Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 

The fear of the Lord.

This statement was so hard for me to grasp, and even now in some moments my mind immediately recoils from the word fear.

I fought fear for years. Oftentimes I still find fear lurking behind the door. Thankfully I have over three-hundred scriptures to remind me (and it) that it has no place in my vocabulary.

But then… explain to me the phrase the “fear of the Lord.”

Recently I was faced with an interesting question- you know one of those questions that may be in the back of your head but its not important enough for you to disturb because you cringe at what unpacking and sorting it out may entail.

The discussion- who God is, or more specifically what God is;

Answer: Good, kind and love.

Anything else?

As I weighed these answers in my mind, other verses flickered through my mind.

God is good, God is kind and God is loving. He is steadfast and certain.

God is also just, holy and jealous.

He wants to be our number one, because we are His number one. No good thing comes to us apart from Him and yet- we are so prone to giving the credit to someone or something else.

The education, the title, the position, the clothes, the timing…

We think we know what’s best, all the while He’s trying to bring us towards His better.

The world pulls at us, offering gods with various faces. It calls us to pursue happiness and fulfillment through greed and self-satisfaction.

And just as we begin to realize that “god” is really not all that good… it throws another one in our face that just might be the missing link to what we’re looking for.

Of course God’s love which is complete and unflinching is jealous as He watches us get used and abused by the false gods of this world.

That is why he sent His only begotten son. Because He is holy. He is just. And he cannot compromise such perfect justice, for He cannot lie or change all that He is. But He is also love.

And love found a way.

Jesus posted the bail, became our lawyer and cleared all charges. All we have to do is accept His invitation. Tragically, many of us chose to stay in the cell.

Fear of the Lord.

A good, kind and loving God. A just, holy and jealous God.

“So,” my friend asked, “you fear being punished by God? Being judged?” in reference to my personal positions, actions or lack there of.

No.

The word slipped truthfully as I shook my head.

As I sat there and thought about sin; what I’ve done, what I didn’t do and what I would or would not do ever again… as I thought about repentance and the way my heart was convicted whenever I erred in one direction or another… as I thought about my loving Triune God… as the name Jesus echoed throughout my being- my heart swelling with joy at the thought of his name…

No, I don’t fear being punished or being judged by God.

No, I don’t fear being hurt by God.

I fear hurting God.

As you read through the dozens of verses that speak of the fear of the Lord you will notice that the attributes of the fear of the Lord lead to wisdom, protection and joy.

Every single one.

Overall I was a pretty good kid, if I can say so myself.

Was it because I hadn’t had the opportunity to misbehave? No.

Was it because I am absolutely perfect in every way? Lord knows, no, not at all. (Pretty sure I just heard a heavenly chuckle and an angel almost spit out their coffee sort of reaction.)

It was because I loved my parents, I still love my parents, and few things would have been more painful for me than to disappoint them, few things would have caused me more fear or dread. I love(d) them so much.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I love the Holy Spirit who indwells in me, knowing that I am not always the most hospitable vessel.

I do not try and follow the statues and read the verses because I am afraid of punishment.

I do it from a love so deep it cuts my heart to see the hurt in Their eyes when I betray their trust.

Every sin driving the nail in further.

The nail scarred hands helping me back up and carrying me whenever I’ve slipped so far.

Nail scarred hands reaching out and embracing me.

No, I do not fear what God would do. God is holy, just, good, kind, jealous and love.

No, I fear what I might do, what pain I might cause.

I wouldn’t purposefully hurt a loved one. Many of you probably agree.

So the question then is- why would we purposefully hurt the God who loves us so perfectly? Why does He seem to end up on just the other side of the line?

The fear of the Lord to me is grounded in our love for the Lord- rooted in His love for us. For our Lord is one “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

So, take heart friends and live free of fear, remembering, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Email us at declarehopeministries@gmail.com or comment prayer requests and praise reports below. You are forever in our thoughts and prayers.

Stay tuned for some exciting 2020 news including a continuation of defining our “whys” and upcoming monthly giveaways to the credit of some of my very talented friends!! Also an inside look into what I have been up to this past Christmas break.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

 

Step Out – Jump In

 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

Matthew 14:29 

Step Out Jump In.

