The right approach..

I read a really good post recently by Andy at http://www.BerryBunch.family about approaching God with respect. It was called God, You and Me S3 E19- I recommend a read of the transcript or you can watch the episode. It reminded me of when I was discovering the “Fear of the Lord”.

A few years ago I posted a few thoughts about rediscovering the fear of the Lord which I’ve reproduced with a few updates below:

The early church prospered and walked in the fear of the Lord.

In Acts 9:31 it says “and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit they were multiplied“.

As Christians we long to see people coming to know Christ, finding salvation and having a relationship with Father God through faith in Jesus.

The Holy Spirit spoke to us a few years ago during a time of prayer and intercession about the fear of the Lord being restored within the body of Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard a sermon about the fear of the Lord and didn’t really understand what it meant.

I did understand that fear in this context is not about being afraid of the Lord – I’ll stress that again:

IT DOES NOT MEAN BEING AFRAID OF GOD

but I didn’t really grasp that it is:

an attitude of complete reverence in response to the revelation of God.

The dictionary explains reverence as a deep and profound respect, worship of or being in complete awe of someone. An outward expression of that deep respect would be to bow or prostrate yourself before them. In worship times we sometimes kneel, bow or prostrate ourselves before God.

It’s like Isaiah’s response in Isaiah 6 when he sees God’s throne. Isaiah realises how sinful he is and holy God is. He feels completely undone. It’s like John’s response when on the island of Patmos whilst worshipping in the Spirit he sees King Jesus in all His glory and falls to his feet as though dead.

When we have a revelation of our awesome Holy God as revealed in His Word, we respond by living in humility towards God and in loving obedience to Him.

It makes me consider again how absolutely incredible it is that as the Apostle Paul teaches us in Hebrews 4:16 we can now “boldly” approach God’s throne of grace because of Jesus. Not arrogantly through anything I’ve ever done or by treating Jesus’ sacrifice for me in disdain, but confidently because my sins are completely cleansed in Jesus, I’m forgiven and righteous in Christ alone. God sees me as redeemed in Christ.

So I guess the challenge to keep before me and to regularly consider is. What is my attitude when I approach God. Do I have an attitude of deep love, respect, reverence, humility and thankfulness. Understanding again the power of the blood of Jesus that has cleansed me and made it possible to even be able to approach God.

The Bible has much to teach us about the fear of the Lord and the promises attached to it when we live in that attitude.

Psalm 111:10 It is foundational to wisdom as this verse teaches us “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.

Job 28:28 “Behold the fear of the Lord that is wisdom”.

Psalm 25:12 “Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses“.

v 14 “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him: and He will show them His covenant“.

Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”

Proverbs 14:26 “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence.”

Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life; And He who has it will abide in satisfaction, He will not be visited with evil

These verses from Proverbs help us discover the fear of the Lord:

Proverbs 2 1-5 “My son if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding, yes, if you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God“.

Jesus who is our example delighted in the fear of the Lord.

In Isaiah 11 verses 2-3 it says about Jesus- “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, Spirit of wisdom and understanding, Spirit of Counsel and Power, the Spirit of Knowledge and the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord…. I had not considered it that way before. It’s a delightful thing. I too want to delight in it and learn to walk in it.

At the time we prayed this simple prayer from the teaching materials on this subject. If you feel led then please pray it too:

“Oh God my Father, I come to you through Jesus Christ my saviour. You have put in my heart a desire for the fear of the Lord. I am asking you from now on to lead me, to teach me and to impart to me this wonderful treasure of yours – the fear of the Lord. In Jesus name. Amen”.

#Freedom Day

Well today 19th July has been labelled “Freedom Day” here at home in England now that more Covid lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Given current circumstances though it’s not really a “Freedom Day” -we’re not all truly free as there are still restrictions in place and also a lot of people who can’t enjoy the full benefits for various reasons. Its not full freedom by any means.

