Friday, January 21, 2011

Relenting to the Will of God

“And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” –Acts 26:14

When I was studying to be a cabinet maker at a trade school connected with my local high school, we learned a lot about wood and how to cut it, shape it, and finish it into cabinets. One of the most important safety lessons that we learned is that “kickback” is the number one cause of injury in a wood shop.

Kickback is a strong violent reaction that a saw has when wood binds the blade of the saw that is being used. This can occur due to operator error or through natural phenomena. When kickback happens, the saw can throw wood across a shop or into the operator, or into another person, and can severely injure or even kill them. A person can also be cut as a result of kickback if a saw gets out of their control.

In our relationship with God, kickback is also hazardous and is a momentous danger for the believer. The difference is that this type of “kickback” is not an “accident,” or a natural phenomenon, as much as it is operator error, or disobedience to the will of God. When we kickback against the will of God there is great consequence and risk to our lives, to the lives of others, and to our faith.

Saul experienced reprimand from Jesus for kicking back against His will on the road to Damascus. Saul was persecuting Christians and going against the will of God and going against His people. When Jesus met up with Saul on the road to Damascus, He said: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

In the Greek culture there was a proverb that spoke of “kicking against the prick,” or “kicking against the goad.” This meant going against what was required or against what was right or expected. We have a modern saying in our culture that is synonymous: “Going against the grain.”

A prick or goad was a long stick with a piece of sharpened iron fastened to the end of it. It was used to prod, goad, or spur mature oxen to do their work. If the oxen got off course or went or did something that they were not supposed to do, the plowman or worker would goad the oxen and it would be unpleasant. The oxen would then get back on track. If the oxen were stubborn, did not take the redirection, and kicked back against the prick, the result would be injury and would be even more unpleasant.

Often times in our lives, in our faith, and in our ministries, we “go against the grain.” We kick against the prick. We go against the will of our God. The result is not good. Going against God’s will can be devastating to our lives, to the lives around us, and to our faith. God has a direction and a way that He is trying to lead us that is best for us. God is leading. If we, like Paul and those with him, were to fall to the ground in humility and hear Him, then we would be far better off.

May we follow God’s will for our lives and not kickback at God. Would we be obedient to the will of God and not kick against the prick, the provoking of our Lord.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

From Fear to Fathered

Photo by dryhead

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” –Romans 8:15

It has been said that this current generation is a “fatherless generation.” According to the 2010 census, 34% of children under 18 do not live in a 2-parent household. Fatherlessness can lead to all sorts of fears and insecurities. Many people without fathers experience loneliness, a feeling of danger, distrust, and being unsure of life’s unpredictability and uncertainty.

Fear is an emotion that has relentlessly haunted humanity since the garden and the fall. It began with distrust of the Father’s love and our disobedience forcing its way onto the scene. The result of this fall was our hiding from our true Father out of our guilt and shame. We have been hiding in fear ever since then, “fatherless.”

God, in His love and mercy, chose not to abandon us, disappoint us, or fail us, as some of our earthly fathers have. God has sought us out in our hiding. When he found us, He drew us gently toward Himself, in His great mercy and love, in order to restore us and give us His resurrection life. As Jesus said in John 6:34, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

While we were rebelling against a Holy God and hiding in fear and shame, God gave us His Spirit to eradicate all our fears and insecurities and to adopt us as His very own sons and daughters, allowing us once again to walk with Him in the cool of the day and call him “Papa!” or “Abba, Father!” never to have to fear again.

Jesus, thank you for drawing us to yourself through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your resurrection life, and for adopting us as your children, removing all our fears. May we allow you to be our ‘Abba, Father,’ listen to your teaching, and enjoy your everlasting life. Amen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Courage vs. Fear in the New Year

"Fear is the mind killer." - Dune

Photo: By Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." -2 Timothy 1:7

In our day and age, especially in the Washington DC area, fear is an extremely powerful emotion. Fear can drive us to our automatic “fight or flight responses” that are designed to protect us. Fear can also paralyze us so that we cannot “move,” make decisions, or live “normally” or healthily. Fear can cripple us relationally and professionally. Fear can lead us away from boldly making intentional and well thought out decisions. Fear can send us running in the wrong direction, or in all directions, aimlessly, and unintentionally. Fear is deadly and must be dealt with.

A well known minister of the gospel and author A.W. Tozer said, “The prevailing attitudes of fear, distrust and unrest permeating our world are known to all of us. But in God's plan some of us also know a beautiful opposite: the faith and assurance found in the church of Jesus Christ. God still has a restful ‘family’ in His church." Tozer recognized, even in his day, the power of fear and its default position in our lives. He also recognized that God’s church is to be different. God’s people are to be the “beautiful opposite” of fear. The church is to be faithful, assured, and restful as God’s family.

The scriptures teach us so much about fear. We are instructed many times by God not to fear and it is clear from scripture that fear is not of the Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul instructs Timothy that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but has given us the Spirit of power, love, and of sound mind. This is God’s will and the result of God’s Spirit at work in His church. God’s design is that the believer not be fearful but that they are powerful, loving, and of sound mind.

As we enter into a new year, would we be courageous as God’s church. Would we be “beautifully opposite” of fear and live faithful, assured, and restful lives that are filled with power, love, and of sound mind as we live as God’s family. May we, as Tozer put it, “Only fear being out of the will of God.”