This Faith Thing!

The writer of Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]” (Amplified Bible) – Hebrews 11:1

For we live by believing and not by seeing. New Living Translation  – 2 Cor.5:7

“For by grace are we saved through faith…”

Faith is used over 250 times in the NT alone.

Truth #1: Living by faith means accepting God’s call without knowing where it will lead. (Abraham)

Genesis 12: 1- 2; 4Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”

 Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Ur of the Chaldees was a world-class city. In Abraham’s day perhaps 250,000 people lived there. It was a center of mathematics, astronomy, commerce and philosophy. People from outlying areas moved to Ur because they wanted to be part of that great city.

So Abraham, are you crazy?   Why would anyone want to leave Ur? Obeying God’s call meant giving up his friends, his career, his traditions, his home, his position, his influence, and his country. More than that, it meant risking his health and his future on a vague promise from an unseen God to lead him toa land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

When I finally surrendered to God’s call on my life it meant I would give up a good job I had for 5 years, move to a city that is referred to as “the city that care forgot”, leave my family, my friends, my boyfriend – go somewhere to live that was farther away than I had ever even been, somewhere I did not know one person – not even one and didn’t even know where I would work.  I was scared. I regarded this as my biggest step of faith ever.

Abraham truly didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know how he would get there, didn’t know how long it would take, and didn’t even know for sure how he would know he was there when he got there. All he knew was that God had called him. Period. So he left Ur of the Chaldees.  Hebrews 11:9, by faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise

Living by faith means no guarantees and no certainty about the future.”

If you truly want to do God’s will, sometimes you will find yourself exactly where Abraham was – setting out on a new journey that doesn’t seem to make sense from the world’s point of viewThe only certainty he had was that God had called him and he must obey. The rest was shrouded in mystery.  Living by faith means stepping out for God and leaving the results to him. It’s no guarantee of long life and good success. You may have those blessings. But you may not.

The life of faith means, “I am going to be the person God wants me to be, no matter where it leads. I don’t know the future, but I trust him to work out the details.”

Truth #2: Living by faith means waiting on God to keep his promises. (Joseph)

Jody Fuller – “Faith is your flashlight to get you through the darkness, and God has batteries that will last a life time.”

Joseph is the youngest of Jacob’s 12 son (Mother is Rachel who also bore Benjamin) –

 Gen. 35:22b-26  He was cocky and to say the least over confident.   Gen. 37 we see where Joseph had a dream.  He was a great dream interpreter as can be seen in Gen. 39-41.  The dream interpreted meant he would one day rule over his family but this would not be a bad thing.  Gen. 37:10, “But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”   Joseph had a rocky road ahead of him.  He was known to his older brothers as their father’s favorite add to that his dream and  his 11 older brothers conspired against Joseph, put him in a well and then sold into slavery, brought to the house of Potiphar all the time making their father believe he was dead.  At Potiphar’s’ house his job duties were probably menial to say the least and all happening at the age of 17.  

Then later at Potiphar’s house of all things he was accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife after in fact she had pursued him time and again and he literally “ran” from her.  But he was put in prison based her accusations where he stayed for an undisclosed period of time.   But notice what is said about him in Gen. 39:23, “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.”

What kept Joseph going?  Faith.  He was betrayed, enslaved and imprisoned.  Yet his confidence remained in God.  He didn’t allow his circumstances, environment, or the opinions of others to move him away from acting according to the Lord’s will.  He believed that every situation of his life was by God’s design.  As he moved through one hardship after another, he stayed focused on the Lord, who had promised to raise him to a position of leadership.  He just had to wait.

Back to my first night in seminary – I never had felt up to that time so alone.  All I could think was “I have come to some god-forsaken city – what am I doing.”  I went down to the lounging area.  There were two or three girls in there.  I tried to start a conversation but none of them were interested in talking.  I was just sick.  I felt nobody expected me, nobody cared that I came, nobody was giving me anything.  I felt I had been hung out to dry!  I even wondered what would ever happen to me.

