Tag Archive | faith

Attention to Detail 

I’m doing the chronological reading plan of the Bible this year and am at the end of Exodus. I guess I never previously paid much attention to the plans and construction of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant (Noah’s ark also will suffice for my point), the lampstand, the alters, etc etc. What I’m getting from all of this is the immense level of detail that God described for the construction and more importantly, the exact level of detail that was constructed. 

To me, this shows that God isn’t some laid-back God, who is satisfied at whatever we think is good enough to give Him. He has standards above anything our biggest OCD minds could possibly comprehend. He communicates what He desires in a detailed way. It’s not “hey, I want this; do it however you think it will be the easiest”. It’s “hey, I want this; this is exactly how you do it, and I will give you the talents and abilities to do it to my level of detail.”

How often do we know God is tugging at us to do something and we do the least amount we can to get by? Maybe it’s because we are lazy. But, then again, maybe it’s because we are taught that attention to detail is a bad thing and it’s wrong to be so “anal” or “particular” or even “accurate/precise”. 

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way, but I often feel like I’m “too much” when it comes to the way I approach tasks, at work and at home. It doesn’t stress me out whatsoever to be the way I am, but I feel like it bothers or stresses out other people. And that can stress me out, but using my God-given talents is never the stressful part. I can even take my concern for what others think as an excuse to be lazy or complacent because that’s more expected (you maybe can imagine how this could happen at work), when I know I’m not that kind of person. 

I feel like society encourages us to lower our standards for everything, but I don’t see God as being like that. Of course God wants us to rely on Him for every task, but I believe that in everything we are called by Him to do, we should do to the absolute best with the ability He has given us. He give us the strength and ability; He gets the glory. We shouldn’t compromise who God has made us to be just to be more “comfortable” to society. 

Colossians 3:23-24 tells us that whatever we do, work heartily, as if for God and not for men …. because we are serving the Lord. 

Maybe I’m reading too much into this in light of the detail of Exodus, but I’m starting to realize that God made me the way I am, and if I’m listening to and trusting God, then I am glorifying Him. If that’s too much for other people or they resent this part of me, that’s not my problem.

It is well with my soul….

Never Say Never (September 14, 2009)

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whichthe world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14)

October has turned into such a pivotal month in my life. I’m not sure why – maybe it’s the return of normalcy to the school and work year after a hectic summer; maybe because the temperature is just beginning to chill; maybe it’s the gentle transition into the holiday season. I can’t put my finger on it, but clearly the last two Octobers have taught me an important lesson – never say never!

Take a brief walk with me!  On October 18, 2007, my son and I were enjoying dinner and kid’s bingo at a local restaurant, when a chance encounter with a family from our church would soon change our lives.  This family invited my son to visit Awana at their church. I knew of Awana at the time, as my aunt had spoken very highly of the program, but I never really understood the purpose of useless memorization.  However, I was open to the possibility that my son could benefit from learning to memorize, since he had just begun kindergarten.  As someone who struggles with memorization, I saw Awana as a purely academic endeavor.

I made it incredibly clear that night that my son was welcome to try Awana out, but I did not want people to try and ‘convert’ me.  I was Catholic, and after years of falling in and out of favor with my faith, I knew there was no benefit to my attending church.  Church was filled with hypocrites and spiritual people who would not understand me; God and I were doing just fine with our relationship, I reasoned.

My son attended Awana and loved it, so I registered him, reminding everyone my position about church had not changed.  No one pushed me; they were friendly and great with my son, but never crossed the line with me.  One month later, I found myself as a back-row church-goer when a friend of mine was going through a disastrous period that affected both of our lives.  Shortly after, we met with our pastor and I re-articulated my feelings on church.  Our pastor remained true to his beliefs, but never pushed me.  The rest is history, as you can tell.

God continues to show me that church is not perfect, as it is made up of fallen humans, just like me.  But, He has shown me that a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the barrel.  In other words, the benefits of attending church strongly outweigh the negatives.  Fellowship with other believers, an organized, systematic way to keep studying the Bible to continue spiritual growth, an opportunity to serve, etc. – these are the reasons that I need and love church!

I wish I could say the story ends there, but last October, I allowed myself to fall a little.  Granted, my personal standards had improved, and this particular altercation would never have bothered me in my non-church days.  But, as a growing Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit – it was painful!  To this day, I don’t know what happened, other than spiritual warfare at its finest.  I was traveling on business, and my week was difficult.  It was at a time where I was getting complacent in my faith; the novelty had worn off.  I was starting to lose my enthusiasm and drive.  It was a hard week and I remember saying to a colleague, “I am a Christian now and I would never…”  Cockiness and pride at its best!  Acting like I, little ol’ me, had any power in overcoming sin.  Do you ever notice that the more you try to show someone that you’re different from who they think – the more you prove their case?  I suspect you know where this story is going; the “I never” happened and the conviction the Holy Spirit sent my way was enough to last a lifetime.

