Monthly Archives: January 2014

By faith

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

I often think of this quote because I compare it to the walk of a Christian. Christians walk to the beat of a different drum. We aren’t mainstream. We are different. We do not act and do as the world does. We do as our Father in Heaven tells us to do. Faith is the reason we walk “out-of-step” from the world because our answers are not in the world but in our faith.

One of my favorite chapters to read of the Bible when I am discouraged is Chapter 11 of Hebrews. It is the book that tells us about those who have gone before us and exhibited faith and overcome great obstacles for the glory of God. I call it the “By Faith” chapter.

Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”

Hebrews 11:23, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”

Hebrews 11:29, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.”

There is something about the phrase, “By faith” that fills my heart with determination and helps me to see solutions. All the answers to every problem we face is in those two simple words, “By faith.” What then does faith mean? Many people have thoughts about faith. Some see faith as a wish. Some see faith as a positive feeling or optimism. Others see it as a declaration of what we want to happen. Faith can be misunderstood.

God explains to us what faith means in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 11 in Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:1-2, “Now faith is confidence… and assurance…2 This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Confidence and assurance – that’s it. Confidence to know God is going to work all things for our good. Assurance to know His word is true.

Noah kept hammering and building; hammering and building. The Israelites kept walking, step by step, with soldiers behind them and a wall of water around them. Moses’ mom put him in a papyrus basket in the Nile River because she knew he was no ordinary child.

By confidence…by assurance…by faith.

Have confidence the answer to your problem is on the way. Be assured God knows what you need and when you need. Trust in his timing. Exercise your faith, today.

 


God’s faithfulness to us

Whether it is financial, relational, or physical, we are often in the middle of a battle. When we are there, our faith in God’s delivering power may be the very element He is trying to teach us. We know God honors faith; and Jesus challenged us to maintain faith and a willingness to put our trust in Him regardless of the situations of our lives.

Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Matthew 17:20 – “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Yet, there are times in our lives when God is teaching us other lessons.  Sometimes the emphasis isn’t upon our activity, but God’s.  Often the focus isn’t our faithfulness but God’s showing His faithfulness. Sometimes, the focus is on someone else, and God uses our circumstance to teach lessons others need to learn.

In the end, we learn to rest in Him, whether by difficult times, joyful occasions, storms, droughts, sunny days, or prosperous events. The manner in which our lives have been designed and molded forms us in God’s purpose and plan for our personal lives.  In short, we become the people God intends us to be as we respond in faith regardless of the situation. We come to a point where we see His purpose for our lives fulfilled. And in each situation, God wants us to see His faithfulness.

One of my favorite Bible stories is a story of ordinary events, typical humanity responding to circumstances of life. As with our lives, the events of this story mold the lives of the persons involved. It is a story about people like you and me, facing life circumstances and finding God’s faithfulness in the midst of life.

A famine strikes the land of  Israel and a Hebrew family, Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, move to Moab in hopes of finding better conditions. Moab, a nation on the east side of the Dead Sea, was just next door geographically but was light years away philosophically, religiously, and morally. While there, the sons marry two women from Moab, Orpah and Ruth. Tragically, Elimelech and both the boys die; Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws are left as widows in a land foreign to Naomi. She decided to return home to Israel. Orpah, one of the daughter-in-laws, returned to her family in Moab; but, Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, committed to stay with Naomi.

Ruth 1:16 – “But Ruth replied, (to Naomi) “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'”

Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem together. They were accepted by Naomi’s family there. A prominent land owner named Boaz noticed Ruth and asked his workers to be kind to her and her mother-in-law. He left extra grain for Ruth to pick up, glean, in the fields. Boaz took Ruth as his wife, bought Naomi and Ruth out of debt, and provided the two ladies with loving care. The result was provision in their lives though they had both been widows.

Sometimes the focus isn’t on our ability to demonstrate faith, but God’s loving faithfulness to us in tragedy. The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates God’s interest in our lives. Simple women living in Godly ways are noticeable to God. All He requires is a willingness to serve Him as our God. Just as He cared for the details of their individual lives, He cares for all the details of our lives.

You may be in a situation through no fault of your own; it may simply be tragic circumstances. Be assured God will show His faithfulness to you. He will restore, renew, and care for you. Trust in His faithfulness.


How will I know it is You?

The definition of follow is to accept the guidance, command, or leadership of. The definition of believe  is to accept (something) as true.

Jesus called us to follow Him. If we are followers of Jesus, He is our leader.

John 10:3, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The sheep can only follow their Master if they know how to listen to His voice. In listening to His voice and following His direction the sheep are protected. It is no different for us. What has to happen in our lives though is we must learn to listen to His voice. It’s not just about believing that He exists and He is our Savior. It goes far beyond a simple belief.

I heard a sermon once about discerning the voice of God. The minister gave the example of a young man, appointed to Special Forces in the US Army and stationed in Antarctica. He was given a radio, a guide-book, and survival supplies. His Commander warned him, “You will hear instructions from many sources, some of which will be enemy sources and you will hear instructions from me.”

The soldier asked with concern, “How will I know when it is you?”

The Commander gave him three ways to know the instructions were from him.

