Archive for the ‘Faith’ category

Sticks and Stones

July 28, 2014

Use what you have. Stop worrying about what you don’t have.

If God can use sticks and stones, he can use you, right now.

stones

Stones:

David faced Goliath with 5 smooth stones in 1Samuel 17. Can you throw a stone?

Reject the false belief that dramatic results require unusual skills and resources. There’s nothing special about picking up and throwing rocks. David used simple skills and meager resources to get a big job done.

What’s special about the David/Goliath story is the faith David exhibited.

Faith isn’t about resources or guaranteed results.

Sticks:

Moses told God, “Suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to him?’”

God asked, “What’s in your hand?”

Moses was holding a walking stick in Exodus 4. God said, “Throw it on the ground.” It turned into a snake. How hard is it to throw a stick on the ground?

Our issue is trusting God to use what we have.

You’re too worried about what you don’t have. I wonder what God could do with what you have?

Why God Whispers

June 2, 2014

When you’re as big as God, its easy to overwhelm people. Everyone who ever caught a glimpse of His power or glory, fell to the ground.

whisper

I’ve had believers ask me why God isn’t more obvious or direct. Why all the guess work?

Pudding or people:

If He wanted to turn us into puddles of pudding, He’d just have to peel back the curtain and let us see Him. A loud voice from heaven would do it for most of us.

When he arrived, Jesus laid aside the full display of his glory to establish a new way of relating to mankind.

Jesus is God’s whisper to humanity.

Two reasons God whispers:

First, God wants us to walk by faith. Faith requires uncertainty and ambiguity. You might think you want God to tell you more, but, too much clarity undermines daily dependence.

Ask yourself, why God wants you to depend on Him. Is He needy? Or is there something more?

Second, God wants meaningful relationship. Human dignity and volition are essential. Meaningful relationship ends when God starts yelling from heaven, and so, He whispers.

You may feel close to God when His voice seems loud and His presence feels obvious, but, you’ll know him best in a whisper – Jesus.

Stop Making it Difficult

March 17, 2014

The first church fight addressed issues we grapple with today.

Who can be part of us?

What do you have to do to belong?

don't make it difficult

The issue, back then, was do you have to keep the law to be/become a Christian?

The fight is recorded in Acts 15. After the fight, James summarizes the key principle in verse 19 (NIV):

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

In other words, make it easy. The rule applies to those who have and those who are turning.

Make it easy:

  1. Invite people to turn TO God. It’s easy to point out what’s bad. Turn away from drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, for example. But, the gospel is good news, not bad.
  2. Forget about fixing people. Let God fix.
  3. Err on the side of grace. When in doubt choose compassion over confrontation.
  4. Avoid arguments on peripheral issues. Trusting Jesus is THE issue. Nothing else matters until that issue is resolved.

Four rules:

The four rules James gave gentile believers in Acts 15:20 (NIV) illustrate the “make it easy” rule.

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

  1. No “idol” food.
  2. No sexual immorality.
  3. No strangled animals.
  4. Drain the blood.

Why these rules? Acts 15:21 (NIV):

For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

James says the principle of “don’t make it difficult,” applies both ways. Jewish believers in Jerusalem are working to make it easy for Gentiles to turn to God. Gentile believers should be concerned for the Jews in their communities. Make it easy for them to turn to God, too. Avoid offensive behaviors for the sake of the Gospel. 

Praying for Boldness

March 2, 2014

Confidence

We have forgotten that we are believers today because of a long line of men and women who boldly spoke up when silence would have been easy, even desirable.

They were told to shut-up, but they would not and could not.

Acts 4:20, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

In situations where we would pray for safety and protection, they prayed for boldness.

Acts 4:29, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

After severe beatings, Dr. Luke, the careful historian, writes that they rejoiced rather than whining. When it would have been smart to shut up, they kept talking.

Acts 5:42, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Their message was simple: Jesus

Their mission was simple: Talk about Jesus.

Those of us who are gripped more by fear than faith cannot imagine a boldness like theirs. But, we can step toward it.

Step one: Pray for boldness. (When was the last time you did that?)

Step two: Go beyond praying for opportunity to praying, “Help me seize opportunities to speak up.”

