How Big is Your God? – Pt 1

What are your favourite stories in the bible?  Stories that moved you and excited you?  Stories that made you wonder about the possibilities.  Who are the hero’s you love to read or hear about?  David and Goliath?  It is probably the most popular and familiar story.  A little scrawny guy with rocks in his pockets who stands against the giant.  Maybe it is Daniel in the lions den, or Jonah and the whale.  Maybe it is Moses and the splitting of the Red Sea.  There is the story of Elijah and his defeat of the prophets of Baal.  Maybe it is the story of Paul and Silas locked up in prison where God shook the whole jail and set everyone free while they prayed and worshiped.

The bible is full of stories where people saw great and powerful miracles done by a great and awesome God.  Stories about men and women of faith whom God powerfully used.  Stories that move us and cause us to desire the same, ‘God powerfully move through me’.  As Christians we want to see people healed and set free, and see lives transformed.  And when it doesn’t happen we can sometimes think the problem is we are lacking faith.  Most of us have heard people teach or talk about faith, and we have read the scriptures where Jesus teaches on faith like According to your faith be it done to you.” Matthew 9:29 ESV

Faith is something that is very necessary in our lives and walk with God because without faith it is impossible to please Him, but if you asked most Christians about their faith level, most would be fairly discouraged.  We have many Christians who read the scriptures of Jesus telling His disciples that they had “little faith” and think that applies to them.  Then we read where Jesus said we only had to have faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, and we feel lower still.  A mustard seed is pretty small, and if that is all it takes to move mountains then our faith must be pretty small then because we can’t seem to move a cold, let alone a mountain.  Or that’s how many followers of Christ feel.  At times in my walk with God I have wondered “Just how small must my faith be?”

“If only I had more faith” is a thought many of us have had.  I would pray for people, usually with little to no effect, or at least not one I could see.  And I wondered, why did things happen when people in scripture prayed, and not much seems to happen when I pray.  I know I’m not alone in my wondering.  Many other disciples before me have wondered similar things.  People like Charles Spurgeon, CS Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and AW Tozer.  And many others after me will wonder as well.  Even the disciples of Jesus had questions like this.  At one point the disciples tried to cast out a demon for hours with no success at all.   Jesus came along and cast it out with a word.  And afterwards the disciples went to Jesus

[MAR 9:28] His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

As I have pondered on this question I felt like I was looking in the wrong place for my answer.  I began to feel like the source of my problem wasn’t in how little faith I may feel I have, but more in where I had my faith placed.  God began speaking to my heart and I began to understand that the size of my faith is totally unimportant if the size of my God was wrong.

A great faith in a small God will yield little to no results, A small faith in a great God will yield the miraculous

So the question I began asking myself is How Big is Your God?

Empty Pat answers


What kinds of answers are we giving to peoples spiritual questions?  It is something I have been giving some thought to in my own life.  For most of my life there was the quick “Christian answers” that I would here.  Answers that didn’t really answer my question, or if it did it just raised three more.  For ,he most part these answers just left me feeling like people didn’t really want to hear what I was saying, or to give any serious thought to the questions being raised.  Unfortunately as I grew up I found myself repeating the same answers I was being given in years past.  It seems like good hearted people have learned to answer questions a certain way without thinking.  They become like the greating we all give “How are you?”.  A greating which is given in passing without a single moment of thought to what the answer will be.   I was onced asked when I greated someone “Do you really want to know?  Or is this just the social question to ask without a response needed?”

It was a question that began my quest to remove all pat answers and questions from my life.  I was reading recently and was again confronted with the need to remove these quick comments and answers when I read 

“Pastor, if I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I raise it?” Thirteen-year-old Steve attended church every week with his parents. This particular Sunday, he had stayed after the worship service to ask his pastor this pressing question. The pastor replied, “Yes, God knows everything.” Haunted by the plight of African children suffering from dire famine, Steve then pulled out a Life magazine cover depicting two children tormented by starvation. He asked the logical follow-up, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those kids?” The pastor gave a similar response: “Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.” 1 If you were Steve, would you be satisfied with the pastor’s answer to your question? Steve wasn’t. He walked out of his congregation that day and never again worshiped at a Christian church.

