What Does it Mean to Fear God?

What has been one of your most frightful moments? For me, it was on top of a mountain in Colorado. I had gone on a skiing trip with a few friends and their family. It wasn’t the first time and I would consider myself decent at snowboarding. In years past I may have been out of my comfort zone, but never felt afraid of a slope I was taken on. All of that changed on this trip.

It wasn’t too far into the trip and we decided to head to the top to get in some good powder and a few runs that had not been over skied. At first I thought this would be just fine. Again, I had never had a reason to doubt my ability. We made our way to the top lift. We were so high on the mountain that they didn’t use the normal lift I was used to riding. It was a bar you had to hold onto as it pulled you up. It took me a couple of tries and it made me a little frustrated but I figured it out.

It was then that fear started to creep in. We were not going to go down the main run. Instead, we were going to head over to another part of the mountain and drop into a bowl run… Looking at the route we needed to take, I was starting to get worried, and I let my friends know it. 

With my back facing a cliff that I felt would surely end my life, and my face to the mountain with my hands in the snow I made my way around. Finally on some flat ground again, I couldn’t keep my fear in. I was shaking. All it would have taken was one slip or bump and I would have been on my back and I don’t think I would have made it out (there is of course some exaggeration here, but because of my fear it definitely felt like this).

I would later realize that this was probably the best run we had done all trip. However, the fear I had before going down the mountain outweighed any enjoyment I might have had. I never did go up that lift again.

What is Fear?

Often times, this feeling of terror is the type of emotion we associate with fear. That’s why I was always confused when I was taught to fear God. I associated fear with a type of horror. However, as I've grown up and studied further I really like what Martin Luther has to say on the subject. He brings a distinction to fear.

The first type of fear, the one we most often think of, is what he calls servile fear; a fear of a direct threat or danger. This is on the lines of terror or horror. But Luther also discusses a type of fear he calls filial fear. This is like the fear a child has for his father, mother or other authoritative figure. It is not a fear of being punished, but rather the fear of disappointing the one that loves and protects them.

What Does it Mean to Fear God?

So what does it mean to fear God? I do not believe it means screaming and running when we hear his name, but rather growing and finding a deep awe and respect for who He is. He is the one who brings comfort, peace, hope, joy, and love. He has sent his one and only son to die on my behalf.

So do I fear God? Yes. Not out of a terror of what he may do, but rather out of respect, awe and adoration for what He has already done on my behalf!

Stuck in a Bad Habit?

Have you ever had a bad habit that was a struggle to get rid of? Over the past 3 years it has come to my attention that I have several that I didn’t even realize were bad. You see, I have been married for just over three years, and once you move in with someone new there are things that come to light that I wouldn't have thought twice about before. One of the constant problems has to do with my clothes. Not what I wear (although there have been some struggles in that department) but rather about where they end up once they are dirty. Before being married, I would toss my clothes in a pile toward the hamper. It didn’t bother me and they always ended up in the washer once I found myself rummaging through the pile to put something on that didn’t smell that bad. Now that there are two of us though, I am always hearing about the mess I make with my laundry. In my head I have said that I would change; that I would make more of an effort to make sure my clothes ended up in the hamper. However, after a few good days, my clothes found their way back in a pile on the floor. This again brought back the criticism about the pile. What was I doing wrong? 

This has been a common trend when I try to stop the bad habits I form. I tell myself I will change, and sometimes I will tell someone else as well. However, after a little while – weeks, days, or hours – I often find myself right back at it. The problem I have found with my strategy is that I try to quit my bad habits without replacing them with something else.  When I look back at changes in my life, I found success when I was able to replace my bad habit with something good.

Biblical Inspiration

Ephesians 4:22-24 talks about removing our old self – or our behaviors and way of living before we knew of the love of our Savior. In these verses it does not just say to remove the bad things out of our life and all will be well. Instead, we see that we need to be renewed in the spirit of our mind, putting on the new self, which was created after the likeness of God. It is very difficult to “simply” remove a habit. However, when we are able to replace it with something else, something positive, our bad habits or an old way of life can become a new beneficial way of living! It is still not easy to bring about change. We get so used to doing something a certain way. But when the time comes to form a change or cut out a bad habit, do not try to just cut it out. Replace it with something that will benefit you or the relationship being affected.

How Do I Fight Temptation?

Temptation is real! It is something every person has in common as we choose how to live each day. In order to fight temptation, we first need to know what temptation is. Temptation, by definition, is a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. It is also described as a thing or action that attracts or tempts us. The world is full of temptation, luring us through media, technology, peers, friends, and even family. All of these types of temptation can lure us because, by nature, we all have desires of the flesh.

What do the scriptures tell us?

The Bible tells us that Satin is the master of temptation. We do not need to look too far into the scriptures to find Satan working, as he tempted Eve in the garden. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). The bible also tells us that temptation does not come from God. In Luke 4:1-13, we see that even Jesus was tempted! This tells me that temptation is not "sin". Jesus was tempted by Satin, but Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). This is comforting to me, and it should be to you too. Temptation only becomes sin, when we give in and take action, mentally or physically.

So how do we fight temptation?