Truth #3: Living by faith means never taking your eyes off the author and finisher of your faith.  (Moses)

 Hebrews 12:1-2 (Amplified Bible) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Faith is not about everything turning out okay.  Faith is about being  okay no matter how things turn out.”

Rory Feek husband of Joey Martin Feek, from the country duo lost his wife to cancer in March 2016.   The couple married in 2002 and rose to fame after appearing on “Can You Duet” in 2008. They released a string of traditional country albums that drew strongly on their Christian faith, and Rory tells Billboard he’s still relying on that faith to get him through the difficult times now that she’s gone.  “I don’t understand everything. I don’t understand all of the Bible, nor did my wife — but I understand what faith is, and what faith requires,” he says. “Faith requires faith, and that never really stops. She had a very strong faith, and that never wavered. The same thing with me: Just because things don’t work out the way that you hoped they would, doesn’t mean that God isn’t still in charge. It’s still his plans and not ours, so I don’t feel like my faith has wavered at all.”

BACK TO SEMINARY:  I worked over 25 years in bi-vocational youth & music ministry.  My dream was to someday be on a church staff full time.  7 years ago this dream came true.  Oh, I would love to have done it all the time but it wasn’t time yet – God’s time is perfect. God just wanted me to remain faithful to His call.   Even if I never got to do this I was ok with it. 

Exodus 2 introduces us to Moses.  He was a shepherd who was chosen by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity.   

 Hebrews 11:23-28,By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”  *“Faith is mentioned 24 times in Hebrews 11”*

Moses wasn’t an intelligent man.  He had no leadership training.  Logically, he wasn’t the one that should be chosen to lead the people of Israel out of captivity but someone forgot to tell God. God transcends  logic.  He didn’t have the skills, talents, or ability – but God’s power will accomplish through us what needs to be done2 Cor. 12:9, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

Living by faith requires actions that may seem unreasonable and even unattainable.  It is at that point we have to focus our attention on Him who is the “author and the perfecter” of our faith.  God wants us to trust that He has a plan for our life and that through manipulation, directing and guiding His plans will be carried out.  Job 42:41, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Is. 14:27, “For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”

Moses went before the most powerful man – the Pharaoh and ordered him to release the IsraelitesGod just asked for Moses’ obedience to the callHe took care of the rest.

IN CONCLUSION:   Sometimes we think, “If I follow God’s call, everything will work out and I’ll be happy all the time and for the rest of my life.” Look what Hebrews 11:10 says about Abraham: The Amplified Bible says, “For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has foundations, [an eternal, heavenly city] whose architect and builder is God.”

By saying that Abraham was “looking forward” to a city, it really means that he never found what he was looking for in this life. This world comes with a huge helping of frustration built into the core of everything. We live, we die, we buy a house, we sell a house, someone moves in where we once lived. We take a job, we leave a job, someone else takes the job we used to have. And if we are fortunate enough to have a corner office with an incredible view, we should remember that someone else had it before us and someone else will have it after us. If this moment is golden for you, enjoy it but don’t grasp it too tightly because it won’t last forever.  Abraham looked for a city with foundationsNote:   a “city,” not a lonely spot in the desert. He wanted to live in a place filled with other people;  a city with “foundations,” a place with security and permanence that could not be found in a tent. That meant he was looking for a city designed and built by God.

 Hebrews 11:32-40.    LOOK AT Verse 39-40, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

Phil. 3: 8-9, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—”

Phil 3: 14-16, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

TODAY:  God may want you to step out on faith – He may be calling you to do something that you just don’t feel you can do.  Is it scary – yes it is?  Are you alone?  No – never.  The Bible says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  God calls, He will also provide.

Idea came from, Living by Faith in an Uncertain World – by Dr. Ray Pritchard       http://www.crosswalkmail.com/ViewMessage.do?m=wnvdnlwfgz&r=bgcgldbzpbgc&s=qsnpwhmfpnpmdfbvqrjyjmhdsqqdngmjwwb&q=0&a=view

Adapted by Janet Hill for Titus 2 Large Group Meeting @Lindsay Lane Baptist Church – May 19, 2016

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In Light of the Supreme Court Ruling – My Conclusions

When I heard that the highest court in our nation ruled 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage my heart sunk.  I litterally had tears to roll down my cheek as I felt the United States of America had just spat in the eye of our Lord.  As I continued to think on it I came up the following conclusions.  Scripture is taken from the New International Version and the  English Standard Version of the Holy Bible.

