Now Faith is!!

Faith.  It is something that is wonderful and powerful in the life of a believer.  But it is also extremely misunderstood as well.  So many people are under the belief that they don’t have enough faith.  And they live under condemnation and self ridicule because they cannot seem to get enough faith together to act, or to get God to act on their behalf.  Many Christians today can be heard to say ‘If only I had more faith.’

Faith is extremely important in our lives because “And without faith it is impossible to please Him..” Hebrews 11:6 ESV.  Jesus also said to the blind men who came to Him to be healed  “According to your faith be it done to you.” Matthew 9:29 ESV  So it is important that we have faith, and much of what God can do in our lives is because of faith.  But what is faith?

First we need to dispel the belief that is faith is a magical substance that we need to exercise like a muscle to enable God to work on our behalf, or that we need to pray for God to grow our faith or to give us more faith.  There is no specific ‘measure’ of faith given where some get a little and others get a lot.  There is simply faith, and you cannot grow it or strengthen it at all.

Faith is a gift given to us by God yes, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God..’ Ephesians 2:8 ESV.  And the faith God gives you simply allows you to start your walk with Him and begin a life altering empowered relationship with the King of kings.  So God gives us faith.  We don’t exercise our faith or grow our faith because faith comes from God  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10:17 ESV.  Faith comes by hearing the “word” of God which when read in the Greek is a spoken word.  “Hearing through the word ‘rhema=spoken’ of Christ”.

Faith is a gift from God and it grows by hearing God speak and by acting on what He has said.  But we still don’t know what faith actually is.  So what is faith?

Faith is simply the confident quiet assurance that God is who He says He is and He will do what He said He will do.!  That is it.  No magical formulas,  no special efforts and no exercise and effort required.  Faith is believing God period.  Abraham was a perfect example of faith for us to follow.  James records Abraham’s faith when he wrote “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.” James 2:23 ESV  Abraham believed God and acted on what God said to do, and his belief was what pleased God.

If we go back to the rest of our original scripture in Hebrews 11:6 it says And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Faith is believing God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do.  That allows us to walk forward by faith because our faith is in the nature and the character of God and not on our circumstances.  It allows us to weather any storm because we walk with a God who said He will never leave us or forsake us.

Faith is simply a confident assurance in the character of God allowing us to follow as He directs us to.  This also allows faith to deepen because as we hear God speak to us and act on what He says So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10:17 ESV our understanding of His nature deepens and when we move forward into what God has said we then see Him doing what He said He would.   So our faith is in God, because He is faithful.

We don’t need to work up faith and we don’t need to pray for more or look for ways to grow our faith.  It doesn’t work that way.  We simply need to believe that God is who He says He is and that He will reward us because we are seeking after Him, and not looking for what He can do.  And as we step out believing what God speaks and directs us to our understanding of His nature grows which allows us to step out further as He leads and our understanding grows again and again and again.

Jesus said For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 ESV.  A little belief in God goes a long long way.  If we will stop looking for the magical essence that allows God to move and start getting to simply know God and allow He to show us His nature and to speak to our lives so we can act on His direction instead of our plans we would then see Him in action which would deepen our assurance in Him allowing us to see more of who He is and opening the door to God doing some very powerful things in our lives.

All it takes is for us to answer the question “Is God who He said He was, and will He do what He said He will do?”

The Lie That Grew From Self-Ignorance

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  Is the same person that others around you see?  The way we see ourselves is very important because we are all good at playing a role.  We live a life that is expected of us and most of us completely ignore the reality of who we are inside.  It is something that we learned early on in life and we developed a persona to deal with our environment, but also to elicit the responses from people we found benefited us the most.  We learned to be someone to fit into the world we live in.

The problem isn’t that we developed this persona but that we became so accustomed to it we completely ignored the reality within.  And the person we were created to be needs to be expressed.  But as long as we ignore our life inside in favor of the life we are accustomed to living and measuring up to people’s expectations of us we can never truly be happy or healthy.  Do we really know ourselves?  Or is the person you think you know just an illusion you have built?  The person we tell ourselves we are often hides the person that we really are.  And that opens the door to what the church has called “secret sins.”

