Fear of the Lord

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians… And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 14:30-31

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him…

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:8, 16-18

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

I believe the Lord is inviting the church back to the fear of the Lord. We must know how loved and cherished we are by our Father in heaven. We must know that we are a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must understand our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And knowing all of this will inevitably lead to the fear of the Lord, an encounter with His holiness.

What is the fear of the Lord?

1. It is absolute surrender. It’s saying “Yes” to God before we even fully understand His command.

2. It is freedom from the fear of man. It’s no longer being bound by people pleasing. It’s seeking God’s approval above all others.

3. It is humility. It’s owning the fact that He is God and we are not. It’s living out the reality that we are not equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) He gets to call the shots. We are following Jesus not the other way around.

4. It is waiting on the Lord. It’s knowing that going forward without Him is pointless.

5. It is going boldly when we are sent by the Lord. It’s taking risks and stepping out in faith.

6. It is making hosting God’s Presence the primary concern, making sure He feels welcome before anyone else feels welcome.

There are a few reasons I feel like the Lord wants to return the fear of the Lord to the church. I’ve heard more than one major church leader talk about feeling this pull toward the fear of the Lord. I’ve also had talks with prophetic friends who feel the same way.

But the main reason I think Jesus wants to reintroduce the fear of the Lord to the church is because of an encounter I had at the end of 2019. I experienced just a taste of God’s raw holiness and was undone by the fear of the Lord. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord was giving me a taste of what is to come. I wrote about that experience here.

In the future, I believe entire worship services will be taken over by the fear of the Lord. People will bow in repentance and kneel weeping before the Lord as they encounter His awesome holiness. Lukewarm Christianity will be broken in half. Syncretistic agreement with our current culture will be washed away in the hearts of believers. Being obedient will take precedence over being liked. The fear of the Lord will shake us and cause a full surrender.

Sensitivity

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

Romans 1:21

The Bible speaks of a process where our heart either becomes softened or it becomes hardened. Obedience over time softens a person’s heart toward God. A sensitivity to the Holy Spirit develops that allows us to follow His lead without having to be shoved. The hope is that with a gentle whisper from the Lord, we’ll step out and do what He asks. Paul described this process to the Galatians:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

Galatians 5:24-25

Yet, the opposite can happen as well. The more we resist the Lord–the more we do our own thing and follow our own way ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit–the more our heart will harden. Obedience will become more and more difficult.

Paul told Timothy to beware of false teachers whose “consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). What an image! Our conscience, which should be soft and tender, sensitive to the touch of the Spirit, can become so hard and numb that it loses all sensitivity, as if seared with a hot iron. Exposure to sin over time is what does this.

However, as your connection with the Lord grows and as your faith matures, you’ll notice a sensitivity develop. You become both more sensitive to the Light and to the darkness. Do you know that feeling of the top layer of skin being removed to reveal the new, raw skin underneath? This is what happens to our conscience. This is what it means to live with a circumcised heart.

Practically, this sensitivity is necessary to get better at sensing the leading of the Spirit. If you want to follow His promptings and hear His voice, this kind of sensitivity is necessary. It is not emotional sensitivity, although it will affect your emotions; it is spiritual sensitivity. And what you’ll notice is that things will start to bother you that never used to bother you.

What I have found in my own life is that this sensitivity has led to me being able to sense things in the spirit realm much easier. I can sense when darkness is around. I can more easily sense when someone is being deceptive. I can sense when a demon is tormenting someone. I can more easily sense when the Holy Spirit wants me to do something or say something. 1 Corinthians 12:10 calls this “discerning the spirits.” But it comes with a down side.

I can’t watch many TV shows or movies that have dark content in them anymore. It used to be that I couldn’t watch horror movies. Now it is so much more. Dark themes of violence, death, murder, abuse, sexual immorality, homosexuality, (even foul language) and the like bother my conscience at a level that is uncomfortable. If I watch something with that kind of content, I feel like I got slimed. I can feel the darkness and demonic influence behind it. Sometimes I am even given revelation into the twisted mind that wrote the scene I just watched, and it is deeply disturbing.