1. God is still God. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
2. The Bible is still true: Genesis. 2 has not changed: Gen. 22:20-25, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
3. Sin is still sin:
“Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life.”
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Gal 5:16-24, “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
1 Cor. 6:9-11, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
BUT: Romans 6:1-4, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
4. No one sin is greater than the other.
James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

1 John 3:4-5 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”

In Reference to the Ruling:
Lev. 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Lev. 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Jude 1:7-8, “7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. 8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.”
Romans 1:18-32, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
5. Satan is alive and well, ruler of the earth, father of lies
1 Peter 5:8, “8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Rev. 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
John 10:10, “he thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” But Jesus came, “ that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
Satan was able to use less than 4% of the population to sway the votes of 5 judges of the highest court in the nation. Satan used Eve to commit the first sin – pride that has since changed the whole world. Just as he did the judges in the Roe vs Wade which makes killing unborn babies legal
6. “Gay Pride” – Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction”
7. You can’t serve two masters: Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
8. The command to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” has not changed. Matthew 20:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
9. To be salt and light in the world of darkness has not changed. Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
10. To shine like the stars has not changed. Phil 2:14-16a, “14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
11. John 3:16 has not changed, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
12. Road leading to salvation has not changed: Roman 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

SUNDAY’S COMING

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I’m In THE PIT

 “The hole is so deep. There seems to be no way to get out. The sides are too steep and too slippery. If I begin to climb I will only fall back down. I can barely see the light and I can’t get to it. I am afraid to climb, I will probably just fall back down…what is the use. Maybe it is more comfortable in this hole. Since I am already here at least I won’t have to fall down here again. So I’ll stay. At least here I am safe. I can’t be hurt anymore, knocked down anymore. Here I can waste away and nobody will care. But I don’t want to stay there. So I will take one step, slip back, catch my footing and take another step. It is scary because I am afraid something will just come along and shove me back in the hole.”

We all have experienced THE PIT at some time in our lives – some more than others and some longer than others. I know The PIT is ours to climb out of but we don’t have to do it alone. Reach out, reach in, reach up and begin to dig. It may take awhile, it make take more than one try, two tries. But how can we read that.”  Jesus came to give life and to give it more abundantly” and then believe he leaves us in the pit. Today, I am reminding myself of this. Jesus gives but without our acceptance of His outstretched arm we will not receive His help. Our only hope this side of heaven is in HIS outstretched arm. The pain, hurt, disappointment and yes the Pit is caused from a sinful world that has been since the foundation of the earth. Yet God did not leave us to bear it alone. When the disciples were afraid after Jesus was to leave them, He told them they would not be left alone for He was sending a “comforter”. That comforter is of course the Holy Spirit that lives in us.

Today I pray for you my friend and for myself that my eyes will see His outstretched arm and that I will grab hold and no matter how long it takes I pray I will hold on. God did not create accidents. We are made by Him and for Him and though we will suffer there awaits for us that crown of Life, prepared for those who will follow Him. He loves us so much that “He created us in His image.” Paul tells us “the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed. ” But in the meantime, God has a plan even for me. It doesn’t matter what we have done, He came to “seek and to save those who are lost.”   This refers to spiritual lostness but I also believe it relates to those who have been beaten down and rejected. God has promised “to NEVER leave us or forsake us.” Yes there will always be consequences for our behaviors both good and bad. Paul says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When the woman was caught in adultery and brought to the streets to be stoned, Jesus did not condemn her; the woman at the well who had been married several time and currently living with a man she was not married to, Jesus “forgave her and told her to go and not continue in sin.” Micah 7:18-19, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (NIV) and then we read in
Psalms 103 – (NIV)

