The Beginning of Wisdom

I’ll share a little something about myself with you. I don’t like to be afraid. Fear is one emotion that I seek to avoid as much as possible. Take, for example, horror movies. Not a fan. Never have been. I don’t even understand the genre or the people who support it. I’ve never understood why people would spend their hard-earned money to scare themselves. There are plenty of things to be afraid of in the world, why should I pay to conjure up that emotion? Why would I want to?

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not because the Bible has so much to say about fear. A quick hit using a Bible search engine shows that there are 299 verses with the word “fear” in them and 163 more with the word “afraid” in them. Combined, that’s more verses than the Bible’s other great topic—love. The Bible talks a lot about fear. In fact, did you know that some fear is actually good? Say it ain’t so! The Bible says repeatedly that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps.111:10; Prov.1:7, 9:10).

This fear is not a terror or dread where we fear that God is out to get us, but one mixed with love and respect. Like the kind of fear you probably had for your earthly father. You knew that he wasn’t to be crossed and you respected him. So it is with God, but to an even greater degree since He is perfectly holy.

So if we truly begin to be wise when we start to fear God, how does that relate to our lives? To our conduct? To our finances? Well, when we realize that all that we have is given to us by God and that He has a requirement that we return some of our time, talents, and treasure to Him to support the work of His Church, we should fear withholding anything from Him. He knows all things so He knows if you’re being stingy.

This happened with the nation of Israel and He called them to the carpet for it. He cursed them and called them robbers (Mal.3:8-9). Think about that. God calling you a robber. Men may accuse us of many things and some of their accusations may stick, but when God accuses you of something, you’re caught. There’s no denying it. So rather than rob God and think we’re getting away with something, we should honor Him with the first of our fruits (Lev.2:12). In fact, He invites us to test Him that if we bring Him the whole tithe, He says He will pour out a blessing until it overflows (Mal.3:10). God is challenging us to try to out-give Him! I dare you to try it. As you will quickly learn, it can’t be done.

Which Way Do I Go?

The will of God. For people who are concerned about knowing it, it often becomes the source of much anxiety. Many people get worked up about knowing God’s will for their lives, as if He has an exact roadmap that marks out every moment of their existence and if they don’t know it or follow it, they are outside of His will and are displeasing to Him. They stress out about finding the exact person whom God has “willed” to be their spouse, or the perfect job that He has designated for them, or the best car to buy, etc.; it is some great mystery that they are always trying to discover. For them, the will of God brings no rest, no comfort, and no joy. If this describes you, I’m sorry. Believe me, I’ve been there too. However, it’s not that complicated. Seriously.

The first place we must look when discerning the will of God for our lives is His Word, the Bible. God has spoken quite clearly about what His will is and what He desires for our lives; it’s all in The Book. As John MacArthur points out, it is God’s will that you be:

  • Saved (1 Tim.2:3-4; 2 Pet.3:9)
  • Spirit-filled (Eph.5:17-18)
  • Sanctified (1 Thess.4:3-7)
  • Submissive (1 Pet.2:13-15)
  • Suffering (Phil.1:29; 2 Tim.3:12)

He goes on to say, “If all those things are true in your life, you may do whatever you want.” No roadmap. No mystery. No stress.

Whom should I marry? If I’m a believer, Paul tells me to marry only in the Lord (1 Cor.7:39), meaning another believer; nobody specifically, but a Christian in general. What house or car should I buy? Ones that fit within my budget after I’ve made provision to give a tithe and offering to the work of the Lord (Mal.3:10) and ones that don’t cause me to fall into enslaving amounts of debt (Prov.22:7). Where should I work? Preferably anywhere that does not violate some moral or ethical principle of the Bible or anywhere where an employer does not do the same.

So does God have a detailed plan laid out for me? Well, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev.1:8; 21:6; 22:13), which means that He knows the end from the beginning; He already knows the way that we will take. So I guess that is a roadmap of sorts, but it’s one known only by Him that we unfold daily throughout our lives. It’s a map that He knows, but that we chart with the help of His Word. So do you really want to know God’s will for your life? Then you gotta get in The Book.

Examine Your Love

Regeneration. In Christian circles, that’s a ten-dollar word that refers to the spiritual transformation of a person, brought about by the Holy Spirit, which changes that person from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. It is another way of referring to the second birth or being born again (John 3:3), which, according to Jesus, is a requirement to get into heaven (John 3:7). It’s part of becoming a Christian, as evidenced by becoming a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17); God is in the business of restoring people spiritually. So if Christians are new people, how should that affect their finances?

