Monday, November 06, 2006

the fear of God

“No one in my master’s house is more important than I am.” –Joe (Genesis 39:9a Contemporary English Version)

In a brief section about temptation in the story of Joseph, I mentioned megachurch pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard. Last Friday Haggard was accused by a male prostitute of paying for sex over a three-year span as well as buying crystal meth. As you can imagine, it rocked the church world and became an international news story. In telling the story of Joe I said:

“How about this in dealing with temptation in a healthy way?—Remember who you are. In rebuffing Potiphar’s wife, Joe said frankly: “No one in my master’s house is more important than I am.” Now think about this with your own life: you are so important to what God wants to do through you. This is no longer just about you. Your life ripples out to so many people. My heart breaks for Ted Haggard, the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado who has been all over the news lately. However this all shakes out in the end, perhaps he somehow forgot who he was. Most of us will not have that much spiritual influence in our lives, but I can guarantee there’s someone who’s watching you to see if your Christianity is real or not.”

By “real” I meant: is it integrous? Am I a whole person or living a double or fractured life? And the real question seems to be: what will keep me honest with myself?

In church-world, we say everything from accountability partners to small groups to professional therapists to whatever. But in the end, we will only be as real as we want to be. Accountability only works for those who want to be accountable. Let’s not kid ourselves.

It’s funny…I was thinking about the new song “Fear of the Lord” our worship leader Charlie Hines introduced and wondering if it works in a user-friendly “come-as-you-are” church. Part of the lyric is: “I want to love the things You love, I want to hate the things you hate…Teach me the fear of the Lord…”. I wondered if for the average irreligious person, that’s a little jarring—"I didn’t think God hated; I thought God was love.” And for some folks who have escaped from legalistic, “God-is-pissed-off-at-me” cultures, this feels like a reinforcement of everything they disliked about religion. At the same time, worship is more than just singing love songs, there is a pastoring element that is happening simultaneously, songs are "teaching moments" as well. And there are serious things that God does hate, for instance: hypocrisy.

Maybe if we realized how important we are, it would not have the effect of entitlement as in “I’m really important so I should be treated importantly”, but rather the fear of God, as in “I’m really important to God…He gave His life for me, so I want to honor Him with my thoughts and actions.” That means getting honest with myself when I’m struggling with something that jeopardizes my integrity…and getting any and all the help I need as quickly as possible, whether that’s professional, a trusted friend or whomever. But honestly, no one can make me do that but me. The best we can do is to make sure that we are creating communities where transparency is modeled and healing is encouraged as a process. Communities of wounded healers.

But it still makes me wonder: what if we all thought “I’m so important I can’t afford to mess around with a double life.”


  1. Hello Dave, I don't know if I have much comment on your post but I was just thinking it was serendipitous that I saw the notice on Vinenet that you had a blog. In any event it's just brought to mind how much I miss the church. See, I've been working about 72 hours a week since May. I was able to attend frequently before that but since then haven’t been able to. I was hoping you had an email listed because it would be nice to converse with you even though I haven’t been there in awhile. Even though I’ve been trying to keep the faith on my own it always helps to have brothers and sisters around and I really need to have my spiritual batteries recharged. We’ve met a couple times but I don’t know if you remember me. I was volunteering on Fridays with Jay George in the IT department until I started working all these hours. Anyway, nice to see you’ve got a blog and if you ever want to send me an email my address is or you can visit my blog at Hope to talk to you soon.


  2. Accountability only works for those who want to be accountable. Lets not kid ourselves.

    I think the key word here is "want." Ultimately you are the only one who can control what you think.

  3. “No one in my master’s house is more important than I am.”

    When I first read that I thought I saw “No one in my monster's house is more important than I am.”

    Wow, does that phrase better suit my life. I can compare my life with Joe's easily if I just change those two simple words.

    Dave when you said, How about this in dealing with temptation in a healthy way?—Remember who you are.

    I am the spiritual leader of my home, and must remember, through all of my responsibilities, inside and outside of my home, to honor God in all of my ways. That keeps me open, so God can work through me to all that is around me. Even those that I do not know.

    I work at a call center with around 400 other customer service agents. I do not know many face to face but speak to several everyday by phone. I was just recently put on the help desk line and one of the other reps asked me if I where going to church this Sunday at the Vineyard. That struck me by surprise because I did not know the person that I was speaking to, but somehow have touched her life in a spiritual way. I agree Dave with what you have said; "I can guarantee there’s someone who’s watching you to see if your Christianity is real or not." So we should be very aware that everywhere we go even when we think we are not being watch someone is checking us out.

    “I’m so important I can’t afford to mess around with a double life.” That is what it comes down to for me. To stay in charge of my monster house I can not let myself become a monster becuase that is when everything falls apart. So I remember I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me and I remember to put on the full armor of God.

  4. Hi Dave! I have been inspired by so many of your services, and this one imparticular. I have made many changes to be a "real" christian, but I find myself slipping up sometimes and going back to the "if it doesn't hurt anyone else it's ok" way of thinking- especially durring election time.

    I want you to know that by you being "real" you are an amazing role model for me, and I am excited everyweek when I see your name at the top of the outline. I was baptized recently, and the realization of the what I had actually taken part of didn't hit me untill I saw you standing outside the stage door. That was when I understood- I want to be a good christian outward as well as inward, and that was the first step.

    Thank you for your time and your guidance. You really make a difference in my life everytime I see you or hear your understanding of so many things. Keep on talkin- I'll listen! God bless!

  5. Dave,

    Great thoughts.

    I resonated with the comments of roman here. We are all only as accountable as we seek to be. The key seems to be that we have closeness to one another. I can point to numerous situations identical to Haggard's situation (BTW, Haggard has been to VCC several times over the years) where the person in question's sin was called out by a co-worker who cared enough to simply slow down, to listen to God's Spirit, and to listen. At that point, it became obvious that something was out of kelter - a strong conversation ensued and the fallen person admitted their failure immediately.

    Not to oversimplify, but one issue that is raised by the Haggard situation is a call to care, a call to listen to God's Spirit, and a call to step out in humility and ask, "Are you doing okay - I sense something is amiss..."

    Let's fear God and not man, then let the chips fall where they may... but do all things in love.

  6. Amen on, we are held accountable by how much we want to be. This is definantly what we the Church needs to hear; I especially.

  7. I'm digging your blog. Heard great things of Vineyard in Cincy.

    I grew up around Cincy. LOVE IT!

    Hope to see you up there sometime.


  8. Thanks Dave,
    It is only by reading this that I came to realize that what Joe said about no one being more important than him in his masters house.
    For me it means that I am just as important to God as his other children. I don't need a special title to be important to God. Every person needs to feel that they are and can be the most important person in Gods house. I am a crucial part of His plan whether I see it or not.
    To humbly go through my day, sharing the love God gives me with all I come in contact with.