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

THE ADVENTURE

I have just moved in to my new house.  First and foremost I want to thank God for the undeserved blessings He has given me that has afforded me the opportunity to go on this adventure.  To say this undertaking was strenuous is an understatement.  I have never had a new house that I could call my own.  I am 57 years old and was initially scared to death to do this.  Before taking on this monstrous event I prayed and felt a peace about doing it.  My desire utmost was for this to be God’s will in my life.  Many things about this was / is hard.  Moving away from my “home place” is not the least for sure.  It is hard to leave the home that my parents built in 1971 and to leave the 32 acres that my Dad farmed.  However, it was and is time to move on.  Going through all the things that were in their home “again” was also difficult.  What to keep, what to give away?  Going back in my mind to memories of days when we were all together.  But, time does go on and so must we.  While that home has blessed memories I am compeled to remember it does not contain my Mom, Dad nor sister.  They are in heaven now which will be my next stop on my life’s journey. 

Taking on this adventure as a single adult has had its ups and downs.  All the packing, moving and unpacking has been my sole responsibility.  I have laughed, cried and even had one horrendous come apart.  But, two weeks now in my new home I think I have finally rested and I am ready to continue this new adventure of calling this place “home”. 

I have walked in every room and asked God to bless it.  I have asked God to allow me to use my home for His glory and that what goes on in this house will be a blessing to Him.  I have fully dedicated this new home to Him. 

So, as I continue to unpack some things, sort through things, keep, give away and etc I pray God’s blessings on this house and my future here.  To God be the glory – great things He has done. 

Thoughts on Grace – Part 4

PART 4 – They Were Obedient

Abraham at the age of 75 was called by the Lord to leave his home, his people and his father’s household and go to a land that he was totally unfamiliar with.  Abraham could have told God “no”.  God gives us that choice – we either can follow Him or not.  Abraham chose to follow God’s call.  Genesis 12:1-4.   But this wasn’t the only time God called upon Abraham to obey Him.   Abraham had no children.  The Lord told him that he would have a son and he did.  He named him Isaac as told by the Lord.  Genesis 16-17.  Isaac was born.  Oh what an awesome day that must have been – Gen. 21.  And then the Lord tested Abraham.  He tested his willingness to follow Him whatever the cost.  Gen. 22 tells of the Lord’s command for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  We know that God provided a ram for him to sacrifice instead.  Gen. 22:12 says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said.  “Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Abraham accepted the call to discipleship.  He let nothing come between him and the Lord – nothing.

Moses call came from the phenomena of a burning bush.  Exodus 3 tells us that the Lord spoke to him and told him that He had heard the crying out of the Israelite people enslaved in Egypt.  He chose Moses to go to Egypt and bring them out of the slavery and bondage that was so horrific.  Exodus 3:11 Moses recognized his inadequacies and inability to do this on his own.  But God told him (verse 12), “I will be with you.”  Exodus 4 tells of how God reassured Moses of His presence and what He could do through Moses if Moses would allow Him.  The rest of the story of course is that Moses obeyed God and was used as an instrument to free the Israelites from Egypt.

The Disciples:  Peter was the first disciple to be called.  Matthew 4:18-20 tells us that Peter and his brother Andrew were fishing. They were carrying on a normal daily routine at work making their livelihood.   Jesus said, “Come, follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.”  The Bible says “at once they left their nets and followed Him.”

Next Jesus saw to other brothers, John son of Zebedee and his brother James.  Matthew 4:21-22 says that they too were fishing.  But when Jesus called them the Bible again says “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him”. 

Mark 2:14, “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”  We know Levi as Matthew.

In each of these instances unlike the instances of “the call” in Part 3 of our study, the called out ones immediately left what they were doing, leaving all behind to follow Jesus.  Matthew 16:24-25, “ Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”  These followers denied themselves of the worldly life they were living.  They abandoned their jobs, left their families and homes all to follow Jesus not knowing where they would go, what they would do or what would happen to them.

How would they save their lives according to Matthew 16:25?  That answer is found in Mark 10:28-31, “Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”   Here is the promise of eternal life that comes to those who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  The disciples were chosen for a specific task.  They were the core group that Jesus used to spread the gospel.  They, if you will, were the beginning.  Let’s look on.

