Fear of the Lord, Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” — Proverbs 9:10 (ESV), emphasis mine.


If I could summarize the Gospel in four words: “People sin, Jesus saves.” There may be a little more to it, but in order to understand and embrace the Gospel, you must understand and embrace that 1) human beings are sinful and 2) Jesus Christ is their one hope at life.

The Gospel is the central message of the Bible, the hinge on which the entire book turns. Proverbs 9:10 is one of those beautiful verses that supports and illuminates the Gospel, bridging the Old Testament to the New while offering spiritual insight that is relevant to our daily living.

It is also a wonderful exercise in contending with a passage that may, at first, seem unintuitive. After all, if we view the Lord as our friend and advocate, the one who saves and heals, our hope and our light — why on Earth should we feel fear in our approach?


We all want wisdom, right?

It can be difficult to define, much less truly grasp. I think my favorite way of putting it may be, “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is keeping it out of your fruit salad anyway.”


“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

This line of dialogue, written by C.S. Lewis for the character Mr. Beaver in his fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, refers to the lion Aslan, the Christ figure in the story. It is a nifty little way to frame our perspective of God.

He is very powerful, after all. Able to create the universe, begin and end lives, set the elaborate course of his will into motion. If nothing else, maybe we should fear him because of his great power.

At the very least, it would serve us to be curious. What does such a powerful person want from us, for us? What is his motivation? His character?

Of course, God’s character is revealed to us in the Bible. We learn that God loves us, deeply and sacrificially. We learn that God is holy, despising sin and longing for our righteousness.

And, ah, that is the catch: In the Bible, we also learn of our own character, and that we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard.

It is in this grand dichotomy that wisdom proves truly useful and fear of the Lord truly reasonable.

In His good character, he despises sin. In our fallen character, we embody sin.

If the story ended there, we would be hopeless, and right to fear God in every way. But because we can place our hope in Jesus, we understand that this is the beginning of our wisdom, and not its end.


I should probably stop here, and cut this blog post off as a tidy reflection on a verse I am fond of. Feel free to take your exit now, yourself, if you would like.

But if you will indulge me, reader, I have an analogy in mind, concerning this passage, that I would like to share.

There is a kingdom, peaceful and prosperous, ruled by a wise and powerful King. The citizens of this Kingdom enjoy lives of unparalleled quality and harmony.

You are one of these citizens. You recognize your great fortune, to live in this great Kingdom, in the rule of such a great King. The King has managed to perform remarkable feats of governance and leadership, resulting in outstanding results throughout his territory.

His reputation is truly beyond reproach. All who deal with him agree that he is somehow fair yet generous, brilliant yet simple. Those in his presence feel his strength palpably, yet also recognize an inherent grace about his manner. Even his skeptics, after a single encounter, are stunned at the sincerity of their own conversions.


You have heard a peculiar rumor about this King, and the stories about him tend to ring with a resounding truth. You have heard:

He abhors the color blue.

This sounds so unusual, for this figure of nobility and wisdom to harbor a hatred for a hue, but there it is. He hates blue. You have heard so many stories, from multiple sources, that he will not tolerate a shred of the color, even a mere glimpse. Apparently, he will immediately and completely obliterate any trace of it he discovers.

And the more you consider this rumor, the more reason you find to believe it. You see the castle he lives in, clad in rich golds and crimson, maybe the occasional ivory — but certainly nothing even close to resembling a blue. You see those whom he considers his friends, even his children, and not a smidge of blueness can be found on their persons. You start to realize that, within the King’s purview, the color blue is not really to be found anywhere in his sight that you can think of.

As you begin to reconcile yourself with the truth of what you have heard, you are abruptly summoned to a meeting with the King. The King himself! You are humbled, and elated, and nervous, but soon you are hit with a truly deep-seated worry. Wide-eyed, you consider yourself and your surroundings.

The color blue is not exactly prominent in your home, but there are bits of it there. You wonder if you could cover them, if the King decided to drop in for a visit.

You do not use the color blue at work very much, but it has not been entirely absent from your labors either. You wonder, if the King were to ask your coworkers, about your habits and behaviors, if it would eventually rise in the conversation as evidence against you.

You have noticed the color blue among your friends, but said nothing. Would the King meet this with disapproval?

How total is his intolerance toward blue, anyway? Will he mind if you once wore blue outfits frequently? If the color is ever-present within the private recesses of your own mind? Does he really kill, on the spot, those caught with even just one thread of blue on their person?

And as you prepare for your meeting with the King, as you sweat and try to cover blue-tinged stains and hide blue-shaded things, as you consider even the color of the blue in your veins and the specks of your eyes and the traces of your memory and the words that pass through your lips…

… would you not, in your approach of Him, feel a little bit of fear?


