Faith/Feelings

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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.”

March 31

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries

March 24

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

When things are going well it is easy to say, “God is good.” But then…

  • …An unexpected event requires life-threatening surgery.
  • …A car accident happens that leaves us paralyzed.
  • …A bike wreck happens with no known cause that leaves our body broken and bruised.
  • …A serious long-term diagnosis leaves our memory jumbled, our body trembling and at the mercy of family or worse, a home.
  • …A loss of job happens when the plant closes down.
  • …A virus comes that paralyzes a nation, shutting down all we know and life screeches to a halt.

Is God still good? The answer is a nutshell: Yes. God’s goodness is not determined by circumstances. One of the phrases I dislike a lot-by unbelievers and by Christ-followers- is “I’m so lucky.”  No.  You aren’t lucky because in God’s economy, there is no such thing as luck.

In spite of how hard it is to see, God is still good.  In spite of cancer;  a car accident;  a bike wreck;  Alzheimer’s, MS or Parkinson’s;  a job loss; or a coronavirus, God is still good.

“Father, no matter what happens in my life, help me to always remember You are always good.”

March 23

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

During yesterday’s sermon Tami, who had to watch it from home out of precaution (she was coughing), told her mom I said something during the sermon that she wanted to post on her FB page.  First some background; then what I said.

I was preaching from Colossians 1: 19-29 and had been speaking about ministry when I came to verse 24.  Paul talks about suffering.  Not boohoo suffering, but suffering knowing there are positives in it.  In verse 24 we read where Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  The statement is loaded! First, his willingness to suffer enabled there to be churches started in Asia.  We know the gospel spread through his ministry hardship.  Second, his suffering brought good to the church.

We are in unprecedented times. A few might remember 9/11. A few might remember ebola.  There are very few around any more who remember the Great Depression. We have always had crises and always will. The church needs to check its reaction to a crisis.  We live in a time unlike many have experienced before. Leastwise, the church in America. We can have one of two responses (and this is what Tami wanted in writing):

The church can either panic or praise.

The church can either wilt or worship.

The church can either live in fear or faith.

The church can either flounder or forge ahead.

(And a new one) The church can either wander or wonder.

It is a question the Church must ask-collectively and individually. And it is a question each one of us must ask ourselves. How will we choose to live?

“Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power,  love,  and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me to live the triumphant life of faith and not be held captive by fear.”

March 19

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

As I read a blog yesterday, it referenced this one. This poem is by Paul David Tripp and was posted March 17, 2020 at his blog.  I thought it was very appropriate for what we are facing as a nation, as people, and as a church. There can be no better place to be than in the shelter of His wings.

SAFE

I am safe,
not because I have no
trouble,
or because I never experience danger.
I am safe,
not because people affirm
me,
or my plans always
work out.
I am safe,
not because I am immune from disease,
or free of the potential for poverty.
I am safe,
not because I am protected from disappointment,
or separated from this
fallen world.
I am safe,
not because I am
wise
or strong.
I am safe,
not because I deserve
comfort or have earned my
ease.
I am safe,
not because of
money,
or power,
or position,
or intellect,
or who I know,
or where I live.
I am safe because of the glorious
mystery of
grace.
I am safe because of the presence of
boundless love.
I am safe because of
divine mercy,
divine wisdom,
divine power,
and divine grace.
I am safe,
not because I never face
danger,
but because you are
with me in it.
You have not given me
a ticket out of danger.
You have not promised me
a life of ease.
You have chosen to place me in
a fallen world.
I am safe
because you have given me
the one thing
that is the
only thing
that will ever keep me safe.
You have given me
you.