Who is Worthy of Our Fear?

Lydia was crying again, it was 3 o’clock in the morning and her crying broke through the heavy silence of our home rousing me from sleep. I slowly woke up, even as I made my way to her bed, where I knelt tiredly and spoke to my still crying child, “Lydia… Lydia…”

I paused to allow her time to respond but her crying did not calm. So I reached out to pat her back and called out quietly (her sister slept in the upper bunk), “Aravis.”

Aravis is Lydia’s favorite imaginary character to pretend to be (the heroine from The Horse and His Boy, one of the Chronicles of Narnia) and she is almost always motivated to listen and cooperate if we engage her as Aravis.

Suddenly she broke off crying, and began taking a deep calming breath before looking up at me – her lips quirking into a smile – spent tears still on her face.

“What’s going on?” I asked

“I had a bad dream and I was afraid,” she answered in a pitiful little voice.

I stroked her gently as I thought about how to encourage her. I had a similar period in early childhood, lasting about a year where I had regular terrifying nightmares as a child. This came very soon after I felt called to be a missionary (see previous post), and through it my mother taught me, with steadfast love and patience, to pray; in the darkest and most scary places – she taught me that prayer is how we cling to and know God’s presence – even when we feel alone.

As I tried to decide how to respond, I reminded myself that I want my own child to look back and remember the same steadfast love, patience, and power of prayer that I learned from my mother (but I also want to sleep and need to leave for work in 3 hours). We have tried Bible memory (Joshua 1:9), singing songs (Jesus Love Me), saying prayers, and all of those seem are hit-or-miss regarding whether or not she’s able to sleep well thereafter. Reflecting on a conversation Bethany and I recently had about anxiety being misplaced fear, and that our fear should be directed to God, I turned to my daughter and asked, “Aravis who is worthy of your fear?”

-No answer.

I elaborated, “Who should you fear most of all? Dragons, or Jackals, or bad men, or Aslan?”

“Aslan,” she said hesitantly.

“That’s right, Aslan is fearsome, he has sharp claws and a terrible roar, you have heard his roar and even felt his claws before, haven’t you Aravis?”

Lydia’s Wide-eyed little face, remembers, and slowly shakes her head to signal yes.

“Remember, ‘he is not safe – but he is good.’ So what should you fear: scary dreams, loneliness, darkness, or Aslan?”

“Aslan!” she said with fierce excitement.

“And in this world, when you are Lydia, and you awake from a scary dream, who is worthy of your fear here?”

A contempative pause then, in a solemn whisper, “God.”

“That’s right. Now lets pray to Him, because he worthy of our fear but he is also good and loves us…”

Good God,
Guard us in your will – in fear.
Keep us in your will – in love.
Till our love is your love,
and every fear abolished.
Amen


As my family prepares to abandon our positions of financial and physical security – and follow God’s calling on our lives to move to Honduras in a few short months. I have found myself reflecting on my own question, “Who is worthy of our fear?”

Luke 12:4-5 tell us what Jesus told his disciples – in regards to the danger and death they might face for proclaiming the gospel, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Jesus goes on to assure his friends that though God should be feared- He is a good and caring God who values and watches over them.

When a perfect, holy, all powerful God chooses to love and redeem insignificant sinners like you and me – the right response is both love and fear. The love part is palatable, but our culture rejects fear and its Biblical relationship to love (and so do we if we are not careful).

‘Fear of God’ expresses the depth of caution, respect, responsibility and carefulness for which our relationship with Almighty God calls. God’s forgiveness and intimacy should not abolish fear, it should enhance both love of the forgiver and fear of the forgiver – a holy God whose nature demands and extends such a costly grace.

Remember Jesus’s parable of the debtor who was forgiven so much by the King, and afterward went out and fearlessly ordered another man who owed him a small sum to be thrown into prison (Luke 7:36-50). It did not, and will not, end well for any man who is not moved to awe, loyalty, worship, and a desire to never disappoint the King. The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed a similar fatal disconnect, in The Cost of Discipleship:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

So, fear has a good and appropriate place, it is a place holder in the seeker or maturing believer, it takes the place of displacing all other fears and reminding us of the cost of God’s love (for God and ourselves). In view of our fearsome God our earthly fears become weightless. When we fear and love God rightly our lives should beg these questions for others: ‘Towards what are they living? Where is their fear? Why do they love so vulnerably and recklessly?’ Christian hopes and fears are outside of the watching world’s purview, so they cannot quiet make sense of why we do what we do.

As an example, Samaritan’s Purse is one of only 2 organizations in the world that will respond to the Ebola pandemics. Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, says, “We run to the fire.” Who but a follower of Jesus would volunteer, go to an epidemic hot zone – to work on quarantining an evil with unmatched virulence and a 50% mortality rate? To be Christ ministering to children and adults facing horrific death and disease? The movie trailer below previews the story of another Post-Resident Medical Missionary, Dr. Brantly who responded to God’s call on his life and contracted Ebola while ministering in Africa.

