Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

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Book Review: Make Your Voice Heard In Heaven

978-1-4964-2949-0

 

“It’s important to remember that we do not always receive what we ask for when we pray. . .God knows what is best for our lives. Even when he doesn’t grant our requests, he is nonetheless working all things together for good.”  -Barry C. Black

Using the Bible as his resource, US Senate chaplain Barry Black takes us on a God-directed pathway to the need and reason for prayer. Reminding us again and again, prayer for Christians is not only good it is essential; not only for the prayer but for the entire Body of Christ.

Not resorting to flowery phrases to captivate and fill with false hope, Black writes to-the-point, using hundreds of Bible verses to verify his thoughts and directions. He wants all believers to understand how important prayer is for our lives and the lives of those whom we are lifting up to God.

If, like me, you have struggled with how to pray and in what manner, this book will bring relief and understanding. God created us and He wants us to talk to him. According to Chaplain Black, prayer is a God-ordained method of talking with God.

Tyndale Publishers gave me a free copy of this book for an unbiased review.

 

We Don’t Have To Be Afraid

 

“Perfect love drives out fear” ~1 John 4:18

After the waitress poured their second cup of coffee, Walt said, “OK, Roger, what’s going on? Clearly something is heavy on your mind this morning. We’ve known each other for a long time, my friend, so spill the beans. Maybe I can help like you’ve helped me so many times.”

        It was a wintry morning and Roger held his cup with both hands, concentrating on the wisps of steam arising, hoping his friend could help him overcome his strong emotions. Fear gripped him!

        “I’ve been meaning to find ways of selling stories and photos because we need more income but…I’ve opened the door to uncertainty which always brings along its friend, fear. Once fear and uncertainty settle in, I become paralyzed.”

        “You, filled with fear? That is a surprise, Roger. You are the go-to guy whenever I have spiritual battles so I would never think of you struggling with fear and doubt. I am so sorry I’ve been so casual about your possible needs and struggles.”

        “Oh, I understand the feeling, Walt. I once had a spiritual mentor who seemed to always be on his game no matter how dire the problem until one day he shared, like I am doing now, his struggles with me. It was then I realized how little I’d been praying for him. He said something I have never forgotten which I’ll share with you. As he was describing his battles with the flesh and satan, he said, ‘Roger, don’t ever stop praying for me. You must realize how important your prayers are to me and to God. He commands us to pray for each other.’”

        “Forgive me, my friend. Let me begin with praying 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

        Right there, in that restaurant booth, fear was driven out as God’s love shattered its stronghold in Roger’s life. Just like athletes willingly force their bodies to come under subjection through rigorous and repetitive training routines, our lives can be free of fear, anger, lust, greed, hate through faith coupled with fervent prayer. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  ~James 5:16

Isaiah 41.13  I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27.1  You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62.2  God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91.1-2  Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4  The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8.38-39  I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25.8-9  The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. . .At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped –now our God is here.”

Psalm 145.13-14  Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Psalm 16.5-9  You, LORD, are all I want!  You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.

The following 1933 inaugural address by Franklin D. Roosevelt points to Biblical truth:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

If My People Will Pray

 

 

 

The religion of the founding fathers is notoriously difficult to pin down, but their written records offer many insights. For example, when the Continental Congress met for the first time, in September 1774, John Adams described in a letter to his wife a remarkably familiar religious atmosphere:

“When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments—some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists—that we could not join in the same act of worship.

“Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia but had heard that Dr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress tomorrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative. … “

In this case, unlike many others in history, conflict apparently ended with the selection of a spiritual spokesman. Adams continues:

“Accordingly next morning he appeared with his clerk and his pontificals [vestments], and read the Psalter for the seventh day of September, which was the 85th Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston. I never saw greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporaneous prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present:

“‘Be Thou present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the counsel of this honorable assembly. Enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed, that order, harmony, and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish among the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our Savior, Amen.’

“Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. … They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered].

“And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for divine interposition. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia.”

If My People Will Pray

ChristianHistory.net­­­

 

How Fickle

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in every thing He might be preeminent. ~ Col. 1:18

Father, do I live in the deeply rooted knowledge that You control everything? In this verse are a few of Your true characteristics, the very fibers of Your being: You are the beginning, the conqueror of death, You exist in everything, and nothing is outside of You. I place my hope and trust in all manner of fickle things such as medicine, science, money, and myself.

Lord, there is nothing on this earth that protects me but You. If You reign over all things and have set a course for my life, then You are my sole protector and protector of my soul. Lord, help me turn to You with the “little” things: What present should I give a friend or loved on? Should I volunteer for that event? Is it right to stay late and get ahead of my work? All these decisions I take into my own hands because they seem so insignificant, yet You purchased my life with Yours; therefore, nothing is insignificant to You.

Father, reveal to me the fickle things that I place trust in and help me turn to You with my “little” prayers and questions. When storms arise, the little moments and short trials secure my trust in You. Thank You that You are steadfast. Thank You that You are not fickle and You cannot deny Your holiness and justice, or compassion. Amen.  ~Prayers for an Anxious Heart

Is That What It Means?

