What is your faith in God based on?

Let me ask you a question. I assume you believe in God. I assume you have faith in Him. But I still need to ask this question. What is your faith in God based on? Is it based on what God does or who God is?

A person with A Faith Based on What God Does lives by the unspoken motto: I believe God as long as He does what I ask. Your faith is built on how often and how well God answers prayers. Such “faith” depends on results and is fueled by sight.

Faith in what God does is your ticket to ride a roller coaster that ascends the hill during times when God’s activity is obvious and then barrels down the hill the moment God seems inactive. The process never stops.

What is wrong with basing your faith on the obvious works of God, on what He’s doing?

What about those times when God does not work according to your requests or expectations? What about those times when He obviously allows your loved one with cancer to glorify Him through restoration in heaven and not on earth? What happens to your faith when a child dies? If your faith is based on what God is doing, you are in for the scariest ride of your life. You are in for a constant up and down, manic depressive relationship with Him.

Genuine Faith is Based on Who God Is and it walks steadfastly with God for the pleasure of His company not for His results. God does not call upon us to seek His works. He calls upon us to seek His heart!

Why is faith based on who God is a faith not greatly moved? Because it focuses on a God who is not greatly moved! It increases our understanding of His ways. Understanding who He is will help us more accurately interpret what He does.

You see, what God appears to be doing changes constantly from our perspective. He may heal one person while He calls the other home. He may be glorified in the poverty of one and the riches of another. He will likely exalt you one year and humble you the next. Our entire lives are lent to change. But who He is will never change. As He reveals Himself to you, He remains the same. In the midst of a society where the only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything, God is your guarantee. His faithfulness flows from who He is. To please Him, our faithfulness must do the same.

Then you may be wondering, “So, Is it wrong to ever expect God to move in an obvious or miraculous way?”

Friend, if you could just comprehend that a faith based on who God is frees Him completely to show us what He can do! It’s all a matter of the focus of our faith. Right motives invite real miracles.

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Light in Darkness

Here’s a statement from the Bible that has a tremendous shock factor, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12) All in favor of living a godly life in Jesus raise your right hand. I see several hands up.  Now, everyone in favor of being persecuted for their faith raise your hands. I don’t see any hands up.

Can I be honest with you? Persecution is coming. You can count on it. It has already started. We are a post Christian nation and Christians are the least tolerated group in America, and it is going to get worse. We live in a dark world. Thirty five hundred unwanted babies are killed daily in America, mostly out of convenience or economy. Is there any surprise that we hear of murder, often mass murders every day? When the disregard for human life begins in the womb it then spreads to all of society. Then there’s the breakdown of marriage and the home with divorce for pretty much any reason or no reason at all. Add to that greed, lying, cheating, rampant sex/promiscuity. Do you understand that one of the strongest deciding issues of the recent election was sex, sexual freedom? “I don’t want anyone to tell me I can’t do whatever I want sexually. Don’t try to take away my sexual freedoms, and on top of that, I want the government to pay for it.” We live in a dark, dark world that is going to get darker and darker at an accelerated rate. And as the world gets darker the opposition to Christ followers will become more intentional and frequent.  

What are we to do? Here’s the bright spot. Where there is darkness the light shines even brighter. The darker the darkness the brighter the light shines. God said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”. 2 Cor 4:6-12

The writer went on to say some things you may very well identify with, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” And it is going to get worse. However, he says, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus.” In other words, we know personally that he died for us and we have accepted his sacrifice for your sins. For what purpose, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” So that his light might shine brighter and brighter through us as the world around us gets the darker and darker.

That is a tall, tall challenge and the only way it will happen in today’s culture and environment is when the world sees us living out how we love each other. They aren’t convinced by words about love. They are captivated by and drawn to the real thing.

