Posts Tagged ‘awe’

I struggled with this one verse today. It’s going to be a slow trip to I Peter at this rate. Although I have come to peace with the idea of “fear” of God as awe and so forth, this verse is pulling me into new territory: downright fear of God who is not just my friend & Savior, but also sovereign.

I Peter 1:17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

I kept reading this verse over and over again trying to find a way out. I even checked some of the commentaries and a few blogs. It’s a challenge; it’s not warm and fuzzy with words like judgment and fear as pillars of the verse.

In the end, I found a wonderful blog post by Terry Hamblin (Mutations of Mortality) on this same verse. And I have to thank him for opening me up to accepting this verse at face value and allowing that to resonate in my soul. Amazingly enough, he quotes one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than me or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” asked Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And that’s the point. We must remember that God is God and not our “chum.” God is loving and we, as believers, enjoy the safety of his mercy and grace, but God is also just and cannot be mocked or toyed with.

As much as I like to talk about God within and the Kingdom of heaven within and all of that, I must also remember that there is part of God without, that bigger God Being that envelopes all that is. Power is too small a word.

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Kingdom Within by Raymond Andrews

Jesus speaks innumerable times about the kingdom of God, what it’s like, where it is, and what it means to His followers. But it is in Hebrews where we are reminded that this is an unshakeable (indestructible) kingdom: eternal and purified by fire (and blood).

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Over the past few years, as I have methodically read through the New Testament and looked for personal applications, I have become more and more secure in my belief that this kingdom of God is not of the 3-D world we can see and touch but it is in that “other” reality – that place within, that place outside our senses, that place of Holy Spirit, that place that defies logic and that place which was opened to humankind through the mediation of the Christ/Messiah whose act of sacrifice tore the veil asunder [Matthew 27:51].

I try to imagine the power and glory that was on Mount Sinai, where the Israelites fled from Egypt and stood to hear from their God, what they should do next. And from there, they wandered the desert, carrying the “glory of God” with them in the Ark of the Covenant. And finally, with King David and his son, Solomon, the great temple was built in Jerusalem and the ark was given a final resting place in the Holy of Holies [II Chronicles 7:1], where only the high priest could enter once a year. This is all symbolic and intentional.

Now, the Messiah comes, the veil is torn, the ark is opened and all of this glory is placed within the kingdom and we are invited to participate in it through the Christ.

Is this not worthy of awe and reverence?

Despite all the horrendous things the Church may have done throughout the centuries, the cathedrals they built to immortalize our King make sense. I know they were not built in a righteous way, the poor were taxed and unholy deals were made with the rich, but there is a breath of God that remains in these places even today.

Whenever I visit a city that has a cathedral, I want to go. I want to walk through and sit and be silent there. I am awed in these places.

Of course, there are nature locations that give the same feeling: water falls, canyons, hot springs, lakes, oceans, forests, mountains… just to name a few.

As much as I enjoy contemporary Christian worship, there is a part of me that misses the wonder, the intense quiet, and the Holy Presence that permeates high church worship.

If I could describe that kingdom within me (which is impossible) but perhaps, just a color, a shape, a smell, a sound: what would it be? I don’t know. I just don’t really know.

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“Fear and trembling” is closer to “awe & trembling.” But when does this happen? Supposedly, when God is present within. Just think: in former times, mere angels brought humans to their knees; while we have gotten more and more nonchalant about the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:12b-13
. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

For awe and trembling to happen, we got to keep the veil off, the walls down, and the blinders open. It’s the opposite of a hardened heart [Mark 8:17]: it’s about wisdom, knowledge and understanding. And love.

The only times I can discern authentic “fear and trembling” are the times I encounter true God within. I may be overcome but these are the opportunities I have to respond to the Spirit’s leading, to enter the will of God and to act according to the Spirit’s direction in order to experience the results.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, in fact, infrequent. Theoretically, I want to seek the truth of it, this fear and trembling. And yet, my every day world does not lend itself to phantasms and inner miracles. I am so rooted in my three-dimensional world.

It all goes back to a misbelief: what I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, smell with my nose, touch with my hand, or taste with my mouth, is more substantial than the spirit realm, that spacious inner world like the interior of Perkins’s tent in the Harry Potter stories.

This is the secret place really, isn’t it?

It is so rare to find something or someone that instills an awe response. Instead, there are situations that make us afraid like natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, etc.) and we fear evil actions of people-types like terrorists or gang members or sociopaths. But the age of kings is over. Perhaps, for some people, the Pope continues to inspire, but this awe is predictably denomination-based. In order to meet the Queen of England, one must abide by a series of formalities and social codes, but it’s not like we are doing them out of awe, it’s just protocol. In some ways, movie stars and sports figures seem to garner the highest honors. I remember well those Beatles concerts: the screaming, the mania, the insanity, and yes, the awe. What does that say about our culture?

And yet, it’s pretty darn hard to come up with a little awe for God. Some say that nature, like mountains and oceans and forests, can strike an awe point. But only for so long, and then we go back to our cubbies, our back yards, and our TV sets.

Everyone is pleased as punch that we can show up for church now in jeans and t-shirts. Casual is in. Jesus is our friend, our brother, our pal. Oh yes, we love to sing the worship songs, in between sips of coffee and layered gum.

There is a warning here then, not so dissimilar to “Be Alert!” in Ephesians. If we are not experiencing “awe and trembling” by the interior presence of God’s Spirit, then who is in there?

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Luke 19:44b
“…They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

“If it was a snake, it would have bit me.” That’s an old Southern saying about missing something in plain sight. Will I miss God today? So often, when we talk about being in awe of God (“fearing God”), we remember an amazing nature scene or something cataclysmic that shows God’s power or, perhaps it’s something man-made, but of such beauty, that we are sure it is inspired by God. But, what about the ordinary? What about the rocks in the road that would have cried out when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week of his sacrifice. They recognized God in Christ.

Jerusalem was a city of sophistication. There was culture, knowledge, money, power, and much, much more. And yet, the people did not recognize God coming. They had stopped looking. They accepted the normal flow of things and people and commerce, but didn’t really see.

Open my eyes today, Lord, that I might see You. Open my ears… Open my heart. Let me see You in the ordinary.

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