When we get comfortable with sin, we start to get comfortable with darkness. It stops bothering us. We start to feel quite at home in things that are macabre and disturbing. Our hearts and minds harden to it, and we lose our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Participation with darkness, even in entertainment, can grieve the Spirit.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:30-32

We all say we want to hear the the Lord better. We all say we want an interactive relationship with the Holy Spirit where He guides our steps and speaks to us clearly. But do we want all that comes with that? It will requires a new level of sensitivity in your spirit that will make you sensitive to both the Light and the darkness in the spirit realm. It will require a new level of cleaning things out of your life, including what you are entertained by. It will require protecting the tender, sensitive heart and not letting it be hardened again by sin or letting it be slimed again by the world.

Hunting on the Frontier (Part 2)

Another lesson I learned from hunting was how different it is to shoot a rifle compared to a shotgun. These are two different kinds of shooting for two different kinds of targets.

When you shoot a rifle, you are aiming at a large animal (or target) hundreds of yards away. You are looking through a scope that will get off target with the slightest movement. Even your breathing will mess up your shot. So, with a rifle, the goal is to calm everything down. Even pulling too quickly on the trigger will mess up the shot. It must be squeezed carefully.

I didn’t realize how much my heart would race right before I pulled the trigger (and this was when I was aiming at a paper target). I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep the crosshairs of the scope directly on the bullseye. First, your scope must be calibrated accurately. And, in order for an accurate shot, you have to intensionally exhale slowly and calm your heart rate. The extent to which you are able to achieve a kind of calm and peace is the extent to which your shot will be on target.

The spiritual applications here are obvious and many. When we live in panic, fear, and anxiety, it is nearly impossible to live “on target” in the Christian life. The peace of Christ is what helps us see clearly what we’re aiming at. Our internal world greatly impacts our external world.

And if we are believing lies about ourself, the world, or God Himself, we need a recalibration of truth from His word. We can be “at peace” all we want, but if the scope of our understanding is skewed, every shot will be a little off. We see this in abundance in our culture. Many are claiming to have found “inner peace” but their life is still off target. They need a recalibration of truth.

Then there is the shotgun!

I found that shooting a shotgun was completely the opposite experience from a rifle. Shotguns are often used for bird hunting–for closer, smaller targets that are moving quickly. Whereas with a rifle the shooter has to be still and has to wait for the deer to be still, with a shotgun everything is moving–the target and the shooter.

We spent an afternoon shooting clay pigeons with various shotguns. At first I tried to use the sights on the shotgun to aim at the clay discs flying through the air. That didn’t work. I was trying to apply lessons learned on the rifle to the shotgun. But when I tried to use the sights, I probably missed 9 out of 10 shots. I knew I had to switch up my technique if I was going to hit anything.

Instead of “aiming” I started to just “feel” the shot. I stopped using the sights and, instead, kept my eyes on the clay disc. This allowed me to move the barrel of the gun with the movement of the disc. I started to get a feel for how the disc was moving and where it was going. When I shot this way, I probably hit 8 out of 10 shots. It also helps that shotgun shells shoot a spread of BBs instead of a single bullet. They give up distance and power for a larger spread downrange.

Again, more lessons learned. While rifle shooting felt more like obedience to the clear directives in Scripture–a clear bullseye in a controlled environment, shooting a shotgun felt more like the obedience that comes from following the prompting of the Spirit–on the fly and in the moment.

The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” and “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 & 25). There is a certain intuition, a certain feel, to following the Spirit at times. It is relational. There is movement to it. It can be a moving target, so obedience requires motion. It’s often less about an exact bullseye way off in the distance and more about sensing the movement of something flying through the air.

