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Archive for the ‘A Journey of Faith’ Category

I work with guys who, as a result of some bad decisions, have ended up in jail. One is in for the first time because he didn’t control his drinking. Another is in for making and selling meth. Some are in for a short time while others await longer sentences.

I get to work with the ones who have turned to God. One who was in for drinking commented that he couldn’t believe how far off track he had gotten. He was a new person. Soon after getting out though, he is back to uncontrolled drinking.

The one who was in for selling meth, was in at least once before for 2 months. He said while he was in he was on fire for God. Within 4 hours of his release he was making meth again. So here he was, in again, telling his story.

I realize as they tell their stories, that they are not unique. We all struggle to keep from going astray; they just have more trouble with it than some of us who have gained in the fight. They have dug some deep holes for themselves and it will take resolve like never before to break the cycle that grips them.

God is doing His best to help them break it. Psalm 78 says, “Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths.” I can relate to that.

Is there not that same cycle with all of us to one extent or the other? We forget God; He slays us; we turn back to Him; He helps us. Then we start the cycle over by forgetting Him again.

I’ve been reading Paul’s letters lately. I’m amazed at the going astray he dealt with. His entire ministry was about sharing the gospel, people coming to God with sincere devotion, then falling away after he moved on. His letters addressed the issues.

I like the way he puts in 2 Corinthians 11:3. It reflects not only the potential for the Corinthian people to go astray, but Paul’s concern for it. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

It troubles me when I see the guys sincere and pure devotion to God, knowing they will soon be thrown to the wolves and be deceived by the serpent’s cunning. Most of them don’t have the roots to stand strong. I have struggled enough in my own life to know the cycle very well. I tell the guys this one thing that has helped me.

Jesus was getting ready to leave His disciples. He was getting ready to pass the baton off to them. The gospel would be on their shoulders. He knew they would need what He was getting ready to give them. Even He depended on it.

At the beginning of John 16, Jesus makes this statement. “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.” The ‘all this’ was the importance of ‘staying connected’ that He spent most of John 15 telling them about. When I look back on my walk with God, I see times I was connected and times that I was not. When I was, I was on fire for God. When I wasn’t, I went astray. This will be true if you’re in jail or out, if behind the pulpit or in the pew; there is no easy road. Staying connected is the only way I’ve found to break the cycle of going astray.

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Are there any wordpress bloggers out there that attended this years Summit; either from Willow Creek or from one of the many satelite locations around the world. This was my first year. My son and I went.

There’s a lot to process, but the Lord has me thinking about the man, the message, the faith of Stephen Furtick, and a comment that was made about him by one of the other speakers. If you heard Furtick’s message, you know about digging trenches.

The other speaker who commented had been digging trenches for 35 years to alleviate hunger around the world. His comment about Furtick was the assurance that his (Furtick’s) generation, because of their great faith in God to do the impossible, would eradicate it.

When I started my latest series, A Journey of Faith, I didn’t have it all laid out. It is litterally a journey. As I learn, I write. As the Lord shows me things I wrestle them out and then I write.

Is it possible that while we want to see miracles, God is wanting to see the hungry fed? Has God just brought me to a major intersection in my journey, giving me the opportunity to get on the same road He is on? I would expect that I’ll be wrestling this out over the next little while.

Anyway, GLS attendees, if your out there I would especially like to hear from you. But also to any, if this strikes a chord with you, I would like to know your thoughts.

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I was tempted to leave this out. This is a series that I have labeled ‘A Journey of Faith’. The stories in this series were to be a record of the things I learn in relation to believing God and seeing God size things happen.

I wanted to write about it but it didn’t seem to fit. I started to pass it up for one just a few chapters away and write about this one another day; but I couldn’t. It kept pulling me back. The truth of it was so exactly where I have lived. It expresses it so simply and clearly.

And then I thought . . . it could be the very thing responsible for my being on this journey. And so I saw that it ‘did’ fit. I ‘didn’t’ have to pass by it.

There’s really nothing I can say about it or add to it to make it say anything more than it says all by itself; so I will simply close with it.

Psalm 119:67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”

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I love the Psalms. They are written records of individuals pouring their heart out to God. Occasionally I find phrases that express more clearly than I have been able to, the cries and yearnings of my own heart and soul. They give me specific words that I can use myself as I pray.

One such verse is Psalm 74:11; “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of you garment and destroy them”.

Although I don’t have people I want destroyed, I have had situations I wanted to see destroyed. The image of God standing with His hand tucked in the folds of His robe, knowing it could come out at any moment, was a helpful image to have in mind as I prayed.

