Looking beyond what we can see

Looking Beyond what we can see

Anatomy of the human eye

As we consider looking beyond what we can see, it might be helpful to review how we see physically.

The human eyes work very similarly to a camera. When you look at an object, the light it generates enters your eyes. The light first passes through the corneas, which begin focusing the light. It then passes through to the pupils. The size of the pupils changes to regulate the amount of light entering the eyes.

 The light is then focused through the lenses and onto the retinas. The retina is a light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye that contains highly evolved cells called rods and cones. The retina then changes the image into electrical and chemical impulses, which are transmitted along the optic nerves and into the visual center of the brain. It is when the image reaches your brain that vision occurs.[1]

Man is a remarkable creation of God. He is made physically perfect for the lifetime God has designated for him (Ps. 90:10).   However, as remarkable as Creation is, God’s work of salvation has resulted in our ability to see spiritually, the things we would normally overlook.

Seeing supernaturally

I love the Old Testament because of its value in capturing the wonders and works of God.  As I prepared for this series, the scripture text that came quickly to mind was the account of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 6:8-23.  This passage shares the incident in which the King of Syria, enemy of Israel, sent raiders to capture Elisha.  You will enjoy reading the entire text as it shows the confidence of Elisha as he prepares to meet this great army that surrounded the city of Dothan.

2 Kings 6:15-17 is most relevant to our discussion on seeing with spiritual eyes.  We may find the advice Elisha offered his servant relevant to us as we face the challenges of 21st century living.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The chariots of fire that the servant saw were heavenly hosts primed to do battle with the Syrian army on behalf of Elisha.  Elisha saw the heavenly army and recognized that there was no need to fear.  He saw past the potential danger and saw God at work. After Elisha’s prayer, the servant, through God’s enablement, saw that the mountain was full of God’s presence.  He looked beyond what he could see.  He looked from God’s perspective.

Kingdom reality

Seeing with spiritual eyes begins with understanding who God is and our position in the Kingdom of God.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.  More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.[2]

 God is the Almighty Sovereign who manages the affairs of the world from heaven. Through His providential will, God orchestrates every event in our lives. Our position in Christ elevates us to God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). We are the recipients of His promises, His privileges, and His presence (Eph. 1:3-5).

Kingdom reality does not deny the presence of sin and its outcomes on the world.  We are sadly aware that we live in a fallen world.  However, we know three things.  First, Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Secondly, we are overcomers, too. (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 5:4).  Finally, we know how history will end.  WE WIN! (Rev. 21:1-8)

Looking beyond what we can see

Looking beyond what we can see allows us to “reframe” our experiences through the lens of kingdom reality. Closed doors are seen as God’s protection.  Waiting is seen as God’s time of preparation—either of us or our desired end.

Seeing this way equips us to move forward in the midst of trouble versus being overwhelmed.  We do not lose hope.  Instead we look past what we see physically.  We see God (2 Cor. 4: 17-18).

It’s not that we spiritualize everything that happens to us, but we truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord who are called according to His purpose.”  (Rom. 8:28)

Seeing with spiritual eyes is not “mystical” like a third eye.  Nor is it “recreational” like fortune telling or a Ouija board.  It is “relational”. Just as the light helps the physical eye to focus, so our focus on kingdom reality helps the spiritual eye to see from God’s perspective and power (Luke 1:37; Jer. 32:17,27).  Just as the retina physically changes the image we see into sight, the Holy Spirit informs us as to what is truth and what is error (Acts 26:18).  Bottom-line is this.  Looking beyond what we can see is dependent on the Source of Light who is Jesus Christ.  “In His light we see light” (Ps. 36:9)

[1] www.ceenta.com/

[2] Gotquestions.com, “The Kingdom of God”

 

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Looking beyond what we can see

The ability to see has been associated with many things in the biblical record.  It has been linked to wisdom (Job 42:5), to salvation (Eph. 1:18), and to discernment (John 7:24). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it helps to expand our understanding of seeing with spiritual eyes. Seeing with spiritual eyes help us to “look beyond what we can see”.

