Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How Faith Works

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

I hope this short devotion will help you live your faith in a practical way.  I think that faith is perhaps the most important thing we can understand in our walk with the Lord.  Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  To come to God, we know that we need faith.  But how does faith work?  I’d like to offer you a simple approach to faith that I think is workable in your everyday life.

To illustrate, let’s look at the first few verses of the Bible: 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:1-3)

When God looked at the earth, it was formless, void and dark.  But God had a plan for earth.  He saw what earth would be.  He saw a beautiful place, full of plants, trees, flowers, animals, good food, and wonderful people.  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3) 

Likewise, when God looks at us, He sees our purpose.  He sees our potential.  Even when we were lost and broken and in sin, God saw what we could be in Christ. 

Faith sees.  How does faith see?  Faith sees by spending time with God.  When we spend time in His presence, we receive His Word, and His word brings forth fruit in our lives.  When God spoke, “Let there be light, there was light.”  In order to walk in faith, we have to spend time in His presence and then speak what He has spoken.  To see God’s purpose fulfilled we have to speak it.  Romans 10:8-10 says,

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”   

The next step of faith is obedience.  When we spend time with God and in His Word, we have to walk out in obedience what He is speaking to us.  Finally, faith requires persistence.  Hebrews 6:11-12 says,

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (emphasis mine).    

In creation, the Father willed, the Son (the Word) spoke, and the Spirit acted.  Likewise, in our lives, as we spend time with the Father, declare His word, and put it into action, we can see great changes.  Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)  The changes we may be seeking in our lives probably won’t happen overnight.  We need to abide in His Word and persist in it.      

If you are struggling with a problem in your life, or long to see a promise God has given you fulfilled, I encourage you to put these steps into practice.  Get back in God’s presence.  Then, begin to meditate and speak His Word over your life.  Persist in consistently speaking His Word.  If He gives you a specific instruction, obey Him.  It’s easy to spend our time worrying, complaining, venting frustration over the difficulties of life.  But rather than looking at the mountains in our lives, let’s get our eyes on the mountain-mover.  That's how faith works!

“Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

Mark 11:22-23

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jesus Brings Joy to My Soul

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Romans 13:11-12

Things don't always work out the way we plan or the way we hope.  Sometimes life can be hard.  I know many who've been through much worse than us.  But we each have our own pain and carry our own burdens.  

This year we went through a miscarriage, a new experience for me and certainly for Leslie.  On top of that, I've had asthma problems that I've never really had before.  I went to the urgent care earlier this year because I thought I was having heart problems.  It turns out it was asthma.  We also both got the flu, which is unusual for me.  For the past month, I've had a bronchitis cough and wake up at night coughing.  It's annoying.  

And, on top of all of that, law school, which can be grueling and extremely demanding, but also very rewarding.  The Apostle Paul wrote, after describing much that he had been through, said, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."  (II Cor. 11:28).  I would re-write the Scripture to say, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of law school."  Although I try to keep a good but flexible schedule, it is hard to stay on top of everything.  This week, despite my intense planning for my 3rd and final year of school, something was wrong with my schedule and I had to make a change.  I worked so hard to get things right, only to find out I did something wrong.  That's life... no matter how hard we try to do right sometimes, we still make mistakes.    

Anyways, I'm not writing this to draw attention to myself.  I know some who are going through difficult things in their lives, probably more difficult than what I've experienced this year.  Nevertheless, God is working.  I believe the Lord is calling us to set all of this aside, fix our eyes on Him, and, in the words of a Casting Crowns song, "Just be held."  If we will take the time to truly seek Him, we can find all that we need in the arms of our Father.

Last night, in my dream, there was a song.  It went something like this:  "Jesus…Jesus… Jesus brings joy to my soul.  My rest is complete, when I sit at your feet, Jesus brings joy to my soul."  Despite everything going on, I keep hearing and feeling the call of God to lay everything aside and seek Him.  Sometimes that is hard to do when I'm under a school deadline.  I wake up in the morning knowing I need to make certain progress, and what gets cut out from life?  Time with Jesus.  Time with him, however, is much more important than all of this stuff of earth.  

