Joy in Fear

“I will put the Fear of God in you”!


If you had a childhood that was anything like mine, you have probably heard one of your parents tell you, “I will put the Fear of God in you!”—a statement that was typically accompanied with a promise (or, in my case, a threat) of physical discipline.

So what comes to your mind when you think about the fear of God? Do you think of fearing God in the same way a person fears heights, or the same way a person fears snakes or scorpions? Or do you think of the fear of God as more like having the feeling of awe when one standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon looking into its vast abyss? To fear the Lord is to be in awe and reverence of the reality of God.

When we consider the theme of fearing God, we see that the Bible has several verses that teach us about the fear of God. We learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Prov.1:7; 9:10) and that friendship with the Lord is for those who fear the Him (Ps.25:14). But one verse in particular reveals to us that the Lord actually takes delight and pleasure in us when we fear Him. Psalm 147:10-11 says: His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.”

When we think of the idea of pleasure and delight we often think of it in terms of us, as God’s people, taking pleasure and delight in God because of His goodness and mercy toward us. However, we see that God is actually pleased with us and smiles when we fear Him. Does our fear of God affect or relate to our faith in God? I think it does; at the end of Psalm 147:11 we read that God not only takes pleasure in those who fear Him, but in those who hope in His steadfast love. So to fear and hope in God go hand in hand when it comes to the Lord taking pleasure in us. How do faith and hope relate to each other? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When it comes to the biblical meaning of faith and hope, these are not blind leaps into the dark or wishful thinking of a particular outcome. Biblical faith is confidence in the trustworthiness of God, and hope is the most solid possible conviction. I want to encourage God’s people to be a people who takes joy in fearing the Lord because we can have faith that God takes pleasure and delights in those who fear Him and hope in His steadfast love.


Does God’s Immutability Affect the Family?

“Change is the only constant in life.” You may have heard a saying like this at some point in your life. This quote is said to have come from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who lived from 535-475 BC. So what is change? Webster’s dictionary defines it as: to make different. When we think about change, it can be for the better or for the worse. For example, I have made the decision to change my eating habits. I have a sweet tooth like nobody’s business; but I have chosen to cut back on the number of sweet treats I enjoy. Most would agree that this is a change for the better. On the flip side, due to my profession, I regularly see people who fail to take their prescribed medications or even take too much of their medications and unfortunately their health takes a turn for the worse.

I would agree that change is the only constant in life. It’s all around us and is a part of every aspect of life. One area of life that experiences changes is the family. I remember when my wife and I got married, we went from singleness to starting our family and experienced the change in responsibility and accountability to each other when two people come together in marriage. Families with children know this all too well—parents deal with changing countless diapers, changes in their children’s growth and development, and when their kids get old enough, the constant changing of their little minds. Change is a constant thing in the context of the family.

Even society’s view of what makes up a family and how a family looks has changed or become progressive—meaning that the historical and traditional sense of the family is no longer the only way or even perhaps not even the right way to understand what family is. In today’s culture the changing view involves the idea that two women or two men can constitute a marriage.

I would like to offer the biblical perspective or God’s viewpoint of the family. Although I agree that “Change is the only constant in life,” I also believe that there is One who is constantly without change, in other words One who is immutable. God says of Himself that He does not change: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). God is perfect in all His attributes and knowledge; He does not need anything added to Himself. If He could have some attribute or knowledge taken away or lost, He would no longer be perfect; therefore, His immutability is an inevitable result of His perfection. Since God does not change, God’s ordained concept of family has never and will never change. He told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28). From a plain reading of this verse in context, we can glean that God established the family to be made up of a marriage union between a man and a woman and in this context, children are to be raised (Cf. Genesis 2:24). This is also seen in the New Testament book of Ephesians, where Paul explains that the family is to be a husband who loves his wife, a wife who honors and respects her husband, and children who are raised up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-6:4).

