GOD WITH US NOW, NOT JUST AT CHRISTMAS

Jesus had fed the 5,000, had healed the sick, had cast out demons, yet the Pharisees demanded to see more signs, more miracles — show us a sign and we will believe!  Matthew 12:38.  It as if they thought that Jesus would deliver a sign upon demand!  How foolish of them, we say; how arrogant could they be, we say; how could they treat the Son of God like that, we say!

Are we not like them?   We demand that God would resolve our financial difficulties, perhaps by God letting us win the lottery.  We demand that God would miraculously take the disease away, on our immediate timetable, of course.  We demand that God intervene and solve all our problems when we try to buy a new house or car, although we have not financially prepared for the purchase.  Just one more sign!

Our God can do these things, of course.  He is omnipotent so there is nothing that He is powerless to accomplish.  But we miss out on His presence if we simply look for Him in a massive display of His power on our behalf.  We forget that He has given the believer in Jesus the gift of life, both here and for all eternity, through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Talk about massive display of His power!   We forget that He is with us, in fact He is in us through His beloved Holy Spirit.

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
A flower garden along a lake in Maine

We see evidences of God’s presence everywhere we look, if only we use our heart’s eyes.  A beautiful array of flowers, a stunning scene along the lake, an encouraging word from a friend that comes just when we needed it, a gentle rain or glittering rainbow, or provision He makes for our needs when we cannot see any possibility ahead of us.

The Pharisees did not need to see additional signs as evidence for them to believe in Him – Jesus had provided sufficient evidence that He was who He said He was.  He had healed the sick, raised the dead, responded to questions in ways too deep for these “thinkers” to understand. 

They didn’t need additional signs, and neither do we.  In short, we don’t need to seek spectacular displays of God’s work to know that He is the Savior.  The most spectacular display possible occurred 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died the death that was rightfully ours and then when God raised Him from the dead. 

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV

 He is with us today, we don’t have to wait for Christmastime to realize this.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Oh that we would know that the Holy Spirit is resident within us, and that we would realize that we have “God With Us” in a way that those who lived prior to Pentecost could not imagine.  We don’t have to wonder where He is, nor do we have to go to a specific church or place to pray.  He is with us 24/7 and there is nowhere we can go that is outside His reach. 

Read Psalm 139 as you ruminate on how all-embracing God’s knowledge of you is. 

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God.   He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.  

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

I pray that each of us will have open eyes to see His presence in our lives each day.

 

Father, You are Lord of the Universe, King of Kings, Creator of All, and You are the Lover of my soul.  Forgive, I pray, when I am so besieged by the difficulties, trials and concerns of the day that I fail to see Your hand, active and working in each of those situations.  Forgive, when I expect spectacular evidence of Your involvement in my life even though I ignore Your Word or the reminders that You provide in the chirp of a bird, in the sound of the wind, in the rustling of the leaves, in the antics of woodland creatures or the family pets.  Thank you Father for Your constant presence through the Holy Spirit.  May I be more sensitive to hearing Your call as You work in my life today.

THE FEAR OF GOD

When we were in England, we visited a number of cathedrals and were amazed at the exquisite details in the construction and decoration of each of them.

bath-cathedral-c
Bath Cathedral, Bath, England

The exteriors of the cathedrals had a focal point, upward to the sky as if the very building was praising God in prayer and thanksgiving.

canterbury-side-view
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

 

Even the walls of the cathedrals evidenced exquisite workmanship and beautiful detail.

canterbury-wood-carvings-adorning-the-walls
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Carved woodwork adorning the walls of the Cathedral.

 

The church in Canterbury was established when Saint Augustine was sent as a missionary in 597 A.D.  In the town of Canterbury, there has been daily worship of God for over 1,400 years.  Just think about that for a moment! 

The original cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. Although there have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, parts of the Quire or Choir, which is the area between the nave and sanctuary in a cathedral, and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

canterbury-stained-glass-windows
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Stained glass windows. They were removed and sequestered for safety during World War II and reinstalled when the war ended.

See the Canterbury Cathedral’s website for more detailed information on this glorious church.  https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/

We came to the entrance of the cathedral property and walked through this gate.  At first I thought this was the church … then I realized it was “just” the gate to the property.  Even this aspect of the cathedral was designed and constructed with an emphasis on the heavens.

canterbury-the-archway-into-the-church-property
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Arched gate into the Cathedral property.

 

Why go to all this trouble in creating such glorious buildings in which to worship God?  Why do all this incredible craftsmanship during a period of time when people were living in far less sturdy structures?  Why do this at all?

I suggest that these folks had a right understanding of the “fear of the Lord”. 

Scripture has much to say about learning and fearing God.   See for example the following passages in the Old Testament:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,…”

Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Psalm 111:10 ESV

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

So, what does it mean to fear God?  One definition of “fear” is, of course, to be afraid, to be in terror when we face God.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

The justified person, the believer in Jesus Christ, is not afraid of God, rather God is his Father and fear is washed away.  Paul wrote this to his spiritual son, Timothy:

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

But we are still admonished to “fear the Lord”, so if we are justified by Christ, what does it mean?

“Fear” when used in this context references our actions of “reverence” and “worship”.  We are to “be in awe of” Him and we are to “honor” Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7 ESV

The note on Proverbs 1:7 in the Reformation Study Bible says, in part:

The fear of the Lord is the only basis of true knowledge.  This fear is not distrustful terror of God but rather the reverent awe and worshipful response of faith to the God who reveals Himself as the Creator, the Savior and the Judge.   

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the majesty of His creation?

yosemite-2011-wrm-126-waterfalls-and-river-c
Yosemite National Park, waterfall and river.

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the detail of the small baby, a child created in the image of God?

baby-girl-1-month-old
One month old baby girl.

Has your spirit ever soared when entering a place of worship as you anticipate spending time with your Savior and God in worship?

canterbury-cathedral-view-of-the-altar-area
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Interior of Cathedral looking at the altar area of the church.

Have you considered our Savior God who sent His only Son to die for your sins?  Have you thanked Him today, even this moment, for such love, grace and mercy?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Unfortunately, our culture has forgotten this precept.  We have instead turned to human philosophy and social engineers.  We have created a generation of children who have turned to Hollywood or the Internet for their heroes and role models.  The fantasy world of television and movies, with computer generated special effects, has become the reality that our youth crave.  Young and old alike seek thrills and/or escape by turning to drugs and alcohol.   We kill children without batting an eye, while we worry about the spotted owl or the snail darter fish.  

Scripture does not change – its teachings are true and they are timeless.  Thousands of years ago, God stated that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.   It was true then, and it is true today. 

I believe that those building the cathedrals were honoring God and creating a place of worship that was a physical representation of the glory and magnificence due Him in worship. 

Note that I am not saying that all churches need to be this elaborate.  Nor am I ignoring the role that the Popes or other “leaders” likely played in desiring a place of magnificence for his own benefit. 

What I am saying is that we, even in our “modern” age, need to have a holy fear of our God.  It is a heart issue, not an architectural one.  We should give God the reverence, awe and honor to which He is due.  In short, He is not the “Big Guy in the Sky”.  He is our Creator, Sustainer and Savior … He is our Father and our God.

 

Father, forgive me when I have not given You the reverence that You deserve.  Let my heart sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” throughout the day and let my praise to You be last on my lips as sleep overcomes me.  May I love You and glorify You in all things.