We call ourselves followers of Jesus. Jesus, who did not hold onto power or security, rather he gave it up and became a weak and vulnerable human – the incarnation of God (Philippians 2:6-8). When we follow Christ we may look like fools to the world, but the Bible tells us the proper placement of fear results not only in the displacement of earthly fears, but also in wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Incorrectly placed fear is paralyzing and stupefying. But when our earthly fears are displaced by the awe and fear we have for almighty God, and that fear is balanced with the knowledge that God is good and loves us, we will have the ability to gain true wisdom. Wisdom can flourish when we are equipped to face trials with discernment and peace – making decisions that draw from the precepts of God’s word, are guided by his Spirit, and rooted in the security of his providence.

As our fear of God displaces earthly fears, our obedience and love for God can grow, this allows development of our wisdom and maturity until the love of God grows perfect in us, in perfect love we know perfect peace and every fear is abolished (1 John 4:18).

Almighty God,

Displace our fears
By filling us with fear of You,

Conquer our loves
By binding us with love for You,

Disrupt our peace
By giving us peace with You,

Overwhelm us Lord,
By making us holy to you,

Amen.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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Is Sunshine Sacrament?

Sometimes, I’m exasperated by the sheer number of times my daughter asks “why?”

Yesterday, after a long day, I asked her to go outside and play just before supper. She asked, “Why?”

Knowing my logical answer would be a bit raw I went the whimsical route (for sanity’s sake). I dutifully explained that over the course of the day, due to a lack of sunshine, argumentative imps had began growing and multiplying on her shoulders. At first whispering in her ears then climbing into her ears and finally crawling out her mouth and attacking her sisters. The only easy cure for this problem, I explained, was sunlight, which melts argumentative imps into nothingness.

This brought out enthusiastic and playful obedience as my daughter went outside with me and asked me to flesh out this new imaginary game.

And as I played in the evening sun with my daughters. Watching with my imagination as the little murky figures on their shoulders dissipated, and their attitudes and dispositions truly transformed, I wondered how much truth my fiction spoke.

Notice the lack of argu-imps on the subject’s shoulders!

In our missionary training we discussed how world view differences that can be so difficult to overcome. Particularly the gulf between the scientific and the animistic world views.

In general my culture adopts a scientific view of the world that is largely mechanical, and completely compartmentalizes the spiritual reality (when it allows for one). The animistic worldview is one of myth, magical thinking, and indivisible interplay between the spiritual and physical world, with all creatures, things, and ideas having spiritual essence. Christians who attempt to submit even their worldview to the truth of scripture have the tricky task of trying to look through the lens of their own worldview at scripture, spot the defects within the lens through which they’re looking, and correct it.

One such defect in my own worldview is an artificial compartmentalization of the spiritual – especially when it comes to medicine. In my worldview there is scarcely any overlap between the physical and spiritual causes and effects. But when that overlap does occur, when the physical and spiritual realities are obviously present together, (in a consistent manifestation of God’s grace) , as in the case of the Lord’s Supper or baptism, we call those nexuses sacrament.[1]

So what if sunlight is not just a calculable photon bombardment, what if it exerts a spiritual force. What if just as it catalyzes reactions in our bodies, triggering the release of chemicals in our brains, it’s does something at the soul level? Or what if, as in my imp explanation, it negatively affects the powers that war against us that are not flesh and blood?

Either way, as a doctor and minister, I recommend at least 10-15 minute of sunshine each day for its salutatory effects.

Whimsically Yours,
The Reverend Doctor Nathan

 


[1]- Sacrament can also be more specifically defined as specific actions that were instituted by the Lord, and commanded to his followers in perpetuity. Clearly, the sacraments that conform to this more narrow definition sacrament are to be performed and reverenced above all others.

 


 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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A Blessing – Graduating Residency

Last night my family medicine residency came to its completion. My formal training as a physcian is done (at long last – praise be to God). It still feels surreal. I offered this blessing last night at the beginning of our graduation dinner and ceremony.

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Father God,
We give you thanks:
For long hours, hard work, difficult patients, and demanding training,
For by them you have refined us into ready and resilient physicians.

We give you thanks:
For short days, simple tasks, grateful patients, and gracious teachers,
For by them you have freed us to be refreshed, faithful, and fun.

We give you thanks:
For 3 years of hospital food – that we may have neglected to bless,
For 3 step exams – we’ll never have to sit again,
For 3 years of family medicine residency – completed.

And now we ask your blessing:
On tonight’s food and friends –
may the calories be short-lived and the friendships eternal.
And on tonight’s graduates –
May the Lord bless us and keep us,
With grace, guide our service and attitudes,
With peace, guide our actions and our stillness,
With joy, guide our hopes and dreams,
With love, guide our hearts aright,
Send us forth in your spirit of healing and love.

In Jesus’s name,
Amen.

