Andrew Schroer writes a faith column for the Victoria Advocate.

It’s that time of year again. Yards are decorated with ghouls and goblins. People gladly pay their hard-earned money to have the bejesus scared out of them at haunted houses. All the major cable networks are running their horror movie marathons.

Halloween is a time when many people actually want to be frightened and freaked out.

In the book of Proverbs, wise old King Solomon tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs 1:7. For years, I struggled with that verse. I didn’t want to be afraid of God. I didn’t want to have the bejesus scared out of me at church.

Why would God want us to “fear” him?

It was only as an adult that I learned to fully understand the word “fear.” In the olden days, “fear” was a synonym for “reverence” or “awe.”

Awe is what you experience when something amazes you. Awe is when something makes you say, “Wow!” In English, we have two words which have “awe” as their root: awesome and awful. Although opposites, both words actually mean the same thing — something which fills you with awe.

For example, the Grand Canyon is awesome. When you stand in its presence, you can’t help but say, “Wow! That is amazing!”

Cancer, on the other hand, is awful. When you see how it ravages the bodies and lives of someone you love, you can’t help but say, “Wow! That is horrible!”

Our God is, honestly, both an awesome and awful God.

God is awful. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The God who created all things, who fills all things, whose hand controls all of time and eternity, is a holy God. He hates sin. He punishes it with the horrors of hell.

It is awful and frightening to stand as a sinner in the presence of a holy God.

That holy God, however, is also a God of mercy. In his great mercy, our God did the most awesome thing — he suffered his own anger for our sin in our place. He died our death.

And because he did, you and I are forgiven for every bad and ugly thing we have ever thought, said or done.

Our God is an awesome God. He loves us, forgives us, protects us and promises us a home in heaven we don’t deserve.

The fear of the Lord means to simply stand in awe of his great power, holiness and love. God doesn’t want you to be afraid of him. He doesn’t want you to run away from him. He doesn’t want you to be scared to stand in his presence.

He loves you and has saved you. True wisdom means recognizing all that God is and all that he has done for you. True wisdom means saying, “Wow! You are an awesome God.”

But also understand this: If you reject him, if you turn your back on him, if you refuse to believe in him, you should be frightened. It is an awful thing to stand as a sinner in the presence of a holy God. God does punish sinners in hell.

True wisdom begins with a healthy respect for God’s power and holiness. True wisdom begins with awe and wonder at his amazing grace which forgives us.

You don’t have to be scared of God. You don’t have to be afraid to stand in his presence or to turn to him in prayer.

You will never have to know his awful anger because Jesus suffered it in your place.

Believe in him and one day you will stand before the holy, all-powerful God and say with a smile, “Wow! This is awesome!”

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Pastor Andrew Schroer has been a pastor for nearly 20 years and is currently serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church with campuses in Edna and Victoria, Texas. Read more of his devotional writing and contact him at 364DaysofThanksgiving.com.

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