It was especially cool to see it finally come out. And now having seen it, I can pray another verse; but now with more feeling and meaning than ever before. It is so simple but it says so much. Psalm 118:7; “The Lord is with me; he is my helper”.

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In John 5:36 John quotes Jesus as saying, “the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me”. It made me wonder about myself; does the work I am doing for God have evidence which testifies that He has sent me – that He is with me?

He was talking with some Pharisees. Though they were very familiar with scripture, they did not recognize that the scripture they were so familiar with testified of Jesus. They were not raised on Him like we were, so it is at least understandable that they could miss Him. But we who have been raised on Him, though we may not be guilty of not recognizing Him, have we missed recognizing the truth of which He came to testify?

I know I have. Seven years ago when I decided to start over in my Christianity, it was this very thing that caused me to start over. What had I missed? My life didn’t reflect the type of life I read about in the scripture. There was far too little evidence that He was with me.

And so still, I am wrestling this out. In this series, which I am calling ‘A Journey of Faith’, this evidence – His testimony of my life – is my focus right now. He is good to confirm along the way that I am on the right track. This passage in John is confirmation.

Awhile back, in a comment from a fellow blogger, was part of a poem:

“Because my heart
Has thus agreed
My mind believes
It has obeyed”

I’m convinced that we are all guilty to some degree of being familiar with scripture and the Jesus of which it speaks, and have settled that that is enough. But I still say there is a wrestling we must do to really get it . . . and until we have God’s testimony on our lives, we haven’t yet got it.

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My pastor started a series on the writings of Paul. Beginning with Romans 1, he pointed out that it was vs 17 that Martin Luther ‘wrestled out’ in the 1500’s. Because of that wrestling, we have the Protestant faith’s.

Before his wrestling, there was pressure to be ‘righteous’ – pressure to eliminate enough bad and add enough good to be ‘righteous’ like God. That’s a lot of pressure. For weeks he wrestled . . . and finally the breakthrough that changed his life and ours.

The point of this is not to remind of what the breakthrough was, but to mention the thought I had when I thought about it being a result of his wrestling.

What is that by wrestling out with the same energy, might we give birth to or otherwise discover or see take place? Does His kingdom suffer because so few of wrestle? What are we missing because we do not wrestle a thing through?

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Faith Knows

What is it that you do for a living or otherwise invest your life in? You do it day in and day out. You know it inside and out. You don’t hope you can do it, you know you can do it. You know how to keep things running smooth. You know what to do when they don’t. You know what to do to get things back on track. It doesn’t throw you. It doesn’t cause you to doubt whether or not you know what your doing . . . you know.

Faith is like that. Faith is not hoping; faith knows. Can you imagine someone who is unfamiliar with what you do coming in and trying to do what you do? They would be hoping they could do it – and in time maybe they could – but you already know.

In Mark 11 Jesus said this to His disciples; “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I’ve always looked at this passage as pressure on me to believe. I must huff and puff to keep my believing believing. But that is not it at all. Faith is knowing. It isn’t hoping . . . and if you can keep your hoping going it will work; it is just simply knowing.

A surgeon knows how to remove a kidney. He doesn’t hope he can do it. He knows. He not only knows he can do it, he knows what to do if things go wrong in the process. He knows how to get things back on track. He knows backwards and forwards what to do. He has faith that he can do it.

Until our faith can have this kind of knowing behind it, it is not faith. – hope maybe, but not faith. Hope is more easily thrown when things don’t go so well. Hope is up and down; but faith knows. Faith knows that no matter what, the matter will be seen through. Faith is sure.

Heb 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith knows.

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You expect to see results quickly when you bring a dozer in to move a pile of dirt. But what if you bring a shovel and wheelbarrow? The results will still come; they just come a little slower.

And so it is with our believing. If we’re not taking a dozer into a situation we are believing for – if we’re just taking a shovel and wheelbarrow – we can still have results . . . it will just take a little longer to see them and to get the job done.

In the story of the centurion servant who was suffering from seizures (the one that the disciples could not heal) Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, 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.”

We expect the mountain to move all at once, like it did for Jesus. But Jesus had faith the size of a dozer. We on the other hand come with a shovel and wheelbarrow? Our faith is small in comparison to His; but . . . we can still move the mountain if we stay with it. The evidence may be a little slower to come and a little harder to see, but nevertheless there will be evidence if we stay with it.

We need to see evidence when we pray. Evidence says ‘You are on the right track. Just stay with it.’ We are bad to quit when the whole mountain does not move at once. That is what the disciples did. They couldn’t drive the seizures out with one try so they quit. But faith, even if it is small, it can be sure. Faith, because it knows something, refuses to quit until there is evidence; and then once there is evidence, faith continues to press until the mountain is moved.

