Faith Is Not Futile

When one asks you about what you believe, how do you answer them?  The answer, “Well, I believe by faith” may fly with your Christian friends but to the average Joe who is searching for something in which to believe, “faith” doesn’t satisfy.

The world is looking for something tangible; something they can put their arms around; something they can see.  If we intend on winning the lost, we need to recognize that there is more to faith than doesn’t meet the eye!

Hebrews 11:1 gives us some insight on the faith to which we cling… Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Right away, if we just take the time to read each word, we see that faith is not what fairy tales are made of.  The writer uses the words substance and evidence to define our faith.

Let’s do a little Bible study.  We all know that English was not the original language used to write the word of God.  So, let’s look at these two words in the original Greek.  First we’ll take a look at the word used for substance.  It is the word hupostasis and it means a setting or placing under; a thing put under, substructure or foundation.

With that in mind, let’s look at it in the context of our text.  Faith is the substance (Foundation) of things hoped for.  Right away we see that faith is something we can stand on in regards to our hopes.

In essence the word tells us that, before we can hope and believe anything will come of it, there has to be a foundation for that hope.

Have you ever said something like, “I HOPE this Mexican food doesn’t make me sick?”  The foundation for that hope is the belief that the restaurant was competent enough to order fresh food and prepare it in a safe and clean environment!

Moving right along, lets look at the next word on our list… Evidence.  In the Greek, the word is elegchos and it speaks of the evidence used to prove or test.

Wow, the writer is telling us that faith serves as EVIDENCE?!  If we search out that Greek word used for evidence, e’-le-khos, we’ll find it in one other place in the Bible.  II Timothy 3:16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof…

The word used for reproof is, you guessed it, e’-le-khos!  What exactly does that establish for us?  It establishes that the scriptures provide the “evidence” one needs to support his or her faith!  One more verse that helps solidify this truth is Romans 10:17… So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

God has never intended for us to aimlessly and ignorantly believe in who He is or what He’s done.  He has provided every foundation and all of the evidence that we’ll ever need to support what we believe right there in the best selling book that’s ever been published!

Do you want to make a difference in the life of one who longs to know truth?  Take the time to see what God’s word has to offer in regards to answers.  This will not only prepare you to offer hope to a searching soul but will also serve to strengthen the faith you stand upon.

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Go Ahead and Judge Me

Funny how Christians seem to be the only humans on planet earth who are pegged as being “judgmental.”  The truth is, there’s not a person alive who hasn’t, isn’t or won’t be passing judgment upon another.  A a matter of fact, Christians are quite often the object of judgment.  The bottom line is this… It’s natural and, like it or not, it’s going to happen.

When you walk into the CEO’s office for a job interview, you can rest assured that you’re being sized up.  Go into your local bank branch with a toboggan pulled over your face and expect to be watched closely by the armed guard.  Our appearance speaks to others before we ever get the chance to say a word.

Are tattoos a sin?  No they aren’t, BUT they carry a message that you might not intend for others to receive.  Go ahead and pierce every square inch of your face… It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, but don’t allow the raised eyebrows and whispers to bother you.  After all, isn’t that why you did it in the first place?  To get attention?  And while I’m at it… I really am not interested in what brand of underwear you’re wearing so please pull your pants up and put a belt on!  Until you do, don’t be surprised when you walk by a car and hear the click of the electric door locks!

It’s not only our appearance that demands an impression but our past behavior.  I’ve made my mistakes and have made my share of bad choices.  Those ill choices bring about consequences and one of those consequences is a loss of trust and respect.  If you’ve been known for causing trouble you need to be prepared for folks to remember that of you.  Don’t hate those who seek to protect themselves and those whom they love from one who has a history of bad behavior.  Your job is to understand that this dilemma is one your own making.

The good news is every morning brings about brand new opportunity.  What does this mean for one who is trying to rebuild a reputation?  Every new day that passes offers you the chance to create a new history by which to be judged.

