Benefits of Fearing the Lord

As we talked about Tuesday, 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

Five Benefits of Small Groups

Here is part two of Thom Rainer’s  three-part series on small groups.

Rainer writes:

Last week, I wrote on the five myths of small groups. This week, I turn my attention to five deliverables of small groups. For a church to have transformational small groups, it must first recognize how its small groups will equip participants for the mission of God and the cause of Christ.

Today I examine how the activity of community within the context of small groups results in transformed lives.

Deliverable 1: Smaller communities deliver deeper friendships.

As our churches continue to grow larger, they must also grow smaller to connect people on a transformational level. We may not like to admit it, but we know when we are known, and we like it better that way. It has been said that our own name is the sweetest word in the world to us. Nothing is more personal and unique. Nothing gets a quicker or more emotional response.

For transformation to take place, we must know and invest in relationships with one another. By joining other Christians in small-group communities, believers can find the environment where life change can often occur most readily.

Deliverable 2: Smaller communities deliver accountability relationships.

The most valuable takeaway in a smaller community is the person sitting beside me. Our lives become a weekly narrative to one another of God’s faithfulness and our response. Connecting to a small group of friends means that we leave our halo at the door. The accountability living in a class or group helps us to live in the transformation brought about by Christ.

It might sound a bit strange, but the local church needs more provoking. We read, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). In the KJV the word promote is translated “provoke,” which provides a more vivid picture. We like the word provoke because it feels a bit more aggressive . . . of course in a positive, Christian way. Our nature is to be a sinner and drift away from God and His purposes. We need a bit of positive provocation to keep us on path through the accountability of friends.

So small groups cannot be just another program provided to those interested in . . . small groups. Smaller communities must be part of a commitment to spur one another on in our Christian commitment.

Deliverable 3: Smaller communities deliver environments for spiritual growth.

Attraction may get someone in the front door of a church on Sunday morning. The unchurched, previously churched, and church shoppers are looking for excitement, energy, and creativity. Churches have never been better at producing solid Sunday morning environments. But relational connection and life transformation in small groups will move them beyond the spectator level.

Also, what attracts them into the front door will not translate into personal transformation even if they attend multiple times. Initially they may only feel comfortable enjoying and engaging at a distance, but something must make them more involved in the action. One visit a week or a few visits a month are less evasive with less results. The nature of a smaller group results in another connecting point. In most churches new attendees only see multiple layers of structure and little relational space. Connecting them to a small community is critical for their spiritual journey.

Deliverable 4: Smaller communities deliver maximum participation.

Even the normal size church (seventy-five on Sunday morning) is driven by its worship service and is limited in the number of people who can participate. Transformational small groups require more than just attendance. Attendees must take responsibility for the long-term functionality of the group. The more responsibilities can be distributed, the healthier the group becomes. We believe in small communities that give everyone a job. Prayer leaders, home hosts, greeters, communications leaders, facilitators, and community mission leaders are just a few job opportunities in a small group. Normally small-group jobs are simple and do not require knowledge or experience. The group belongs to the group. When we get maximum participation, we get maximum buy-in for people engaged in God’s mission. That matters.

People need to move from sitting in rows to sitting in circles. Sitting in rows you are watching someone else using their gifts. You are more a passive spectator than an active participant. Small groups help people move from sitting in rows to sitting in circles and from sitting in circles to going into the world.

Deliverable 5: Smaller communities deliver missional opportunities.

The small groups in your church must be more than social or study groups. If they are biblical communities, something else must happen. They must be filled with people who hold to a missionary mentality ready to engage in the mission of the church. Mission will provide the glue for the group.

The group and classes will serve to minister to the members. But to keep the members ever transforming to look like Jesus, they must be given the opportunity to help the community reflect the kingdom of God. The goal of a group must be the multiplication of disciples for Jesus.

What is your small group delivering? Are you producing true disciples? Are you provoking one another to good deeds?