We not only live in a very dark world that is getting darker, we live in a very needy world that is getting needier. And I’m not just talking about financially needy, but emotionally, relationally and spiritually as well. And when they see and hear about a church full of people who are unselfishly giving of themselves and their possessions to meet needs it gets their attention. They want to know more. They want to know why. And eventually they want to be part of what God is doing in other people’s lives because they want God to do the same kind of things in their life.

So, we have a powerful setting and opportunity today for the truth, the gospel, to take root in our community, or any community where the church community functions the way God intends for it to. I can’t say it any other way. This is how we are going to pierce the darkness. This is how our light will shine brighter and brighter in a darker and darker world. We are not only looking at a world that is turning farther and farther away from God but the good news is, we are also looking at greater and greater opportunities to impact our world as authentic followers of Jesus.

 

Making the most of the election results– one week later

It’s hard to believe that it was just seven days ago that our nation was shocked by the results of the 2012 presidential election. Few people, who believe in a conservative, moral, principled approach to life and government expected our county to choose the direction it did. But she did. Shocked may even be an understatement for what many, many people felt.

Since then, there has been an endless stream of commentaries, articles, interviews, posts, tweets and discussions in an attempt to determine exactly what happened and why the election turned out the way it did. Processing has been on overload for a solid week now.

For me, I have intentionally avoided the temptation to try and understand all the reasoning behind the results. Though, I must admit, I have given into the temptation a time or two. For me it has been more a thought process of, now that we have this “result” what do we do with it. How do we respond? How do we react? How do we go on from here and move forward?

I have come to the conclusion that for a follower of Jesus the answer is really the same no matter who ended up as the election winner. I believe our future direction is really not determined by who occupies the White House. It is determined by the God we serve. So this is how it all shakes down for me. This is my game plan for dealing with the results of this election and the next and next and next.

Pray Unceasingly: The first and foremost action is to saturate my life with prayer. I intend on declaring my absolute dependence on God every day, not politicians, programs or pundits. I will seek Him for my wisdom and direction as well as security. In His Word I will find my instructions for life decisions. When worry threatens me I will cry out to the Lord. When life is going well still I will cry out to the Lord.

Trust Completely: since I am going to turn to God at all times I am going to trust that He will hear and answer my prayers. Sometimes I find it hard to believe some of the things I see as being His answers, but I will trust that it is because He is God and I am not. For example, on the night before election day I claimed and posted the words of Paul in Gal 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” believing that it was time for a change at the top. Since then I have come to believe that God just might have answered that prayer by not making a change. In so doing, He might be saying to our President, “You are mostly responsible for creating this mess, now you have to deal with it. I’m not letting you off the hook.” I am trusting that God’s ways are much better than mine.

Serve Diligently: people are still hurting, needs are still everywhere, emotional issues still need a caring ear and arms, physical crisis still happen and I can have a real and lasting part in meeting some of them. Jesus, our courageous leader, came to this earth to serve, not be served. He calls me to the same and it doesn’t matter which political party is in the majority, I will still be devoted to serving the needs of others.

Love Unconditionally: this is a tough one especially when you are highly disturbed with the direction of our country and you just don’t want to extend love, especially to certain people. But I am reminded that is what love is. Love is doing what is best for others even when you don’t feel like it. Love is allowing your obedience to direct you rather than your feelings. That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. Did he want to die such a cruel and painful death? No! He actually asked God if he had another way, but did what was necessary, in spite of His feelings to the contrary. I am going to resist allowing my feelings to dictate my actions and instead be obedience motivated.

Plan Accordingly: learn a lesson from the ant. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Prov 6:6,8 The ant, as small and insignificant as it seems to be, is wise enough to plan for the future. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made it to ignore the inevitable.

Life as we know it will not continue over the next few years and perhaps never again in America. Almost everything will cost you more. The projection is that fuel costs will rise 20-40% over the next four years along with everything else that depends on fuel. You will see changes in the health care field that will challenge your faith and patience. Plan accordingly.

