Faith/Feelings

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August 13

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Growing Faith vs Stagnant Faith.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that faith is a “building” thing. What I mean by that is simple: When a person come to faith in Christ, his faith, at best, is in its infancy. The longer he/she is a follower of Christ the more his/her faith ought to grow. Each new day; each new challenge; each new set back, is designed to help us increase our faith.

One of my favorite stories in the life of Jesus is after He comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration and is confronted by a father whose son often has fits and even throws himself into a fire. The disciples could not cure him so the father asks Jesus to.  Mark 9 records the conversation. He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything.” Jesus then says, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The man says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” I’ve often described that as if the father was saying, “My faith is a 3.  Make it an 8 or a 9 or a 10.” In other words, increase my faith.

Our faith was never meant to be stagnant. Or worse, going in reverse. It is meant to be growing. Always increasing. Always forward. Will there be times of no growth? Slow growth? Sure. Will there be times of plateau? Yep.  But it never stops. Never stays there. Our faith keeps growing. Keeps progressing.

“Father, may every event, every circumstance, every challenge, every set back, simply be a new opportunity for my faith to grow. And let my faith not become stagnant or cold. May it be an ever-increasing faith.”

August 6

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Blind Faith vs. Faith in the Unseen.

I know there are people who struggle to have faith. They are pragmatic in their approach. Like Thomas they won’t believe unless they see. Unless they see something tangible, or unless they can touch it, they find it hard to believe.

There are also those who have blind faith. Like someone who dives off a cliff or a rock into a body of water without first checking out the danger, they leap. They leap into the unknown and call it faith. I prefer to call that blind faith. It is my contention that an uninformed step is not really faith at all.

There are also those who cannot see yet believe. I’d like to think I’m in this camp. I have not seen God and yet I believe. I have not physically touched God and yet I believe He exists. I’m certainly far from an expert in all of this and being able to logically and adequately convey my thoughts is not a strong suit of mine. But I am aware that God is bigger than I can imagine and He owes me nothing. Even though He wants my praise, He does not depend on it. He is totally capable of being God without my approval.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication sums it up well. “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house I have built.” (2 Chron.6:18) God is so much more than I can think or imagine. He cannot be contained by a building or in a building. His presence and power is endless. His existence is far beyond my understanding. But I believe. That is not a blind faith. It is a faith rooted in truth. It is rooted in having “seen” Him. I’ll stand with the person who said, “Because God is great, He will be sought; because God is good, He will be found.”

“Father, You have made yourself known. Not by sight or touch, but by actions. My trust is not a giant leap into the unknown. It is a step into proven waters. May my faith continue to grow.”

August 5

Monday, August 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Man Worship vs. God Worship.

I’m not sure if today’s devotion will be a soapbox or not. I hope not. But after reading a passage of Scripture this morning, I have to speak up.

Today’s “modern” worship has its moments. It has its good moments; its so-so moments; and its really bad moments. I’m not speaking about the externals-the lights, fog, instruments, style of music, etc. No, those are all externals- unnecessary possibly, but still external. I’m speaking about the content. The songs we sing.

Some of them are really good, i.e. really honest-to-goodness worship songs. Songs which lift up the name of Jesus; songs that draw attention to Him and give game to His Name.

Some are so-so. There is a mix of praise with a dab or dash or dollop of “feel good” vibe.

There there are those which are really, really bad. Awful may be a more descriptive word. The lyrics are totally self-centered; all-about-me oriented; I feel good because you made me feel good type of songs. If I may be so blunt and use a word I can count on one hand as using before: they are God-awful songs. Much (not all) of what we have coming out of the music factories like Bethel, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture are in this vein. Besides that, they have some really bad theology.

What got me to this point this morning? Psalm 147.  Here you go: “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises (about yourselves?) to God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” (v.1). “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (v.5) But here’s the kicker: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of man,  but the Lord takes pleasure (wait for it) in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (vv,10-11)

His pleasure is not in those who sing love songs where we aren’t sure who we are singing to or about. It is not in those who “play” at worship. It is not in those who repeat and repeat and repeat a stanza or two or three. And don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating going back to hymns. Some of them were awful as well. I am advocating songs which lift up the Name of Jesus; when there is no doubt who are singing about and to Whom we are singing.

“Father, may my lips sing your praise.  May my heart lift up Your Name- find its joy, meaning and purpose in Your Name.  And may I sing and speak and lift up the fame of Your Name.”

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I guess this does sound like a soapbox. I just think we need to be more conscientious about what we call “worship and praise” music. Songs of feeling good or songs which focus on me and my needs-while not totally illegitimate songs to sing-do not qualify as worship. I’ve said my piece. Now I will move on.  🙂

July 24

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Facts that Hear vs Facts that Act.

