Stop and Consider

October 9, 2019

She [Sarah] considered that the One who had promised was faithful. Hebrews 11:11b

Sarah, facing impossible probabilities for childbearing, stopped to consider the One who had made her the promise of a child.  That’s a good and needed practice for any of us who wilt with doubt when we see no evidence of God’s promises being fulfilled.

What does it mean to consider God?  I consider Him like I might consider anyone who gives me their word about something important.  I ask questions.  “How trustworthy have then been in the past?  Have they ever broken their word?  Do they have character traits that would lead me to doubt their promises?  How have they been intentional to love me well in the past?”

When it comes to my spiritual life, this exercise is imperative where God and I are concerned.  He makes promises that aren’t always realized immediately.  In fact, most are not.  They require faith.  So, I stop to consider and then I remember his track record.  I read other’s accounts of His trustworthiness.  I ask older saints if God has ever broken His word.  I review His character traits and ask myself if someone like Him should be trusted 100% of the time.  And finally, I review how He showed His love for me on a hill outside Jerusalem.  He gave what was most expensive to make me His ~ the life of His perfect Son.

I’m convinced that sometimes faith is weak because we simply don’t know enough about God.  Imagine if the angel had come, not to Mary, but to some other young teenage girl who did not know God at all.  Would the Magnificat ever have come from her lips?  She would have had nothing to say of much theological magnitude; no theology was tucked away from learning and experience.

If I’m weak in faith, shaky on promises, the fix is a daily IV drip of Living Water.  Cumulatively, the effect is huge.  A mind washed with the water of the Word does not even think of doubting God.  It has been transformed into an entity shaped by divine power.  It, by default through years of training and submission, breathes faith.

I consider You where faith is weak and the evidence for trust is ironclad.  Amen

Why Is She In There?

October 8, 2019

By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.  Hebrews 11:11

Our sinful nature encourages us to be unkind and judgmental.  I can be that toward Sarah.  I’ve wondered over the years why she was in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.  Was she really a giant of the faith?  When God told Abraham, within earshot of his wife, that she would conceive at 90 years of age, she laughed to herself and then denied that she did it.  Not only that, but after ten years of waiting for God to fulfill His promise, she took matters into her own hands and helped God out by having Abraham sleep with her maid.  Ishmael was the result.  So how can God see her as a woman of faith?

Just the way he sees me, and sees you, sin, then obey, sin, then obey.  Does he see our less than sterling moments?  Yes.  Does he hear our spoken doubts, even cynical distrust that we mutter under our breath?  Yes.  Do we take matters into our own hands to shorten the time in God’s waiting room in order to ease our unbelief?  Yes.  Yet, God does not judge us in the end by our moments of weakness.  What matters is how we viewed our sin and whether we repented to make course corrections.  His mercies are new every morning.

Sarah did laugh again – but this time, at the birth of Isaac and in celebration of God’s power.  This last laughter was one of joy that God had done the miraculous for her.  She went public with it too, erasing any notion that her distrust of God had become permanent and turned her into a sour skeptic.  She was no curmudgeon.  She laughed like a child over God’s goodness.

None of us want to be judged by our worst moments.  None of us should judge Sarah because of a few unattractive moments of faithlessness.  God doesn’t.  When He reviewed her life, He saw faith.  So much so, that among all those in biblical history who exemplified faith in astounding ways, Sarah was divinely chosen to be remembered in this lineup of heroes.

Are you wincing over my past mistakes?  Have you defined me by my sin?  I know better.  If I’ve repented, my sins are behind your back, out of sight.  Let me hear your joyful laughter over my life.  Amen

Conceiving The Impossible

October 7, 2019

By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.  Hebrews 11:11

Sarah was enabled by God to conceive what was humanly impossible.  She was past childbearing age as no one has conceived a child in their 90’s.  Physically, she was incapable of fulfilling the promise God made to she and Abram without divine intervention.

Whether physical or spiritual, we are each called to do something outside of our ability to produce it. I’m convinced that few ever discover and engage with their God-sized callings.  As a timid person, I didn’t either until my late 40’s.  What do we do instead?  We play around with natural giftedness, maybe even discover our spiritual gifts, but then set out to use them with very good intentions.