In hunting, both the rifle and the shotgun are necessary. Both have different purposes and uses. This is true for the Christian life as well. We need to enter a place of peace and calm and be able to live out the clear directives of Scripture. We also need to be able to follow the spontaneous promptings of the Spirit. We need a disciplined life that consistently keeps the life of Jesus in our crosshairs. We also don’t avoid sin by striving to keep the law but by keeping in step with the Spirit. Both are necessary elements in our life with Christ. Both are what is needed in order to stay on target.

Hunting on the Frontier

I went with my oldest son out to west Texas on a hunting trip. It was our first. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate my son’s graduation from elementary school and entrance into the preteen years. It was a coming-of-age trip. While there, we had a morning hunt and an evening hunt each day. We awoke at 5:45am to get to the deer stands before first light. In the evenings we were at the stands before sundown. This means for four days we saw every sunrise and every sunset on the west Texas horizon. It was amazing.

One lesson I learned from this experience was that frontier living is different than living in the comforts of home. What might feel “extreme” back home is a necessity out there. For instance, all the hunting gear seems unnecessary when you are purchasing it back home. But when you are sitting in 27 degree weather for two hours, in the dark, before the sun rises, you discover the true purpose of all that gear.

One might think, “Why do we need boots and hunting pants? Won’t shoes and normal pants be sufficient?” And the answer is, “No.” But you don’t realize it until you’re hiking through west Texas terrain full of spikes, thorns, and cactus. It’s not a walk in the woods out there. On the frontier, everything is trying to sting you, stick you, or bite you. Boots and hunting pants protect you from constantly being stuck.

And who really needs a sidearm when you have a rifle? It seems like overkill produced by gun-happy NRA advocates. It seems excessive back home. But it’s not out there. There are mountain lions and black bear that roam the same area as the deer. When you are hiking through the dark to and from a deer stand, it’s difficult to have a rifle ready if you were to be attacked. A sidearm protects you from these predators. On our trip we saw a momma black bear and her cub getting into one of the corn feeders. We had to go chase it off and shoot guns in the air to scare it. The danger from these animals is real out there and the need for a sidearm is equally real.

Likewise, cruising around the Target parking lot does not exactly demand 4-wheel drive vehicles. But out on the frontier, 4-wheel drive vehicles are the only ones that will make it over the rocky mountain roads. On the way to the hunting lease, one goes from highway (70 mph), to gravel roads made of caliche (25 mph), to rocky trails (5 mph). Having a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not an attempt to flaunt ego, it is an absolute necessity for getting anywhere.

I saw this pattern over and over again. What seems excessive back in the comfort of suburban life was needed for survival in the terrain of the frontier of west Texas. And it got me thinking about how this is true in the Christian faith. If you dare to live on the frontier of faith, entering the untamed wilds of the kingdom of darkness in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, you will do things, say things, and live in a way that seem extreme to those satisfied to stay in their comfort zone of faith. If you want to plunder the kingdom of darkness, one must be willing to live in the borderlands, the badlands, where extreme faith, radical power, and pioneering risk-taking are not the exception but the rule. What seems like extreme faith is really just faith on the frontier. What seems like extreme obedience is really just obedience on the frontier. They are what is necessary to live, survive, and thrive.

The Willing

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Matthew 21:28-32

I met with a Methodist pastor the other day who is not only engaging in the gifts of the Spirit but is also equipping his church to do the same. He is creating space in the Methodist liturgy to give words of knowledge, pray for healing, and give testimonies of those who have been healed. Before he was a pastor he had a career in computer science.

I’m meeting with an Anglican guy today who wants to engage his church in the things of the Spirit. He’s a post-doctoral research scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Applied Physics.

It may seem strange to some that individuals with very rational and intellectual backgrounds who are from mainline protestant denominations are engaging in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. We have tended to relegate the things of the Holy Spirit to the Pentecostals and those “crazy” charismatics.

