Tag Archives: faith

God Moves in Mysterious Ways – A Hymn by William Cooper

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I just heard this hymn read in a sermon this afternoon, and I was completely struck (to the point of tears) with the last two lines. For the sake of proper context, I’ve included the whole hymn; I want to remind myself in future seasons of suffering and hardship that my God is sovereign, He is wise and He is holy. I can trust Him.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

prayer

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Lord, I believe you love me. Not because I am lovable; your love for me is the overflow of your nature. You are pure, holy, self-giving love.

Lord, you understand me perfectly. You know my needs, my problems, my potential. You see my circumstances; where I am right now, where I’ve come from, my past and my heritage. You understand my mind, how I think and why I think as I do; the lens and filter through which I interpret reality.

You know the things that are too painful or frightening for me to even consider.

You know my body, my temperament, my hopes, my dreams, my longings, fears and regrets, the constellations of my relationships, past and present. Lord, you understand all these things in perfect, loving clarity.

You see the secrets of my heart, things no one else knows about me. Things I do not even know about myself. All this is uniquely me; you know perfectly and understand completely and lovingly.

But, Lord, your love is not sentimental. It is intentional. You see not only what I am, you see what I could be. You see what I will become without you. You love me too much to leave me on my own.

Lord, you also see the things you want me to do, the people you want me to touch. Left as I am, I could never be an instrument of your grace to others. Left as I am I will be an impending stumbling block. You loved the world too much to leave me as I am.

Lord, you are helping me see why and how you want to work in my life. I need your truth, and your love. I need to know my true condition, and your true character. Your purposes and your provision.

I also need to know, and feel, your steadfast love. Without the assurance of your love, I know I could never face the truth about me. Together, your truth and love prepare me to get honest with myself, and serious with you, so I can start cooperating with your design for my transformation.

Lord, it seems foolish, but I often need to remind myself that you are competent. You really are able to accomplish all you intend for me, and for your whole creation. There is no limit to your wisdom, your strength, or your ability to act. In any context, at any time. You created all this; how can I affirm you as Creator, yet doubt you as Redeemer?

You have already given me everything I need for life and godliness. You are able to save, to the utmost.

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(This prayer was read at the end of a sermon I just listened to. The Pastor referenced that it was from a book, but didn’t say which one, so the author is unknown.)

Chex Mix: Leadership

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After 5 1/2 months, I’ve finally experienced a major bout of writer’s block. And to break this awkward, month-long silence, I’ve decided to try out something new. I’m calling it “Chex Mix”. I’ve got a bunch of different thoughts swirling in my head, some are hard and crunchy, some are long and salty, and some are probably more air than actual substance. But I’m hoping that through these blog posts I’ll be able to grasp both the specific individual ingredients mixing inside me, and the ideas of the blend as a whole, resulting in a delicious handful of the sanctification process.

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January 8th. My last Sunday in Alaska was a bittersweet day. Eager to return to school after my three-week-long Christmas break, but also hesitant to leave my beloved church, family and, as I say here, my lovely home-state. So I sat through the Sunday morning service with my church, thinking these chocolate-y thoughts….

We had just started a sermon series on what the Church is called to be in the Bible, and that day’s sermon was about each member using its spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the whole Body, based on Romans 12. As the preacher spoke (using His gifts to benefit the Body), God was using Scripture to plant seeds inside me that would only start blooming months later.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well…. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” Rom 12:6,8

Like many of the things God has taught me this year, the roots of the lesson passed by without a thought. Fast forward two months. Something my Youth Pastor said years ago, regarding spiritual gifts, began resurfacing in my mind. After completing a spiritual gift assessment as part of our youth leaders’ retreat, I asked him about some of my results.

“Jeremy, this says that I might have the spiritual gift of faith. How can that be? I’ve had some seasons of my life where I’ve wrestled with doubt on a major scale. Sometimes I still do…. How could someone who struggles with doubt be gifted with faith? Isn’t that a contradiction?”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget his response: “No, Jessi. That makes perfect sense. You see, people gifted in certain areas tend to think about those things more deeply than everyone else. For instance, I have not been gifted with faith; I take the Bible at its word, and just move on. Jesus resurrected from the dead, ok cool. But someone gifted with faith will take that truth and really chew on it, analyzing all its possibilities. “Is this really true? And if so, what does that mean in life?” That doubt could be the very proof that you’re gifted; the Truth of the Word is so important to you that you can’t help but really chew on it.”