Here’s a funny truth… Only those who have chosen to take part in suspect lifestyles ever take issue with being judged.  I say, “Go ahead and judge me.”  It’s a wonderful place to be in life when you are walking in the light and seeking to remain on the right road.  Am I perfect?  OH NO!  Not for a second would I claim perfection but I can say that I have nothing to hide.  That’s a wonderful feeling.  I challenge everyone to give it a shot!

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Spiritual Trust Issues

I’m sure if I were to poll every reader, I would receive a unanimous response to the following question… Do you trust the Lord?

No doubt there would be a resounding “yes!” resonating from each of you who are Christians.  I mean after all, would it be right to answer that question with a no?  That just doesn’t sound spiritual… Does it?

Well, it may be more spiritual than you think.  I’m of the opinion that the better part of the church has not a clue of what it means to trust the Lord.  With that said, I’d like to provide a litmus test if you will.  I want each of you to be honest with yourselves as you read the remainder of this post.  Don’t feel bad if you qualify as one who really does not trust the Lord.  If you’re ever going to learn to rely on Him as your “All in all” you must be honest about where you stand, spiritually speaking.

Alright… Here we go.  You’ve all read or at least heard the following text but I’d like to extract a few points as indicators so that you might measure your trust in Christ.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7, 8
 
We read such a passage and focus on the way it might benefit us but let’s look at what it says about the behaviors of one who trusts the Lord.
 
Read with me in verse 8… “and shall not see when the heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green.”
 
Alright, it’s time for you to level with me and yourself.  When life turns up the heat, do you tend to focus on the circumstance and allow it to affect your quality of life or do you keep your eyes fixed on the master of the storm?  If you are a worrier, you cannot say that you sincerely and wholly trust the Lord.  Not my words 🙂  Please don’t shoot the messenger!
 
Lets look further… “and shall not be careful in the year of drought.”  This is entirely relevant in this day and age.  When nobody knows what tomorrow holds economically for us, do we allow the uncertainty to change the way we behave? 
 
Let me be very clear.  If your income takes a hit, will you scale back your giving?  Let me ask you this… Are you tithing at all?  If your answer is no then you’ve already failed the test.  Go read Malachi 3 beginning with verse 7 and get back to this later!
 
Has the fiscal cliff caused you to tremble?  If so, you may need to reassess just how much you rely on the Lord.
 
One more thing and we’ll conclude the test… “neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”  When did you last share the gospel with someone?  That one who’s confidence is fully in the Lord understands how much God gave so that we might experience life, not only here but beyond the grave!  That one will also be very aware that it is our responsibility to share with others what we found in the Lord.
 
So, how did you do?  Honestly?  I pray your findings, whatever they are, will cause you to move closer to the Lord.  He is more than capable to overcome any and every circumstance you may endure.  Experience His blessing, place your trust in the Lord!
 
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What Are You Waiting For?

Ok… We’re on the brink of another year.  So, do you have high hopes?  Have you promised yourself and your loved ones that the one to come will be much different than the one coming to a close?

Here’s a question I’d like to ask, “Are there things you hoped for in 2012 that just didn’t work out yet you are believing the dawn of a new year will somehow magically cause those unresolved desires to come to pass?”

We somehow believe that a new year has the power to cause great things to happen but the truth is, it only offers us the idea of a fresh start.  The sad reality is, the motivation spawned by this “fresh start” generally diminishes  before the first quarter of the year comes to a close.  Why?  Because we depended on some power that doesn’t exist.

If you are hoping to drop several sizes in the year to come, you’re going to have to do more than purchase a gym membership.  You’re going to need to step on the treadmill and turn it on.

If you believe 2013 will bring about a change in finances, you’ll need to do more than close your eyes and make a wish.  Those changes will only be realized for those who are willing to put in the hard work.

As a Christian, I believe that God has certain blessings for me but I also believe that I have to be proactive in order to receive those blessings.

And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you? (Joshua 18:3)

You see, the land had been allotted unto the children of Israel back in chapter 17 but in the chapter the followed they had yet to take possession of what was theirs.  What was the issue?

