Faith can seem like a strange thing. One day you are on top of the world. You are facing huge obstacles, yet you are trusting God and you know way down deep in that place that’s hard to describe, that you are going to come through this OK.
In fact, you are quite sure that the obstacles are crumbling before you.
Then there are other days. (You know, one of “those” days).
Just getting out of bed in the morning seems like a huge feat – and one that you might not be able to pull off!
So what happened? How can that be?
One day you’re up; one day you’re down. One day you see yourself right up there with David …and Paul! The next day, you’re more like Demas, the loser.
Will you ever be consistent and not wavering? You begin to doubt your ability to walk with God in a reputable way. Can you truly be His person?
Yes, you can. You just have to understand the nature of faith and why it may seem elusive.
One way to grasp the right perspective would be to compare your spiritual strength to your natural strength.
Life is fluid. Health is fluid. Strength is fluid. Strength of any kind is not like an object which you acquire and proudly display. It is part of your living being, and as in any part of life, there are efforts which are essential to maintain it.
Consider an athlete – such as an NFL player. Can you imagine what would happen if he took his strength for granted? He wouldn’t be around very long.
Even when he looks and acts like he has arrived at the zenith of physical perfection, he continues to work out and to practice. And, if he suffers an injury and has to sit out for awhile, his training increases to a new level upon his return. The athlete knows that his strength, endurance, and physical expertise are totally dependent on practice and training. He would never expect to maintain his desired level of achievement while in a total rest mode.
We need to take a lesson from the athletes. We need to honor the precious thing we call faith – our belief in God – our trust in His Word – and our zealous appropriation of all that He has for us. We must realize that our fath is a living thing. It grows or it diminishes. And a lot of the current status of this precious faith is dependent upon our current mindset.
The Bible says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The nutrition which feeds our faith is God’s Word, and if we aren’t nourishing our spirits with his rich food, our faith will be diminishing. Even if yesterday we considered ourselves spiritual giants, yesterday’s food will not keep us full of faith. It’s like the manna in the wilderness which became rancid on the next day. We need fresh food everyday.
Let’s go a little deeper.
“Word” in Romans 10:17 is the Greek word “rhema.” It means the spoken word. The revealed word.
As you read the Bible, verses will seem to leap off the page and “speak” to you. You will sense that God is speaking those verses to you personally, and your faith will be built up by them.
As you meditate on those words, they will become planted in your heart and your mind. They will become yours to believe and to act upon.
Then in Jude 20, we see that faith is built up by praying in the spirit. So how is your daily prayer life? Do you check in with your spiritual headquarters every day, listening for direction, heeding His nudge, and listening for His voice of encouragement and affirmation?
Do you speak His Word into the atmosphere around you, changing the fog of delusion into the clarity of His vision?
Remember, yesterday’s manna is rancid. (Exodus 16: 15-20). Every day we start with a new need for our Father and His Word. Every day we have an opportunity to build on our strength of the past, or to allow that strength to recede.
Staying the same is never an option.
As a pastor, my husband led those in our church to say often, “I believe God.”
That seems so simple, you might think, well of course we do. But as you say those simple words, you will find your spirit leaping within you. A resounding, “yes!” You do indeed believe God and not man.
All of society around us needs us to be true believers, strong in our understanding and faith.
So let me encourage you. Believe God and strengthen your faith continually.
Read His Word. Pray. Do those things which build up your faith, and those things which cause it to continue.
When you find discouragement creeping into your thoughts, run to Gods Word. Ask Him for guidance in what to read. Then read and meditate. Allow that Word to become part of you.
If you do these things, you will keep the faith!
The year was 1985 and our family was visiting my parents on the southeastern coast of Georgia. As my husband and I drove over the causeway to Sea Island, we were overwhelmed with the beauty – the incredible expanse of marsh grass, the huge Live Oaks dripping with Moss, the windswept trees, the sand dunes, and the array of extraordinary vacation homes.
Each home was unique – representing the taste of its owner. There were some resembling ornate French palaces. Others exhibiting more of a rustic look. Some extremely modern. Others traditional.
There were also some common elements.
These homes were very expensive – and well-manicured. They were the vacation homes of well-moneyed families, top executives, greatest philanthropists, and even international royalty.
The richest of the rich. And many of the leaders of our nation.
I had taken this drive many times over the years and had loved it. It was refreshing and energizing to see the variety of homes and landscapes, and awesome to think of the money required to maintain such a lifestyle. Splendor and more splendor.
But this time it seemed different.
I felt a heaviness coming upon me – a sadness. I couldn’t understand why this could be. Suddenly I realized that God was calling me to pray. But why right now?
As we returned home, I went off alone to talk to God and He began to give me some revelation which has continued unfolding through the years.
Those homes were homes of the most powerful leadership in our country. Since they were the leaders, they also made a statement about the spiritual condition of our country.
