Posts Tagged With: god

Do You Struggle With The Concept Of Having To Fear The Lord? We Have A Patch For That!

fear-of-the-lord-2_dxo-1

Our fall Bible study has been centered on the Book of Proverbs and, a few weeks ago, the term ‘fear of the Lord’ came up for discussion. We examined the mystery of ‘fearing God’ as it often elicits thoughts of, or concerns about, a God who supposedly requires that we be frightened of Him. Our pastor, and facilitator of the study, wanted us to delve into what it means to ‘fear the Lord’ as it seems to stand in direct opposition to our being told that God is love. Is there a paradox here for the way we are to live – either ‘in fear mixed with love’ or ‘in love mixed with fear’ and do such dispositions affect how we feel about God?

As part of a New Year’s commitment, I hope to read more of the Bible and spend less time Internet-ing. Just yesterday, I came upon an interesting passage in Jeremiah that got me thinking about the topic at hand. I hope my personal discovery regarding this proves to be valuable to anyone who has struggled with the whole ‘fear of the Lord’ issue or teachings surrounding it.

Before I present the Bible passage, I’d like you to consider something rather interesting. Every good attribute of God that we as humans share – love, gentleness, kindness, self-restraint, etc. – is considered the ‘fruit’ of a spiritual life. But where does fear fit into all of this? Fear is not considered to be a fruit of the Spirit, so what is it to the believer and why do we need it? 1

Fear is interesting in that: a) God does not manifest or experience it; and b) it is a reactive response to an outside stimulus, something we share with the animal world, even.

If God doesn’t possess fear as a characteristic, then why does He regard it as a good thing for us (as per the writers of Scripture) and why would it make us more Godly?

Well let’s think about another good thing God doesn’t need. Repentance. God has no need to apologize for anything (although some prominent atheists would disagree). But without repentance (a change of mind especially concerning the will of God) we are clearly told that no human being can access God. And so, if repentance (like fear) isn’t an attribute of God, then what is it?

Fear and repentance both seem to be presented to us in the Bible as a reflexive action, harmonized with our response to God’s promptings or influence.

In the physical world, reflexes and responses can be honed and sharpened. Watch any budding martial artist working hard at their craft and you’ll see that come into play in a matter of time. Is it the same for those of us whose lives are focused on spiritual development? Can responding to everything life throws at us with a reflexive ‘Godly fear’ be of any benefit to His children? Will it have us thinking better of God’s character or disposition toward us in the long run?

And now onto the passage that shows us why fear of the Lord is not only important, but essential for living well.

” (36) … this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: (37) I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. (38) They will be my people, and I will be their God. (39) I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (40) I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (41) I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”
Jeremiah 32: 36-41 (NIV translation)


According to the above Scripture, it is only after God gives us a ‘singleness of heart and action’ that Godly fear can even enter into our lives. Further, the fruit or benefit resulting from this particular fear is, “that all will go well for us and our children”. Fear is, if we interpret this text correctly, a reactive or reflexive response to God that not only gives his people peace of mind but extends this promise to those we treasure dearly!

God then compounds the importance of fear in verse 40 by showing us that after something incredible (i.e., salvation) has been gifted to us, as well as promising to continually do good things for us, He will ‘inspire us’ to fear Him.

Why?

So that we will never turn away from Him.

This healthy Godly fear is like His word: ‘God-inspired’. It is furthermore something you cannot actively develop or appreciate in your own strength. This fear is more like a gift (once again similar to repentance) that is infused into our souls to keep us on the straight-and-narrow where, to put it simply, it is a safer and better place to be. Is it so wrong for Godly fear to hold prominence in our thoughts and actions so that all will go well for us and so that we may continually recognize, as the Psalmist said, “It is good to be near God.”? 2

I think it’s important, at this point, to distinguish between Godly fear and worldly fear.

Worldly fear is primal – programmed into our genetic code – and can result in one’s being frozen like a deer in the headlights or in the fight-or-flight response. It can prompt chivalry in some and cowardice in others and is rarely viewed as a desirable thing.

