Walk by Faith

Faith is believing that God will work. It is much more than simply believing that God has the ability to work. That is how we are to read our Bibles, pray, and live this life. Promise after promise will be brought to fruition in our lives when we apply the Truth in faith!

God is God and that means that He has the resources to work in any way He wishes. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Part of believing in God is knowing that He is powerful and in control. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty… The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness” (Psalm 29:4, 7-8 ESV). God has many characteristics that determine how His power will be used, though. He is just and righteous, merciful and kind. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). We can count on this because He never changes (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)!

Walking by faith is done out of love for God. Knowing God leads to loving God, which leads to trusting God, which finally leads to obeying God (‘Righteousness and Rewards’ by Matt Chandler). “This is love for God: to keep his commands” (1 John 5:3 NIV).

The kings of Israel, written about in the Old Testament, provide many examples of how following God leads to victory and success and flourishing and rebelling leads to downfall and destruction. For example, one time the Israelites broke the commandments. “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgement on Joash” (2 Chronicles 24:24 ESV). There were not many kings who managed to follow God all the days of their lives, but Jotham was one! After noting all the his accomplishments in rebuilding and securing the kingdom, it says, “So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chron. 27:6 ESV). This Old Testament principle still applies to us, even though we are now under the blood of Jesus. The difference is that we now have the Holy Spirit to help us live the Law from our heart.

Suffering is a major theme in the New Testament because it is something Christ followers will deal with. Life is not happy all the time. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). James focuses on suffering a lot and he was specifying that the suffering does not come from God. God is the giver of good gifts! Paul also wrote about suffering and then said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). This is one of the most glorious promises given to Christ followers! Everything that happens, either good or bad, to someone who loves God and is called by Him will be used for their ultimate good!

David says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). Jesus claimed to be “The good shepherd” (John 10:11). “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Sheep look to their shepherd for guidance, food, shelter, and protection. Jesus is our leader, protector, and provider.

One of the sweetest promises to cling to says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV). “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). To have faith, it is necessary to believe that God is capable, but it must go further. Walking in faith requires a strong assurance that God will work: our salvation will be worked and brought to completion. We can get to know our good God, live life according to His commandments written on our hearts, live out of security and provision, and claim the verses in the Bible as true for us!

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Spiritual Warfare: The Ultimate Reality

Angels. Demons. These beings are not spoken about too much in churches today (at least not the ones I’ve been in). Pastors and teachers like to focus more on positive edification, rather than talking about spiritual warfare. Focusing on the positive is good, but knowing our enemy and his tactics will help Christians to walk out their faith victoriously. Ask a seasoned Christian who has experienced ministry and they will likely have stories to tell of a spiritual war, of demonic attacks. When I was in high school, my youth pastor specifically spoke about the topic every year. Since then, I have heard more first hand accounts from Christians who were sharing the Gospel in dark places and have picked up bits and pieces about demonic powers and bondage. There is so much I do not know, but one thing I do know for sure: it exists.

The American culture is so loud and “practical” that anything unusual easily gets explained away. Miracles and demonic oppression are mostly invisible because of this fact. It could also be because we have been blinded as a culture to the spiritual reality. There is a spiritual war going on, whether it is seen or not. God and Satan are pitted against each other. God is for mankind and has reached out for a restored relationship with us, offering us life. Satan rebelled against God and now wants to bring as many people as he can down with him to his eternal punishment. Each person is on one side or the other. There is no in between. You and I are either friends of God or enemies of God.

If we are friends of God, then Satan and all his demons hate us. Their goal is to destroy, kill, and create as much chaos as possible before their damnation. Even the people who are on their side will be ultimately destroyed because that is what Satan does.
Satan does not have total power, though. God is more powerful, as Creator, and is perfectly able to keep the chaos in check. In fact, we see in Job 1:6-12, Satan has to ask permission to sift Job.

In 1 Peter, the character of the devil is given, along with plenty of commands for us in relation it it: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Something else to note is that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is appealing. How else would he get so many followers and lead so many astray, including Christians?

Paul explains this spiritual reality further in Ephesians by saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

There are many examples of how this spiritual warfare plays out in every day life. Something to note is that people and what we see are not the enemy, but against the spiritual enemy. The most general form of demonic power would be blindness to this spiritual reality.  Materialism, accomplishments, and surface level are what people focus on, never stopping to ask if there is something more. Anything odd, in a good way or a bad way, is often explained away or simply ignored. Another way this is seen is how people desire to fill every minute with entertainment and productivity. It’s all distraction from the spiritual reality. There are also very specific attacks on people who are pushing back the darkness bringing many to salvation. Multiple Christian leaders have told stories of waking in the night to find a demon in their room. What woke them was a heavy weight upon their chest which was severely hindering their breathing. After commanding the demon multiple times in Jesus’s name, the weight would lift and the demon would leave. In between these two extremes would be demonic strongholds and opposition to us seeking Jesus or living the life He asks us to. These are varied and common. (And also things I don’t know much about, so I recommend you read a book about them to find out more.)

Not only did Paul explain the spiritual reality in Ephesians, but he also told us how to fight in the war. He describes a suit of armor. When these things come, we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people(Ephesians 6:14-18).

Did you notice that “Be alert,” “Be sober-minded,” and “Be watchful” are the attitudes that we are to have? How can we make sure to stand firm if we don’t even know there is something pushing us? We are commanded to be aware of this war to watch for where the attacks are happening. After explaining the suit of armor example, Paul says twice to pray. The first time, he says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18). The second time, he applies the whole war and armor analogy to how we should be thinking of our fellow Christians: “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18).

