Homework was done, chores were done, so I headed out to the greenbelt to meet up with my best bud, Mike Hanson. Mike was a scrawny, wiry kid, filled with spit and vinegar. His mom was Mexican and his dad was Irish. He seemed to possess the stereotypical temper from both nationalities. Mike and I shared the same 10-year-old’s passions of baseball, football, Legos, bike riding, sci-fi films and Atari 2600. Today it was football. Mike brought the ball, because he had gotten an official Wilson “TD” NFL ball for his birthday.

There were no other kids around to join in on our pick-up game, so with a little creativity and with our imaginations running wild, we formulated the scenario for our Super Bowl Game. Rams vs. Steelers.  Of course, I was the Rams. Well, I guess you could say that Mike and I were beyond competitive…very passionate in our role playing. Often our friendly contests resulted in hurt feelings and flying fists. I can’t exactly remember what set if off this day. I think during a kick off, one of us, probably me, kicked the ball up on the roof. Now, in reality this was not a big deal. We went up on the roof to retrieve balls all the time. But this was Mike’s official NFL Ball. So he lost it, his temper, that is.

The skirmish started with him calling me a ‘jerk’…his favorite choice of put-down. It escalated from there, from trading insults to trading punches. Now, I was quite a bit bigger than Mike and I used my size to my advantage. I threw him down on the ground, sat on his chest, and proceeded to wail on him. I’ve got to give Mike credit. He never beat me in a fight, but he had a ‘never say die attitude.’ Somebody could be slipping bamboo shoots under Mike’s finger nails and he still wouldn’t say “Uncle.” As I punched and pummeled and attempted to knock the pus out of him, Mike would still creatively and effectively insult me, through his tear-streaked face. Of course, this would just egg me on and make my efforts feel like they were futile.

Little did I know that during this little fiesta of fisticuffs, my stepdad was in the laundry room that bordered the green-belt. He saw the whole thing and he was fumin’ mad. Like a lot of us folks, my step dad had a soft spot in his heart for the underdog and he didn’t take too kindly to me using my size advantage to hurt my little buddy. It took a lot to get my stepdad angry, and in this case, boy did I strike the right…uh, I mean…wrong chord.

The action was stopped instantly by the sudden, baritone shout of, “Robby!” I looked up and there was my stepdad in the window, with a nicely folded pair of tighty-whities in his hands. His gaze penetrated me like darts and I immediately got sick to my stomach. “Robby, get home now!” In one sentence I had been arrested, charged, convicted, and now I was being sent up for sentencing.

Now, my stepdad only spanked me once growing up. But, let me tell you, he was very skilled at it. Actually he didn’t spank me. Instead, he gave me a ‘limpy.’ One flick of the wrist and the flexible finger of a 6’5’’-man, sent me across my room, into my dresser, causing my Douglas DC-9 model to come crashing down onto the floor. I think I can still feel the welt. It hurt, but I got the message. He was not going to allow me to be a bully. If I hurt people, there would be consequences.

My stepdad had, and still has a big heart. He is a loving man, but he is also a just man. As a ten-year old, in the heat of the moment, I didn’t have the presence of mind to remember that he is, and was a just man. If I would have lived my life with a constant awareness of this simple fact, I may not have hurt my friend, nor experienced the consequences of my actions.

Author John Bevere asserts that the reason many local churches in the Western world do not experience the presence of God is due to a failure to fear the Lord. I agree with him. We attempt to make God too familiar. We bring him down to our level and treat him like our buddy down the street. We effectively focus on the love of God without recognizing the Justice of God. While we do indeed have the privilege to call him “Abba” Father, because of this salvation He has worked into us, we still have the responsibility to work out this salvation with fear and trembling. If even the demons believe in God and tremble, should not we, his children, reverence Him with a Holy fear, acknowledging His sovereignty, power, and Justice? The fear of the Lord is a gift because it liberates us from the fear of man. We make our decisions based upon truth, rather than how we will be perceived in the eyes of people.

The Bible tells us to fear God that we would sin not. The fear of God is foundational to healthy spiritual development and essential in the discipleship process. It causes us to take pause and consider our attitude and actions. In this way, we can be prevented from harming others and experiencing the consequences of sinful choices.

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