Conflicting Belief That Hinders Faith


According to one count, the Bible records 3, 573 promises of God that cover the major categories of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of mankind.  Therefore, it would be correct to believe the thought, “God’s got my back!”  This being true, it would be accurate to assume that we should all expect, as the song lyrics go, “sunshine on a cloudy day.”  Right?

There was a time…

There was a time in my life that I believed that all I needed to do was learn, declare, and decree the Bible promises that covered the needs that I would experience; at least some of the main ones from each category.

But to be honest…

However, that approach ‘preached good’ but came up short in actual experience.  Too much of the time, I was ‘standing’ in a kind of faith that was misplaced.  You see, I discovered that the life of the promise was not in my ability to do the work properly.  At first, I reasoned that I merely needed patience when in reality my practice was flawed.

The bedrock of faith…

What I’ve discovered is that the very foundation that supports and activates faith is not in knowing and claiming the promises, but instead becoming confident in His Character.

“Confidence In His Character Is The Beginning and End of Faith”

I can be familiar with all 3,573 Bible promises, and shout them at the moon until (as my dad used to say) “the cows come home” and have to resort to the excuse, “I’m standing and believing.”

It’s not that I don’t value patience…

I do know – and do not discount – as Hebrews 6:12 states patience is an essential part of the faith that inherits the promises.  Of course, a vital ingredient in faith that receives God’s promises is refusing to falter when circumstances try to discourage and tempt you to abandon your expectation.

But, I’m discovering that…

Faith is the result of trusting His Character first and foremost.  Instead of trusting in my ability to get the ‘faith process’ right, I’m learning to rest in the quality of His Character.

Here’s what hindered my confidence and therefore my faith…

I believed that unconditional love was the highest form of love and that it was our goal to demonstrate that to others.  However…

I believed that experiencing the promises of His love was based on my correct performance.  I would never have admitted it in so many words, but the facts were that I was counting on my ability to perform correctly rather than the quality of character of His heart for me.

Two scripture lessons that brought this home to me…

Galatians 3:5, “So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”

The ‘works of the law’ as applied today would be likened to ‘formulas of self-effort’ to produce the desired results.  The promises are always the quality of His heart.  They are not tools to twist God’s arm or manipulate Him to do what His heart already desires.

Note:  Do you feed your children because of your heart for them, or because they constantly told you that they remembered your promises to take care of them (as if you needed reminding).

Luke 12:24, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

These words of Jesus were not excusing laziness.  However, they were making a critical point that points to God’s heart for all of His creation…not to mention His very sons and daughters.  Jesus specifically pointed to the Raven.  Interestingly, that was the very class of bird that was fowl (pun intended) to the Jews…and the disciples knew it.   The Raven had no work ethic, whatsoever.  It did nothing to earn God’s favor.  Many of the Rabbis considered it blasphemy even to mention, or write the name, Raven.  Jesus was employing a form of hyperbole to drive home a point.  He was saying, “Don’t count on your performance for your heavenly Father to care for the things you need in life.”

Relax.  He’s got your back.  He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you.  His love for you is not based on your correct or sufficient performance.

We must start there as our foundation for faith.  Otherwise, or attempts at faith are nothing more than self-effort.  His heart overflows with gifts you don’t have to earn.

Is your faith practice actually works of a contemporary religious ‘law’?  Do you believe you are at least as valuable to God as a Raven?

Know and be absolutely assured of this:  2 Timothy 2:13, “When we are faithless, He remains faithful…” (To the character of His heart)

Gary

 

 

 

Things To Doubt

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It may be good to doubt what you think you know about Doubting Thomas.  In fact it may also be good to doubt what you think you know about doubt, itself.

Thomas has been the subject of thousands of sermons and illustrations over the years.  The focus of those stories has been less than flattering.  In fact – what I consider – a misinterpretation of the scene as a whole has led many sincere followers of Christ down the slippery slope of shame and discouragement.  When they could be discovering important lessons in their own school of faith, they point to Thomas and the words that Jesus spoke to him.  They often feel hopeless.

May I suggest a few thoughts for your consideration:

  • Jesus wasn’t shaming Thomas.  The only way you can get that out of the exchange in John 20 is to read it into Jesus’ words.  I’d like to suggest that Jesus was simply making a statement of fact.  Instead of shame, I would claim that he’s encouraging Thomas and those listening to a higher level of faith experience.  Emotions that preachers include in their interpretations are not necessarily inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus knew the quality of Thomas’ character.  Just a short time earlier, Thomas was with Jesus and the other disciples.  It was at the occasion of Lazarus’ death.  The times were extremely dangerous, politically and religiously.  When Jesus said he was going to go to Lazarus, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11)  That’s extreme dedication.
  • Jesus would have known Thomas’ disappointment and discouragement.   I would have been.  You would have been.  The dashed hopes would have filled us with deep sorrow and perplexity.  It’s been suggested that Thomas was simply an honorable critical thinker.  That would be another way of saying that Thomas was someone who relied on their own powers of reason.  I “doubt” that.  It was more sorrow and perplexity than a show of academic prowess.
  • Jesus wasn’t comparing Thomas with the other disciples.  “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).  Jesus reference to those who have not seen but believed were not the other disciples standing there with him.  Read back a few verses.  Jesus had already been with them, earlier.  They had already seen (and possibly touched) Jesus.
  • Doubt and lack of faith are not the same thing.  It’s been preached that way for so long that people automatically assume that to be true.  But, in the New Testament, the Greek words for doubt are entirely different than Jesus used with Thomas.  In fact, the Apostle Paul indicated in 2 Corinthians 4:8 that he was often in perplexities.  The word for perplexity that Paul used is also translated as doubt in other places.  It’s a word that means, “not knowing what to do or think.”
    That’s where Thomas found himself.  Like Paul at times, He was bewildered.  He was in the state of questioning and wondering “what’s up?”
  • He said, “My Lord and My God.”  Yes, his senses helped him, but when He recognized Jesus, you might say, “he came to his senses.”  He revealed where his heart had been all along.  In fact, Thomas became the disciple who established the church of India.