But Godly fear is fruit-of-the-Spirit producing. The more of it we have, the better (and more immediate) our response is to the moral quandaries presented to us by the world we live in and the better our ability to see our way through the many challenges we will face in our lifetime. In conjunction with holy fear, we are given oceans of hope that are fed by the springs of God’s many great promises – promises we’d be fools to forget or ignore lest we lose out on all the benefits God has already showered on us, His children.

Preacher George MacDonald once said, “A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” That’s very true, but our faith is not yet perfect. We are ‘in process’. We live in the ‘now and not yet’ because of our frail humanity. Fear of the Lord then, in its purest form, can do nothing but evoke our deep love and utmost respect for the God who rescues us from darkness every day we find ourselves still breathing.

Truly, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’ 3

© 2017 Flagrant Regard

1 See Book of Jude, Chap. 1, vrs. 23, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 5, vrs. 11
2 Book of Psalms Chap. 73, vrs. 28
3 Book of Proverbs Chap. 9, vrs. 10

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Spiritual, Spirituality, Struggle, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are Pro ‘Traditional Marriage’ Christians Supposed To Say “Congrats” To A Newly-Wedded Gay Friend?

What to say, what to say ...

While Americans are still reeling from the landmark decision from their Supreme Court’s go-ahead to sanction gay relationships/unions via marriage licences, we here in Canada – watching the fallout going on down south – may be inclined to offer a big ‘yawn’.

“Yeah, welcome to our world. One morning we woke up 10 years ago and our man at the top had arbitrarily passed into law the same thing.”

But whatever our response to the whole legalization of gay marriage, pro or against, (something that is more often than not a disposition that is ‘faith/belief system’ influenced) we are, at some point, going to have to deal with that LGBTQ(xyz) person at work, in our family or even in our church when they announce, “I just got married!”

I never thought I’d be in the position to respond to such a declaration, but I have had a gay friend for years who just shared with me his relationship’s successful status re length-of-time (34 years) with his long-time boyfriend (right after I had shared a similar status/update with him re my wife and me).

34 years together. Huh. Whether you’re pro traditional marriage or not, you have to admit that is a long time for any two people to have a partnership whether or not a sexual component is part of their dynamic. Do I look at their relationship in that light and say, “that’s a long time man, congrats!”?

Or what about when that gay friend at your office proudly holds out their ring finger and announces their wedding vows were taken over the weekend and the happy newlyweds are planning to go to Cozumel for their honeymoon – how do you react as a pro traditional marriage Christian?

Here’s how I think you should NOT react, as a pro traditional marriage Christian.

1. Saying, “Congratulations on your nuptials!”

Dictionary.com states that the word ‘congratulate’ is to ‘express sympathetic joy or satisfaction at an event’ or even to ‘salute’ an event. Even if everyone at your lunch-table is saying the word, you can’t conscionably state the same and feel alright doing so. You DON’T support the union so why would you make a hypocrite of yourself by basically saying, “Yeah, good on ya, mate! Happy for you!”

Now at first, those of you who do support gay marriage are going to think me a jerk for encouraging traditional marriage supporters to not offer congrats. BIGOT! HATER! DISCRIMATOR! I can hear it all now. Get it out of your system – go ahead. But in choosing to paste labels on us in your vitriolic, media-inspired rants, you’ll be choosing to remain totally ignorant to the fact that pro traditional marriage folks (hereafter known as PTMF’s) often love quite deeply the friends and family that are about them who are homosexual. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for them in a pinch.

By not offering a statement that affirms their decision to be married in the eyes of the law (but not necessarily in the eyes of God), we are not hating on them but rather affirming our right to believe what we believe. Last I checked, believing differently about issues is called ‘freedom of religion’. Acting differently or discriminatorily (by withholding services) toward people who are not PTMF’s … now there’s a different issue that we’ve already covered in another blog-post.

2. Stating, “I’m sorry, I do not accept nor condone your recent marriage experience as it’s not God’s authentic plan for your life.”

I know some evangelicals will call me out for, ‘not standing up for Jesus’ on this one. Again, go ahead – get mad at me. Spew out the verses that support your hard-line approach to dealing with all the heathens around you. But listen: by not yammering on about the sub-standard, un-God-sanctioned marriage experience my gay friend is into, I am not, ‘denying Christ’. Do we forget the words of Paul when he suggests, while going about our regular work-a-day lives, to

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone…”?
(Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Chap. 4, verses 5-6 / NIV Translation)

Or what of Peter’s thoughts toward others with respect to sharing your faith?