I recently read “Consider the way a lack of self-knowledge affected the life of a well-known pastor and his congregation. No one would have doubted this man’s knowing of God—at least before his very public downfall. He had built a very successful ministry around his preaching, and there was no reason to suspect that he did not personally know the truths he publicly proclaimed. Nor was there any obvious reason to question his knowing of himself. Anyone who thought about the matter would probably have judged his self-understanding to be deep. His sermons often included significant self-disclosure, and he seemed to know how to be vulnerable before God.

But as for many of us, all of that was more appearance than reality. The self this pastor showed to the world was a public self he had crafted with great care—a false self of his own creation. Between this public self and his true experience lay an enormous chasm. Both that chasm and his inner experience lay largely outside his awareness. Suddenly the gap between his inner reality and external appearance was exposed. Things that he did not know or accept about himself welled up within him and shattered the illusion his life represented. Lust led to sexual involvement with a woman he was counseling, just as greed had earlier led to misuse of church funds. As these things became public, the lie that was his life imploded. It was a lie he had lived before his family, closest friends, congregation, God and himself. It was a lie that grew from the soil of self-ignorance.” Benner, David G. (2009-09-20). The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery (p. 21). InterVarsity Press.

God is interested in who we really, without all the masks and with all the warts and scars.  It is who we really are the He died to redeem.  Not the proper, got it all together, person we masquerade to those around us.  And a lot of the circumstances we find ourselves in are often God trying to bring the real us up to the surface.  Only when we recognize ourselves for who we are can we truly begin to change.  Only when we see ourselves for who we truly are can we see the effect our lives and choices are having and begin to make some real adjustments.

Our lives can change under the hand of God and we can become who we were created by God to be not who our circumstances created us to be.  But it is up to us to decide if we are going to take an honest look at ourselves and see what is truly inside.  God is waiting for us to do just that.  And if we will begin to open those locked doors in our hearts we will find that He is right there already waiting for us to open the door and walk in.  He will meet us in that moment and we can come to know Him more.  I can’t promise you that it is an easy journey to begin, or that is will be without pain.  I can only promise you the rewards will be worth the effort if we allow the illusion to fade and the reality of who we are to come into the light.

Questions everyone is asking

Every person around the world is asking three important questions.  Questions that need answers for our lives to have meaning and purpose.  Who am I?  Where do I fit?  What difference do I make?

The first is a question about identity, meaning a young person’s conception and expression of who they are. This question holds up the mirror and scrutinizes me.  Often this is a question that goes unanswered.  For a great many people the discovery of self is pushed aside in favor of being a part of the crowd, getting that big job or promotion, or something else that forces us to look away from who we are and instead forces us into a mold.  The church is one place that this happens and everyone is squeezed into the same cookie cutter and asked to conform.  And yet it is in the church, at least the one that Jesus is building, where we were called to find ourselves.  We were meant to discover our identity by coming to know the One who created us and called us to be. The Bible says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11, The Message).  

We were all created with purpose and meant to live with passion.  And when we ignore this first question these get robbed from us and we instead live lives of mediocrity and conformity.

The second is a question of belonging, or a person’s quantity and quality of life-giving relationships. This question looks around the room, eager to explore us.   Answering this question without answering the first one is where many people get led astray.  We learn early on in life to adapt ourselves for a desired outcome.  ‘If I behave this way then people like me.’  Often the desire to fit in over rides our need to be ourself.  Both questions are important but they need to be answered together.  One cannot look for a place to fit in without taking the time to know who they are inside, and how to express that in the world they live in.

If we look to fit in without knowing ourself we will always be squeezed into the closest mold we find.  It is important that we all have a place to belong.  A place where others can communicate worth to us.  The first place is in a relationship with Jesus.  It is the first place and the most secure place to find this value.  And it is the place where we will have the highest value.  Jesus declared that you and I were worth dying for, and then He proceeded to do just that so that the door of relationship could be opened again.

The third is a question about purpose, or a person’s commitment to and ability to engage in meaningful activities that impact others. This question peers out the window and wonders about our world.   All of us start with the dream of changing the world.  It often doesn’t take very long for that dream to be taken away.  Life keeps coming and the demands it places on us are extreme.  And often just being able to pay bills and keep food on the table takes precedence over changing the world.

But every one wants to make an impact and to leave their mark on the world we live in.  We all cannot be Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King.  But the opportunities to change the world are available to us if we are willing to know ourselves.  Because that is the foundation we all build from.  Without that foundation the drive to conform will be to high.

