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.


No Time for Fear

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”—Sun Tzu.

Every opponent was always bigger, especially in the final matches for the grand championship. Weight class did not matter to the judges. After all was said and done, only one would claim the prize. He saw the look of fear in my eyes as I was matched with the heavyweight champion, so he pulled me aside. “You’re always going to be small…nothing you can do about that now. Do what you know how to do and use your head. Listen for my voice,” Dad said while stepping back. I entered the ring, faced my opponent, and waited for the ref to yell, “Tatakae (Fight)!”

Anxiety and fear can come from many sources. These emotions can cripple and weigh us down (Proverbs 12:25; Luke 12:22-26).  In some cases, ignoring this built-in defense mechanism is foolish. The very fact that we are afraid of something means that whatever it is—it’s not actually happening yet. Dwelling on hypothetical consequences is contrary to what Scripture teaches (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Psalm 55:22-23). In the heat of the battle, we can be confident that we are gifted with a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind, not fear (2 Timothy 1:7). For believers, doing what we know means to replace worry with prayer, take the necessary action that the situation calls for, and to always be listening for our Father’s voice.

Why, God?

I used to say I didn’t know why God does some of the things He does.

He allows riches to benefit evil men and violence to fall upon the innocent. He allows a good nation to turn against itself and tear itself up from the inside. He allowed my dad to suffer a stroke and then live on severely disabled for 3,063 days before finally passing away.

hen I’m physically weak or emotionally wrecked, I ask God why He allows these things. The answer is obvious: when God does anything, or allows anything to happen, He does it for my own good and for His own glory. Paul tells the Roman believers (and us) that “…we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

But what I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t ask with the right attitude. I don’t even ask with the voice of one “who loves God.” Instead, I question Him with a discontented, complaining heart. In the question, I have no faith. I don’t want to know why God does what He does. Rather, I want God to explain Himself to me. In the question, I rank myself above God and I put Him on trial. I am the prosecutor; He is the defendant.

Forgive me, Lord. You are the Potter. I am the clay. I must consider:

“You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16)

And also:

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?” (Isaiah 45:9)

And finally:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

I don’t know how God works the details to meet His own will. And when my heart is in the right place, I don’t need to know. God is good (all the time), and His will is perfect. It is I who am flawed, and the better my eyesight becomes, the deeper I perceive the cracked, sinful condition of my heart.

Instead of hounding a perfect God to explain Himself to a sinful man, I should be fishing faithfully for sinful men to proclaim to them a perfect God.


The Great Gospel

If an unbelieving friend came up to you and asked, “What’s so great about the Gospel, anyways?” what would you tell him or her?

It seems like a slam dunk kind of question, doesn’t it? And my guess is that most Christians would readily give a number of answers related to how they have been forgiven of all of their sins, saved from hell, given the gift of eternal life, and had their life completely transformed. What’s wrong with these answers? Absolutely nothing. We ought to bring up all of these amazing benefits and more. But there is more greatness to the Gospel than its benefits to me or you. The greatness of the Gospel, ultimately, is its unequaled display of God’s character and attributes. That is, the death of Jesus Christ for sinners and His bodily resurrection from the dead (1 Cor.15:3-4) reveal more about who God is than any other event or action in the history of the world. In the Gospel, God is shown to be:

  1. Holy—The cross demonstrated God’s hatred of sin, for His eyes are too pure to approve evil. (Hab.1:13)
  2. Just—The cross demonstrated God’s perfect punishment of sin. (Rom.6:23; 2 Cor.5:21)
  3. Righteous—The cross revealed God to be right in both punishing sin and justifying the sinner at the cross. (Rom.3:23ff)
  4. Merciful—The cross was the ultimate demonstration of God withholding punishment from those who deserve it by placing their punishment on another. (Is.53)
  5. Gracious—The cross was the ultimate demonstration of God freely giving life and joy and peace to those who do not deserve it. (Eph.2:8-10)
  6. Loving—The cross demonstrated His indescribable love in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rom.5:8; John 3:16)
  7. Wise—The Gospel is the greatest demonstration of God’s unsearchable mind and inscrutable plans. (Rom.11:33)

These attributes of God, along with many others, were revealed in the progressive revelation of the Old Testament, but in the Gospel they are all put on full display in one moment, one event, one act of obedience that forever changed the world. In the end, the Gospel is great because it shows us our great God.


