Category Archives: Faith

Powerful and Effective

There are some topics that are worth second, third and even unlimited visits. Prayer is one of those topics. At this moment, I’m called to pray for a very important time in my family’s life, and I’m encouraged to pray because of stories I’ve heard recently about how God has answered my prayers in ways that were considered impossible. A friend has had a strained relationship with a son. That son was coming to visit his father for many more days than was even considered useful by the father. The father shared his concern for the planned visit with me. So we began to pray.

We prayed that God would do a work in the hearts of both the father and the son. We prayed that God would glorify himself in the building of that long broken relationship. We prayed for healing. At times like this, it is important that we pray things that are in keeping with God’s word. God wants families to be whole. That is how he made them. God wants fathers to celebrate their sons, like the father of the prodigal son. God wants our parent child relationships to mirror those that he wants to have with us. As a son, I always wanted to have a close relationship with my father, yet at the same time I wanted to find my own faith, I wanted to make my own way in this world. Still, in the depths of my heart, I had a desire for the approval and support of my father. For reasons not completely clear to me to this day, my relationship with my dad didn’t become mutually rewarding until I was almost in my forties.

I have two sons in law who, like so many, have had awkward relationships at times with their fathers. For a short season, I wanted to step in to fill that gap, until I realized that these two men were coming to grips with the way God has made all of us. We are all made to desire the love of our fathers. Sadly, too many men will never experience that warm relationship, but that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately¬† desire it. So too with my friend, who for a variety of reasons has been distanced from his sons. With the one son coming to visit, we prayed for the time to be such that would allow for the relationship to be healed.

Despite the dismal outlook for the pending visit, prayer was critical. I was reminded of the scripture found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power and is working.” Another translation calls these prayers powerful and effective. We need to pray for each other, building each other up not only with encouraging words, but also in prayer, asking God to do his work in the lives of those we love. Hebrews 10:24-25 provide this instruction, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This stirring each other up and encouraging one another comes through exhortation and encouraging words, yes, but also through prayer.

If you had been able to hear the story told by my friend a day after his son’s visit, you would have known that these things happen only when the power of God is released through much prayer, calling on his character and desire to draw the hearts of the children to their fathers. The prophet Malachi describing the Day of the Lord says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” It is important when we pray that we know the heart of God in these matters so that we can pray, knowing his will with all confidence asking God to remain faithful.

Christ gave us a great model for intercessory prayer, i.e., praying for each other. In John 17 he prayed for all of his followers, present and future. Christ prayed for you and me on that day. In the same way, we need to be praying for each other to be released from the guilt that so easily sidetracks us, to be filled with love for those around us so that we will model for the rest of the world what love of our brothers really means. Christ instructed us to follow his example of how he loved us, by loving each other to show that we are his disciples.

God bless.

Why Do We Hide From God?

This is the second article that my grandson, Matt Northway sent to me on Easter Sunday. The first is posted below this one. I have to admit that it warms the cockles of my heart to read what God is stirring in the hearts of my grandchildren. It is called a blessing! I won’t repeat the intro that I wrote on Matt here, so without further ado, Matt poses the question, why do we hide from God?

And why do we hide from God? We act like He doesn’t know everything. He has seen you at your worst and He has seen you at your best. He has seen your shame and He has seen you sin. But even then, He sent His son to die for you and forgave you. All through your troubles, He was painting a picture and He still is. He knew you before you had a heart beat. He knows what you have done in the past and He knows what you will do in the future. He’s painting a picture for you. He is the brush and we are the canvas. The paint is His plan for us and His promises to us that shapes each and every one of us to give us hope for the future of what is yet to come. “For I know the plans I have you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Why Are You So Afraid?