“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know… The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do… to find the idea for which I can live and die. SOREN KIERKEGAARD”

The world is looking for people who will rise up with passion and say that there is a better way.  To live a life full of purpose and passion is something that we all can do if we are willing.  It is up to each of us to determine how will we answer these questions?

When Your Faith is Empty

got-faith_t1‘Have a little faith.’  It’s a phrase that gets used a lot in our world.  It is used in many different contexts and there are many different understandings.  For some it is simply a belief in an unknown.  You can’t explain why you believe, you just do.  For others it is seeing the best in people or situations.  Others see it as things will get better, as ‘the night is darkest before the dawn.’  Some see it as a way to get things from God.  If I just believe enough then God will …

Faith is something much deeper for us as Christians.  It goes beyond the wish list and blissful ideas of a better future.  It grabs ahold of your soul and creates passion inside that cannot be pushed away.  Faith is a deep-seated belief that cannot be swayed or dismissed that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do.  It is the gift of faith that allows you and I to connect with God on a personal level.  It is faith that opens the door to experiencing God’s greatness.  But what happens when that faith begins to fade?  running empty

Circumstances can cause you to lose faith if we allow them to.  The passion we once had for God can diminish and if left untended will go out.  Jesus warned ” For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.” Matthew 24:12 MSG  The passion people have for God can go out, and the excitement for who God is and what God is doing can disappear if we allow it to.

Some signs your faith is running low are;

  • You go through the motions without emotion
    • If your walk with God has become mechanical then your faith is running low
  • Your passion is gone
    • A sign of low faith is what once excited you is now empty
    • Reading your bible and praying is a chore
    • Attending services is simply what your supposed to do
    • Soren Kierkegaard said that “if passion, intense personal involvement with the truth of something, is eliminated, then faith can no longer exist”
  • Your walk with God has become an intellectual exercise
    • Knowing all the right scriptures and having all the right doctrines, but no transformation
    • The Pharisees had most of the scriptures memorized and discussed them diligently but it was worthless activity for them
    • Jesus said of them “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” John 5:39 NIV
  • You have a faith no one wants
    • While it is true that many will not want to walk with God and know Him we often use that as a justification for no one coming to know Christ
    • What may be true is they don’t see anything happening in your life so they don’t want what you have
    • The early church had a faith that was transforming lives and everywhere God moves people want to be apart
      • “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 NIV

The good news is your faith can be restored again if you want it to.  But it is going to take some work on your part to do so.  Taking time to once again connect with God is the first step, because that is where your faith originated from in the first place.  Romans 12:3 “…God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith.” Voice.  So if your running low it is time to reconnect with your source.  Jesus said “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 NLT

We also to need to make sure that we are surrendered to God.  Often our faith has diminished because we allowed our focus to either wander from God into other things, so we need to reconnect, or we chose to not do something that God asked of us.  The reasons we have for it may sound really good to us, or it may simply be that we didn’t feel we could.  Whatever  the reason God is waiting to see if we will allow Him to lead us, which is what Him being Lord is all about.  If He isn’t driving, then our faith isn’t worth anything.  Surrender is essential to a passionate love for God.  Without it there can be no faith.  Alan Hirsch wrote “We do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because we have not attempted obedience.” 

We can have faith that transforms lives if we want to.  The question we need to answer is

What kind of faith do you want to have?

Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die

The following article was reblogged from https://www.sermoncentral.com

 

Many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

It broke my heart.

Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own “glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.

I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.

Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Time is running out. Please, for the sake of the gospel, forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.

By Thom Rainer on Apr 7, 2017

President, LifeWay Christian Resources

How Big is Your God? pt-5

 

How is your experience of God?  Has it been awhile?  If your finding that God has begun to get smaller and the size of your problems have been growing then maybe it is time for a fresh experience of Him.  Jesus said “It is written,“It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” Matthew 4:4 MSG.  He also said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:51 GNT.  He was comparing himself to the manna that the Jews ate in the wilderness when they were freed from Egypt.  And they had to collect manna each day for the day.  Yesterdays manna would be no good today, and today’s manna would be no good for tomorrow.  There is a principle in there.  Yesterdays experience of God was wonderful, but it wasn’t supposed to be an anchor point in your life.  We need to experience God afresh and to grow in our understanding of Him daily, and as we experience and know Him more we can begin to see Him and know Him as He is.

