish our faith race victoriously (II Timothy 4:7-8). It’s to our benefit that we run our race at His pace. If we run ahead of God, we will burnout. If we run behind God, we rust out. But if we run with God, hand in hand with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we WIN OUT!

God is a god of peace and pace. He is never in a hurry, He never worries, and He is never late or ahead of schedule. He is perfectly on time, all the time. His secret: a planned, purposeful, peaceful, productive PACE. God’s universe and Kingdom is one of peace when His creatures live life at His pace. A restful, productive pace that energizes us is God’s way.  

Isaiah makes it crystal clear: Perfect peace is ours when we steadfastly focus on the Lord and trust Him to quicken the pace or slow it down. Note it is God’s perfect peace that the trusting person will receive. God’s perfect, complete, whole, fulfilling, satisfying peace is something we cannot produce ourselves.  Our Heavenly Father is the god of peace who gives peace to His children. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the time my problem with pace is not going too slow, but going too fast. Through the school of hard knocks, my hard head is learning that God loves me so much He will find a way to slow me down when necessary!
If we desire to be healthy, peaceful, and productive, we must come to terms with being at peace with God’s pace. If you are out of sync with God’s pace, fall on your face before Him. Confess your impatience. Repent of your dysfunctional desire to control outcomes and have things your way in your time. 

Slow down long enough to receive God’s peace. As you fix your mind on Him, His perfect peace will flood your heart. Trust Him to direct your steps and to show you the proper pace to run your race. 

You and I are off and running into God’s plan for us in 2012. Great opportunities lie ahead for us to glorify God. Peace with His pace will produce less stress and more success in our lives. So let’s commit ourselves to run our race at His pace this year.

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:15
“Great peace have those who love God’s law; nothing shall cause them to stumble.” Psalm 119:165

A Word For Your Week:  Christian winners run their race at God’s pace.

Love or Guilt?

Graceway MediaToward the end of 2011 I was reading from Matthew 15:7-9 where Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (ESV). After reading these verses, I spent most of the day examining my own worship to see if there were any part of me that was merely honoring God with my words, but my heart was far from Him.

When I arrived home from work that evening, the first words out of my wife’s mouth were, “You didn’t call me today!” She was not angry, but surprised. You see, after eighteen years of marriage she became accustomed to my calling, emailing, or texting her several times a day to see how she is doing, say “I love you,” and just to talk for a while. So, it was very unusual for me not to contact her in any way for a whole day. Without any explanation I quickly replied, “Do you want me to call you because I love and miss you, or because I feel guilty for not calling you all day?”

Understandably, she was shocked at first, then hurt, and finally a bit concerned. She asked, “Do you ever call me out of guilt and not out of love?” I quickly assured her that it is because of my love that I call her almost every day, and that it had just been one crazy, eventful day at work. Then I talked with her about my Bible study that morning (Matt. 15:7-9). I had asked her the question, not to be a jerk, but to see her reaction to the thought that I might just be honoring her with my lips and not my heart. We want our spouse to love us, long for us, and be honest with us. My comment left her wondering, “Is he faking his love for me, and if so, for how long?”

Shirley’s reaction and the following conversation made both of us stop and reconsider our daily acts of worshipping God. Is my quiet time, which consists of prayer and Bible study, just something I cross off the list each day to feel better about myself spiritually? Do I listen for God during quiet time or just hurry through it? When attending a worship service, am I more concerned about how long it takes, what I have to do after church, or how it affects me more than lifting up praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to the One who died for me? Am I just going through the motions of what is expected? Is my spirituality a mask I put on to play a certain part when I am around my Christian friends or at church?

None of these “spiritual activities” are true worship. Jesus has commanded us, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Just as we would be offended at someone faking their feelings for us to get something they wanted, so is God! Worship, Bible study, church, living a righteous life, and obeying God’s commands are not things we do to keep from angering God. These good things are not to be practiced so that He will give us everything on our wish list of wants, needs, and desires. Worship is giving to God what He deserves. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Christians should reflect the character, attributes, love, and holiness of God. We don’t do it because of what we might get, but because the Spirit of God resides in us and that is who we are in Christ.

I don’t want to live a hypocritical life. I don’t want worship to be out of guilt or something I do for my benefit.  I want my worship driven by an insatiable thirst for God’s glory, honor, and praise. I want my worship to be the direct result of who I am in Christ. I want my worship to be something I live out every minute of every day. I want my worship to be sincere, honest, and from a heart of love!

Take time today to read Matthew 15:7-9 and examine your motives for worship.