Powell, Kara; Mulder, Jake; Griffin, Brad. Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church (Kindle Locations 1190-1198). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

People are not being helped at all by the quick comments and answers we offer them.  Comments and answers that are empty of thought and feeling.  They are just “the things we say”.   If we were to actually think about the comments we would probably quit using them, because the comments don’t encourage growth, they don’t encourage conversation, and they don’t develop relationships.  All of the things that God wants us to be doing.  When Jesus walked the earth He engaged people in the world they lived in.  He talked with them about what they were facing and He was open and taught them spiritual truths.  They were not always easy to take, and often hard to follow, but they were always relevant to where people were at.

Our empty comments and pat answers just tell people we are not really interested in them or their problems or concerns, and the world is hearing it.  One of the reasons churches are dying because they don’t see us having anything but empty phrases and pat answers to offer them.  They don’t see us as people who want to relate to them and engage with them on any real level.  It can be difficult to examine our faith and take a real look where it is just a surface faith which is doing little to affect our lives or our world.  It can create a crisis inside when we examine the empty phrases we have been building our lives upon without thinking of them.  But if we are willing to do so our faith can be a faith that moves mountains.  People are asking some great questions.  And they are searching for real answers.  Answers that can offer them something to commit their lives to.  Something that can transform their lives.  And those answers are available in Jesus if we are willing to go looking for them, and be willing to let go of the quick empty answers we currently are currently using.

You’re such a Curmudgeon!

“You’re becoming such a curmudgeon!” one of mcurmudgeon-with-bow-tiey co-workers said to me a couple weeks ago.  I had to admit I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He grinned widely and said it means “a cranky old man.”  It’s a comment meant to be a joke but it has got me thinking.  Because the things we say we believe we don’t often live like we do.  Craig Groeschel wrote “The Christian Atheist”, a book which premise is that Christians today declare that God exists and is involved in their lives, and then live like He isn’t.

We live in a society which says that they are Christian.  For many it is because they go to church, at least at Christmas and Easter.  For others it is cultural, and while we are getting further and further away from a Christian culture many still see themselves as Christians.  And there are others who believe in the Christian message.  But it isn’t what we say we believe that matters.  In fact our lives declare more about what we believe than anything we may say.  And for many of us our lives are not declaring what we hope they may.  It is a fact I have been looking into in my own life.

It is not a bad thing to evaluate your walk with God from time to time.  If you don’t you will quickly become complacent and coast through life.  Paul wrote “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Everyone of us needs to look at what our life is saying about our beliefs.  Are we following Jesus or are we saying we are Christian and living like He doesn’t exist?  Craig Groeschel wrote “Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.”  Our actions declare what we believe.  John Calvin wrote “the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes.”   Rick Warren said something similar when he said You only believe the part of the Bible you do.”

Paul said three times in scripture “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Philippians 1:27 NLT, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1.  Our conduct says a lot about us and about what we believe, and the world around us is watching.  Are we declaring the majesty of Christ, or the selfish whims of our own hearts.  What is your life saying about what you believe?  Is it agreeing with the words you say?  It is a tough question to ask, but a very important one to answer.

What’s Going On God? – pt. 6

Every time God wants to do something in us or through us He brings us through 4 stages.  Every stage is about critically important to who we are becoming so none of them can be bypassed.  The first stage is where we receive Revelation.  It is where God speaks to us and reveals some of His purpose for us.  Once we have received Revelation God begins to show us what needs to change in our lives.  This is the stage of Confrontation and every time God speaks to us He brings us to this stage.  Often we miss out on His plan because we misunderstand what He is doing and don’t submit to what He is trying to do.  It we do submit to Him we move into the third stage, Transformation, where we allow Him to change us.  God never allows anything in our lives that He is unwilling to see us through if we allow Him to.  And the purpose for our struggle is that we can be more and more like Jesus.  Once we go through the stage of Transformation we enter the stage we all want to see in our lives.  The final stage is Manifestation.  This is where God releases in and through us the fullness of His promise and we begin to see the fruit of the process He has brought us through.

God desires greatly to bring us to the fulfillment of His purpose He specifically designed each of us for.  God is extremely interested and heavily invested in each of us.  And we cannot reach the stage of Manifestation unless we are willing to walk through the middle ground where God deals with our nature and shows us our character.  Character is always proven in the fire. It is the stages of confrontation and transformation that Character is formed and proven.

