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faith

Faith, Spiritual Growth

Belief and Blessing

April 12, 2016

 

 

You know the story. An angel shows up to a teenage girl in the midst of her morning chores, declaring that she’s going to have a child that will be the Son of God. Mary, though shocked, accepts the angel’s words as true and responds in praise. A few weeks later she travels to stay with her cousin Elizabeth who has had a similarly miraculous pregnancy (though without the whole son of God thing). When Mary shows up at Elizabeth’s house she is greeted with a prophecy.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:45

Blessed for Believing

Faith is what pleases God most. The majority of the book of Romans is filled with the Apostle Paul making a case for this, and he begins with the statement, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ (Romans 1:17) Faith is what pleases God and gathers blessing for those who believe – hence Elizabeth’s statement “Blessed is she who has believed”!

Despite all common sense to the contrary, Mary took God at his word. That’s how those who are righteous live. Faith is taking God at his word, believing that the Lord will fulfill his promises, regardless of what common sense or circumstance says.

How will you do that today? In Christ God has made countless promises to us, and I want us to be able to come to the end of our day and have it declared over us “Blessed are you who have believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises!”

It is there, in that life of faith and the eternal fruit that comes from it, that true blessing is found. Of course, that blessing might not look like what you’d expect. It certainly didn’t for Mary. But that’s a topic for another post.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Warfare

Problems in Perspective

March 23, 2016

 

 

What’s the default storyline that you’re operating in? When something goes well are you the achieving hero or a person carried along by something greater than yourself? When something goes wrong are you a victim or a protagonist preparing to overcome the odds?

We humans can’t help but tell ourselves stories. We interpret every situation through the lenses of the stories we’ve bought into, regardless of how accurate they are. God is a storyteller, writing something amazing on the pages of history. In his image we’re created as storytellers, and in many ways the stories we tell ourselves define our quality of life. Our stories define our perspective on life, for better or worse. Our stories – if we could externalize them – would give clear evidence as to whether we are functional atheists or practical, real-life believers in the God of Jesus Christ.

There’s a scene in 2 Kings 5 that illustrates the radical difference that two different perspectives – two different stories – can have. I’ve written about this scene before but from a slightly different angle and felt that this concept merited a post of its own.

Here’s the story, in brief. Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, has leprosy. He’s dying. One of his wife’s servant girls comments that there’s a prophet in Israel who might be able to heal him. Naaman’s master, the king of Aram, lets Naaman head on over to Israel with somewhere upwards of $60,000 worth of gold and silver plus ten fine sets of clothing and a letter saying that the king of Israel should cure Naaman of his leprosy. The King of Israel receives the letter and isn’t so thrilled about it. The text reads,

And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
– 2 kings 5:7-8

A Problem

The king of Israel’s story interprets this letter negatively. His perspective shows him a big problem. Big enough for him to tear his clothes and begin mourning. He believes that if he doesn’t heal Naaman the Syrian army is coming for him. The question is, why is this his perspective? The text gives us several hints.

  • He sees Naaman as an enemy. The king’s response is a petulant child passing blame; “See how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
  • His false humility is really masked-over fear and lack of faith. “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?”
  • He doesn’t realize the power of his position as the king of God’s people, or the resources at his disposal. He’s not God, but he is the king of God’s people.
  • He’s more focused on himself than on God or Naaman. His story is about him, a victim at the hands of the more powerful Naaman.

An Opportunity

The very next paragraph we see Elisha operating in the same situation with a totally different perspective. He’s living in a different story. Where the king of Israel sees Naaman’s arrival and request as a problem that is too big for him, Elisha sees an opportunity for God to show his power. Contrast Elisha’s view with the king’s:

  • He sees Naaman as needy rather than as an attacker. “Let him come now to me, that he may know…”
  • He knows his position and authority. He’s a prophet of God, which means God listens when he prays. “Elisha the man of God…there is a prophet in Israel”
  • His boldness is humility because it’s inspired by God. He believes in the power of God and acts accordingly.
  • He’s more focused on God and Naaman than himself.

