Tag Archives: faith

Rash Decisions

Genesis 12-16

Have you ever reacted in the moment, then lived to regret it? I sure have. And so too, I think, did Abram. More than once.

First, when famine hit Canaan, Abram packed up and moved to Egypt. I don’t see him consulting God about that. It appears to be a blatant act of disobedience. But, the grass is greener on the other side of the Nile.

Entering Egypt placed him and his family smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. Abram wasn’t ready for that. Which leads us to rash decision #2.

Abram told his beautiful wife, Sarai, to lie to the King of Egypt. Dangerous move, there, Abe. Again, I don’t see Abram calling on God about the situation. Maybe, like Adam, Abram thought he could hide from God. Maybe he knew he shouldn’t be in Egypt in the first place and thought he’d gotten himself into this mess, he’d get himself out. (been there, done that myself a few times).

Both of these decisions indicate Abram’s lack of faith in God. Hold onto that thought. Because bad choice #3 tells the same tale.

God had promised Abram children. Lots of children. But at this point, Abram hadn’t fathered even one. So when Sarai came up with an idea, Abram went with it. Do you see either of them going to God first? I mean, God was the one who had made the promise. Maybe He would have had a better idea than having Abram sleep with a slave girl. Just saying.

Anyway, Abram went ahead without God, and the world has been paying for it ever since.

Have you found that reacting in the moment turns out to smack you in the face? That has been my experience more often than I care to admit. I would venture to say every life choice I’ve made without including God has ended badly. Some of those choices have minor consequences. Some of those choices have resulted in consequences I still experience decades later. Some choices effected only me. Other choices have caused others to experience pain.

But all is not lost. With all the mistakes Abram made, look at 15:6. And he believed the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

When we believe the Lord, when we obey Him, when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Which makes us righteous, too, just like Abram! Aren’t you glad God doesn’t write us off when we make those rash decisions? I am. There may be consequences, but there is forgiveness when we ask Him.

In Good News Club this week I was talking to the children about peer pressure. When faced with a hard decision, I encouraged the kids to think first. Is what they are considering right or wrong? If they do that thing, would it please God? That advice isn’t just for kids.

May we all think before we react in the moment. May we ask ourselves if our reaction is right or wrong according to God’s Word. And, maybe most importantly, would my reaction please God?

I think if Abram had thought about what he was doing, if He had prayed first, the world might look a bit differently today. If I had done the same, thought, prayed first, my life might look differently today, too.

I’m thankful for the life of Abram, a flawed individual who loved God, and whom God used in spite of his failures. I’m thankful for the cross, for forgiveness, and for prayer to a God who wants to help me make the right choices, ones that will be the best for me, and will glorify Him.

For The Sake of Christ

Hebrews 11:24-28

The other day in Good News Club, one of the children asked if Old Testament people went to heaven since they lived before Jesus went to the cross. I said, “Yes. They had to believe in Jesus just like we do, only they called Him the Messiah. they didn’t know His name. But if they put their in faith in God to keep His promise, they went to heaven.”

Then today I read Hebrews 11 and, maybe I’ve seen it before, but Scripture actually says Moses not only believed in Christ, he gave up the treasures of being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to suffer for the sake of Christ. And that was thousands of years before Jesus was born!

Jesus! The baby whose birth the whole world is celebrating this weekend.

Jesus! The real flesh and blood Son of God who went to the cross to redeem us all.

Jesus! Our Savior who lives in heaven preparing a place for all of us who believe.

Jesus didn’t become the Savior. He was always the Savior. And there is no other name anywhere that will bring us to the Father. People have been putting their faith in Jesus since the beginning of time.

Have you?

Trust The Process

Mark 8:22-26

I had to sit here and think about this passage this morning. On the surface it seems as though Jesus goofed a little trying to heal a blind man. Took Him two attempts to get it right.

Now, just in case you think for a minute that’s what is revealed in these verses, think again. God doesn’t “goof.” He doesn’t fail – EVER – and have to try again.

So why was the man partially healed before he was completely healed?

The first thing I notice is that the blind man didn’t beg Jesus to heal him. His friends did. So I believe Jesus needed to address the man’s own faith.

So we see the man allowing Jesus to lead him outside the city. Scripture doesn’t identify it as such, but I believe this demonstrates the man’s faith. He probably expected to be healed right there in the city like everyone else. Instead, he followed Jesus some distance without being healed, without turning back, not even knowing where Jesus was leading. That speaks faith to me.

Secondly, it doesn’t appear that Jesus spoke with the blind man at all before he spit on the blind eyes and touched the blind man. His first words seem to be the question, “Can you see anything now.” The man answers, “Yes. Kind of.”