 

“They searched the Scriptures day after day” ~Acts 17:11

The church building committee were filling their cups with coffee or tea, considering which donuts would be the least calorie-laden and sharing bits and pieces of the latest events in their lives as they settled in for another round of talks.

Twenty minutes later, after grappling with a mountain of issues that stood in the way of adding the education wing to the church, one of the elders said, “Listen folks, I think we’re missing the point here. We’ve got plenty of skilled people in this group and between us, we can find the solutions. After all,” he grinned, “God helps those who help themselves!”

That seemed to lighten the mood until another voice was heard. “God helps those who help themselves?,” Darrell repeated. “Where in the Bible can I find those verses?” His question was followed by silence and shrugging shoulders.

“Allow me to answer my own question, you cannot find any such statement in the Bible. Actually, just the opposite is true, God helps the helpless. Romans 5:6 tells us, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Since we are struggling for answers about adding on to our church building, I think God would be more apt to reveal His will to us if we spent more time praying and less time trying to make things work according to our will.”

Although this is a fictional example, how many times have we repeated incorrect meanings to Bible verses? What is the context of a verse we quote and will it bear up under scrutiny? The following verse is a good example:

1 Corinthians 2:9 ~“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

“This verse is commonly interpreted to refer to the glories of heaven, and once we get that meaning into our minds, it is difficult to dislodge it and accept any other meaning. But Paul is really speaking here about the truths that have been revealed for the first time in the NT. Men could never have arrived at these truths through scientific investigations or philosophical inquiries. The human mind, left to itself, could never discover the wonderful mysteries which were made known at the beginning of the gospel era. Human reason is totally inadequate to find the truth of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10 ~”That verse 9 does not refer to heaven is proven by the statement in verse 10, God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. In other words, these truths foretold in the OT were made known to the apostles of the NT era. The us refers to the writers of the NT. It was by the Spirit of God that the apostles and prophets were enlightened, because (in the second sentence of verse 10) the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. ~Believer’s Bible Commentary; William Macdonald

Just as God directs our daily lives with His Holy Spirit, He also reveals the hidden wisdom in the Bible. To be like the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11 who examined the Scriptures daily to see if what they heard was true, we must ask God for wisdom, according to James 1:5-8. The next time we are tempted to pass along a snippet of Bible verse, let’s take a moment to research the context of the verse or verses and ask God for the true meaning.

Church Elders

Who are church elders? – June 2, 2016

My wife and I were new to the area and looking for a church. We happened on one of medium size and lots of friendly people at first glance. After a few weeks, we were having lunch with one of the established couples. They were sharing the many attributes of their church including the fact they had Elder Couples! I was mid-drink but maintained my composure.

“Perhaps you can explain to us what an Elder Couple is, folks,” I asked, very curious.

“Well, it’s simple,” the wife said. “Instead of just men taking the positions of elders, in our church we select married couples as elders. That way the women can minister to women and men with men. You have probably noticed that after the service, the couples wait up front for counseling and prayer.”
“What brought this about?” I asked.

“We like to think of our church as a forward thinking, non-discriminatory church,” the husband replied. “I’m sure you agree that many churches don’t allow women many opportunities to reveal their gifts during the services. Our wives got together and thought of the idea. Then they asked for a special meeting with the Pastor and elders. At first the men balked,” he grinned sheepishly but as the women stood their ground we ultimately gave in their reasoning. I’ve got to say Pastor Bob held out to the last before he finally caved.”

“Oh Bill, you make it sound like we beat you guys up to get our way,” Susie said, rubbing Bill’s hand on the table. Bill reddened and fumbled with his silverware.

My wife looked at me with that special look husbands and wives have. This look said, “You know you have to address this issue.” So I did.

I finished my coffee and then said to Bill and Susie, “Do you both believe that the Bible is the absolute word of God?”

“Absolutely,” they replied together.

“Then how can you agree to change the Bible to go along with your church’s plans? The Bible says nothing about elder couples. Quite the contrary, the instructions say, Elder, singular. And that “he” is assigned specific duties. Let’s read an example in 1 Timothy 3:1-7

“It is a true statement that anyone whose goal is to serve as an elder has his heart set on a good work. An elder must be such a good man that no one can rightly criticize him. He must be faithful to his wife. He must have self-control and be wise. He must be respected by others. He must be ready to help people by welcoming them into his home. He must be a good teacher. He must not drink too much, and he must not be someone who likes to fight. He must be gentle and peaceful. He must not be someone who loves money. He must be a good leader of his own family. This means that his children obey him with full respect. If a man does not know how to lead his own family, he will not be able to take care of God’s church.

An elder must not be a new believer. It might make him too proud of himself. Then he would be condemned for his pride the same as the devil was. An elder must also have the respect of people who are not part of the church. Then he will not be criticized by others and be caught in the devil’s trap.”

The silence was palpable. Bill and Susie wished the ground would open up and swallow them. “Uh, well. . .” Bill muttered.

“Listen folks, we have to go now so you two can think this over together and look up the verses in the Bible to satisfy yourselves what God says regarding this issue. Whether or not your church chooses to grapple with this deviation is up to them. As for me and my wife, we will not return to your church. We find it rather scary to see how easily your leaders twisted God’s Word to satisfy a few people. Thanks for lunch.