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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

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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Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be? (1)

Most of us want God to be a half-god to us.  

  • We want Him to be present in our lives, but not ever-present, because then He will interfere in our plans.
  • We want Him to be all-powerful, but not when credit is being given for a job well done by us.
  • We want Him to be holy and just, but not when we are enjoying an adventure in darkness and sin.

In 1952 J. B. Phillips published Your God Is Too Small.  His book became an instant devotional classic, from which comes this quote:

We create God in our own image, resulting in an anemic deity no more wise or powerful than we are, and certainly incapable of creation, maintenance, or salvation.

A small god begins with the misreading of Genesis 1:27: God created man in his own image.  

Our greatest sin is that we create god into our own image

Yes, this is idolatry:

The re-creation and re-imaging of God as a deity who meets our every need, desire, wish, and concept of how to best run the world.

We create idols because God is too much for us in all of His God-ness.  Thus, we prefer to slice and dice Him into palatable bits and pieces.  

We prefer to encounter God in small doses.  This is why we insist on worship being an hour long and assume worshipping Him twice a month, except on vacation and during the summer, as commendable for any believer.

We prefer God to give us a daily baby aspirin, rather than be our heart transplant surgeon.  Yes, we want Him to place a new heart in our enemies, spouses, and kids, but as for us, we simply want Him to give us a God-vaccination, just enough to save us in times of tribulation.

However … 

If you are tired of your god, whom you have made far too small, then pray to Him and ask Him to be all He can be for you.

You’ll be glad you did

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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).

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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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Fear God and honor the king! (1)

Fearing God is the easier of the two parts of this command.  

Honor the king!  I am having a problem with this one, especially as the narcissistic stalemate in Washington DC, continues to rule on the basis of self-interest, money, and power.

Our leaders have abandoned the form of government advocated by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people!”

Paul’s statement that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (2) is hard to dispute when examining the current political culture of the United States.

Christians have historically struggled with Jesus’ teaching “Give to Caesar what is his and give to God what is His.” (3)

Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, has provided the best explanation of what Jesus meant:

The secular government doesn’t extend any further than external and physical matters. God can tolerate secular government because it doesn’t concern itself with sin, good works, or spiritual matters. Instead, it handles other matters, such as guarding cities, building bridges, collecting tolls and taxes, providing protection, defending the land and the people, and punishing criminals. 

So Christians should obey government officials as long as these officials don’t command them to do something against their consciences.

If an emperor or prince were to ask me about my faith, I surely would tell him, not because of his governmental authority, but because I should confess my faith publicly. 

If, however, he ordered me to believe this or that, I would say, “Sir, take care of the secular government. You have no authority intruding on God’s kingdom. I will not obey you. You cannot tolerate anyone intruding on your domain. If someone oversteps their boundary without your permission, you shoot them. Do you think that God should tolerate your desire to push him off his throne and seat yourself in his place?” (4)

As the people of God we need to pray and work to keep the civil government from meddling in the affairs of God.

As you celebrate our nation’s independence today, established primarily to protect religious liberties, pray for our leaders, more and more of them believe everything belongs to Caesar.

As fear of God is replaced by expanding honor for the king our great nation grows weaker.

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  1. 1 Peter 2:17 .
  2. Romans 3:23.
  3. Matthew 22:21.
  4. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 185). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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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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