Then I was in for a surprise.
The Lord led me to Isaiah 46:1,2: Bel bows down, Nebo stoops over…They bow down together. They cannot save, but are themselves going into captivity.
During this season, my husband and I had been studying about the time when Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity. They were captured and carried away to a foreign land – with foreign gods, and foreign customs. We were studying the underlying conditions of Israel which had caused that to happen, realizing that the natural episode was a type for a spiritual condition.
Then the Lord spoke very clearly, “My church has been taken into Babylonian captivity. No longer am I, the One true God, being worshiped, but the Babylonian gods are being worshiped. Bel (Baal) and Nebo are the idols of my church now.”
I knew who Bel (Baal) was: the god of prosperity. But who was Nebo?
I began to do some research. Nebo was the Babylonian god of handwriting, but by extension he became the god of education and the intellect.
Ah, there you have it. I knew what God was saying. He was saying that the church trusted more in money and in humanistic education than they did in Him, the one true God.
This new revelation took some pondering, because I knew that our God didn’t want us to be poor and ignorant. He wants us to be educated and to be prosperous.
But when we don’t put Him first, when we don’t look to God for our answers then the blessings of education and prosperity can become a curse. They can cause us to worship the creature and not the Creator.
We become humanistic in our approach to life.
I started to see how entrenched these idols have become in our culture, and the results are obvious. When we are worshiping ourselves, there are no standards. We think that whatever we desire is just fine. No restrictions. Lust, greed, perversion: no problem.
For many, the rule has become that whatever you can “get by with” is okay. Much hurt and confusion have come as these idols have caused us to trample God’s truth and to trample each other.
But God is calling back to Him those who will listen. He is calling us out of Babylon. He wants to cleanse us and show us His true nature. Then He wants to show Himself strong to the world.
So am I coming against education? Am I coming against prosperity?
Of course not! These are gifts from our Father.
But we are called to worship the Gift-giver, not the gift. When our hearts are pure and our perspective is clear, these gifts are true blessings.
They enrich our lives and those of others.
It all comes back to the attitude of the heart. When our hearts are in the right place, then we do have standards: God’s standards. And these standards are the foundation for our knowledge and wisdom. They become a base upon which we build our beliefs.
It seems like it’s time for all of us to do a heart check, and to continue to do these checks as we go forward.
There is much for us to do, and we want to have clear minds. We want to represent God’s truth to the world, not a skewed version of it.
Only pure hearts can do that.
It’s time to bow our knee and let God be God.
Let Him clear our focus.
It’s time to cast aside any Babylonian garment we may have acquired, and represent our father in spirit and in truth.
Have you ever been on a treasure hunt? It’s a fun adventure.
One year when our son was in elementary school, we organized a treasure hunt for his birthday party. My husband diligently surveyed our yard, making notes about possible landmarks. Then he created a map, which looked like an antique rendition of a pirate’s map, including the many markers which could lead to the treasure. (A chest full of candy and surprises which would interest boys of his age).
The map took them to the Maple tree and then 25 paces to the right where they would find the rock with a red line on it. Then the directions would lead them to turn right and take 19 paces to find the Rose bush, etc., etc. Finally, of course, the directions would lead them to the place where the treasure was hidden.
It was great fun seeing the boys run and jump around the yard, yelling with glee when they found a benchmark… And when they found the treasure, the effort was worth it!
I had a dream recently which reminded me of this moment, though in some ways it was quite different. I saw a bunch of us entering an old barn which was covered with dust and decay. We went in as a group, knowing that we were on a mission to accomplish something. (more…)
How can you really know God? That’s a question people ask often – even believers. How do you know what He is like? How do you know what He will do? How do you know what He wants from us?
There is much speculation and reasoning which goes into the answers given by many. They use rational thought to try to figure out God. They say, “If God is a loving God, then He must…,” as they run off into their latest conjecture.
Well, God really can’t be known through intellectual thought. He is far too great for us to just “figure out.” In fact, it’s laughable for arrogant men to think that they can do that.
So what is the source of our knowledge of Him? There is a source, and it seems too simple for the arrogant, but that’s the way God is. He confounds the wise with His methods.
So what is the way we could know Him? He sent us His Word, the Bible, so we could know Him. As we pray and seek the Truth, we find the Truth. If we honestly want to know Him, He will meet us in the pages of His Book.
So if you want to truly know God, read His Word and read it all! Many times we will pick certain verses out of context, and build doctrines out of those, sometimes promoting half-truths or even error. Sometimes it’s effective to pull verses from here and there to show the threads of truth God has provided us. Yet if we put the verses into the proper context, the Truth will leap off the pages for us.
From the first Words of the Bible to the last, Jesus was God’s mission. He wanted to restore mankind back to Himself, and God was going to send His Son, Jesus, to pay that price for our sins. That was the only way we could be cleansed and restored. So from cover to cover, that’s what it was all about.
