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

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

 

Share the journey

shapeimage_2The journey to become who we were created to be is a powerful and life changing one.  It is unfortunately one that many people miss out on taking.  They become whoever their world, situation or friendships demand, and miss completely out on the adventure they were created for.  Once you start the journey, your life begins to shift, and things that you thought were once important often begin to fade away because your filters for life have changed.

As you journey you get to see yourself and others differently, and you become more accepting of others because you are becoming more secure in who you are so when others are different they no longer cause you to be uncomfortable or threatened.  It truly is an amazing journey that all of us should be on.  The world would be a much different place to live if we did.  As we journey we write about who we are becoming and the changes we are making because we understand ourselves better when we write about it.  Our journals begin to record the milestones along the way and we understand ourselves and our environment better.

Just as important as journaling is for us to understand ourselves, is sharing your journey with someone else.  Finding someone you can be honest with, and who can be honest with you is invaluable to discovering yourself.  We can come to some understanding by writing, but it pales in comparison to the depth of understanding we gain by sharing our journey.  Finding someone you can trust openly and begin to share your struggles, insights and victories helps you to process deeply who you are and their questions and insights as you share help you discover what changes you could be making.

Someone once said You don’t truly understand something until you try to teach it to someone else. The process of sharing anything that you think you understand deepens you level of understanding because you have to take that mess of information, sort it out, repackage it and organize it in a way that someone else can understand.   By having to help someone else understand your journey you open the door to you understanding you.

When we are trying to explain something to someone else, we are forced to ask ourselves the most important question in leaning… in gaining true understanding… “why.” When we have to answer the question “why,” superficial understanding won’t do. We have to know something deeply in order to not just say how, but why.  Why we are is just as important as who we are and who we are becoming.  Only by sharing the journey with someone else can we truly and deeply understand ourselves.

Seeing the sights

one thingInside each and every one of us is a wonderful person the world is desperately wanting to know.  Every day all around us are people that have incredible talents and gifts that often go completely unseen and unknown, and the world is worse off for it.  So much potential that goes unused and unnoticed.

The world doesn’t need more carbon copies of others.  It doesn’t matter if they were the greatest person around.  What the world needs is people who are willing to be authentic, and allow their potential to be lived fully.  This comes by knowing yourself, your limitations, your talents and giftings and being secure enough in who you are that there is no need to “fit another mold”.  We were created unique and special.  Every person born is important and has a wonderful potential.   There has been and never will be another you, and if your life goes unlived because you were trying your best to fit in or measure up the world will have lost a great treasure.

Coming to know yourself is a journey.  It isn’t something that happens overnight.  In fact because we are developing and growing it is a journey that is continually ongoing.  Everyone of us needs to be going on that journey.  This is done with a lot of soul-searching, and thought spent deciding why we do things, what we love to do, what we are passionate about.  It involves analyzing motives to understand the reasons for behaviors we have.  Many of our behaviors are a result of our childhood, and often they are self-protection mechanisms that have completely outlived their usefulness and are now just keeping us from become ourselves.

This journey isn’t easy at times.  In fact it can be painful as we come to understand things about ourselves that we won’t necessarily like.  But the rewards for going on the journey exponentially exceed any discomfort we may go through.  The world around us needs people who know who they are.  There are a lot of people compensating, calculating and even being like a chameleon and changing themselves to fit the expectations of those they relate to.  Very few people are truly self-aware and confident in who they are and what they are gifted to do.

So it is an important journey for all of us.  The big thing is that we need to enjoy the journey.  Every journey we take in life has its ups and downs.  The car breaks down, tires go flat, engines overheat, flights are delayed or cancelled, traffic jams cause us to be late.  Everywhere we turn there will always be joyous highs and heart breaking lows.  Unfortunately it is a facIMAG0157t of life.

But even with the lows and high the journey can be worth while and very memorable.  I recently traveled to Turkey and Armenia, and there were difficulties and frustrations.  There were highs and lows, but the memories will stay with me for a life time.  It is the same when we journey to knowing ourselves.  The journey was meant to be enjoyed.  It will be hard at times, definitely life changing, and an incredible release of burdens we hang on to, and passions we have bottled up.  We are all worth knowing.  That is the way God created us.  But to be known we have to know.  I need to know myself so I can share myself with the world I live in.  If you haven’t started your journey, it is never ever to late.  Every journey begins with a single step.  Just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you. journey enjoy

Are you following?

follow meWhat does it mean to follow someone?  In our world it doesn’t mean much.  It usually means that we go in the same direction as the one we are following.  But in Jesus’ day follow me actually had a depth of meaning.  When Jesus spoke to His disciples and said “Follow Me…” they knew it was more than traveling together.