To see or not to see

The prophet Jeremiah was a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. He labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah.

Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not: (Jeremiah 5:21-29)

Despite Jeremiah’s many warnings, they did not see that their behavior was headed for a collision with the judgment of God. Judah continued to worship idols, disobey God’s covenant, and practice social injustice. Their lack of vision and refusal to surrender to God’s will resulted in exile to Babylon for 70 years. Judah’s loyalty had become divided and had blinded her to the things of God.

Barriers to seeing spiritually

The “usual suspects” stand as barriers to seeing with spiritual eyes. They are our flesh, the world, and Satan.

Our flesh is the natural or “unredeemed” part of us that take us away from the purpose of God. Our flesh sees with natural eyes and refuses to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle notes that it is impossible for the natural man to see with spiritual eyes (1 Cor. 2:13-16).

The world is that which is contrary to the things of God. It includes the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  We are told by the Apostle John, that those who love the world do not love God (1 John 2:15). Divided loyalty ultimately leads to disobedience (Titus 1:16; James 4:8).

Satan does what Satan always does:  he discourages, he deceives, and he destroys. Of all the barriers, Satan is the greatest challenge. Why? Because most people don’t believe he exists. He remains the unseen “puppeteer behind the curtain”. But be assured he is very real. Look for him where there is conflict, confusion, and chaos. However, to see him, we will need spiritual eyes.

Our flesh, the world, and Satan keep us from viewing the world as it really exists.  In addition, the postmodern, 21st century worldview has created a “distorted” picture of what we see.  This is especially true with identifying sin.

Our “spiritual sensibilities” are slowly being dulled.  The ultimate goal, of course, is complete spiritual blindness.

How do we gain spiritual sight?

First and foremost, we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus shared with His Disciples the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding them in all truth (John 16:13-14).  Each day it is important that we invite the Holy Spirit to join us through reading scripture, meditation, and prayer.  As we do, we train our spirit man to “listen for the Spirit’s voice” as He communicates with us.

Secondarily, we can practice the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Practicing the Holy Spirit’s presence acknowledges the fact that God, in all His fullness, is always with us (Ps. 139:7-12).  Because of that, we should not limit this practice to our devotion and prayer time only but also include it in our “normal rhythm of life.

Finally, we must be intentional in our pursuit of the knowledge of God and our growth in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Seeing with spiritual eyes is not a natural attribute for believers. Therefore, it must be developed. The Apostle Peter describes this process as “giving all diligence to add to our faith” (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Diligence translated means earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. Peter describes the results for believers who lack that diligence: “They are short-sighted, even to blindness…” (2 Pet 1:9)

Let us make a commitment today to develop spiritual eyes. While it’s been said that “the eyes are the windows of the soul”, it is more important to believe that seeing with spiritual eyes will “keep your soul.”  (Mat. 6:22-24).

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 1

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes Part 1

An invitation

When I begin my daily devotions, I open with Psalm 119:18:  Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. My favorite teacher, Alistar Begg, often begins his bible study sessions with this prayer, “Make the book come alive to me.”

Our intent is the same though our approach may differ. We invite the Holy Spirit to join us as our Teacher, as we seek God’s instruction for our life.   Doing this, we are better able to navigate in this post-modern world where there are no absolutes nor acceptable standards of rightness.

As we examine our current society, it appears what is right or wrong is left to the judgment of the individual. In the absence of a common standard of right and wrong, anything goes.

The Heart wants what the Heart wants

People reject a standard for truth because of their greater desire to do “that which seems right in their own eyes”. But what is right?

A recent Barna Research study, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code, found no agreement on the definition of morality today.

What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31%) are three times more likely than Elders (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%) to strongly agree with the statement.  