  • Things happen TO me,
  • So that things can happen IN me
  • So that things can happen THROUGH me

Every follower of Christ wants to be able to hear “Well done good and faithful servant” when we face God one day.   To live in the destiny and plan that God has for each of us.  The encouraging part of this process is God never gives up on us.  Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 “I am sure that God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. NLV

Folks there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it isn’t a train. There is a reason for everything you are walking through.  Every situation and problem in our lives has been “Father Filtered”.  God is sovereign and He allows things in our lives for the express purpose of bringing out the manifestation of His life in us.  Psalms 105:19 “Until the time came to fulfill his word, the LORD tested Joseph’s character”.  “Things happen to me, so that things can happen in me, so that things can happen through me.”

So if you’re in the stage of confrontation, allow God to show you who you really are.  Then allow Him to change you by facing your giants and move forward into what God has for you.  I can guarantee that despite the pain, if we allow the process to come to completion, we will never regret what God has brought us through.

Let me share how a wise servant of God endured this process.  He was a retired missionary who served in the Andes of South America. He said,

“Storms are a part of life; God made it that way,” he said, “but I learned a secret that’s helped me all these years, and it is still helping me: Always look for the rainbow. The world looks for the silver lining and sings ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ . But we have something better.  You can’t close your eyes to the storm and pretend it’s not there, but your can look for the rainbow in the storm.  It’s always there.  Expect the storms and don’t be afraid of them, because God is always faithful.  And always remember to look for the rainbow.

So if you’re in the middle of this process and the storm is raging all around you, remember God is in control and look for the rainbow.  There are three questions to ask to help you find the rainbow because when the storm is roaring it can sometimes be hard to find.

  1. God do you still love me?

    Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” NLT

    • God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
      Expect love, love, and more love! Message
  2. Do You still have my best interests at heart?

    Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. NLT

  3. God will You see me through?

    Hebrews 13:5 “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” Message

Absolutely everything God brings us through is for good, both for us and for the kingdom.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me

So that things can happen THROUGH me

What’s Going On God? – pt. 5

Confrontation and Transformation.  Two extremely important components to God’s plan in our lives.  God always reveals His plans for us to bring us to the place where we are willing to see ourselves for who we are, including all the parts we don’t want to see, so that He can transform us into the image of Jesus and accomplish His purposes through us.   Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me.

Our circumstance that each one of us face are tools which God uses to draw out of us the areas in our lives that need to be shown to us, and so that He can change us.  If we are unwilling to see ourselves as we are, we won’t change because we won’t see the need to.  People all around the world have the same response when confronted with change.  “Well I’m a good person…”  If we don’t see the need for change, we cannot make the changes necessary, and if we don’t make the changes or allow God to make the changes in us we will miss out on the purpose we were created to fulfill.  So God allows circumstances in our lives to draw out of us the things we are often so good at hiding.

There are two things necessary in our lives for this process to accomplish what God desires in us.  We each face different circumstances, and many of them can be extremely difficult to deal with, but we all need two things if God is going to be able to use the circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

The first is a humble heart.  Without humility we will be unwilling to see the areas of our lives that need to be addressed.  Without humility we will be focused completely on getting what we feel we deserve.  Humility allows us to see things differently and be willing to set aside our plans and purposes.  Humility allows us to be willing to see the need for change and to accept the work of God in our lives, even when we are not always able to comprehend or understand what He is doing.   It is a humble heart that will allow God to confront us and change us.  Saul was proud and didn’t respond to the dealings of God, but every time God dealt with David he responded with humility and God was able to do amazing things in and through him.

If you think you know better than God you will won’t respond to His work in your life.  Denying the changes in your life does not make them any less important or necessary to our growth.  Denial is not a river in Egypt. If we insist on denying the reality of our lives we will never see the possibility of our future. 

Humility also releases the hand of God in our lives.  If we want to struggle and fight on our own God is willing to let us, but He would prefer if we allowed Him to mold and form us.  James 4:6 NKJV“God resists the proud,  But gives grace to the humble.”  God offers us His grace if we are willing to be humble.  Grace is “the transforming power of God, doing in you what you cannot do for yourself.”  God’s power working in your life, accomplishing God’s plan.  Without grace we would all be lost.  If we are willing to humble our hearts, God is able to accomplish great things in our lives, and through our lives.