“… in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
(1’st Letter of Peter, Chap. 3, verses 15-16 / NIV Translation)

I don’t see any aspect of ‘bulldozing’ our PTM faith-values as being the right way to share our beliefs on the matter of gay-marriage or anything else for that matter. Did your gay work-mate/friend ask you, “So what do you think of my gay marriage, huh?” Now then – THEN – you have to tactfully and ‘with grace’ state how you arrive at your position that with respect to heterosexual or homosexual marriages, “one of these things is not like the other.”

You will at that point experience either backlash or an, “oh, okay then!” To refuse to answer may be cowardly, depending on the situation. But you could state with full Christian authority and genuine love, “I really wouldn’t want to say anything to you that would offend you at this time regarding our differences on any of several matters with respect to my faith. How about we get to know each other a lot better and when you feel comfortable about talking about our differences – when you know and understand that I will not ever judge you – we’ll get to chatting about all sorts of things. Sound good?”

By his or her getting to know the real you over time, they’ll realize you don’t shun or despise them for their life-choices or personal sins. We all got personal sins going on, after all. They just might not be sexually oriented … er, a lot of the time, anyhow.

Again, with respect to dealing with those about us who are not into the Bible’s definition of marriage or sin or anything else for that matter, Paul’s words make things rather clear:

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”
(Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Chap. 5, verses 9-13 / NIV Translation)

3. Silence.

No one likes ‘the silent treatment’. It’s just as rude as piping up and saying, “Sorry, I couldn’t disagree with you more!” You’ll just look like a snob and nothing better than that.

SO WHAT’S THE RIGHT THING TO SAY?

Your gay friend states: “We just got married!” Or, as in my buddy’s case, “We just celebrated 34 years together!”

A Christian PTMF’s response: “Hey – thanks for sharing that with me! May God infill your lives in every way possible!”

… You saw what I did there, right?

I didn’t condemn, I didn’t sanction. All I stated was my hope – my prayer – that God would get into their lives to do the work of the Spirit. It is HE (not me/not us) Who is the only One who can convince anyone that there is sin or moral shortfall in their lives. We offer a blessing upon them as individual persons without cursing them at the same time or making ourselves appear compromising in any fashion. After all, God is “not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s.” *

Your gay friend may look at you funny, balk at the statement, growl “What’s that supposed to mean”? or he/she might surprise you by going, “Oh, uh … thanks!”

Like they say of a good comic or joke-teller, ‘timing is everything’. In Scripture, we are continually told that God does things based on His wrist-watch and not ours. Let us remember who we were before God got a hold of us and made us PTMF’s and/or believers respectful of His Word when it comes to issues of sin and evil.

And let us treat our LGBTQ(xyz) friends and family and coworkers with the character of Christ who came to save, serve and not to judge.

© 2015 Flagrant Regard

* (Peter’s 2nd letter, Chap. 3, verse 9 / The Voice Translation)

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Homosexuality, Human Sexuality, Liberalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Reasons We Can Be Sure Jesus Christ Wasn’t/Is Not A Zombie

Nope!

… yeah, uh no, not exactly …

This post goes out to the somewhat supercilious fellow on Reddit who expressed how proud he was of his young son who, completely uncoached, came to the conclusion that if the historical Jesus had risen from the dead (as Christians assert) then He was in fact a zombie.

There seems to be a growing fascination and/or association with Jesus’ resurrection and zombie culture. It’s time to put this silliness to bed.

Without further ado, here now are the

TOP TEN REASONS WE CAN BE SURE JESUS CHRIST WASN’T/IS NOT A ZOMBIE

1. When a person has been turned into a zombie, angels do not materialize to herald his reanimation with the words, ‘Do not fear – He is risen!’

2. Jesus had a hearty hankerin’ for fish after His resurrection and not disciple flesh or brains.

3. Jesus easily left behind the burial linens He was tightly wrapped in after He rose from the dead and somehow managed to roll away a nearly two-ton stone that sealed His tomb. On the other hand, zombies can be restrained with straight-jackets (if you can suit them up without being bitten) or be easily held in place by a length of chain.