But it takes more than just an experiences.  We also need to get outside out comfort zones.  One thing I have learned over the years is the size of your God is proportional to the size of your comfort zone.  Israel had a comfort zone which allowed them to see God as able to defeat an army, but Goliath was outside their comfort zone and therefore outside the ability of their God.  David’s comfort zone was God, and so it didn’t matter what he encountered or what difficulty he faced.  He knew his God well enough to rest completely in Him and face whatever came at him.

How big is your God?

God calls us to step outside our limitations into the limitlessness of Him.  If all we are hanging on to is what we know and are comfortable with then we are only experiencing a little bit of God, and then like Israel our God is very small.  Every person used by God through time has experienced Him and His greatness to the degree they yielded to His hand in their life, And stepped out into the life God had for them.  Our experience of God is dependent upon our willingness to let go of what we know and are comfortable with.  With God there can be no comfort zone.  God is our comfort zone, and as we let go of ourselves and step out into Him we can be ones who turn the world upside down.

We also need to give God opportunities to do something.  If we refuse to get involved then we will not see God move.  Israel had the same opportunity to see God move powerfully against Goliath as David did.  David was the only one who was willing to step out and give God an opportunity to move.  How many situations do we encounter in a day where God could do something?  How many lives do you know that could be forever changed if God touched them?  How many opportunities do we have to see God move every day of our lives?

  • The elderly gentleman on the bus with the oxygen tank
  • The coworker struggling with family problems
  • The friend overcome by debt
  • The person beside us in the hospital
  • The person we meet in the grocery line who simply needs to know that they matter

We live in a time where God is ready to move powerfully if we are willing.  Will we give God the opportunity to move or will we hide in our self-imposed comfort zones.  If we will experience God and get outside ourselves and allow God to move we can see God do great things in our lives and in the lives of the people we meet.

The question we have to answer is how big is your God?

God is moving in our world today.  Stories abound of the hand of God touching people and transforming lives.  And it is always with people who are simply following Him, allowing Him to touch their lives and doing the things He says to do.  All God needs to move powerfully is people who will come to know Him, step outside themselves and their comfort zone and follow where He leads

God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him –Hudson Taylor

How Big is Your God – Pt 4

God is truly amazing.  He is the beginning and the end, our faith started with Him, and He is going to see it to completion.  He is the bright and morning star.  He is our all sufficient one, which means He is everything we will ever need, and more than we can ever want.  He is our healer, He is our peace, He is our provider.  He goes before us to prepare our way, and stands behind us guarding our back.  He leads us beside still waters, He restores our soul.  He is infinitely accepting and His mercy never ends.  He called us by name before we were even born, and He knows all of the stars in the sky by name.  And yet He still knows how many hairs we each have on our heads.  God created everything we see with a word.

God is a God who defies description.  There are not enough words in any language to begin to adequately describe how awesome, mighty and powerful God is.  God is incredibly huge, awesomely powerful, without equal and without end.  At the sound of His voice all of creation trembles, and at His name every knee will bow.  How big is your God?  If your finding like me that your God isn’t big enough let me share with you three things that will help you change the size of your God.

First you need to experience God personally

It doesn’t really help you for me to tell you how great God is.  The Israelites only had a theoretical understanding of God’s greatness.  Which is why they ran and hid from Goliath.  They heard the stories of others, and the great stories of their history of when God moved in the past.  God was meant to be experienced.  God desired to make Himself know from the beginning of time.

He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden

He was called the friend of Abraham

Moses talked with Him face to face

Joshua met with Him personally

The disciples turned the world upside down because of their relationship with God, and the experience they had with Jesus which changed their lives forever and they said we have the opportunity to have the same

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! 1John 1:1-4

God desires to be experienced.  David experienced God.  He fellowshipped with God while looking after the sheep and he had a personal relationship where he got to know God deeply and personally.  God proved himself strong on his behalf many times.  David killed lions and bears who came to steal his sheep

34″I have been taking care of my father’s sheep,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock,  

35 I go after it with a club and take the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.

36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!

37 The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!”  1 Samuel 17

David knew His God and God’s greatness was a personal experience for Him, and it resulted in David’s boldness and confidence.  And everyone of us has the opportunity to experience Him as He is and to know Him in all of His splendor.  We all need to experience God personally.  Without it we will have a god of our own understanding and that leaves us with a pretty small god.