Not in Oldness of the Letter

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Rom.7:6)

It is a universal reality that every true believer desires to live a life that is pleasing to God. The belief, however, that walking in perfect accordance with God’s Law as the way to please Him places a weighty burden on us because of our utter inability to fulfill it. The problem we face with the Law is that it incites sin and this problem is not resolved by simply abolishing it or calling it obsolete. It must be fulfilled—to the letter! This is precisely what Christ did and those who place their trust in Him become partakers of that fulfillment.

With that, the new birth that the believer experiences results in new desires and new affections. The Law is no longer a heavy burden, but rather the Law becomes the believer’s delight as David describes in Psalm 1:2. Believers find contentment in walking according to God’s will.

But what about the areas of life where God’s will is not specific, where He is not explicit in terms of what to do and what not to do in a given situation? How are we to respond in those situations? Fortunately, in His infinite love and mercy, God does provide an answer. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul addresses this issue in Romans 14:22-24 when he records the following statements concerning Christian liberty and faith. He writes, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats because his eating is not from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.” What Paul is saying is that in the areas where God has left some “wiggle room,” so to speak, the answer comes by way of our own convictions which have been shaped by God’s Word. If we respond contrary to those convictions, doubt will creep in and we begin to condemn ourselves because our actions are not consistent with our beliefs and as such we are not walking by faith. The ultimate consequence of that response is sin.

Whatever is not from faith is sin. Let that truth shape your thinking concerning Christian liberty. Allow the Word to strengthen your convictions. Listen to your conscience that you may keep on the narrow path, for His name’s sake!

Leisure and Faith

Leisure mingled with faith became a reality for me in 1989 on the paradise Island of Maui where I lived for seven years. It was there and then that the biblical perspective of leisure became evident to me, and the true concept of work, leisure, faith, peace, and contentment made sense from the lens of Scripture.

After God completed the creative work of the heavens, the earth, and all the host of them, He rested on the seventh day. Amazingly, that man was created on the sixth day seems like God chose to rest after His masterpiece was created. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

God’s work of creation was ex-nihilo, an absolute creation out of nothing. God’s creative act involved no preexisting material except the creation of man who was formed from the dust of the earth. His was the work of Omnipotence; however, He rested after blessing His creative work, and He rendered it very good.

Leisure, repose, rest—this was introduced to the creation order by God Himself, who experienced no drudgery, grind, or labor. His was the work of faith in Himself.

On the other hand, man was assigned the grinding task of tilling the soil after his rebellion, so labor was to be the means by which man would acquire sustenance. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread, until you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

Man is on a pilgrimage from dust to dust, and in the case of the believer in the atoning work of Christ, his pilgrimage is from dust to dust to glory according to our Creator (Daniel 12:2-3). Because we believe Him, leisure and faith are compatible just as labor and rest are necessary.

The ground from which man was formed, and that which will yield man’s bread from hard labor, was also given a year’s rest. Man was created on the sixth day, and now God commands: “Six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s after growth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a Sabbatical year” (Leviticus 25:3-4).

For the farmer to profit from God’s counsel to give the land a year of rest, he must believe God’s Word to him or unite the word with faith.

As the Good Shepherd of His “sheep,” Jesus providentially causes His sheep to want for nothing but His guiding staff and protecting rod.

He makes them to lie down in green pastures; He leads them beside quiet waters. For the purpose of their soul’s restoration He guide them in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Even in leisure, I have come to understand that the sheep of the Shepherd, of which I am one, must trust the Shepherd of my soul. Leisure times are a gift from the God who started the trend because He is gracious to all, the just and the unjust, the righteous and the unrighteous.