Was he disappointed? Maybe he thought seeing a little was better than not seeing anything at all. But it certainly couldn’t have been what he’d expected from Jesus who had the reputation for healing all kinds of people. His answer seems to indicate acceptance. I think it reveals faith, because he didn’t walk away. He allowed Jesus to touch Him once again.

This time he was completely healed.

Makes me wonder how I’ve reacted to prayers not answered exactly as I expected. What do I do if God doesn’t answer as quickly as I had hoped? Do I accept the process? Or do I get frustrated at the necessary steps it takes to have my prayers answered according to the will of God?

Why does God often use chemo and radiation, a long and painful process, to heal cancer? Why do our wayward children sometimes take years and thousands of steps before they return to faith? Why don’t marriages heal, conflicts disappear, ministries bear fruit the moment we pray?

I think there are lots of reasons, lots of lessons to be learned, lots of people to be touched by the process as they see the faith of God’s children not waiver.

Oh, to be able to see God’s hand as clearly as the man we read about today. Oh, to trust the process because we trust the Lord!

Faith Like Mary’s

Luke 1

Unmarried pregnant girls are so commonplace today I don’t think we can relate to what Mary’s submission to God’s will really meant, what having a baby without being married cost women back then.

Prostitution at best. Most likely death. Loss of everything and every one. And life for that child should he or she be born? Brutal.

Mary’s faith speaks to me. Her total, unquestioning trust in God is something I want for myself. If God asks me to do the impossible, may I remember:

Nothing is impossible with God. (1:37)

May I, like Mary when God asks me to do something hard, say confidently, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let His will be done in me.”

And mean it.

Can It Get Any Worse?

2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34

I opened You Tube today and saw the title of a video that got my attention. I’ve never listened to this man before, but he titled his talk: This Pastor Is Worse Than You Thought – Andy Stanley, Jordon Peterson, Voddie Baucham – My Analysis. (The Gospel of Christ; John Henry).

He played a portion of a workshop given by Pastor Stanley, and even though I wasn’t at that workshop or watched the entirety of it, what I did hear left me speechless. Stanley said he no longer refers to the Bible when he teaches. He doesn’t say “The Bible says…,” or “God’s Word says….” In fact, he says Christianity shouldn’t rise and fall on the inerrancy or accuracy of 66 ancient documents we call books of the Bible. It rises and falls on the identity of a single individual… Jesus of Nazareth.

He said that. And he posted the same on Twitter.

Now, to be fair, Stanley said his position on referring to the Bible isn’t a change in theology. It is merely a change in how he talks about theology. It seems he believes he can talk about what is in the Bible without using it as the authority.

In a podcast, Stanley said that in the beginning of Christianity, no preacher said, “The Bible says…, the Bible says…” He pointed out that the ancient Christians didn’t have a Bible, many couldn’t even read, and surmised that what drove the faith was an event, not Scripture.

“We have to shift the focus from the Bible to the resurrection…”

I want to ask him how can we know about the resurrection without the Bible?

Anyway, after listening to this You Tube video, I opened my Bible (yes, I still do that every day). My chronological Bible had me in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles where I read how reading God’s Word changed everything for King Josiah and the nation of Judah. They didn’t realize the seriousness of their actions until they READ what God had to say about them. That lead to repentance and revival in the land.

Ok. You might argue that is all from an ancient ANCIENT document. It’s Old Testament, and we live after the cross. So let’s look at Jesus.

Jesus often used Scripture (the Bible in Jesus’ day). Read Matthew 27, 23; John 13, 15. When he walked with the men going to Emmaus after the resurrection, He talked to them, not merely about the resurrection, but about what Scripture said.

Paul, after the cross, refers to Scripture repeatedly: 1 Corinthians 3, 18, 26, 30; Romans 10,15, and on and on and on.

To say we shouldn’t base Christianity on Scripture negates 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And if we want to base Christianity simply on Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the dead, we need only read John 1 which clearly states that same Jesus IS the Word!

I hope you’ll investigate this for yourself. If I’ve misrepresented Andy Stanley, please listen to the video I referenced, and go to Stanley’s Twitter account (although I believe he has taken down some of what was said earlier). But let me know if I am in error. I don’t want to put words into Stanley’s mouth.

But let me ask you: what is the authority on which you base your faith? Personally, I am standing on the written Word of God, and I will continue to proclaim the Bible as that authority.

I’ll thank God for the privilege of proclaiming His Word, all 66 books, as His inspired Word live and effective today. And I’ll continue to urge you to read it every day.

Praying For Healing

2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38; 2 Chronicles 32

I sat here and wondered for a time why, when Hezekiah reminded God that he had been faithful to serve God and do what pleased Him, did God heal the king suffering from a fatal disease, and give him fifteen more years of life? I kept thinking how often Scripture tells us our best deeds are like filthy rags, that salvation is a gift and can’t be earned so that no one can boast. So why was Hezekiah saved from that death sentence because of works?