The following came to me on Easter Sunday. It came from a very special person in my life. The author of this post and the next one is my grandson, Matt. He is a junior at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, CO where he throws the shot put and discus. He is also a student leader in his schools chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). His mother was convinced that he was the original strong willed child. I think you’ll see in these next two posts that God has done a work in this young man’s heart. Through him, God has touched my heart and I’m not ashamed to say that pieces like these make me very proud.¬† Matt is growing in in his faith and in the knowledge of God. Here is what Matt shared from his heart on Easter Sunday … Why Are You So Afraid …

Jesus will protect you no matter what. Even though it may not seem so at certain times in
our lives, God has a plan for your life and a reason for everything. For God did not give you a spirit of timidity. So why are we so afraid? I strongly believe that it is because we have a lack of trust. If we say we trust in God and in His promises, why do we fear? There is no reason to fear because God says that He will protect us. “The fear of man is snare, but those who trust in the Lord are protected.” (Proverbs 29:25). We need to rebuke the fear of man. The devil puts a fear in our hearts of worrying about the future. We cannot look to the future and here’s why. First, only God knows what is going to happen so why worry because God will get His way. Second, looking into the future is leaning on your own understanding and not God’s. The best we can do, is to try our hardest and let God do the rest. We have to put our faith in Him. That’s all we can do.

Prayer

This Christmas I was given the movie DVD War Room as a gift. Last night we had a family movie night in our theater to watch the movie once again. As I’ve reflected on the various messages in the movie, I caught myself in a Christian-ese world of thought. You know, all scripture is true and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but sometimes we pull pieces and place too much emphasis on different verses. My desire here is to be a man who does his best to present himself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

On days when we’re “feeling our oats” or being full of ourselves we like to offer to pray for others and quietly, in our hearts, quote the last phrase of James 5:16 which says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power …” In so doing we puff out our chests in our magnanimous prayers. This verse is absolutely true, but let’s not forget the other side either.

In Luke 18:9-14, we have a very different picture. It is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Christ tells a parable about a Pharisee who was in the temple square and proudly praying to God out loud saying, “I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector ….” He goes on to expound on all the “righteous deeds” that he does for God in his prayer. Then the scene shifts to the tax collector who is standing far off and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but beat his chest saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Which prayer do you think God heard?

Christ tells us that the tax collector went home justified rather than the uber religious man. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. The word that struck me today after watching War Room is that a family’s life was changed by a woman who fell on her knees before God out of a life of self-sufficiency, declaring her need and dependence on God’s mercy.

As we think about prayer, and how powerful it is, it occurs to me that righteous people are not prideful about their prayers as a righteous person, but rather righteous people know and understand their needs before God. In humility and contrition, we bring our requests to him who changes the hearts of men.

Once again, blessed by the various media God uses to touch our hearts.

Our Thoughts and Prayers …

As we rush to push God, Christ, and references to the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes out of our public visibility, schools, and politically correct conversation, when tragedy strikes we are quick to offer our thoughts and prayers for the people impacted by tragic events. A question might be asked about to whom the prayers are being offered and what exactly we’re thinking about. It all seems to beg the question about the value of thoughts and prayers.

First let’s talk about offering our thoughts. I can sit on the Ponderosa and think about a lot of things and perhaps some might argue that that karma is oozing out of the windows as I post pictures and thoughts on social media. The net result is negligible because other than having the other person “feeling good” that their friends are thinking about them, there is no outside power or support brought about through our thinking about a situation. One might argue that thinking of your loss or pain might give me additional empathy for you, but I’m not aware of any healings or changes of circumstance that have been brought about through the thoughts of friends and neighbors. Because of this, my friends will need to excuse me for not offering my thoughts. I have found them to be ineffectual.

The book of James chapter 5 tells us a couple of things in verse 16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Many would like to lean on this passage for the power of prayer, but we have to remember that this is prayer by one and for another person who have submitted themselves to a truth system and faith proposition that believes in God, the Father, and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. So this is not a one-size fits all kind of prayer.

In Matthew 21, Christ talks about His Father’s house being a house of prayer. How many have darkened the door of a house of God honoring prayer recently? Later in verses 18 – 22, Christ again talks about what is required for effectual prayer. In the closing sentence of that section He tells His disciples, “And, whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” He talks here about moving mountains. I’m here to tell you that this really works and that I’ve seen mountains moved just in the past few months. God has responded to some BHAG requests (Big Hairy Audacious Goal to borrow a term from Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”) in ways that leave little doubt as to the effectiveness of prayer! God has moved mountains!