So even in the progressive climate of our society, God and His Word are unchanging; therefore, we can be confident that what God has ordained concerning the family will never change. And as long as we stand with God, we will always be on the right side of change.


Freedom May Be More Complex Than We Realize

Most, if not all, Americans just celebrated the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day. The history of Independence Day is in connection to the American Revolution when the thirteen colonies rejected the British Monarchy. It was through political upheaval and war that the thirteen colonies were able to declare their independence from Great Britain and form a new nation—the United States of America. So we as Americans annually celebrate our independence and freedom on July 4th.

Living in the 21st century, we have reaped the benefits of freedom that those who lived in the late 1700s fought for our nation to have. When it comes to one’s own personal freedom, the Supreme Court stated in a 1992 ruling, “The heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe.” In other words, an individual’s freedom is determined by one’s own understanding of the meaning of life.

I would like to put before you two things for your consideration:

—Freedom is more complex than we realize.

—Jesus is more liberating than we think.

We live in a society and culture that believes compliance to the truth is what causes a lack of freedom. You don’t have to look far to find someone who says truth claims are power plays, a way to gain control and cause constraint. With that in mind, let me ask you: are the truth claims of Christianity (Jesus is God; Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; or even that God created the world in six days) a means for Christians to be seen as superior to those who are not Christians, or is the truth of Christianity meant to set people free? I would submit to you the latter. Freedom comes from the truth (John 8:32).

I believe I can say without contradiction that the content of a truth claim is what makes it either oppressive or liberating. So how does being in touch with the truth set you free? Well, when you hold to the truth that God has done everything that was needed for a person to be forgiven and accepted by God—and that there is no amount of good deeds, praying, going to church, or feeling sorry for your sin that could ever make God forgive you or accept you—then you will be able to experience a life of freedom to enjoy and love God. You won’t have to live under the pressure of trying to earn God’s grace or even serve God out of fear that He will punish you if you don’t do those things.

In Galatians 2:4 Paul says we have freedom in Christ, but in just a few chapters later Paul writes that we are not use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (Gal.5:13). Peter also says something similar in 1 Peter 2:16, Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

Many believe that the more there is an absence of restraint, the more freedom one has. Well I propose that freedom is more complex then we might realize. Think about this, as we get older our body systems (brain, cardiac/pulmonary system, liver and kidney systems, digestion, and metabolism) slow down. So as we age we can’t eat anything and everything we once could when we were younger. We have to restrict ourselves to what we can eat, and by restricting ourselves to not eating all the sweets and fatty foods that we might like to, we will be able to enjoy the richer freedom of good health. However with that said, freedom is not even the presence of discipline or restraint. Imagine you have a friend and his dream has been to play in the NFL as a lineman. His whole life he has been told he can be anything he wants, however your friend is only 5’ 2” tall and weighs 110lbs (as an adult). No matter how hard your friend practices or how disciplined he is in working out nor even how much he restricts himself to the best diet, it’s going to be close to impossible for him to be a lineman in the NFL.

So freedom is not simply the absence of restrictions or even the presence of restrictions, but freedom is the presence of the right restrictions, the ones that fit in with your nature; the restrictions that are in accord with who God made you to be. So when we find and surrender ourselves to the right restrictions, we will experience the deep and rich freedom God purposed for our lives. Think about a fish that is out of the water and is on dry land—it’s not free. That fish has lost its freedom to move and even to live. That fish has to be restricted to the water to experience the freedom that is fitting with its nature. So that begs the question: what were we created for? As the human race, the pinnacle of God’s creation, why are we here on earth? Just like the fish is obviously created to be in the water and that is where it gets to experience the freedom of life, so it is then, that when we find our purpose for living we will experience the rich, deep freedom God purposed for us. For the bible says, “For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col.1:16).

That little phrase “created…for Him” includes us; we were created for Jesus Christ, to love, to serve, to know, to enjoy, and to have faith in Jesus Christ. So freedom may be more complex then we might have realized, but faith in Jesus Christ is the reason for our liberty and freedom.

Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Back in the early 2000s this was a popular mantra of our society and I would even venture to say that there is still a remnant of this mindset and attitude in our society today. The phrase “get rich or die tryin’” was made popular by an artist named Curtis Jackson III—better known as 50 Cent—when he released his music album in 2003 and then a movie in 2005 with the same title, “Get Rich or Die Tryin.’”

Unfortunately this desire to obtain material wealth has found its way into the church. Many of the Tele-evangelist and prosperity preachers have perpetuated this desire by teaching that, if you come to Jesus, He will bless you with material and financial riches. However, is this what Jesus Himself really taught? And does the Bible even teach this at all?

Jesus once said of Himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt.8:20). Jesus was saying that He Himself was living on this earth without the material or financial wealth that the prosperity preachers proclaim Jesus wants you to have. But Jesus even goes as far as to say that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). Why did Jesus say that?

Jesus understood the danger of desiring to be rich, because “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim.6:9). And it is this craving for wealth that causes some people to wander away from the faith and pierce themselves with many pangs. And I believe that is why Jesus could ask what it profits a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.

But let me be clear—I am not saying, nor do I believe, it is a sin or sinful to have or to earn a lot of money. I am not promoting a theology of poverty, for God Himself is the one who provides the power to get wealth (Deut.8:18). But I do believe there is biblical warrant to say that desiring to keep a lot of money or to make for yourself “bigger barns,” so to speak (Luke 12:16-21), is where the danger lies and where we get ourselves into trouble.

So as Christians how are we to truly and rightly view finances in a society that says “Get rich or die tryin’”? As believers we are told that we are no long citizens of this world, but that our citizenship is of a heavenly kingdom because of our union with Christ. And since our permanent or eternal home is not this world, God never promises us that we will have riches in this world; but God does promise that “the light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor.4:17-18). So as God’s children we can live knowing that God will supply all our needs according to his glorious riches that are in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19). And since our eternal resting place is not this world, let us be a people who have an eternal perspective by keeping our eyes on Jesus, who is our ultimate prize possession and in whom all the fullness of riches dwell.


Is a Debt-Free Life for Today?

As a Christian have you ever thought, “Do I have the right to spend my money the way I would like to, or do I have to live the life of a miser?” Or have you thought to yourself, “Is it ok for me to have a lot of money?” As believers, we have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation and surrendered our lives to the Lordship of Christ; do we then have freedom when it comes to our finances, or are we restricted to how we can use our money?

I think the best place to start when it comes to talking about money is to start with God. The Bible explains that the thing we consider valuable and a necessity for life (money) belongs to God. Haggai 2:8 says, “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts.” Since money belongs to God, it is neither good nor evil. What makes money a good thing or a bad thing is how money is used. For example, money is used for humanitarian causes—those are noble things; but it is also used to purchase drugs, which destroy lives and communities.

While God owns everything, He also knows that money is an important part of our lives, so He provides it to His people; that is to say that God is the one who gives a person the ability to gain wealth (Deut.8:18). So then, what comes to your mind when you hear the word “wealth”? Do you think about the person who has no need or want for anything and has more money than he or she could spend in a life time? You would not be wrong if that definition came to your mind; the word wealth does carry with it the idea of having an abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. However, I think a more biblical understanding of the word wealth carries the idea of having something as opposed to having nothing. I’ve heard it said that in comparison to the majority of the world’s population, Americans are some of the richest people. We also need to view money as a gift from God. We read in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, where the apostle Paul poses the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?” implying that all we have has been given to us as a gift, including the finances we possess.

So I think, according to God’s Word, it’s safe to say that we have the freedom to possess money. That leads to the question, then—does God prescribe or care about how we are to gain money, or are we free to gain wealth by any means necessary? Well, God has established that work would be the means whereby one would gain wealth (Gen.3:17; Prov.14:23). So when it comes to believers, we have the freedom to gain wealth through God’s prescribed means: hard work.