“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” — Phillipians 2:12 (ESV)

“And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear…” — Isaiah 11:3 (ESV).

Thoughts on My Tallness

I am tall, I guess.

I like to say that I am 6’4″. To be completely truthful, though, I would have to say that I am 6’3″. I definitely clear 6’3″. I am somewhere between the two.


I do not typically think of myself as “tall.” In fact, I remember the distinct moment I had to confront the reality of my tallness.

We were at a McDonald’s, myself and my wife. We were seated at one of the tables, and from our vantage point could see a modest cluster of people waiting in line to order.

One of these was a gentleman who was noticeably tall, a full head above the small crowd around him.

I found this to be amusing enough to mention to Molly. I indicated the man, and said something to the effect of, “Wow, that guy’s really tall, huh?”

She gave me a hesitant, blinking, are-you-serious sort of look.

“Uh, you realize he’s about your height, right?” she said.

I was struck. Honestly, until that moment, I had never realized — I am the guy who sticks out, noticeably tall, in a typical crowd.


Occasionally, being tall is a hazard. The most prominent example, in my mind, is the time I hit my head on a doorway (“ran into” would be accurate) at the church I grew up in. I hit it hard enough to bleed a little. It hurt.

One could quip, “That explains a lot.”


A nice bonus of being tall is being able to navigate crowds more easily. At events such as a state fair or an amusement park, it is difficult for me to lose a group if I am walking with them; or, at least, if I lose someone, it is easier to find them.

I am your go-to ‘spotter’ in these situations. Wondering where so-and-so wandered off to? Let me peer over the sea of humans. Ah, yes. I see her, over there, getting a funnel cake.


I can see the tops of refrigerators. I imagine some people live their whole lives without gazing upon that world.


The Bible brings up height in several passages. Saul, Zacchaeus, Goliath, the Nephilim (whom my small group has joked ‘were just Dutch’), etc.


I do not mind being tall.


Reading With My Daughter

Charlotte is 20 months old. Tomorrow, in fact, marks 21 months out of the womb.


She is in a phase right now where she loves reading; or, at least, being read to. She certainly takes active participation, though. She will point at familiar objects and name them, such as “baby” or “doggy.”

With some items, there is even an element of make-believe at play, in which we physically interact with the book’s representation of an item. For example, in the classic Good Night Moon, there is a “bowl of mush” referenced a couple times. On one page, it is featured prominently, large and centered. She will smirk at me and point to the bowl of mush, indicating that she wants me to ‘eat’ it.

So I bring the book to my face, and playfully gobble at the mush. Then Charlotte wants her turn. She will lean her little head in, and make a quiet gobbling noise at the mush.

If a book has a baby in it, she may want to lean in and kiss the baby.

She may want me or her mom to name multiple animals, or she may want to consistently find the same animal across different pages. If the book has dancing in it, she may want to dance along, in her own way.

She enjoys reading, yes. Not only will she bring me or her mother a book to read, but she will usually want it to be read a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And…

But her daddy very much enjoys these sessions as well. If she wants me to read Good Night Moon eight times in a row, then darn it, I will savor every second. Well, ideally I will, anyway. Her daddy is not always a perfect, patient daddy.

Really, I do want to savor these moments. I sense the value in them. Having fun is great, but doing so while truly bonding is even better. And the formative aspects are wonderful as well.

If it is a book I know fairly well (which can happen, when your kid has made you read the same book four dozen times this week, right?), I will sometimes say the words on the page — but watch her face as I ‘read.’

I like to see what catches her gaze, whether she is focusing intensely on something or letting her eyes flicker about, whether she is looking towards a general area or for a specific subject.

I like to consider the associations she is already forming, both positive and negative. I like to think about the chemistry in her brain, the nerves, and what connections are already being strengthened through repetition into what will one day hopefully form healthy habits.

I know you cannot hinge all your hopes on a session of reading children’s books. Yet, there is a hope there nonetheless, a quiet-yet-mighty force in her person.

I hope our mutual love of reading, as a family, will remain a mighty force for years to come.

Two quick updates in Bible study life

Life is never dull, eh? I feel like my life is in a near-constant state of busyness nowdays — I am sure many can relate.

Right now, there are two oncoming changes in my routine that I am glad for, that represent a shift in how I will be tackling the discipline of studying scripture.

New small group study: God’s Devil

Our small group just received our copies of the book God’s Devil, by Erwin W. Lutzer, and will be going through it together. It is supposed to be about the place of the devil in God’s plan, which is clearly a tricky subject to tackle.

Spiritual warfare is always an interesting, compelling subject; although I have not really dove deeply into this particular book yet, it makes a rather provocative point early on: “You cannot have sound theology without sound demonology.”