But here’s the problem.  If I’m able to step into a spiritual role and believe that it will achieve the spiritual results God intended – based merely on my personal skills – I am sorely mistaken.  Though my gifts may be large, even admired by others, and though it might appear that I’ve succeeded from man’s viewpoint, I will have achieved nothing supernatural without an empowerment from heaven.  There is no fruit without the Spirit, no harvest without showers from on high.

How can I know if my kingdom work is going to be kingdom effective?  If I fainted at the call.  If, immediately, I knew I was in over my head.  If I felt inadequate and cried out to God to help me do it with His Spirit and His strength.  When someone asks a person to take on a ministry opportunity, they will often say, “Please do it.  You’d be so good at it.”  No one has any right to ask another person to sign up for kingdom work without praying about it first!  And no one has any right to agree to the request without praying about it first!  How much kingdom work is being done in the flesh!  The most dangerous obstacle for any believer is natural giftedness.

The stories of spiritual exploits in scripture have the same things in common; They heard a call.  They stepped out by faith.  They cried out to God for help.   Without any one of these, of what value are the results!

Jesus said, “He who believes in me, from His innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38  ‘Innermost being’ is the phrase for womb.  Each of us is to birth something for eternity that will produce living water.  It begins with divine conception and the obedience of faith.

Forgive me for the times I’ve engaged in ministry like it was busy work.  Amen

When Evidence Begs To Disqualify The Promise

October 4, 2019

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.  Hebrews 11:8

Oh, what faith it took for Abraham to leave the land of Ur to follow God.  Oh, what faith it took for him to embrace Yahweh and forsake the gods of his family.  Daily, what faith it took to sojourn through foreign territory with all the resistance he encountered.  And, what faith it took to believe that he would father a son in his old age.  All of these were steep tests. 

But the greatest, at least to me, was that when he reached the land of promise and it was already inhabited by other people, he stayed to live as a foreigner. He still believed God even though he adjusted to the fact that his time of tent dwelling was not over.  He had to be sick of it.  He’d done it throughout his long journey.  He’d remained true to God and kept himself from calling anyplace home.  He’d kept his family nomadic so that when God spoke, they could move on to their stopping place.  Did he promise his family that when they reached the land God promised, they would leave their tents and build houses?  Probably so.   

It would be like God leading me to move to Finland, promising me a particular home once I moved, but after arriving there I discover that the house is occupied and not even for sale.  The people who live there have no intention of selling and they are hostile when I inquire. 

Was this not what happened to the children of Israel hundreds of years later when they reached the perimeter of the promised land under Joshua?  It was not vacant, just waiting for them.  The Canaanites had no intention of giving it up without a fight.  To make the faith test even greater, the inhabitants were giants and, humanly speaking, no match for God’s people. 

When God makes a promise, one I am to embrace by faith, I can count on the fact that there will be many realities within my field of vision that beg to disprove it.  The fulfillment is rarely instant.  Dave Wilkerson called it ‘the death of a vision’.  God calls, I listen, there are confirmations, but when I set out by faith, all evidence disappears that I am on the right path.  I begin to think I heard wrongly.  This is the journey of faith.  I’m not the first to fear that God led me astray. I won’t be the last to have the foundations of my faith shaken.  So what comprises a man or woman of faith?  It is not that they ever fail to ever doubt but whether or not they obey in spite of their trembling. 

In this chapter, Abraham is remembered because when he was called, he obeyed.  By faith, he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise.  By faith, he continued to live in tents instead of fleeing in disbelief. 

Today, I steady the course when the enemy comes accusing Your character.  Amen

When The Faith Of One Grates Against Another

October 3, 2019

By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  Hebrews 11:7b

How was the world condemned through Noah’s faith?  Through his daily activity of building the ark.  Condemnation came on all those who watched, because ~

  • God spoke to Noah about coming judgement.
  • Noah believed and proved it by spending his life building the ark.
  • Noah spoke to the people about the coming judgement.
  • They did not believe, and it was their unbelief that condemned them.

So the faith of one can condemn the unbelief of the other.  People who walk in darkness can never say that they didn’t know. 

