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How Does Your Faith Grow?

How Does Your Faith Grow?

When I finally started taking God seriously and diligently read His Word, the idea or concept of “faith in God” was foreign to me. I didn’t really understand it and I certainly did not have any kind of faith to speak of. I would read about Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac and I thought that Abraham was someone extra special or that he had “superhuman” qualities that God gave him. As if to say that no one could be ordinarily expected to have that kind of faith. I am learning, however, that this is somewhat true, but not entirely. Allow me to explain…

Let’s start with the Bible’s own definition of faith:

Hebrews 11:  1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Isn’t this a great definition of faith?

Imagine you and a close friend are standing on the edge of a great chasm like you might see in an Indiana Jones movie. There is no visible way across. But when you re-read the ancient map you read a clue that suggests that a walking bridge exists starting at the end of the path, only it is invisible!

Do you trust the old map? What could be that important on the other end that would warrant the risk? Who steps out first, you or your friend? When you decide to take the first step, you are hoping that your foot will stop at the same level as your other foot and be able to support your weight.

How much confidence would you have in that first step? After taking the first five steps and seeing that this invisible bridge does indeed exist, do you have a little more faith in the map and the bridge itself? Of course! How exciting it would be to stand on an invisible bridge in the middle of a chasm. Now you have to keep on going and the rest of the bridge is still invisible. Are you ready to run across at this point, or still go one step at a time? It still takes faith and each step should be made with more and more confidence, but you’ll never see the bridge.

John 20: 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

In this analogy, the bridge is like God, He wants us to trust totally on Him, leaning entirely on Him.

Let’s take Asa, one of Judah’s kings, as an example.

Here is a lesson for what is right:

2 Chronicles 14: 10 so Asa deployed his armies for battle in the valley north of Mareshah. 11 Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”
12 So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.

And here is a lesson for what is wrong:

2 Chronicles 16: 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the Lord your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. 8 Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the Lord, and he handed them over to you. 9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.”

What I find fascinating is that king Asa knew better. He saw the Lord work in his life previously and witnessed a great miracle in defeating 1,000,000 Ethiopians, yet failed to continue trusting in God.

This tells me that we need to be careful and persistent in knowing where our faith is placed. This is why it is imperative in getting to know God on a personal level deeper and deeper. I am convinced that the more we know Him, the more we’ll trust Him. Does this make sense to you? How well do you know Him?

The map is like the Word of God.

All believers can digest the Word for spiritual nutrition and this helps us to understand and know our Creator all the more. This is why the Bible, in and of itself, is never enough. Anyone can read the Bible, but real faith comes by putting into practice that which we’ve learned and act on it.

For example, when the car breaks down, do we quickly whip out the credit card for the solution without acknowledging God and go to the nearest mechanic? Or do we pray about it and allow God to work in the situation? If we do not give God a chance to help us and rescue us as promised then how will we ever develop any kind of faith? Does this help you realize why it is so difficult for the rich to inherit the Kingdom of God?

Psalm 37:
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
     Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
     and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
7 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
     and wait patiently for him to act.
  Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
     or fret about their wicked schemes.

Hebrews 11:  6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

I love this verse, don’t you?

First, it makes it clear that faith is required to please God and second, it gives us the basic requirements of that faith. This is just a starting point. This is where the spiritually new-born begin. But in order to truly please God, I believe He wants us to grow and develop this faith.

I believe the parable of the servants is a great illustration of this:

Matthew 25: 24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

This servant clearly did not know his master very well and committed a grave mistake. Here’s where his ignorance led him:

Matthew 25: 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Unfortunately, I believe there are too many self-proclaimed believers in this position right now.

I apologize for the cynicism,

but I think far too many people that know the Truth are far more interested in working for their retirement on this earth than they are in working for eternal treasures.

Matthew 6: 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

John 6:  26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

This is where the “rubber meets the road”. This makes it an individual sport. Not that we can’t work together to help build each other’s faith through fellowship, but the “day in and day out” practice of trusting in God requires the individual’s effort and the Christian believer cannot rely on their pastor for that.