Prayer is work. And like with any work, we need to see that the effort of our labor is accomplishing something. It is no different with prayer. We need to see that the effort of our praying is accomplishing something. We need to see evidence. Lately I have seen just enough to know that I am on the right track and that if I will just stay with it – wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow – I will see this mountain moved.

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Jesus’ faith was like a wrecking ball. I had thought mine was at least like a sledgehammer, but I’ve recently decided it might only be as big as my wife’s picture hanging hammer. A slab of concrete will crumble with just one blow of a wrecking ball; several with the sledge; but a picture hanging hammer??? Oh my; that’s going to take some time.

How was it that Jesus could walk up to demon possessed person, and in one command make Satan come out? Or in the case of the centurion asking for his son who was suffering from seizures, how could He say, ‘I will go and heal him’? Not, ‘I will go and try to heal him’, but ‘I will go and heal him’. It’s a little different than how most of us today would approach it. We will try. We will ask and see if the Lord will do it for us and if not we move on. But really that doesn’t even constitute picking up the hammer.

Jesus knew something. Luke tells us in chapter 10 of his gospel that Jesus ‘saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven’. Satan was no match for Him, but . . . that was on Jesus’ turf. What about here? When Jesus came here, He was on Satan’s turf. Inevitably there would have to be a showdown. On the front end of Jesus beginning His ministry He went toe to toe for 40 days in the desert. And again, Jesus came out on top. Jesus showed him, ‘even here you will do what I tell you to do’.

I think each us must have a similar showdown. We must go toe to toe and not back down. Even if we just take into that showdown faith as small as a picture hanging hammer, we’re not to back down. That is what Jesus meant when He told the disciples ‘if you only have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can do the things I do’. ‘If you know that he has to leave and you don’t back down, you will win your battle.’

And so with my little hammer in hand, I stand for a young girl who has seizures. I command Satan to leave her alone – to quit troubling her. I’m not asking God to do it; He wants me to learn that I can do it. He wants me to know what He knows; that Satan has to leave.

In the story that this series stems from, where the disciples had been unable to heal the centurion’s son of his seizures, Jesus’ comment about faith was when the centurion told Him that he had men under him that did what they were told. That is the point Jesus was referring to when He said He had not seen such great faith in all of Israel. ‘I have not seen anyone that understands this – that they can command Satan and know that he has to obey’.

This is what Jesus knew. It is what He wants us to learn.

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Maybe the disciples had hoped that Jesus wouldn’t know that they had not been able to heal the boy of his seizures. Maybe they were a little like us, not understanding why, and just deciding to let it go.

Oh He knew. He didn’t say anything, but He knew. When the father of the boy spilled the beans, I can see the disciples head drop a little – maybe positioning themselves behind someone hoping to not be seen. Jesus is not happy; and after a little scolding, they finally ask Him what they have wondered to themselves, “Why couldn’t we drive it out”?

It is clear that Jesus expected them to be able to. He had told them to. I wonder when He stirs us to do the same – to believe for the same – if He doesn’t expect us to be able to. Somewhere along the line we have given in to the belief that He doesn’t. Surely Jesus wouldn’t say to us, “O unbelieving and perverse generation” – would He? . . . surely not! . . . would He?

We console ourselves by thinking He wouldn’t – by thinking it must not have been His will. I believe there is more to it than that. With the disciples, if it had not been His will, what reason would He have had to be frustrated with them? The reason He was frustrated is that they had the ability themselves and didn’t know it.

And so He makes the point; ‘Hey, I know you don’t know all that I know – that you are not as sure of things as I am; but even if you just understand it a little, you can do the same things that I do’. Because of all that He knows and understands, He walks up like a wrecking ball and says ‘Satan, hit the road’ . . . and he hits it. We tell him to hit the road and he just stands there with his arms crossed; ‘Make me’ he says.

And that’s the deal. It’s not so much praying and asking God, as it is telling Satan. When he stands with arms crossed, it’s standing right back at him. That’s what Jesus meant. ‘Even if you have faith the size of a sledgehammer, you can stand there delivering blow after repeated blow until he moves on.’

Faith is not hoping he will leave. It is not hoping God will make him leave. When God has initiated the faith, it is knowing and understanding that he has to leave. We have given in to him not leaving so long and his heals are dug in so deep that it will take quite a stand – a much needed stand – to drive him out. He really has no option . . . unless we give him one.

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