Second we need a close relationship with God.  It is our relationship with Jesus that draws us into God’s plan for our lives, and it is what sustains us as we move forward into God’s purposes.  It is our relationship  with God that allows us to

  • feel and be secure in the love and safety of the hands of God regardless of our circumstances
  • allow God to deal with us knowing He is doing it for our benefit and not His.
  • allow God the freedom to work out the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

     

     

No relationship = No change

Are we keeping our relationship with God current?  Jesus said in John 15:5 NLV I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.”  It is our relationship with God that allows His life to flow in us, and it is His life in us that allows the changes to happen. 

Every move and promise of God in our lives always leads us to the cross of Calvary.

We always return to face our reality and our choice is whether we take up our cross and follow or turn away to our own path.

  • God always brings confrontation for a season to bring transformation for a reason.
  • Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me

There is always a divine purpose to the struggles we have.

What will make the difference will be our focus.

Are we looking at our circumstances or the One who will see us through our circumstances.   It is a humble heart and a relationship with God that allows us to focus not on the problem but on the one who will see us past the problems.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”  Hebrews 12:2 MSG

 

What’s Going On God? – pt. 4

A life pull of purpose is available to all of us.  Each one of us is created for a purpose and not a single life born is a mistake.  We have a part to play in accomplishing our purpose and God is actively involved in our lives calling us towards a deeper relationship with Him and a life spent living out the purpose we were created for.  And many of the situations we face every day are simply training and proving areas where God shows us ourselves so that He can change us.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

Both Saul and David had opportunities to be powerfully used by God in their generation.  Both were hand selected by God with a purpose.  Both men encountered hardships and testings that God used to show them who they really were and to show them their character.  Both men made mistakes and messes, but only one responded to the dealing of God in his life, and only one fulfilled the purpose of God for him. 

Paul as another man in scripture called by God with a purpose.   Now Paul had a little different start than David and Saul.  He was a man of prominence and power.  He was part of the Jewish council, and a staunch advocate for the Jewish faith.  He was a man of principle and extremely devout and fervent.  He went so far as to exterminate everyone he thought was a threat to the Jewish faith.  And yet God chose him.

Unlike Saul and David, Paul had a difficult past to overcome.  Daily Paul had to face the people he had tried to exterminate.  Paul had to forgive himself, and move forward.  Paul refused to allow his past to hold him back.  Paul understood what God said in Isaiah 43:18

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul completely focused his life on the purpose God gave him to fulfill.  Paul chose to run forward, and not look back.  He chose to learn from his mistakes and to move on.  Paul’s life can give us hope as well because he shows us the possibility.  We can achieve all that God destines us for.  It is a matter of focus.  Will we accept our reality or deny it.  Will we accept the truth about ourselves, or make excuses.  Only when we see ourselves as God sees us can we move forward to the next stage.

The first stage is Revelation – God reveals to us what His purpose for us is.  Revelation always brings us to the second stage.  Confrontation – Every time God reveals a part of His heart, or His purpose for us He always confronts us with who we are.  We all like to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really good people.  So God shows us what is in our hearts and the behaviors and attitudes that need to be dealt with and overcome.  So God uses situations we face every day to show us who we are.  Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45  All of the situations we face draw out of us what is really in us.  All of the things we don’t want to see.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

The next stage God brings us to is Transformation.  At this stage we have a choice to make as well. Will we allow God to change us.  Because transformation is not an easy task.  Confrontation causes us to face ourselves and our giants.  Transformation enables us to overcome them.  Transformation is the stage where God helps us to overcome the parts of ourselves that are holding us back.  This means that transformation can be a painful process.

  • This is the stage of surgery, where God cuts away the disease and cancers in our character and places them on the cross.
  • This is also the stage where the flesh fights the hardest against the spirit.

Because our flesh desires comfort and this stage can be anything but comfortable.  The good news is God usually combines this stage with confrontation.  He doesn’t confront us with a list and then expect them all to change.  God will bring something to the surface, causing us to realize it, and then have us face it and overcome it one step at a time.  David and Paul and many others in scripture and in history are proof that God is able to carry us through this into all that He purposes us for if we allow Him to.  The stages of Confrontation and Transformation are not easy stages to go through in our lives, but they are necessary, and God never leaves us to walk through them alone.

Are we willing to allow Him to see us through?