Leisure and faith when united will produce a peace that transcends comprehension because from God’s vantage point, leisure for the believer is an act faith.

Do You Really Believe Your Bible?

The title of this blog post may cause some Christians to roll their eyes. “How dare you ask that question of a Christian,” some may ponder. After all, the question suggests there can be one of two answers: “yes” or “no.” What Christian in their right mind would ever answer that question with a “no,” right? However, Matthew 7:21-23 clearly reveals to us that many do answer that question with a “no;” maybe not audibly with their mouths, but from the depths of their hearts. Why is that? Well, before I attempt to answer that question let me try and provide some context as to why I posed the question in the first place.

When it comes to our faith and Christian walk, the doctrine of the infallibility or inerrancy of scripture is extremely important because truth really does matter. It’s literally the glue that holds our faith together. Without a firm grasp of this doctrine, we will, like Pilate, find ourselves asking, “what is truth?” as we seek to live a life of obedience to Christ. We must have a high view of scripture if we are to have a high view of God himself. If not, we are bound to be confused and frustrated in our Christian walk, expecting things from God that He never promised in His Word.

I think one reason some struggle with this idea of the infallibility/inerrancy of scripture is they have been disappointed, time and time again, by those whom society have incorrectly given this mantle to. From the Roman Catholic Church, to our government, to civil authorities, society often hold these institutions up as infallible. Yet, when the Priest is exposed for molesting a child, or scandals in our government reveal the greed of politicians, or civil authorities are caught on video abusing those whom they are sworn to protect we soon lose trust.

But God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All scripture is God-breathed.” God has revealed to us in scripture His nature, His character, and His essence. And 2 Peter 1:21 assures us that “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will” so what we read about God in scripture is EXACTLY what He says to be true about Himself. Which leads me back to my original question about why Jesus said what he said in Matthew 7. The whole purpose of the Bible and the Gospel is to bring us in relationship with God (John 17:3). To deny the inerrancy of scripturein other words, to not believe the Bible—is to deny a relationship with God. And for those Christ says, “I never knew you.”

The Cell Theory and Christian Practice

I am a huge nerd! Math and science have always been my strong suit and, throughout college, I pursued biology and the medical field as areas of study. One of the basic concepts in science and medicine is known as the Cell Theory. The third statement in the cell theory states that cells can only come from other pre-existing cells, essentially showing that life can only proceed from pre-existing life. You could gather the greatest and most talented minds in the entire realm of history, put them in one room, lock them away with the most expensive equipment for research, and give them one task: create a cell and none of them could do it. I bring up this point to show the incredible power of God and how this serves as a beautiful parallel to the regeneration seen in salvation. Man’s power is so weak and limited compared to God’s; despite our greatest efforts, we can never bring back to life that which is spiritually dead.

In Acts 3:19 Peter speaks to a crowd of Israelites saying, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” This time of refreshing is regeneration and often times the entire splendor of this truth is missed. What we can always agree with is regeneration is the awakening and growth seen when God through His Spirit softens the hearts of those who would trust Christ as seen in the Gospel and the refreshing moment of being at peace with God through salvation. What I think is often “short changed” in this truth is that God uses regeneration as a means for us Christians to be steadfast in the faith regardless of what comes our way in this life. God’s work in regenerating hearts of those who trust Him is that they would trust Christ all the more. As we go through life, we see it is bumpy, rough, depressing, and full of joy and setbacks. But through regeneration, we become resilient to what life throws at us; damaging circumstances that were meant to trample us instead make us bold and steadfast in our faith. Just as the human body continues to regenerate and grow in the midst of different environments and causes of nature, so does the Christian. Our environments change (full joy, peace, stress, persecution, etc.) but our God remains the same, working in and growing us in order to bring glory to Him and show others how awesome the God we serve truly is.