Paulwas not one of the twelve chosen disciples yet he was chosen.  We are first introduced to Paul as he was called Saul during the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:54-54.  Although Saul may not have thrown a stone at Stephen he still stood by and condoned the death.  We meet up again with Saul in Acts 9.  Saul’s goal was to rid the world of those who believed in Jesus as the Son of God.  In fact in Acts 9 we see where he was on his way to Damascus to destroy the believers there.  But something miraculous happened to him as he traveled to Damascus.  Acts 9:3-8, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.   “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.”  Now look at verses 19-20, “and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  Saul spent several says with the disciples in Damascus.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Verse 22, “…yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.”

Acts 9:15-16 tells us something else.  The Lord told Ananias to go to Saul and when he placed his hands on him he would regain his sight.  Ananias was obviously fearful because of the horror stories he had heard about Saul.  But the Lord reassured him and in verse 15-16 He said, “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 

In the next section we will see the cost for surrender of all.

Thoughts on Grace – Part 3

PART 3 – Grace Manifests in Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.”[1]

 “Discipleship is the process of learning about the teachings of another, internalizing them and then acting upon them.”  To be a disciple of Jesus you have to learn what Jesus taught. But more importantly you have to do what He taught. That is how you can determine if you have really committed your life to Christ, you start taking seriously His commands and actually doing them Discipleship is the continuous Holy Spirit led process of learning Christ’s teachings, applying them to the believer’s life and then obeying them.”[2]

 

The disciples that Jesus chose in the New Testament are the epitome of discipleship.  They learned about Jesus by being with Him.  They listened to Him teach, witnessed His miraculous works and His outpouring of love to others.  Finally they witnessed His unconditional, unmatched love for humankind when He died on the cross so that we can have eternal life instead of eternal damnation. This is grace.  But, this was not the end.  He rose from the grave giving them one final command on this earth – Matthew 28:18-20.

CS Lewis said, “Obedience is the road to freedom.”[3]  Jesus chose the disciples and they were free to make the decision to follow or not to follow Him.  Although they were “free” before the freedom they now would experience was something they never knew before.  It was a freedom from the Law.  Paul spoke extensively regarding the Law.  However at this point we are looking at obedience and to see that let’s look at “the call” to discipleship.

Luke 9:57-62:  As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.”   But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Take a closer look at these verses:

1.  Luke 9:57-58, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  In this verse we see that the man first declared he would follow Jesus. It is important to note that Jesus had not called this man.  We don’t know why.  What we do know is that Jesus made it clear to him that if he followed Him it would cost.

2.  Luke 9:59-60,   He said to another man, “Follow me.”   But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  In these verses Jesus did make the call to a man to “follow” Him.  But note the man’s response.  The man was not yet ready to leave his responsibility to bury his father.  Yet, Jesus’ call is to leave everything behind.

3.  Luke 9:61-62, “Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”   The third man is as the first and offered to follow the Lord.  But, he wanted to do it on his condition – “first let me go back and say good bye”.  Note Jesus’ response, ““No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  Once we accept the grace that is ours for the taking then we are forsaking everything else to follow Christ.  “…discipleship can tolerate no conditions which might come between Jesus and our obedience to him.”[4]

Matthew 19:16-22 is a parable in which Jesus used to teach His disciples:  Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired.  Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 


[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, “The Cost of Discipleship”,  Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995. p56

[3] CS Lewis Daily @ Twitter – Dec. 22, 2011

[4] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, “The Cost of Discipleship”, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995. p61

 

Thoughts on Grace – Part 2

PART 2 – Free But Not Free

If grace is “free” then why must it cost?    God’s grace is not given to us without asking and having faith.  “For by grace are you saved through faith”.  First we must have faith that God can and will save us.  Secondly we must repent.  John the Baptist preached “repent and be saved.”  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him will be saved.”  Faith and belief are action words – something we do.  Once we have asked Christ to come into our life and save us from our sin (repent) then we will be saved.  Salvation comes by faith / belief.  Salvation comes as a result of recognizing that in and of ourselves we cannot be spiritual and we cannot have the grace God freely gives without asking for repentance from our sin.  The change begins to take place when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart. That change then manifests itself in outward behavior.  If there is no change in outward behavior there is no change inwardly.