I find it significant and interesting that our own Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak can’t participate fully in #Freedom Day as they have to follow the rules and self isolate having come into close contact with the Health Secretary who has Covid – although they did try some creative thinking or was it rule bending 🤔 to try and get the rule dis-applied to them. Thankfully they wisely did a U-turn and agreed to comply with current rules like responsible citizens.

You can’t write about #Freedom Day without thinking of true freedom and what that means. It will mean different things to different people dependent on their experiences and circumstances. As Christians we can truly celebrate a #Freedom Day that is available to everyone to participate in through simple faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the one who has set us free from the effects of sin and death so that we can live in true freedom and have ever lasting life. He took our punishment through His sacrifice and death on the cross. He was punished for us and we have obtained freedom through God’s grace and mercy.

My own personal #Freedom Day was 26th June 1976 when I asked God to forgive me for the wrong things in my life and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. I gave my life to Him and went on to be baptised in water as a sign of repentance and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Praise God that I’m truly free and I hope dear reader that you also have your own #Freedom Day to celebrate or if not, that you discover Jesus and become truly free.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8

Although we may live under permanent or temporary physical restrictions, in Jesus we are truly free spiritually. Amen and thanks to our Father in heaven, Christ Jesus and Holy Spirit.

True freedom
Photo from 2015 trip to Robben Island. Freedom cannot be manacled

Stubborn as a mule

“Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way.” Acts 19:8-9

In these bible verses we discover another barrier or stumbling block to being open minded. It’s an attitude called “stubbornness”. Ouch.

Paul had travelled to Ephesus and was preaching in the synagogue about Jesus. He persevered for 3 months until the stubbornness of some in the Synagogue caused him to leave and continue his preaching elsewhere in the city.

What does it really mean to be stubborn? I’m sure that we have all encountered people who we would describe as stubborn but do we really recognise what it is and how dangerous a characteristic it is. Have you ever been called Stubborn? I know I have.

One of the dictionary definitions is:

having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.

In other words there is compelling evidence for you to change your position and it’s for your benefit, but you refuse to do so.

Other similar expressions to describe people who are stubborn are – “headstrong, obstinate, wilful”. It’s definitely not a characteristic which is mentioned as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

My father in law tells the story of his daughter and his Dad (who were both stubborn people) getting into a deadlock over taking her medicine. She knew it would make her better but she refused to take it. Both sat either side of a table with the medicine in the middle refusing to move until one of them backed down. It lasted hours. In that situation one was determined and one was being stubborn.

If someone calls me stubborn then I have learnt to carefully consider the context in which they are saying it. Is it justified? The word “stubborn” can get bandied about as an accusation (wrongly) when someone just wants you to do what they say or want. If you refuse you are labelled stubborn.

The question to perhaps consider is this. Is there a good and valid reason and solid argument for me to change my mind? Is the evidence being presented credible and weighty. If it is and I’m not changing my position then why is that? Am I just being stubborn? If so, I need to do something about that attitude.

If on the other hand, there isn’t a good reason or argument to change and I am not convinced by the reasoning or evidence then I will stand firm, remain steadfast and not change or compromise. Being steadfast in my beliefs is not the same as being stubborn. Steadfast or stubborn…there is a difference.

Pride and stubbornness are often linked together and in my last post I considered being a A Know it all? Pride and thinking we know it all can make us stubborn. Does pride lead to stubbornness or stubbornness to pride.

So what did Paul go on to say to the Ephesians in his letter to them. He encouraged them to be humble.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future”. Ephesians 4:2-4

He also encouraged them to resist the enemy, his accusations and lies and to be steadfast in their faith.

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness “ Ephesians 6:13-14

Stubborn..me?? Really??

A Know it all?

“Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” Acts 18:24-26

We have a saying at work that we use a lot as a balance and check:

“You don’t know what you don’t know”.

Think about that saying for a moment.

It’s demonstrated here in the story of Apollos. He didn’t know what he didn’t know until two fellow believers told him and gave him a more full understanding of faith and explained the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, we are deficient in our knowledge, but until we discover that or someone points it out to us, we are blissfully unaware. We think we are fully informed but we may not be. As a lawyer it makes me consider and research carefully before giving a client advice in case there’s something I have missed.

