Forgiveness: The First Work (Psalm 130:4)

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Have you ever been hurt by someone? I mean really hurt. Maybe you were used, abused, attacked or rejected. Has this ever happened to you? Chances are that everyone who reads this can answer yes to the question. How did you feel when this occurred? Did you feel hurt, anger, shame, disgust, confusion? You aren’t alone. The entire world knows how this feels. But even better than that, God knows how it feels. We did these same wrong things to God and brought some of those terrible emotions upon him as well. We can trust that God knows where we are and how we feel.

However in light of our terrible actions, God chose not to act with vengeance. Instead he chose to re-establish a relationship with each of us. He did not desire a God-slave relationship, but a love relationship. This relationship never would or could be established by man. If it was going to occur, it had to be started by God. Man was unable and unwilling to change, but God who is rich in love was willing to do whatever it would take for us to return to him. God needed to provide for man a way of salvation from his condition.

But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. (Psalms 130:4)

Fear of judgement could not bring about the desired change in man’s heart. That type of fear only creates a self righteous sinner who sees himself this way because of what he does right, but at the same time blindly fails to see the abounding sinfulness of his ways. What man needed was a love relationship. Forgiveness was God’s first step towards accomplishing and establishing that love relationship.

With that work being done, man’s heart would have a fear of disappointing the God that he loves. God accomplished this condition in man’s heart through forgiveness. His forgiveness did more than remove the guilt and penalty of sin. It brought about a relationship that would change man forever. Forgiveness from God brought the right kind of fear in man. Love sought the relationship and forgiveness accomplished it.

…the greatest of these is charity (love). 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Your Life’s Garden (Psalm 128:1-2)

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Each year, I set out to have a garden and sometime late in the winter, I begin to plan what I want to grow. I plant the seeds for tomatoes in March and nurture them until early May when I plant them in the ground. Much work goes into weeding and pruning the plants, but in the later part of July, I begin to eat the fruit of my labors. What a time to enjoy. There are others who attempt the same, but because of their lack of knowledge in gardening or because of inconsistent labor, their yield of fruit is disappointing.

This is much like our spiritual lives in that we eat the fruit of our labors. Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. (Psalms 128:1-2)

Instead of planning, planting and cultivating, we need to fear The Lord. Our fear of The Lord will affect our walk and lead us to follow his ways. The bounty that comes from these two is that we will eat the fruit of our labors, which will cause us to be happy and life will be good.

However in contrast, if we fail to fear The Lord and to walk in his ways, we also will eat the fruit of our labors. We also will fail to find happiness and life will not be good. The decision is ours and by whatever decision we choose to live, we shall eat the fruit of our labors. We may try to blame the undesirable fruit that we are forced to eat on God, circumstances or other people, but the gardener in our garden is us.

If you have weeds in your life’s garden, pull them up. Turn your heart away from your way and seek The Lord. Fear him and walk in his ways. The fruit that you yield will definitely be worth it.

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Fear and Trust (Psalm 31:19)

Faith and fear: they are not always on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sometimes they work together and in cases involving our relationship with God, they are essential. God looks for individuals who fear and trust him.

Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! (Psalms 31:19)

There is a difference between being terrified by God and fearing him. As believers, God does not want us to be terrified of him. Through scripture, he conveys himself as a loving father. A loving father and someone of whom people should be terrified are contrastive characters. In other words, you will never see a loving father who has children who are terrified of him. God does not want us to be terrified of him, but he does want us to fear him. There is a big difference.

I may fear a police officer, but I am not terrified of him. I may fear a judge, but he does not terrify me. I fear fire, but I am not terrified by it. The difference is that fear causes negative emotions based on what it has the power to do if I fail to respect it. Being terrified occurs when a person without cause expects an impending doom to come upon them. God does not want us living under an expected doom, but he does want us to emotionally respond to his leading in our lives.

When we trust in God, we run to him as a refuge from the struggles and troubles of life. This pleases him because he wants to be our refuge, strength and deliver. Each time we run to him, we exercise faith in him and his ability to meet our needs. This pleases God.

When we fear and trust God, he responds to it. He promises to respond to us in goodness, which is to give us what is the very best for our lives. He wants this for everyone, but reserves it only for those who fear and trust him. This is something each of us can do and because of it, we can expect great things from God.

Your Heart Determines Your Path (Proverbs 10:17)

He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth. (Proverbs 10:17)

Our successes and failures are the results of the condition of the heart. Faith and doubt occur in the same manner. Many focus on actions, but actions can be deceiving. Jesus pointed out that even though the Pharisees diligently kept the law, they were missing the greatest part (Matthew 23:23). Their problem was not their actions so much as it was there heart. We can fall into this same trap and if true change is going to place in our lives, there must first be a change in the heart.

This passage declares the destination of two groups of people: those experiencing life as intended by The Lord and those in error. Both can be saved people as well as kind, likable, helping, caring and lovable. Their disposition will not determine what they experience in life, but instead their heart’s attitude towards correction.

The secret to experiencing the best that God has to offer you is to respond positively to his correction. The term instruction in this passage also means chastisement and is reflected again in the latter portion of the verse as reproof. The way to life is gained by guarding closely what God says to you as he provides corrective instruction. This instruction may come through preaching, personal bible study or an admonition from a peer. Subsequently the direct way to a life of error is to refuse reproof. Each of these responses take place in the heart of the believer. The former reflects a “fear The Lord” attitude while the other has an attitude of pride.

Your path of life may be set by The Lord, but it will be gained or determined by your heart and in particular how you respond to correction.

Fear The Lord (Psalm 147:11)

As a kid growing up, did you try to satisfy your parents? Many of us strove to bring them satisfaction by getting good grades in school or by displaying proper behavior. However there were some who sought to bring satisfaction by engaging in activities that interested a parent. I wonder how many boys have played ball as a means of satisfying their father. Their reasoning may have been since baseball means everything to him, then if I am good at baseball, I too will mean everything to him. That situation or anything similar to it is a sad state to be in. Thanks be to God that we do not need to live in that manner to be pleasing to our father in Heaven.

What brings pleasure or satisfaction to God is when we fear him. Fearing him and being afraid of him are not the same thing. When we fear him, we have great respect for him. Many men enjoy hunting and when they do, they have great respect for the rifle or shotgun in their hand. They recognize that it is not a toy, but something to be feared. Those who enjoy cooking recognize that the stove or any other appliances can be very helpful, but at the same time can be dangerous and cause great harm if not used carefully.

I first recognized this term when I worked at a steel mill in eastern Pennsylvania. While making steel, there were times when additional scrap metal or ingredients needed to be added to the furnace. For this to occur, a mechanical arm would remove the top of the furnace similar to removing the top from a pot on the stove. When ingredients were added to the molten mixture, flames would shoot 50-60 feet in the air. It was a dangerous time. As a safety precaution, each time the lid was removed an extremely loud siren would blast through the building. When I heard that sound, I would immediately stop what I was doing and check my location to where the furnace and crane would be. It was a moment of fear, but I was not afraid. In fear of the situation, I took precautions to make sure my actions would keep me safe.

We can fear The Lord by following the same precautions. As situations arise in life, we need to step back and take a moment to recognize God’s voice and to gain his perspective as to how we should act or respond to those circumstances: to make sure that the action we do will be safe or pleasing to him. When we do, we are fearing The Lord. God does not want us to be afraid of him. He wants us to love him. However, he does want us to fear or respect him each moment of our daily lives. It is at that moments when we fear him that our lives are pleasing to him.