I do not intend on looking back in four years and asking, “What happened?” I know, to a large extent, what is going to happen and am planning accordingly. For example, as a result of the redistribution of wealth plan, from the top down in government,  and the cost of everything going up, my wife and I are seriously looking at downsizing our house. We are planning accordingly by developing and implementing a strategy that best fits us.

Shine Brightly: believe it or not, with all the disappointing news that we anticipate in the future we have been handed an unprecedented opportunity, as followers of Jesus, to shine brightly. We live in a dark, dark world that is going to get darker and darker at an accelerated rate.

But here’s the silver lining or the bright spot, where there is darkness the light shines even brighter. In fact, the darker the darkness the brighter the light shines. God said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (2 Cor 4:6-10) Our call, as well as mandate, is to shine brightly in the midst of all the darkness.

The passage in 2 Corinthians goes on to describe what seems to be our day, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Be sure, it is going to get worse, however, no matter how dark it gets, light always penetrates darkness with amazing results.

So you say, “How can this be in our culture when the future seems to be so hopeless?” The answer is, by praying unceasingly, trusting completely, serving diligently, loving unconditionally, and planning accordingly. Then, and only then, will we shine brightly. Don’t wait for another four years in hopes that things will get better. They might not. Seize the moment now.

 

Remember what matters most!

Is there any better time than right now to go back and pray the prayer of David? “God remind me what’s important in life.  Help me remember what matters most.”  Help me to focus on the things that really count.  When I focus on what really counts I begin to worry less about the things that are bad in this world and are out of my control.  We need to pray what David prayed in Psalm 39 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.”  And in Psalm 90 “Teach us to make the most of our time.”

Right now let’s be reminded of the most important truth in life. When we do, all the disappointments in life begin to diminish in magnitude. This is not a new truth. Everything I am going to say, you probably already know. But if you would take this truth and write it on a card and place it where it is a regular reminder to you it will keep your focus and energy where it needs to be most.  Put it on your refrigerator, put it on your dashboard in your car, put it up on the mirror in your bedroom, computer screen – look at it over and over and over.  If you will follow, if you will apply, if you will practice this truth you’ll have a healthier life.  You’ll have a happier family.  You’ll have a more productive business.  There will be far fewer divorces and separations in our culture if we will just listen to what God has said. And the political climate and results will begin to hold less and less sway in our hearts.

So here it is, the best use of life is love

1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Let love be your highest goal.”  Make it your number one priority.  Make it your primary objective.  Make it your greatest ambition.  Make it your life purpose.  Don’t put it in your Top Ten.  Don’t say, “One of the things I want in life is loving relationships.”  Make it number one!

Why does God say it’s all about love?  Why does God say to make it your highest goal?  Two reasons:

       1.  God says love is what life is all about.  1 Corinthians 13:3 in the Message paraphrase ”No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”  Who wants to be a millionaire?  You can have a million dollars but if you don’t have love God says you’re bankrupt.  It is amazing to me that too often we act like loving relationships are something we have to squeeze into our schedule, that we have to find time for quality time, that we have to make time for people in our lives.  That we have to just fit them into our lives as if loving relationships are an important part but just another important part along with many other things.  Wrong!  God doesn’t say that relationships are a part of your life.  God doesn’t say that loving relationships are an important part of your life.  God says loving relationships are your life.  That’s what life is all about.  It’s all about love.

One day a guy comes to Jesus and says, “I need Cliff Notes on the Bible.  Summarize the Bible for me.”  Jesus says, “Here it is.  Love God and love other people.  That’s it”.  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”  In a word, Jesus is saying the point of life is “relationships”.  It’s not about achievement.  It’s not about the acquisition of things.  It’s about relationships.  It’s not about elections and voting. If you miss that you miss the point of life.  That’s the bottom line.  What matters most is loving relationships. 

If that’s true, why do we always allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick?  When we get misfocused and overloaded we start skimming relationally.  We fulfill all kinds of other commitments but we cut back on time with those we love.  We don’t give our relationships the time, the energy and the attention they deserve because we’re too busy with what we think are more important pressing matters.