I also believe one of the clearest principles about financial freedom is seen in the book of Romans. In Romans 13:8 we read, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Here we see the admonishment to be in debt to no one. However, I do think there is a difference between paying to own a home versus being over taken by debt to the point where you can’t make ends meet. When we are born again, we become a child of God, delivered from the bondage of sin and Satan. We are also indwelt by the Holy Spirit to live a life of freedom from the dominion and tyranny of sin. Therefore, we should not be a slave to anyone or anything (Prov.22:7). So why does God want His people to be free financially? I believe God desires His people to be able to freely respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of others when a need arises.

With all that said, I’m the first one to admit that I’m not the poster child of financial freedom; I confess that I was once in financial debt and owed money that kept me struggling to meet my financial obligations. But by God’s grace, I learned that financial freedom is possible, but for me and my wife it came at a sacrifice. By making tough decisions to go without luxuries for a period of time and by being disciplined in our financial spending, we have been able to experience the blessing of the freedom of owing only to love others.



You Can’t Handle the Truth!

“I want the truth!”

“You can’t handle the truth!”

You may have heard this famous line from the movie A Few Good Men. The quote, “You can’t handle the truth!” is made by Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, who is played by Jack Nicholson. The quote gives the impression that in this world there are events, things, and truths that people could not bear to know. Well, I would like to offer that in this world there are indeed events, things, and truths that people must know and accept.

So what is Truth? A google search of the word truth gives this definition: that which is in accordance with fact or reality. In other words, the way things really are. For example, 2+2=4; or, the fact that a person is restrained by the law of gravity and can’t jump out of a second story window, expecting to flap his or her arms like a bird and soar off into the clouds. Therefore, whether we choose to believe in something doesn’t change the fact that it is true. The truth is the truth whether or not we believe it. When it is all said and done, what matters is that you believe and accept the truth—the truth about the things in this life and the life to come. And the most trustworthy and reliable source for truth concerning life in this world is the Bible (God’s Holy written Word).

God, through the Bible, gives us the truth concerning, creation, life, death, and everything in between. God has even gone so far as to give us the truth about the paper thin material that we call money. Money or finances are a major part of our society today. Someone has once said, “Money makes the world go ’round” (I don’t think I would agree with that statement). However, I think the saying is meant to point to the fact that almost everything that takes place in our society and within our human interactions requires or involves money. Since finances play such an enormous role in our lives today, I think it’s crucial that we know the truth about it.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, in chapter 5 verse 19, the writer says, “Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”

So what the Word of God tells us is that our finances and the ability to enjoy them are gifts from God. So does that mean I’m not the owner of the things I have? And if I’m not the owner, what does that leave me with? If we are not the creator or owner of our finances, we are left with being the manager. Another word for manager is steward. The Bible explains that one who is a steward must be faithful to rightly and wisely manage what has been given to him.

I can remember when I was a little boy, about 11 years old; I could never come home from school and just put my coat or clothes on the floor. My mom would tell me that I didn’t own or buy those things, so I didn’t have the right to mistreat or not properly take care of my things. So when I was done wearing my coat, I had to make sure I hung it back up in the closet. My mother was teaching me that I had to learn how to be a faithful steward over the things that I was given. I wish I could say that the lesson my mother sought to teach me at an early age has kept me from being an unfaithful steward, but sadly it hasn’t.

In my past, prior to becoming a believer, and even today as a believer, I’ve made mistakes in the stewardship of my finances. However, I trust that as I grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, I will grow in my faithfulness of stewardship over my life, my talents, and even my finances. So at the end of the day, the truth of the matter is this, I came into this world with nothing and I’m going to leave this world with nothing. And that’s the way things really are.

Proverbs 30:8-9“…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.