But this is a pattern that I see emerging in the Church right now. God is taking men and women who are highly intellectual–Ph.Ds, medical doctors, scientists, professors–and He is taking men and women from denominations not known for emotionalism or hype, and He is pouring out the supernatural gifts of the Spirit upon them. It is easy enough for our snobbish superiority complex to write off a trailer park guy from a Pentecostal church when he tells us about a supernatural encounter with God he had. But trying writing off an Anglican scientist who has a Ph.D from Hopkins. Our smug rationalism doesn’t know what to do with that.

Jesus told the parable above to remind us that He is less interested in what people will say they will do and is more interested in what people will actually do. Tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom ahead of the ones who knew the Jewish law so well.

Today, Methodist computer scientists and Anglican Ph.Ds are engaging in the Spirit of God ahead of many others simply because they are willing. They are willing to step out in faith and risk. They are willing to believe in the supernatural things of God. And so they are seeing people get healed in their churches, they are seeing people activated in the gifts of the Spirit, and they are seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven simply because they are willing.

It doesn’t matter what denomination is on the church sign out front. It doesn’t matter if you call yourself charismatic or Pentecostal or “spirit-filled” or nondenominational. If you aren’t willing to step out in faith and believe in the supernatural, if you aren’t willing to engage in and practice the gifts of the Spirit, God will find those who are willing.

I don’t want to be like the second son who said that he would do it and then didn’t. I want my story to resemble the first son. Though at first I wasn’t sure about these supernatural experiences and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit–maybe at first I was hesitant and too scared to step out in faith and give a prophetic word or a word of knowledge or pray for the sick–but eventually I decided I had to be obedient and do it. The question still stands, “Which of the two did what his Father wanted?”

No matter what our educational background, no matter what our denominational tradition, are we willing? Are we willing to explore and engage in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit? If not, God will find those who are, and they will experience the Kingdom of God ahead of us!

Where You go I will go

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” 

Ruth 1:16

These are the profound and powerful words from Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi had lost everything. Her husband and two sons died. She was too old to remarry but she wanted to give her two daughters-in-law a chance for a new life. So Naomi released both of them to return to their homeland to find a new husband and a new life.

Ruth refused. She was going to faithfully stay by Naomi’s side to the very end.

God draws near to those who have this same attitude about Him. When we are willing to say to God, “Where You go, I’ll go” and “where You stay, I will stay,” God can use us powerfully.

For some, saying that we’ll go wherever God wants us to go is the more difficult challenge. It could mean uprooting one’s family, work, friends, home and life in general. For others, saying that we’ll stay wherever God wants us to stay is the more difficult challenge. Sometimes, being the one to stay and faithfully invest in one place while you watch others leave can be really painful.

Whether we are going or staying, in the end, it’s not really about us. It is about staying connected to the One who is asking us to go or asking us to stay. For Ruth, it wasn’t about where Naomi went, it was about staying connected to Naomi. We see Moses say the same thing to God.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’…But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” 

Exodus 33:1-2, 15

Moses didn’t want to go if God wasn’t with him. For Moses, it was more about connection and intimacy with God than it was about the fulfillment of the Promised Land.

Is that true of us and God? Are we willing to say, “God, where you go I’ll go, and where you stay I’ll stay.” And also, “If your Presence does not go with me, do not send me away from here.”

Here is a worship song that expresses this same theme:

As They Saw Fit

In those days Israel had no king;everyone did as they saw fit.

Judges 17:6

This verse in scripture is so powerful for being so short. And it resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today. When there is no recognized authority and truth, everyone just does as they see fit without regard to the word of the Lord. At this time in Israel’s history, people would just melt silver, cast an idol, hire a priest and set up a shrine to their own gods. This is exactly what a man named Micah did in Judges 17.

This is also something we see people do in our own culture when they claim to live according to what they call “my truth.” They might as well say, “my gods.”

In order to avoid this kind of post-modern polytheistic relativism, we must surrender our lives to Jesus. Surrender always requires obedience. But recognizing Jesus as King of Kings is only the beginning of obedience. There are at least three phases of obedience, each one progressively getting closer to what God intended for us.

