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Faith Moment
January 6, 2014
The Fear of God

Years ago in the New Yorker, H. G. Wells wrote a story about an Episcopalian clergyman. The bishop was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, "Have you prayed about it?" When said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things. The bishop himself didn't pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat package.

But one day, life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overburdened by a multitude of problems. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take his own advice. Maybe he should pray.

So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. He folded his hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he was). Then he began to pray.

He said, "O God," and suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?"

The next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face.

What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face.

Prayer provides us with direct access to God Almighty. He has promised to be present when we pray. He has promised to answer. But it occurs to me that we may, at times, avoid sincere prayer for fear that we might actually encounter a God who would overwhelm us and judge us for our imperfections.

Perhaps we need a new understanding of the character of the God to whom we pray. The book of Exodus tells the story of Moses’ personal encounter with God, and it paints a very different picture than that painted by Wells’ story.

Moses had begged to meet God in person. Finally, the Lord agreed to pass by and show His back while Moses stood protected in a cleft in the mountainside. God had an opportunity here to reveal His true identity – to communicate for the ages what is in His heart toward His people. As He passed by, he spoke these words about Himself:
 
6….“I am the LORD, I am the LORD, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. 7I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Exodus 34:6-7 NLT

Amazing! When God identifies Himself, the words He uses are: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, unfailing love, faithfulness, forgiving. Words of love. Words from a tender Father.

As we begin a new year, we can count on a new set of problems and trials. We will need to pray. We will need to come face to face with God. But we need not fear. We’re meeting with our merciful and gracious Father, and He is anxiously awaiting the conversation.

With Love,
Mike

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