If I might suggest an alternate understanding to what has become religious conventional thinking, Jesus was being very kind and compassionate to Thomas.  He was using this occasion to also teach he and the others.  He was also warning him, “Don’t let your sorrow take you to places where you don’t come back.”

In the times we live, faith is our most valuable resource.  We all need to be pressing toward the mark of the highest kind of faith, that which keeps acting on God’s word, even when there’s no natural, touchable, see-able evidence to warrant it.  But Jesus knows the cry of your heart.  He’s not threatened by honest perplexity.  Question with an open heart.  But, keep trusting from your own experience with Him.  

The journey of faith is a walk of grit and glory.  Miracles and heartbreak.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’ll win, because In Christ you’re one with the Winner.

Thomas was much more than a doubter.  That’s become an unfortunate mark of shame.  You, too…I’ll just betcha…are much more than a doubter, God’s man/woman of faith and power.

Gary

 

 

What To Do? What To Do?

Life is full of tough decisions.  How should I do this?  What will happen if I do that?  Maybe this way would be the lesser of two evils.  Lord, please show me what to do!  I need clarity!

Clarity or Trust

One day Mother Teresa of Calcutta was talking with a recent visitor from the States.  She asked him if he would like for her to say a prayer for him.  He said, “Yes, please pray that I get clarity on what the Lord wants me to do.”

To that request, Mother Teresa responded that she would not pray such a prayer for her visitor.  “Instead, I will pray that God will help you learn trust.”

Disappointed, the man said, “But, Mother Teresa…you are so clear about everything you do.  That’s all I want so that I can follow the Lord more faithfully!”

“I am seldom clear,” she said.  “I have learned trust.”  She continued, “You want God to make things so clear you don’t have to trust.”

Let’s Get Real About Faith

Many times over the years, I’ve been in that rickety boat.  The one named, “Sincerity.” The craft that seems real, but leaks like a sieve.

The problem….regardless of how honest our opinions are…if the boat is taking on water, it will ultimately sink.  Unless…

…we face ourselves, our situations, and what we think we believe…and allow the Lord to probe us.

His Probing Will Always Encourage Us

It’s totally safe to allow the Lord to search your heart and head.  He will never bring discouragement.  What He reveals will foster hope.  What He corrects will bring courage to “walk on water.”  He will not normally give us the clarity of explaining why we are walking on the water.  He won’t explain how the cellular composition changes under our feet.  But, hope and courage will be there in the face of Jesus.

Faith or Calculated Risk

What we often call steps of faith are – in truth – the result of calculated risk.  You and I have calculated our risk and decided whether or not the steps will lead to a potential of acceptable loss or not.

The God kind of faith came from the lips of Queen Esther in the Old Testament when she said, “If I perish, I perish.”

But…more on that in another post.  For now let me end with this:

Don’t Invest Your Prayer Time In Anything That Will Minimize Your Need To Trust

Instead, ask the Lord where His provision of Grace (His Supply) is in your situation.  Wait long enough to get an answer that doesn’t clearly lay out the details…but that “draws your heart like a magnet.”

Note:  You may not get it in the first day of waiting…or you may.  But, if you keep it before Him daily, the answer will get through.  And, normally, it will light on you like a butterfly.  And, the impression, hunch, perception, or idea (if accompanied by a sense of peace and joy)
will “draw” you like a magnet toward the Lord.

I’d love for you to “weigh in” with your experiences

Gary

How to Find Fast Acting Faith

Two of the most powerful words in effectively marketing a product are, “Fast Acting.”  Everything today is about speed and more speed.  Relief and quicker relief.  Go the the local supermarket pharmacy department and see how many of the labels use the words, “Fast Acting.”   As a matter of fact…if you are still reading this article, you are not in the average.

The average “web based reader” is on the move.  They will give you 10 seconds to make your point and prove your observations are worth any more “seconds” of their valuable time…or they “bounce” outta here to “surf on.”

We are a speed, convenience, quick relief culture.  In and of themselves, that’s not all bad.

  • Speed has its advantages
  • Convenience has its virtues
  • Quick relief has its values

But not in the same sentence with faith.

Instead of Biblical Christianity influencing culture, culture has re-shaped issues of Christianity.

Our culture evangelizes the notion that faster is better.  Even nature proclaims the opposite at many turns.  In fact much of the natural world around you demonstrates that faster is weaker.

The word faith can be either a verb or a noun. Both are required, feed, and define each other.

  • Faith is an action (Verb)
  • Faith is a spiritual lifestyle (Noun)

Unfortunately, we’ve come to allow our actions and lifestyles to be fashioned and molded on the potters wheel of our media marketing.  We’ve decided our verb faith is only true if it gets fast results, otherwise there is something wrong with us or how we are trying to “do the verb.”  And, our lifestyles have fallen prey to bigger, better, sound byte, pat answer, no sweat, no inconvenience, high entertainment value noun faith.

The critical problem: We’re riding an out-of-control train careening at break neck speed along the fragile track of life.

It’s not a vehicle of God’s design and we have to slow this bad boy down in some determined, relentless ways, or our spiritual lives will be splattered all over the mountainside.   Here’s the rub:  It will take courage….relentless courage.

As John Ortburg said, “For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted, rushed, and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.  We will just skim our lives instead of really living them.”

We must ruthlessly work to eliminate hurry from our lives!

HOW WILL YOU GO ABOUT THAT?  PLEASE COMMENT.

Thanks for Subscribing

Gary