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Posts Tagged ‘Power’

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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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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‘Seek ye first’ had been on my top 10 list for over 30 years. How is it that we can do that? It wasn’t first; it was just in the mix. And yet somehow I had worked it out in my mind that it was.

Six years ago, after finally reaching a point where I just flat out admitted to myself that my version of Christianity didn’t match up to the Bible’s, there began a stirring in me to take a fresh look at the Bible’s version. After much review, a knee high stack of hand written journals and three books later, it is quite clear that my interpretation was more than a little off.

The process has conditioned me to wrestle things out afresh – to not apply the same compromising logic that is so easy and tempting to do. He said what He said. What did He mean?

Just this morning I read where a man approached Jesus on behalf of his son who suffered from seizures. “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him”. Jesus directs His attention to His disciples and says, “O unbelieving and perverse generation”. After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out”?

Before, I would have just blown by this. I would have rationalized that it was something for Jesus’ day but not mine. I can’t do that any more. Instead, I am asking myself the same question; ‘why can’t I’? I’ve asked it before; but somehow this time, it is like so many other issues I have wrestled through during the past six years. I sense Him leading me to ask – drawing me to wrestle this out.

I don’t have all the answers yet, which is obvious because I am still asking the question, but I have learned some things about faith that makes the question approachable. Faith knows something. Jesus was frustrated with the disciples for not knowing it. Jesus knew it. He didn’t huff and puff to heal, drive out and raised from the dead; He knew something. He wants some of us to know it as well.

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I read where ‘Paul, as his custom was, went into the synagogue and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead’.

I thought about his audience; they were Jews.  For as long as they could remember, they had been taught that the Christ would come as a king.  Understandably, they had trouble accepting that this lowly Jesus was the one they were looking for.  In spite of the fact that ‘God had accredited Him by the miracles He was able to perform’, and then further accrediting Him by raising Him from the dead, many, just simply, were still not buying it.  And so Paul and the other church leaders of the day spent much of their persuasive energy trying to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

But what about today?  We, for the most part, have been taught that for as long as we can remember.  We don’t need to be convinced.  We already believe it.  Somewhere though, there has been some kind of breakdown.  To varying degrees, our believing has just become a part of all the other stuff we believe.  It doesn’t occupy the space within us through which and from which all other stuff flows.  We have given it its spot, or corner, and we call on it or take it out occasionally when it seems appropriate or beneficial.

Today, with this kind of believing, many are still able to shack up, overindulge, speak with foul language, use crude humor, watch inappropriate movies, listen to inappropriate music and read inappropriate books and magazines; all contrary to the principals of the One in whom we believe, yet all coexisting semi comfortably.

Today’s gospel is not so much that we should believe; we already do.  We need to be convinced that if we believe it should change the way we live.  It’s not enough to believe ‘in’ God; we need to believe God.  We need to believe what He said – know what He said – and then adjust our lives to align with what He said.  It is not living as we please; it is living as would please Him.

No matter where we are, there will always be room for improvement; I have plenty.  But I believe, overall, there is much room to become more acquainted and committed to the things that please the God in whom we believe.  Conversely, I believe there is much room to become more acquainted and committed to the things that displease Him.  This, I believe, is the gospel we need to hear and be convinced of today.

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Chances are you’ve built a campfire or two.  You start with small stuff to get it going and then add more and bigger pieces of wood.  Before long you can have a pretty good fire.  In the course of an evening, you might add wood several times to keep a good fire.  As long as you add, it will stay blazing.

Have you ever noticed by morning, when the fire is gone, that if you stir around in the ashes there are usually enough coals left to get another fire going?  Add a few sticks, then a few pieces of wood and before you know it, you’ve got a good morning campfire.

Has there ever been a time in your life when all that was left of your believing was a few smoldering coals buried beneath the ashes of a fire that once burned hot for God?  Has your ‘believing God’ died down to a ‘believing in God’?

I read recently that there are certain times in people’s lives that they are more mindful of God than normal.  I don’t remember the entire list, but the birth of a child was there; a tragic event like 9/11 was pretty high on the list.  But #1 was the Christmas season.

When I first had the thought of writing this, I thought of it from the perspective of what we can do – need to do – to get our fires burning for God again.  But I thought when I saw these statistics that it is not just all on us.  God Himself comes to stir.  He uses these times to stir around in the ashes that are left of our believing.  He exposes the embers – fans them – hoping to rekindle our fire.

My prayer this morning, as it is now in the heart of the Christmas season, is that while there is this stirring, some would be compelled to keep a fire.  To do so, one must simply add wood on a regular basis.  It is really just that simple.  The word of God is our wood.  It is like a consuming fire.  Add enough and you will burn for God.

 

 

 

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The same people who sent Jesus to the cross were in church the following Sunday. Peter addressed them. He said, “you handed him over to be killed”, “you disowned him”, “you killed the author of life”.

Though this specific group of church people were literally part of the actual crowd that handed Jesus over – who disowned Him and killed the Author of life, who just days before were yelling crucify Him – there are some in the group of church people today, who by their blatant conduct during the week are also disowning and killing the Author of life?

And what did God do about it? He gave them another chance to see. Luke points out that He knew they “acted in ignorance”. Their eyes had not seen – their hearts had never understood.

He provided a display of the miraculous of which they could not help but to take notice. He healed the crippled beggar that they had seen Sunday after Sunday on their way to church. They saw it and were astonished. It made them perk up when Peter and John proclaimed the good news, that God had raised this Jesus from the dead.

With the added element of the miraculous, it helped them to see. Is the church not in need of this miraculous element today? In the lack of it, does it not grope around in the dark – acting in ignorance – because it knows nothing better? We pray and little happens. We preach and people don’t hear. What if Peter had prayed for the crippled beggar and the beggar had not gotten up? What if the people inside had not seen that evidence? Would they have listened?

Lord, for the sake of Your church, and those who are lost, both in and out of it, I pray the prayer that Peter prayed in Acts 4:29, 30. “Now, Lord, consider their threats (consider the fact that they act in ignorance) and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” In at least some portion, permit these things.

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