Grace

Filial Reverence

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Nothing more true than this statement. But maybe we need to rightly adapt the word fear to express more clearly its meaning. It is meant to be an awe, or reverence, not the scary sense modern vernacular lends to the word.

One of the guys I am trying to disciple was recently reading an R.C. Sproul devotional that was categorizing the fear of the Lord between servile and filial. Servile being a subdued caution toward a perceived threat of the tormentor. This would be an appropriate response to thinking of the heat and hardship of eternal hell. (Sorry to bring such things up on a Friday).

But that kind of reverent fear is not meant for those in Christ. Those rescued from wrath for sin, those forgiven. We are meant for filial reverence. Seeing the Father through the lens of his love. In awe of his mercy and ongoing cherishing of His children. We might think of how great it is to have a Father, especially one that loves us (as proven by the provision of grace of the Son), what we receive. Or we can think of it from the Father’s perspective, the heart he has for us.

This idea is often brought to mind for me as a dad. My kids are something else. Each with their own personality and quirks, none of which keeps me from loving them. In fact, it is strange, but I can find myself smiling just seeing these kids be themselves. They brighten my heart, they soften my mood.

And that feeling (maybe only healthy dads can feel it) is what God feels towards you in Christ. You make his heart burst with joy. So much so that while we are at our worst he sent his Son to take our place in obedience and punishment. What grace. What love.

It is from the safe place of this love that we live. Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is the beginning of all life. Praying that you have this in increasing measure today and forever.

Discipleship, Grace

Being Direct

As the earth seems to crumble, and the structures we have built up to carry us through seem to teeter under the weight of a global pandemic, environmental disaster, and political upheaval, each of us is being stretched and made to bend in difficult ways.

I have spent a lot of breath on calling my friends, family, and church to be sure not to waste the pandemic but come through it in such a way that it is clear they have been with Jesus. That’s what we all want isn’t it? At least those of us who call Jesus savior! But more than mere exhortation away from waste of time and energy on things temporary, I also believe we each need spurs, those that can speak directly to us and tell us the truth when we are blinded by bias and a cherishing of self over all things.

To that end, this morning I had a direct conversation with a member of our church. Now, I don’t think I am known for sugar-coating things, and have always attempted to be forthcoming and direct. Today was no exception, although I am not sure he appreciated by directness.

As a pastor that will stand before Jesus and give an account of how I cared for his flock, I take the task seriously and I couldn’t avoid the conversation any longer. As I have watched this guy interact (or refuse to) over the last six months I have had an increasing unease about where he has been placing his hope and the things he was valuing.

So I told him. I let him know that I was concerned that he had been missing, intentionally, the biblical call to “love one another” in the church and the way he was putting his preference before the value of the body of believers was sinful. He has essentially been speaking with his actions that the church is not worth sacrificing for and participation was only worthwhile when his pet-opinions were highlighted over everyone else’s.

But there was more. I also told him that I was convinced he had zero positive influence with his neighbors because of the way he condescends to those holding differing political views. I told him I thought the candidate he supports is actually an anti-Christ and I gave Scripture to show it. That didn’t land as well as it should have but it is true.

What’s more, I told him that it was clear his wife and kids were merely floating along in the cultural river of fear, gossip, conspiracy, and intrigue because he refused to show them Jesus in meaningful ways. No husband or father likes to hear that he is failing to lead spiritually but sometimes we have to face the truth.

By this point in the conversation I am pretty sure he was more prepared to fight than break down in tears admitting his fault in repentance. Shoot, I was ready to fight. This guy has been pissing me off and I am pretty sure he has even been badmouthing me to others.

Rather than press further into his faults, I looked him the eyes as best I could and told him that he was exactly who Jesus decided to spend his life for. That even in all of these failed opportunities, in his political idolatry, in his obsession with gun rights and mask-wearing, Jesus took on the cross for him. All of those things could never cloud his Savior’s love for him and universe bending desire for his heart.

As best I could, I relayed to this guy that Jesus’ approval of him was not determined or diminished because he had focused on other things. That Christ’s work truly was finished and from that work now he could live with hope, joy, and purpose far better than all those temporary things. I told him that he was forgiven and made the righteousness of God by the God-man willingly becoming sin for him.

That seemed to be what he needed to hear. And at that moment we took a deep breath and prayed that Jesus would forgive us of the way we have let distractions get in the way this year (he is quick to forgive!), asking for strength to choose what is right and pure and glorifying to Christ, that he would be transformed all the more by the grace of Jesus for him.

I raised a hearty “amen” and mentioned how it was God’s loving kindness that brings us to repentance, and because that’s true we could be honest about our sin and selfishness. Jesus loves us still.

Then I got up from my chair and started on the list of tasks set for the day. You see, the member of our church was me. I needed some direct talk and a thick application of the gospel of grace. I won’t always get things right, but Jesus will keep me.

And friend, he will keep you too. You are probably getting a lot of things wrong right now and wasting energy on things that don’t matter. Know that Jesus loves you still. He frees you by his grace to cling to what is good. And he will carry you all the way home. Turn to him. Smile and get on with the day.

And if all else fails, just give me a call and I will be as direct with you as I can!

Culture, Discipleship, Grace

Diminished Unhealthy Urgency

This pandemic is changing us. In uncomfortable ways and in some good ways. Let’s focus on the good to get through the difficult.

As I began my day this morning I was contemplating a newer reality for me, something that has taken place especially the last month. Usually I would wake up with a list to conquer, places to be, and an anxious urgency to get it all done. While I still have the same list of tasks the number of places and start times are different. But the anxious urgency has been diminished.

I have the same portfolio of work, and even the same number of meetings (which are virtual or outside at a distance). But the sense of a crushing burden of the week is different. And I am okay with it.

In the last year we saw the publication of numerous books on eliminating hurry as the cure to what ails us but those books often failed to deliver a fulcrum that could bring us into a different way of life. COVID did.

The pandemic, if we allow it to, can shift the things we value and the way we approach life. If we are lost to the idol of politics are self-righteousness there isn’t much hope, but if we start to value our neighbor, our family, even our enemies for the image-bearing souls they are, we might value the time we get with them more. We don’t feel like an intrusion like we used to. We take the time for connection. We learn again what it means to set aside our preference for the other and this is the way we grow.

The pandemic is also changing our pace and what a gift this is. Time is becoming less of a commodity. Even though some days feel like Groundhog’s Day (the movie) we don’t have the same pressure to fill each moment with meaninglessness.

I wonder what other ways the pandemic is shifting the way we live, the way we see the world, and where we place our hopes. For now I thankful for the diminishing of unhealthy urgency.