The Motivation

 

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In yesterday’s devotional thought, I was reading about the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

Their story is the following record in Scripture:

Acts 5:1-10

Lying to the Holy Spirit

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”

She said, “Yes, for so much.”

Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.

This is what my devotional book, Men & Women Of The Bible said in regards to these two people:

Almost any group will include those who want to belong without the trouble of real commitment.  The early Christian church had its share of those who failed to count the cost.  Ananias and Sapphira preferred to appear committed rather than to be genuine in their faith.  They were under the mistaken notion that appearances were just as good as the real thing, but cheaper.  Caught in the act of dishonest giving, they lost everything.

When he confronted Ananias, Peter made the problem very clear.  Ananias and his wife were not obliged to give to the church.  That wasn’t the problem.  Ananias’ sin came when he desired to gain prestige by making others think he had given the entire amount of the property sale when he had only given part of the money.

What powerful and convicting words!  Are we more concerned about appearances, or are we committed to the God who sees everything, knows everything, and who desires us — all of us?

Another powerful point made in the devotional book, Men & Women Of The Bible said in regards to this situation:

Among those he intended to deceive was God.

…It’s often tempting to bend the truth, but have you ever thought about who you’re really trying to deceive?  How often would we stop twisting the truth if we truly and fearfully realized that beyond those people we may fool is a God we cannot deceive?

Wow!  Let me re-state that quote again…

“Beyond those people we may fool is a God we cannot deceive.”

God, purify our hearts.  We come before you, knowing that we are so easily deceived — deceived by the lies and deceived by our own fleshly desires.  Right now, we come before you, acknowledging the sinfulness and deception of our own hearts and acknowledging the Superior Excellence of You!  We ask you to reveal any ways within us that are not aligned with your will and ways.  We ask you to soften our hearts towards you and to bring us into repentance before you so that you might restore us into a closer relationship with You.  Knowing that you are a good God and a loving God, we want you above all else — above the shallowness and decay of our own desires.  Change our desires so that it is You we desire above all else!

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What Does “Fear of God” Mean?

Scanner Fear 3

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In Scripture, there are dozens – more like hundreds – of verses on “fearing” God.

When my husband and I were recently discussing this topic of “fearing” God, he was saying, “People should fear God.”  My response was, “If the only response this fear produces is to run from God rather than submit to God, it is pointless.  It’s a sinful fear that produces nothing good.  If though people fear God correctly, they will repent and turn to God.  That is the only kind of fear that is good.  In other words, not all fears of God are good.” (BTW, we both agree on this.)

Let me explain in more detail…

Is all “fear of God” correct or good?

What does it mean to “fear God”?

In the beginning of time, we see when Adam and Eve first “feared” God and what was the cause and result of that fear.

Genesis 3:6-10

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Here we see one type of “fear” of God.  This is what I would call “sinful fear.”  This kind of fear causes us to recognize the power of God, but instead of yielding to it, we run from it.

When confronted with the righteousness and power of God, we have a response to make.  We either repent and submit ourselves to God, or we reject Him/rebel and run from Him.

There are many verses that talk about the right type of “fear” of God.  Perhaps, this is better described as such overwhelming respect/awe that we are humbled and surrender our own wills to Him.

Deuteronomy 10:12

The Essence of the Law

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

Psalm 89:7

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
And to be held in reverence by all those around Him

The wrong kind of fear trembles at the power of God, still clings to its own self-preservation and will, and runs from or opposes the will of God.

The following verses describe the wrong kind of fear that the world has:

Philippians 2:10

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

The world will “bow” before God but not in reverence/submission.  (At the confrontation of His Power, there is no physical strength left to stand in His Presence.)

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, unbelieving,[a] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Psalm 67:7

God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

The world will “fear” God but not to submit to Him.

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The demons “fear” God.  They fear His power but not in the “right” sense — that which leads them to submit or to repent.

To simplify this, godly “fear” leads us to repentance.  Sinful “fear” causes us to run, hide, rebel, just like we saw Adam and Eve do.

I believe that sinful fear is inter-connected with pride.  Rather than repenting, we run from God, which means we are relying on ourselves.

I believe that self-reliance is the definition of pride.  It is independence from God, which is sin.  See my earlier blog post: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-simplicty-about-sin.

God had shown me earlier that rebellion comes from distrust.  God then posed the question to me: “From where does distrust come?”

Distrust can come from wounds, but it can also come from learning to rely on ourselves (self-reliance) which is pride.

This is the key thought:

Self-reliance is the flesh’s sinful response to lies about God as a result of the hurts we have experienced. 