Flea! At first thought, run before it gets ahold of you! Don't let it take root. Too often, there are warning signs we ignore, and then we find ourselves in situations where it is harder to turn away. We can pray and ask for God's help. We can turn to Galatians 5 and ask Him to give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is also good to turn to someone we can trust and ask them to help us through prayer and accountability. We become stronger when we are not trying to fight temptation alone.

How am I, day to day, following Jesus?

How are you, day to day, following Jesus?

This is a question that I have heard a lot over my life. Maybe you have too. I never knew how to answer this question when I was younger. Growing up, I believed that being a Christian meant going to church, Sunday school, and Wednesday night kids programming. Once I had those three things done, I could put a check by my Christian box. However, as I have grown in my faith, I have come to the realization that my faith is a part of my entire life, not just a box to check off throughout the week.

So how do I seek to follow Jesus day to day? For me it starts with intentionally abiding in Christ. In John 15 it talks about how God abides in us as we abide in him. It also explains that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Jesus is the source of the life, joy, and hope that I have, and as I continue to abide in him I continue to learn and grow in relationship with him.

That’s what it is for me – a relationship.

I remember the first time my family moved. It was the summer before my 1st grade year. We had finally settled into our new home after living in our camper for a few months. I stood outside the house just taking it all in. That’s when I noticed that there was a young boy (about my age) shooting hoops in the driveway next door. He waved and said hi, I waved and ran back inside. Little did I know that boy would become one of my best friends throughout elementary school. However, it didn’t start out that way. We had to spend time together. We got to know one another through conversations, games of tag, birthday parties, and family meals. We went from strangers to besties as we continued to get to know one another.

The same is true with my relationship with God. I need to spend time with Him in order to grow in my relationship with him. It takes time, it takes energy, and that is what God wants. He wants a relationship with his creation.

How do I abide with Christ?

First, I spend time in his word. God reveals himself through the bible, and we can come to know Him by spending time in scripture. I have to be intentional with this, setting a time aside each day to spend reading and engaging in the word of God. Through scripture, I come to know and understand God and his love for me more and more. I am also encouraged, reminded, corrected, built up, and refreshed as I read his promises, his law, and his will for my life.

Second, I spend time in prayer. Again, I need to intentionally set aside time to do this. This has not always been easy, and words have not always come naturally to me when it comes to praying. In what relationship is it easy though? I am not able to just go up to anyone on the street and begin a deep personal conversation with them. That level of trust takes time to build up. The same has been true about my prayer life. It started out as a struggle. What do I say? How do I pray? But as I continually set time aside and go to him in prayer, I have grown in my trust and in my ability to open up and be honest and true. And sure, there have been times that I have been frustrated or disappointed in my prayer life. However, as I continue to abide in Christ, as I continue to read his word and know his will, my prayer life continues to change. It has gone from doubt filled words, to a deep trust and awe of God.

Finally, I spend time in community with other faithful followers. We were created to live in relationship with others. Allowing time each week to spend with people following Jesus strengthens my personal walk with Christ. Finding that community that I go to with both my highs and lows of life sets me up for success. We laugh and cry together, and that is truly a blessing. For when I stumble I know that there are others around me who are willing to encourage and build me up.

Be engaged everyday.

All of this to simply say, I don’t have it all figured out. I do not know everything when it comes to scripture or prayer. What I do know is that I need to be intentionally abiding in Christ - setting time aside to be engaged with God each and every day. 

A wise man once spoke at the college I attended. He told us how he started off each day, and it has stuck with me ever since. My morning prayer has become - Father, where are you working today, and may I join you. 

Staying Committed to Reading The Bible

I have hundreds of books sitting on bookshelves at home, and I have read some of those books multiple times. I have spent hours and hours reading the words of those books, getting attached to fictitious characters and their stories. Yet, I still find myself struggling to read the most important book of them all—The Bible.

Can you relate? Being disciplined and reading God’s word has always been hard for me. I go through two-week, sometimes even month long spurts of reading daily, but then I forget a day here and there until it has been a month since I spent any time in the Bible.

While I still do not have it all figured out, I do want to encourage you with these two suggestions:

1. Understand why we need to read God's word

In order to make progress in reading God’s word, we need to understand why it is we need to be reading God’s Word. In her book, “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook,” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun conveys the importance of reading God's word in the following excerpt:

 “There are always other books to read and speakers to listen to.  Of course God does use books and people to speak to us.  But Scripture is a primary way that the Holy Spirit opens us up to the God who is beyond us.  In the Bible God reveals to us both our sin and our belovedness.  Our desires for nourishment, strength, comfort, and joy are all addressed in Scripture.  Reading God’s Word, listening to Scripture on tape, or singing biblical texts all put us in a place to attend to the God who speaks.  Though there is no new word of revelation today, God is still speaking and guiding us personally and intimately through the Word.  Regularly being with God in his Word is a way we open ourselves to truths and guidance outside us.” 

2. Find someone to read with you  

Maybe not someone who actually sits down with you to read scriptures aloud, but someone who will commit to reading a certain number of books or passages with you daily or weekly.  Having someone partner with me has always been a great way to keep me accountable to reading and remembering why I am reading.

God desires so much to be in relationship with His children and speak to us.  Now let's go and start listening!