Check out this verse…

The Bible actually tells us how we can build the faith. In other words, it is saying “Read me!”:

Romans 10: 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (NASB) (This translates from the English to “Read your Bibles daily!” LT (Larry’s Translation) 🙂

Getting back to Abraham, it is important to keep in mind that he was an ordinary man. There was nothing special about him other than being chosen by God. What we need to keep in mind is that he was prepared over time by being tested by God and for his obedience and this is the case for any one of the saints.

Hebrews 11: 17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

Back to our analogy, to get across the bridge and develop a faith in it, we needed to have the map and read it. God is far more complex and the journey He intends for us is much more complicated than the bridge will ever be.

This is why the Bible is essential for daily consumption.

This is why the Bible is required reading with the kind of faith that leads you to expect to hear God’s voice so that He can lead and direct you. A “man of God” such as a pastor or elder can usually never tell you what God wants you to do next, although it may seem obvious. That is something only you can discern for yourself. Is there any wonder why God put countless “Be not afraid” passages in His Word? And we must never forget this, straight from the Master’s lips:

Matthew 28: 20 … be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Are you complacent in your Christian walk? Are you ready for an adventure?

“Dear Lord, I lack faith. It seems as though I doubt you all the time and fail to take your Word as truth. Will you please forgive me and help me to know you more so that I can have a great confidence in you? You are my Lord and I commit my life to you today. I will trust in you and you alone. Change my heart so that I desire what you desire and despise what you despise. Thank you in advance for all the wonderful things you’ll continue to do in my life as a result of me putting my faith in you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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Faith & Love

Faith & Love

Faith comes first.

A person comes to God in/through faith (belief):

Hebrews 11: 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Love comes after.

There is no way to love someone without knowing them. He already loves us as He’s always known us.

1 John 4: 19 We love, because He first loved us. (NASB)

By coming to Him in faith we are simply responding to His love. He is the initiator.

He promises time and again throughout His Word that when we seek Him, we will find Him. Here’s just one example:

2 Chronicles 15: 1 Then the Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet King Asa as he was returning from the battle. “Listen to me, Asa!” he shouted. “Listen, all you people of Judah and Benjamin! The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them. 4 But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him.

Here is another verse that sheds some light on God’s character:

James 4: 8a Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

Notice that He doesn’t seek after us. To get our attention, He can do any number of things. But for us to really know Him, we have to do the seeking and this takes time and effort as do all valued relationships.

The more I know God personally, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the greater my faith in Him becomes. Our faith and love for Him go hand in hand.

As a child, and like most children, I had implicit faith in my father. I could jump from the monkey bars and into His hands without wavering because I knew him and loved him. I had great faith that he would catch me. God wants the same from us, which is why He requires “child-like” faith:

Mark 10: 13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

Faith in God does not happen overnight. If we are truly “born again” (of the Spirit), we all start off as babes in Christ and need to grow and develop into young men and women of God.

Keep in mind that Abraham walked with God at least 38 years before he was asked to sacrifice his only (legitimate) son.

David spent many years with God as a young adult working as a shepherd and was able to develop a great faith in God after experiencing God helping him kill lions and bears while watching the flocks.

1 Samuel 17: 34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”  Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Without a relationship with the Lord, which God requires (love the Lord your God), we will never grow in faith.

Yes, faith comes first which introduces us to God in the first place but in order to grow and have deep roots we must love Him and learn to love Him more and more.

Ephesians 3:  14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

This helps us to understand why the greatest commandments are:

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Out of this relationship, obedience should come naturally.

God desires obedience more than sacrifice, which brings glory to Him:

1 Samuel 15:
22 But Samuel replied,
  “What is more pleasing to the Lord:
     your burnt offerings and sacrifices
     or your obedience to his voice?
  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
     and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
     and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
  So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
     he has rejected you as king.”

