Fear (of) the LORD!

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By Jeff Foerster

The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Re-la-a-ax. This is where I whisper soothing things into your ear and tell you that you needn’t actually “fear” our God. I’ll tell you to replace “fear” with “awe, reverence, and respect.” That way you can let out that tightly held breath and feel a calm drift over you … isn’t that right?

But can you divorce “fear” from “reverence”? Can you remove mystery from awe? Would you minimize the character of God if it made you more comfortable? Do you believe that He is different now than He described Himself in the book of Exodus? It was with thunder and lightning and great smoke upon the mountain, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).

Did you hear that? Do not be afraid … so that the fear of Him may remain with you.

No that’s not contradiction, but rather clarity begging to be birthed. This first “afraid” encompasses doubt and visions of grave harm; a fear resulting from an anxiety of impending doom. It lingers not on God and who He is, but focuses on self and what is lacking therein. The “fear” in the second half places eyes and heart on the God who made and sustains all things. Wonder, and awe, and yes, no small amount of trepidation in the presence of the Almighty.

Look also to Hebrews chapter 12 and you’ll find this: “… let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” Here we have reverence and awe, and this because of a rightly placed fear of God’s consuming fire. For the unbeliever this fire is eternal torment. For the child of God it is a refining fire, burning away all that is not reflecting Jesus.

Yes, the LORD God Almighty has made Himself known by the revelation of His incarnation through Jesus Christ. But don’t think you’ve got a handle on Him that He might fit within the confines of parameters you have developed through study or careful thought. No, He is much more than you can ever imagine.

Scripture is the beginning point to knowing God. Surely it is sufficient for all that we need to know about salvation and serves as a wonderful basis on how to live before God, our fellow brethren, and a witnessing world, but it cannot contain the enormity of our God! The Scriptures are a sliver of light to bring truth to our darkened world and minds, but God Himself is the source of that light, burning like a million suns, a million times over.

Who is He that you worship, O Christian? Come to Him with shortened breath and quickened heart. Approach Him knowing that there is not a word you can speak, even think, into eternity future that He has not already known in eternity past.

What will you impress Him with, O man? Will it be your great strength? Do you have enviable skill, which was gifted to you? Will you put on display your intellect? What will you bring before our God who made the galaxies His nook or who stares past the depths of subatomic particles?

First things first: Fear the LORD! Spend time being enamored with God. Find others who speak and sing His praises. Linger in His word. Meditate on His commands. Be still and know that He is God!

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Trusting the Character of God

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by Jeff Foerster

I am troubled by Hell. I don’t like it. No, not one bit. I cheer for the happy ending in movies and take pleasure in life’s lessons learned in literature. Those I know with ease, and those I find little in common with in this life; I want for all of them to know Jesus, and to love Him for who He is. I want their spirits to shout with mine for joy that God is the Redeemer and Guardian of our souls. I want fellowship with even those I should hate if not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

I want warm summer days all year through, and golden fields of endless grain undulating from the rhythmic touch of an unseen hand. I want sunlight glinting and rainbows bursting. I want laughter—uncontrollable ‘til it hurts laughter. I want to star in my own movie, with clever conversation and admiring eyes upon me. I want a soundtrack playing pitch-perfect melodies, mounting to crescendo at just the right moment. I want vine-ripened watermelon sliced, seeded, and chilled, never seeing nor sensing dirt nor sweat of the field.

Oh yes, and I want a universe where Hell is unpopulated. In fact, I would like for Hell to not only lack people, but even its own existence. I want God to take us all, like naïve two-year-olds, by the hand and lead us forcefully, if necessary, where it is good to go. I want Him to usurp the authority of the individual to choose and save them from the consequences of their choices.

This is my desire, though reality presses in upon it. Narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and few there are who will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). I want to ask questions like, “Why did God make people who He knew would never believe?” and, “Why does Hell last for an eternity?” These are two of many problems that continue to perplex me about the reality of Hell.

Wherever we go and whatever we say about Hell must be informed by the complete context of Scripture. We must listen carefully to what God has determined we need to know about any subject, and that includes the staggering significance of our place in eternity. There are answers available to some of our questions if we will spend time seeking them where they may be found (the Bible) and lay down our defenses, looking to the character of God for insight and rest.

You see, we have a God who, though entirely able, does not seek to escape hardship and anguish. Instead, He brings himself right in the middle of it. Scripture tells us that God does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, this is the same God who created man, knowing what he would do, choosing to turn away from his Creator and toward sin. Even so, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33:11).

And then there was the cross—God laid out. Jesus on the cross was God made visible to human eyes for all of history to come. Jesus took suffering upon Himself, He did not run nor hide. This act of great humility should not be set aside when hell comes into view.

I have not yet come to a place without questions and thoughts which trouble me. But this I know: If there is anybody I trust with Hell, anyone I would rest at ease knowing control is in His hands, it is the LORD God, righteous and holy, compassionate, and longsuffering.

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Back to School

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By Stan Peterson

Psalm 46

Fall is upon us. Trees, flowers, and shrubs are all changing. The smells of autumn are wafting in the air, bringing back a flood of memories both good and bad of heading back to school. New friends, old friends, new shoes, adventures to be had, football to be watched, and homework to be done. All this and more can be overwhelming for parents and for students. It can feel as though the earth is moving, the mountains are being tossed into the sea, and the waters are foaming and lapping at our feet, ready to swallow us alive.

As a parent, I can easily be overwhelmed by all the worry and anxiety of sending our children off to school. I can also remember quite vividly the anxieties and fear I had as a child going back to school. I peer out into the world and know that there is much good and beauty to be reveled in, but there is also much evil and brokenness.

When I am overwhelmed by the latter, I remember one of God’s most precious promises, found in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.”

I am reminded of this promise as I send my little ones off to school. I remind them of this same truth, that they can call upon the name of our Lord, that He is present and will help them in their time of trouble, that He hears each one of them, and that He is ready to come to our aid as our Helper and Comforter only can. Therefore we will not fear.

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be MOVED.

Little children, let us not be moved, for His presence is enough. The Lord of hosts is with us!

 

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