And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Beth–shean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel. (Joshua 17:16)

So, here’s the breakdown… See if you can relate. The children of Joseph griped because the land that was originally allotted to them wasn’t large enough so Joshua offered them an answer… “If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee (Josh. 17:15).”

In other words, if your tribe is too large for the land you’ve been given, go to the top of that mountain and start clearing yourself a spot!  A solution was provided but they stayed put!  Were they lazy?  Greedy?  Scared?  I’d say a mix of all three.

What’s my point?  Simply this… Will chapter 2013 of your life find you still not claiming those things you could have enjoyed in chapter 2012?  If so, you need to work through some things.  God’s blessing is available for you but His blessing could be at the top of a mountain in the midst of some trees that need to be cleared away.  Will the idea of the work keep you from claiming what’s yours?  Will your desire for “more” rob you of what’s there?  Will the fear of not being able to succeed stop you in your tracks?  What are you waiting for?

My prayer is that 2013 will be a most prosperous year for you in every way.  Keep your eyes on the Lord and walk where He leads. That’s a sure plan for better things ahead!

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I Don’t Trust Me

It’s very common to hear someone say that they don’t trust anyone except for themselves.  As a matter of fact, it’s generally said in a boastful attitude.  As if the one saying it is the only trustworthy person on planet earth.  Have you ever heard someone say such a thing?  Have you ever said it yourself?

Well, this morning I’d like to shed a bit of light on, what I believe, is a misguided point of view.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the whole “He/she hurt me” thing.  You know… “Get me once, shame on you.  Get me twice, shame on me!”  Nobody likes to leave themselves unguarded and open for pain because of another’s misconduct but to refuse to trust the whole human race is unhealthy.

Are there those who can’t be trusted?  Sure there are.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t use wisdom and a good measure of discernment in regards to others but to just deem every human dishonest and undeserving of your confidence is a sad attitude to maintain.  Thankfully, Jesus gave us a sweet example of the power found in showing another trust, even after that person has failed.

Peter had denied the Savior just days before they met on the seashore.  The ressurected Jesus sat with a man who had betrayed Him and, instead of shunning him, called him to be one of His choice servants.  Christ chose to trust Peter with what was most precious to Him… The church.

We tend to give the world one chance and then, as soon as we experience pain at the hand of one we’d believed in, we shut that person out along with the whole world.

I’ve certainly let my loved ones down before and I’ve had those loved ones choose not to trust me any longer.  The truth is, we’re all very capable of failing those whom we love.  Here’s a word for those of you who believe you’re the only human in the Universe who is worthy of another’s trust… You’re the problem!  Those who have a multitude of trust in self are those who are the likliest to let people down.  Why?  Because a prideful attitude causes one to operate with his guard down.  I spoke to my wife once and told her she could trust me.  I looked her in the eyes and said, “Do you know why you can feel safe trusting me?  Because… I don’t trust me.”

You heard me right… I don’t trust me.  What does that mean?  That means I recognize that at any time my flesh can cause me to make a very bad decision and therefore, I don’t trust me.  What does that mean for my loved ones?  It means they have a husband, a father and a friend who lives life with his guard up.

Do yourself and the world a favor today.  Extend a little trust to your fellow man and don’t place so much confidence in yourself!

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If He Can… Why Can’t We?!

How many of you have things that taint your past; things that you would love nothing more than to forget?  That’s what I thought… All of us do.  It’s a tough reality to accept but, the truth is, we’ll never be able to fully forget the painful mistakes we’ve made.  Now, before you allow that last statement to discourage you, let me expound a bit on why this isn’t altogether a bad thing.

It is true that our Bibles tell of God’s abiltity to forget the sin that He’s forgiven.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Hebrews 8:12

So… If He can forget, why can’t we?  Of course there are the quick and to the point conclusions… He’s God and we’re not!  He can do whatsoever He wishes to do but I believe the answer to this question goes much deeper and has more meaning than, “He’s God and we’re not.”

First of all, we need to understand that it wouldn’t be of benefit for God to remember our sin.  For God to recall our sin would only serve to remind Him that we were His enemies (Col. 1:21).  God is a God of His word and when He pardons us of sin, it is fully pardoned.