If your best friend jumped off of a bridge, would you?

I remember hearing this question as my best friend and sisters and I were not often, but occasionally, in need of a wise and correcting lecture. Of course this question stemmed from the fact that we were generally all in the same boat, in an essence “we all had jumped in together” though one of us had assuredly gone first.

And then one day my best friend Jamie and I actually did jump off a bridge. (Into a lake. While camping. Not incredibly large. A ton of fun. Note though still a bit a ton of trouble when the Moms found out.)

It is one of my favorite and most treasured memories. Climbing up to the top, standing on the edge side by side and then that last look as we stepped off. We could have taken on the whole world, at least we felt we could see the whole world from way up top. A few nerves, but no fear, not when your best friend is at your side. The sun shining and that water. Having the courage to jump led to the greatest of personal triumphs at the time. (Before the Moms found out that is- but that is not the moral we are going to discuss today.)

The moral of the story today is that sometimes in life, when Jesus calls us to come, we may not be stepping out of the boat in faith- but jumping out- in faith.

I graduated from OSU with a duel bachelor’s in Animal Science and Agricultural Business  and was blessed with an incredible job. It was hard work and long hours. But on the daily I enjoyed the work I did, enough. The people were great and we had fun when we could.

But something was missing. After two years having discussed, debated and weighed the possibility I was feeling a call to completely change my entire career, and education. All of it. After all of those years, still paying the student loans. Changes that would entail;

A dramatic decrease in my income.

A dramatic undertaking in my schedule.

A dramatic change… period.

From Agriculture to Ministry.

Soooo I dragged my feet. I assured myself I had misunderstood- I had misunderstood the call to come. He wouldn’t call me. I am not… (insert varying and lengthy list here of faults and failings). And then I would second these thoughts by recognizing all of the impossibilities; bills, location, education, finances, time… did I mention bills?

It was a really great rebuttal. I must say. Defense lawyer status 10/10.

Blessedly, though, I lost the case.

After three years I finally jumped out of the boat.

I jumped, not stepped. When I attempted to step out of the boat, I generally hesitated. And that hesitation usually caused me to bring my foot back in, running through my 10/10 rebuttal until God would bring me back around again. No as I stood there the moment came when I realized I had to jump, leaving no opportunity to turn back. If I was going in I had to go all in, full commitment.

And all the things I knew would happen- happened.

Dramatic change in income. Dramatic undertaking in my schedule. Dramatic changes all around- the expected and the unexpected.

And I had never been happier. I had never felt more on track. I had never felt more productive. Chasing the call. Leaving fear behind for freedom. I was significantly poorer and significantly busier. But- I was also significantly less burdened and significantly happier. Not abandoning my responsibilities; yet not deafening the call.

And so I have continued to step out of the boat when called, jumping if needed. Sometimes the process still entails my attempts at a rebuttal, but I with so many past experiences, it does not take quite as long for me to accept that I may be the one he is actually calling. It can be scary, but scary I believe is often just the darker connotation of unknown possibility, opportunity and excitement. Reaching for the stars is not easy, but to try and fail is fulfilling in a way that to not try at all could ever be.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set a new goal, or dream a new dream”. And seconded by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing…. I hope you live a life you’re proud of , and if you are not, I hope you have the courage to start over”.

That day on the bridge standing beside my best friend, I learned one of the greatest life lessons. I could of stood on that bridge forever (or at least until dinner time) and ran through hundreds of 10/10 rebuttals… but what possibility waited on the other side of the jump made all of them null. Stand on bridge vs. An adventure with my best friend? And the sooner I jumped, the sooner the adventure could begin.

I knew I wasn’t going in alone. Someone else was going to be there. And that someone… well I would have gone wherever the adventure took us, 100%. Today, Jamie and I’s adventures look a bit different- I look forward to the day we can compare notes. Meanwhile when I am called from time to time to jump, I know I am not called to jump alone.

Jesus will not call you to where he is not willing to be. The Creator of best friends- is your best friend- guarding your back, while being one step ahead…

But most importantly standing at your side turning to you with a smile and asking “Ready?”