A modern image of following someone would be an apprenticeship.  When you apprentice for a trade, you are a student or follower, and you allow the teacher or master to guide you and train you to become like him.  If your studying to be an electrician you will follow a journeyman or master and learn to be an electrician by doing what you see done.

Following in Jesus’ day meant more than just learning a trade.  It also meant learning a life.  When you followed someone you became like the one you followed.  You learned to think and act like them.  You didn’t trade in your personal identity at all, but you submitted your life to the one you followed, and you learned to live life the same way they did.  It went deeper than apprenticeship.  You learned a lifestyle, a world view, a way of relating to the world around you, and you took on the mission of the one you followed.  Your character changed, your life mission changed.  Peter and the other disciples left their respective trades and jobs to become like Jesus.

Paul, who encountered Jesus and became a follower stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. NIV  Paul understood what it meant to follow.  In essence you become like the one you choose to follow after.  You take on their traits, some of their habits.  You allow them to speak into your life and character and to build you up.  And you take on their mission.  You become an electrician if your following one.

If you look at your life who would you say you follow.  As Christians we are called to follow Jesus.  But we don’t see much of the life of Christ when we look at our lives.  Wolfgang Samson wrote “In the West, the lifestyles of many Christians are still centered on careers, TV, hobbies, privacy, and pets. We sugarcoat our faith with a thin layer of Christian behavior: attending church services, praying before meals, and listening to Christian music. This is not much different from the lifestyle of the average person living in the West where almost everything is geared toward the pursuit of personal security, success, fun, and even individual spiritual growth.”   We call ourselves Christians, or followers of Christ but are we following?  A follower always becomes like the one they follow.

One quick way to check if you are following Jesus is to see if you are passionate about His mission.  Jesus stated His mission was For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10 NLT  And He stated that following Him would have us taking on His mission.  Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” Matthew 4:19 NLV.  If we are not becoming sharing the hope that we have with those we come in contact with and seeking to connect them with Jesus, can we say we are following?  Someone once wrote “If your not fishing, your not following.”  Who are you following?  Does it need to change?  Only you can decide who you want to follow.  Everyone follows someone.  We need to decide if they are worth following and if we really want to become like them.

Connected pt 2

cowboy-sunset Togetherness.  It is something that goes against the grain at least here in North America.  We have an ideological concept of ourselves steeped in rugged individualism, where we ride in, become the great hero and ride off into the sunset again.  We see little need for others and usually people are the reason we feel the need to be alone.  People can be extremely cruel and harsh  and all of us have been on the receiving end of some form of ridicule and abuse which just seems to reinforce the stereotype.
Add to that all the busy bodies and gossips who seem to feel it is their God given mission to know all that is going on in your life and share it with everyone they know as well as their opinions of what you are doing and it is no wonder people don’t want to invest heavily in relationship.  Even the source of basic foundational relationships we were all born into has broken down into a deep source of pain for many.  Family isn’t even something you can count on any more.
Enter the church and the people who are supposed to be ones you can begin to turn to and count on as Jesus demonstrated and we have a group of people obsessed with what is wrong with you instead of helping bring out what is right.  There is a lot wrong with our world today and it just reinforces our desire to stand alone.
Unfortunately we were not created to be alone but to be in relationship.  And our level of connection to God is dependent on our level of connection with others around us.  One always will lead to the other.  When we come to know relationship with God through Jesus we are restored to a life-giving relationship with God and He instantly begins to network us to others around us.  And if we resist building relationship with others, our relationship with God begins to die as well.  We cannot have one without the other.  We need to change our view of relationships with others to become who we were meant to be.  Our growth personally and in our relationship with God is dependent on it.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” –  Martin Luther King, Jr –
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 that Christ gave gifts to the body of Christ so that we would become mature and complete measuring up completely to Christ who is our head.  And because of that maturity we would stand firm in our faith and we would …Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16 NLT   What I found interesting the first time I read this and I began to understand our need for one another wconnectedas that we grow together.  There is no alone in Christianity.  No room for individualism.  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”   
We can never become who God wants us to be by spending time with God alone.  We also need to be in ever-deepening relationship with the people God begins to place around us.  One whole complete body of Christ around the world together becoming who God wants us to be.  “We must depart from a self-centered view of our life in Christ. We cannot independently remain apart from others. We are formed by the Spirit to be joined into community with others, forming a body indwelled by Christ.’  Ralph. W. Neighbour Jr.. Christ’s Basic Bodies