People want “what they want” including freedom to choose what fits their preference and lifestyle, even if it means disobedience to God.  [1]

The need to see spiritually

What then are we to do? It is critical that we as followers of Jesus Christ, develop an “eye” for what is truth versus what is error (1 John 4:1).  We began this discussion in 2020 in our series on spiritual discernment.  However, during these end times, we must be even more intentional, vigil, and alert by “seeing” our world through “spiritual eyes” (1 Pet. 1:13).

This 21st century challenge is similar to what the Disciples and the early Church faced. They encountered a society that was “hostile” to the things of God and where men “leaned to their own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The Disciples had to develop a “new view” of the world. Jesus taught them that view in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It was the “Kingdom view”. Believers would have to “see” things differently than the rest of the world.  They would learn to see with spiritual eyes.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples ultimately proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. They participated in ushering in the Kingdom of God.  We have that same opportunity today.

Next week, we’ll talk more about gaining spiritual eyes.

Time to Practice

I invite you to begin “practicing” seeing with spiritual eyes. Following are (3) scriptures to read and meditate on this week. Feel free to use different translations and paraphrases. Get your journal out as you read and invite the Holy Spirit to join you.

Jeremiah 5:21-29

Matthew 6:22-23

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

Answer these questions for each scripture you read:

  1. How does this scripture relate to my personal walk with God?
  2. How does it influence my view of 21st century society?
  3. What “new” insight did the Holy Spirit reveal to me in this scripture?

[1] Spiritual Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes

Don’t get it twisted!

 

Don't Get it TwistedWe love superheroes.

I love to watch movies about superheroes. Whether it’s Wonder Woman or Iron Man, I like to see them in action.  They offer themselves unselfishly as they battle intruders from space, another dimension, or the giant mushroom that mutates into some incredible threat.

I am especially drawn to those who band together to save the world. The Marvel superheroes including the Avengers and the X-men hold my attention for hours. Every month it seems a new movie is released highlighting new superheroes who appear to save the world from some horrific ending.  This month’s offering is The Eternals. 

We often seek ways to escape the stress of everyday living. We retreat to a world where “superheroes” share our humanity yet possess mystical abilities to overcome the monsters that threaten the world. Unfortunately with superheroes, we must be careful not to believe their “hype”. It is important to keep reality separated from fantasy.

Health pandemics, economic uncertainties, and erosion of social consciousness leave us longing for someone to “fight our battles”.  If we aren’t careful, we may be misled to believe that superheroes will appear to save the day. But “don’t get it twisted”. Translation:  don’t mistake fantasy for reality. There are no superheroes. But there is, however and more importantly:  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Who is God?

To avoid getting it twisted, it is important that we first possess a correct understanding of who God is.  This can be accomplished through learning about His attributes.

Attributes are a window through which we can think about who God is. God’s attributes are first introduced in the biblical record through His mighty act of Creation.  Triune God banded together to create the world!

God ultimately reveals Himself through Jesus who was made, “a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…that He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).  Jesus came to save the world from a horrific ending!

Understanding God is more than “head knowledge”.  God desires that we have a personal relationship with Him.  As we experience the challenges of 21st century living, we learn more about who God is.  Through His presence and His power, we learn to trust and depend on Him (Ps. 89:13).

Eugene H. Peterson writes in Practicing Resurrection, the importance of keeping our focus on the reality of God and His work in the life of the believer.

When we squander life on anything less than the God revealed in Jesus, and made present in the Spirit, we miss out on life itself, resurrection life, the life of Jesus.

Keeping it Real

Once we know who God is, it is then critical that we develop a Christian worldview. The term worldview is used to describe a core set of values and principles through which the world is understood.  It is our reality. 

Our worldview consists of our beliefs (what we view as true) and our values (what we view is good).  Our worldview impacts every decision.  It will ultimately determine our behavior (what we will do).

As Christians, our worldview is seen through Jesus’ eyes (John 14:6).  It is the determining factor in all we do, how we live, and how we react to life.  We form our worldview based on His life and teachings.  It is the only way to navigate through this world.