We all experience wounds in this world — some to a greater extent than others.  It is how we respond to those wounds that changes everything!

There is one more aspect in regards to the “fear of God” that we need to discuss.  It’s the concept of consequences.

In the past, what I thought was “fearing God” was really more about fearing the consequences of my sins.

When I was walking more in fear of my consequences, I would confess quite regularly, but my motivations were fear-based.  I was “obeying” to the extent that I wanted to avoid the consequences and was terrified of them.

When I wrongfully fear my consequences, what am I in essence believing?

I am believing that I have gone too far or made too big of a mistake for God to redeem them.

The truth is so long a I am truly repentant and have submitted my new set of circumstances to God, He can redeem even them.

The fear of consequences motivates the more “fleshly-minded” Christian.  The “spiritual” or God-filled man is motivated by relationship — his/her relationship with God.

When I fear my consequences more than I fear God, my consequences themselves can become a “god” in my life.  They can become “larger” than God in my heart.  This becomes obvious when the fear of my consequences leads me to fear them more than believing God is in control of them.

When I truly repent and submit myself to God, He can redeem even the most horrific consequences and use them to bring good.  (See Rom. 8:28.)

Nothing is beyond the reach of God.

God is not mastered by anyone or anything.  Satan nor us can “put one over” on God.

He is Sovereign!

 

The Simplicty About Sin…

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/checkmate-chess-1181519)

This past Saturday, I was pondering some truths I had read in Scripture, dialoguing with the Lord, and then He gave me this thought…

It was so “simple” and yet so profound in its impact…

Anything independent from God is sin. 

That means any time our wills are not aligned with God’s or simply put, submitted to God, we are in sin.

Understanding this simple truth is changing the way I pray and is changing the way I view my own sin.

It “emblazons” my sin before my eyes so that I no longer can justify or minimize it.

When I understand that I am sinning when I am not aligned with God’s will in ALL AREAS, I realize that I have a decision to make: I either respond to God’s conviction with contrition/repentance, or I rebel and reject His ways and reap the consequences of my own actions.

Thinking about this simple truth means I have been doing a lot of confessing lately — not prompted by fear or pride — but prompted from my own desire to walk in freedom and for greater communication in my relationship with the Lord. 

I don’t want hindered communication in my relationship with the Lord.

Sin hinders communication.  It produces “soul noise” that “drowns out” the voice of God.

Repentance reopens those channels, “unplugs” my ears, and removes the “blockades” in my spiritual life.

True repentance produces unprecedented peace and joy. 

Understanding the profound truth that my will needs to be aligned with God’s will in order to walk in truth, life, freedom, and righteousness means that I now pray the following prayer:

Lord, may your will be done in such and such a situation…”

“Lord, change my will to be yours in such and such a matter…”

So simple and yet so life-changing!

It does not matter that I want certain things.  Unless what I want is in alignment with what God wants for me at that time or in that way, to proceed ahead would be sin.

Yes!  I have been praying a lot of prayers, asking God to change my will in many matters and asking His will to be accomplished in many situations.  It is so exciting and amazing to be a part of His work in the lives of others and to be receptive and responsive to His leading!

May 2016 be a year of amazing revival in my life, my home, my family, and yours as well!

Feet Of Clay

A potter is kneading the clay to be used to making Lord Ganesha Idols in Pottery Town, Bangalore.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12073361&searchId=88b5c637595cd7c0c9675d03efa58f0b&npos=93)

With another scandalous headline concerning the Duggar family splashed across the news, my heart began to ache once again…

The story “hit close to home” because I grew up in an environment similar to the Duggars. I was surrounded by friends and affiliates who espoused the ATIA teachings, of which the Duggar family is also a part.

This is what I have learned coming out of that environment of ultra-conservatism — how it started “wrong” and how it continued to go wrong:

Note: This was not necessarily the way I was raised or the teachings of my family.  These concepts were what I was exposed to by ultra-conservative groups of which we were affiliated, people with whom we associated, church groups, etc…

1.  There was an over-emphasis on the outward (works, appearance, actions, expressions).

A lot of attention was given to how a person dressed, acted, talked.  Spirituality was based upon those outward indicators that were “supposed” to be inward indicators.

When the outward becomes our focus, it is easy to avoid looking at the inward and to cover up our inner struggles with pretty exteriors.

2.  There was an emphasis on pleasing God, but the reason was motivated from fear — fear of God’s wrath.

Growing up in that environment, God was seen more as a holy, wrathful God — that a person must appease or constantly live in fear of His judgment.