Our Opportunity

Elisha’s perspective enables him to step forward in faith and ultimately see Naaman healed of his leprosy and become a worshipper of the God of Israel. The king’s perspective would, most likely, have led to war or at the very least Naaman’s eventual death.

Every day you and I confronted with situations that we can either view as a problem or an opportunity. What perspective are you going to live from? When you lose your job, how will you see it? When the relationship you’re in ends painfully, how will you see it? When there’s conflict in your community or the person you’re discipling goes off the deep end, how will you see it? Is it a problem that leaves you as a victim, helpless and lost? Or is it an opportunity for God to demonstrate himself in new and wonderful ways?

When we see other people’s neediness, know our position and authority in Christ, live humbly before God, and focus our eyes, minds, and spirits on Christ rather than ourselves, we’ll get to see things just as amazing as Elisha’s healing of Naaman’s leprosy. People will be blessed, restored, encouraged, and saved.

As followers of Jesus we have opportunities, not problems. God works everything for our good. Let’s work towards seeing things that way.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith, Theology

Checking Jesus’ Death

March 7, 2016

 

 

 

When things go wrong we tend to question God. When we sin we often question whether God’s grace is going to cover this failure. Does the Lord truly love us? Is he pleased with us?

The common practice of Roman soldiers was to break the legs of those who were being crucified in order to ensure that they died quickly. The day Jesus was crucified, John records in his Gospel that the soldiers came to do exactly that but found that Jesus already appeared to be dead. To confirm this, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

Death by crucifixion is death by drowning, liquid pooling up in your lungs as you struggle to breathe. When water spilled out of Jesus’ pierced side, the soldiers knew full well that the man hanging on the cross was definitely dead. They didn’t need to check again. The execution had been completed.

Years later, the Apostle Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Christ suffered once for sins. The book of Hebrews reiterates this, declaring, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10, emphasis mine)

God has proven himself to us completely in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He proved his love through the sending and sacrificing of his son. He’s proved his power through the miraculous life and resurrection of his son. He’s proved his faithfulness through his son’s promise to be with his people till the very end and ultimately, to return.

When we question the goodness, grace, or power of God every time we sin or something doesn’t go the way we desire in our lives, it’s as if we’re that soldier there on the crucifixion mount, returning again to spear Jesus’ side, double, triple checking that his sacrificial death is truly real, over and over again.

Checking Jesus’ death over and over again isn’t faith. It’s fear and doubt. Put the spear down and take God at his word. Clearly this is what John intended for us to do when he concluded his Gospel with the words; “He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – that you may also believe.” (John 19:35)

You may not have been there for Jesus’ death, but John’s word is true and is written so that you may also believe. Take God at his word. Don’t let your questioning become a continual testing of his truthfulness. Stop checking Jesus’ death. Trust that he has suffered once, for all, and has covered completely every sin and failure and shortcoming that you will ever have. Trust that his love is unending and his patience is perfect. Trust he does indeed work everything for the good of those who love him. Trust him. His testimony is true!

 

*This post was inspired by something my roommate Andrew shared with me after he had been praying, so credit for the concept goes to him!

 

 

 

Culture, Life, Spiritual Warfare

Fear Not

March 2, 2016

 
We live in an age of terror. Where fifty years ago the average person’s main news outlets were the local newspaper, a few radio stations, and word of mouth, today we’re standing in the middle of dozens of channels of global news. We’re inundated with the flood of horror stories from around the globe and across our country. Video of ISIS murdering dozens in Syria, a barrage of articles about armed stand offs within our own country, radio discussions about rogue nations testing possible nuclear warheads, and plenty more. The world is increasingly operating on a foundation of fear.

Nowhere is this more clear than the current American presidential race. The vast majority of political candidates are using fear as the main driver for their campaigns. Be afraid of muslims and vote for me because I’ll keep you safe. Be afraid of financial collapse. Be afraid of the establishment. Be afraid of the rich and the banks. Be afraid of the future. Fear is, sadly, the politician’s most effective tool.

Hard truth time. If your mind is filled more with fear and worry than faith and worship, you’re dishonoring God.

Every day we’re given hundreds of reasons to live in fear. And, to the delight of the Devil, fear and worry have become the default for many Jesus followers. We, like the world we live in, get swept away by the torrent and fall prey to Satan’s attacks, forgetting that, as the Apostle Paul writes, “true love casts out fear.”

