Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Fear of God, part 4

So what does the fear of God have to do with the journey from bitter to sweet? More than what most people know.

David dealt with this issue and wrote about it in Psalm 73.
In verses 2 & 3 he confessed:

~"But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

He then went on to talk about how the wicked get away with stuff with apparently no repercussions.
Often this is how an abused person feels. Their abuser carries on abuse with no one stepping in to stop them. Not the church. Not God. Not anyone.

The abused who have feared God and tried to do what God wanted in the face of abuse may feel the way David felt when he said in verses 13 &14:

~"Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."

David could not understand how things could work the way they did. He said in verse 16:

~"When I thought to know (understand) this, it was too painful for me:"

Yet in verses 17-20 he turned to God and things were made clear.

~"Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How they are brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awaketh; thou shalt despise their image."

So, here I have scriptural verification for the experiences I explained in part 2 and part 3 of these Fear of God posts.
David, 1000s of years ago, Betsy, several decades ago, and little ol' me received revelations on the precarious position of the wicked. These were revelations we needed because the situations we witnessed appeared to be unjust. But God, in His mercy and concern for us, made known to us, not to envy the wicked. They have put themselves in a bad place, no matter how it looks.

Here's what all this has to do with bitterness. In verses 21-24 David looks back on the bitterness he felt watching the wicked prosper:

~"Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. [NAS translated it this way--When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced from within], So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."

This is such a wonderful promise to those who are bitter. God doesn't let go. Even when we are foolish and senseless like an animal in our bitterness, He still holds us by the hand and guides us by His counsel out of the place of bitterness and into the place of glory.

One of the first steps out of bitterness is to understand that the unrepentant wickedness of another will not go unpunished. They must either repent or face the music.

When we get this. When we see that God is just, it is much easier to release the wicked into God's hand and believe that vengeance really does belong to the Lord. We do not have to hold onto bitterness. We can trust the Lord to do what is right.

And hopefully we can take the next step and start praying for the wicked that they will escape judgement by repenting with tears.
It's hard to pray for our oppressors when we are bitter. Our prayers will be more pure and God-like if we can pray from the place of glory God has for us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Fear of God, part 3

After the experience I had mentioned in The Fear of God, part 2, I read the book "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom. If you have never read this book and call yourself a Christian, you need to put it on your to-do list. Even if you don't call yourself a Christian or you are not a big reader, this is a must read.

In summary, Corrie and her sister Betsy hid Jews in a secret room in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII. They ended up getting caught and put into a concentration camp. Corrie's book tells the events leading up to this and what happened after this with details I cannot get into for those who haven't yet read this book.

But there is a particular story that happened while they were imprisoned that cemented my understanding of God's judgement on abusers and oppressors.

Corrie made it out of the concentration camp alive and went back to Holland. Betsy did not. But while in the concentration camp Betsy seems to have been given a special grace to get through the experience without bitterness and to see the events that unfolded around them from a more heavenly or spiritual standpoint.

One day a female prison guard decided to show off in front of a visiting male prison guard. And she did so by beating a prisoner at the work site.
As Corrie observed this she said to Betsy, "Oh that poor woman."
Betsy agreed but said something that stunned Corrie. "Oh yes, and may God forgive her."
It took a few moments for Corrie to understand that Betsy meant the prison guard. Betsy had a grasp on the fear of God. She knew that it was better to be oppressed in this life than to be the oppressor. The oppressor is under the judgement of God in a way that the oppressed is not.

Just as I realized that the abusive man mentioned in my previous post is under judgement and to be pitied, so Betsy understood that this prison guard was under greater bondage and judgement than the prisoner she was beating.
The prison guard did not fear God. And by not fearing Him she put herself in a dangerous position not to be envied.

Oftentimes we don't take God seriously when He says that He will bring judgement on the wicked. Since we don't see it happening before our very eyes we seem to not be able to trust God to carry out His word.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fear of God, part 2

Back in the 90s, my husband pastored a church. One day, a friend from our church came nearly in tears with a prayer request. It seems that her cousin's husband was demanding a form of sex that actually damaged her cousin. It created a tear in her rectum and caused her to bleed. The husband also gave instructions that my friend's cousin was not to tell anyone about his demands.
My first thought was, "Yes, we need to pray for this selfish, self-centered man right away so that he stops hurting his wife."

So my friend and I immediately went down on our knees and prayed for this couple. They used to go to church somewhere, but at the time they weren't going anywhere.

But a strange thing happened. I went down thinking, "We need to pray that this man changes his ways." I came up realizing, "This man doesn't fear God." A deep sense of needing to pray that he would fear God came over me. Somehow I knew that this man's actions brought him under God's judgement. And that place of judgement was a very bad place to be.
But this man was blind to it.

I stood up and told my friend, "He doesn't fear God."

Her eyes went wide and she confirmed it. "No, he doesn't. He told me that before."

I don't remember what I said after that. I don't even know if I made it clear to my friend that we needed to change our prayer focus, that we needed to pray that this man get a good healthy dose of the fear of God so that he could escape the judgement he heaped on himself.

I just know that my view of men like him changed. I now saw them for what they were, wretched sinners who need to escape the judgement to come.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fear of God, part 1

I've had several of encounters with other Christians on this path of life that I'd like to share.

I had a friend who married an abusive man back in the 80s. I've since lost track of her but am relieved to know that she is not still married to him. Her mother told me that marrying him was a huge mistake. That is should have never happened.

Anyway, my friend told me this story while she was still married to him.

They lived in an area in the Midwest near a fault line that I forgot the name of. The area doesn't experience many earth quakes, perhaps once a decade. But one of these rare quakes did occurred in the eighties. Apparently it frightened my friend's husband so much that he treated her much better afterward.

This man was religious. I've seen him witness to people on the streets to get them saved. And he believed in the end times.

This quake may have caused him to think that end was near. Perhaps he thought he better get his act together, including how he treated his wife.

But when the fear passed away, he became abusive again.

After hearing this story, I began to wonder if some abusers lack a healthy fear of God and His judgement on the wicked.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where have I been lately?

I've been about, traveling, lurking and posting sporadically on other blogs. I have regular places that I visit that have discussions that interest me. I'm learning a lot about the Christian Subculture as it is represented on the Internet. There a places that I feel at home and have a kindred spirit. There are also places I've learned to avoid because they have nothing for me, only legalism and dry bones doctrine.
The places that I like to go have names that include words like mercy and grace. They are honest and talk about the struggles they have as they work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Some of these places are hosted by people who have been wounded by an unhealthy church or doctrine. Though they cling to Christ and His word, they either don't go to "church" at all, go visiting new places with their guard up needing to protect themselves from possible further abuse.
I'm happy with the new acquaintances that I've made in the last few months. Some of them have inspired me and given me a reason to come back here and jot down a few thoughts again.