4. Jesus was actually worshipped by people after He appeared alive to those He knew. Zombies aren’t worshipped by those they knew as they’re too busy fleeing from them in terror or scrambling for a 22.

5. Jesus had to prove to the disciples He was not a ghost (but rather, a physical reality) by showing them His scarred hands and feet. Zombies often have little left of their hands and feet after some advanced rotting has taken place, which pretty much establishes they’re more dead-ish than alive-ish.

6. When the risen Jesus appeared before people, He spoke very articulately whereas a zombie’s vocabulary is generally limited to, “Uuuaaarggghh!”

7. Immediately following Jesus’ proclamation of the ‘great commission’, He was taken up into the heavens fully intact. Zombies, however, are ‘taken out of commission’ by bullets/axes to the head and end up splattered all over the ground.

8. After Jesus’ resurrection, both an angel and Jesus Himself gave advance notice that He’d be popping up in nearby Galilee. Zombies fail to provide advance notice for anything – they are rude and pop up unannounced at all hours.

9. Jesus returned to life in a very-much-alive human body in order to display God’s incredible power that will one day be fully extended to all believers as a reward for their faithfulness. Zombies are considered ‘the living dead’ and have nothing to look forward to but further putrefaction or a coup de grâce that ends whatever ‘life’ it is they’ve been enjoying.

10. Several highly intelligent researchers who investigated the resurrection of Jesus started out as skeptics but became believers. No amount of investigation, as of yet, has been able to confirm the existence of zombies as depicted in popular cinema/television, ever!

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

1. Matthew 28:5-6 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:6 /
2. Luke 24:41-43 / John 21:9-14
3. Matthew 28:2 / Mark 16:4,6 / Luke 24:2,12 / John 20:5-7
4. Matthew 28:9,17 / Luke 24:52 / John 20:28
5. Luke 24:36-40
6. Luke 24:13-30, 38-49 / John 21:12-23
7. Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15,19 / Luke 24:51
8. Matthew 28:7 / Mark 16:7 /
9. Luke 24:36-43 / John 20:17,27 / John 20:31 / Acts 1:9-10 / Philippians 3:18-21 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 / Revelation 1:18, 21:1-7
10. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Frank Morrison, J.Warner Wallace, Nabeel Quereshi, Philip Vander Elst, Alister E. McGrath

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Religion, Theology, zombies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The God Who ‘Sticks His Neck Out’

There was once a man who went for a walk in the fields near his home in the early springtime. As he began to make his way upon familiar paths, he eventually came up to a pond that he had passed by many times on his previous sojourns.

The winter had not been a heavy one and the pond was shallow enough for the man to see many rocks sticking partway out of the pond; some round, some more rough and angular.

The man decided to venture a little closer to the pond’s edge and noted that one of the rounder rocks in the water had a different sheen on it than the other ones. Not having the greatest vision, the man put on his glasses and was soon able to confirm that the rock indeed looked different from the others in the pond. Though mildly curious, he concluded nothing further and was certainly not about to waste his time getting his feet wet in order to determine why this particular rock was different.

He was about to tread up the hill away from the pond to resume his strolling through the fields when suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and the rock that he thought was an inert hunk of rounded stone moved!

A head, followed by a long neck slowly began to extend itself outward from one end of the semi-circular ‘rock’, eventually stretching its way out and above the surface of the pond and into the blazing light of day.

The man laughed at himself and said, “I should have known! That was no rock, it was a turtle all along! I guess if I’d made the effort to wade near the pond’s edge the creature might have stirred and I’d have known it was a turtle sooner. Heck, I could have picked up one of the long sticks that lay along the banks of the pond and reached out to prod the ‘rock’. Then I would certainly have known it was not a rock at all.”

Only the man didn’t.