            James 2:14, 17, 18b, 19-20, 24, 26: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man    claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?”  17 …”Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  18b, “Show me your faith  without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”  19, “You believe that    there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.  20, You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless.”  24, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.  26, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (NIV 1984)

Some examples in 1 John that shows us the look of a changed life:

1.  1 John 6:  “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

2.  1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

3.  1 John 2:9-10, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.   “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light…”

3.  1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and ho we set our hearts at rest in His presence…” (NIV 1984)

 

*All copied scripture is taken from the New International Version – 1984 Edition.

Thoughts on Grace Part 1

Oswald Chambers said, “The way we continually talk about our own inability is an insult to the Creator. The deploring of our own incompetence is a slander against God for having overlooked us.” Paul said in 1 Co. 15:10, “His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain.”

“Grace has been defined as God’ unmerited favor on behalf of the sinner.” In Ephesians 2:8 Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—“(NIV 1984). The verse defines grace as something that is unattainable by our own means. With this in mind Dietrich Bonhoeffer categorizes grace two ways:

1. Cheap Grace – Bonhoeffer says this is the kind of grace that is “sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares”. A cheapjack is “a peddler or dealer of cheap goods”. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cheapjacks) Bonhoeffer goes on to say that “Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.” Cheap grace therefore is a grace that says we can continue to sin, live in the world and like the world because we are “covered by grace.” Paul saw this very thing going on during his life and ministry. In Romans 6:1, Paul asked a rhetorical question “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (NIV 1984) Then Paul answered his question with more questions. Romans 6:2-4, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Bonhoeffer said, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

2. Costly Grace – The opposite of cheap grace is costly grace. If grace is something unearned then why does it cost? If I didn’t earn it then I can’t lose it. If someone gives you a new car – unearned gift – just because “I love you” gift void of any strings – does it then not become your responsibility to care for the car, maintain it? Costly grace, “condemns sin, and justifies the sinner. …It is costly because it cost God the life of his son…and what his cost God much cannot be cheap for us. …It is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.”

So many Christians fail to recognize that with grace comes responsibility and discipleship. Christians claim Ephesians 2:8 without seeing there is a cost. Paul says that the acceptance of this gift (grace) we are “transformed” from the old into a new person no longer “conformed” to living the way of the world. Romans 12:2a, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV 1984) Our lives are no longer ours but we belong to God. Through grace we are freed from trying to earn our way to heaven and yet this freedom is not free because of the sacrificial death of Jesus the Son of God. We are no longer slaves to sin but we belong to a Master to whom we owe our very lives.
Romans 6:15-23 (NIV 1984)
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever- increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[1] Chambers, Oswald. “My Utmost for His Highest”, Barbour Books, New Jersey. 1963. Nov. 30.

[1] Smith, Bailey E. “The Grace Escape”, Broadman Press, Nashville,1991.p21

[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, “The Cost of Discipleship”, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995. p43

[1] Ibid. p44

[1] Ibid. p44-45

[1] Ibid. p45

WORRY

WORRY – “to feel anxious about something unpleasant that may have happened or may happen.” (Encarta Dictionary) Have you known people that worried because they didn’t have anything to worry about? We laugh but worry can destroy our happiness completely. I believe God was aware of this so He gave us His Words to help us out.

Gen. 15:1, God told Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

Isaiah 43:1, “The Lord says, ‘Don’t be afraid. I have called you by name and you are mine.”

Ps. 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Psalm 55:22,”Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Got the idea yet? Someone said, “Worry is just interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” Do you believe in God? If you answer yes then who has your best interest? Who wants the best for you? Who loved you enough to die for you? Is this God going to let you down? The answer is a resounding NO. One of the names given to God in the Old Testament is El Shaddai. El means Almighty God and Shaddai means all sufficient God. Our Almighty, All Sufficient God is going to take good care of us. Put that worry away.

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