So Christian, look at your life—are you being pushed by every wind and wave of the hardships of a fallen world? Remind yourself the reason why God has regenerated you: to be resilient and steadfast through any situation that life may bring. God has worked and saved you to enjoy Him eternally. While in this wretched world, may we be reminded that being saved by God means we continue to grow in Him through all things. So let us stay charged up in the Word and persistent in prayer and our faith will be one that is durable and long-lasting in all of life’s twists and turns.

All That Thrills My Soul

My Grandmother is 94 years old and suffers from dementia. It has been a roller coaster ride for my mom for a long time. Some days are good days, some not so good, and she never knows from one day to the next what to expect. I was very thankful and humbled last month when I went down to Tucson and had an amazing visit with Grandma. She was well enough for my mom to bring her over to the house. Grandma was so filled with joy in her heart and happy to be with people she loves. I was so thankful she recognized all of us and was just in a good frame of mind. Words were spoken between us. Sweet words. But, a lot of the time was just sitting with each other. We sat on the back porch and watched the kids swing. Grandma commented how it felt good to be outside with blue skies and family. Just sitting and being was enough. She didn’t need some new reality; she was thrilled to be a part of the ordinary of life.

John Piper has said, “The curse of our fallen nature is that what once thrilled us becomes ordinary. The reality hasn’t changed. We have changed.” This is true of our lives on so many levels. Children get a new toy that grabs their attention for a while, but soon enough it becomes ordinary and doesn’t excite them anymore. New parents bubble with joy over the gift of a new baby, but soon get blinded by the monotony of caring for a family and are not as excited about the treasures they have been given. If we are honest, this can become our attitude with God and His Word too. Truths that once enlightened and thrilled our hearts can become so ordinary to us. Did God change? Did the amazing reality of the truth change? No, we did.

So, when we fall into this slump of losing the thrill in our hearts, what are we to do? Our hearts need to be stirred up by way of reminder (2 Peter 3:2). God is unchanging. He is always great, always awesome, always extraordinary. We need to remind ourselves and each other about all that we already know to be true. And sometimes, God will sovereignly allow circumstances in our lives to bring us back to the place of treasuring Him.

What things have blocked your view of God? What truths about Him do you need to remember in order to stir your heart up again? Don’t miss Him today. He is the same God who thrilled you when you first believed.

All that thrills my soul is Jesus.
He is more than life to me.
And the fairest of ten thousand
in my blessed Lord I see.
(All That Thrills My Soul, Thoro Harris)


Colonel was my most faithful childhood companion. When I was a baby, you couldn’t even peek in my bassinet without a sharp warning. As I began to walk and talk, our bond strengthened. No matter where I went or what I did, he was right there by my side and he was very particular when it came to letting people get near me. Even my mother could not discipline the “little king” without locking him in another room, for he would not hesitate to bite the hand that fed him if that hand attempted to mishandle his king. How’s that for an example of love in action?!?

Love denotes action. Just like faith, it is active. It hears the command and it obeys (John 15:12-13). Only this type of love results in action that compels a believer to follow the King of kings and to love others sacrificially (Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:20). Without selfless love, all gifts, beliefs, and acts are useless (1 Corinthians 13:2). It can be in our nature to reciprocate after our needs and desires are met. When God blesses us or favorably answers a prayer, we tend to be more intentional about praising and worshipping Him. Unsolicited kindness and grace are not extended enough to the people in our lives before they dote and love on us first. Behaving in this manner is contrary to Scripture. It is selfish, not selfless.

My German Shepherd, Colonel, always faithfully loved me. Even more so, our love should be instinctual, readily seen, and ready to act without hesitation. Be encouraged to demonstrate your faith with this purposeful and powerful love (Proverbs 3:3-4; Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 16:14). It is a gift from the Father that can be inexhaustibly shared with Him and others (1 John 4:19). Although we will never perfectly express this God-like virtue on Earth, we can rejoice in knowing that we will know no bounds in Heaven.