There has been a lot of bad news of late in our world. So bad, in fact, that the New York Daily News published a headline boldly stating that “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” The front page went on to pronounce the futility of “thoughts and prayers.” This is the world’s view. In scripture we see that Christ regularly retreated to a solitary place to pray. If prayer was of no effect, why would Christ go away to pray? Why would He tell us to pray without ceasing? Why would He say that He hears our prayers from afar?

If we look again at the James 5 and Matthew 21 passages, both (and many others) talk of prayers being offered by men and women of faith and in faith. By “in faith” I mean that we who have placed our faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and know that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God, must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6) We’re talking about prayer and relationship here, folks. We can’t deny God’s existence or relevance and expect him to respond to our foxhole cries for help.

When Noah built the ark, he was scorned until the day it started raining. Only 8 people from all of earth’s population were spared by getting into the ark. God promised that He would never do that again and from that promise, we have rainbows that color our skies. There was a time when the prophet Elijah despaired of life itself, sensing that he alone was left to serve and honor God among all the people of Israel. God took him to a quiet place and when Elijah had calmed down, God assured him in a quiet whisper that He had preserved some 7,000 people who were faithful. Elijah was not alone. Neither are we alone nor will we be wiped out!

So, where do we go from here? Those of us who are faithful need to be praying for those who lead government in our country and all over the world, that God will provide wisdom as they carry out their duties. God has said that He has established the authorities. Also that He would preserve a people faithful to Him. Since the beginning of the story of mankind, there have been nations bent on evil and destroying what God has made. Yet, through it all, God has preserved a people who are faithful. Some would say that until recently, the U.S.A. was that city on a hill that was a beacon and whose laws represented biblical values. I think it is safe to say that those days are quickly fading into history as our courts banish the name of God from public mention.

Still, as the mores of our country sliding away from biblical values, His church remains as the bearer of eternal hope in our communities and true believers shine light in their arenas of influence and within our society. Some will be those who have huge audiences and some will be those who touch one life at a time. Let’s not cower in a dark corner. Let’s have our lights shine and let our prayers impact our world as never before. May your prayers be among those that are powerful and effective.

Peace on earth, good will toward men!

What is Believing?

In the previous blog we talked about what it takes to go to heaven. The short version is that we need to believe in Jesus Christ. But what qualifies as a saving belief? James, the brother of Christ, wrote in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! But we know that the demons do not have a saving faith. What then is the belief that brings us salvation that give us eternal life?

Turning to the scriptures for clarification is most always helpful. I Peter 1:21 tells us that “Through him [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” An element of faith enters into the equation here. The demons believe but they refuse to put their faith and hope in God. This begins to paint a deeper picture of the word ‘believe’ for us. I can believe that it is warm outside because the local meteorologist says it is warm, but until I step outside without a jacket, my belief is an academic thought. Not only that but the weatherman’s definition of warm may not agree with my sense of heat and cold. Not until I go out to experience it for myself, do I learn to have a level of confidence (faith) in that person’s perception of hot and cold.

In the same way, we can believe there is a God. Then someone comes along and tells us that there is no God and that this world and life itself came about from a huge explosion and we evolved to the state in which we now exist. I am always fascinated by the number of people who ‘believe’ those theories, because to my way of thinking, such a belief system requires a greater leap of faith than to believe that our universe was created by the grand plan of God. But, I digress.

Hebrews 11:22 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Here, again, we see that our belief is a confident faith that God (which includes Christ) is who he says he is and that he responds favorably to those who search him out.

It is interesting that as I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I noticed that the theme for this year’s parade is “Believe.” I am left to wonder what it is they want us to believe.

Romans 3 provides additional insight into this believing when it says beginning in verse 22, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Here we have a faith (belief) in Jesus Christ that brings a righteousness that comes from God through his grace or undeserved favor.The Greek word being translated here is pistueo which comes from the Greek word pistis which is translated faith. The breadth of the word pistueo includes: commit unto, commit to (one’s) trust, and be put in trust with. It should also be noted that the word pistueo is a verb, an action word as the other possible meanings imply.