1. Obedience out of sin avoidance: This kind of obedience is about trying to do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. It is a sin-conscious approach to living for the Lord. The focus is on our actions and trying to do the right ones. This approach tends to focus on the cross but doesn’t go much beyond it. This is the lowest and weakest form of obedience to the Lord.

2. Obedience out of identity: This kind of obedience is a step up from the last kind. It is about knowing who we are in Christ. It is about recognizing that we are new creations in Christ. This approach to living for the Lord doesn’t just avoid sin because it is wrong. Instead, the person doesn’t choose sin because they know that is not who they are. It is not focused on action but on identity. It is an obedience that comes from the heart. This approach tends to embrace the cross but then also move into a focus on the resurrection. The fact that we have been made new by Jesus is the primary concern. Rather than trying to avoid sin, it is about being who you really are in Christ.

3. Obedience out of love: This is the most complete kind of obedience. This kind of obedience embraces the death and resurrection of Jesus and continues by focusing on our identification with Jesus in His ascension. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is an obedience born out of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It not only focuses on who we are as new creations in Christ but also on the interactive communication between us and Jesus.

Obedience is seen not just as sin avoidance or living out of your true identity but as actively joining God in what you see Him doing. It is actively listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says to do. It comes from a love for God and an experience of His love for us. Obedience then becomes a way to honor that relationship. It becomes a joy, not a burden. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 14:15 when He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Obedience that is born out of love is the highest form of obedience and what God always intended for us.

What kind of obedience are you living in?

More in Death than in Life

Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord,“Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Judges 16:26-30

Deliliah cut Samson’s hair thus nullifying his Nazarite vow. When this happened, the Spirit of the Lord left Samson and, with Him, all of Samson’s supernatural strength. The Philistines captured Samson, gouged out his eyes, and made a mockery of him among the Philistine elite.

Physical obedience impacts spiritual realities. So does disobedience. When Samson’s hair was cut (physical reality) it impacted what was happening in the spirit realm. The Spirit of the Lord no longer rested upon Samson in power.

Samson’s death was a foreshadow of the death of Christ. Samson destroyed many more of the enemy’s minions in his death than he did in his life. The same is true of Jesus. Jesus healed and cast demons out of thousands of people. He dominated the enemy in his life on earth. Yet, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave gave us access to His power and authority. More minions of the enemy have been destroyed because of Jesus’s death than were destroyed in His life. It happens through you and me.

Once again we see physical obedience impacting spiritual realities. Jesus’s ultimate physical obedience of going to the cross forever changed the spirit realm. In rising from the grave, conquering sin and death, Jesus now has all authority. And He chose to delegate His authority to those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

With every act of obedience on our part, the power and authority of the Kingdom of God is released in the spirit realm. With every act of disobedience, the lies and deception of the enemy gain ground. Living the Christian life has never been about vain attempts to “be a good Christian boy or girl.” Walking in step with the Holy Spirit out of obedience to the Lord has always been about the Kingdom of God coming to earth. It’s always been about the battle happening in the spirit realm. It’s about “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Your obedient actions matter more than you know!

Devotion

The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Judges 2:1-3, 10-15

These are very sobering words and sound all too familiar. While Christians around the world are giving up everything for the sake of the gospel, American Christians are raising a generation “who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done” for us. The consequences of this are severe.

In an article written in Christianity Today about a tiny village church way up in the mountains of a country where Christianity is not welcome, the author wrote this about the pastor of that church:

Before the meeting, the church’s pastor had shared with me that his non-Christian parents died when he was just 15. A few years later, someone shared the gospel with him for the first time. He trusted in Jesus and was baptized, but as soon as this happened, the rest of his family abandoned him. His brothers told him to never come back, and he lost the inheritance his parents had left him. But this pastor and his people believe that Jesus is worth it. “Jesus is worth losing your family,” the pastor told me.

Then he quoted Mark 10:29–30, saying,

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come.”