There are some keys we can learn from these verses.

Apollos knew the Scriptures. He had been taught about Jesus and he taught others. What he taught was correct but it wasn’t the whole story, He had limited knowledge. Whoever had introduced Apollos to faith had limited knowledge too because he only knew what he had been taught up to that point.

You will only learn as much as your current teacher knows.

Aquila and Priscilla had been given a more complete teaching. They had been with Paul and learnt from him. When they heard Apollos speaking publicly they realised that he was lacking in knowledge. They didn’t just leave him in ignorance though but they acted. They didn’t leave Apollos in the dark. Instead they took him aside and explained things more fully to him.

Note that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t publicly shame Apollos. They didn’t flaunt their knowledge or act in a superior way. They took him aside these verses say and so would have explained things privately to him. This was wise and respectful. It also meant that they didn’t squash his enthusiasm and his gifting. He was already an eloquent speaker.

Let us also be careful how we correct those who may not be as mature in faith or have more limited knowledge. We don’t want to be responsible for squashing the gift within them or dampening their enthusiasm in the wrong way. We also need to understand their current level so as not to overwhelm them and make things too difficult to grasp.

As we considered in the last post about Being Open-Minded it seems that Apollos was just that. It was to his benefit and then the benefit of others that he listened, was teachable and then went on to share with others what he had learnt.

I pray that today I won’t consider myself a know it all but will be willing to be shown a more excellent way when I am deficient or lacking in knowledge and understanding of God.

Have a blessed day friends.

Adding knowledge

Being Open-Minded

“That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.” Acts 17:10-12

In my last post I reflected on portraying God correctly –Portraying God and checking our sources to ensure that what we believe and then tell others about God is right and not a misrepresentation.

Being open-minded is one way to help us do that. The dictionary defines “open-minded” as being “willing to consider new ideas or opinions which are different to our own in an unprejudiced way.”

Paul and Silas came preaching a new message to the Jews in Berea. Paul taught weekly in their synagogue that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for. Jesus had come as Messiah in a way that the Jews were not expecting but Paul showed them from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer and die. Paul and Silas discussed their beliefs with the people openly and the Bereans’ response to them can help us.

Firstly, the people were willing to listen to what was being said and taught by Paul and not just assume that they knew it all already. How often are we encouraged to listen and consider what others are saying or believe rather than interrupt (before they finish) and jump straight in with our own views and opinions. Hearing people out fully is respectful and can avoid misunderstanding. We can make assumptions otherwise which are not correct.

Next, they wisely didn’t just accept that what Paul taught was true. Paul was a very learned man. A Pharisee who had studied Jewish law and teachings. He would most certainly have been respected by the Bereans. How often can we be tempted to just accept what is put out there as “truth” especially if it comes from someone with a reputation or famous, it sounds good and our emotions can be subtly manipulated without us realising it. The Bereans tested what was preached and being taught against the Scriptures – the original source which they trusted as being correct.

Paul didn’t mind being tested by them or others either. He encourages it. In his letter to the Thessalonians he says “but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Paul was confident in what he believed and preached and welcomed debate. It rings warning bells when someone doesn’t want an open discussion or debate or challenges about their beliefs or teachings which they want you to accept.

These people were also eager to find out the truth. These were people who wanted to know. They had enquiring minds and a desire to know the truth. I like to think of them as treasure seekers. They were seeking the pearl of greatest price.

There is a danger in just accepting what we hear or read because we don’t want to make the effort to look and search things out for ourselves..being spoon fed is dangerous. Testing requires us to be active and not passive. We need to actively seek out the truth for ourselves. Jesus said “Seek and you will find”.

Lord Jesus help us to follow the Bereans’ example and be open minded, willing to listen and eager to search out the truth by testing what we are taught and being ready to give an answer for what we believe and the hope we have in you our Saviour and Lord.

Open minded or closed off?