Tag Archives: fear of the Lord

Nuggets of Hope 28 – Gotta Serve Somebody

In 1979, Bob Dylan surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. References to the Bible, Jesus, and God’s Kingdom began to appear in his concerts. His conversion was marked with a new freshness in his music and the release of a new album, Slow Train Coming. The track “Gotta Serve Somebody” became Dylan’s first hit in three years.

I had not been a huge fan of Dylan up to this point, but I loved this album and this song. It was hard-hitting, fresh, and focussed, with this repetitive, driving refrain :

It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, even with the partial lifting of lockdown restrictions, everybody’s life is affected. Whatever the details of our circumstances, we can easily become slaves to the pandemic. It can start to dominate our thinking.

I have found that to navigate these times, I need to step back, get perspective, and remind myself of who I am and where I am going. The COVID-19 pandemic is a circumstance that I cannot control, but I can choose how I am going to look at life. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I do not live without hope, direction or focus. I have a purpose. I am living for the Kingdom of God.

This morning I started my day with a walk around my neighbourhood. I prayed the ancient words of the Lord’s Prayer. I asked the Father to show me what it would mean for His name to be hallowed in my life. I prayed for His Kingdom to come on earth. I prayed for my neighbours and myself to hunger and thirst for His righteous rule in our lives. I thanked God for His daily provision, His forgiveness and His deliverance from evil.

I wasn’t made to live for myself. I was created to belong to the One who made me. I have been redeemed – set free at a high cost – so that I might serve Him and give Him glory with my life. In fact, living for yourself is an illusion – a costly mirage that leads to sorrow, emptiness, death and eternal loss. As Dylan wrote back in 1979,

It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Over many years of learning to follow Jesus, I have found that living as His servant and friend has given me a liberty that I did not have when I was trying to set my own direction and have my own way.

If you already know what I am talking about, let me encourage you to remember the Lord and reset your focus on Him today and every day. If you don’t know the freedom of belonging to Jesus, but want to talk about it, leave me a comment and I’ll contact you.

God bless you.



Nuggets of Hope 22 – How to Stay Safe

Stay safe.

It’s become one of the dominant messages in the COVID-19 era.

But how, exactly, do we stay safe? How do we protect ourselves?

Before we can really answer that question, we need to ask another question. From what enemy are we trying to protect ourselves?

If you’re trying to protect yourself from getting COVID-19, there are recommended precautions. But what if you have a sneaking suspicion that COVID-19 isn’t your biggest enemy?

Yes, COVID-19 is an enemy. But it can be a useful enemy. Like any crisis, any situation that we can’t control, the pandemic raises important questions for us. Where is my real hope? What am I living for? What do I really want? What is my life really about?

Many people are experiencing heightened anxiety during these times. But their anxiety is not only because of COVID-19.  That’s just the current threat. The reality is that we are all vulnerable to many possible harms. Death is a prospect that none of us can escape in this age.

Disciples of Jesus have a Master who has conquered death on our behalf, and set us free from the power of darkness. If we really believe that, we should be the happiest of people. But we also have an enemy who hates us and desires to rule our thoughts. He does this by planting thoughts which we can choose to accept or reject. But to recognize them and reject them, you need a good spiritual immune system. The contagion that I really want to avoid is that sneaky tendency to focus on myself, and the immune system I need is the good, old-fashioned blood of Jesus that washes me clean from sin, His Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, and His powerful Spirit who guides me in the ways of love and self-control.

Recently I studied the First Letter of John with a small group of friends. John is identified as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course Jesus loved all his disciples but he apparently had an especially close relationship with John. By the time he wrote this letter, John was an old man who had seen most of the companions of his youth put to death for their faith in Jesus.

For John, the issues were clear. He ended his message to his flock with these sobering but hope-filled and powerful words.

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

1 John 5:18-21

The safest place to be is close to Jesus. That’s where I want to stay. That’s where I’m placing my hope.




Fear of the Lord

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fear of the Lord.