Sounds like a strange title doesn’t it? It’s almost like, “What is Bill smoking?: Nothing. Never have. So my mind is not a jumbled mess. 🙂

Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard something that sounded good, had facts to back it, BUT required a little too much exercise of faith to pull it off? Allow me to explain: On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers made history by flying. They defied the law of gravity. But did you know the idea wasn’t theirs? Year before some mathematicians and scientists figured out flight was possible but nobody was willing to take them up on it. Until the Wright brothers. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Alexander Campbell, the founder of what is called the Restoration Movement, once said, “Faith is belief in testimony.” He further said, “Faith is belief in testimony of credible witnesses.” Think on that some. What changed the apostles was not the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but their witness of the Resurrected Christ. And it was that belief that transformed them and therefore gave them credibility with the people who listened. The apostles had to act upon the fact of the Resurrection. It was not enough just to hear the story. They saw the risen Christ. Then allowed that fact to revolutionize their lives.

The same goes for those who heard the apostles. The apostles were credible witnesses but those who heard had to believe what they said and act on that faith.

That goes for all of us. The Gospel is presented to us. We hear. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Rom.10:17] We then decided whether to say, “Oh that may be facts or it may just be talk” OR “Those are facts I need to believe and act on.”

“Father, your Word is truth. It was written by inspired men who were credible witnesses to your work. Help me not be someone who has the facts and does nothing. Help me to be one who hears, believes, and acts.”

July 18

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Reliable vs Unreliable.

Each day we practice faith without even taking note of it. Each morning I get up to shower. I turn the faucet on believing water will come out.  Every morning I sit at my kitchen table to have my Quiet Time. I don’t investigate my chair before I sit down. I don’t get down on my hands and knees and run my chair through a checklist to see if it is “sitworthy” or not. I put the key in the ignition of my truck without saying, “Okay truck! Will you or won’t you start?” I have faith that my shower will flow with water; the chair will hold me up; my truck will start. I depend on those objects to be reliable, especially because they have given me no reason not to.

However, the story would be different if my shower had a history of being cranky; the chair was getting kind of wobbly; and there had been a time or two recently when the turn of the key brought only a click. The unreliability of an object determines my faith.

The late Bible teacher Stuart Briscoe once said, “Faith is only as valid as its object.” My faith is in One who has proven himself faithful and trustworthy.  I’ve been reading 1 Chronicles this week in my QT. I thought Leviticus and Numbers was bad! They have met their match. 🙂  The first 8 chapters (where I am right now) will rival any section of Leviticus and Numbers for the snoozefest of the year award. Oh man, has it been tough. But I have tried to keep my attention by looking for names I remember. I’ve run across Jabez; the kingly line of David and Solomon; an almost verbatim account of a section in Matthew 1 (Jesus’ lineage). I have run across Judah and Tamar’s son, Perez, but there is no mention of Zerah. There was a clan of linen workers and potters, the latter who were in the king’s service. I read how even some of the mighty warriors gave in to the culture’s influence and broke faith with God. There were more people to see.

Long story short (sorry): no matter how “boring” this section has been, I have seen God’s Word come true. He said it, it happened. “These are the consequences.” “This is my promise. It will be.” My faith is in God’s trustworthiness. As it has been said, “Have faith in God, not faith in faith.”

“Father, you have proven yourself over and over to be trustworthy. In all things. At all times. May my trust be in who You are and have proven to be, rather than in the idea of faith. I have no reason to doubt you.”

July 10

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Prayer of despair vs Prayer of desperation.

In my Scripture reading this morning in 2 Kings, I came to an interesting event. Hezekiah (H) became the king of Judah in chapter 18 and it says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” [v.3]  It goes on to say he removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. He even went so far as to break the bronze serpent that Moses made because, it too, had become and idol. It goes on to say, “He trusted in the Lord so there was no one like him.” WOW! What a tribute.

But that did not leave him immune to siege by an enemy king and in chapter 19 that is what happens. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, lays siege to Jerusalem AND defies God in the process. H receives a letter from him demanding surrender and tribute. I like his response! He went before God, laid open the letter before Him, and petitioned for God’s help and answer. His was a prayer of desperation not a prayer of despair. (The prayer is found in 19:14-19). There is a big difference between “O God, it’s helpless. I give up” vs “O God, this situation is helpless. I need your help.” God intervened. An angel of the Lord wiped out 185,000 Assyrians.

It is easy to give up or to feel like giving in to despair. But it is in those moments of despair that a prayer of desperation should be raised to the One in control. He will answer. We may be unsure how, but He will. In H’s case, an angel of the Lord was sent to deal with the situation. Perhaps God will do the same…or something different. Who knows? But a prayer of desperation will be answered.

“Father, help me not to despair. Instead, help me to raise prayers of desperation to you. Help me to ‘lay out my letter’ before you, seeking your help. And then step back to watch you work.”

July 2

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Faith vs Sight

I know I keep coming back to this topic of faith. Maybe it’s because it is more than a word. It is-in my mind- a word of action.