Don’t get it twisted

When we know who God is and develop a Christian worldview, we are less likely to “get it twisted.”

God’s Word, His promises, and His Spirit help us keep it real.  While we love superheroes we never are confused “where our help comes from” (Ps. 121:1-8).  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God is our real Superhero.

Rethinking Waiting

 

Rethinking Waiting

Living is about waiting

Everybody is waiting for something!  Whether it’s a new job, a favorable outcome, or a different significant other.  We all are waiting.

There are different ways to wait.  Many of us pray.  Some of us worry.  And still others, attempt to lessen the wait time by “helping” move it forward more quickly.  Have you ever been in “standstill” traffic and the person behind you continues to beat on their horn?

21st century waiting

Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

I think it’s comical that this century, that was to be man’s crowning achievement of knowledge and technology, has done little to reduce waiting time.  Of course the pandemic, global warming, and other challenges of this decade have had a major impact on waiting.

Businesses and institutions will continue to make financial decisions that, in most cases, personally increase our wait time for their product.  When are you sending your Christmas cards out this year?

Waiting extends to every area of our life.  Whether it’s service at our favorite restaurant or scheduling a critical appointment with our physician.  This is a season of waiting.

Resistance to waiting

There are many reasons we may have a problem with waiting.  Our resistance often stems from our “flesh-based” needs:  impatience, pride, independence, and stubbornness.

With impatience, “we want what we want now”.  It reflects our inability to control our desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).  Pride operates with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  It is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10).  

Independence cries out, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  It stems from our need to control our affairs apart from outside influences, even God (Luke 15:12-16).  What can we say about stubbornness?  Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness is characterized by our being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5).

God and time

If we are waiting for God’s intervention or direction, we will need to reset our watches.  God does not exist in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).

Time expresses “duration”.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end nor beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of our time (2 Pet. 3:8).

Reasons for waiting

From a Christian perspective, why should we embrace waiting?

Waiting embraces God’s sovereignty. (Acts 17:28).   God’s sovereignty is defined as His preeminent power and authority.  It is a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  While God has given man “free-will”, it is critical for believers to “choose God” and trust Him unconditionally.

Waiting strengthens our spiritual muscles.  (1 Peter 1:13-15).  Believers in Christ must be able to remain faithful during this postmodern era.  We can expect that our tenets of faith will continue to be under attack.  We must be patient as we listen for God’s instructions on where we are to serve.

Waiting transforms our lives. (1 John 3:3).  While waiting we draw near to God and listen for His voice through prayer and reading His Word.  We taste the wonders of His transforming power and His future rewards.  Therefore, we are willing to accept delays and interruptions rather than demand “instant gratification” based on fleshly lusts and worldly influence.

Time to rethink waiting

The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.  Waiting for God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

 

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

Fear me!

In last week’s WordBytes, Mike Glenn, in The Fear of God, shared how his father helped him understand the “true meaning” of fear.

Now, son. You’re getting into a new phase of your life. You’re becoming a man. You’ll be going places where I won’t be. You’ll be doing things I won’t see. You’ll be pressured by your friends to do some things, and some of those things, you know, are things I don’t want you to do.”

 “And in that moment, you’ll have to make a decision. You’ll have to decide. Are you more afraid of your friends? Or are you more afraid of me?”  

Then he leaned across the table, put his eyes directly on mine and said, “You’d better be more afraid of me.”

This exchange was not only a lesson about fear, but also an object lesson on knowledge.  Mike Glenn knew his father’s expectations.  These expectations coupled with fear guided Mike Glenn in making good decisions and wise choices.  The same can be said about our fear of the LORD and our knowledge of the Holy One.

That is why Solomon penned, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)

Fear-> Wisdom->Knowledge

Man has always searched for the best method to assist him in making good decisions, right judgments, and sound pronouncements.  In primitive times, groups would cast lots and dice, leaving the outcome to the proverbial “fates” (Lev. 16:8; Joshua 18:8).

