Times Like These, It’s Good To Know

I’ve been reading in the Psalms lately. Lots of them were written by David. Some draw on images that only a shepherd would think of. Some seem to be straight from the heart of a man being persecuted unfairly. Others are cries for forgiveness.

The amazing thing is that they seem so relevant.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend, and it seemed every topic led to uncertainty. What’s happening in Egypt? Will the unrest lead to democracy or a radical Islamic dictatorship? Will the changes taking place ultimately stabilize the Middle East or upset the tenuous peace that’s existed for the last forty years?

Or how about the economy? The state of the state address California’s recycled governor delivered this week? How about family? My friend’s mom requires more and more help and is dealing with serious medical issues. Her son? Not in church. Church? This issue or that, and my own church is in the beginning stages of looking for a new pastor. Let’s see, how about the weather — the near record snowstorm back in the Midwest or perhaps the gale winds pummeling the Southland?

On and on it goes. Because, let’s face it, life is hard. And some parts of life are harder than others.

In times like these, it’s good to know what God says in His Word. Take these verses in Psalm 27, one of David’s:

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD. (vv 13-14)

That’s the way I feel. “I would have despaired …” But I’m not despairing because God’s goodness is evident in the land of the living. He is still God and as such I can count on Him just as David did, or Abraham or Moses.

Look at what Moses said to the people of Israel as he was preparing to die. Yes, he knew he was going to climb a mountain, look into the promised land, and die. Yet he passed on these words to the people of Israel. They faced battle and he faced death. I think they all could have been scared. I know the parents of those Israelites about to cross the Jordan had been scared, so much so that they decided to stop following God.

Now it was the children’s turn … and the end of Moses’s leadership. So he told them

Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf. (Deut. 1:29b-30a)

And later He said

You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. (Deut. 7:21)

My favorite words of comfort from Moses to the people might be these:

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

In times like these, it’s good to know that God is with me. It’s good to be reminded that He will not fail me or forsake me. It’s good to be admonished to be courageous not fearful, to be strong and not tremble at the next thing on the nightly news.

Thank God He is sovereign, in control, still going ahead of His people to fight on our behalf. What a great God we have!

Published in: on February 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

The Expression Of Reverence – Fear

The second part of Professor Gregory Spencer’s article “Reverence: The Church Without Shoes,” taken from his book Awakening the Quieter Virtues, deals with what he calls The Reverence Continuum. From his study, he sees reverence expressed “in a kind of progression from fear to joy.”

I think he’s onto something. I’ve noticed in discussion with emergent thinkers like Mike Morrell or with various atheists, one of the issues that comes up repeatedly is this idea that God is a tyrant standing over us so that we cower in fear. I had a family member dismiss the Old Testament on these same grounds—God isn’t like that, they say. (Well, except for the atheist who says, That is what the Bible makes God out to be and I can’t accept a God like that, so I choose no god at all.)

What they miss is where a holy fear of a Holy God leads—joy, reverential joy. But fear is a part of this, and we’re not talking about the awe and respect that many think of when they speak of the fear of the Lord, though those responses are on the Reverence Continuum.

I remember when I first realized that a part of me was just a little afraid of my dad. It was a shocking realization and I felt a stab of disloyalty because I loved my father. But we were in the child-rearing phase when my mother said on occasion, Wait until your father gets home. So yes, I had a little healthy fear that I had broken faith with my dad, that he would be displeased and would deliver a just punishment that I didn’t want to bear.

Of course my childhood fear of my father is only a fraction of the fear that those prophets of old experienced when they fell on their faces before God. Here’s what Dr. Spencer had to say:

I don’t know about you, but Jesus scares me with his warning about how he’ll separate the sheep and goats and send the goats, who did not attend to “the least” among us, to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). He said this not long after he cursed a fig tree because it did not bear fruit—and the tree withered and died (21:18-19). Jesus may be the son of love, but he is also the one who told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:33). Would it be appropriate to stroll up to God and say, “Hey Big Guy, nice job on the giraffe”?

He then elaborates on the statement in Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Sometimes the only thing that gets us started in the right direction is fear: the fear of getting caught or the fear of being embarrassed at poor performance. Fear may not be the end of wisdom, but it is often the beginning because it shows we recognize our impoverishment. If fear is the only thing that gets us to kneel, then being frightened by God’s power and holiness is meaningful, though being in this situation might reveal more about us than it does about God.

But best of all is Dr. Spencer’s conclusion about fear as an expression of reverence:

Good fear can also put bad fear in its place. If we worship the gods of acceptance, popularity and success, we will overly fear rejection, loneliness and failure. If we revere God more, we will fear those lesser gods less. Whom do we most fear to disappoint?

What can I add to that!

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

God – A God Of Judgment?

Since most of the comments to this post are dealing with God and His character, I decided to do away with the confusion. Hence I’ve retitled the article. However, the real content is in the comments section.

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm  Comments (49)  
Tags: ,

Fear and the Christian Writer

I’ve mentioned Pastor Alistair Begg enough that regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction may realized I listen to him on the radio most mornings.

Interestingly his broadcast ministry, Truth for Life, has begun airing a series of sermons on the topic of anxiety. I say “interestingly” because a friend of mine has been posting about panic attacks. Soon after her latest, Mike Morrell—whose article “Is God a Recovering Practitioner of Violence?” was the catalyst for my post (and the ensuing pages of comments) “Attacks on God from Within” (followed by two related posts “The Emerging Heresy” and “Attacks against God from Within, Part 2”)—also posted on his own experience of severe anxiety.

All that to say, the topic of fear/worry has been on my mind, and I can’t help but apply it to the writing world since that’s where I live.

I think we writers are a fearful bunch on the whole. Those who aren’t in the profession might be surprised at all we can find to worry about. Here are some I’m aware of.

  • The ability to finish a project
  • Writing a query/proposal that will grab someone’s attention
  • Rejection by a preferred agent
  • Rejection by a publisher (any publisher)
  • Finding someone to endorse the book
  • Receiving editing letters
  • Making changes
  • Meeting deadlines
  • A bad cover
  • Bad reviews
  • Poor sales
  • Not earning out (writer-speak for not making as much money for the publisher as they had expected—it makes getting another contract dicey)
  • Book signings
  • Setting up a Web site
  • Time management
  • Blogging
  • Not blogging
  • Speaking
  • Not speaking
  • Book tours
  • No book tours
  • Radio interviews
  • No radio interviews
  • A new book idea
  • Another contract
  • Failure
  • Success

Throw in an economy that still has buyers proceeding with caution and the digital revolution that will profoundly affect the book business, and writers have good cause to fear.

Or do we?

I think about the people of Israel making a break for freedom, fleeing from Pharaoh and his army straight for the Red Sea. Yes, their lives had been hard, but were things getting any better? They were going into the unknown and to get there had to escape the pursuit of a fully equipped army, then survive the wilderness. Oh, yeah, on the other side awaited giants they’d need to fight.

No wonder Moses addressed the subject of fear with some frequency in Deuteronomy. Here’s a sample:

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,’
– Deut 1:29-30

“You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.”
– Deut 7:21

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
– Deut 31:6

Has God changed since those days? Will He fail me or forsake me? Perhaps He’s no longer great and awesome. 🙄

Writing may seem like a wilderness most days, and the unknown might to be the only constant. But maybe anxiety-producing circumstances are a good thing.

The more I feel unable to manage, the more I realize how much I need God.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: