Thanks, all of you, for your checking out my blog and for your comments and encouragements. I am really excited about this.
I wanted to remind any of you who decided to sign up by email to receive this blog that after you put in your email and submit it you will get a confirmation email sent to the address you used with a link that you must click on to activate it. This is to protect you from having someone else sign you up. I think the email sign up is a great thing if you want to be a regular part of the blog because you don't have to keep checking back to see if I have added anything to it (you do need to keep checking back to see/read comments).
I also wanted to comment on a comment made by AMY on my posting, "God Rocked My World This Morning..." (you can read it by clicking on the comment link below that post). I think her reminder is a very valid and powerful one. Too often, I think, we emphasize faith in God to perform His Word simply in the context of His good and encouraging promises to us---and that is good and essential and Biblical and honoring to God. But, we must have equal faith in God to perform the parts of His Word that aren't so fun to hear about. Those parts, like justice for those who don't receive the work of Jesus on the cross, should bring in to our lives a deep urgency as we realize that God WILL perform His Covenant Word, and many, many don't trust Him.
Another thought, along these lines: When we stand on God's Word and promises to/for us we must make sure we have seen the context of that Word and the precepts (or conditions) He attaches to that Word. Single line verses make great bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets, but often they have conditions and context above and below them that are a part of the promise. If we stand on those single verses, apart from the rest, and they don't come through, then it is our fault for not understanding the full offer and condition God has made, not His fault for not performing His Word.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As I was preparing for Sunday’s teaching this morning I looked at Abram’s question to God in Genesis 15 about how he (Abram) could know he would possess the land. I wrote the following and then sat back stunned as it settled in with me:
“God doesn’t mind our questions, just our unbelief, our lack of trusting/believing Him when He tells us something . . . which really means we consider Him untrustworthy . . . it is actually a reflection of what we think of His character, and it is very serious when we consider God’s character untrustworthy because that means we believe that He can lie . . . which means we think He can sin! . . . which goes against EVERYTHING God is and His holiness, and the death of His own Son on the cross.”
I have, over the last few years, had an amazing and ever-increasing awakening to what faith means. It used to be, to me, some ominous “thing” I never had enough of that God required of me to have before I could please Him or have a relationship with Him. Then, some time back, while studying Peter walking on the water, I had a new realization that totally turned me upside down (and has done the same for many others who heard that teaching). In a nutshell, I saw how faith is ultimately our confidence (and trust) in God, His Word, His character, His nature, His trustworthiness, His goodness, His love, His promises (provided we know and follow their precepts).
If faith was simply a quantitative “thing” Jesus would have accused the other disciples (and not Peter) of little faith because AT LEAST Peter WALKED on water while they just sat in the boat! Compared to them he had a lot! But Jesus, I believe very intimately, talked to Peter instead and I believe what He was asking Peter was a deep, core, heart-level relationship/character question which was, basically, “Peter, down deep at the core of your and My relationship, do you really believe that My character is such that I would call you to come out on the water, and then turn away from you and let you drown?” Jesus is saying, “You didn’t ask Me to stop the waves or wind. All that you required was that I call you. You completely trusted me despite everything around you. Do you really believe that my character is such that I would call you to come out on the water and then turn away from you and let you drown?”
It wasn’t about the wind or the waves—they were already there when Peter got out—it was about God’s character, and we can’t have a good, two-way, equal relationship with someone (or please that person) if we doubt their character, and can’t trust them, and cast aspersions on their character by our words or actions. This morning I saw that even deeper. To believe that God can’t be trusted to perform His Word is to believe that He can lie . . . which means to believe that He can sin. It is the ultimate blasphemy and character aspersion there is to say to a Holy God who so hates sin that He sent His own Son to die to pay for it that we believe He, Himself, could sin. What a slap to God’s character. No wonder we couldn’t have a relationship with Him, built on the foundation of Jesus dying for our sin, if we ultimately believed that God Himself could sin . . . no wonder we walk by, and remain in, faith as a Christian when we realize that faith isn’t a “thing,” but our heart’s trust and belief in God’s goodness and trustworthiness and love. It is that we commit our life in to, and that we walk in, and that which forms the core of our loving relationship with God.
The question isn’t, “Do I have enough faith?” It is, really, “What, at my core, do I believe about God’s goodness and trustworthiness and holiness and love and character and nature—all of which is revealed in Jesus.” It is that belief we take our thoughts and fears captive to and choose to trust in no matter what we see around us, and that is faith. For example, it is not, ultimately, “Do I believe the Bible?” but, “Do I believe the Bible’s author?” That is taking it to its deepest level and out of an intellectual exercise in to a relationship basis.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I am on our local volunteer fire department as both a firefighter and a chaplain. We fight structure fires, respond to vehicle accidents, fight wildland fires which are our largest threat in this area (the picture shows a fire we trained fighting at the Wildland Fire School in 2007), and respond to medical calls. Because I live on the edge of the response area I don't make nearly as many calls as most of the guys on the department, but between pastoring for 9 years, and being on our fire department for 12 years, I have seen and offered counsel for some really hard things.
Last night some guys from the volunteer fire department I am a member of were on a very hard call involving a young child. Things like this---which every human being inevitably comes face to face with---are a tragic, stark, and all to frequent reminder that in this fallen world we don't win all the battles, and I think it is in times like this that the rubber meets the road in our walk of faith, and in our attitude and expectancy toward God.
I know a man who is filled with joy at the love of God and, who, if he sees less than 15 miracles a week in his ministry, considers it a boring week. Yet, he has a daughter suffering from a horrible disease. What a temptation to become angry and bitter toward God, or to start down the road of not pressing in toward (and expecting) greater and greater victory.
I have met a lady who loves the Lord maybe more than anyone I know and who sees the impossible bow daily in her ministry in Mozambique with blind eyes opening and deaf ears hearing and even the dead rising, and yet has endured tremendous hardship both personally and in her ministry.
A pastor I have heard speak, and whose teachings and walk I admire tremendously, has seen cancer literally fall off of people before his eyes, and yet he lost his dad to an agonizing death from cancer. Another pastor I have heard speak and whose writings I have drawn on tremendously is filled with joy for the Lord despite having lost both a wife and a daughter way too young.
Times like these are such a challenge to our faith. We find ourselves challenged to not be angry or offended at God, or to not blame God for things that are so clearly not seen in Jesus, who was the express image of the Father. We find ourselves challenged to still consider God "good" in a way that simply is good as any child would see and define good. God tells us to pursue good, and avoid bad, so clearly He expects us to know the difference. I feel like sometimes we spend way too much time trying to find a way to call things good that are bad, and trying to pin things on God that are clearly of the devil and a result of a fallen world. God's heart and will have been revealed to us at both ends of the Bible---in the initial creation and the garden, and in the picture of heaven in Revelation. Both are good and free of pain and sickness and sorrow. Jesus even teaches us to pray that the Father's will would be done here, on earth, the way it is done in heaven. In the middle of the Bible, between Genesis and Revelations, comes Jesus who heals all who come to Him, who shows love, who, as Acts 10:38 says, goes about doing good and setting free and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Then He says, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."
In times like these we find ourselves challenged to maintain an expectancy in any given situation that there will be victory, and that what the world calls impossible will bow. We must remember that our God, our position in Christ, and the heart of the Father have not changed despite the pain we see and feel around us. Finally, in times like these we struggle to not become bitter. We must remember to guard our heart and tongue, to speak from a place of faith, to not dance with thoughts about life, ourselves, God, etc., that don't come from God, and to meditate upon those things lovely and pure and praiseworthy. We have, as our consolation, the model of so many heroes in the Bible who also struggled at times in their battle to stay strong in faith and expectancy. We can see in them that the battles to remain in expectant faith are real, we just can't afford to remain in them for too long. We must fix our eyes on the heart of the Father, and not on what is around us.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
We had a wonderful evening Tuesday night sitting on our screen porch with Bethany and Abigail, eight people from our church, and Rick and Susan Oliver (seen in the picture at left with Mary Ann and me). Rick and Susan have the ministry "Confound the Wise" (www.confoundthewise.org). Rick is a scientist with a PhD in Evolutionary Biology as well as a Masters in Geology and other degrees in addition to being a member of different science organizations. You can read a lot more about him at his web site. In a nutshell, Rick was, by his own words, not just an athiest, but an avid anti-Christian. Then his world got rocked at Mount St. Helens when it erupted and he was there and almost killed in it. In the hours and days following the eruption he saw land changes, fossilization, strata formation, and other things form that he had been taught had to take millions of years to happen and it shattered everything he had come to embrace in his worldview. It began a multi-year journey of seeking and questioning which led to his conversion to Christianity in 1987. From there he journeyed through theistic evolution (God started it all then helped it evolve) to Gap theory (there are huge gaps between the days of Creation in Genesis) to where he stands now---a literal young earth Creationist. Rick travels now, as a scientist, talking about why we can believe God's Word literally, and it is a fascinating and equipping teaching which he gives.
