Faith in an Invisible God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20)

These 2 verses are from the opening chapter of Romans and the first section is about being justified through a life of faith and the second section is a portion of a lesson about God’s wrath towards unrighteous people though I pulled it out in support of my thought this morning that our God is alive and working in eternity.

Over the weekend, my Brittany had pups and though it was a nerve-racking experience for me the owner, everything happened just as the Creator designed it.  I had worked to ensure that there was a safe and clean place for Ginger and her puppies and I was ready to help if I was needed…but I wasn’t.  As I sat and counted puppies and time, that was all I could do.  The design of life took care of the rest and it just occurred to me over and over how awesome our God the Designer is and how much I can see Him in all the creation and life around me.  God is revealed all around me (Psalms 19) and His handiwork should point to His all powerful nature.  I am His handiwork as well and if I can see what He has done and is doing in nature, I can trust He is doing and will do mighty things in my spiritual and physical life.

In remembering and praying for his brethren in Philippi, Paul says that he is confident in the fact that “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.  The design is our Father’s.  That is the work that is being done “behind the curtain” of our flesh.  We need to be present.  We need to be prepared.  But we also need to stand in trust of Him through faith…even if we cannot see Him.  God is all around us and He is working within us…take some time today and be present to see it and believe it and trust it.

Surviving Storms

Do you trust God?  Our currency has written on it, “In God We Trust.”  But do we trust Him?  It’s easy to say we do, but it’s another to live it and believe it.  It’s easy to raise our hand in Bible class and say, “We should always trust God.”  However, it’s different when you experience a death in the family, or if your child is suffering, or when problems arise in the church.  You wouldn’t think that God’s people would need to be reminded to trust in God, but we do.  God’s people have always needed reminders.  This was true even for the apostles.  In the gospels, we read about the apostles going through a couple of storms.  They would have to trust in God.  We can learn some lessons from these stories as we think about different storms we will face.

Storm #1: Mark 4:35-41.  After a long day of teaching on the sea, Jesus told the apostles to cross to the other side.  Soon after, there arose a fierce (great) wind.  Water began to pour into their boat.  This was no regular storm.  Fear quickly set in the hearts of the apostles.  They cried out to Jesus for help, and He responded, Mark 4:39. It was Jesus who then questioned them about their faith.

Storm #2: Matthew 14:22-33.  After feeding 5,000 people with a boy’s sack lunch, Jesus told His apostles to get into the boat.  While the apostles were in the boat crossing the sea, Jesus spent time in prayer, Matthew 14:23.  By the time Jesus began to cross the sea, His apostles were far ahead of Him.  Instead of Jesus taking a boat to catch up to His apostles, He decided to go on a walk.  It’s here that we find Peter asking Jesus to walk on water, Matthew 14:28-29.  That took some FAITH.  However, as he saw the winds, Peter became fearful, Matthew 14:30.  What can we learn from these stories?

    1. Storms will come.  Life can change from calm to stormy quickly.  Trials don’t make us unique (as one man said).  How we respond to them is what will make us unique.
    2. Storms will reveal our faith.  Trials will reveal what kind of faith we have.  The disciples’ faith was shaken but then strengthened as a result of the storms, Mark 4:41; Matthew 14:33.  Storms can be useful for us as they will help us to draw closer to God.
    3. Know that Jesus cares.  He cared for His apostles, and He cares for us.
    4. Trust the facts and not your feelings.  Always remember God is in control.

What does it mean to trust? Part 2

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:7)

I will refer you back to Monday’s article for part 1 of “What does it mean to trust?” My daughter learned a lesson in trust when we were at the farm store the other day.  She saw the stock tanks that hold the baby chicks but did not trust me that the chicks were not in there. It wasn’t until she put her ear to the side of the tank that she “confirmed” that the chicks weren’t there.

What she was looking for was not there. It was an empty tank. I’ve been thinking about this even more in a lot of applications to our lives. What I’m looking for may end up being an empty tank. The tank promised to deliver something, but I didn’t trust my Father and in the end the tank was empty.

Pleasure. It may be that you think you are going to find relief, satisfaction and pleasure in excessive entertainment, immoral sexual behavior, or in substances like alcohol and other drugs. But in the end, God told you to trust Him, and you didn’t. You found an empty tank. What you were looking for wasn’t to be found. All of us can think of things that promised to make us happy and we ended up empty. Notice the following two passages from letters to Timothy. What was Timothy to “pursue”? From what was he to “flee”?