When we partner with fear and let it direct our thoughts, we’re denying God and affirming the evil one. I want to take one verse and three key moments in Jesus’ life and remind you today that you literally have no good reason to live in fear. As George Whitfield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” What do those who are invincible and immortal have to fear?

There’s a moment early on in Jesus’ ministry where he’s teaching a crowd of Israelites and they get so ferociously angry at his words that they try to arrest him in order to kill him. John summarizes the moment by writing, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 8:20). Note that last sentence; “because his hour had not yet come.”

Safe from arrest

These seven words make a massive statement about just how secure our lives are. Jesus couldn’t be arrested because his hour had not yet come. The Father had a time set for his arrest, and it wasn’t then. No matter how vicious the crowd, no matter how fiercely they desired his arrest, Jesus could stand unafraid because his hour had not yet come and until his hour came he was invincible.

We serve the same God that Jesus did. He has the same care and power in our lives. No matter what the political reality of the present or future may be, no matter how viciously people oppose us, no matter how angry others may be, we are utterly safe. We have nothing to fear, because God is good.

Safe from Satan

Later in his ministry as he nears his betrayal and murder, Jesus says to his disciples,

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:30-31)

Catch that? Jesus calmly notifies his followers that Satan is coming for him, but he’s not afraid. The devil has no claim on him. Oh, he’ll go along with things and be crucified, but not in fear. He goes to the cross in faith, “so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

If you are a follower of Jesus you have the same Spirit that he did. You can, by faith, say with equal boldness, “the ruler of this world has no claim on me” and face even the most potent of demonic opposition without giving an inch to fear.

Safe in death

The story doesn’t stop there though, as you probably know. Jesus goes forward in love and is crucified. He dies, but even in death Jesus doesn’t give way to fear. He is utterly confident that his Father is sovereign even over the power of death. Jesus is just as safe in death as he was in that moment at the outset of his ministry when the Jews wanted to arrest him.

You too, like Jesus, can face even death with confidence. Paul writes in Romans that those who are connected with Jesus will surely be resurrected like him. Even in dying you’re secure.

Here’s the deal, my friends- fear focuses on the situation; faith focuses on the savior. We live in a world that says “be afraid, be very afraid!” ten thousand times a day. We have a savior who has said, “Do not be afraid, I am with you always” and proven it a million times over. Whose story are you going to buy? What kind of life are you going to live?

I for one don’t want to let fear define how I live. I want to be a love promoter, bold and laughing in the face of fear because I know my Father is the one with all the power. He has all the power and he’s promised that he’s going to use it for the good of everyone who have put their faith in Jesus. Get on board. Build your anchor on Christ, the firm foundation. Set aside all worry and doubt and trembling and embrace the truth; if you’re in Jesus, God loves you and is for you. You’re invincible. What do you have to worry about?

 

 

 

Faith, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare

Pharaoh, Moses, and Persistent Faith

January 26, 2016

 

 

When God sent Moses back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the release the of the nation of Israel from slavery, he notifies Moses that there’s going to be opposition. “The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21) Moses’ request is rejected not once, not twice, not even four or five times. Ten times Moses is rejected. In the face of that opposition Moses was expected to persist. Not get frustrated, discouraged, or hopeless, but to “perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do,” and persist in faith at doing the work that God had called him to.

God has called you to something today. It may not be taking a nation out of slavery, but God has put a task before you today that you need to accomplish. There’s going to be be people and circumstances that stand against you doing that thing. Ignore them or confront them, but don’t let them stop you. Persist in faith by continuing forward through the opposition into the victory that God has already won in through Jesus Christ.

Remember the truth that gave Moses hope. God told him beforehand that he was the one hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that he could demonstrate his power and glory to Egypt. Everything, even the opposition you’re facing, is in God’s hands.