I've posted a few pictures below from our camping trip earlier this year.  One of my favorite past times is swimming in waterfalls.  I love to immerse myself in the water.  It is so incredibly refreshing.  That's what time with Him is like.  When we get in His presence, He fills us with peace, with joy, with rest.  That's what I need to do right now, so I'm going to end this blog and do just that.  Good night, and God Bless!  May you be filled with His joy and peace!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Faith and Prayer: Thoughts from Our Experience at the Billy Graham Library

Recently Leslie and I visited the Billy Graham Library in North Carolina.  I was impressed by the simplicity of Billy Graham’s life and ministry.  I believe Billy Graham to be a man of genuine humility and purity.  He said, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”  Everything he has done seems to be centered around that simple goal.  As we moved through the library, two things struck me:  Faith and Prayer. 

At least 2-3 times in the library, as I recall, Billy expressed his simple faith in God’s Word.  He said, “I have had the privilege of preaching the Gospel on every continent of the world.  And I have found that when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented, with authority, quoting from the very Word of God – He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.” 

Often I don’t understand a lot that is going on in my life, with my family and friends, or with the world around me.  And God is not obliged to explain everything to me.  But I have found that when I put my faith in God’s Word, even when I don’t understand it, it makes a real difference.  When I take His Word at face value and apply it to my life by study, meditation and declaring it over my life, it is effective. 

It seems to me that there are some of us who go through life as victims, and some as victors.  Often, I am guilty of playing the victim.  A victim mentality can be shown in an attitude of ungratefulness, anger, and resentment towards those around us.  A victor, however, has a grateful attitude despite setbacks and difficulties.  A victor does not deny problems or reality, but presses on with strong faith in God. 

Joyce Meyer, an excellent Bible teacher, stated that her father raped her at least 200 times (see here).  I can’t imagine the shame and emotional pain she endured.  Over the last year or so, my wife has been enjoying the ministry of Beth Moore.  Beth Moore was also a victim of sexual abuse (see here).  One thing I notice about these women is they don’t have a victim attitude, but the attitude of a victor.  They don’t have an attitude of ungratefulness and resentment, but an attitude of faith.  I’m sure their journey towards healing and victory was not easy, but I’m certain it involved faith. 

We all have pain to some degree or another.  The world is full of pain.  And God cares about your pain.  He has a pathway for healing for each of us, if we will embrace it.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).  That pathway involves faith in God’s Word.  His word “is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Ps. 119:105).  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."  It’s easy to complain; it takes courage and humility to express faith in God’s Word.  To lay a road for healing, we must humbly accept God’s word planted in us, which can save us (see James 1:21). 

Billy Graham said, “There are three elements to Crusade preparation:  Pray, pray, pray.”  And he said, “The secret is not me…The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual - it’s God answering prayer.  I cannot take credit for any of it.”  It’s no surprise that the secret to success is prayer.  It was Jesus’ secret as well.  Luke 5:15-16 says of Jesus, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not praying, I can feel it.  I’m more irritable (just ask my wife) and overall struggle with life more.  But when I pray, I feel God’s presence, His peace, and His love working in me and through me. 

The world is in desperate need of God’s love.  But how can we show that love without God’s love flowing through us?  Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Prayer is an act of humility, recognizing that we cannot do life on our own.  Billy Graham said, “People do not come to hear what I have to say.  They want to know what God has to say.”  That’s what it is all about, not seeking our own will, but seeking to do the will of our Father in heaven (see John 5:19).    

I hope this article has been a blessing, challenge and encouragement to you.  God loves you very much.  With Christ, all things are possible.  And all things are possible when we pray and move in faith.