A fearful environment produces shame, guilt, condemnation, anxiety, anger, wrath, judgment, harshness, and extremes.

3.  There was an emphasis on living a “godly” life, but perfection was what was really intended.

We were expected to be practically perfect.

Our worth was judged on our performance — how “godly” we appeared.

There was no room to give grace.  There were harsh consequences for anyone who “slipped up” — even over the smallest or most ridiculous infractions.

4.  It was taught that if you lived the “godly” or really perfect life, you would be honored by the world and would receive material blessings.

This became another form of the “wealth, health, and happiness” type of “gospel”.  There was an over-emphasis on good works, called “godly behavior”, and the results were supposed to be physical and material blessings.

5.  It was taught that you could avoid sin in your life by avoiding sin out there.

Sin was blamed on the the “world”.  So to avoid the “world” meant we could avoid sin. 

This can result in condemnation of the “world” rather than a humble love that reaches out to the world.  This can also result in the avoidance of taking responsibility for our own actions.

My above list is not conclusive or exhaustive, but it reveals some of the heart issues behind the “ultra-conservative” movement.

It’s been 15 years since I was immersed in such an environment.  Since that time, God has revealed many truths to me concerning my past and revealed the wonderful freedom of His grace.

I still try to live a “godly” life, but it is no longer based on the fear of appeasing a wrathful God.  God has been so gently teaching me that He is a loving God and full of grace.  He convicts me ever so gently in a way that doesn’t leave me condemned but leaves me with a desire and hope for growth and the future to which He has called me.

God has been teaching me that I have “feet of clay”.  This means that I am not a “paradigm of godliness or perfection”.  My claim is the righteousness of Christ alone.  My standing is in His righteousness!

When I understand my security is found in God’s grace, I am able to acknowledge my own sins and take responsibility for them.

I understand that I don’t have to pretend perfection or constantly live in fear of being found less-than-perfect.  Instead, I have a desire to run into the “arms” of a loving God who is always ready to receive the repentant child back and longs to restore us into full fellowship with all the privileges of being His child.

I understand that God’s love is not performance-based or conditional.  God chose to love me and to die for me, fully aware of my sinful and unlovely condition.

I am also learning to give more grace to my children and to stop holding them to an impossible standard of perfection.  I am still learning this though…

I am learning to accept myself and others in our all of our imperfect, messy states.  God knows we have “feet of clay” and still chooses to use us, as we yield ourselves to Him.

I don’t claim to be perfect at any of this.  In fact, as my family can attest, I mess up on a regular basis, but I have the confidence to get back up again because I have a God who loves me way more than I can even dare to hope and who won’t give up on me.  I have a God who chooses to use me, with feet of clay, to reveal the power of His grace at work in my life. 

So, when we are tempted to elevate a mere human, let’s remember that we all have just “feet of clay”.  All goodness and true righteousness and true godliness is in God alone!

Soul, take a deep breath and bask in the freedom you have to walk in His power and grace and to be completely accepted in Him.  Get back up on those feet of clay.  He’s not finished with you yet.

Don’t Despair

Beth taking off from Barbury Castle

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2993818&searchId=d5aa1729c8c253e5d917a5264855eab8&npos=100)

I hear it… the voices of fear, despair…  I see them in the comments on Facebook, in news feeds.

There is a lot that we can focus on that could get us pretty discouraged.  That focus can cause us to merely go through the motions of living when all we are doing is despairing.

Our present circumstances are similar in many ways to what generations gone before us have experienced.  History has a way of repeating itself… probably because humanity, in general, tends to repeat itself in the choices that are made.

Specific challenges may be unique; yet, the heart of the issues we face today are still the same as generations faced in the past.

Not only is the nature of the challenges we face today still the same, but so is the answer. 

Just because our personal circumstances or even national or worldwide circumstances may appear more grim does not mean that God has been taken by surprise and doesn’t have an answer.

None of what we face today is shocking to God.  None of it has left God in despair.

Despair comes from one who is looking to things, people. laws, circumstances for hope. 

Despair comes from a root of fear.

While reading through my devotions today, I came across the following quotes.  They are simple but profound:

“Most people have felt like giving up at one time or another: in a relationship, during an overwhelming task at home, school or work; or during a persistent illness.  But like Jeremiah, we are called not to despair but to endure.  Instead of focusing your thoughts, prayers, and energy on getting out of a problem, you can draw on God’s resources to get through it.  God’s love enabled Jeremiah to bear the worst humiliation; it can see you through your problems too.  Make endurance your theme throughout your trials today.”  — taken from Men & Women of the Bible

Our hope comes from the Lord!  As situations around us become more discouraging, the opposite is also true: God’s Word and His promises and His truth become more promising and encouraging!

