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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Faith grows during storms (1)

Why is it that some people’s faith only grows during storms and crisis?

Can’t faith grow in quiet daylight?  Grass does!

Rarely does anyone call me and say:

“Pastor, life is good!  Do you have guidance for scripture I should study or books I can read during these good ol’days, so I can grow in faith?” 

When life is good we are convinced we do not need God.  Since there are no pressing afflictions or infections that need supernatural healing, why bother God.  Isn’t He busy with others?

I learned to sail in calm seas, when the wind was gentle and the water waved gracefully below the hull of my boat.  If I had not learned to sail in calm seas, I would have never been able to sail through storms.

Perhaps this is why we panic and are afraid when the storms of life come our way.  We cannot hear God in the storm, if we have not dwelt with Him during the day.

While we draw on our faith during difficulty, we fail to build up our faith during prosperity.  You only have money to withdraw on a rainy day, if you made deposits before.

David’s guidance “be still and know that I am God” (2) is spoken when life is in an upheaval.  Yet his wisdom should be heeded when we are wandering in green pastures and drinking from still waters.

Lois Cheney asks:

Does anyone ever meander with God, sharing fun, thoughts, and silences?  (3)

Our best friendships are built on lazy days, when we simply spend time with others, chatting, talking, listening, and loving each other, letting time pass in the quiet breeze

Friendships built during days of leisure are the friendships which sustain us during seasons of difficulty.

Your fair-weather-friendship with Jesus, will sustain you during a gale.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 269). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Psalm 46:10.
  3. Cheney, Lois A. (2005-03-01). God is No Fool (pp. 185-186). Midpoint Trade Books – A. Kindle Edition.
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Don’t calculate without God (1)

I have always been a whiz with numbers.  In school I could add, subtract, multiple, and divide with the best.  Word problems and algebraic equations were my soul mates.  

Arithmetic was home base.  I consistently made A’s in math until I hit trigonometry and calculus.  My guaranteed A’s turned into hard won B’s.  After completing my second semester calculus class at Chapel Hill, I had enough.

Life is like calculus, it’s hard to figure out.  I was never able to look at a calculus problem and know the correct answer immediately.  Life is the same.  Just when I think I have life figured out, reality steps up to the plate and throws me a sinking curve ball.

When I became a Christian and began to include God in the equation, life did not necessarily become easier, but the answer became clearer.  With God in the mix, I know how the story ends, thus I know where I am going and can more easily find my way.

Because God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts (2) my greatest error in life is to make plans, do my life calculus, without considering God.  

I am a list maker.  My favorite is a list of pros and cons.  I will consider every obstacle and possibility while completing this list.  Once my list is complete, I weigh my options and make a decision.  Once a decision is made, I move forward.

Periodically I will show my list to a group of leaders in the church or to the men in my Covenant Group, to help them understand that I made a wise and careful decision.

One day, a friend who was reviewing my list asked me, “Where’s God?”  

I stumbled and stammered, I was struck dumb, silenced with nothing to say.  God was not considered.  I had not calculated for God.  I had planned for opposition, deficiencies, sin, evil, rainy days, surprises, and a host of other potential problems the world might throw down in my path.  But I had not planned on God.

My friend said,”Without God, your plans will fail.”

I hate it when my friends are right and I am wrong. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (3)

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. Isaiah 55:8.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jeremiah 29:11.

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Inner peace through an implicit trust in the love of God 

is the real evidence of a mature Christian faith. (1)

Inner peace eludes us because we pursue it in venues in which it cannot be found.  It will never be found at the store, in the office, or under a trophy.  It can not be purchased, achieved, or won.  It can only be received.

Inner peace can only be found in the company of faith.  Thus, it is accessible to all.  You do not need privilege, wealth, or luck to have it.  In fact, these things have prevented many people from finding inner peace. 

My friend Earl had inner peace.  

In the eight years I knew him, I never saw him out of bed.  He spoke between shots of air delivered to his lungs by a ventilator.  He could not tend to any of his personal needs.  

While Earl was was totally dependent upon others to provide all of his physical and worldly needs, his mind and heart had been spared the disease which ravaged his body.

Earl could have given up, but he did not.

He could have instructed his doctors to pull-the-plug, but he did not.

He could have spewed anger, despair, and resentment on anyone who entered his room, but he did not.

Instead Earl was the happiest man I ever met.  

In contrast to Job who moped, whined, and raged when his worldly possessions and loves were stolen by an evil twist of fate, Earl smiled, praised God, and rejoiced after disease robbed him of anything which looked like quality of life.

Earl had a peace which surpassed all understanding because he had faith in God.  This peace, his companion in faith, guarded his heart and his mind. (2)

Earl’s faith grew while his body decayed.  

Earl knew that his body would not last forever, it does not for any of us.  Thus, he placed his whole life into the hands of Jesus.  When troubles came and health declined, Earl found peace not in little things, but in the great and wondrous grace of God.

When Earl died, we sang Horatio Spafford’s great hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul” (Click the title to hear this great hymn.)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 

when sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 

It is well with my soul. (3)

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  1. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 202.
  2. Philippians 4:7.
  3. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 202.

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Fear is nothing to be afraid of!

The person who says he fears nothing, is a liar hiding behind bravo.