Luckily God has a sense of humor, or rather purpose, in His plan.  Last October, immediately after I was convicted like never before, the topic of my Bible study was faith.  At a time when I wasn’t feeling like I had any, faith was our topic of discussion.  Amazingly, God used this to show me that even mature Christians had similar struggles to mine.  It was an eye-opening experience for sure!  And those hypocrites I feared so much?  I learned that while there are bad people in every organization, many of those hypocrites that I feared were no different than me – people trying their best to walk with God, but not always making the progress they’d like.

God’s even given me the perspective of those who mentored me, by allowing me to interact with people who have the same beliefs that I once had.  I’ve even learned that memorization is not so terrible, and can help with spiritual warfare.  As long as I remember to put God first in everything, I find that my walk is infinitely easier and my relationship with God is headed in the right direction.  Being prideful and saying that dreaded word ‘never’ is simply an open invitation for temptation or for God to lovingly remind me who is in charge!

April Showers Bring May Flowers (April 3, 2009)

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45, ESV).

Are you struggling through a particularly difficult period of your life right now?  Do you get frustrated when others seem to catch all of the breaks, often at your expense?  Do you find yourself remarking that sometimes life just isn’t fair?

There are times in life when events happen that don’t make sense.  We may be walking tightly with the Lord, and yet, we find ourselves in the midst of suffering.  Maybe you’re experiencing illness, or the death of a loved one.  Maybe you’ve finally understood the root of an addiction and are well on your way to overcoming it, and for no apparent reason find yourself falling back into your old ways.  Whatever it is, I understand the confusion and desperation you may be feeling.  The more difficult life becomes, the more we try to understand the purpose of our pain and wonder if we’ve caused it.

Truthfully, our suffering may be a result of our decisions, but it doesn’t have to be.  Sometimes, difficult life experiences are designed to help us grow as Christians.  We live in a fallen world, and must accept the reality that life may sometimes be tough.  But, take heart.  God is in control, and will use our struggles for His glory – if we open our hearts to this possibility.  The rain God showers us with will grow our hearts into beautiful flowers.

I’ve often told my customers that if science were easy, then everyone would do it, and it would not be rewarding.  The same can be said for the Christian life.  If we experienced no challenges, we would become complacent in our present state.  There would be no need for faith and our stagnation would leave us unfulfilled.  Having faith in God in the midst of tribulation allows us to become more mature Christians, and prepares our hearts for time when we will spend eternity with Jesus.

If you’re struggling, ask God to show you the path He desires for you.  Acknowledge that He is in control, and while you may not understand His will, He does and has a definite plan for your life.  Above all, have faith in God, and be open to the rainy days of life – for without rain, flowers would never bloom.

The Doctrine of Regeneration (Shared Video)

Please watch this video… It’s called “The Lost Doctrine” by Paul Washer. A friend posted it on Facebook this morning…. and although his opinion may not be popular in the modern church, I’m afraid it’s Biblical. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about this guy, but I really like what he has to say…

Salvation doesn’t come from signing a card accepting a superficial invitation. Salvation comes from complete belief and a true desire to have a new life in God. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to immediately have it all together when you accept Christ, but you have to be open to the change. You don’t even have to change yourself; God will change you, and these changes are evidence of your ‘regeneration’. It won’t happen overnight, as it is a process, but if someone is still the same today as they always were… maybe they might want to reevaluate their definition of what it meant to “believe” in what Jesus did for them on Calvary.

I can say with 100% confidence that I did not change myself; God began a new work in me, and is still in the process of straightening me out. I can assure you that I did not consiously make a decision to be a ‘good Christian’. In fact, some of the things I believe with all of my heart are so foreign to my ‘old self’ that people who ‘knew’ me probably think I’ve been brainwashed! And, maybe I have….but it’s by God, not man, and I like the person I am becoming so much better than the one I used to be.

P.S. If anyone can tell me a better way to share another person’s YouTube video on my blog, that would be really great 🙂 I could share to Twitter or Facebook, but I didn’t see a way to share here.

Helping God…

I love how God uses familiar passages in scripture to present truths that are personalized to exactly what *we* individually need to see! In my women’s Bible study, we are studying the end of James, Chapter 2, “Faith without works is dead.” This brought up how Abraham showed his faith when asked by God to bring his son Isaac up the mountain for a sacrifice (James 2:21, Genesis 22). The point was that Abraham’s action demonstrated his faith. Fair enough… But, was this always the case? Thinking back to the story of Abraham, did he always put his ultimate trust and confidence in God’s plan? The more important question is Do I? Let’s just say, I can definitely relate to Abraham’s earlier impatience regarding God’s promise to him.