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
(1 Timothy 6:8-11)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22)

Knowledge. Some of us try so hard to find new ways to think about things. We really work hard to find things that our spiritual ancestors didn’t discover before. So much energy is exhausted to find new interpretations that “nobody has thought of before” (see Acts 17:21). In fact, we become so arrogant and smug in our pursuit of new ways to think that we spit on those who labored for years in study of God’s word to arrive at their conclusions. It might be that we have convinced ourselves that we are “testing all things,” but I believe we can be looking for something that God says isn’t there. We end up coming to an empty tank. The irony is that many times we arrive at the same conclusions our fathers did because those conclusions were solidly based on the word of God combined with years of experience.

Certainly, “test all things” as God tells you (1 Thessalonians 5:21). But have some humility, young men and women (1 Peter 5:5). You might be running toward an empty tank. What you thought was promising to be a wealth of overflowing knowledge may end up being a disappointing vacuous hole. Before you disregard the wisdom and wealth of study done by those who preceded you, trust that they may have some great insight to share.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-2)

Are you trusting the Father? Or are you running toward an empty tank?

What does it mean to trust?

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
(Luke 1:19-20)

Last week I was with one of my younger kids at the farm store. At the farm store they are preparing early for spring chicks. What they do to display the chicks for sale is set out several galvanized stock tanks and then they place a bunch of chicks in a stock tank with a heat lamp, food, etc. Our kids just love going to the farm store in the spring because they love seeing all the baby chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc.

This particular day, my daughter saw all the stock tanks lined up and knew what it meant. She asked, “Can I go see the baby chicks?” I answered, “They are not there, yet, dear.” As we walked closer to the tanks, I could see that my daughter was not convinced. She kept asking to see the chicks and was intent on walking over to the tanks. I asked, “Do you trust me, dear? I said the chicks are not in yet. The people are just getting ready for when the chicks arrive.” It still didn’t satisfy her, and she went up to the stock tank (she was shorter than the top of the tank that was just up off the ground on a shelf), and she placed her ear to the wall of the tank to see if she could hear the baby chicks. After not hearing anything, she looked at me, and I said gently to her, “Honey, do you trust me? I told you the chicks were not there.” She gave me a sheepish grin. This is going to be a continual lesson for her, because she is very much like her daddy in this.

It was a lesson that Zechariah had to learn in the passage above in Luke. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to give Zechariah some very good news, but Zechariah didn’t believe it. He just didn’t trust God that God was right in saying they would have a baby. “How can this be?”, he asked. “This doesn’t make sense.” “How’s this going to work?” “I’m too old, my wife is too old.” He wanted more verification. He didn’t have enough information. So, God made him silent for nine months until the prophecy was fulfilled in “God’s time” (Luke 1:20). Zechariah was forced by God not to talk. He couldn’t ask any more questions. No more requests for verification or information. You are going to see it happen, Zechariah, but you can’t talk until it does happen.

This is a great lesson for all of us when it comes to God’s promises.

  • I don’t have to know all the details.
  • I don’t have to have the exact timing.
  • I don’t have to make sense of it all.
  • I don’t have to physically see or hear all the information in order to confirm.

I just need to trust God. Be silent. Stand still. Trust that God will keep His end of the bargain. I don’t have to go over to the stock tank and put my ear to wall to “check and see if dad’s right.”

Another example for your meditation is God’s law regarding the Sabbath and Manna for the Israelites (Exodus 16). He told them to gather twice as much on Friday, because there won’t be any Manna on Saturday (the Sabbath). Some Israelites didn’t trust (believe) and they went out on Saturday just to check and see. On the flip side of that, God told them that they could not gather twice as much on any other day, because the excess would breed worms and stink. The Israelites didn’t trust, so on those days other than Friday, they would try to gather twice as much. And just like God said, the Manna bred worms and stank (Exodus 16:20,27).

And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”
(Exodus 16:28-29)

The question remains for you and me. Will I fully trust my Father in heaven? Even if it doesn’t make sense? Even if I don’t have all the information, details and timing?

Just like God said

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
(Genesis 21:1-2)

Today is a reminder for us that God keeps His promises.

He keeps His promises on His time table. It took 25 years after God’s promise, but Abraham and Sarah had their son. They had times when they wondered and even tried to go about fulfilling their own way, but in the end, God came through. I can get impatient, and it is good for me to remember that God’s timing is not mine. Another of God’s promises to Abraham took 2,000 years to fulfill, that being the promise of Jesus.