The immediate impetus for my reflections has been the recent spectacle of Canada’s political leaders playing games with each other, one threatening to bring down the government, another offering to prop it up, a third saying that disaster will strike our economy if the government falls.  The stated message is “we are doing this for the good of the country”, but all too often the truth is more like “we are doing this because we want to be in power”.  I wrote in a previous post that it is important for Christians to honour and respect our leaders as well as pray for them.  I still believe this, but sometimes honouring our leaders also means calling them to account.  It is a sad spectacle to see politicians of all stripes saying one thing and meaning another.   Sometimes honouring and respecting our leaders means saying “Come on folks, surely you can do better than this”.

But what does the fear of the Lord have to do with any of this?  Isn’t it some outmoded Old Testament concept, that got thrown out when Jesus died on the cross?  Well, no, it’s not.  The fear of the Lord is actually a truth that we badly need to rediscover.  The very fact that many North American Christians think it’s outmoded shows how much our Christianity has been watered down to accommodate popular culture.   If we’re going to hold our political leaders to account, we’d better also hold ourselves to account for the calibre of our church life and our personal walk with God.  A healthy understanding of the fear of the Lord can help us to do this.

Over and over, well over 200 times, the Scriptures instruct us to fear the Lord.  Interestingly enough, despite the use of the word “fear”, which we usually think of as negative, most of the references I checked promised great blessing to those who fear the Lord.

The Biblical meaning of the fear of the Lord is far more than just being afraid of God.   It is an attitude that stands in awe of God, that trembles at His power and holiness, but at the same time trusts in His goodness and mercy.  The fear of the Lord is associated with a worshipful disposition and approach to life, including :

The fear of the Lord is not just an Old Testament concept.  The description of the first Jerusalem church, immediately after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, describes these believers as walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit ! True conversion will produce a heart that is in awe of God.

But doesn’t the Bible also say that perfect love drives out fear?  Yes – but the fear that is driven out is the fear of punishment, not the fear of the Lord.  When we know that God loves us and has accepted us in Christ, we have peace with God, but this doesn’t mean that our hearts are no longer in awe of Him.   If anyone is inclined to doubt this, consider the example of the Apostle John.  He knew Jesus on earth as intimately as anyone.  Scripture calls him the disciple whom Jesus loved, indicating an especially close relationship.  He is also the one who wrote the words that perfect love drives out fear.  Yet in describing his vision of the risen and glorified Christ, he writes : I fell at his feet as though dead.  Although he had known Jesus intimately on earth, when he saw him in his heavenly glory he was terrified and had to be reassured that he was not going to die.   So apparently even apostles still have room for the fear of the Lord in their lives!

The Scriptures identify a number of excellent character qualities in the lives of those who fear the Lord – qualities such as hatred of evil, integrity, loyalty, humility, faithfulness, and wisdom.   Contrary to most of our contemporary politicians – and some church leaders, sad to say – leaders who lead in the fear of the Lord will not make decisions based on popular opinion, which the Bible describes as the fear of man.  They will not judge by outward appearances; instead they will make righteous decisions.  The ultimate embodiment of one who fears the Lord is the Messiah, Jesus, who is coming to govern the earth at the renewal of all things.

I am longing for his government – for the day when Jesus reigns on earth as King!  In the meantime I will continue to pray for my leaders – both in the church and in the world – that by God’s grace they would lead in the fear of God.  All of us who have any leadership position – small group leaders, ministry leaders at any level, heads of families, business owners, team leaders in workplaces – need to recognize that the position we hold is a trust from the Lord, that the people entrusted to us are precious to Him, and that we are accountable to the Lord for our leadership.   Whatever kind of work we are doing, we need to remember that we are doing it as unto the Lord, as people who are accountable to Him.   Far from being oppressive, this kind of awareness is liberating.   The fear of the Lord sets me free from the curse of meaningless – it invests everything I do with meaning and significance, because I am doing it in the light of eternity.