Tag Archives: Believing

Life Priorities

In John 12:25, Jesus says this about our priorities, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This is an important principle that tells us how we prioritize our lives in this life will determine how we will spend eternity.

Whoever loves his life will lose it – wow, that is a caution for us … in the book of Mark 8:38 in another setting, Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So we can value our lives with our pride and put other relationships, careers, and toys before God now, but know that when it comes time for the final judgement, Jesus will be ashamed, or separate these folks out with the goats in the final judgment. We talked about this over the past few weeks in the context of Psalm 1. This is not new teaching that Jesus brings. This is the truth that God has had from the beginning of time. The first commandment says, we should value no god above the Lord our God. To the extent that we’re ashamed of or deny our relationship with God before men, Christ will deny knowing when we stand before the Father.

Yet, whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone of us serves him, we must follow him and where Christ (God) is there will Christ’s servants be also. Those of us who serve Christ, will be honored by the Father. More powerful and strong words. So why do we have a Bible study? So that we can learn what it is to follow him and serve him.

We need to think about giving up our pride and our personal preferences for what it takes to follow Christ. Now here’s the frequent objection to this line of thinking … this is a one-sided deal, this sounds like I am not allowed to have any fun or have any good or nice things. I don’t think this is what he’s saying. Go back to the beginning of chapter 12 where Mary got out a pound of very expensive ointment, expensive enough that at least one disciple said that she should have sold it for the poor. Jesus didn’t chastise her. Instead he complimented her. Why? Because everything she had belonged to God. She did not hesitate to spend extravagantly to show her love for Jesus. This all becomes a question of who owns our stuff. Are we willing to give what we have to help someone in need? What if God permitted a stock market crash comparable to 1929? How would we navigate those waters? How important are those things to us? In the normal course of life, we depend on those resources, but would our lives end should the banks go out of business? What if the housing market crashed? Many of us are fairly heavily invested in our homes. What happens to our hearts if those values turn to dust?

The questions Christ is asking here, is about our priorities, our values, our confidence, our faith. What is the foundation of our confidence in this life? Is Christ all we need? What about those students at Columbine who were asked whether they were believers, knowing that if they answered affirmative they were dead, and if not, they would live. These are not hypothetical questions. What if our friends began to drift away because of our faith? What if some in our neighborhood, began to distance themselves because of our participation in a Bible study? Friends, I think these are real questions. Now we need to make sure that we don’t become a stumbling block for others, but the time could very well come when some of our friends and neighbors are going to migrate to others who choose a different system of world values.

Much time is spent on the cost of discipleship. In discussions like these, we also need to spend time on the upside of following Jesus. Looking back at Psalm 1 it tells us that “blessed” is the man whose delight is in the word of God and one who meditates on God’s word day and night. I like what the Holman Christian Study Bible says: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers. Instead his delight is in the Lord’s instruction …” This man is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season. In other words, the flip side of losing our lives, should be gaining something. This Psalm tells us that someone who has given his life to Christ is like a strong tree in his community able to bear fruit in season, but also he is one who doesn’t fade at the end of the race (his season), it says his leaf does not wither, but in all that he does he prospers.

This is not some prosperity gospel as is put out by some, this is a man whose desires and joys or delights are in God’s word and the fruit of his strength is bringing wisdom and shade and strength to those around him. The purposes of this man will prosper or bear fruit. Comparing this man to those who choose another path, they are like the chaff that the wind blows away. They may be able to tell you how to make money or how to attain power. Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In building our homes and our families would we rather not say with the Apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God given to men, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. (our successor generations are building out on the foundations that we have laid) Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it(the final judgment that may seem so far away, but take this to the bank, it is coming), because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

So then, many of us consider ourselves savvy investors … where would you rather invest your time and your energies? For me and many of my friends, our career working days are pretty much over, but there is lots of opportunity to do work that will count for eternity.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt 6:33

Tipping Point

In many areas of life we tend to take baby steps. We take small incremental steps when
practicing new skills for even such simple things as taking our first baby steps. We are Image result for tipping pointtentative at first and take halting steps while we regain our balance between each step, and our confidence continues to build until one day reach the tipping point of confidence and we start running around the house or out in the yard. This concept is in play when we enter school, take new jobs, enter the grand world of parenting, and, yes, it also includes our faith.