He wasn’t.

I believe he was saved because he went to God, laid it all at the feet of the Great Physician. Scripture says he wept bitterly, but it doesn’t tell us what those tears represented. Were they bitter tears, tears of regret, angry tears, or tears of repentance? It seems to me they were probably tears of surrender (my opinion only), the kind of prayer God still answers today.

However, this is not a recipe for healing. God doesn’t simply heal those who come up with the right attitude, or the right words to pray.

Here’s the thing: if we are faced with a terminal illness or another seemingly impossible situation, and we go to God and pray expecting to be healed, we aren’t really going to God. We are using Him.

But if, when faced with that diagnosis, we go to God, lay our illness or situation, heartache or anxiety at His feet, submit to His will with no strings attached, the outcome of our prayer will be everything He wants it to be!

When we truly put our faith in God, we release all expectations.

That’s why I am convinced the name-it-and-claim-it theology is anti-Christ. God is not our personal genie in a bottle to grant our wishes. How dare we reduce Him to that, and think we are being obedient.

Here’s another thing, and I believe it demonstrates what Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you or I or anyone else is saved from sin or disease, we are saved because of God. Period. It’s not about us. It’s about God.

Sadly, after God saved Hezekiah, he became proud. He seems to have thought he had something to do with his healing in light of all the good things he said he had done for God in the past. And he squandered the fifteen years God gave Him.

Then he died.

I guess I feel God would have us consider Who He Is, not just what He can do for us. Do we really trust Him? Do we really have faith in Him? Can we honestly pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done?”

Then it doesn’t matter if we are healed in this lifetime or in death. I believe God wants us to pray for healing:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Ephesians 4:6)

That includes physical healing. Don’t worry about it. Pray about it. Pray with thanksgiving. Present it to God.

When you present something, you don’t hold back, do you? When you present something you trust the receiver with whatever you’ve given. Can we do that with our illnesses and sin?

So pray for healing for yourself or your loved ones. Pray for the salvation of those God lays on your heart. Do what God nudges you to do, go to the doctor, eat more vegetables, take that 20 mile bike ride, spend time with that person, whatever and wherever God leads.

Pray.

Then trust Him. Leave your request at His feet. No expectations, just God. Then Paul tells us that after we present our requests to God:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4:7)

I honestly believe that’s how we should pray for healing or anything, knowing God hears and answers our prayers. And we can have His peace knowing for sure that He will answer our prayers according to His own good will.

Your Faith

Isaiah 7

Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. (7:9b, NLT)

What are your thoughts? God said this to King Ahaz when the kingdom of Judah was in serious trouble from Syria and Israel. Those two nations were primed and ready to attack the Jews in Judah, and they had the manpower to do some damage.

Ahaz was understandably nervous about the situation. Maybe nervous isn’t a strong enough word. Terrified might be more accurate. The king and the people “trembled with fear like trees shaking in a storm.” (vs2b)

God saw the fear, but He also had a plan that was much bigger than the fear the people were experiencing. So He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to encourage him.

Don’t worry, Ahaz. God’s got this. You don’t need to “fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers.” Sure, they are plotting an attack, but it will never happen.”

Now you’d think those words from God Himself would alleviate any uncertainty Ahaz was having. He had been looking at his enemies as formidable foes, but God saw them as has-been, ineffective weaklings. Ahaz had been looking at his enemies, thinking he needed to face them in his own power. God told him they had no power!

God said this about the threatening kings:

Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. (vs 8)

Israel is not stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. (vs 9)

But then he said the words I quoted at the beginning of this post. The King James version says it like this:

If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Ahaz had a choice. He could trust God to come through like He’d promised. Or he could face his enemy in his own strength, and take his chances. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure it was.

In our present culture we celebrate self-reliance, don’t we? We admire people who have worked hard, who’ve overcome obstacles by sheer will, and who are self-made men. Yet I think that’s been true since the garden when Adam thought he didn’t need God, that he could make up his own set of rules and do just fine.

I read a post from a fellow-blogger, Darryl Dash (DashHouse.com), entitled “In Whom Do You Trust?). He said something that has me thinking:

“Whatever we trust in place of God will eventually turn on us and destroy us.”

Money? Popularity? Relationships? Power? Self? What is it you trust for your happiness and well-being? What is it you trust for your eternity?

Pastor Dash says, “Self-reliance is deadly.” I think Adam would agree.

If you read on in this chapter of Isaiah you’ll hear God say, instead of looking toward armies to protect you, look toward a child. A virgin will be with child…

There’s the crux of the matter. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, you’re putting your faith in burnt embers and has-been kings. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, God cannot and will not make you strong.