Now, I recognize that this statement can be taken too far, but I think the principle is spot on: Often times you can a gift is seen in someone’s life by the presence of it’s “opposite”.

These past few weeks, I’ve been doing some serious thinking as I lay in bed. Evidently something about being parallel with the floor before you fall asleep and when you first wake up is conducive to deep thought. Thinking thoughts about all my leadership responsibilities…. “Jessi, do you realize how much this will take? The amount of prayer that needs to go into this, before and after? I want to do this right, and that means hours and hours of study…. I need to be developing a plan for what I want to happen through this… My heart isn’t in the right place; I need to be examining my motives, preparing my heart before I do anything…” All kinds of thoughts like this souping around inside me. And about half the time, I’ve found myself thinking: “You know what, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I must not be gifted in leadership like I thought I was. After all, why would all these responsibilities be so constantly present in my mind if I was a leader? Should it just be natural?”

And now we can pick Romans 12:8 back up again: “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” My Youth Pastor’s statement about spiritual gifts has come back to me…. What if all this thought/worry/stewing is actually confirmation that I’m gifted in leadership? God is allowing me to see these leading roles in the fullness of their flavors (whether or not I’m handling that perpective properly).

Maybe this is why Paul tells the Roman leaders that they need to “take the responsibility seriously”. A leader can respond to responsibility in one of two ways. You can let the intimidation of the task(s) make the decision for you, running from your giftings because, “It’s too hard”, or “I’m just not cut out for this”. Or, you can choose to take the responsibility seriously. All the prep-time involved, all the energy it requires, all the time, emotions, freedom and comfort you need to sacrifice… And you lay it down before God, asking Him to help you take the tasks He’s given you seriously. And then, you just buckle down and do your best. Be disciplined, work hard (and Sabbath hard). Take the responsibility seriously. Sure, you’ll be exhausted…. But what’s more satisfying than a job well done?

“Fixing” Mirrors

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So this morning I decided that I was just going to do it. There’s no way to start unless you just start….

God’s been convicting me on our relationship; I’ve let my time in the Word in class and homework take the place of my personal time with Him. And, not that it’s some legalistic sin, but I can tell the difference. I’ve still been learning like crazy, and God has been convicting/speaking/guiding me, but the intimacy that I know I’ve been designed for is lacking. So, I’ve decided to do something about it. Nothing magical, no instant fix. I’m just going to, by His grace, get back into spending time daily with Him, reading His word. I’ve decided to read through 2 Peter, and then hit the Christmas story (fitting for the season.)

So, this morning I cracked open Peter’s second book, only to make it 9 verses in, and then my whole day changed….

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

The Holy Spirit took hold of me with that last verse: “…. short-sighted and blind…” That’s what I’ve become: short-sighted. I’ve lost sight of the big picture, I’ve become content with “ok”, forgetting both who God really is and who He’s called (purified) me to be.

And it kept coming. During the first service in church this morning, Pastor Randy spoke from Exodus 20:18-21, the Israelites’ response to God revealing the Law to Moses.

“18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speakto us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”

In classic Randy style, he pulled all kinds of principles from those four verses, but the first one was enough for me. See, God’s show of power and holiness was supposed to inspire fear into the Isrealites (“so that [they] may not sin”), but they weren’t supposed to stay there. They were supposed to move from terror into awe and submission. But they stayed in the first position, because they based their decisions on what they saw. This hit me like round two; again, with the sight thing. What is the Biblical definition of faith? Seeing things the way God says they are, not how my eyes natually see them. The Israelites here did not have faith. In hearing thunder and lightening, they saw danger and “trembled and stood at a distance”. God challenged me that I am called to live a life of faith, and I can’t possibly live as He wants me to if I base my decisions solely on what I see. I can’t be short-sighted.

But it’s not over yet. Bring on round three. During second service, I’ve been helping with Youth Group Sunday School, where we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “BASIC” series. He’s put together a DVD series of videos and discussion questions based on the basic fundamentals of the Christian life. Today’s was on…. living/walking in the Holy Spirit. So we spent a whole hour discussing how the Holy Spirit leads us, and what walking in His guidance looks like practically.

As the day progressed, I realized that I have placed mirrors in front of my eyes. I have made myself the center of my sight, falling deeper and deeper into pride and complacency. And with my own image reflecting back to me, my vision’s scope had shortened dramatically. Short-sighted.

