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Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

I read where Paul referred to himself as the least of all the apostles and didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle because . . . He had a good reason, and I will get to it, but what really struck me is when I reworded the verse. I am the least of all Christians and do not even deserve to be called a Christian because . . .

Like Paul, I didn’t have trouble coming up with my ‘because’. For Paul, “I persecuted the church of God.” For me, my problem was not that blatant. I was just inconsistent. For 30 years I was up and down – hot and cold.

I recently read a book that closed with this quote:
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth,
not going all the way, and not starting.”

Paul hadn’t started; but me, I stopped short of going all the way. Both miss the mark. But in 30 years I never quit trying. I might have fell 100 times, but I got up 101. God could have justly walked away. He could’ve with Paul. I like the line Paul adds after saying why he didn’t deserved to be called an apostle.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” God could have left Paul in his lostness. He could have left me to hobble the rest of my Christian life. But He didn’t. He allowed me to get up that 101st time and that gracious gesture was not without effect.

The effect on Paul was that he worked as hard for God as he had worked against Him. “What he learned he preached”. In an effort to persuade others to believe the same truth he had come to believe, he worked. Seven years later, I am working. That is the effect. What I’ve learned, I use to persuade others.

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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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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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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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I was working on this a few nights ago, and developed a bad case of writer’s block. I couldn’t get past the first line which at times I thought was perfect and other times I just wasn’t sure. When I went to bed, I prayed as I drifted off to sleep, asking God to help me with the thought I was trying to convey. I had a dream, and when I woke up I realized the Lord had answered my prayer.

In the dream I was on a farm, walking along a hillside toward a barn. I noticed a few dogs that had surrounded and was barking at an injured bird. I shooed the dogs away and picked up the bird. It had been burned on one side. I held it up to eye level. Our eyes locked just long enough for me to sense that it was hoping I would help it – long enough for me to feel that if I did, it would get better.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself . . . and the Lord knew it. It’s a fitting story for the text that had caught my attention. In Acts 20, listen to what Paul tells the leaders of the church at Ephesus.

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard.”

It’s not a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. It is a ‘fittest keep watch and be shepherds’ mentality. Paul just happens to be talking to leaders here; he called a special meeting for them. He was encouraging them to do what he did himself. As he traveled about, this is a big part of what he did.

As much as he did to point people in the right direction, there were always those who came in behind him to point them in the wrong direction; not too terribly different than how it is today. How many go into church on Sunday and here a good representation of the gospel and by Monday or Tuesday it is neutralized? By the end of the week, at least spiritually, they are like the injured bird surrounded by barking dogs.

We may not have as many to care for as Paul did, but we can all at least keep watch over ourselves. We must keep watch over ourselves. And then, whether over 2, 20 or 200, we are to be shepherds. This, at every level, is our mission.

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When the Lord told Abraham that He would take him to a new land and that he would have a son, was Abraham to pray for it to happen when it seemed like it wasn’t going to, or was it for him pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? When Sarah became impatient and tried to help God out, did it help?

When God told Moses that He was going to deliver Israel from Egypt and take them to the promised land, was it for Moses and the children of Israel to pray for it to happen, or was it for them to pray that their faith – their believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? When they were caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, was God after their praying or their believing?

When God told Joseph that he would rule over his family, was it for him to pray for when he was sitting alone in prison, or was it for him to pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? Did he help matters when he took things into his own hands by asking the two prisoners to put in a good word for him?

When God anointed David to be king, was it for him to pray that the Lord would make it happen, or was it for him to pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? David surpassed them all. He could have taken things into his own hands several times to help God move things along, but he didn’t. His trust was in God to do what He said He would do.

In all cases, God in His timing, in spite of what these men did to ‘help God along’ (which in no case actually helped), did what He said He would do. And so these thoughts have changed the way I pray. I no longer pray for the Lord to provide because He told me early on that before it was too late He would, and He has. My praying now is that my faith – my believing – would remain in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looks bleak.

It says of the Israelites when they were backed against the Red Sea, that they were ‘terrified’. Can you imagine if some of them would have nudged the one standing beside them and said, ‘Watch this; this is going to be cool.’; or when Jesus was standing in front of Lazarus’ tomb; none of the disciples believed. Can you imagine if just one would have nudged a few of the others and said; ‘Watch this, this is going to be cool’. Can we, when our situation looks so bleak, believe enough to say, ‘Watch this; this is going to be cool’? I believe it would please God if we could.

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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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