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Bible Insights

Fear is the Beginning of Wisdom

In my last post I noted that the Bible says we are to fear God—and I confessed confusion over precisely what that means. The next step in my progression of thought is to recall that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and of understanding.

God is almighty and all-powerful. Click To Tweet

I think that means it’s okay I don’t fully know what it means to fear God, but as I contemplate it, I can begin to understand.

I realize that God is almighty and all-powerful, that he is our awesome creator, our loving savior, and our ever-present guide. For these things I can revere him, worship him, respect him, and perhaps have a bit of reverent fear.

But there’s more…so come back next week to find out.

Until then, what wisdom do you have as a result of fearing God?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 110-113, and today’s post is on Psalm 111:10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus Comes to Lead a Spiritual Rebellion

The First Reformation Happened 2000 Years Ago

As the time for Jesus’s sacrificial death approaches, his enemies come to arrest him. They’re armed. This might be as a show of force or maybe because they expect trouble. I imagine Jesus smiling a bit at this weapon-wielding mob. “Do you think I’m leading a rebellion?” he asks (Luke 22:52).

For sure they view him as a troublemaker. They see his teaching as a threat to their way of life and their tenuous position in the Roman empire. Yes, they may think he is leading a rebellion.

However, Jesus isn’t leading a physical rebellion. But in a spiritual sense he is ushering in a spiritual rebellion, a great reformation.

Jesus Reforms Religion

Jesus comes to fulfill the Old Testament Law. This means a change in perspective and practice from what was to something new. Instead of following a bunch of rules — some that came from God and a whole lot that men made up—Jesus turns their religion into a relationship with God.

No longer do we need to act a certain way to become right with God. Gone is a requirement that we must earn our right standing with God. He gives it to us freely. We only need to accept it. Personal change occurs after we’re in a right relationship with him.

No longer is good behavior a prerequisite. (Check out Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus Reforms Our Connection with God

Two views of our understanding of God occur in the Bible. One is to fear him, and the other is to love him. Though both perspectives occur throughout the Bible, we see the Old Testament as more fear-based and the New Testament is more love based.

Yes, we must still fear God and love him, but Jesus reforms our perspective and we can now focus on God’s love for us and our love for him. Because he first loved us, we can now love him. (Check out 1 John 4:19.)

Jesus Reforms Our View of Others

The Old Testament Law resulted in societal isolation. On the national level, God wanted his people to segregate themselves from other nations. He feared the practices of other countries would negatively influence his own people. He was right.

On a individual level, God wanted his people to separate themselves from those who were unclean, those who didn’t conform to his high standards. This showed them there are people to associate with and not to associate with, but they went overboard with it.

They ended up judging everyone in looking down on those who they felt didn’t measure up to God’s (and their) standards.

Jesus turned this thinking on its head. He reformed how we should view others. Jesus loved the people on the fringes of society, and so should we. Instead of judging others, Jesus showed grace and mercy, and so should we.

The only people Jesus confronted were the religious elite who made a mess of the rules that God originally gave to Moses. We too should confront religious leaders who pervert our relationship of God and what the Bible teaches about it.

We can reform the religious status quo and embark on a fresh new way of understanding God and our relationship to him. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Reforms Are a Spiritual Rebellion against the Religious Status Quo

In a spiritual sense, Jesus is leading a rebellion. And he invites us to join him in that. Together we can reform the religious status quo and embark on a fresh new way of understanding God and our relationship to him.

It’s time for another spiritual reformation.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Bible is the Big Book of Questions

Questions Arise as We Study the Bible and That’s Okay

In the post Is It Okay to Question God? I share stories of Job, Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, and Jesus. They all question God. Seriously, they do. But God doesn’t punish them for questioning him and his sovereignty. He listens. He’s patient.

Asking Questions Is Good

I suspect God appreciates their questions. It shows that they’re engaged with him. They have confidence to approach him. They have a relationship that allows for thoughtful questions.

I suspect God appreciates our questions too. It shows that we’re engaged with him. We have confidence to approach him. We have a relationship that allows for thoughtful questions. Our questions honor God and reveal our faith.

Not Asking Questions Is Harmful

In some groups, as well as some churches, people learn that they shouldn’t ask questions. Those who do, find out the hard way that there are consequences if they question authority or what they’re taught.

As a result, they end up blindly following whatever their leader says, whether good or bad. (This is a characteristic of a cult.)

And those who persist in asking questions face having the group ostracize or expel them, sometimes even kill them. Not being able to question faith-related items will fester inside us until our faith collapses. Just as asking questions draws us to God, not asking questions pushes us away.

Asking questions about what the Bible says proves we’re engaging with its words. Click To Tweet

The Book of Questions

As we read the Bible and study it, questions arise. Some people push these aside without giving them another thought. Others are afraid to give voice to their questions for fear it reveals a lack of faith. What if our questions show a deficit of understanding?

Yet others don’t fear these questions. Instead, they embrace questions as part of their faith journey. Asking questions about what the Bible says proves we’re engaging with its words. And by having the courage to ask these questions, it reveals our relationship with God.