God made a covenant with Abram (before his name was changed to Abraham) that he and his descendents would rule a great nation. The only problem was that Abram was already ‘advanced in age’ and had no children (Genesis 12). Clearly not understanding the mechanics behind this, Abram brought his concerns before God. God assured Abram, in a vision, that his son would be his own flesh and blood. Abram believed God, and this was “counted it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15).” This is reassuring, as it is proof that it is okay to ask God for clarification when we don’t fully understand how His plan is going to work out in our lives. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that He will give us all of the details.

Abram’s trust in God proved to be short-lived, as he took matters into his own hands in Genesis 16. Abram’s wife, Sarai (later changed to Sarah) was obviously concerned about her inability to conceive and thought she might be the ‘problem’ in God’s promise being fulfilled for Abram. Technically, she blamed God, “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:2).”

Uh oh…. We’ve seen this formula before. The particulars are very reminiscent to the ‘Fall of Man’: Woman has been deceived; woman persuades man to be deceived; God gets blamed for everything; bad things result! But, this is more than a man versus woman conflict. The major problem is a lack of human trust in God’s plan!

This scenario is repeated many times in the Bible and in our modern lives and the result is never good. By failing to wait on God’s plan, and taking matters into our own hands, we are essentially telling God that our decisions are better than His, and that we can take care of everything without His help. Every time this happens, especially in my life, problems ensue!

Let’s get back to the story from Genesis… Sarai’s servant Hagar bore Abram a son, at the age of 86, and the boy was named Ishmael (Genesis 16:16). As we will see, problems definitely resulted from Abram’s impatience to become a father. In fact, those problems are still evident today!

Thirteen years later, God appeared to Abraham (age 99) and promised that Sarah (age 90) would bear him a son, who would be named Isaac. Abraham “fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17)” at the impossibility of this occurring! Again, God reassured Abraham of his plan; and, as a result, Abraham’s son Isaac was born.

So, now we have two half-brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, who would carry Abraham’s seed to all the nations. Abraham loved his sons, and God blessed both brothers and divided the land…. And fighting has been going on regarding the ownership of that land that ever since. Talk about a sibling rivalry!

Paul delves into this issue a little deeper in Galatians 4:22-23, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.” God assured Abraham that he would bear a son. Isaac was born from God’s miracle, according to God’s timing. Ishmael’s birth, however, was arranged by mortal efforts, as a result of unbelief and impatience. Thus, he was born according to the flesh.

This ended up being significantly more difficult to explain than I intended, and I had not previously noticed the strong parallels to the fall of man or the end times! I might need to revisit this story one day and focus more on those aspects!

I hope my original point is clear. We (‘I’) should always trust in God’s plan for our lives, and be patient with His timing. Problems will likely result when we fail to do this! It doesn’t matter how smart we (‘I’) think we are, the only perfect plans come from God! God does not need our help to accomplish His will…. Why can’t we (‘I’) just take the easier route and trust Him with our lives! “And 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).”

Let me tie this back to the James Bible study, where my original thought came from. After writing this blog, I saw a question that asked what James meant in 2:22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

I believe that Abraham continually showed his current level of faith by the decisions he made, sometimes completely trusting God, other times having doubts in God’s plan. Abraham’s faith, and thus actions were imperfect, but they constantly improved as God tested him. Interestingly, when Abraham is described in the ‘Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11:8-12),’ the author only mentions his successes. This is encouraging!

We, too, will grow spiritually by making good and bad decisions in our life. The important part is that we trust that God will strengthen our faith from our choices. This process will help us develop a deeper relationship with God and prepare us for eternity!

I Believe

I’ve been visiting a new church and have really enjoyed the past two weeks of Sunday school. The class has been studying 1John and the topic of how we are assured of our salvation. John says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1John 5:13).”

Two weeks ago, we had a great discussion about what “these things” meant, and how this is a common phrase that John uses in this letter which refer to the above section (in this case 1John 5:6-12). Personally, I take the context of “these things” to include all of chapter 5, which essentially covers the aim of 1John, which is as believers, we are to love God and love people. But, that point is perhaps less relevant than the meaning of “believe”. Does believe mean to accept in an academic sense, or is its original meaning something deeper?

Think about it… There are many people who “believe” in Jesus, but have rejected Him. I don’t expect to see any of those folks in heaven, do you?

According to dictionary.com (definitions 2 and 3), belief means “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to immediate proof; confidence, faith, trust.”