Hundreds of years after Moses, Jesus gathered his disciples and warned them that the world would be against them if they followed him, even to the point where they would be killed for doing his will. At the end of John 16, Jesus reminds his followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There’s going to be trouble. There’s going to be opposition. But don’t worry about it. Jesus has already overcome and the Father has always been in control. Be bold in pursuing what God has put before you. Persist in faith. As you do that your reward – in this life and the next – will be great. Who knows, maybe you will end up leading a nation out of slavery and into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Two Buts

January 18, 2016

When God commands us to do something more often than not our responses start with excuses. Rather than offering ourselves to our creator as obedient servants and our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12), we offer him our “buts,” providing long lists of reasons why we can’t do what he’s asked us to. We’re too afraid, too unskilled, too socially awkward, too tired, and on and on.

Our buts

We’re not alone in our tendency to give God our buts. Moses, after a direct verbal command from the God who made a bush speak, insisted “But I can’t speak properly!” Gideon made excuses to the angel of the Lord because his family was small and unimportant. When Jesus shows up at Lazarus’ tomb the crowd’s response to the command to roll away that stone isn’t excitement; it’s “But he’s been dead for three days!” The disciple’s response to Jesus command to feed the 5000 isn’t obedience, it’s excuses; “But we don’t have enough food.”

Continuing in a long line of but-offerers, we are generally extremely successful at counting ourselves out. God commands us to not fear or worry. We respond, “But there’s so many unknowns!” God commands us to be free from all sexual immorality and drunkenness. We respond, “But I have an addictive personality! I’ve tried to stop before and it hasn’t worked.” God commands us to practice hospitality and operate as a community. We respond, “But I’m an introvert, I don’t like big groups,” or “My problems are too big – they can’t handle them.”

Thankfully God never lets the story end with our “buts”. Moses isn’t abandoned after the burning bush and Lazarus isn’t left in the tomb. The disciples and the crowd aren’t left hungry, and the world isn’t left lost.

God’s buts

Throughout Scripture there’s a repeated theme of God butting in and dramatically changing the situation when things are going wrong. Note the “but God” in these three verses;

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark
Genesis 8:1

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But God, because of his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:1-5

Moses couldn’t speak properly, but God provides someone to speak for him. Gideon was from a small, helpless family, but God makes him the leader of a great army. Lazarus was dead, but God brought him back to life.

We need to take our eyes off our “buts” and fix them instead on God’s promises. Rather than making excuses let’s revel at the power of our God to step in and save, heal, deliver, and restore. When we focus on our own problems we get locked into an attitude of defeat and uselessness. When our focus is on Jesus we’re freed to walk in faith.

Next time God commands you to do something, remember that he always gives the power to accomplish what he’s commanded – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Get over your “but” and get into the power of God.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Ask and Obey

January 12, 2016

When God calls you to take a step of faith, often times it’s as much for the sake of building the faith of others as it is for you. The triune God created humanity for community, and it is through the actions of faith taken by those around us that we often get to encounter God’s goodness towards us. Take, for instance, this story from 1 Kings 17;

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (‭1 Kings‬ ‭17‬:‭7-16‬ NIV)

Elijah already knows God’s power to provide for him. Just before the above story with the widow, God’s been using wild ravens to bring him food. That raises the question, why not continue doing it that way? Isn’t it more miraculous to have wild animals provide God’s prophet with meals than some widow?

God’s goal, however, isn’t to prove that he can do miracles. That’s already pretty well established (read the rest of the book). No – I believe God’s heart here is for more people to encounter his goodness. God tells Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” He wants Elijah’s provision to be mediated by another person, so that another person can learn how God works.

Note who it is that God chooses to provide for one of his most powerful prophets: a widow. Not a grand king, rich landlord, or prosperous farmer, but a widow with a young son who is so close to the end that she’s given up and assumes her and her son will die soon. He sends Elijah to ask her for water and food, the very things she doesn’t have any extra of.

