A Good Scare
Let’s face it, whether you “celebrate” Halloween or not, this time of year everyone’s attention tends towards the spooky, creepy, and downright scary. I’ve heard some people say they like a good scare every now and then. Not so with me. I can do just fine without having the stuffing scared out of me, thank you very much.
I love the fact that the Bible tells us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB) Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) 1 John 4:8 says, “… for God is love.” In fact, John went on to write, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” If we have given our lives to God, if we have found reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we have nothing to fear from God. We have no fear of punishment, but the great expectation of living in the love of God which will drive fear from us.
Yet, with this in mind, I see an interesting story in Genesis 15. This is a powerful chapter telling a key part of the story of Abram/Abraham. The chapter begins with the Lord telling Abram “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Again, we see the Lord’s encouragement to not fear. In his heartbreak, Abram pours out his soul reminding the Lord of the promise to give Abram an heir. A promise as yet unfulfilled as Abram and his wife, Sarah, continue to grow old.
God renews His promise to Abram, telling him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Genesis 15:6 says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram’s simple faith and belief in the Lord is the kind of thing John was talking about: the wonderful loving relationship with the Lord that drives out fear.
The Lord goes on to instruct Abram to prepare a sacrifice. The offering on Abram’s part and acceptance of the offering on God’s part would be the ratifying moment of a great covenant between Abram and God. The Lord would forever be the God of Abram and his descendants, and Abram and his descendants would forever be God’s people. In this powerful moment, this ratifying and recognizing of this great covenant of friendship, grace, and love, an interesting thing happens; “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.” Gen 15:12 (NASB)
God Himself showed up to validate the covenant, and with Him came … terror? It reminds me of the scene where Isaiah received his call (Isaiah 6). The wonderful, glorious, loving, living God shows up and the first thing out of Isaiah’s mouth is, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” Isaiah 6:5 (NASB) When John, yes the “There is no fear in love …” John, sees Jesus in Revelation 1, he confesses, as he writes, that he fell at Jesus’ feet “like a dead man.” Revelation 1:17 (NASB). What does Jesus do? He reaches out to the one who was known as the “one who Jesus loved,” touches him on the shoulder and says, “Do not be afraid.” Revelation 1:17 (NASB)
So what can we make of all this? Certainly, God does not want us to be “afraid” of Him. He does not want us to cower as if any moment He could squash us into jelly. However, we should never take for granted His Godhood. He is powerful. He is mighty. Stars fall from His fingertips. He creates worlds with the words from His mouth. He alone holds all of life in His hands. Should we not respect that? Should we not expect that if He shows up, we will react the same way these three wonderful men of God did? It makes me reflect on the phrase “a good scare.” I think I would like to have one after all. A Good Scare, and all that it implies.
Stop the Sun
Stop the Sun
by John UpChurch, crosswalk.com
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).
When I got married, the friend my wife and I roped into making the wedding video for us added a few surprises to the tape before he gave it to us. During our rehearsal dinner (which didn’t actually follow a rehearsal), he’d grabbed guests, whisked them outside, poked the camera in their faces, and asked them for their best tips on keeping a marriage strong.
The advice is decidedly mixed. It ranges from the serious (“Make time for your relationship”) to the Scriptural (“Love is kind”) to the funny (“Just let her win, John”) to the ludicrous (“Beat him when you need to”). It’s the stuff you’d expect from those who are on the spot with only moments to think up something that would be forever stamped on our video.
But one piece of advice has always stuck out to me, and even as I write this, I see it and wince. One of our friends told us that we should just “forget about that whole sun-not-going-down-on-your-anger thing. You will go to bed mad.”
It’s just really bad advice.
Now, admittedly, when Paul wrote Ephesians 4:26, he wasn’t talking to married couples directly. He meant it for the believers at Ephesus in general. But he slips that passage in among his admonitions about how our lives should be different now that we follow Christ. He says those who don’t know Christ live one way, but when they start to follow Him, their lives show it. Before, we let our anger seethe, but now, we fix the problem. Before, we didn’t seek forgiveness and restitution, but now we do.
In marriage, the status quo is always safer. We get into routines, and we like how comfortable the ordinary feels. When something disrupts the normal flow, guys especially want to just move it out of the way and get back to flowing again. Meanwhile, our wives are still upset, and nothing has been dealt with.
You see, there’s another part to that going-to-bed-angry thing that our well-wisher left out. When we do that, the Bible says we give the devil a foothold, a place to cling on. The anger burns deeper and deeper. One angry night becomes dozens. That’s the place where relationships stop growing—and even die.
But there’s no need for any angry sleeping, not when we’ve got something as crazy-good as the gospel. As Paul says, the good news is that we’ve chucked off our old selves and gotten brand-spanking-new selves. This new-self sets us apart in the world as children of light. In other words, when we don’t do what people expect, we suddenly blaze into the darkness. When we don’t let the sun go down on our anger, but forgive as we’re forgiven, it’s like setting off a flare. You’re saying, “Look. This is God’s love made manifest through us. Dig it.”
“Be not forward (self-assertive and boastfully ambitious) in the presence of the king.” – Proverbs 25:6 AMPC
The word is full of ambitious people, committed to advancing their careers, no matter what it takes. They are eager to get attention and credit for successful ventures but let others get the blame for failures.
This attitude is the way to become successful and stand out from the crowd. The Bible encourages a different attitude. God promises to bless the humble (Psalm 25:9). Instead of boasting about ourselves, we are to boast in the Lord (Psalm 34:2). We are reminded that God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13).
The right way to approach life is having the attitude of a servant. Remember the words of Jesus, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). We always should seek to serve others and God. Always be ready to give Him the glory. Always seek first His kingdom.
This does not mean being passive. In fact, the Bible tells us that God looks for people who invest the resources they have been given, who are diligent and hardworking, who seek to be good stewards, and who are not afraid to present new ideas.
These principles ultimately apply to our relationship with God. We are to approach Him with reverence and humility, never pride or arrogance. But we also are to be confident in our relationship with Him. Develop the gifts He has given us. Make the most out of our time.
One More Journey
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.” — Genesis 46:3
In his old age Jacob now begins one more journey. Many years earlier, Jacob had fled his homeland in fear; now he leaves in the hope of a joyful reunion with a son he had thought was dead. But this journey also requires him to leave the land God has promised to him (Genesis 35:12). This journey will take him to Egypt, a place of danger for his father and grandfather (Genesis 12:10-20; 26:2). Can God be involved in this unexpected change of plans?
It is to Jacob’s credit that he begins this journey with worship—for even if a plan seems appealing to us, it will not succeed if it does not honor God. Though his own son had invited him to come and stay in Egypt, Jacob also surely knew of God’s warning that his descendants would be mistreated in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13). For this reason, God’s assurance is vital to his journey.
Perhaps it seems that God has placed you on a journey you did not expect: a new career, a new home, a challenging situation that stretches your faith. Hear today the great assurance that Jacob heard: “Do not be afraid. . . . I will go . . . with you.” God, who lived among us and journeyed with us in the flesh of his Son (John 1:14), will redeem and bless even the unexpected journeys of all who trust in him.
Lord, sometimes you send us to unexpected places in life. Give us wisdom to discern your leading in our journeys, and give us courage in knowing you are always with us, through Jesus, our Savior. Amen.