We don’t fear him, afraid to question his Word. We love him, confident to ask questions about the Bible.

Asking questions proves we’re in relationship with God. Just as a student with a trusted teacher, we’re encouraged to think deeply and ask tough questions. This is because when we ask questions, we grow. We grow in our understanding of the Bible.

We grow in our faith. And we grow in our relationship with God.

Asking questions helps us grow closer to God. Isn’t this what he wants?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Don’t Be Alarmed: Supernatural Encounters May Be Scary

Angels often start by telling the people they visit to not be afraid

The Book of Mark wraps up with three women going to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. They are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They approach the tomb preoccupied, wondering how they will roll the stone away to gain access. As it turns out, this won’t be a problem.

When they arrive at the tomb the stone has already been rolled away. They see a young man sitting there. He’s wearing a white robe. He’s like an angel, but there’s no indication if they realize this or not. But his presence does surprise them.

The first thing he says is, “Don’t be alarmed!” (Mark 16:6, CEB).

Throughout the Bible, whenever anyone has a supernatural encounter with angels, one of the first things these heavenly beings say is usually, “Don’t be afraid!”

I get this.

Should someone not from this world appear before us, our first reaction would certainly be fright. Without assurance, our first response would likely be flight. It would be hard for us to hear their heavenly message if we were running away from them.

I’d like to think my reaction would be different. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be afraid of an angel that God sent to me. I’d like to think I would confidently hear everything they would say, though in awe over their presence.

But I know me. I know better. Though I might be brave in my spirit, in my mind I would fear, just like everyone else.

What will our reaction be when we see God for the first time? Click To Tweet

If a typical reaction to an angelic encounter is fear, what will our reaction be when we see God for the first time?

I’d like to think I’d feel peace. I’d like to think I would approach him with confidence and embrace him. I’d like to think I would remain calm.

But I know me. I know better. I’m sure I would tremble in his presence. Fear and excitement would surge through me in anticipation and apprehension, quaking in fear over the unknown.

I suspect the first words God will say to me will be, “Don’t be alarmed. Do not fear.”

And then everything will be okay, because I will be home, basking in the glory of his presence.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 14-16, and today’s post is on Mark 16:5-6.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Does God Ever Lose His Patience?

Nahum offers some harsh words to the city of Nineveh about their future

The book of Nahum, a short three-chapter prophecy, centers on the city of Nineveh. If this city sounds familiar, if might be from the book of Jonah when God sends his prophet there to prophesy its destruction.

After hearing Jonah’s blunt, half-hearted message of doom, all of Nineveh, from its king to its people, repents, and God gives them a reprieve. Jonah becomes mad and complains about this to God, almost criticizing his mercy.

Later the prophet Nahum resumes the predictions of doom on the people of Nineveh. In fact the entire book of Nahum focuses on Nineveh. It ends with the ominous words, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal,” (Nahum 3:19).

There is no hope. There is no call to repent or make amends for their errors. The verdict is final with no chance for appeal.

We cannot fully know God or understand his ways. Click To Tweet

Though we tend to see God as full of grace and mercy, of forgiveness and second chances, his patience is not limitless. When it comes to the city of Nineveh and all the evil it represents, God has had enough.

Their sins are lethal, with no option for restoration. This time there is no repentance; this time there is no second chance. History records its destruction.

If this view of God makes you uncomfortable, as it does me, recall that we cannot fully know God or understand his ways. We want to rightly bask in his love, but we must not lose sight of the need to also fear him. Nahum and the city of Nineveh remind us of this other side to God’s sovereignty.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Nahum 1-3, and today’s post is on Nahum 3:19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Bible Reveals God the Father to Us

Father God is the star of the Old Testament; it explains his expectations and shows his care

The story arc in the Bible is God’s relationship to us: the creator and his creation. Most people of faith—the Christian faith, that is—understand God as Trinity, as three persons in one: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is an abstract concept, but one we embrace, or at least we accept, in faith, as truth.

God the Father is the star of the Old Testament.

After a casual read of the Old Testament, an easy conclusion is that God is a mad deity; humans need to cower from him; he’s poised to punish people if they so much as blink wrong. A more careful read, however, reveals a patient God.

Though he has specific expectations for behavior, he wants his people to succeed, to have a relationship with him.

Yes, a fear of God does come across in the Old Testament (whereas love is the theme of the New Testament), this is a holy fear, a reverent fear.

To understand a healthy fear of God, I consider fire. Fire can warm us, cook our food, purify materials, and mesmerize us. Yet this same fire can burn and even kill if we are not careful.

We appreciate fire for its many benefits, yet we respect it for its dangers. Fire awes us. The same applies with God the Father; he awes us.

For a more specific comprehension, a personal understanding, look at God’s relationship with some of the people in the Old Testament:

  • Adam (who walked with God),
  • Abraham (who placed his faith in God),
  • Moses (who looked at God and spoke with him),
  • David (a man after God’s own heart),
  • Elijah (who taunted his enemies because of his complete confidence in God’s power), and so on.