My youth pastor specifically said not to ascribe too much credit to Satan and demons because that could become worship. As children of God, we have a mighty King who we can look to constantly for our security, for eternity! We have been commanded to have a certain attitude and mindset and to stand, though. Understanding that the enemy does want to destroy our lives and our witness will help us to recognize an attack when it comes. When we have recognized it, we can stand firm and pray to Jesus for help and freedom.

A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won 😉 ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it  would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him?  Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

Peace to You

It’s Christmas time once more! Despite the many almost car accidents that happen this time of year, it still holds a little more joy and peace. Honestly, that’s probably because I haven’t been consistent in preaching the Gospel to myself. This time of year, though, my mind is brought over and over to the wonder of God coming all the way from heaven to walk among us. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Believing in, and contemplating, that action gives me greater confidence that I can trust God. If Jesus went so far to fulfill promises from the Old Testament to restore relationship with us, than I can . Even when circumstances around me would make me question God’s goodness,  I can look at the Gospel feel confident of His love. There’s nothing like the Gospel to give, or restore, faith. And along with this faith comes peace.

Abraham was the man in the Old Testament who is accredited for having great faith.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.” – Romans 4:20-21

Faith gives peace because we are sure that God will provide, guide, and protect as we follow Him. The interesting thing is that Paul says that Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he gave glory to God. It makes a lot of sense that when we’re focusing on who God is and what He’s done that we would rest easier in His present and future sustaining grace.

In comparison to Abraham’s faith, I’ve noticed that the people in the Old Testament who did not have faith were afraid and made terrible decisions out of that fear. (1 Chronicles 19-20) So trusting is incredibly important if we want to make wise choices.

The is post has gone a little off the topic of the birth of Jesus… But can we really appreciate Jesus coming without a heart of faith?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9

53. Dinner Out, Turned Gospel Lesson

We were sitting at the table looking at the bill. “Let’s leave ten dollars as tip,” my brother says. That’s multiple dollars more than 20% goes through my head as I give him a confused/ disapproving look. Wheels spin in my head and more reasons why it wouldn’t be “fair” to give that much. It took a little while for the food to come, our order was mixed up the first time around, the power went out, we even waited a while for the bill. I forced myself to step back. Why is it such a problem? I used to love being generous. So I say, “Okay” and throw down the ten dollar bill. As we paid our waitress directly because of the power outage, it was obvious that she expected a much smaller tip.

In the car, my brother continued to hash out the math to figure out how much each of us would pay and came to the realization that he had messed up the math on the tip. He obviously felt guilty and covered the difference. I felt guilty because wasn’t it careless to “throw out” money like that? I’m sure my parents would not approve. But it turned into a lesson on grace straight from God.

As human beings, we know what we ought to do but we don’t. My conscience lets me know every day just how often I don’t do what I ought. I am, we are, completely undeserving of even existing (or, to keep with the analogy, receiving a 15% tip as a waitress). But Jesus went to great lengths to extend abundant mercy, grace, and life (above and beyond the 20% mark). He didn’t decide to stay in heaven because we didn’t deserve His gift.

Usually when we say, “life is unfair” we are referring to the negative things that happen, but it applies to positive things as well. Especially growing up as a middle class American, I take for granted to many unfair blessings every minute. Among all the commonplace blessings, is the gospel I’ve heard many times over. But do we really understand the gospel if we mix it in with the commonplace? Do I really comprehend the gospel if I think in terms of fair when I sit in a restaurant contemplating tip (and then feel guilty later about leaving a larger than normal tip)?

When we realize what Jesus accomplished for us, the eternal life we’ve been given, it puts a new perspective on everything. It’s not a guilt perspective; there is so much grace when you are resting in Jesus. Rather, it’s going about life compelled to share with others because of what’s been given to us, because of the rest we have found.

On the subject of spiritual disciplines, JD Greear writes, “Even our failures in these areas remind us that God bases His acceptance of us on Christ’s keeping of the law, not on ours. That realization will drive us to stand even more in awe of the grace of God, which will produce even more spiritual fruit.

It is by grace through faith that we are saved, but that amazing salvation compels a response.

The experience at the restaurant made me think. It may not have been the smooth, relaxed dinner I expected, but the glimpse of the gospel was worth far more than a dinner of ease.

50. Love Is

Grace flows down on us in the same way that Niagara Falls would if we were standing right underneath them. At times, this truth seems far from true. My brokenness can feel so big. For that reason, I can easily make grace about me and fixing my problems. But I hold the hope of cure; even though I’m broken, I know the One who brings healing. Even more than that, I have forgiveness of sin and security in death.

That’s more than a lot of people have.

Christianity is not a self-help program. Lived out, it’s all about relationship and sharing this good news about Jesus.

Romans seeks to explain how incredibly amazing it is that Gentiles (anyone who isn’t a Jew by birth) have been invited into the family of God. Then it says,

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Romans 10:14-15)

There are so many people who can accept the good news of Jesus, but they don’t know it’s an option. Or maybe they don’t understand how valuable an inheritance they’ve been offered.

We are to pour ourselves out for their faith. Both Jesus and Paul are great New Testament examples of this. “By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

This applies in many ways, including a very current situation:

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That is the most extreme circumstance, but we read about such occurrences in the NT just as we see it in the news today.

Why? Because of radical love- because of Jesus.