Faith/Feelings

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October 5

Monday, October 5th, 2020

One of the things I have always encouraged in people is to question, i.e. they have the right to question what I say. But when they do, always go to the Word! Two things come into play: 1) The only dumb question is the one not asked; and 2) Ignorance is not bliss. It’s the latter I’m thinking about this morning. Not knowing is okay. But there is also the matter of not knowing because we don’t care. That is ignorance. And that is not bliss.

I agree with Chuck Swindoll (not that he really cares whether I do or not. 🙂 ) when he writes:

“Slice it any way you wish, ignorance is not bliss. Dress it in whatever garb you please, ignorance is not attractive. Neither is it the mark of humility nor the path to spirituality…On the contrary, it is the breeding ground for fear, prejudice, and superstition.” (“Good Morning Lord…Can We Talk? p. 274)

It’s so easy “to plead the fifth” as they often say on TV shows. I’m going to plead ignorance, which in this case, leads to silence. Question: how can that lead to biblical wisdom and knowledge? It can’t. And doesn’t. And therein lies the rub. We have far too many who say they follow Christ who DO NOT KNOW because THEY DO NOT ASK.  Maybe a favorite pastor or radio/TV personality says something and rather than investigate we accept it as “gospel” or we lock step to the party line. That can be-and usually is-very damning. Face value vs faith value. Only trust the Word.

“Father, may I be a student of Your Word. May I find my answers there and not in man. Help me to know and be wise, not live in ignorance.”

September 23

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

I have never met a person who said, “I love adversity.” In fact, the opposite is most often true: we try to avoid it like the plague. We read garbage like Your Best Life Now and think “I want my best life now. I want ease. I want comfort. I want prosperity.” We listen to trash that promises us health, wealth, prosperity, and comfort but leaves out the struggles, doubts, questions, adversity and unfulfilled dreams that are sure to come. If they do, we are told it is our lack of faith.

I read an interesting quote recently:

Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher

I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading lately about this whole idea of adversity and prosperity. It all relates to the pandemic we have been facing since March and its testing of our wills and outlook and patience. I know I’m sick and tired of masks, mandates and social distancing, etc that have come with it.  But, you know, we would not know how good things are, or could be, if not for when things get tough. Our Christian life is the same way. To live without adversity would never show us how good God is on a daily basis. I’m not asked to understand; I’m asked to trust. My vision may be cloudy now; it will become clear someday. While not desired, adversity is to be expected and even welcomed.

“Father, help me not to lament and complain about adversity.  Help me to see it as Your hand and move upon my life.”

August 25

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020

One constant throughout the past 6 months -give or take a few weeks- has been the presence of fear. For some it is very palpable. One can almost see it in the eyes, brows, or body language. At times one can see a paralysis present, so much so that a person is afraid to interact with others at all. When this whole virus thing started, I saw someone at Kroger wearing a Hazmat suit, covered top to bottom. That’s not saying there were and are those with legitimate health concerns, but a Hazmat suit?

But there are other kinds of fears also. It’s the fear of moving forward, of moving beyond the status quo. It’s the fear of traditionalism. We can see this fear in certain words/phrases we use or hear: (1) We’ve never done it that way before; (2) I’ve always been this way; (3) Those are the rules!; (4) Where will you get the money?; (5) Try to be normal; (6) Don’t make waves; (7) Failure is not an option; (8) That’s not my responsibility; (9) We don’t have room; (10) He’s never going to learn. {Note: I’m grateful to Chuck Swindoll for that list}

The sad part? I’ve probably heard most of those…and to my shame… admittedly have used a few of them in my own rationale and in my judgment of others. Each of those phrases basically is fear wrapped in a different package. That’s not saying there aren’t times when fear is legitimate, or caution is essential.  But when fear become a real ghost that haunts us, it has gained too much power. Paul wrote these words in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and self-control.” Let’s not allow irrational fear paralyze our desire to follow Jesus. Let’s not allow fear to get a foothold in our lives.

“Father, please replace fear of moving forward with faith to trust. Help me to not to cloak fear with excuses.”

August 11

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

One of the more humorous-but more challenging to the faith-sections of Scripture is found in Acts 12. Herod had killed James, John’s brother. When he saw that it pleased the Jews he arrested Peter and threw him in jail also. My guess is his plan was to do the same to Peter as he did to James. He knew enough of the Jewish Law and culture to keep Peter in prison until after the Passover.