David Platt, Christianity Today, October 3, 2019

Jesus is worth it. Could most American Christians say that? Americans can sit through 3 hour football games with complete focus but struggle to sit through 1 hour worship services. American Christians complain about their ADHD during a 30 minute sermon but are able to watch a 2 and a half hour movie or binge-watch 3 hours of Netflix.

The issue is not our attention span. The issue is what we love most. And, unfortunately, it’s not Jesus. To the American Christian, Jesus is not worth it. We struggle to give Jesus a few minutes of our time let alone our family. We are masters at worshipping the gods of our culture and infants when it comes to worshiping our Lord and Savior. The global church has a lot to teach us about what real devotion looks like.

Lord, please forgive us! Forgive us for breaking covenant with you. Forgive us for worshiping the gods of this culture. Forgive us for prioritizing entertainment and comfort over our love for you. Forgive us for being a church that is sleep walking. Wake us up, Lord!

If it’s You…

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Matthew 14:26-29

The disciples didn’t know it was Jesus at first. They saw something miraculous happening, a man walking on water, but they weren’t sure it was from the Lord. They weren’t sure it was Jesus. At first, they thought it might be a ghost.

Jesus reassures them that it is, in fact, Him. But they still aren’t convinced. They feel like they need some kind of proof that it’s Jesus. Peter starts with, “Lord, if it’s you…” Peter wants verification that the miraculous thing they are witnessing is Jesus and not something else.

Peter reasons that if it is really Jesus, he would be able to come to Jesus on the water. In other words, Jesus kept empowering His disciples to do what He was doing. So it makes sense that if Jesus is the one walking on water, He could also empower His disciples to do it. But if it’s just a ghost, then Peter would never be able to walk on the water.

Jesus agrees.

Jesus invites Peter to come to Him on the water. This is Jesus’s evidence that it is, in fact, Him. The disciples could have just taken Jesus at His word. But if they want evidence that Jesus is the one doing the miracle, they’ll have to take a risk and step out in faith.

All of this still applies today. So many people see a miraculous thing and wonder if it’s really Jesus. Even after Jesus shows up in miraculous ways, people still doubt it is Him. They don’t take Him at His word, so they ask for evidence. Yet, the only evidence that Jesus is willing to give comes after a step of faith. He essentially says, “Believe what I am saying is true, take a risk to try it yourself, and then you will know it is me.”

This isn’t exactly the scientific method we western Christians are used to. We wrongly assume proof will come before faith. Jesus says that it doesn’t work that way in the Kingdom. If you want proof, Jesus is glad to give it. But it will only come after a step of faith.

We say we’ll come to Him on the water if He proves to us that it is Him. He says you’ll only know it’s me after you come to me on the water. We ask Jesus to bow down to our doubts to help us believe. He refuses. He tells us to have our doubts bow down to Him in order for our faith to arise.

We actually shouldn’t be surprised by this. This is exactly what God did with Moses. God showed up to Moses in a burning bush in order to send him to rescue the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. But Moses doubted that he was the man for the job. Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?“(Exodus 3:11).

Notice how God responds.

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Exodus 3:12

Did you get that? The sign that it is God who sent Moses is that, once all the people of Israel are out of Egypt, they will worship God on that mountain. In other words, the evidence that it is, in fact, God sending Moses will only come after Moses listens to God and takes the risk to obey. We want the sign to be before we obey. God says that He’ll confirm His word with evidence but only after we obey, only after we take that step of faith.

Have you ever prayed that prayer that starts with, “God, if it’s really you….” I know I have! But we have to understand what comes next. God is okay with us asking this question, but don’t be surprised when God’s evidence that it is really Him comes after a step of faith, after an obedient action, after a risk. We so often want to obey out of certainty rather than from a place of faith.

I have found in my own life that God has given me proof after proof, evidence after evidence that it is Him! But this evidence came after I was willing to get out of the boat and take a risk to believe.

Where is God calling you to take that risk, that step of faith?