John 14:  23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.

So how could we ever obey Him if we fail to hear His voice because we don’t know Him? It becomes our heart’s desire to obey Him when we love Him.

What does obedience mean to you on a day to day basis? Is it simply doing good things and making sure we don’t do wrong? I can tell you most assuredly that God desires much more than simply staying away from evil and doing good works.

He wants your heart, completely.

Jeremiah 29: 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD.

When you know Him and trust Him enough to give Him your whole heart, it will be your greatest desire to do what He want’s you to do. This does not mean that you’ll never be without sin, please don’t have that expectation. What can be expected, however, is a transformed heart and that, my friends, is the greatest!

Hosea 6:
6 I want you to show love,
     not offer sacrifices.
  I want you to know me
     more than I want burnt offerings.

1 Corinthians 13: 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

If you do not know how to seek Him or how to develop this relationship, feel free to reply to this message and I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Will you take the time to know Him?

“Dear Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for getting my attention and letting me know that you desire a relationship with me. Please help me to get to know you more and help me to stay on your path. Draw me close as I’ll draw close to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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He Loves Me... He Loves Me... (not?)

He Loves Me… He Loves Me…(not?)

Does the title sound familiar? Of course, at least for some of you, I hope. In case you don’t, perhaps there are people reading this that are too young or from another culture that never heard it before.  I looked it up on Wikipedia and it seems to be of French origin.

Suppose a young girl daydreams about a boy, there is a simple game called “he loves me… he loves me not” which would determine whether the boy loves her or not. It is played by picking a daisy and then plucking the petals from it one by one. As each petal is removed the girl will say out loud “he loves me”, then the next petal is removed, “he loves me not”, next petal, “he loves me”, next petal “he loves me not” and so on until the last petal is picked which, whatever  phrase is recited, determines whether the boy loves her, or not. Suppose the last petal is “he loves me not”? Why she’d probably have to pick another daisy and try again. 🙂

Is it silly? Maybe, but cute.

Isn’t it nice to know that God always loves us and regardless of any “daisy game”, He still loves us?

But do we believe this? Day in and day out? Is this just intellectual knowledge of God’s Word or is it something that we know to be true in our hearts?

I think the greater understanding of His love for us is directly related to the less stress we have.

Here’s the real test:  Ask yourself these questions “Do I still worry?”, “Do I still have fear?” Or how about “When my bills are late, do I get anxious?”,  “Do I fear losing my job?”, “Do I worry about losing my home?”, “What do I worry about?”

If you said yes to any one of these that just means your normal. Everyone has fears and worries to various degrees. Although I believe this about people I’m convinced that that is not God’s plan for us.

Philippians 4: 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Matthew 6:  34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

He tells us not to worry about anything! Are you kidding me?

At the heart of this, I believe that worry is simply a word to mean “lack of faith”.

Matthew 8: 26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

Hebrews 11: 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

I’ve learned that as I grow spiritually, I worry less and less, and although I still struggle with it, this knowledge gives me hope. Meditating on both Philippians 4:6 and Mattew 6:34 as seen above, has been really good for me. God is telling me not to worry. Eventually, I finally started to say to God “OK Lord, if you say so.” and I am amazed at how effective it was to meditate on these verses.

Another verse that really disturbed me and was helpful in meditating on was this:

Psalm 112: 7
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.

Who is “They” anyway and why wouldn’t they fear bad news, doesn’t everybody fear bad news? Can anyone relate to this? “They”, found earlier in the Psalm, is:

 1 Praise the Lord!
How joyful are those who fear the Lord
and delight in obeying his commands.

Some days I’ll tremble with fear and others I seem to be at peace. It is the days of fear that I’ve really learned to cling to Him and go to Him constantly. It is also in these days of unrest that I find myself doubting what I know to be true. Is God really going to rescue me? Does He really love me? What I find fascinating is that after a day of gloom I can pray to my God and the next day, with the same circumstances, He gives me a renewed sense of hope and peace. It’s as if to say “He really does love me!”.

1 John 4:  16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

   God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

I think perfect love should always be our goal; this would enable us to overcome fear. This makes sense since the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and neighbors as ourselves.

Isn’t this great news? You see, He loved us first:

1 John 4:19 19 We love him, because he first loved us. (KJV)

Then He commands us to love Him back, for our own good, of course:

Deuteronomy 10: 13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.

In the effort to love God and learning how to love Him; this is where true transformation really happens.

The more we understand God and the love He has for us the less fear we’ll have.

James 4: 8a Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

The closer God comes to you, the more you will realize just how much He loves you and your fears will start to fade away.

How do I grow spiritually and learn to love Him more?

  1. I read my Bible daily and follow a reading plan because I need one.
  2. I seek Him in prayer on an as needed basis(at least daily), telling Him about all my fears and asking Him to fill me with His Spirit and to teach me His ways. “Lord, how can I be one of those who doesn’t fear bad news? Please let that be said of me.”
  3. I regularly spend time in fellowship with believers discussing each other’s lives and focusing on the Word of God. In groups of 2-15 people (about 4-5 times a week)
  4. I read godly books. Personal biographies are great and those focused on spiritual growth.

Sermons at church and on the radio are great, but nothing beats “individual God time” and scriptural fellowship.

 Keep in mind that this is where I am now. When I first started to seriously seek God I read the Bible, prayed a little bit and met once a week with others. Since then my desire for fellowship grew and I find great enjoyment from these weekly meetings with the godly. The more I sought God, the more time I wanted to be with Him and His followers.

Will you join me on this journey to love Him more?

“Dear Lord, thank you for calling and loving me. I am so privileged to know you and have a heart for you. Will you help me know you better? Please help me to learn how to perfect my love and learn how to love you more. You have been so good to me and I thank you for what you’re doing today and in the future. In Jesus name, amen.”

 

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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Do You Know God is Good?

Do You Know That God Is Good? Loving God, part XX

God is good! He is good, isn’t He? But how do you know? Have you experienced Him?

There are a lot of clichés in the culture of the church. Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord, give it to God, ‘let go, let God’, praise Jesus, and the list goes on and on. I realize that for a lot of people these are sincere statements and I don’t want to take anything from those people. But let’s face it, sometimes we say things without conviction. It’s easy to do.

I can honestly say that before I started regularly reading the Word of God and seeking Him, I would say the phrase “God is good”, but not really know it for myself. There was no way that I could. I really didn’t know God, so how could I know He was good (other than Scripture)?

Here the psalmist is recalling his personal experience:

Psalm 116

 1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
2 Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
3 Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave  overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
5 How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!

6 The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.

God or coincidence?

God is good for all the little things He does as well. For many years I’d give “coincidence” the credit. For example, I would pray “God, please let me get to work on time.” when I was worried that there’d be a lot of traffic. So I would get to work on time, then I would think “I guess there wasn’t so much traffic after all, cool!” Whereas I should have been saying “Thank you, Lord, for helping me get to work on time!”

James 1: 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 

What can happen to some of us, I included, is that we can become complacent, or fall away completely. I’ve been “on fire” for God before, then years later I’d be lukewarm.

How would you like to learn of a way to remember God continually?

Joshua 1: 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

With Bible reading, praying, meeting with godly friends, and truly seeking God in all these activities, you will be put on God’s good path. Your life will change for all eternity.

Psalm 37: 31 They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.

Why don’t we all commit to seek God and stay on His path? Then we can all say “God is good” with great enthusiasm and live a much richer life!

Can I get an Amen?!

“Dear Lord, I would like to get to know you better. You are good, I know that, but I want to see more of you in my life. Please do not let me take this life you’ve given me for granted. Help me to see all the little things you do for me and realize that they are from you. Thank you for your patience and keeping me on your path. I give you all the praise. In Jesus name, amen.”

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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