In Israel’s early formation, decisions were informed by the High Priest who consulted the Urim and Thummin (Exo. 28:30).  As the nation grew, Israel deferred key moral and political decisions to God’s chosen representatives.  Judges and kings, counseled by wise prophets and priests, became the source of national decision-making.

The fear of the Lord offered motivation to seek “God’s face” (Num. 6:25-26).  However, it was the knowledge of the Holy One that established the critical link to God.  God was (and still is) the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One

The true source of wisdom is identified in the parallel statements found in Proverbs 9:10:  the fear of the LORD and knowledge of the Holy One.  Knowledge provides insight and discernment based on personal experiences.

It involves the process by which one can recognize, classify, and organize information gained from varied experiences and use them to develop an appropriate response.  This “process of knowing” is illustrated in the story of Moses.

Moses’ early knowledge of God came vicariously through others in Pharaoh’s court.  He, personally, knew little about God.  Therefore, God had no part in his thinking or planning.  However, forty years later, Moses experienced God for himself at the burning bush (Exod. 3:2).  In seeing that the fire did not consume the bush, Moses recognized God’s power and holiness.  Moses’ response to knowing God was awe and reverence (Exod. 3:5).

After witnessing the ten (10) plagues against Pharaoh and Egypt, Moses’ knowledge was exponentially expanded.  As Moses observed (classified) the different ways God dealt with Pharaoh’s resistance, he knew that God was more powerful than any god worshiped in Egypt.

Moses’ knowledge of God through his various experiences resulted in the organized deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  Their collective response to God was worship and praise (Exodus 15: 1, 11).   On the other hand, Pharaoh’s disregard of what he knew of God, led to the destruction of his army (Ex. 14:18).  Pharaoh refused to factor in his knowledge of the Holy One.

The Revelation of God

Knowledge of the Holy One is the revelation of God (Ep. 1: 17-18).  It shapes our reality so that we conform to the will of God and respond appropriately to the events of life.  This knowledge is gained through our personal experiences with Him, through His revealed Word, and through the Holy Spirit.

What shapes our key decisions and choices?  What knowledge do we turn to regarding our family, our profession, and our relationships?  Are we like Moses or like Pharaoh?

Knowledge of the Holy One reminds us of three things: (1) whose we are (our relationship with God), (2) who we are (our identity in Christ), and (3) how we are to live (in obedience and service to God).

Fear of the Lord (respect, reverence, and obedience) will lead us to wisdom (a disciplined and holy life).

Knowledge of the Holy One (personal experience) will give us godly insight and discernment to navigate 21st century challenges.

When wisdom enters your heart,

and knowledge is pleasant to your soul;

Discretion will preserve you;

understanding will keep you.

(Prov. 2:10-11, NKJ)

The Fear of the Lord, Part 2

The Fear of the Lord, Part 2

God-fearing

Jerry Bridges in his book, The Joy of Fearing God, notes “there was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people.  This was a badge of honor.”  So what does “God-fearing” look like in a postmodern age?

Unfortunately the shifting values and norms of the 21st century see little value in fearing God.  This fear is unfortunately viewed as obsolete and irrelevant.

The Motivation of Fear

Fear is a source of human motivation.  It can include fear of other’s opinions or anticipation of what might happen.  For example, there were many who wanted to follow Jesus but feared rejection and persecution by the Jews (John 7:12-13).

Even today there are many believers who fear being identified as Christians.  We are called “bible thumpers” and “holy rollers” . Because we do not hold the same world view, we are accused of being “intolerant” and “haters”.  Some say we are “sleep”.  To the contrary, we are well aware of the “time of day”.  And the day is rapidly ending (2 Pet. 3:8-10).

However, as believers, we fear the Lord because of who He is AND an acknowledgement that we live continually in the reality of His power, His purpose, and His presence.

God’s power is expressed in both His goodness and His greatness.  God is omnipotent. He is righteous and holy.  He alone is worthy to reign and rule over mankind (Daniel 4:35; Rev. 5:11-14).