When considering faith, we are prone to take the view that the decisions and commitments of faith are binary. Either you have it or you don’t. However, scripture doesn’t support this. Even Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth these words, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged. (2Cor 10:17). The NIV carries it by saying “… as your faith continues to grow …” Christ talked in terms of the size of one’s faith when He said if we would have faith even as small as a grain of a mustard seed, we could move trees and mountains (Matt 17:20, Lk 17:5-6).

When we take our first steps of faith, the reality is that we are groping about trying to find our way in this new euphoric, yet bewildering relationship with Jesus Christ. What does it mean to accept Jesus into one’s heart? In Galatians and Revelation, scriptures talk about our first love. That initial feeling of suddenly knowing that we have a relationship with the God of the universe brings a sense of love and awe; a feeling of excitement that lasts until our first real challenge when Satan brings back the old doubts, and friends scoff at such a foolish decision. How can we move from our first love to having our faith take hold, to learning more about our God, to finding out that prayer really works because we pray to a living God? How can we grow in the faith to reach that tipping point of having the confidence that God is faithful, that God is not defined by our circumstances, that we really do have forgiveness of our sins and can celebrate communion with grateful hearts?

1 Peter 2:2 tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” This is telling us that in order to grow up into salvation, we should long for pure spiritual milk. Pure spiritual milk is that which brings growth in the faith, taking instruction from trusted teachers, pastors, and friends. We need to look into the scriptures to see how they call us to maturity and talk about the faithfulness of God. To read the stories of God’s faithfulness and then pray that God would show His faithfulness in and through us. I have friends who are seeing prayers answered and are seeing opportunities to help others on their journeys. Through conversations and Bible study, together we learn how much God loves us and died for the sins of the whole world. We learn that unexpected successes come as the result of prayer. When we see such things happen, we begin to pray for our own needs and for the needs of others.

Then one day, we reach a tipping point; that point where we’re able to learn from scripture by faith. We reach that point where we are able to put our preexisting condition(s) to the test against the eternal truths of scripture. We come to a point of rest in the salvation of a loving and living God. We rest, knowing that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He will guide and protect us just as He did the patriarchs of the Old Testament. We develop a passion for telling others about Jesus as the Son of God and His death and resurrection. We reach a tipping point where faith overshadows questions once unanswerable. Those questions pale in comparison to the hope of spending eternity with the God we loved and embraced when we first opened the door of our hearts to Jesus’ knocking.

I pray that you have reached that tipping point in your life. If not, please let me know how we can encourage you.

“There will be lying religious teachers among you.” ~Apostle Peter

My friend, Michael Wilson, shared this thought this morning. The idea is not to view everything skeptically, but rather to know what God’s Word says so that we can discern between truth and some distortion of it. Also for those things we aren’t sure about, to be able to dig into the Word, prayerfully, to be guided into truth by the Holy Spirit and the counsel of trusted students of the Word. Thanks to Michael for raising this matter for consideration.

Jesus Quotes and God Thoughts

No Lying Zone

Being a religious teacher doesn’t mean you are telling the truth about Jesus. This stuns me but I must learn to discern the truth from a lie. Some ministers lie. Peter promised this would be true.

I must be able to tell right from wrong. To not do so can lead me downhill and off the cliff. Destruction and death follow suit.

Is the message one of unity or division. Am I being pitted against others? Am I encourage to look down at others or even hate them?

I need to consider the message as a reflection on the messenger. God’s goal for me is to follow the truth. I need to find ministers who teach the truth about Jesus and don’t lie.

But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive…

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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 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.

Same God?

Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, finds itself in the throes of a theological discussion. One of their professors decided she would wear a hajib (Muslim scarf) during the Advent season. In justifying her actions, she quoted Pope Francis’ recent comments that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The school has placed the professor on administrative leave until the matter could be resolved.

The question left open is whether Islam worships the same God as do the Christians. Wheaton College leadership believes this is a violation of the schools statement of faith. Still there is student and external pressure demanding that the school should reinstate Prof. Hawkins because her comments are, in fact, true and not in conflict with the statement of faith.

Whether or not it is in conflict with the statement of faith is for the school to decide. Her comments are clearly in conflict with scripture, however. The god of the Quran has nothing to do with Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Islam follows Muhammad who has died and left a book of confusing instructions that has brought fear and terror to the global community. It is a book with conflicting guidance, but the later writings supersede the earlier instructions. This is not the truth of the inspired word of God, the Bible. Let me be clear, without Jesus Christ at the center of their faith, they cannot serve or worship the same God. In 1 Cor 1:23 Paul says, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.” Any gospel that does not teach Christ crucified, is no gospel at all, because the definition of gospel is “good news.” Without Christ crucified on our behalf, there is no good news.

My friends, we live in peculiar days, days in which people go to great lengths to make everyone feel good. Giving out a word that a god without Christ or the Holy Spirit is a universal god is not good news! In writing to the church at Galatia, Paul writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Let’s not be confused by the politically correct or those who have an incorrect image of God in their own minds. From before time began, God in Christ was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We are in the Christmas season, let’s celebrate the Christ who was God incarnate and came to earth to reveal the Father to us and to give himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He rose and sits at the right hand of the Father so that the Holy Spirit might come to guide us into all truth.

Merry Christmas to all!

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.

Significant to My Faith Journey

This morning I posted three Bible verses written in my mother’s Mom's Verseshandwriting. The three verses were Luke 6:31, James 5:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:20. Obviously, the fact that these are in Mom’s handwriting brings back a lot of memories. Memories of her notes all around the house. I always admired the artistry of her handwriting. I thought is was delicately feminine and elegant at the same time. But beyond all that, the fact that she chose not to memorize from her Bible, and rather to sear these words in her mind by writing them first and then committing them to memory. This was a habit she continued until the day she went into the hospital where she transitioned into heaven two weeks later. As the years wore on, she took to memorizing chapters and then entire books of the Bible. She hid God’s word in her heart, she meditated on God’s wisdom day and night. When one of us would be feeling down, or acting up, she could draw from memory a verse that aptly applied to the situation on our minds or that would have the effect of easing the tension in our home.

She encouraged us to memorize as well. In our small town in Manitoba, there was someone who was impassioned about children’s need to learn the scriptures. So he made an offer to anyone who wanted to go to summer camp. For anyone who would memorize 100 verses, he would pay their camp fees. This prompted my parents to encourage me to take up the challenge, which I did! I remember to this day, saying the last 5 verses to the person in charge, as we were literally loading the kids onto the truck. I had made it! I had memorized 100 verses and earned a free week at camp! I jumped onto that truck feeling as high as the sky! Many, if not most, of those verses still stick with me and I can recall them when I hear the reference or am able to finish them when I hear the pastor begin to cite a verse. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11.

All this memorization was done in the King James version in those days, so quite frequently when I think of a verse that applies in a current situation, but can’t remember the reference (address), I’ll have to look in the King James version of my electronic Bible to find it. What a boon to my faith and to my grounding in the faith. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 is one of those passages that has regularly provided a word of caution in assessing my own motives and desires.

A quick word about the truck mentioned above. In those days we didn’t have the luxury of things such as school buses. While this will horrify moms and dads today, we would get probably 30 kids up on the back of an open box 5-ton truck, and ride the 93 miles to the camp in a standing position. Great times were had in those trucks and we thought nothing of the safety aspects. This was the transportation available to go to camp! Another truck followed behind with our bags containing a couple of changes of clothes and swim suits for the week.

