Walk of Faith

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                I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.

                I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.

               David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.

                God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.

Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Humble Fellowship with God

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Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:4)
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
       

          Look at the scriptures above. Read the first slowly and let it take you to that silent place where God calls you to receive Him. Then use the second scripture to bring deeper meaning to the underlined portion of the first scripture. Now sit with the first passage again.
          When God allows us to struggle through trials we have two options: run to the comforts of this world or run to everlasting comfort in Him. God is our firm foundation and our refuge. Difficult moments are times when He calls us into deeper relationship with our Father, our Creator. Turning to God is described in detail in the passage above. It doesn’t have to be taken literally but let’s look at what it describes.
          Tremble (in your anger) do not sin (turn toward things other than God (idolatry)). Trembling could be in fear or anger, both draw us out of comfort. We then have a choice of where we can find peace in the storm. We can choose between the Creator and His creation. The eternal or the temporal. God desires a relationship that grows deeper as our spirits mature. The best way to grow in relationship is through the difficult times where we have to rely on God’s provision and comfort to carry us through.
         When you are on your bed (alone and away from distraction) search your heart (for what God is looking to teach you in this turmoil) and be silent (so that you may hear the still small voice of God). The world and its business look to captivate our attention and draw us away from the stillness we need with God. Seek the quietness and seclusion you require to draw close to God and avoid distraction. Search your heart, in openness and honesty to see where the Lord is missing in your life or situation. Where do you need in insert His power and rely less on your own? Look for the lesson God has for you. He loves you too much to let you remain idle. Seek and find what the Lord has for you. Then the most difficult part, be silent so that His voice can be heard, and the presence of His Spirit can work in your heart. Ask for understanding and be still to receive what God chooses to reveal to you.
          Offer the sacrifices of the righteous (humble spirit of thanksgiving) and trust in the LORD. Our sacrifice to God is submission, and a willingness to follow God’s will over our own as they become the same. Give thanks that God loves you enough to correct and lead you. Be thankful that as His chosen you are able to hear His calling and turn to the shelter of His love and faithfulness. Then trust that God is fighting battles that you cannot fight. We can rest assured that battles fought by God are fought to completeness. He will bring about His will which far surpasses our dreams. Turn to God and seek the fellowship described in Psalm 4:4. See the loving relationship and guidance the Father has for you.

God Prepares Your Way

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But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)

          God’s prepares you to accomplish what He destined you for from the beginning of time. Many times, you pray for God’s provision and His provision first comes as preparation for His bigger purpose. That’s why many times our lives seem to become more difficult after prayer. We were expecting a divine miracle to bring us relief when instead God groomed our character to walk in His upcoming revelation. God is more interested in our character than our pleasure. That may sound unpleasant to someone who is always seeking instant gratification, but you should consider what kind of joy and peace come from a character refined by God. How much more will you be able to succeed in His provision and plan for your life when you have submitted to His preparation?
          The scripture above shows God’s purpose in preparation. He could have driven out all of the enemies of the Israelites as they entered the promised land but that would have left them fighting into the dangers of the wilderness. Instead He allowed the enemies to keep the land farmed and provision gathered so that His people would be taken care of as they conquered each group of enemies in turn. At the same time, He was allowing His chosen people to increase so there would be enough to inhabit the land. God let His people grow in strength, number and relationship with Him before they were spread out over the land He had promised. Spreading His people too thin, too weak, and not focused on Him would have left them vulnerable to the things that try to destroy God’s plans.
          Know that God has a plan much bigger than what you can see. His ways are higher than our ways. Rely not on your own understanding of a situation but on your understanding of the God you serve. Submit to His refining, like the refining of gold. Let God increase your strength and value for His name sake, for His kingdom purpose. Be clay that is pliable in the potter’s hand and know that the joy found in the purpose God designed you for is worth the difficult season. Know that the God that sees all things from beginning to end has your best in mind as He grooms you for a purpose beyond your wildest dreams.

Avoid Self-Purification

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                As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.

                Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

                What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.

                The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

God’s Purpose in Trouble

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       It is inevitable in our Christian walk that we will encounter seasons of difficulty. Some people assume that walking with the Lord takes away the afflictions of this world. We might assume that God would only use those difficulties to punish people in their sin. He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love. (Job 37:13) Let’s consider that God uses the difficulties of people’s lives to draw them closer to Him. Not only to draw the lost to Jesus and reconciliation with Him, but also to draw His children closer.

       God has no need to create punishment for those who walk in darkness. All He has to do is let their decision to turn from Him, into the darkness, leave them in a despair of their own doing. A life absent of God is all the pain most people need when all of their human effort fails. When all earthly securities fail there is a loving Father waiting with open arms to shine His light into their lives.

       The most important thing for believers is to make sure they turn to God when life becomes difficult. God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Part of loving Him is the obedience found in reliance on His provision and perfect plan for your life. The times of trouble in our lives leave us with a big decision: turn to God or turn to the things of this world that are destined to fade. We can turn to the eternal or the temporary. Our treasure can be gathered here or in Heaven. Turning to God in a difficult season is not a onetime choice but a daily decision as the deceiver looks to draw you away from God in your desperation for immediate relief. Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. (Job 36:21) Look to God’s purpose, which is growing the faith of His chosen. Let hard times draw you to love God in deeper ways. Make relationship with God the result of troubles.

Tempted in All Ways (1 of 4)

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    Following His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted after 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:1). I heard a sermon where the speaker said that Jesus could not be tempted due to the lack of indwelling sin that we carry from birth. It’s an interesting thought. He prefers to say that the deceiver was testing The Son of God, sizing up his adversary. I like the thought of the deceiver being clueless to what God in the flesh had come to do. He would eventually cause a disciple to betray Jesus, leading to the death that defeated his own power over those who choose to believe in salvation through Jesus.

    However we see the time spent in the wilderness, it is clear that the deceiver was on a mission to try and change what God was doing. If we look at the temptations Jesus was presented we can see that the Book of Hebrews presents a truth described here in the Gospels. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) When I see the ways Jesus was tempted, I see that all three cover the majority, if not all, of the temptations we face. I want to examine how these three temptations encompass more than what might be scanned over as we read. Let’s break down each and see what larger truths exist beyond three attempts by satan.

He tempted toward the good parts of being human without the bad: to savor the taste of bread without being subject to the fixed rules of hunger and of agriculture, to confront risk with no real danger, to enjoy fame and power without the prospect of painful rejection- in short, to wear a crown but not a cross. – Philip Yancey

Jesus forfeited the three greatest powers at his disposal, “miracles, mystery, and authority.” – The Brothers Karamazov

Jesus was not willing to trade away our freedom for control, safety, protection, ambition, or comfort.