God’s purpose is demonstrated in His sovereignty and His directive providence.  “According to His good pleasure” God orchestrates the affairs of men and nations.  That includes time and eternity.  There is no one or nothing that can “hold back” His hand (Job 38-41).

God’s presence is realized in the fact that He sees, and He knows everything we do.  He is omniscient and omnipresent.   We are never out of His presence and His protective reach.  He alone can claim, “I am with you always even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).

Connecting fear and wisdom

Fear of the Lord is ultimately connected to wisdom (Prov. 9:10).  Wisdom speaks to prudent and ethical behavior.  In Paul’s citing of spiritual blessings in Christ, he acknowledges God’s provision of “abundant wisdom and prudence” for those who accept His offer of salvation (Ep. 1:8).  Simply put, wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly (Gal. 2:20).

To fear God means that, as believers, we acknowledge God’s power and authority in our lives.  We live with the knowledge that the God of Creation is ultimately involved in our every move and every decision we make.   Those who fear God adopt a godly lifestyle out of respect for Him and make wise choices that reflect the character of God (Titus 2:11-12).

Our Response

Our fear of God is not much different than that of others who initially experienced Him:  the Old Testament Patriarchs, the Prophets, and those in the first Church.  Their opening response may have been emotional fear, but it quickly changed to admiration and awe.  Ultimately their fear of God gave way to love, worship, and devotion.

With the entrance of Jesus Christ, our fear of God was redefined.  Motivated by love (1 John 4:7-21), we can come boldly to God’s throne of mercy and grace (Heb. 4:14-16) as His children and heirs (Rom. 8:17).

We are now reconciled to God because of Jesus sacrifice.  We are free to pursue a personal relationship with the Father (Zep. 3:17; James 4:8).

Let us daily draw near to God out of love not fear of punishment.  In our drawing near to God, let us better understand what it means to fear Him.  In doing so, may we also gain greater wisdom, deeper faith, and perfect obedience.

The Fear of the Lord

 

The Fear of the Lord

Why fear?

In my reading this past month, I have been drawn to scripture that speaks to the “fear of the Lord”.  Because of the uncanny way it has repeatedly appeared in my daily devotions, I felt compelled to dedicate more time to study this phrase and share my insights with you.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”

In Proverbs 1:7a, the writer conveys the belief that the beginning of knowledge, begins with fearing the Lord.  Knowledge, in this context, refers to wisdom.  The person who begins with the fear of God is contrasted with the fool who “despises wisdom and instruction.”

The fear of the Lord is a common expression found in both the Psalms and Proverbs.  Fear, in this context, is interpreted to mean respect and reverence.  No single English word conveys every aspect of the word “fear” in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel.  It has even been defined as “hyper-respect” based on a realization of how awesome God is and how insignificant we are in comparison.

The complexity of fear

Fear is a complex quality, creating a myriad of emotions and feelings based on terrors, both real and imagined.  However, when used in a religious sense, especially with regard to God, it becomes even more intriguing.  Fear of God is a concept which describes both awe and reverence of the Lord.  It results in both obedience to His commandments and rejection of those things which compete for His affection. 

In the Old Testament, fear of God follows the introduction of sin in the Garden of Eden.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve had enjoyed a close and loving relationship with their Creator.  After their gross disobedience, the pair fled from God’s call, nervously explaining, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen. 3:10).

They now feared God because of their new awareness of their vulnerability.  Sin made them fearful because of the perceived power of another to harm them, in this case, Creator God.   Do we flee from the voice of the Lord when He calls to us?

Fear of God:  Old Testament

Fear of God in the Old Testament is also linked to the covenant promises.  Protection and loving kindness were exchanged for obedience and loyalty to God.

From the Patriarchs to the great Kings of Israel, special worship and respect was given to the Lord.  This was based not only on His actual awesome presence (Ps. 33:8) but also on the perceived consequences for failure to acquiesce to His laws (Exod. 14:31).