So, the other night we invited anyone in our church who wanted to come over to sit and fellowship with him and Susan, and we had a wonderful evening sitting out on a warm night, crickets singing, drinking two pots of coffee, and talking, asking questions, listening to his stories, and getting to better know the two of them . . . and each other. The conversation covered everything from fossils to fishing (Rick and Susan love to fish!) and it was so refreshing to be reminded of the total lack of empirical (proveable) evidence for evolution or any other origin theory apart from a Creator. As Rick says, if all the evidence could just be layed out on tables for all of us to just look at free of all the interpretation and theory of the supposed experts we would all come to the same conclusion---God created it!
As I have reflected on that evening and Rick and Susan's ministry I have found myself realizing that the object of all this is not to believe Creation, but to believe God. If we simply stop at believing and being able to defend Creation we run the trap of just being more intellectually equiped and, hence, more proud. But Creation points to the truth of God's Word, and the truth of God's Word points to the truthfulness of God---both His existence, and His trustworthiness. Even in all of the equipping to be able to explain the reason for the hope within us it is not to win someone over to Creation, but to the God who created it. It comes back to faith, and faith is an expression of relationship---of our ability to trust in God and His truthfulness and His character and His nature and His love. Trusting in that we walk in it---we walk in faith---anchoring our choices and values not in the seen, but the unseen. Ultimately that is what it all is about---our faith---because our faith is the expression of our trust and relationship, and restored relationship with our Creator is the whole reason Jesus came and died.
A humorous side note: As I thought of all the people who point to different books and studies as their evidence for evolution instead of the Genesis account of Creation I thought, "I know who wrote my book---who wrote yours?"
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I did it!
I have been on a quest for the perfect personal coffee mug for a long, long time. (I am not talking about a special pair of mugs that Mary Ann and I share our "together" coffee with that have that special association that says, "this is together time for some great talking with my best friend and snuggler." Those mugs are different.) I am talking about that favorite, just me, enjoying my coffee while studying or taking quiet time mug. It has to be big, but not huge. It has to have a handle that allows three fingers through it comfortably---none of this tea cup stuff. It has to fill my hand and feel good. And it has to express me. Well, I found it at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf this morning in Goleta on our way back from a trip. It has the simple text on it:
"There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." -Lewis Carroll
I saw that mug and I knew! I looked at Mary Ann and she knew. It was so perfect. I have, over the last years, come to more and more believe and expect the impossible---because I have a God who demolishes the impossible before His name. In the last 7-8 months I have been a part of two cases of cancer disappearing; performing a marriage for a Godly couple that the community had, for the most part, written off years ago; seeing a friendship that would have ended in disaster if the world had its way be restored through love and forgiveness brought on by the Holy Spirit working in lives; seeing financial provision for many in a season when doom is being spoken; and so much more. And why should we expect less! We have a God who delights in showing Himself to His creation that they might return to Him! We have a God who sent His Son to destroy the works of the devil!
Does this mean we see every victory? No. Does this mean we don't win every battle? Yes. But those are umbrella statements about the whole course of the war. I am talking about our expectation for each individual battle before us. In each battle I enter I choose to expect the impossible to bow, because I know who my God is and I am seeking to do His will. The world tells us to consider something impossible because the world doesn't know the heart and character and nature and faithfulness and power and love of my God! What is impossible to the God who, with a thought and then a word, speaks a universe in to existence? What won't a God do who sends His Son to die for a rebellious, lost creation?
Impossible? I try not to entertain the meaning of that word! Impossible is what they would have told Gideon, or the woman with the issue of blood, or Moses at the banks of the sea, or David standing before Goliath. Impossible? Yes, if I leave God out of the picture, but, when in His will, the word "impossible" has no meaning. As a little framed picture in our bathroom says, "Faith is not believing that God can, it is knowing that He will." This is not "feel good" positive thinking. This is a simple anchoring in reality---and reality includes an active, loving, all powerful God.