Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fearing God - Jill, Josh and Sarah

Jill & Josh Felix and Sarah Overmyer are leading in their second year of ministry in Wellington, New Zealand. Their team of 9 is a mixture of ICS (The Felixi), senior staff stint (Sarah), stint, national staff, and a national intern. Since it is only the second year for Student Life in Wellington, in a lot of ways they are still pioneering.

Sarah writes, "The school year started at the end of February, so action groups have only been going for a few weeks. One of the big praises this year is that the Lord has led us to students that do not have a relationship with Him but are keen to learn more about who Jesus is. One of the student women involved in one of these explorer Bible studies asked for a Bible so that she could read all of Luke over the Easter break! "

Josh adds, "As I move into my second year in New Zealand, I discover more or more how much I really don’t know about following Christ and yet God has called me to lead a staff team overseas! This year, I’ve seen a deep desire emerge in my heart and in the hearts of my teammates to truly live a missional lifestyle – where ministry is not our life, but our lives are ministry. Personally, I feel like I struggle far less with the conceptual side of following Christ than I do with the action side. And I’m not talking about the daily 'Ministry to Do' checklist, but really living out my faith day by day so that Christ would be seen and known through my life."

"As we’ve felt this tension in our hearts, we have hoped that students within our movement would begin to grapple with it as well while their own journeys to becoming disciples of Christ. To help facilitate this, we’ve formed a once-a-month gathering point (instead of a weekly meeting) to bring students together from all our campuses in Wellington to deeply explore their faith in the context of community. This evening (Fuse) entails a dinner together, a faith discussion, communion, and fellowship. Ultimately, as our student movement comes together at Fuse and other connecting times, our goal is that we are considering 'how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.' [Hebrews 10:24] We want Jesus to be known and the Gospel to be within arm’s reach of every student… everywhere."

Yesterday at the Day of Prayer, we opened by reading one of the penitential psalms, Psalm 130.
From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,

who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.
I am counting on the Lord;

yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;

for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
from every kind of sin.

This Psalm is in the group from 120 to 134 that are postexilic and were sung on the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Perhaps even Jesus as a boy of 12 sang these Psalms as his family took the pilgrimage for the Passover feast. Maybe he and the disciples sang them again before he went up the last time to Jerusalem. Kind of cool to think about.

I am struck by the oxymoron in Ps 130 that its because God forgives us that we should fear Him (or as this translation states 'learn to fear'.) It seems it may mind that I should fear God if I wasn't sure He forgave. And yet we should tremble before Him because He keeps no record of wrong... we stand in awe of a God who redeems us from every kind of sin... we learn to fear Him because in the depths of despair He hears us and with unfailing love redemption overflows. Amazing! Amazing!

When I think of 'fearing God', I am always drawn to the comparison/contrast in Exodus 20 when the assembly sees thunder, lightening and the mountain brimming with smoke and hear the trumpets and God audibly speak the 10 Commandments. Needless to say they are scared spitless.

That's how I am when I think of my sin and coming before a holy God. I would go further than Josh in saying 'I don't know much about really following Christ'. I am chief of sinners. Numero Uno. And yet from this depth of despair, I cry out to a holy awesome God!

The contrast is in Exodus 20:20 when Mose says "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." The Israelites (afraid) stayed at a distance but Moses (fearing God) approached the thick darkness where God was.

Here's some things I see from this:
~ Both look the same - throughout scripture fearing God is described as trembling before Him.
~ But being afraid of God keeps you at a distance.
~ While fearing God draws you to Him like a moth to the flame.
~ Being afraid of God, we make promises like the Israelites did to obey but with little real life change, certainly not a life worthy of Him.
~ Fearing God though brings about transformation. It keeps us from sinning.
~ Being afraid of God, we feel guilty.
~ Fearing God, we experience His mercy and unfailing love.

As Leaders we need to be like Mose. We need to fear God. We need to learn to fear Him. We need to wait on him like a sentry waits on the dawn. We need to lead others to understand His mercy in order to learn to fear Him. That's the gospel.

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