1. Every message you are given, check it against the procedures given to you in the guide-book. If the instructions do not line up with the policy, the voice is not mine.

2. Learn to recognize my voice. At first, I will not give you anything too difficult because I need you to know who is speaking to you. Train yourself to identify what I sound like and the things I should tell you to do.

3. As you familiarize yourself to the guide-book and hear my voice repeatedly, you will begin to understand where our mission is going. Even when enemy forces are around you, you will be able to decipher mine.

Good advice for you and me as well. Spend time reading God’s Word today. Talk with Him in prayer. Start today to learn to listen to your Master.


Fear is contagious

Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can stand against us?”

I stopped by the post office the other day. A lady sat on the curb, obviously in deep thought. As I walked past her she called out, “You the preacher of that big church on the hill?”

“I pastor The Torch, yes,” I responded with a smile and a hand shake.

Her hand-held a green slip and she extended it to me. “I just can’t pick this letter up. Would you get it for me?”

It was a certified letter. She explained further, “I know it’s a foreclosure notice. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Fear is contagious. It spreads through out our bodies and at times can cripple us. Worse than any fever, fear can leave us icy cold or sweating. It twists our stomach and forces our legs to go limp.

“Would you like me to pray with you?” I asked.

She agreed and we prayed together. “When are hearts and minds are fixed on God, fear cannot touch us,” I added.

The lady took the green slip back from my hand and slowly stood to her feet. She thanked me for the prayer and walked slowly in the post office.

Sometimes we have to face what is making us afraid and realize, He is on our side. He will help us see it through to the end. He will give us courage. I don’t know what you are facing in life right now but know this, we could not have a better source of strength than Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. The Lord can be trusted with every situation that comes your way.


Faith, not feelings

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are times, more than I’d like to admit, that I really don’t want to do the right thing; mainly, because I don’t feel like doing it. Some days, I would rather stay in bed instead of getting up to read my Bible and have prayer time with God. Sometimes, I would rather respond in anger to someone who is out-of-place or rude instead of responding in a calm and appropriate manner; actually,  I’d really like to bop them in the nose! At times, I would rather not stop and pick up a head of cabbage on my way home from work as Connie has requested of me. Often, I’d prefer to watch television instead of mowing the grass; would rather eat lemon cookies than raw carrots; and would rather not listen to complaints about my sermons and just go to lunch. But, bottom line, the way to victory requires discipline and has nothing to do with our feelings. God requires us to do what is right in all situations, not just when we “feel” like it.

God has given us the freedom to choose the right way or the wrong way; but He expects us to choose the right way. To enter the narrow gate, we have to actively pursue God’s Word and live by it obediently. There are days when I don’t feel like living obediently; however, I’ve learned from experience and the school of hard knocks, that it is faith not feelings that leads to eternal life.

Today, choose to do the right thing. Choose God’s way. Be one of the few that finds the small gate leading to the road of eternal life.


Consecrate yourselves

Joshua 3:5, “Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

To consecrate means “to make or declare (something, typically a church) sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.”

When we consecrate ourselves, this verse in Joshua tells us “the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

I don’t know about you, but I want that for my life; I want that for the church I am privileged to serve; I want that for you and your life. But how do we get there?

I believe the answer lives in Psalm 15. David wrote:

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

It’s 5 short verses that are loaded with very specific practices that we must establish in order to “abide” in His temple. To break them down

  1. Be a person who speaks the truth from your heart. Many people might say one thing to a group of people but do another when no one is around. God wants us to be a reflection of our heart.
  2. Don’t gossip; don’t wrong someone; don’t cast people down. God wants us to be uplifting. He wants us to speak love, not hatred.
  3. Support those who love God. Christians need to uphold one another. God calls us to be people of our word, even when it is difficult to keep our commitments.
  4. Deal fairly with your money. We shouldn’t make money off those who are weak and poor. We do not wrong those who are innocent.

David finishes with this, “Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”

Where are you on this list? What can you do to become closer to consecration? Pray about what you need to do so that you will never be shaken. Ask God to help you become the man or woman God intended for you to be.


God – our super hero

When I was a kid, I loved super heroes. The capes, the brightly colored masks, the emblem on the chest, all made me long to be a Superman, Spiderman, or Batman. How cool would it be to run into a telephone booth and emerge a hero! I used to play that I was a super hero; that is until my cape got caught in a tree in front of my friends. It took months to get rid of the stigma.

Do you know God is our super hero? Mighty God! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Mighty God conquered death, saved the world, and continues to actively provide for us protecting us from harm. He is our super hero, Mighty God! And He is real, not some figment of the imagination.

It was easy to believe in super heroes as a child. Now that I am an adult, I realize those cartoon characters were just that, characters created from the amazing imagination of someone to entertain children and even adults. But what of God? Some don’t really believe He can do what He says He can do. Some believe in Him but don’t necessarily believe in what He can and will do.

Is He Mighty? Is He in control? Did He conquer death? Can He defeat Satan?

The answer is YES! And more…

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.'”

Today, bind yourself to our Mighty God. Say to Him, “I am Yours. Save me!”  “I am Yours. Deliver me!”