He Creates. He Destroys.

Fear the Lord.

Proverbs 1

Saturday, July 16, 2022 

                “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,  but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

                The Hebrew word yir-aw can be translated fear, terror, reverence, respect, piety.  We are to fear, be in terror of, reverence, respect, show piety to God.

            But God doesn’t really want us to fear Him, does he?  Isn’t God all about love and grace and mercy and forgiveness?  Why should we fear God?

            Jesus knew God, his heavenly father better than any human being has ever known God, and here is what Jesus had to say: “Never be afraid of those who can kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul! Far better to stand in awe of the one who has the power to destroy body and soul in the fires of destruction!” (Matthew 10:28 JB Phillips translation of New Testament).  That’s what Jesus said about his own Dad.  Ever heard of the, “My dad can beat up your dad” game?  Jesus says, “Wise up people, my Dad can throw you into the lake of fire where you will be completely destroyed forever.”

            Of course God want us to love him.  God longs to have a loving personal relationship with all of His children.  God loves us so much that he allowed his perfect and sinless son to endure the betrayal and beatings and crucifixion and agonizing death on the cross so that we might have salvation and not be cast into the lake of fire which consumes all those who reject God’s grace and mercy through Christ.  God’s love is 100.  If you need a reminder of this go back to Thursday’s reading “His love/mercy/faithfulness endures forever.”  That’s where God wants every single one of us to end up, fully surrendered to His divine love for us.

            But not everyone is there yet.  In order to fully love God we need to know God.  God is powerful beyond words.  God speaks the word and trillions of galaxies are birthed.  Stars with planets swirling about them.  God speaks the word and living things come into being, plants, birds, fish, mammals.  God scoops up a pile of mud and blows into it and a human person is created.  God rolls back a stone and sends forth his spirit and the dead Jesus comes to life everlasting.  That same powerful God speaks a word and a star explodes.  That same powerful God speaks a word and the earth shakes, volcanos erupt, powerful winds swirl and destroy all that is in their path.

            When God was leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt they were terrified to go near the mountain where God came down to speak to them.  After Moses was in God’s presence receiving the ten commandments his face was glowing and the people were afraid to come near Moses because he had been near God.

            To truly Love God we must know God, and to know God means to recognize his unimaginable power to both create and destroy.  In Jude 7 Jesus’ younger brother writes: “ Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”  Yes, our loving God, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16) is the same God who completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sexual immorality and perversion.  I’m not making this stuff up, it’s there in the Bible.

            I love God, but it took some time to get there.  Before I could truly love God I had to know who God is and I had to understand that God, who is capable of such great love, is also capable of destroying those who rebel against him and his word.  Fear and Love are not mutually exclusive.

            A great old hymn by Isaac Watts begins:

“Before Jehovah’s aweful throne,

ye nations, bow with sacred joy;

know that the Lord is God alone:

he can create, and he destroy.”

To know God is to know that he can both create and destroy.  To know God is to know that he is capable of incredible acts of love and mercy, and the power to destroy those who reject his love.

I like a lot of modern worship music, and yet, I think too much modern worship focuses only on God’s love and mercy and grace, grace, grace.    Maybe some of the old hymns need to be dusted off and revisited.  We need to be reminded that “he can create and he can destroy” because the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” and God knows our world is running way short of wisdom these days.

Isaac Watts hymn started with God’s aweful throne and a reminder that he can create and destroy, but it ended with God’s love:

Wide as the world is thy command,

vast as eternity thy love;

firm as a rock thy truth must stand,

when rolling years shall cease to move.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but it ends with Love for those who embrace all of who God is.

-Jeff Fletcher

Reflection Questions:

1.        What is your favorite Love passage of the Bible?

2.       What passage in the Bible really scares you?

3.       How can you hold these two polarities in your mind?


Psalm 100

Tuesday, July 12, 2022  

            I love going to baseball games in a packed stadium full of loud and excited fans.  The same could be said for football, basketball, hockey or even soccer (but I’ve never been to a professional soccer game).  I’ll stick with baseball since it’s my favorite and I just went to a Washington Nationals game a few days ago.