As circumstances around us look more frightening, the opposite is also true: our faith can become stronger.

As people disappoint us, the opposite is also true: God’s faithfulness and unfailing love support us.

As sin and error prevails, God’s truth triumphs still.

The end has not been written.

Friends of our family recently lost their house to a fire last week; yet, they rejoice that they are safe.  They rejoice that their “true treasures” are not in this world.

Two women in their 40’s that I know are fighting cancer; yet, they are able to persevere because they know that God is the One Who knows the story of their lives.  He writes the foreword/introductory, He writes the conclusion, and He writes the chapters in between.  God isn’t finished!

The story is finished when God finishes it.

The truth always trumps the lie.  Light always trumps darkness.  Love always trumps hate.  Righteousness always trumps sin.  Faith always trumps fear.

Don’t despair.  God is not clueless.  God is not perplexed.  God is not discouraged.  And neither should we be, if He is our God.

Jericho, Goliath, and Gardening

It’s interesting how everyday situations create the perfect opportunity to teach life lessons and spiritual truths.  Perhaps, the very best ones are learned this way.  Recently as we were putting in a garden, we saw first hand how important it is to be aware of “teachable moments” with our kids.  As our family was digging small holes and carefully places the seeds inside, I began to teach the boys about our early American history.  It was fun to share how the Native Americans, Samoset and Squanto helped the pilgrims learn how to grow gardens in the American soil.

I then went on to share how God compares our hearts to types of soil.  I asked Will questions concerning how well he thought a seed would do if it was planted with a bunch of rocks; we then compared that to a “hard heart” that is closed to truth/”seed of eternal life.”  We spoke of what a seed needs to grow and compared that to Spiritual truths — how we need God’s Word, God Himself, “pruning” in our own lives, encouragement, etc… to flourish and thrive.    We talked about the plants that wither when heat and drought come.  We compared that to our lives — when we “wither” when adversity comes our way (e.g. persecution, criticism, hard times leads to “losing faith”).  It was neat to see how Will clearly understood spiritual truths from seeing their application to our daily lives.

Another lesson we recently discussed was during our family devotional reading of the Battle of Jericho.  We read about Joshua’s conquering of Jericho through God’s help and of Joshua and Caleb’s response to Jericho versus the other spies.  We went on to apply Jericho to areas in our lives that need to be conquered (e.g. pride, anger, selfishness, unkindness, impatience).  Each of us went around the table and named something that we need to have conquered by God’s help.  We then talked about how God can help us tear down those “Jerichos” in our lives and give us freedom!  The boys immediately grasped the truths of this lesson and shared their “Jerichos”.  Later when conflicts arose, we were able to refer to the Bible lesson and to ask the boys if they were conquering their “Jericho” or allowing “Jericho” to conquer them.

A similar lesson was also studied and applied from the life of David and the familiar story of his battle against Goliath.  Again, Goliath was compared to our own areas of sin and how we need to go in God’s strength and use the right weapons to defeat our spiritual giants.  It was neat to hear the boys of their own volition mentioning these lessons in later events.  God’s Word is definitely powerful and practical!

Cuteness & Questions

Drew asked Jonathan today if Jonathan was going to put away the bread.  Drew then said, “Daddy, I’ll do it.  I’m a good helper.”  Drew still has his disobedient moments, but his attitude overall seems to be wanting to do what is right.

Last night, Drew and I had a conversation.  I don’t remember all that was said, but I remember the highlights of it.  We were talking about doing right and obeying God.   Drew said he wanted to be good.  I told him that he needed God’s help to be good because he and everyone else was born with a sinful heart, wanting to do what is wrong.  I said that he would need to ask God to help him and to give him a new heart, one that wanted to do what is right.  Drew said, “I want a new heart so I can be good.”  I asked him if he wanted to pray, and he said, “Yes.”  He then prayed, asking Jesus to give him a new heart so he could be good.  Drew and I continued our conversation as I was tucking him into bed.  He was concerned about all the bad people that were going to hell.  He wanted us to pray for them or something like that.  I can’t remember if he also wanted us to tell them about Jesus or not.  He then asked me this question, “Can church people go to hell?”  Amazed by the depth of his thinking and questions, I replied, “Only those who believe in Jesus as their Savior and have asked Him to give them a new heart can go to Heaven.”