The English words for pistueo align very closely then from the origin of believe which is pistis or faith. To put one’s faith and confidence into a person or object requires more than just acknowledging that the person or object exist. To acknowledge that a bridge exists and observe it is very different from beginning to walk across or drive across that bridge. By taking those steps you have put your faith in the fact that the bridge will sustain you. In the same way, believing in Christ and putting your faith in Christ require similar steps of putting the confidence of our salvation in Christ’s ability to redeem us from our sinful condition.

As a result, very often we’ll use the words believe and faith interchangeably. Belief that Christ is the Son of God emanates from our confidence (faith) that He is who both He and the Father say He is, and that faith / believing in Him is our only path to salvation. So when the Bible says that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life, it is talking about that confident faith and belief. A friend of mine, Russ Crosson, introduced me to the term ‘truth system.’ That is part of our belief and faith in Christ, because that belief becomes part of our truth system or world view.

One last word before I let you go on this point. At the point when we take on faith in Christ, it is not natural or normal that we will be theologically correct in every aspect of the faith. That is why Paul prayed for the church at Collosae so that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (italics mine) The writer of Hebrews challenged the Jewish believers to grow by saying, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” So as with our relationships with people where we learn to know them, the journey with God is also that of getting to know Him and building our faith by growing our knowledge and familiarity of our Lord.

I trust this has been helpful in clarifying what God desires in our faith and in our believing in Jesus Christ His Son.

Finding Your Way Back to God

Over the course of the past six weeks Judy and I have been hosting a Life Image result for Road to GodGroup in our home. We’ve been following a series being led from our church entitled “Finding Your Way Back to God.” The series has been intended to help us focus from any starting point on our pursuit of and relationship with God. The biblical context for the series is the story of the prodigal son as found in Luke 15.

For most people, finding our way back to God is not a six week study or exercise. Even the stories shared in the accompanying videos talked about a lifetime of searching for something more. We have a tendency to get stuck in our day-to-day lives, but we were made for so much more. God tells us that “I know the plans that I have for you ..” (Jer 29:11). These plans have been in place before the foundations of the earth were laid. Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, and that this work was being done with the knowledge of each of our days.

So even before we were being formed, He was making plans for us. God had written in His book every one of our days that were made for us. Is it any wonder then, that we have this longing for more? He formed us with intentionality to meet the needs of the days that were made for us! Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do!

It boggles the mind that God created Adam and Eve knowing full well that they would fall into sin. It certainly was no surprise to Him and He did not have to scramble to come up with plan B. God loved us so much that He gave us a free will that would be free to sin and free to love Him. He sent His one and only son to die for our sins and failings, so that by faith in Christ we could be restored into relationship with Him. With those same global concepts and thoughts, He created each one of us, intentionally, with a purpose, knowing that He would need to draw all men to Himself so that they could make the choice to open the door to their hearts and let Him come in.

We all take different paths. I have been blessed recently to observe and encourage a couple of friends in renewing their walk of faith in Christ. Each came by a different path, but both, clearly came in response to the beckoning of the still small voice, that gentle knock on the door of their hearts and the engagement of plain folks like Judy and me. Along this journey, I have had a very real sense of fulfillment of the purpose for which I was made. That purpose began before I was being physically knit together in my mother’s womb.

Much more to talk about regarding such journeys. For now, I ask of my reader, where are you in your relationship with God? I am reminded of an old family friend whom I hadn’t seen since childhood, but a man who had been friends of my parents’ for all of my lifetime. Our paths crossed, ever so briefly, in the lobby of a multi-organizational meeting. Almost without taking a breath after our introduction and greeting, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said to me, “So, Bill, tell me how things are going with you and God.” I confess that I was a little taken aback, but at the same time I felt as though I had just been touched by God Himself. I gave our friend a response that I’m sure in retrospect might have seemed a little shallow, but I promise you that I have never forgotten that very brief interaction. That story, too, is part of my journey and part of my story.

Blessings!