He keeps His promises just like He promised. What He promised, in detail, He delivered. Men keep promises and then adapt them later because the original promise cannot or won’t be kept. God is not like that. There is no “bait and switch” with God.

in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,
(Titus 1:2)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” 
(Numbers 23:19)

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
(1 Samuel 15:29)

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Share

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5; NKJV)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  (James 5:13-16; NKJV)

These two passages came to mind as I thought about fear and how it affects our ability to come to one another with our burdens and with our sins.  I was thinking about how hard Satan works to convince us we are supposed to be perfect and how often we fall into that snare.  Our Heavenly Father, however, through His inspired and eternally true word tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short.  He tells us that it is this very thing that He purposed to remedy through sending His Son so that He could offer Himself as payment for our sins.  God does not expect us to be perfect…so if we are feeling like that we are called to perfection then we need to turn to Satan and tell him to get lost.

Because if we think we have to be perfect, then we are going to be afraid to go to the very people who we need the most in this world with our imperfection…our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Have you been afraid to confess your sins to a brother because you were certain they couldn’t possibly forgive you or somehow your relationship with them would be forever changed?  I have.  And how unfair is that to my brother…because if I am afraid to be honest, open and vulnerable with him…how hard is going to be for him to do the same with me or am I causing him to question his worthiness as a brother.  There are a lot of scenarios that could play you but the bottom line is that the one scenario that should play out is very clearly described above.  God’s word says go to your brother.  God says bear another’s burden.  God says pray!  God assures us that we will be forgive, healed, and that the fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.

We so very much need each other, and we cannot be afraid to share the hard stuff.  There are no secrets.  God sees it all.  He wants us to share it not so that we can be open with Him but with one another.  That we can be encouraged when we are down and when we are the encourager we can know there will be someone for us when we find ourselves in need of a brother to lean on.

I believe Satan works to confuse us with what is expected and drives a wedge between us.  A lot of time he uses fear as that tool.  Don’t be afraid.  Trust God…He will be with you when you trust a brother and share.

Just as He told them

And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:16)

Just as He told them. The phrase just struck me the other day while reading Mark 14. I then branched out to find all kinds of occasions where Jesus showed that His word was to be trusted.

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”
(Luke 22:35)

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
(John 13:19)

And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
(John 14:29)

But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
(John 16:4)

See, I have told you beforehand.
(Matthew 24:25)

This is what Jesus, being God, did for the people of the Old Testament as well (Isaiah 44:7-8; 46:8-11; 48:3-6). He declared the end from the beginning, laying out exactly how things were going to go, and we can trust that when God says something is going to happen, it will happen.

We as humans really have a hard time with this. Nobody on earth has this kind of power to foresee exactly how things are going to turn out. From weather forecasts, to stock market predictions, to presidential polls that turn out to be wrong. Even our parents, bosses, coaches and other leaders in our lives say things are going to happen and then for some reason they don’t. On top of that a lot of us just don’t keep our word, and leads to further distrust.

So along comes Jesus and says, “Here’s how it’s going to turn out,” and time after time after time every time it turns out just like He told us.

We need to be reminded of that. What God promises will happen. What Jesus told us in advance will happen, even if the circumstances, our environment, people around us, and even our own brains say the exact opposite. Trust Jesus.

Trust – Confidence

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
(Philemon 1:21)

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.
(Hebrews 6:9)

In a relationship, trust is irreplaceable. Without it, do we really have a relationship? Yesterday, we looked at one aspect of trust in that we need to give up our obsession with having all the facts and details and info. If I trust someone (God or man), that means I don’t have to have all the info in order to believe in what he or she is telling me.

Today, I want to talk about the concept of confidence, specifically, the confidence we have in another person’s obedience to God. Look at the two passages above and see that with Paul and Philemon and with the Hebrew Christians, there was a confidence that the other person would do the right things.

Is your expectation that the other person is going to fail? And when he or she fails, we see it as we were justified in what we thought all along? They certain met our expectations because we were holding them in a box of failure. That certainly isn’t the mindset of Christ, is it?

“Love bears all things, believes all things endures all things…” (1 Cor. 13).

What is the assumption we make of others? It really says more about us than it does about them when we assume they are going to mess up.

If this is a problem for you, then take some time today in prayer and ask God to forgive you for making wrong assumptions of people (Eph. 4:30-5:2). Pray for His strength and His grace to fill your heart, and to extend that grace to others. May His love fill your heart, so that you can, like God, see the best in people (Eph. 3:19).  Sit down with a wise brother and discuss these things and pray over them. God can transform our hearts and renew our minds so that we can indeed be trusting and loving people who see the best in others (Eph. 4:20-24).

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)