So, hey, let’s study more about Satan. Sure, why not? A lot of Christians tiptoe around the topic, and that can be dangerous. So too, though, is the tendency of some to grant Satan too much power. Ultimately, Christ prevails. This should be an enjoyable course of study.

New at church: Teaching the Westminster Catechism to high school students

Okay, this is a big one. Since 2008, I have been helping to teach the grade-school students at church. It was just once a month, but it was certainly a consistent responsibility and a colorful part of our church life as a family.

However… that age group has always been a weakness for me. As much as I love teaching roles, and as equipped as I am to adapt messages for different target audiences, I just cannot muster a passion for facilitating spiritual discussion with 8-year-olds. It is not my gift. I recognize.

So when the opportunity kinda opened for me to politely say “hey um can I do this” about teaching the middle/high schoolers instead, I made inquiries, largely thanks to encouragement from my wife. And, here we are, I start on Sunday!

The Westminster Catechism may be a head-scratcher of a subject for many people (why the heck would you devote a weekly class to that? = a fair question), but I feel so good and warm about it. I grew up with the Heidelberg Catechism myself, so I am excited that this will even just be a great opportunity for my own personal growth in knowledge.

But even besides that, I am thrilled to be put back in a room with teenagers, an age group I have always had a lot more zeal for, and prior awesome experiences. I am looking forward to amazing conversations, along with my own gains in spirituality as well.

Fun stuff!

On the Nature of Humans and Their Guns

I am no great authority, and claim no superior wisdom. I just have thoughts.

“When did our country get like this?”

I have read a couple social media posts like this today, and I can only answer: When human beings began living in it. As long as humans occupy a space, awful acts will happen in that space. This is a perpetual truth, with a veracity that is interdependent of your distaste for it. In other words: It is absolutely true, even if you do not like my saying so.

Whether it is violence against indigenous, blacks, gays, etc. — brains too small to comprehend individuality will overemphasize differences in groups and labels to a potentially dangerous extent. You can certainly see a history of this violence in America, along with acts more random in their targeting as well. I see no reason why it would cease any time soon.

Intellectual honesty

For Americans to claim there is no solution to mass shootings is to ignore the existence of entire countries where they occur at a statistically significantly lower rate. For example, Canada and Australia, combined, had 5 mass shootings in the years 2000 through 2014. If there were less guns, there would be less shootings. That is math, not ideology. Let me address any counterpoints with a single, simple question: In a world with 0 guns, how many shootings would there be?

Of course, in America, yanking guns away from its citizenry is no longer a realistic measure nor a politically attractive message. I just wish those who were so passionate about guns would be honest enough to admit that mass shootings occur because of them. There is plenty of room for great conversation around opinions such as “I believe Americans should have the right to own firearms, but mass shootings are terrible.” I can respect such a view (and basically hold it myself). However, I would remind people that the ideas of gun rights and gun consequences are inseparable: As long as people own guns, some of those people will use them to murder other people. If you believe those people should have the right to own the guns they are using to murder others, at some point you have had to either reconcile this inseparability with yourself or you have ignored it altogether.

I suspect that many “gun nuts” have a fondness for weapons that outweighs their compassion. I wonder if one could be honest, then, and say, “Hey, I do not mind if there are mass shootings. I understand this is an inevitable consequence of humans having guns. I just believe that the benefit I gain from having one myself is greater than such costs incurred elsewhere.” Some probably have, to some extent or another, I guess.

Phrases such as “guns don’t kill people” are meant to instill a sense that guns have no inherent moral standing, that they are merely a tool like a hammer or a screwdriver that is potentially misused for violence by a wielder of ill intent. Consider, though, that the intended function of a gun is to harm. Again, I am not entirely anti-gun; after all, if you need to bring deadly force on a target, a gun can be a very effective option. I suspect that the most staunchly pro-gun advocate would still at least agree with the idea that guns are to be taken seriously, not lightly.

The nature of guns is perfectly suited to the nature of humanity: Both are inevitably destructive.

Anything can be an idol. I do not believe it would be a stretch to say that many Americans worship guns, and/or the country itself. The bizarre juxtaposition that America often has between its militant patriotism and its God-Bless-America Christianity is an odd brew, for sure. I often get the feeling that many Americans would be surprised to learn that the Bible has very little to say about this country, specifically. The sentiment that God should bless America in some special sense is a strange one.

Again: I am not saying America is not a great country full of fantastic things. I am grateful to live here. I have no intentions to move out, no matter who wins the big election. I think it is okay to have a nuanced, admit-its-faults opinion of this country, or often other subjects, rather than immediately kneejerk to one side of a very black-and-white spectrum.