Step three: Go beyond praying to seize opportunities to praying, “Help me make opportunities to speak for Jesus.”

The story of Jesus escaped the first century because of bold people who spoke up when they were told to shut-up. Without their boldness, we would not have heard the story of what they heard with their ears,  saw with their eyes, and touched with their hands.

No Demands – No Obligations

February 18, 2014

dancing

Christianity is not about demands and obligations. It’s about love and love can’t be demanded.

Life, on the other hand, is filled with never ending demands. Do…do…do, go…go…go, work…work…work. But, grace can’t obligate.

The only demand of grace is receiving it by faith. The more I talk about grace the more I enjoy grace and the more I want to talk about it. I’m addicted.

Grace means gift. Gifts exclude compensation.

Any attempt to pay for grace blocks it. 

Rewards:

God protects free grace by rewarding service. Rewards remove any hint that obedience is payment for grace.

God pays for service – rewards – so no one can brag they are paying for grace.

Illustration:

Think of God as a graceful dancer. Our maker dances His way to us. The melodies of grace permeate His presence.

He risks looking foolish by dancing alone. All we do is take it in. As the music sinks into our hearts, He invites us to join.

He leads. We follow.  We respond. It all starts and ends right here in the dance of grace.

Grace cannot demand love.  Grace enables love.

The Long Holy Nose

January 22, 2014

nose

Christians, under the guise of holiness, judge and condemn “sinners.” When we do, we condemn ourselves.

What makes you better than others?

  • You don’t murder. But, you hate.
  • You don’t rob banks. But, you steal another’s reputation with gossip.
  • You aren’t a drunk. But, you disobey your parents.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you see that Christians aren’t above others.

Stop looking down your long holy nose at people God loves.

The long holy nose makes us ugly. I’m convinced that the ugliest people in the world are self-righteous, good-living, religious people. The truth is, “We” need God’s love as much as “they” do.

Holy living is not an excuse from compassion, respect, or kindness.

Holiness:

Lets call fellow believers to holiness. The issue isn’t should we live holy lives. The issue is how we grow in grace by faith.

Inviting Christians to holiness requires transparent connection. Apart from connection, calling fellow believers to holiness is self-righteous and arrogant. When you call someone to holiness, get in it with them.

Faith:

Lets call people who aren’t believers, to trust in Jesus. The issue isn’t moral reform. It’s Jesus.

Inviting people to trust in Jesus requires connection. Connection empowers the call. Disconnection makes us look like arrogant fools.

Let’s call fellow believers to trust God in new ways. We need to trust Jesus today like we did when we trusted Jesus for the first time.

The people “out there” didn’t make Jesus dirty when he rubbed elbows with them. They won’t make you dirty when you connect with them, either.

Love:

Love is not rude or arrogant. Love is kind, patient, hopeful. Love endures. You have permission to live a holy life and treat people who don’t know Jesus with Love.

Rahab the Believer

December 18, 2013

plungers

Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho, was a believer. She didn’t know much but she knew enough.

Joshua 2:8-11 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, … for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Rahab refers to God as LORD. Most Bibles use lord in all capital letters to indicate the personal name of God, Yahweh. Rahab called God by his personal name.

Second she identifies him as the God of the universe, “heaven and earth.” She said, “Yahweh is God.”

The writer of Hebrews includes Rahab in his great hall of faith, chapter 11. The names in Hebrews 11 appear in this order:

  1. Abel
  2. Enoch
  3. Noah
  4. Abraham
  5. Sarah
  6. Isaac
  7. Jacob
  8. Joseph
  9. Moses
  10. Rahab

Others are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the parents of Moses, for example. But they aren’t named. The last person named is Rahab.

The footnote section concludes Hebrews 11 in verses 32 – 40. Individuals like Gideon and David are mentioned. But their stories aren’t developed like the 10 people listed above.

The people in the great Hall of Faith are messy. Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah and puts her and himself in mortal peril. Moses had an anger problem. Jacob was a shady business man all his life. Rahab carries the label “prostitute” right into the New Testament.

Rahab has another label, one she had even when a prostitute, Rahab the woman of faith.