Think about it. If God had beamed Jesus down to earth and had Him go through all that He did without the years of preparation through the Jews, we wouldn’t have known what He was all about. We wouldn’t have received Him as our Savior. We would still be in the dark. (more…)
What is God saying to you? That is one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. Are you listening? Do you hear Him? How can you know for sure what He is saying?
As you read the Bible, you realize that God has always wanted to talk to us. From the time of Adam when He met with His people in the cool of the day, until this present time, God has been speaking. So what is He saying? And how does He speak to us?
The first means by which God will speak to us is through His Word: the Bible. This miraculous book contains the thoughts and plans of God as He has walked with men throughout the centuries. Line upon line, precept upon precept, we begin to capture His nature and His intentions toward us. We begin to see His love and faithfulness toward His people.
I recently read an article written by a supposed Bible scholar, saying that to understand the Bible, you had to realize that it wasn’t consistent, but a hodge-podge of writings by many people of many different cultures. Boy, did he miss it.
Sure the cultures were different throughout the centuries as the many tribes and civilizations emerged on the scene. However, the one thing which caused the story to be consistent was God Himself. God never changed. He had a plan, and He continued to work with imperfect human beings to lay the foundation for His plan and then to build upon that foundation bringing His plan to fruition.
Think about it. If God had just beamed Jesus down from heaven and had Him fulfill His mission on the cross, no one would have understood what He had accomplished. To most people, He would have been just another man who died on the cross.
But that’s not what God did. He took centuries developing His relationship with Abraham’s children – the nation of Israel. He needed a family of people through whom He could bring His Son into the earth legally – that is, to be born into the earth. He also wanted these chosen people to understand the blood sacrifice Jesus would make when the day came for that. So He instituted patterns of worship which would lead the people to understand His perfect lamb. And He instituted patterns of the tabernacle which would point to God’s true temple in heaven. He showed all of the elements of heavenly worship so that His people could get a glimpse.
To accomplish His goal, God had to be very strict. If the people couldn’t stay focused on their relationship with Him, they would start copying the cultures around them, and they would abdicate their mission ordained by Him. To accomplish His plans, these people had to be true to Him. So when God’s people turned away from Him and followed after other gods – the gods of the surrounding neighbors – they received strict punishment in order to keep them on track.
So this unchanging, all powerful, all knowing, forever loving God dealt with His chosen people so that His Son could be brought to the earth. When the day finally came for His entry, the Holy Child Jesus came to earth as the son of Mary, from the family of Abraham. Though His entry had been prophesied and promised for centuries, most of the leaders could not understand who He was and what God was doing.. They were too focused on outward, prideful appearances, and they were offended by the humble entrance of the Savior.
So we can see that these supposed Bible scholars didn’t recognize their Savior when He arrived. They were too caught up in the pomp of their positions, and they wanted to look good to those around them. So they missed it.
Now we come back to our original question. How can we know what God is saying? How can we know His character and His nature? How can we know His will for us?
When we come to the Bible and receive it with humble, teachable hearts, we will begin to see who He is. He will speak to us through the passages of scripture written so long ago. He will open our eyes to His plans and His purposes in the earth. We will truly come to know our God and to hear what He is saying to us.
As you read the Bible ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He wants you to know. There will be times when you will start reading in a ho-hum manner and suddenly some divine thoughts will leap off the page. You will see things you never saw before – even in passages you have read over and over.
As you and I continue this journey, we will begin to hear more and more from God. He will reveal Himself – and He will reveal His will. We will begin to know what we are to do in order to fulfill our purposes in the earth. Then we will grab hold of the grace available for us to accomplish those purposes.
We will hear what He is saying.
P.S. If you would like a Bible reading plan with notes for understanding, check this out. If you want the big picture, you must read it from cover to cover.
What’s so significant about the Bible?
Why is the Bible truly one of God’s greatest miracles in the world today? For the next few posts I want to be sharing my perceptions about this.
Let me start with a story. You may remember – or remember having heard about – a horrific incident which happened in 1979. It was right after the Shah of Iran was overthrown by radical Muslim clerics. (The same radical group still in power there today).
Thousands of radicals screaming, “Death to America,” stormed the American Embassy and took 66 Americans hostage – and held them captive for 14 months. We are talking about U.S. government officials being taken captive and held by this evil regime. It was unbelievable.
Jimmy Carter was president at the time, and it was the greatest embarrassment of his presidency as he was totally ineffective in trying to obtain their release. In fact, when President Carter directed an attempt to rescue the people, 8 American servicemen died in the effort, without obtaining their release. The mission was a dismal failure.
The United States was humiliated – and shocked at the treatment of their officials and the inability to find a solution. The release of these people didn’t come until Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. That very day, they were released. (more…)