With that said, how can we benefit by rembering our painful past?  Now, there’s a big difference between remembering and holding on to.  Paul encourages us to leave the past behind, in other words don’t live in it.  He never said anything about forgetting it.

There’s no way for us to recall our sinful behavior without being reminded of the consequences that were a result of that sin.  Yes, it is painful to remember but it’s useful in keeping on us on the narrow path.  When I think of the pain my stray behavior has caused, I am certain that it’s a place to which I never want to return.

It’s healthy to remember from where the Lord has delivered you but along with that memory, don’t forget TO what He’s delivered you!  There’s nothing one can do to change the pain of the past but today and every day to come offers us the opportunity to create a past worth remembering.

With every glance at the past, I take the time to gaze into the future.  With every passing thought of my failures, I take the time to concentrate on the victory I’ve experienced over those foolish mistakes.  While I remember the repercussions I rejoice in the restoration.

Remembering where you’ve been will help to shape where you’ll go!

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Your “Lot” in Life

I hope that each of you have incorporated the study of God’s word into your daily lives.  Notice I said the “Study” and not just the “Reading” of God’s word.  There’s quite a difference between the two.  When you read God’s word, you can certainly benefit but it’s when you take the time to dig deeper that God shows you those things that one tends to overlook.

One word in a passage can make the whole story take a turn in some different direction.  Such is the case with something I heard this weekend.  Here’s the verse…

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: Genesis 12:1

The word I want us each to focus on is “had”.  According to this verse, God had given His instruction to Abram in days, weeks, months possibly years gone by.  Down in verse 4 we see that Abram followed God’s direction but did so when he was ready.  When you passively read it appears that Abram obeyed Johnny on the spot but according to the word “had”, it was a command made in the past.

To support the partial obedient attitude of Abram, look at the second thing God commanded of him… He told Abram to get away from his kindred.  In other words, leave your relatives behind!  Now, check this out…

 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him… Gen. 12:4a

Who went with him???  Lot!  Abram not only delayed his obedience, he disregarded part of what God told him to do.

Why do I want us each to look at such a thing? Well, we can learn from the mistakes Abram made by looking at what it caused for him.  Have you ever taken the voice of God for granted?  I know I have.  Things can be going well in your world and all of a sudden things take a turn south because of the disregard for God’s instruction.  When that happens, is it just me that longs to hear the voice of God again?  Am I alone when I say, in the tough times I’ve longed to feel His presence like I once did but the absence of His voice and the void of His presence is louder and more evident than when He spoke and graced you with His company?

You see, when we choose to go about things our own way, God allows it.  He doesn’t bless it but He allows it.  You can read over the next few chapters and you’re going to see that his choice to take Lot along for the ride caused a great deal of pain for his and Lot’s family.

In Gen. 13:5-9, we read that the land they journeyed to wasn’t big enough for both families and it caused friction.  You see, Abram was having to divide the blessing God had meant for him alone.  I don’t mean to sound selfish but I’m really not interested in splitting the blessing God has for me with anybody else.  Let me clarify, I’m all about being a blessing to someone else but God has plenty of blessing to go around.  The truth is, I’m sure God had certain blessing in mind for Lot as well but it obviously was not waiting for him where God “had” commanded Abram to go.

I don’t think I have to remind you where Lot ended up with his family.  He lost his wife and his children to that wicked land of Sodom.  Why?  All because he was where he should have never been.  Had Abram done exactly as the Lord instructed him to do, all would have been well.

Is it safe to say that God knows best?  So, let me ask you… What’s your “Lot” in life?  What has God told you to leave behind that you continue to carry?  What seems to be OK to you could be the very thing that causes utter tragedy for you and for those whom you love!

Let me encourage you to take some time to get on the same page with God today.  Don’t take another step in the wrong direction.  You know if there are things in your life that do not belong.  Blessing never follows disobedience.  I pray this word helps you either get on track or stay on track.  Have a blessed week!

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