            In sports they talk about having “the home team advantage”.  That comes with having the energy of thousands of cheering fans joining together to encourage you at just the right time, spurring you on, giving you that extra boost of adrenaline or confidence.  Who doesn’t get an extra boost by hearing people enthusiastically offer you encouragement?  If you’re on the pitching mound and your trying to get that last out, and 50,000 people are screaming for  you with every pitch, it has to give your fastball just a little extra pop.

            Games have their own rhythm and language. It’s very similar to a worship experience:  The National Anthem followed by the announcement of the line-up is like the call to worship.  The program is kind of like the bulletin.  There’s a big screen with information on it just as many churches have on the wall behind the pastor.  Instead of bread and wine for communion they serve beer/coke and hot dogs.  And just watch what people do when their team hits a home run- they stand up and raise their hands in the air and shout, just like they do in Church with a big hallelujah during a worship song.  When you go to games regularly you see the rhythm of the game and can anticipate what’s coming. (Be sure to stand up in the 7th inning for the stretch).  At times, they flash instructions up on the score board: “Let’s Go Nats” with a loud organist leading a kind of call and response.

            Psalm 100 is a powerful Psalm which instructs us in how to worship God.  It contains seven commands: Shout!, Worship, Come, Know, Enter, Give Thanks, Praise Him.

            There are certainly times and places when silence and solitude are very appropriate and meaningful forms of worship, but there are also times when God wants his people to rock the rafters off the room of the house.  Here God’s people are instructed to get loud and let the world know how great God is.  Don’t keep it to yourself, shout!

            The word for worship has to do with both worship and service.  Our public worship is united with our daily service to God.   We are to worship and serve God with gladness.  Worship and service are not a duty that we have to do, but a joy that we get to do.  Just as I go and happily cheer on my favorite baseball team (the Nationals), I get to come and worship my great and mighty God.

            Come before Him with joyful songs is a reminder of the importance of gathering.  In ancient Israel the people would come from all over the nation and beyond to gather at the temple of Jerusalem to praise and celebrate God.  Sure, I like watching baseball on a 60 inch flat screen t.v. with surround sound in my recliner, but it’s still not the same energy I get when I sit in a stadium with 40,000 people on a Saturday afternoon in June when the stadium is shaking and my ears are ringing.  During Covid lockdowns many were forced to worship in front of a computer screen, and that was better than not worshipping at all, but nothing beats coming together with other believers to sing joyful songs.  The Greek word for Church: ecclesia means literally “the assembly.”  True church needs to come together.

            The center command in Psalm 100 is to know.  Know that the Lord is the God who made us and that we are his people.  Jesus said that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  To know God with our mind means that we think about God, who He is and what He has done for us, his people.  We are blessed to have a written record- the Bible, coupled with the verbal record- the testimony of others so that we continue to know God with our minds and have God shape our thinking.

            The fifth command is enter His gates.  There is no longer a temple in Jerusalem for us to enter to worship, but we have Jesus and his Church as the true and living temple.  When we gather in the name of Jesus to bring worship to God we are entering his gate.

            We enter those gates to worship with thanksgiving.  Gratitude to God is foundational to true worship.  Failing to be grateful to God leads to all kinds of sin and brokenness.  Paul said it very clearly in Romans 1: 21,”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. “  When we fail to give thanks to God and give God the glory it ruins our thinking and our hearts.  Take time every day to give thanks to God.

            The seventh and final command is Praise Him.  When someone hits the ball over the fence, everyone stands and cheers.  When the pitcher strikes out three in a row everyone stands and cheers.  The energy of the teammates and fans really does lift a player.  I had the benefit of watching the Nationals during the 2019 season when they won the World Series.  They were the most celebrated team: the crowd shouted, they danced, they screamed, they cheered and 40,000 people did the “baby shark” together.  I saw that team literally come back time and time again to win because the level of praise was so great.  If we can scream and shout and praise a man for hitting a home run or throwing a strike out, how much more can we praise the one who made us and gave us not only the gift of life today, but the hope of everlasting life in his coming Kingdom.

-Jeff Fletcher

Reflection Questions:

  1.  How much shouting do you do in worship?  If not much, what’s holding you back?
  2. What difference does it make to you in worship when you come together with other believers instead of just being alone?
  3. How often to do you tell God, “Thank You”?  Do you want to show your gratitude more to God?  What’s keeping you from doing it?
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