Father, take down my mirrors. Help me “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles [me], and let [me] run with endurance the race that is set before [me], fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:1-2.

A lesson from the ashes

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This was a homework assignment based on Joshua 7:16-26.

When you first look at this passage in Joshua, it certainly stops you in your tracks. Really? God killed a household over a few stolen items? I know that stealing is wrong, but to kill an entire
family…?
You have to look back a few verses to start to see the behind-the-scenes-perspective here. In Joshua 6:17-19, Joshua tells Israel that all the plunder of Jericho is banned, they are not allowed to keep any of it, and any gold, silver, iron or bronze articles are to be collected for the Lord. So we see that Achan didn’t steal in the literal sense (the whole city of Jericho was technically theirs after the walls fell), but he disobeyed a direct command of God. Not a good idea.

But Achan’s choice reveals that there was more going on inside him than simple obedience. By taking those forbidden items, Achan revealed the pride in his heart. He believed that he deserved more than his fellow Israelites, so he took for himself. And what did he take? “A beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound” (Josh 7:21, NLT). He took a robe to make him look better, to esteem himself among his friends and family, and he took precious metals, which God had already claimed as his. Achan believed that he deserved what was rightfully God’s, and that he could get away with it. And he was sadly mistaken.

Besides pride, mistrust or lack of faith was also evident in Achan’s actions. He didn’t believe that God would provide for him and his family in the Promised Land they were invading, so he took matters into his own hands (quite literally). He needed to steal. And we all know that sin committed for the right reasons is excused, right? Obviously not. God never calls us to something that requires us to sin; that just wouldn’t make any sense. God wanted Israel to occupy the land he had for them, and, so long as they obeyed Him, He was going to provide for them as they did. Achan believed that what he saw right in front of him was better than what God had promised. The Biblical definition of faith is “Seeing things the way God says they are, not how I see them”, and his act was the direct opposite of faith.

Achan didn’t believe that God was who He says He is. By taking those forbidden items, Achan echoes the same thoughts as Adam and Eve in Genesis “God won’t see it. Besides, it’s just a few things (just one bite). What can it hurt? It’s not like God is here. What He doesn’t know won’t hurt Him, right?” Wrong.

And finally, Achan’s sin showed his inward discontentment. He didn’t believe that what God had already provided for him was enough. He refused to rest in the knowledge that what God was going to give him in the Promised Land was best. He wanted, coveted, what he saw. So he took it.

The root of all these wrong heart-positions is a faulty worldview, one based on worldly ideas instead of the Bible. Achan fell for the appealing philosophy that currently reigns in America: Instant gratification is always better than delayed gratification. The robe, silver and gold I can get my hands on now is better than anything God would give me for obeying Him later. So much better, in fact, that I’m willing to risk everything for it. And don’t we do the same things, in our own ways? Entertaining lustful thoughts is much more satisfying than waiting in purity for the one spouse God has for me, and reveling with him/her it he pure gift God has given.

Or what about the idea, “I’m just one person. God doesn’t care.” Every heard, or thought, that? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Just look at the facts, there are 6.97 Billion people in this world. Why would God care about what I do? Nevertheless, He does. He has a specific call for each person in relationship with Him, and He calls us each individually to live holy lives. That’s why the Holy Spirit convicts us of certain things that He doesn’t for others. Why would watching a certain movie, or saying certain things, be sin to one person and not another? Because God cares about what we do, individually. The fact of the matter is, we are so important to God that He died for us. “Do you not know… that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Ok, so we get that Achan had more going against him than just a few items hidden in the tent, but why did “his songs, hid daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him” have to be utterly destroyed? The passage says that he and all with him were stoned, and then burned up. Picture absolutely nothing left. Achan was the one who sinned, so he alone should be punished, right? The trouble with this claim is the idea that each person is solely responsible for
themselves, when God says throughout Scripture that a man is responsible not only for himself, but for his entire household. And we’ve seen this in our own lives, haven’t we? A father’s sin affects his own family, and sometimes the entire neighborhood or church. “With great power, comes great responsibility”. God gives the man of the house, the husband/father, the power to lead his family, but He also bestows on him the responsibility of that calling.

Yet there is hope in this sad tale of utter destruction. Look at Joshua 22:20. Battles, victories, moving vans, and many house-warming parties later, Israel still remembered the sin of Achan and
clan. God used one man’s sin to impact an entire nation, and to remind them (however briefly) that He indeed is God and demands worship and obedience.