Thoughts to Ponder

Have you ever been afraid?

In 1989 at 5:04 PM on October 17th a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area. At the time I was stationed in Alameda, California, which is located between Oakland and San Francisco on the east side of the bay. I, along with my wife who was pregnant at the time with our daughter, and our two boys were at home We were living in base housing on the second floor of an older wooden framed apartment style housing unit.

I had just gotten home from work and had turned on the television to watch the bay area World Series (between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's). I heard the window start to vibrate and rattle. Just as I took a breath to yell at the boys for playing too roughly, the floor started to move. It was the first earthquake I had ever experienced but I knew instantly what was going on. My heart was gripped with fear. My wife Mylene, was in the kitchen starting supper. I attempted to get to her as I heard dishes and furniture crashing to the floor.

Only seconds had passed but it seemed like hours. I took a step toward the doorway to the kitchen but when I put my foot down the floor was no longer there and I fell. The floor was moving in waves up and down. I could see Mylene standing in the doorway to the kitchen but I could not make it to her.

They said later that the whole earthquake lasted only 20 seconds, but you could not prove that by any of us. It seemed as if the house shook for at least 15 or 20 minutes. When it was over we were all terrified. We worried that the house would collapse, or that a gas line might have broken and a fire could start. We worried that another quake would strike any moment. We were very lucky, no one in the family had been injured. In the next two weeks we had hundreds of 'after shocks' which would instantly bring back the terror of the original quake.

I have also been through two hurricanes on the east coast of the U.S. and one typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. I stood on the weather deck of an aircraft carrier and watched 30 to 50 foot waves roll towards us. You could feel the raw power of the ocean.

I told those stories to illustrate that I have been afraid and felt the power of the natural world. Have you ever been afraid? Maybe it was a violent thunder storm, or a flood, or an earthquake, or a tornado, but whatever it was I am sure you too have had that feeling of helplessness and fear.

If you are a Christian, then you believe that God created us and everything in the natural world that we see and feel. So it would hold true that you believe that God created these natural phenomena also. What I want you to think about is this: Can God create anything which is greater or more powerful then He is?

Of course not, God cannot create something that is more powerful then He is Himself. Do you think that any of God's creation could with the knowledge God gave us, create anything more powerful then God? Again, of course not.

What we have just said is that there will never be an earthquake; tornado, hurricane, typhoon, or nuclear weapon which is more powerful than God is. These things all strike fear in the hearts of human beings. We know that any or all of these could snuff out our lives at a moments notice if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We give them all respect. We show them respect by preparing for the possibility that one of them might strike us. We attempt to be prepared. If we know that a hurricane or tornado is headed towards our home, we flee or take shelter. We look at anyone who does not attempt to take shelter or take precautions as foolish.

I have been concerned lately that people have lost respect and awe for God. We can clinically say that we believe that He is more powerful than anything we have ever experienced, or can imagine, yet we treat Him like just another person we know. How often do we think before we start blurting out our prayer requests? It is God Almighty that we are addressing.

Our fear of the Lord should not be a fear based in not knowing what He might do. We do not have to worry that He will decide to harm us. Yet our fear should be based on how awesome He is and the attributes that He possesses. (Psalms 33:8-9 NIV) Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. {9} For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

To fear the Lord is to respect Him and revere Him, to in a small way understand His position compared to ours. We depend on Him for the very air that we breathe. No we do not have to fear that He will suddenly take that air away from us, but that makes us no less dependant on Him. (Psalms 34:9 NIV) Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

(Proverbs 8:12-13 NIV) "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. {13} To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."

While I was a Deputy Sheriff there were times, like everyone else, when I would have a problem with a business. It might be a late notice for a bill I had already paid, or some other minor problem. I would call them on the phone and, just like I am sure it has some times happened to you, I would be treated less like someone who is important to their business and more like a distraction from their business. I would often tell them I was busy and would be back in touch later. I would wait until it was time to go to work and put on my uniform and drive down to their business and speak to them in person. I never used my position to get my own way, however, just the fact that they saw that I was a Police Officer, would get me personalized attention. What had changed? I was the same person to whom they were rude just an hour before over the telephone, but now they were very polite and willing to help me.

It was because they realized the position I held and were somewhat in awe and fear of that position. Being a Police Officer, it was my job to support and protect them, not to harass them. If they had picked up the phone and called the Sheriff and told him I was rude to them I would have been immediately under investigation. But none of that mattered, what mattered was that they realized the authority and power that my position carried.

One more example; while I was in the military I was stationed on the USS Carl Vinson which is a nuclear aircraft carrier. When at sea the Captain of a ship has enormous power and authority. He may have to answer for what he does when he gets back to port, but while at sea he is in total control. I can remember many times when people would speak disrespectfully about the "Old Man." They always thought they could run the ship better then he could and they longed for the opportunity to tell him what they thought. Yet anytime the Captain took time out of his schedule to just walk around the ship the word would quickly pass throughout the ship and everyone would hurry to make their work place clean and acceptable. I watched as these same individuals who longed for the chance to tell the "Old Man" how to run the ship, would shake when he walked into the room. You could sense the power in the position the Captain held, even the Officers who were good at lording their authority over everyone else would act nervous around the Captain.

Is our opinion of God so much lower then that of Police Officers or other people in authority that we will give them respect and yet not give that same amount of respect to God Almighty? Oh, we claim that we respect God, we claim that He understands us and our shortcomings. We claim that God does not care about the outward things. We make lots of excuses for our lack of respect. We pat ourselves on the back and tell each other how much God loves us, as if that makes it okay to not treat Him as the Creator of the Universe.

If you and your family were invited to the White House, would you sit in the Oval Office with your kids and allow them to stick their gum under the chair seat when they are tired of chewing it? Would you allow them to run around the halls of the White House while you listened to the President? Would you allow them to put their feet up on the seat in front of them? If you were served coffee would you just drop your napkin on the floor and leave your cup under your seat when you left? Here's a tough one, if you or one of your older children smokes, would you light up a cigarette as soon as you were out the front door and when finished flick the filter into the parking lot?

Who is the President that you should respect his residence when these same things take place weekly in what we proudly claim to be God's house? Who deserves more respect? Has God ever lied to you about His relationships? Has He ever been accused of lying to a grand jury? Do you need to clarify what the meaning of is, is to understand His written word?

God does love us or He would not have sent His Son to die for our sins, but don't ever let that cause you to believe that He does not demand our obedience and our respect.

We should have a deep seated fear of God. Not that He will harm us or quit loving us, but a fear and respect that comes from knowing the authority and power which are His. We should reexamine our attitudes toward God and our view of who God is.

Some of what I have described would change if we feared God and were in awe of Him like we should be, but there is another reason why our attitudes should change towards Him. (Matthew 22:35-40 NIV) One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: {36} "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" {37} Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' {38} This is the first and greatest commandment. {39} And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' {40} All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." If we truly love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, we will quit treating Him like a second class citizen and start treating Him like He is who He is.

Here are a couple more passages which address how we are to fear the Lord our God: (Maybe we should take them to heart.) (Deuteronomy 6:1-2 NIV) These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, {2} so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.

(Deuteronomy 6:24-25 NIV) The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. {25} And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."

(Deuteronomy 31:12-13 NIV) Assemble the people--men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns--so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. {13} Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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