And here is where it gets interesting…and humorous…and convicting. The night before Peter was to be brought out, an angel appeared to him and told him, “Get up. Get dressed. Put your shoes on. Follow me.” Peter, thinking it was a dream, did as he was told and wasn’t aware of what was happening until he was out and free. That’s the first great truth: God’s miraculous deliverance.

The humorous part is next. Peter goes to the house (Mary, the mother of Mark’s house) where the believers were praying for his release. He knocked on the door and Rhoda, the servant girl, recognized his voice. First humorous act: she leaves him standing outside! When she tells them Peter is outside, their response is “You are out of your mind.” (v.15). Okay, so check it out. First, she leaves him standing outside. Second, they think she’s nuts.

And third? Well, that is humorous part #3. It is also the convicting part. She was insistent, and I can see them roll their eyes, drop their shoulders and say, “Okay. Let’s check it out.” They even added, “Maybe it’s his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter is still knocking. When they open the door they are amazed.

This is the convicting part. What had they been praying for? The release of Peter. What did Rhoda tell them? Peter was at the door. What was their reaction? Disbelief. Even when they saw they were amazed. I’m thinking they were amazed-not because of the overwhelming realization of what God had done- but because Peter was there to start with.

How much like that I am. I pray for something and when it is answered I am surprised. I shouldn’t be. God has promised to answer my prayer when it is asked in faith. I should stop being surprised and amazed that He would answer, but instead, amazed at His faithfulness.

“Father, help me please to send up prayers in faith, believing you will answer.”

July 9

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I’d like to continue with the thought from yesterday’s devotion (July 8). What to do about the risen Christ?

A number of theories (“proofs”)  have been put forth concerning the empty tomb.

  • Jesus just swooned on the cross. He passed out from all the torture; was put in the tomb; revived in a cold, damp tomb; then had the strength to push the stone away.  I suspect somewhere in there He also had to over power the guards. Seriously? The more one thinks of that the more ridiculous it sounds.
  • The ladies went to the wrong tomb. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me, especially given the fact that both Matthew and Mark tell us they were there when they laid Jesus in the tomb AND they even prepared the body with spices and oils. (Luke 23)

There are other theories-just as silly- but I think one of the most incredulous was actually given during that time: the disciples came and stole the body. Matthew 29 records that lie. But what is absolutely “insane” is how it went down:

  • The guards report the body is gone.
  • The guards were bribed by the religious leaders to tell the lie of the stolen body.
  • The guards accept the bribe and spread the lie.
  • The religious leaders promise protection (if Pilate should hear word of it) to the guards.

One big question: if the guards were asleep, how did they know the disciples stole the body? As Biff says to George McFly (Back to the Future 1), “Hello! Think McFly! Think!” Think people. Think! Does not that lousy excuse for the reason sound more more unbelievable as you think about it?  And here is another question: what about those soldiers? To live with that lie over your head and to know you betrayed your army?  To be black-balled in the eyes of your fellow soldiers? No thanks.

Seems to me it takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

“Father, the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead piles up, especially when one considers how ridiculous the theories sound.  I state again how I will stake all I have on the resurrected Christ.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”

May 7

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

During my Quiet Time this year I’ve been reading One Perfect Life by John MacArthur. It takes the story of Jesus and puts it in chronological order. So related Scriptures are read together. My reading today was from Matthew 18 and Mark 9. It is, perhaps, one of my favorite passages/stories in the life of Jesus. It is the story of the father with an epileptic son.

The setting is critical. Jesus, Peter, James and John had just come down from the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration. A spiritual high for sure. They came down to a scene of pure chaos. The disciples were surrounded by a crowd and scribes arguing with them. A man had a son who had epileptic fits and a demon who controlled him. The father had asked for help and healing for his son from the disciples but it wasn’t happening. Jesus came on the scene of chaos, asked a question, and the father told him. About that time, the boy had one of his fits.

  • Jesus: How long has this been happening?
  • Father: From childhood. “If you can do anything.”
  • Jesus: “If I can? All things are possible for one who believes.”
  • Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
  • Jesus: Mute and deaf spirit come out.