One area is our generosity. Christians should be giving people. If we are truly focused on Christ and all He gave for us to inherit eternal life (His life), then giving of ourselves becomes less of a burden. I remember when I was first ushered into His kingdom, when I became a Christian, I was aglow with new love for Christ. When I first heard of His command to give a tithe (a tenth) of my income to support the work of the church (Mal.3:10), I freely gave it because my Lord commanded it. To love Christ is to love His commands and do what He asks (John 14:15)—so when He says, “Give,” we say, “How much?” We give because we love the Lord and we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We give because He gave Himself first. That’s the pattern. This kind of giving, filled with affection for Christ, is the very essence of being a cheerful giver, which God says He loves (2 Cor.9:7).

When I first became a Christian, I was the very definition of a cheerful giver. If you looked up the meaning of the term in a commentary on 2 Corinthians, there would’ve been a picture of my face next to the explanation: to be a cheerful giver means to give like this guy. However, what about now? I have to confess that I don’t always give so cheerfully now. Sometimes I give out of routine—and with the invention of electronic giving, many times my giving is completely devoid of any love for Him.

So what has happened? Did He change His command to give? Did His fatal sacrifice on my behalf change? Has His affection toward cheerful givers changed? No, nothing on God’s part has changed. The change is all mine. My focus on Christ has changed. My love for Him has waned. The glow of my first love has dimmed. If you’re like me and find yourself challenged at times by your giving, don’t question your finances or look to your budget; question your love.

Lord, give us grace to repent and return to our first love where giving was a delight in light of Your sacrifice for us. Help us to value You above all else.

At Least She’s Not Dead

Maybe you’ve heard the definition of fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. Recently in our home, there’s been a small undercurrent of fear running through me personally. It started about two weeks ago when my wife developed flu-like symptoms. No big deal, right? Now fast-forward two weeks later after a trip to Urgent Care, another to a family doctor, a host of prescribed antibiotics/probiotics, cough syrup with codeine, followed by some X-rays that reveal she now has pneumonia and you can begin to understand my concern.

Let me provide a little more family context. My wife and I have two small, energetic boys. One is five and the other is three. I work full-time, while my wife splits her time working from home and caring for our children. Her illness has been debilitating for her and has crippled our family these last two weeks. However, that’s not the part that has caused fear to swirl around like a deep eddy in the recesses of my mind. It was two comments made on separate occasions by my 5-year-old and my wife.

Referring to my wife’s condition, my son, who was attempting to comfort me, bluntly said, “At least she’s not dead.”

On another occasion, while seeing me near exasperation, my wife asked plainly, “What if I were chronically ill?”

These two statements sat with me for a while. I pondered them. What if either one of them came true at this point in our lives? False Evidence Appearing Real.

My first reaction was to think that there’s no way I could do it. There would be no way for me to carry on without my wife, the mother of my children; she is the glue that holds our home together. However, that’s the flesh talking. God calls us to walk by faith (2 Cor.5:7). We’ve heard it preached that the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot sustain you. That sounds good, but it’s not in the Bible. Is there a biblical text supporting this idea? Sure there is.

1 Corinthians 10:13“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

There are a few truths I need to remind myself of from this verse:

  • My temptations (trials) are ordinary, my family is not suffering extraordinarily; every family suffers some illness at times.
  • God is faithful!
  • He will not allow the temptation to overwhelm me. He is sovereign over everything—the trial itself and the degree to which it extends. He knows what my family and I can handle.
  • He promises grace to endure the trial (the way of escape); His grace will sustain me wherever He leads.

Fear crushed by the truth of God’s Word.

Ever Changing

If you’re like me, maybe you find it amusing that the only thing that remains constant, the only thing that never seems to change is change. Think about it. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stop change. It is a mighty, ambiguous force, which may work either for or against us. It cannot be controlled, tamed, or thwarted. It is part of the very fabric of mankind; to be human is to be subject to change.

As it relates to our families, some changes we anticipate with great eagerness, like the first steps or first words of a child. As parents, we long for the day when our children are out of diapers, when they finally begin to sleep through the night, or when they hit their first home run. However, some changes are unexpected and come upon us when we’re least prepared for them. These may come in the form of a sudden change in a child’s demeanor, often referred to as “phases,” or maybe a job loss, or even a serious injury in the family. Finally, some changes are so slow and gradual that they are really imperceptible. Good examples are those that come with growing older—the loss of eyesight, stamina, and hair!

