The Scriptures constantly remind us to fear God (Leviticus 25:17, for example), and we find out that such a fear is the “beginning of knowledge” (ESV, Proverbs 1:7). while the fear of man “lays a snare” (Proverbs 29:25).
Many who choose to honor God struggle over what it means to “fear” God. Should we be afraid of him? Or does it mean we reverence him? Or some of both? Even believers in Jesus need to fear God in the sense that we fear his wrath, discipline, and displeasing him. We remember, as the writer to Hebrews reminds us, that our God is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Yet we can call God “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15), a term of endearment.
A Jewish perspective on fearing God is summarized in the Jewish Encyclopedia:
Who fears God will refrain from doing the things that would be displeasing to Him, the things that would make himself unworthy of God’s regard. Fear of God does not make men shrink from Him as one would from a tyrant or a wild beast; it draws them nearer to Him and fills them with reverential awe. That fear which is merely self-regarding is unworthy of a child of God.
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I’m thankful for the writing and speaking ministry of Elyse Fitzpatrick. My mom, sister, and wife attended a mini-conference she held here in Greenville, SC. The gospel was so clearly preached and so clearly heard. That’s a strength you will find in all of Elyse’s writing. She’s able to whittle all the extra fat off until all that’s left is a prime gospel cut. She also relentlessly keeps the person and work of Jesus Christ front and center. Those strengths shine throughout this book.
Found in Him neatly breaks into two section: incarnation and union. It’s a simple and straightforward project. She focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ in these two ways. Part one on the incarnation reads as a kind of biblical theology, historical and exegetical examination of who Jesus is as revealed in the incarnation. That moves seamlessly into the union section. There we look at the most significant benefit of the gospel—our union with Jesus Christ. Fitzpatrick aptly uncovers and rejoices in the truths found in our union, and more: she encourages us to live in those truths. The fact that she loves the gospel is evident throughout the pages of this book and that love is contagious.
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“Glory is sacrifice, glory is exhaustion, glory is having nothing left to give. Almost. It is death by living.”
In 2009 N.D. Wilson wrote a genre defying book titled Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken Whirl, in which he wrote about how life could be viewed and told by sitting in the famous carnival and circus ride a tilt-a-whirl. I imagine for most readers it was a book which was the first of its kind. No doubt, as readers considered their experiences in a tilt-a-whirl ride, Wilson accomplished his goal. It was fast paced, hard to put down, hard to follow at times, but rewarding to those who could finish it.
Almost four years later to the date, Wilson is at it again and he does not disappoint. With much of the same genre defying style, and all of the same writing wit and personality, Wilson has written a semi-follow up book titled Death by Living: Life Is Meant to be Spent. Through the telling of many varied life stories of various people, including himself, Wilson shows us how to prepare for death by living life.
Mark and Nancy Sheppard began missionary service in the nation of Liberia, but God had an agenda of personal transformation neither of them expected. Nancy has written about that experience in her recent book, Confessions of a Transformed Heart. We asked Nancy to tell us a bit about her experience in Africa and her aims in writing the book.
After a wonderful first term of ministry in Liberia (1986-89), we were in the States for our one-year home assignment when the Liberian Civil War began. We hoped very much that it would end quickly and we would be able to resume the life and ministries we loved. Sadly, it dragged on and on. In 1991 we returned to Africa, this time to Liberia’s neighboring country, the Ivory Coast, where we began to minister among the Liberian war refugees.
After the missionaries evacuated from Liberia, Baptist Mid-Missions made a policy that no families with children still in the home could live inside Liberia. We had three young children at the time. It was our strong desire to continue work among the Liberians that caused us to make the decision to enter refugee work in the Ivory Coast rather than begin work among an entirely different people group.
The phenomenon of “cultural Christianity” is not a new one. The label “carnal Christian” has been bandied about regularly in literature and in the blogosphere. Christians of every theological stripe know “carnal” or “cultural” Christians.
Pick whichever label you like best, or even invent your own—you know these people.
They claim repentance from sin and salvation through Christ alone. They come to church more or less regularly…sort of! They sit more or less attentively in the pews and may even tithe faithfully. They go through the motions. And yet…there is no discernible joy of Christ in their lives. There is no growth. To borrow a phrase from Paul Tripp, there is a “gospel gap” in their lives. Their Facebook pages abound with worldliness; perhaps you’ve even secretly hidden them from your news feed! Their children walk and talk like everybody else. There is no concept of separation, holiness or imitation of God in their lives. They are indistinguishable from normal, everyday, unsaved “good people.”
These folks are legion. Some are undoubtedly saved, others are undoubtedly not. I’m not interested in debating that issue right now. What is significant is that too many Christians have little conception of who Christ is, what they were saved from and what their calling as Christians is. We’ll look at what Paul had to say on this very matter.
You might have noticed that I haven’t written a post lately. This has been due, in large part, to the fact that I’m steadily (frantically?) working on a manuscript that’s due in six weeks. Like any good writer, I’ve successfully managed to make my work expand to fit precisely the amount of time I have to do it. It’s a gift really.
The second thing that has kept me busy is summer vacation. Two weeks ago my kids embarked on those “104 days of summer vacation” and we’ve been relishing every minute of them. Minor league baseball, visits to the art museum, a weekend at the lake, and books and books and books for the reading program at the library—all accompanied by extra snacks and ice pops. Even when the weather has been less than cooperative—as it has routinely been this rainy June—they’ve learned the joy of splashing in puddles and when all else fails, of a Star Wars or Narnia marathon. Also, today just happens to be the birthday of a little blue-eyed boy who owns a piece of my heart and can make me melt with his ever-so slightly crooked smile. In preparation, I’ve been busy making, per his request, “a dragon cake.” After all, you only turn seven once.