 

But Can He?

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.”

2 Timothy 2:13

I shouldn’t have, I should have.

I know that, I feel this.

The sky’s falling versus the pieces are falling into place.

Those moments when it seems as if the “to be done” list is always longer than the “done” list and it feels as if time is flying yet it is taking its time to heal. Every day you wake and look forward but cannot help and catch a reflection of yesterday. Remembering some of the wins, recounting all of the losses.

Filled with faith but yet… not always convinced.

Not that I doubt God’s faithfulness of course, but my own.

At the end of the day when I recall those moments when I know I could have said something better or done something more. Those moments of weakness when I broke the promise to myself to wake up at this time or to not do that. Simple tasks such as eating better or sticking to my budget or to a schedule of any sort (such as writing this blog post).

And those are just the “small” things.

How can I profess to be faith filled when I struggle daily with being faithful? If I can’t make it through an overall mild Tuesday, what would make me believe I could survive the earth shattering and heart crushing days when more than my daily resources and time allotments are on the line?

Laying down at the end of the day and wondering can a God that good really love a person like me?

All of the doubts.

All of the fears.

All of the sticky situations.

When I knew better and when I didn’t.

When the tears come and despair knocks and the waves rise and the wind howls.

And I am thanking God again and again for every blessing, although… all the while knowing I have more to say. The reality being that He also knows I have more to say.

In this world it feels as if we are continually encouraged and tempted to hide whatever faults we have, whatever troubles we are carrying. Grin and bear it, if you will.

Don’t tell anyone that you struggle with that. Don’t suggest you’ve messed up. And don’t you dare admit you’re scared. Just leave it, it’s fine. Meanwhile, whatever it is grows bigger and eventually its darkness starts to envelop your life, primarily internally and eventually externally.

I didn’t see this coming. How did this happen? Who would have guessed?

God. God knew. God saw it coming. And?

He’s not surprised.  He saw the storm coming before it was on the horizon.

He reached out to catch me before I began to fall.

And He is kneeling beside me as I get up the courage to look up.

Because the beautiful, outrageous truth is – even when I am faithless, He is faithful.

You see, the problem is a part of me at times forgets that God- the Creator of the Universe and everything in it- is able to handle my honesty. From the little bits to the boulders.

He can handle the fact that at times my heart hurts, that sometimes I struggle and still sometimes I fall.

He can handle the fact that even though I know who He is and believe in all of His promises and rely solely on His truths, I do not always act accordingly.

He can handle the tantrums and the scars and that I am not perfect.

Because He is.

And so long as I am willing to bring it all to Him, every messy piece I’d rather hide, I can handle it too.

There is a song and one of the lines in the chorus reads, Show me that You can handle my honesty. The whole song is wonderful, but that line sealed it for me the day I heard it.

Those words, that question, at first hit me and opened a prayer. Words I wanted to scream at the top of lungs in the moment and at the same time hesitated to whisper. I wasn’t sure I could handle my own honesty most days.

However, as quickly as that prayer opened so did several recollections of the times God in fact did show that He could handle my honesty. He who is always faithful had never turned His back on me, not even once, no matter how reluctant I was to let Him in and let Him see just how messy it was.

Those words reminded me that not only can God handle my honesty, but He embraces it.

And I hope this post serves as a Public Service Announcement because He can handle your honesty too. Every hard question and unspoken horror and hidden sorrow.

You will find that when you let go and spill everything to God – you can handle it too.

She spent time with God and that is what made her lovely.

It wasn’t that she was perfect, always made the right choices and never had a single doubt or fear.

The secret has always been that she spent time with God… and unloaded every hurting and ruined bit. She gave Him the ashes and in turn He built them into something more beautiful than could ever be imagined.

The take aways from all this:

He created me.

He loves me.

And He can handle me.

In response to the question posed by Mikeschair- Grace was made for people like me.