Jacob expressed this reverence by referring to God as the “Fear of Isaac”.  Jacob’s reference suggested that his father was the embodiment of fear (Gen. 31:42).   To fear God meant to reject every competing deity and to serve Him only (Deut. 6:13).  Do we fear the Lord simply to receive His favor or to avoid sin’s consequences?

Fear of God:  New Testament

With the arrival of Jesus came new revelation as to who God the Father was and the unlimited depth of His love.  God’s love was demonstrated by the atoning work of Jesus and freely given to “whosoever would call on the name of the LORD” (Rom. 10:13).

Reverence and awe to the Lord was now to be motivated by love versus fear of reprisal (1 John 4:18).  To fear God meant to live a disciplined and holy life.   Fear, in this case, is expressed in acknowledgment of God’s power and authority in the believer’s life.

In addition, fear of God is expressed by walking in all His ways (2 Cor. 7:1), by loving Him (John 14:15), and by serving Him with all our heart and soul (Luke 10:27).   What is the basis for our fear of God—love or dread?

21st Century view of fear of God

As I survey the world we live in, I ask myself, do we as a nation or even as the universal Church “fear the Lord”?  The greater question is, as individual believers, do we “fear the Lord?”

While fear of God is closely related to morality and obedience to God’s commands, it is also very freeing.  Our awareness of God’s power and of His love releases us from other’s opinions, the world’s influence, and fear of rejection.  These move us to compromise or to disobey the Lord.

Our fear of God is redefined when motivated by love (1 John 4:7-21).  We are then released to live out of the purpose He has ordained for us who love Him (Ep. 2:10).  “His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

I close with these words from Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher and author.  Though originating in the 17th century, its message still is true.  Why?  Because it speaks truth of the nature and heart of God, which never changes (Mal. 3:6).

The fear of God promotes spiritual joy; it is the morning star which ushers in the sunlight of comfort.  Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, God mingles joy with fear, that fear may not be slavish.

Where do you get your information?

Where do you get your information

What’s up?

Well it’s October.  The fall is my favorite season.  Good-bye bugs and bites!  No more 95% humidity and sneezy nose.  Bye-bye day light savings time!  Better than it being fall, it’s Throwback Wednesday. For those of you who may be new to WordBytes, on Throwback Wednesday, we look at what’s trending in the news or what the hot topic of the week is.

Well if you slept through yesterday, you failed to experience the crash of Facebook and its social media sisters, Instagram, and WhatsApp.   Facebook-owned services, WhatsApp and Instagram went down on Monday, for the second time in 2021.  This failure left some three billion online users frustrated and unable to connect all over the world.  It is reported that Zuckerberg lost nearly $7B alone on the Facebook outage.  The outage shut out 2.9 billion Facebook subscribers.

So what did we do when Facebook and her affiliate platforms went down?  There are about 3.78 billion social media users worldwide.   Social media has become the life blood for us living in the 21st century.  It has become not only a source of information, but also our primary connection with others.  This sometimes fosters a false sense of belonging and fellowship. Now really, who has over 20,000 friends? Have you ever asked them for a loan?

Where did you get that from?

That’s the question I usually ask people when they share information that I question.  Surprisingly, we look to social media to inform our decision making.  “If it’s on the internet, it must be true”.  Really?

So where do we, who rely on social media platforms, go to get our information. Is social media the “best” source of truth (that is if you’re looking for truth)?  Does it help us “respond” wisely or simply “react”?

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of U.S. adults get most of their news through social media.   They recently shared information on “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media.”  Here are some of their key findings.

    1. U.S. adults who mostly get news through social media lag behind others in attention to election and pandemic news.
    1. U.S. adults who mostly rely on social media for political news are often less knowledgeable about current events.
    1. In addition to lower awareness of current events, social media news users hear more about some unproven claims.

Where do you get your information?