The teachings we had at those camps were often times evangelistic, but also instructional for spiritual growth most often. It was in the woods of that camp where I would go to reflect and think about what God wanted with me. I wasn’t worried about my friends, but I sensed from those early days that God had His hand on me. All part of the journey. God wants to have His hand on you as well, if you’ll invite Him to lead you in the way that you should go.

Just a brief reflection in the rear view mirror …

Starting the Journey of Faith

In my last post I commented that some of us grow up in a Christ-centered home and others grow up in homes that are almost the antithesis of that Christ-centered home. Those who actually go to the point of professing belief in the salvation that comes from Christ alone, however, set out on the same journey of faith. For some the embarkation on that journey is indiscernible and for others the transition is a marked transformation as the Holy Spirit begins to shape our minds to be more Christ-like. The degree of change seemingly has little to do with our upbringing. It has more to do with behavioral modification brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

The interesting piece of this is that while changes may be less or more noticeable by others, the real change and the change that matters is what God sees in the heart. Our behavior and speech patterns are driven by the heart. So to some degree, the heart change is seen by others, but we must acknowledge that some of us have inherited mountains of pain, of degradation, and violation. It’s what we call baggage. Just like the picture above, we bring that baggage into our relationship with Jesus. It has often been said that our relationships with our earthly fathers will influence how we are able to relate to our Heavenly Father. It is also true that troubled homes, bad marriages, dysfunctional churches and all the rest weigh heavily in our journey of faith.

These things are all part of our complex personalities and broken lives that we bring to Jesus when we come to faith. He understands all that. He knows where you’ve been. He can redeem the most desperate sinner who comes to Him in simple faith. I’m reminded of Rahab, the prostitute, who let the Israelite spies down in a basket from the wall of Jericho. God not only spared her, but gave her a place in the lineage (genealogy) of Christ. She was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth! Talk about redemption! That simple act of putting herself at risk to save the spies who came from God’s people, showed us that her heart was faithful to Jehovah God. He knew her heart and not only spared her miraculously when He brought down the wall of Jericho, but gave her an honored place in the line from which Christ would be born.

So how does it look when one embarks on this journey? For me, it was praying to receive Christ at my mother’s bedside at the age of 7, and then not living a perfect life from that point on. Rather, because I grew up in a legalistic setting, it was a life filled with rules and judging people who played by the rules and those who did not. In retrospect, I became really good at judging people by their merits or sins for standards that were not consistently applied to myself.

There was a saying among the young girls in our church circles that said, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with  boys that do.” Interestingly, in the middle of all this judging and my private life, God had my heart. I always pined for God. I wanted to be like David, a man after God’s own heart. In my private moments, While I wanted to live by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, I didn’t play so well at the stuff like judging and trying to get away with things, for example, smoking. Smoking wasn’t the real issue. The real issue that I had to resolve was this deep seated rebellious heart. The smoking was only a symptom of the rebellious heart. While in many ways I sought God’s counsel on matters of life’s decisions, I was a classic example of a young man committed to being in control and no rules or authority was going to tell me otherwise. To some degree, I was blind to that control or authority issue. Today, my wife calls it a stubborn streak. As has been passed down by the women in our family, they say that I inherited that from my dad. Dad is with Jesus now but he probably would have denied having that stubborn streak, just like me!

Suffice it to say that the word picture I would use is that of an albatross learning to fly or then learning to land. The beginning of my faith walk bore a striking resemblance to these feeble attempts. Check this out. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVmoYVTZTXU)

I hope this doesn’t discourage you from attempting to fly. One parting thought for this leg of the journey. God loved you before your were conceived, at which time, He formed you in your mother’s womb. He knew what would happen with each of your days before one of them came to be. He knew how each day would effect you and guess what? He has a plan for you as a person that will cause you to flourish to be a light and a help to others trying to find their wings. But you must take the step of faith, like Abraham had to take the first step to start the journey. The writer of Hebrews tells us 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.” (11:6)

Until next time …