Why do we do that?  Because we get busy.  Because we get preoccupied.  Because we get distracted with less important things.  We focus on the urgent rather than on the important and I hope you know the difference.  Not everything that’s urgent in your life is important in your life.  As a result we spend all of our time focusing on making a living, getting the job done, finishing the work, paying the bills, making progress, accomplishing the goal as if that’s the point of life.  It is not.  The point of life, God says, is love.  The point of life, God says, is relationship. 

2.  The other reason that God says you need to focus on it is it’s all that’s going to last.  The only thing that’s going to last in your life is love.  Everything else is eventually going to burn up.  It’s going to decay, fall apart.  1 Corinthians 13:13 ”There are three things that will endure: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”  If I were to ask you, “How many of you want to leave a legacy after you die?”   You’d all agree.  “How many of you want to make a difference with your life?”  You’d all say yes.  “How many of you would like to make a positive influence on this world that outlasts you?”  You’re all on board with that.

God has shown us how to leave a lasting legacy.  God has shown us how to make an enduring impression.  Fill your life with love.  He says “Faith, hope and love.  These are the things that will endure and the greatest of these is love.”  He’s saying love, not work, not wealth, not elected candidates is the key to a lasting legacy.  It’s love. 

We think it’s our achievements people are going to remember.  I hate to tell you this but nobody’s going to remember your achievements.  Five years from today nobody’s going to care what you’ve achieved.  Every trophy or award you’ve ever earned is eventually going to be trashed.  Remember all those trophies you got in Little League or Drama Club, Speech Club, bowling trophies.  They’re all going to be trashed, all your trophies.  You don’t have any of your grandparents’ trophies.  Why would you want to keep those?  You couldn’t care less about them.  People don’t really care about your accomplishments.  We know this.  We just forget it. 

We know this by watching people when they’re dying.  In watching people of the closing moments of their life when they stand on the edge of eternity, they’re evaluating their life; you never hear of a single person saying, “Bring me my diplomas!  I want to look at them one more time…Get me that gold watch I got for twenty-five years of service!  Show me my awards.  Show me my medals.”  Nobody asks to be brought trophies because we don’t surround our lives with objects when our life is ending.  What do we want around us when our life is ending?  People!  People who love us.  People who have a relationship with us. 

Here’s the point: You are eventually going to figure out in your final seconds that what matters are relationships.  Why don’t you figure it out sooner?  Why wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that things don’t matter.  Elections don’t matter in eternity. That the only thing that matters is relationships.  Nothing can take the place of loving relationships.  Fame can’t.  Wealth can’t.  Success can’t.  Success without love is empty, hollow, depressing.  Life is not about achievement and it’s not about accomplishment.  It’s about relationships.  When you get to heaven God is not going to say, “Now what was your career?  What did you accomplish in it? “ God is not going to say, “Can I see your bank balance and how much you’ve got in your portfolio.”  God is not going to say, “By the way, what about the hobbies that you enjoyed while I put you down on earth?”  He is not going to say, “What is that great cause you supported?”

What He’s going to say is, “How did you treat other people when you were here on earth?”   

I suggest that from this day forward for the rest of your life when you wake up in the morning, you set down on the edge of the bed and before you get off that bed you pray this prayer, “God, whether I get anything else done today and I may not get anything else done, but if all I accomplish today is I spend some time with You and with others, I want to make sure today I spend some time loving You and loving other people,” because that’s what life is all about.  If you miss that you have missed the point of life, and that day is a failure, that day is a waste. 

The greatest use of life is not achievement.  It’s love.  The problem is we get busy and stressed out and so into things that don’t last and we forget what we intuitively know.

So what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to change?  Or are you going to stand before God one day and explain why things were more important than people?  What excuse are you going to give for not putting first things first in your life?  Who do you need to start spending more time with?  Who do you need to reach out to? What do you need to cut out of your schedule?  What financial sacrifice do you need to make for things that really count? 

(Adapted from a message by Rick Warren)