We all have fears, even people with the deepest faith in God.

Fear is doubting you have the strength to overcome!

The best way to overcome your fears is to acknowledge them.  Most people are ashamed of their fears and doubts.

I have several friends who are embarrassed that they are afraid of lightning.  When a storm comes, they hide inside a safe shelter.  This is not a bad decision on their part.  Most likely they will never be struck dead.  Their fear serves them well.

On the other hand, I am not afraid of lightning, I love to watch it flash and strike the ground all around me.  I will move out of safe shelter for the thrill of having a better view of lightning.  If I am struck dead by lightning, know that is was my false bravado, not the lightning that killed me.

Living with fear is part and parcel of living in faith.

A good bit of fear goes a long way in building your life.

Consider these proverbs:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (3)

If your fear of the Lord is wrestling your faith-in-yourself to the ground, that’s a good thing.

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, and 15:33.

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In this life, we hear the sounds, not the symphony. (1)

We never see the whole picture of life.  Even in this Information Age of digital technology,  scientific discovery, and higher education we only know a fraction of all there is to know.

If you are in the market to buy a new car you can visit on-line and real-time car dealers, research Consumers Report, read on-line reviews, test drive, and crunch all the numbers, but at the end of the day you will never know if you made the best decision.

Buy the Volkswagen and be left wondering if the Ford was the better deal and car, if the VW brought you greater joy, if this and if that … The list of qualifiers goes on and on.  You never know.

JP Morgan lost $2 billion and, according to latest reports, may lose up to $9.6 billion on a specific complex trade of credit swaps, derivatives, economic voodoo.  Instead another trader out-guessed them and took them to the cleaners.

Our biggest mistakes are made in life when we believe we are hearing the full symphony, rather than a collection of sounds.  We listen to a distant drumbeat, add some imaginary notes, compose lyrics, and make a decision.  Then we dance to our music, hoping it leads to life.

The Apostle Paul spoke about our blind leap into life:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face-to-face. (2)

So what should we do when confronted with information over-load in a world where we never see the whole picture.  My counsel is to follow the most trustworthy source.

In my life, I have only found one trustworthy source of information and guidance for living.  That source is the Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Christian faith.  It provides wisdom sufficient for making any decision you need to make in life.

The Bible is the infallible Word of God.  The Bible will never fail you.  In my own life, when I have faithfully lived according to the truth of the Bible, my life has gone well.  When I have listened to the world’s music or my own, my dance has turned into a limp.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (3)

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 180). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:12.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 119:105.

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Take the Journey!

Whether considering the deep mysteries or the everyday matters of life, we have a tendency to out-think God.

  • Is this God’s plan?
  • Why does God allow this?
  • Is this exactly what scripture means?
  • Where will this lead me?
  • Is God testing me?

Some ponder while others go.  

While I enjoy reflecting, speculating, wondering, and thinking about God’s will and His ways, I recognize that at the end of the day I must act in faith.

Faith is moving forward into the unknown.  

Faith never sees the way, it only sees God.

The prophet Habakkuk teaches, The saints live by faith!” (1)

I appreciate his emphasis on LIVE!  Get on with your life!  Trust God even when you do not understand His ways. 

Let actual circumstances be what they may be.  Look to Jesus.  Trust Him and His love for you.  Live knowing that He will bring you safely to shore.  

Jesus will do that!  While He will not keep your life free from trouble and uncertainty, He will remain at the helm with you during the storms and through the night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. 

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in 

from this time forth and forevermore. (2)

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  1. Habakkuk 2:4.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 121:7–8.

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The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin,

but the good which is not good enough.  (1)

 

Last evening I told a group of friends, “Today may go down as the most significant day in my journey of faith!”

They asked for more information.  I told them it was too much to try to explain in a minute or two, much less in an hour or two.

For years I have been wrestling with a good which was not good enough.  For years I had been longing for this good to quench my thirst and to satisfy my heart.  It always left me wanting.  It never brought me to The Promised Land which it promised.

Yesterday I finally let go of this good.  I did not free it as much as I freed myself.

My grasping to the good, my longing for it to satisfy and become great, perfect, and true has been the enemy of my faith for decades.

Today I am free.  Today I am at peace.

The good was a false hope in something to satisfy all the hopes and dreams of my heart.  

Even though you are longing to know what the good was, it does not matter.  

It was the good to which I clung and in which I hoped.  It was the good which kept me from grabbing onto God with both hands.  It was the good which prevented me from loving the Lord my God with all of my heart, and soul, and strength. (2)

Martin Luther in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, (a favorite since my childhood) wrote:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

A few years ago I began to recognize the bruise, the rotten spot of the good to which I had clung.  But I kept to the hope that with TLC, with effort, and with some buff and polish I could help remove the bruise, the spoiled rotten mark which infected this good.

Yesterday, I realized that the spoiled rotten bruise is here to stay, much like a birthmark.  I can cover it with beautiful clothing, with the best beauty cream and make-up, and with denial, but the birthmark will remain.

I am grateful I finally accepted this reality because I am free from the good which was never going to be good enough.  

My soul is no longer troubled.  

My faith in God is no longer divided between Him and this good.

Jesus said:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (3)

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. Deuteronomy 6:5
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 4:14.

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