Neither ‘side’ of these debates are ever innocent, after all, as much as they like to act like they are. Seeing people call for Muslims not to be judged as a whole due to the actions of one seem to conveniently forget this sentiment when railing against Christianity, but any Christian who believes a difference in faith makes all of that faith’s members perfect are profoundly unaware of the message of the Word they purport to follow. Lord knows Christians spew plenty of venom following violent events.

Looking ahead

As I have tried to make clear: I can respect responsible gun ownership, I can be fond of America, I just feel a little saddened by some of the thoughts I see expressed out there, too. A world without guns would have a lot less shootings — but I can acknowledge the reality of the complex world we do live in, the one with guns, one that has many different issues intersecting with any particular person or time. Lots of people who are passionate about lots of things may be served well to take a breath and consider their words before lashing out in response to the latest news cycle.

Perhaps I am possibly only adding fuel to the fire by blogging about such issues. I am a cynic, but I also believe people are capable of greatness, I promise. I am imperfect. I do not have supreme answers. But many seem to think that they do, and that is disheartening. I would love to see more people admit that stuff is complicated and they do not know everything. Saddest to me, though, might be my fellow believers who are quicker to jump to the defense of guns than they are to the cause of Christ.

So I have to wonder: As a Christian, what is my proper response to tragedy? There is room for thought and conversation there, as well. There will be other opportunities, for sure.


“But avoid foolish controversies…” — Titus 3:9.

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” — Isaiah 40:8.

“… what does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8.

Three thoughts on the internet and socialization

I think

1) The internet, by enabling instant access to people and information regardless of physical location, has been so monumental in shifting world culture that we have only barely begun to comprehend the extent of its impact.


2) There will be cumulative consequences to society as we encourage more and more people to be able to essentially live their lives entirely without face-to-face human contact. As flesh-and-blood beings who exist in a real space and take part in a “complex whole” of populated organization largely built by these empirical interactions, there will inevitably be unforeseen effects.


3) There are surprising ways that the online ecosystem actually enhances moments of personal compassion in ways that the offline cannot [ as readily ]. One example I have considered: Increasingly, you can find Twitter accounts of people who are now deceased. I would have never known of their existence had it not been for the internet, and by browsing their feed, I am offered a much closer look at their life than what would be available in a simple obituary, thus adding to the impact of their absence.

Stuff is complicated, yo.

The Curious Case of Small Children

Kids are generally curious, right? Like, that’s an accepted fact as to how they naturally are? I’m still learning this stuff.

I suppose it makes sense, with an amount of inevitability: Although the world around them does not really change in size, their abilities to comprehend it grow continually, thus lending an increasing sense of scale and pleasant wonder to it all, which serves as self-incentive for further discovery.

As they see more, they want to see even more.


Seeing this wide-eyed wonder in my 16-month-old daughter, Charlotte, has been awesome. She seems to be so curious in all situations. I got to spend some quality Daddy Time with her recently and, even just in our own backyard, it was a delight to see how she explores the environment around her.

The sandbox is serious business.
The sandbox is serious business.

I didn’t think I’d be fond of this age. The joke with Molly about our kids was always, “Hey, you’re good with little kids, you can have ’em when they’re babies, I’ll come back into their life when they’re about 12 or so.”

Part of it, I think, was simply that I enjoy words — and I thought, if I can’t have a conversation with my child, I won’t be able to form as earnest of a connection.

That was dumb. I have a lot to learn, clearly, because even though Charlotte isn’t quite talking yet (she can sure babble, at least), she expresses herself quite well; not only in her vocalizations, but in her body language, her expressions, even the choices she makes. The same way we all do, I guess.

A partner in crime!
A partner in crime!


"A girl and her dog."
“A girl and her dog.”

She’s growing up too fast.

Rather, I guess the rate at which she is growing up is perfectly fine and appropriate, but I wish I could savor these years a bit longer. That’s normal too, right? Every week we notice new steps she is taking developmentally, new things she is trying and enjoying, new syllables she figures out and new ways she can throw a whiny fit.


Seriously, I was anxious about trying to be a father at this age. I was nervous. I still don’t think I’m doing super well, maybe in some areas, but on a simple level, I definitely like it a lot more than I thought I would.

Charlotte is old enough now to approach me with a book, and make it clear that she wants me to read it to her, and climb into my lap when I sit down to do so. And that sort of interaction means the world to me, already.

Little girl, big world.
Little girl, big world.

In a way, I get to be the curious one, the wide-eyed child again, learning an entire universe of New Stuff that other people (hi there, veteran parents) already find very basic. Of course it means a lot to you when your kid says “Daddy!” and wants to spend time with you. Duh.

So, yeah, the time passes too quickly, but I will savor what I can now, and I truly do look forward to future steps taken together.

Parenting is pretty awesome.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:3