-Nathan Gilley, Murfreesboro TN, June 29th 2019

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My Family –  Celebrating the Completion of Residency.
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The faculty and graduates of UT – St. Thomas Family Medicine Residency, Murfreesboro, 2019

 

St. Patrick’s Shield

This is a prayer I wrote to be prayed when rising for the day. It is based off of an old prayer called St. Patrick’s Breastplate – a prayer that Celtic Christians often use to start their day. I painted this new prayer onto a sheild that I recieved when I was knighted as an eighteen year old (bit of a story there – we’ll save for later). And hung it over our breakfast table to remind us to open our day with prayer.

Here it is:

We bind ourselves today, in life and love, to the Trinity in unity,
By the power of the spirit, and this example:
Christ before me.

We arise today, in the power of Christ’ baptism,
dying to sin and living into Godliness;
Christ when we go down,
Christ when we arise.

We bind ourselves today, in faith and hope, to the Church;
Taking up the obedient disciplines of the faithful;
Christ over us,
and partaking of communion, the body of Christ;
Christ with us.

We arise today, in a world of God’s creation – fallen in sin,
Inspired by the invisible attributes of God in creation;
Christ all around us,
embracing opportunities for laboring in redemption;
Christ on our right,
Christ on our left.

We bind ourselves today, by the love of God for His glory;
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of us,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us,
Christ in the eye that sees us,
Christ in the ear that hears us.

We arise today, for He is risen,
Christ is risen indeed.

Alpha – Omega; A Scripture Compilation for Kingdomtide

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the LORD,

“who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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Chi-Ro Alpha Omega – Brompton Cemetery, London, England, UK.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, now the Word was with God, and the Word was God and all things were made through him. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light- the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. But sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. For we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way.

But when the fullness of time had come the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. So Mary gave birth to him, her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Yet He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

He said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” So he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For as in Adam all die, so also in Him shall all be made alive. And when He had been crucified he said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. But three days later he was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.

After that he was taken up into heaven, and the LORD said to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Thereafter, He who is seated on the throne will say, “I am making everything new!” Then he will say these words that are trustworthy and true “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” And behold, God has exalted him to the highest place and given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Edited by Nathan Gilley using the English Standard Version (ESV)

Rev 1:8, Gen 1:1, Jn 1:1,3, Gen 1:3, Jn 1:9, Ro 5:12, Isaiah 53:6, Gal 4:4, Jn1:14, Phil 2:5-6, Luke 2:7, Isa 53:2, Luke 6:27,28,31, Isa 53:3, Jn 6:35, Is 53:5, Phil 2:8, 1Cor 15:22, John19:30, Ro 1:4, Mrk 16:19, Ps 110:1, Rev 21:4,5, Phil 2:9

The idea for compiling this reading was inspired by the two divine utterances of “It is finished.” Once on the cross and once at the end of all things.

Prayer for a Newborn Baby and Mother Immediately after Birth

[Lay hands on infant and mother]

Naked we come from our mothers’ womb
And naked we will depart;
Blessed be the name of the Lord,

The Lord, who with this mother, and through this labor,
has brought forth this miracle of life;
Blessed be the name of the Lord,

[Make the sign of the cross on the infant’s head with the blessing below]

The name that we now put upon this child and family:
The Lord bless her and keep her;
The Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious to her;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,

[Prayed over the mother]

The Lord, who knitted this child together in your womb, who creates and sustains all things, uphold you and go with you in the good work of motherhood that you have begun. May He fill you with all faith, hope, and love; causing you to delight yourself in Him, forevermore.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,

The name by which we are saved- Jesus Christ,
Amen.

 

My newest daughter is now almost 3 months old, but in the weeks preceding her birth, I was motivated to finish working on a concise prayer to be prayed over newborns with their mothers. I completed my first draft a few days before my wife, Bethany, went into labor. After my wife gave birth to our baby girl, Ruth was immediately given to her mother- to snuggle on her chest. Then, as things calmed down, and the necessary nursing and physician tasks were completed, I placed my hands on the head of my newborn daughter and on my wife to recite this prayer.

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The idea for this prayer was born out a desire to have a practical and particularly Christian way to celebrate and mark the joyous occasion of a child’s birth. As a physician I often attend a mother during delivery and become so engrossed in the physical task of guiding, monitoring, and running anticipatory scenarios that before I even think about it, my job is done and I have left the room with a sigh of relief that nothing went off the rails. But I have neglected to acknowledge that God has worked a miracle and allowed me to bear witness. I have missed one of the great opportunities for which I became a physician. To be Christ – in word and deed, at the extremes of life – when our hearts are so naturally ready to receive the grace of God.

Hopefully, this prayer can become a part of my routine, and allow my patients and myself to celebrate, give glory to God, and start a pattern of prayer over each child. I plan to memorize this prayer and routinely ask expectant mothers if they would like for me to pray this blessing over their child after the birth.

Now I just need help translating this into Spanish (because that is the language that the majority of my obstetric patients speak – already (I am presently a resident family physician in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in my third and final year), and although my Spanish is adequate to communicate, it is not eloquent).  For anyone endeavoring to translate this, please note that three scriptures are being drawn from for the above prayer: Job 1:21, Psalm 113:2, and Numbers 6:24-26.