So if our families are a hotbed for change, how are we to deal with them? Especially those changes that seem to work against us or take us by surprise? Is there some anchor for our soul in the midst of this chaotic, swirling sea of change? Most certainly! His name is the LORD, Jehovah, and He says of Himself that He does not change (Mal.3:6). Referring to God in human flesh, the writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb.13:8). So when dealing with difficult providences, when faced with sudden changes, we must remember to lean on the One who never changes. That is why God is likened to a rock in the scriptures (Deut.32:4; 1 Sam.2:2; Ps.18:31). He is the unchanging, solid foundation beneath our feet when everything else around us is chaos.

As I said before, the only thing that never seems to change is change. However, change is not greater than God. In fact, He is the only One who never changes and He uses change, among other things, like a tool in His hand to shape and fashion our lives so that we may be conformed to the image of His beloved Son (Rom.8:29). May we learn to trust our Great Potter as He forms the clay of our lives. He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom.8:28). His unchanging nature guarantees it.

Hide-and-Seek

During the long, hot summer months in Phoenix, if you don’t have a swimming pool in your backyard, you have to get creative when thinking of ways to occupy your kids as they’re cooped up in the house. One such pastime that I play with my young boys is hide-and-seek. Now granted, our home is about 2,000 square feet and has a pretty open floor plan, so there are only so many places to hide, but it usually keeps us busy for at least a half hour and the kids love it.

On one occasion when my wife was out of the house, the boys and I began a game of hide-and-seek. They usually count together while I go hide and when I’m found, I count while they inevitably hide together. During one of my turns to hide, I quickly and gingerly climbed up on the top bunk of their bed set and covered myself with as many stuffed animals and blankets as possible to conceal my whereabouts.

I soon heard the boys calling for me while running through the house trying to find me. Sometimes when I’ve hidden myself well, I’ll help them out by giving a short, sharp whistle and after a couple minutes of searching, Benjamin was calling for me to do so. However, this time I decided they were going to have to find me on their own.

Maybe another minute went by, which must have seemed like an eternity to my boys, because suddenly I heard them running through the house screaming and panic-stricken. I immediately called to them from their room and they came running in, tears streaming down their faces, as they slowly backed away from the precipice of uncontrolled fear.

I asked them what was wrong. They exclaimed that they thought I had left them because they couldn’t find me. My supposed absence quickly drove them to hysteria.

The funny thing is that nothing really changes as we become adults. We grow up and pretend that we’ve got it all together, that we’re self-sufficient; but after salvation in Christ, we realize how much we need our heavenly father and how dependent we really are. Many times, when He feels far off or we’re experiencing some difficult providence, we begin to anxiously cry out for Him just like children. We panic just like my kids did. However, as Christians, this should not be so. We must strive to remember His Word, His character, and His love for us.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Just as I was only hiding in the next room when my boys were driven to panic, God is never far off. In fact, He promises that He is with us (present tense) so we need not panic ourselves. If we give into our fear, we distrust our heavenly father and cast a shadow on His character. Instead, we should remember His perfect love for us, which casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and that He has promised that if we diligently seek Him, we will find Him (Prov.8:17). May God give us the grace to seek Him diligently so that we may cast out fear in our homes.

Gimme Another Chance!

Have you ever had to ask anybody for a second chance? Maybe you wronged a friend, a spouse, or even your boss and you had to throw yourself at their mercy in order to make amends for your error. Sometimes people give you a second chance, but sometimes they don’t. You want to hear some real good news? God is a God of second chances! In fact, even better, He’s a God of nth chances; He specializes in helping broken, sinful people to start over.

So how does this truth apply to our families? Well, aren’t our families just a collection of broken, sinful people gathered under one roof? God is a God of second chances for individuals as well as families.

If you’re like me, you may not have been raised in a Christian home and the habits and patterns you learned from your parents may strangely linger in your own life, as evidenced in your actions or your speech. I never thought I would say, “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” As a kid, I didn’t even understand the logic of that statement. It seemed silly to me. I mean, I was already crying and you want to make me cry more? However, as an imperfect father following in the line of imperfect parents, I have said it too. The point is that the way we raise our own families is often a perpetuation of what we learned by being children in a family; and not all of that is good.

Numbers 14:18 says, “… [He will visit] the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations. Like endless waves on the seashore, the idea is that if we perpetuate the same sinful patterns with our own children that we learned ourselves as children, the ripple effects can be devastating; generations may be ruined by what we do with our children today. Soak that in.

However, the good news related to our topic is that God is a God of second chances! The first part of that same verse says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression…” There is an opportunity for forgiveness with God. We can start over! By God’s grace, we can turn our homes around and start a legacy of godliness that alters the course of our family history and that can lead to the betterment, instead of the detriment, of generations to come.

May God give us the grace and wisdom to see what we need to change in our homes that He may be glorified, that we may grow to be godly parents, and that a Christian legacy may begin. Lord, help us to start over in our families.