When I opened my email today, I received two invitations to help “inform” me.  One was 10 Things You Need to Know Today.  They highlight key news stories nationally and internationally.  They know where I should focus my attention, right?  The “1 Thing I Need to Know Today” is that in Christ Jesus, I live, and move, and have my meaning (Acts 17:28).   This one thing guides my actions and thoughts for the day.

The other is The Week.  Their subject line states, “Read what the world’s thinking”.  I asked myself; “do I really care what the world is thinking?”  The only Person’s thinking I’m concerned with is God.  So I pray that I have the mind of Christ and joyfully obey His will (Phil. 2:5).

Our continual reliance on social media and the Internet makes it necessary to carefully examine the sources of our information.  Believers must especially be intentional in practicing spiritual discernment.  Truth and life come from God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

We must not only seek truth in all we do, but we must also boldly denounce lies that keep others in darkness (Eph. 5:11).  A lie by any other name—alternate view, misstatement, or an error in communication, is still a lie.  Its intent is to deceive, mislead, and misrepresent.

So for this month’s Throwback Wednesday, we offer for your reading, Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes.”   MAY THE TRUTH BE WITH YOU!

Assurance for Difficult Days

Assurance for Difficult Days Good Life = Good Circumstances?

In his book, The Secret Things of God, Dr. Henry Cloud shares this thought on happiness: “A good life doesn’t depend on good circumstances.”

Dr. Cloud’s statement finds agreement with the Apostle Paul who wrote to the church at Philippi, “I have learned to be satisfied regardless of my circumstances” (Phil. 4:11-13).

Paul’s contentment was based on his knowledge and relationship with The Source of all circumstances. Those times when circumstances are “not good”, we have an opportunity to hold firm to assurance in God.

A Psalmist’s View

The Psalmist captured this reality in the 16th Psalm as he writes of the faithfulness and assurance that can only be found in God.  He writes in verse 8:

I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

I have set the LORD always before me…

The focus of the Psalmist is Jehovah God, the Existing One, who is the source of his confidence. Jehovah has always been and will always be. As Alpha and Omega, God operates as Divine Integrity—true and faithful.

“To set” means “to put”. Oh that we would only stop in the midst of our challenges and put our focus on God. We need not fear the paths that are set before us. That’s because those paths or experiences have been sovereignly “allowed” in our lives.  Success or sickness, excess or lack, solitude or inclusion—they all flow from God’s hand of grace.

Because He (God) is at my right hand…

The Psalmist expresses His special relationship with Jehovah as he describes God positioned at his “right hand”. The “right hand” is the preferred one in patriarchal blessings (Gen. 48:17-20). Solemn oaths are made via the uplifted right hand (Is. 62:8).

The right hand is also used figuratively to emphasize God’s person and actions. God’s right hand is said to be filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10) and might (Ps. 80:15-16). Like the Psalmist, we can find God positioned “at their right hand”, ready to provide help, strength, and security.

I shall not be moved

To be “moved” in this text means to totter or shake. It is typically used of the foundations of the earth (Ps. 82:5) and almost always negatively. However, “I shall not totter”, in contrast, is used of an intrepid unwavering person (Ps. 10:6).

In review the current events in our world, it is easy “to totter”.  The progression of the pandemic variances, economic uncertainties, and growing division in our nation, “shake us”.  And rightly so.  In our attempts to manage our family needs and crisis, we are continually “moved”.

In spite of the challenges, we can become “non-totters” by placing our assurance in God.  That’s because we serve a God Who “neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps. 121:4).   Let us, also remember His love for us as evidenced by His protection and provision (Ps. 16:5-6).

A response of assurance

Where are we placing our faith and trust in?  The challenges we face provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate our spiritual endurance and maturity.  Our response to these difficult times can provide a strong witness to those in need of God’s salvation and God’s hope (Rom. 15:13).

Our Eternal God is greater than any circumstance we may face. He is the Creator and Sustainer of our life, ever present, and always acting on our behalf.  Let us continually set God before us knowing that in His presence, we can live confidently and with joy (Ps. 16:11).