Confidence, trust…what do those words mean? Again, are they purely theoretical, or do they require some kind of action on our part? Someone in my class gave a metaphor of a chair, implying that if you trust the chair, you will sit on it and it alone, to hold you up.

In my mind, that could be taken further, as not putting all of your weight on the chair may imply you do not trust it. I guess where I am going with this is… Is it required that you demonstrate your trust in the chair by sitting down, or can you just trust and/or believe in your head. Is that enough?

Personally, I think belief has to be more than just saying “Yay, Jesus died for my sins, so I’m going to heaven… Awesome! Let me go back to reveling in my sin.” If belief doesn’t cause a change in your heart, do you truly believe?, and thus, are you truly saved?

I am troubled by verses from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, such as Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Or, Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessless’.”

This implies to me that many people are going to think they’ve secured a spot in heaven, and later find out that they may have taken the wrong path…and at least some of these people will profess that they did things in the name of the Lord, so they must have “believed” in Jesus in some respect.

I brought some of this up last week, and today we had a great conversation about justification, sanctification, and glorification, and I do understand that justification is different from sanctification and agree with the differences. I just still question if someone who walks away from God was justified in the first place; or if everyone who professes to be a believer will be in heaven.

As believers, we are not supposed to worry about anyone’s salvation except our own. Salvation is an issue between an individual person and God because only God can know the state of someone’s heart. I fully embrace that and am not trying to point fingers at anyone in particular. But, at the same time, we should fully understand salvation if we are going to try to share our faith with other people with the hope that they accept God’s gift and spend eternity in heaven. If we present the gospel as “all you have to do is say this prayer and you’re in” or even “believe” with a head knowledge and not a heart change, and that turns out to not be true….well, personally, I would feel terrible!

The only person’s salvation I can specifically talk about is my own. I do not feel I was saved earlier in my life even though I “believed” that Jesus died for my sins. I think God was working on me, and knew eventually I would get there, but when I said I “believed”, I think it was from a purely academic, “head-knowledge” perspective. It did not transpire whatsoever to my heart. I was not changed.

I do not think I was saved at that time. Maybe that’s why God allowed me to stay on earth until I fully “believed” and accepted Him. I don’t know; but, I’m eternally grateful that God never gave up on me! I may be a slow learner, but eventually I get there…. and yes, now I believe I am saved (although the sanctification process sometimes feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace, but that’s another story completely).

That brings us back to the word “believe”.

This may seem like a meaningless word to question, but I feel the implications are enormous.

John, especially, tells us a lot about the importance of believing. Here are a couple random verses that talk about “believing” and their context. Hopefully this will paint some kind of picture of what it means to believe. I will admit that these verses are by no means exhaustive or particularly well-chosen.

Everyone’s favorite verse….John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is said after Jesus talks to Nicodemus about what it means to be born again, and is followed by a discussion of why God sent Jesus to save the world. Believe is used again, but not really defined…

John 5:44, 47 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?…But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” This was after Jesus healed the man who could not walk, and the legalistic Jewish leaders gave him trouble about healing on the Sabbath. His words were directed to the Jews, but they can apply to everyone. They professed belief in God, but were so caught up in the letter of the law, they missed the point of Jesus, in spite of the evidence they saw from His miracles. They professed belief in Moses’ writings, but they still did not see Jesus was God, even though Moses wrote about Him. These legalistic Jew’s said they “believed”, but their actions showed they didn’t truly believe.

John 8:45-47 “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not here them is that you are not of God.” Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees, but I still believe it’s a valid comparison and worth a look. Here, they say that Abraham is their father (going back to their Jewish heritage), and Jesus essentially tells them that Satan is their father. Those who are of God will hear His word, so would the converse be true, if you are not hearing God’s Word, maybe you’re not of God? I don’t have the answer, just food for thought.

John 10:26-28 “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is at the Feast of the Dedication, after Jesus talked about being the Good Shepard. I could be wrong here (or about anything), but to me, it seems that Jesus is saying that His followers hear His voice with their hearts, and follow Him in faith. And, because of this, they are given eternal life. This proves that salvation is not reversible, once obtained, as it says they will not be snatched from His hand, but to me, it implies that belief requires an action with your heart, not just a callous acceptance with your head.

So does belief mean knowing in your head that the chair will hold you, or sitting down? For me, I’ve sat down completely in the chair, but unfortunately, I like to get up from time to time and walk around. I think during my sanctification process, I’m learning to sit down longer and I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I can prop my feet up and lean back….

I think I’ve presented more questions than answers, but I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination. I just think “believe” might mean more than a lot of us want to admit it does, especially in the fast-paced, instant gratification world we live in…no condemnation, just my thoughts…

I’ll keep studying and praying!