** Song by Mikeschair, Title: People Like Me

Here’s to 28

“Lord, you understand me; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering- do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” Jeremiah 15:15

28. Another year. Remarkable in its own right, the feat of the passing of time.

And what a year it was. A few weddings, a couple of road trips, graduate classes, youth group, birthday parties and childlike laughter. Friends and family. Driving through the Scottish Highlands. The sight of the Appalachian mountains and the vision of the picture beyond hope and yet lovingly delivered of Jamie and Jesus.

The places we’ve been and the wonders we’ve seen, both abroad and on home base. All the works of His glorious hands. From mountains and campfires to paintings and papers.

Dreams that were laid to rest and dreams that were born. Startling loss and miraculous healing. Running the race and being carried through the storm.

So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know.

I don’t know where I am going.

I don’t know where every path will lead.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say.

And oftentimes I don’t know if I have it right. These places I am and these things I am doing and the priorities I am placing.

So the big question is… What do I know at 28…

I know that not knowing can be overwhelming.

I know that not knowing can be scary.

I know that not knowing is unacceptable to a world which depends on the security provided in an answer.

Most Importantly, I now know that not knowing is actually okay- as long as your eyes are on the One who does know.

The One who is not surprised by your weaknesses.

The One who is unphased by your doubts, fears and hard questions.

The One who loves you completely and uncompromisingly.

The One who understands you.

One big thing I learned this past year my friend, is that I had one more unaddressed fear to face. Honestly, it had never came across my mind as all out fear. But as I sat and discussed with God the events that had passed and events yet to come, it was as if a light was turned on.

As you know, I kicked the word fear out of my vocabulary back in year 26. Aside from the fear of the Lord, there is no room for it in my life. And knowing that, calls for a celebration of its own.

But, there was still one more fear to address. Can you guess it bud? It’s one that I hadn’t realized didn’t exist before God called you home. With you here, there was no room for it. With you gone, it came quickly and in full force. To be honest, it really didn’t have to come at all because I know it was already there at the door, waiting for its moment to make its appearance. Your friendship and love kept it at bay, in the darkness I fell in  following your heavenly birthday it began to dig in its roots.

The fear of being misunderstood.

I have always used a lot of words be it speaking or writing. And this is partially because I enjoy “using my words”. However, God has shown me that it is also partially because at times I fear that my words won’t appropriately convey my meaning. That they will fall short or be misinterpreted. Sometimes it keeps me from saying anything, or from saying the “whole” truth. The fear of being misunderstood.

It’s an actual fear. And this past year I was given the official diagnosis.

As I was praying and words were flowing too fast and thoughts running at full speed, I caught the statement “God, please understand” as part of the mantra coming from lips. God please understand.

They won’t understand why I feel this way, they won’t agree with this next step or know why I have to take this chance. Oh God, please, they don’t understand. They don’t see it and my words are not sufficient. Am I wrong? Are they right? Can you give me a clue? Like a little one… like playing the hot / cold game? I have been wrong so many times. Am I close? I think I have it, but what if I don’t? What if I don’t get it? What if I am wrong and fail? What if I am not understanding?

And then above the noise running through my mind I heard the silence, and the silence whispered, I understand you.

Not scathing or annoyed. But lovingly and reassuringly. He didn’t calm the storm or fix all the things. He didn’t even tell me I was right or give me a little clue.

But He told me everything I genuinely needed to know- He understands me.

And He still loves me.

And maybe I will fail. Maybe it is all in vain. But maybe it’s not.

At 28 I have realized that I am not supposed to know everything, all I have to know is Him.

And my friend, that has been a game changer.

You knew my heart and that made all the difference. God created my heart and that makes all the difference.

So going into 28 I am happy to let you know I no longer fear being misunderstood.

Your light is still continuously right beside me and your legacy continues to shine.

We still love and miss you, possibly more than ever, but when we see you again, there will be no more goodbyes.

In the meantime God has a plan I don’t understand, but He understands me.

And I know He will teach me the lessons my heart needs in His own way and in His own time, no matter how bad I would prefer a cheat sheet now.

I am still going to use a lot of words, but only because I enjoy “using my words”.

You always said I would write a book. I think 28 may be a good year for that.

Here’s to 28 my friend (give mom all our love),

God, let the shenanigans continue, I may not understand but I know You and that is all I really need to know.