She doesn’t even seem to be aware that God’s planning on doing something miraculous through her. Despite the fact that God told Elijah “I have directed a widow….,” the widow doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. It takes Elijah declaring God’s promised provision to her to call out her faith and enable her to act. Note how Elijah goes about calling out faith in the widow;

  • He persists. Even though she tells him at first that she doesn’t have what he needs and that her and her son will die if they don’t get to keep the food, he asks a second time. We need to ask with holy persistence and not back down just because what we’re asking for appears impossible.
  • He starts small. First he invites her to make “a small loaf of bread” for him. Not a grand feast or even a full meal, just a small loaf of bread. Invite the people around you to take a small step of faith, to move even an inch in the direction that God is calling them. Jesus himself says that faith as small as a mustard seed has massive power.
  • He declares God’s promises. Elijah speaks the powerful truth that God is going to provide for the widow and her son as well as Elijah. Speak God’s truth and build up the people around you, regardless of whether they come with you on the journey or not. After all, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

When we call others into obedience in faith, they receive blessings beyond what they would have experienced otherwise. The widow and her son were provided with abundant food during a time of famine because Elijah asked them to take a step of faith. They stepped and saw God do miracles on a daily basis.

Has God called you to something that you can’t do on your own power or resources? Good! He wants to use your need as a means of building the faith of those around you. Today – this week – God has someone in your life that he wants you to help step out in faith. He’s called you in a direction and you need that must be met before you can start moving. He wants you to go to those around you and invite them to support you in that journey. Ask the community of believers around you for what you need. Ask even if it seems impossible. God will provide and use your need to bless you and bless the person you’re asking. Miracles will happen.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Fallout Revisited, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: The Long Road

November 16, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that takes posts from The Everlasting Fallout’s five years of history and brings back to the light of day. This post was originally written May 26, 2011. The original post can be found here.

 

—-

 

God often seems to take his people on circuitous routes rather than the straight and simple way in order to reach their destination. Israel is led through the desert for an entire generation before reaching their promised land. David is anointed king and flees from Saul for years before finally receiving his rightful place upon the throne. Even Jesus spent nearly 30 years on earth before even beginning his ministry.

Why this slow, painstaking process rather than a single miraculous moment? From the grand picture of scripture it appears that God cares more about who a person is than he does about their accomplishing a certain goal. Character comes before achievement in the kingdom of heaven, and the Lord desires to see Christ’s glory formed in his people more than he desires to see his people achieve things that are glorious by earthly standards.

The sovereign Lord uses even our sin and mistakes to conform our character to that of Christ. When Romans 8 declares,

all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The apostle truly means all things. Israel’s desert years taught them the foolishness and danger of doubting an all-powerful God and allowed them to see their own sinfulness and God’s power to preserve. David’s years of waiting, hiding, and being pursued by his enemies taught him the patience needed to be king and grew his character into a man who would lead Israel well. Jesus’ life on earth prepared for us a righteous life not our own so that we might truly called “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) and “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do not despair, my friends. Though you see ten thousand easier roads all about you, our gracious God is guiding every circumstance and step to cultivate you as one of his children. He is the perfect husbandman, guarding and feeding his flock, pruning and watering his plants, and in all things showing his good and perfect love. Your faith is more precious than gold or many jewels, and he will use any and all means in his infinite wisdom to refine that faith and character so that, though you may suffer and struggle for a moment here on this earth, you will rejoice with unspeakable joy as you receive the promised glorious salvation (1 Peter 1). Do not fear a long and treacherous road, for the Lord will be with you and will do good to you every step of the way.

 

 

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth

Want heart change? Act accordingly.

November 11, 2015

In the Christian circles I live in there’s always been a lot of discussion about how we need heart change in order to actually act differently. The chorus goes something like; “the issue with sin is the sinful heart, not just the actions that flow from the heart. When our hearts change then our actions will change. We need to pray for God to change our hearts and then we’ll be able to act differently!”

While it’s absolutely true and resoundingly biblical that a transformed heart like what’s described in Ezekiel 13 is what we desperately need, it seems to me that somewhere along the way we’ve swung too far to the opposite end of the pendulum, moving from a “work hard and change yourself” attitude to an attitude that says we should sit around waiting for our heart to change before we take action.

Sitting around waiting for God to do something isn’t an act of faith if God has said he’s already it. Waiting for heart change when God has said “I have given you a new heart” is, quite simply, sin.