Let me explain. One of my favorite scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the scene where Indy has to perform three acts to get to the cup of Christ. (A penitent man shall pass. The name of God.) The final one is where Indy has to take a step of faith by walking off the ledge onto a then unseen bridge. When he finally shuts his eyes and trusts his step of faith, he steps onto a bridge. His step of faith was rewarded.

Faith is an action word and an active word. This past week I have turned back the clock on my music. I spent some time listening to Mylon Lefevre, Kenny Marks, and Steve Camp. Steve has a song whose title goes by a line in the song: “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them ‘till you’re ready to love them too.” Faith should always have feet.

We may not “see” what a step of faith might bring. (I’m guessing if we did we might not take that step).  🙂  But step we must if we want to follow God’s directives in our life.

“Father, I’m not always eager to step out in faith. Sometimes I’m too pragmatic and want to know the result. But not always is that your way. Help me overcome any fear or hesitancy I have and take that step of faith.”

July 1

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Small Faith= Big Fear/Big Faith=No Fear

One of my favorite songs the church I pastor sings is “No Longer Slaves.” I Am They also sing it. While I don’t want you to even get a hint that I agree with Bethel Church or others of that ilk, this song ran through my head as I read Psalm 112 today. “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm trusting the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.” (Vv.6-8).

The song I mentioned above has the lyrics: “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” (repeats it).

I began wondering: what if the size of our faith was gauged by the size of our fear? What if the title for my devotion-Small Faith= Big Fear/Big faith=No Fear was a good gauge? Where would I turn up? Where would you turn up? Taking my cue from Psalm 112, here are some legitimate questions:

  • How unmoveable am I?
  • How afraid of bad news am I?
  • Do I trust the Lord as I should?
  • How steady is my heart?
  • Do I look on my foes as a victor or one defeated?

Maybe that equation is not that far off?

“Father, may I be able to say with confidence-not just singing a song-that I’m not a slave to fear-because I am your child.”

June 26

Friday, June 28th, 2019

As I mentioned in the last blog I was away for the week. Here are my thoughts for June 26.

My title for this devotion is Wanting more vs Settled for.

It seems to me that too many Christ-followers settle for less than is possible to have. We settle for less than what God is capable of giving and wants to give. This hit me as I read the story of Elisha’s ministry. His ministry actually begins in 2 Kings 2. Here is a recap:

  • Elisha parted the Jordan as Elijah had done.
  • Elisha makes bad water good with salt.
  • Elisha calls out a bear on arrogant youth who call him bald-headed. {Hmmm. Will that work for me?} J
  • Jehoshaphat inquires of Elisha as to what his move ought to be.
  • Elisha tells a widow to fill bowls with oil, sell them, then she and her son were to live off the rest.
  • Elisha is “housed” by a Shunammite woman and her husband. Her wish for a son is granted.
  • The child dies and Elisha raises him from the dead by laying on top of him.
  • Elisha makes poisonous stew edible during a time of famine.
  • Elisha multiplies food for 100 men.

There is more coming! A full day’s work. A full many day’s work. I may be taking this wrong but back in 2 Kings 2:9 Elisha takes Elijah’s mantle and asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be poured on him.

Elisha was not satisfied with a meager portion. He wanted a double portion. How many times do I settle for less than God’s best? He wants to bless me with more (not material but spiritual) and I settle for second best.

“Father, I can’t help but feel Elisha’s days were filled with acts from You because he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Help me not to settle for seconds either.”

 

June 25

Friday, June 28th, 2019

I’ve been gone all week and without wifi or any internet so this is coming to you a bit late.  I took time each day to have my Quiet Time and record my thoughts. So here you go:

My title for this devotion is Inward Change vs Outward Change.

If you read Our Daily Bread you would have read the story of Savanarola and his followers starting a fire in February 1497. Seems they gathered all the things they thought destroyed the faith of people, things that made them vain, made their faith skin deep. Art, cosmetics, instruments, clothing. They set fire to those things in the square of Florence, Italy.

My take? That may have been well-meaning but missed the point.

We have things today which draw the attention of people away from deepening their faith. Music. Social media. Constant distractions. But gathering all that stuff together and burning them seems to be a bit overkill. When I was in college it was the “in” thing to get rid of so-called secular music. It had all kinds of bad vibes. Especially bad was backward-masking. I thought some of it was bad enough frontwards. Why in the world worry about it being played backwards?

My take? It may be a well-meaning gesture but it misses the point. For example, my college roommate gave in to the pressure of his peers and used his record albums (remember those?) as flying saucers. Then he missed the music and went out and bought them again over time.

As my title indicates there is a difference between inward and outward change. During Communion this past Sunday, I actually talked about this. So much of Christianity is outward-Communion every Sunday (in our case). Giving with the wrong attitude. Going to church. Etc. All outward. Jesus is much more interested in an inward change. One that not only makes a difference but is much more long-lasting. Least more long-lasting than a fire.

“Father, may I exhibit an inward change not just an outward change. May the change involve my heart and thoughts not just the way I act outwardly.”