Oh, how two married people, a person of faith and an unbeliever, grate against one another! 

  • The one with peace during a trial is trying to co-habit with the one who is undone by how much is wrong.
  • The one with faith in the unseen God is trying to co-habit with the other’s logic and unbelief.
  • The one who is angry about injustice is trying to co-habit with the one who trusts God to rule righteously.    
  • The one who tries to take her children to church by herself is trying co-habit with the one who believes she is pushing religion down their throat.

By faith, Noah condemned the world.  His obedience alone did it.  And we experience the same sparks today when we live by faith.  The greater the unbelief, the more sparks there will be when we are in their company.  Jesus told us it would be this way.  “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.”  John 3:19

How often have Your children been called judgmental?  And many never opened their mouths.  Give us the grace to obey, by faith, knowing such combustible results.  Amen

A Preposterous Warning

October 2, 2019

By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family.  Hebrews 11:7

How many warnings does scripture give a believer about the fallout of sin?  So many!  ‘If you do this, then this will be the outcome.’  Yet, despite their familiarity to me, I have chosen to sin anyway.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe God, it was just that I lacked godly fear and respect. 

Imagine how steep the curve of faith was for Noah about God’s warning of a coming flood.  All he knew was an evil world.  All he knew was that the evil he witnessed seemed to go unchecked.  All he knew was a world without rain.  All he knew was that God’s judgement was under a restraint.  To hear that a judgement would come on the whole earth had to be a stretch in and of itself.  Then to hear that it would come in the form of water and a flood ~ that was an even bigger stretch.  What motivated Noah to believe such a tall tale?  Godly fear. 

“Where is God in a world of suffering?” is a question posed to Christians all the time.  We struggle to answer and know that, for many, it is a rabbit trail to keep them from considering their need for a Savior.  But it is also the cry of those under the burden of a fallen world; those who wonder how they will make it one more day.  The delay of God’s intervention can erode godly fear of His power and kingship.

God’s inactivity didn’t erase the urgency of Noah’s labor so it is no wonder that he is in this lineup of faith!

How does this impact me?  First, I take my sin seriously because it does have, and will have, the outcomes about which God warns.  Secondly, I am not lulled into complacency about the promise of Jesus’ return and the need to tell the lost about their end.  Their future is their coming flood and I should never take for granted that I am already inside my Ark of safety, Jesus.  He longs for people to know, to believe, and to be saved.  My heart should beat like his. 

Just as it started raining one day in Noah’s time, the trumpet will sound and You will appear in the clouds.  Increase my godly fear that results in urgent obedience.  Amen

Where Is God In This?

October 1, 2019

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.  Hebrews 1:6

Does this statement seem a bit redundant to you?  “The one who draws near to God must believe that He exists.”  I’ve been thinking about this for days now and asking God about this scripture. 

For me ~ this is how the Holy Spirit personalized it. 

With faith, which is believing that God will do the impossible, I move toward God and believe that He exists in my situation. 

Without faith, which is not believe that God will do the impossible, I move away from God and believing that God doesn’t exist, or is irrelevant, in my situation. 

The kindest thing we can ask each other is ~ “Where is God in this?”  It forces us to consider why we have gone to a place of despair and called something hopeless.  Is God no longer alive?  Is God suddenly someone who has broken His promises?  Does God no longer love me?  Will God no longer be a faithful Father?  Though we might never voice such admissions, lamenting utter despair voices them for us. 

What is it that sends you to a desperate place today?  Let me take your hands in mine, look into your face, and then ask you, “Where is God in this?”  It’s a loaded question even though a simple one.  It’s good for me to ask you to affirm, yet again, who God is and what He says He will do. 

Is this a guarantee that He will answer my prayer in just the way I’m praying He will answer?  The hard truth is ‘no’.  He might not – but then again, He might.  So where is my hope in this uncertainty?  That no matter the outcome, He promises many things regardless.  Companionship, peace in the uncertainty, joy in the sorrow, and complete restoration of what I’ve lost in the end.  Someday, you and I will get it ALL back and more.  Nothing is really lost – just deferred with interest. 

I stretch out my faith, I draw near, and I declare that ‘You are in this’.  Amen