For others, we see their devotion to God and the way he took care of them and blessed them. Consider Joseph, Ruth, Daniel, and Esther.

We can look at the Old Testament to discover grand themes of God’s character. Click To Tweet

We can look at the Old Testament to discover grand themes of God’s character. And we can look to the Old Testament to inspire us through the specific stories of his relationship with those who seek him. We need both to fully comprehend him.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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God Gives Victory and Vindication

The Psalms Guide Us in Praising God and in Pleading for His Protection

In addition to proclaiming praise to God, the book of Psalms in the Bible also provides comfort to many facing afflictions. The Psalms offer hope in the midst of turmoil and point us to God for deliverance from the world’s oppression.

David writes many of the psalms recorded for us in the Bible, including all five of today’s chapters.

He ends chapter 60 with a subtle two-point conclusion that’s easy to miss if we’re not careful. First, David says that when we walk with God, we will realize success. The implication is that without God, victory is not likely.

The Bible is full of stories that back this up: with God the impossible happens; without God even seemingly sure things falter.

Next David writes that God will punish our enemies. This suggests we shouldn’t seek revenge, but instead we should turn retaliation over to God. He will deal with those who oppose us.

David recalls the times God gives him victory and handles his vindication. Click To Tweet

David models this in his own life. When King Saul chases David, intent on killing him, David has an opportunity to slay Saul and end the matter. Instead David declines and defers to God (1 Samuel 24:4-6). Though David needs to wait a few years, God does remove Saul and elevate David.

David likely recalls this, as well as the many other times God gave him victory and handled his vindication, when he wrote: “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies,” Psalm 60:12.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 56-60, and today’s post is on Psalm 60:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Telling the truth is not an absolute; there are shades of gray

The descendants of Jacob (Israel) are enslaved in Egypt. They are prolific and their captors fear their growing numbers. To curb their population explosion the king of Egypt commands the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill every baby Hebrew boy as he is born.

They do not. They fear God more than the Egyptian king.

The king confronts them. This may seem like a great time for them to boldly stand up to the king, proclaim their fear of God, and be ready to die for their faith. Many others in the Bible do this. Daniel and Esther come to mind.

Is it ever okay to break God's commandment to not lie? Click To Tweet

This would be a great time for Shiphrah and Puah to proclaim God to the king. Perhaps their likely execution will rally their people. Their martyrdom could spark a revolution.

They might inspire the Hebrews to rise up and ultimately escape. But they don’t do this. Instead they lie. They claim they don’t arrive in time, that the Hebrew women give birth too quickly. Therefore they are unable to do what the king commanded.

How does God react? He does not criticize them for lying; he does not punish them for missing this opportunity to confront the tyranny of their oppressors. Instead he rewards them for their reverence to him: he blesses them with families of their own. Apparently it was okay for them to lie.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 1-3, and today’s post is on Exodus 1:15-22.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Don’t Be Afraid of God

When the Bible instructs us to “Fear God,” it means to honor, worship, and reverence him. That’s a holy fear, not a terrifying one. We need to fear God in that way, but we need not cower in fear if we encounter him.

Matthew’s biography of Jesus tells how the Jewish leaders arrest Jesus and pressure the Romans to killing him. The Roman soldiers crucify him. Joseph of Arimathea buries him. The Romans seal his tomb and guard it.

An earthquake shakes the place and an angel shows up to open the crypt. Jesus emerges all dazzling and lightening bright. The soldiers tremble in fear and fall into a dead faint.

The angel tells two women, friends of Jesus, “Do not be afraid.” Then he adds that Jesus is alive; go tell the disciples.

They leave, still afraid but also with joy, holding onto hope that the impossible has happened. As they go they meet Jesus. He too says, “Do not be afraid.”

If you watched a man die and be buried, what would you think if you later saw him alive and he spoke? How would you react if you saw an angel or even God?

I’d be afraid.

And I’m not sure if hearing the words “Do not be afraid” would help me a whole lot. It’s only in the movies that we see dead people walking about. And talking with supernatural beings isn’t something most people ever experience. We would have reason to be afraid.

If we love God, we need not be afraid of him. When we see him, we should stand in awe. Click To Tweet

Some thirty times in the Bible, angels and even God tells people, “Do not be afraid.” This occurs in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation. The patriarchs, the prophets, the disciples, and others all hear these words.

If we love God, we need not be afraid of him. When we see him, we should stand in awe. That’s the right response. “Do not be afraid.”

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 26-28, and today’s post is on Matthew 28:5 & 10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do You Love God or Fear Him?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing a progression of thought about God as it relates to love and fear.

Consider:

We are to fear God, which begins to produce understanding and wisdom. We grow to understand that God is love and ultimately that perfect love—as embodied by Jesus—removes our fear.

Though we may start with fear, God’s perfect love (Jesus) removes it.

It is the love of Jesus that supersedes our fear of God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.