However, the turtle did what turtles do: at just the opportune moment, the creature made his move – stretching out his head with eyes a’blinking – in order to bask in, absorb and reflect the light of the life-giving sun. Through this one act, the turtle revealed his true identity as a living being to a man who might otherwise have gone on his way thinking that he had simply seen a slightly different looking rock sticking out of a pond on a warm spring day.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in one of his famous detective stories, once stated, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes”. How true! We can often pass by a familiar object and not see any further significance in the object, other than the fact that it is there. A bit more investigation, if we’re interested enough, may reveal that the object we’ve thought as being one thing is in fact another thing entirely. Have you ever had a moment where it finally hit you that you’ve been seeing things wrong (or have maybe been oblivious to what’s directly in front of you)? That photograph you’ve walked by every day at the office, suddenly it’s, “Hey, that’s no photo, that’s a painting!” Or mom’s ‘fake’ plant in the corner of the living room – it turns out to be real (usually, right after you’ve accidentally ripped off one of its leaves in a careless moment). It’s times like these we realize that our perceived world is not always grounded in reality.

When it comes to our knowing what’s what regarding anything, we must agree that the goal of all humanity is to grow in knowledge in order to further benefit our existence and not to run on mere instincts. (When humanity does operate from primal or base desires, it often results successfully in filling up jail cells. Though correctional officers and police benefit from this via employment, no sane person would consider the situation utopian.) Growth in the area perception is one of those things that makes us truly human. With perception changes occurring as we mature, our creeds and philosophies are born and affect/frame our whole lives. However, there comes a point where we seem to settle in our ways and it’s at that stage where most of us are extremely disinterested in ‘re-perceiving’ our world or our views, religious or otherwise. We’ll look at things through the lens of our prejudices or from our set of perspectives and then comment on one issue or another (in attempts to find balance), often with tepid sayings like, “It’s all the same when you look at it,” or “To each his own,” or “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. But things are not all the same and there is an incredible amount one could learn about roses if they care to!

Is it possible your view of God is something like this? Maybe for years you’ve seen God in one way and one way only. Maybe you’ve always seen Him as an ‘amorphous blob’, having no definite shape, form or identity. Or maybe you view God as being like ‘the Force’ – a good or bad power as per George Lucas’ concept in Star Wars (and which was borrowed heavily from Eastern religions). Or conversely, you’ve always thought of God (or have been made to think of God) as the very opposite of ‘unknowable’ – that in fact, he’s very knowable: as an overarching, dominating being who arbitrarily picks and chooses who lives or dies, who’s saved or damned, and who is incapable of showing anything ‘humane’ or something akin to benevolent love to his creation? There are so many views of God that it would be next to impossible to list them all.

The only way we can become ‘unstuck’ regarding our view of God is through His Spirit (that personal extension of His very being) shining a light into our hearts so that we can clearly see that God is far more incredible, involved and interested than we think He is.  This applies to the unbelieving, the skeptical and even at times the religious-minded! If we’d only take (or make) time to wait for a ‘parting of the clouds’ – that moment when God reveals His true self to us – how much further along would we be? God has done this in the past for those who looked for truth and reality concerning Him and He can do this for us now. We so want God to ‘show up’ in this world and ‘do something’, but what if He already has (or still does) and some of us just haven’t grasped that?

Maybe you’re like Christ’s disciple, Philip, who in John’s Gospel, asks Jesus a ‘simple’ favour: “Show us (me and the rest of the disciples here) the Father (the God of Israel) and that will be enough for us!”

Jesus hands Philip ‘God on a platter’, so to speak, with the words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

These words of Jesus should encourage some serious investigation, if in fact they’re true. For me, Jesus’ claims have spawned such investigation and thanks to superb authors such as Phillip Yancey, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others who’ve delved deeply into the Christian scriptures that hail back to the first century, I believe that one does get to know God by knowing Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us via the Gospels and other New Testament documents. But I also maintain that it had to have been God who shined down his light into my mind in order for me to ‘get it’ or understand the significance of Christ’s words and life. And if this Christ of the New Testament is truly true, as I believe He is, then He did more than just stick His neck out; He gave his very life-blood for the this broken world – for you – so that you could have a unique relationship with God unlike anything else this world and its many other religions offer.

For anyone willing to ‘stand on the banks’ and wait patiently, God will reveal Himself once His powerful light illuminates those priceless and pure realities that are found only in Him. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little prodding into things and step out into the mysterious waters of faith; that is true. But ultimately, it will be an intelligent, loving and amazing God who shows His true self to you and propels you into wanting to know more and more about Him with every passing day.

May that wonderful and superbly enlightening moment be yours soon, I pray,

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“… the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, Chapter 2, verse 17

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter’s 1st letter, Chapter 1, verse 19

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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