A father’s faith is rewarded. Contrary to what today’s false teachers say, this father’s faith was not all that great. He asked Jesus to make his faith complete. My thought: On a scale of 1-10 the father’s faith was a 2 let’s say.  He asked Jesus to fill in the lack. There are times you and I don’t have “complete” faith. That unanswered prayer is not because of that, in spite of the hucksters who say, “Healing (or whatever) didn’t happen because you had doubt, you didn’t have enough faith.” If so, what do you do with this man’s experience? We take what little faith we have and we bring it to Jesus. If it is His will to answer that request,  He will. Actually, He always answers. Maybe not the way we want, but He does.

And that is where faith comes in! Bring your request; what little faith you may have; and trust Him to answer.

“Father, please give me the faith like a mustard seed-faith like this father- who trusted Jesus to answer. Let me bring what little faith I sometimes have and let you make it complete.”

April 27

Monday, April 27th, 2020

In the movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey, Newt Knight deserts the Confederate Army when he tires of war, sees his nephew get shot and killed, and hears about the Twenty Negro Law. With a ragtag group of people, he frees Jones County from the hold of the Confederates. But he would never had gotten there if he hadn’t first been saved by two slaves.

In this time in our country, there are many who are in despair for various reasons. I’m not downplaying the more serious kind. People are wounded and desperate, facing an enemy that can’t be seen and, in all honesty, makes its presence known in most cases without warning. It sort of reminds me of what Paul said in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air.” The battle is very much a flesh and blood one, but it creeps up on the unexpectant. Many are like the psalmist in 102:1-2: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; and answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

We wonder where God is in all of this. Does He really care? Is.43:2 answers that question unequivocably: “When I pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Sometimes I feel like a broken record-we have nothing to fear. No matter what happens our God goes through it with us. We are not alone.

“Father, help me to remember there is no water too deep; no storm too strong; no mountain too high; no path too treacherous that you aren’t with me.”

April 20

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Throughout this whole “virus thing,” I’ve seen various actions and reactions. I’ve seen abject fear. I’ve seen wise caution (One church family has had to hunker down and be super careful because of a family member with an illness that could get much worse if she got the virus). I’ve seen cautious and careful movement toward others (maintaining distance and limiting physical touch). I’ve also seen recklessness and total disregard for suggestions.

The one I have been pleased to see in many is 9-1-1. Known as the universal call numbers for help or an emergency, they also should remind us of something else: Psalm 91:1. When this whole thing started I wanted to let the people know I was thinking of them.  So about 2-3 weeks in I started writing notes. It turned into quite the project…over 100! I’m not sure I will ever do that again! 🙂 But each note was signed with two Scriptures underneath my name: Is. 40:28-31 and Psalm 91:1-2.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

Psalm 91:1 is a good verse to cry out. In fact, the first six verses are enough to calm the troubled soul and bring peace to the distraught mind. The false teachers do a great disservice to this chapter when they jump to verses 11-13 and focus on this current situation and try to apply those verses and say no harm will happen to someone who claims the blood of Jesus over their illness or over the virus. (Totally out of context btw).

But I digress. Whether good or bad; positive or negative; health or sickness; faith or fear, the promise we have is God’s presence. I’ll call 9-1-1 any day. I’ll stand on it. There is no greater place to be.

“Father, I can’t live in fear. Not as Your child I can’t. But I can live in cautious faith-trusting You to be my shelter and refuge during this storm.”

April 6

Monday, April 6th, 2020

As I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning, I ran across these words in Psalm 18:

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?-the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the height…You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (18:31-33, 35)

It is a normal reaction, I think, when things get tough to hunker down. To close ranks. To set up a self-enclosed bunker. There could be various reasons for that. Fear of the enemy. Fear of showing weakness. Sort of like self-preservation mode. Fear of engagement.

There are several passages during the last week of Jesus where He talks or shows the value of faith. He speaks of telling a mountain to be moved and it will. He speaks and a fig tree withers. Then He tells His followers they have that same ability if they have faith.

We really have nothing to fear. When all things seem to be against us, God is for us. David expressed it in Psalm 18. Jesus expressed it often. When things seem to be against us, let’s sing the song of God’s faithfulness.

“Father, all that is Yours is mine. Your power is at my disposal. You set me on a solid rock and secure me on the heights. Help me to be a singer of your faithfulness as David was.”