In Isaiah 58:13-14 the prophet’s logic lays out a challenge to our passive conceptions of heart change. He says,

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
– Isaiah 58:13-14

Notice the if/then statement here. If you keep your feet….If you call the sabbath a delight….If you honor it…Then you will find your joy in the Lord. The prophet tells the Israelites that if they speak and act as if they delight in the Lord they will delight in the Lord. If they begin practicing and proclaiming the goodness of the Sabbath, then they will find joy in the Lord. The lesson?

When we act in obedience heart change begins.

This is such a crucial principle for us to grasp. Obedience is faith. Rather than reading more scripture and hoping that faith will compel us to act by somehow removing every barrier and allowing us to float through the challenge with nary a struggle we need to acknowledge that time and again throughout Scripture faith is defined as action. Abraham’s faith was his action of going to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. David’s faith was his action of stepping out to face Goliath. James makes this point in his epistle, brazenly challenging those who claim their faith doesn’t need action to prove it.

Faith doesn’t sit waiting for God make everything feel easy; faith says that God’s word trumps our feelings.

Instead of sitting still and crying out “God change my heart so that I can do what you have commanded” it says “God, I’m going to do what you’ve commanded no matter how I feel. Thank you that you’ve changed my heart and enabled me to do it.”

Three principles that we can draw from this passage in Isaiah to help us align ourselves for heart change:

1.Actions influence emotions.

We humans have an amazing ability to adapt. Odds are that even if you’re terrified of heights, a couple weeks of hanging around the edges of tall buildings and cliffs would drastically lessen that fear. When Kelly and I first ventured out on our own during our time in Sri Lanka we were both nervous in the unfamiliar territory, but after a day or so we felt almost completely at home.

If you’re struggling with enjoying God, delighting in his word and worship, or being comfortable in the presence of his people, push yourself. Press through. Acclimate. Your actions will inevitably start to influence your emotions.

2. What we speak shapes what we think.

Isaiah tells the Israelites to “call the Sabbath a delight.” Speak out the truth that the Sabbath is a delight and your thoughts will start aligning with that truth. When you’re in the process of learning new spiritual truth, speak it (out loud!) on a regular basis. Bring it up in conversation. Ask questions. Doing so will embed the truth more soundly in your brain.

3. Habits have huge impacts on our beliefs.

Repetitive action and verbalization widens neural pathways and reinforces truth. Take a cue from Isaiah’s words to the Israelites and build into your life habits such as Sabbath, daily time in God’s presence, and regular reading of Scripture. Doing so will, in time, grow in you a delight in the Lord your God that isn’t going to happen if you just sit around waiting for it. Form habits that reinforce your faith by faith. Rather than waiting to desire it start acting as if you desire it and you will begin to.

My friends, don’t sit around waiting for your heart to change. If you are in Christ you are already a new creation. God has given his word that you’ve been given a new heart, mind, and Spirit. Let’s start living in line with that. Preach to yourself what is true and act rightly regardless of how you feel. God will work and transform your heart as you step out in faith.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare

On Looking In the Right Direction

November 9, 2015

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.”

– Isaiah 31

 

Don’t put your trust in the things of this world. They won’t last. I’ve written along these lines before, but it bears repeating. God clearly thinks so judging by how often he reminds his people throughout the Old Testament.

When you look to things other than the Lord for your protection, power, or freedom, it’s not going to go well.

In Isaiah 31 God is addressing Israel and warning them against looking to Egypt for help and protection from Assyria, Babylon, and other threatening nations. Egypt had a large army – a multitude of chariots and hordes of strong horsemen, but God declares woe on those who look to Egypt for help.

Israel was being tempted to return to their old captor in order to feel safe, abandoning the God who had set them free from Egypt and slavery in the first place.

What multitude are you putting your trust in today? When life troubles come along are you expecting your array of preparations or piles of saved dollars to protect you?

What strength are you looking to? Are you trusting in the strength of your willpower or the strength of the economy or the strength of your relationships?

Want to see the power of God at work? Give up the chariots and horsemen and the thousand little things you think make you secure. Look instead to God’s multitude of grace found in Jesus. Look instead to the strength of God’s power demonstrated in Jesus. Embrace the conflict and trust that God is more than able to help you, even when an entire nation is opposing you.

Woe to those who look to Egypt for help, but those who look to the Lord can say with the Psalmist, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23).