But, my friend. If you let go of self and shut out all the other voices out there, if you put your faith in God alone, there is no battle you need to face alone. There is no enemy too strong for God to defeat. There need be no fear, because God’s got this.

I hope you’ll take a serious look at your faith today. You might say you have faith in God. In fact, I hope you do. But do you really have faith in God? Or do you have faith in God, plus something else. You know, just in case God doesn’t come through.

Can you have equal parts of faith in God and in yourself? What could be wrong with that?

Simply put, that’s not faith in God.

And unless your faith is firm, God cannot make you stand firm.

Everything We Need

Psalm 34

Sounds like another health and wealth gospel. But don’t let that fool you.

In reality, there are Christians who are sick and starving, homeless and without means to provide for their families. So how can we make sense of verses 9-10 which clearly say if we fear God, we’ll have all we need. If we trust God, we will lack no good thing.

Tell that to the Christian living on the streets with a cancer diagnosis.

But why is it people who truly fear, worship, stand in awe of God, and people who trust God and submit to Him are some of the most joyful, most contented people around? It’s because God is true to His Word.

God does give us everything we need. The Apostle Paul expressed that beautifully in Philippians 4:11-13, and again in 2 Corinthians 12:9. I hope you’ll take time to read those verses and hear what someone who had a tough life says about what God gives.

Matthew Henry, on page 610 of his Bible Commentary published by Marshall, Morgan & Scott in 1960, that if we look at this psalm as merely promising physical comfort we miss the most important thing. God not only works FOR us, He works THROUGH us. To me that means God is right there with the Christian, leading, directing, comforting, strengthening, and revealing Himself in marvelous ways.

The psalmist encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and there is joy when we attach ourselves to Him in all circumstances. God is a personal God, intimate, present.

Romans 8:28 tells us that God works things out for our good if we love Him. 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminds us that our troubles today are leading toward an eternal glory that far outweighs any hardship we face in this lifetime.

So yes, God does give us all we need, and we lack no good thing when we taste and see that He is good!

Proof Enough

Judges 6

Gideon needed proof. But he had proof.

When he realized he had been entertaining the angel of God, I would think that would have been proof enough. But a doubtful Gideon asked for another sign.

Jesus tells us it’s a wicked generation that asks for a sign. (Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Yet some people think they need the experience of speaking in tongues, or witnessing a miraculous healing, or seeing feathers fall from the rafters in order to believe that God is who He says He is.

Yet these same people often don’t take time to watch the sunrise, or may fail to marvel at the tiny fingers and toes of a newborn. They aren’t blown away at how God heals the scratch on their arms, or at seeing His strength in the wind. A changed life when a sinner repents ought to speak of the existence, will, and working of God in our lives and in this world.

But for some, that’s not enough.

Foolish and wicked.

We tend to look at the sky, at current events, at man’s opinions to find proof that Jesus is coming soon, when God has given us His word that He is coming again. That should be all the proof we need.

Jesus Himself spoke of heaven and hell, of grace and judgment, of holiness and sin. It’s pretty foolish to question Him or doubt what He said is true. Look at His birth, and His life on earth. Look at the cross. Look at the empty tomb. All proof that He has the authority to speak for God.

Do you need proof God exists? Read what He says about Himself. Trust that the Bible is true. Obey what it says. Seeking a sign or an experience is self-centered and anti-Christ.

Seek Him. He’s not hiding. He’s given you all the signs you need if you’ll just get out of the way, and pay attention.

He is proof enough.

(Mark 3-6) Not About Me

Do you find it interesting that, of all the Gospel writers, Mark (who is believed to have written Peter’s experiences with Jesus) didn’t write about Peter walking a few steps on the water? Did Mark and Peter omit that fact to save the apostle from the embarrassment of admitting he sank when he doubted? Maybe. But I doubt it.

Scripture doesn’t explain this omission so I can only guess at the reason behind it. On the surface, the fact that Peter even got out of the boat in the middle of a rain storm and walked toward Jesus on top of the water is amazing, and something to celebrate. Talk about faith! Talk about a miracle! Regular old Peter the fisherman walked on water. You don’t hear that happening every day!

Yet when it came to chronicling the life and work of Jesus, Peter kept that detail to himself. I don’t think it was to hide his doubt, or to save face. I think that Peter understood that it wasn’t about him at all. This narrative was about Jesus.

Even today when people hear “walking on water,” they think of Jesus – not Peter. And that’s exactly what I think Peter wanted.

Does my life point to me, do I seek attention and applause? Do I “share” what Jesus is doing in my life so people think what a great Christian I must be?

I want to take a page from Peter’s life. Take me out of the picture. I want my life to be about Jesus, to make people think of Jesus, to shine a light away from myself and point to Jesus only.

It’s not about me.