What Was I Thinking?

 

Do you ever have to change your thinking about something because new information about it causes you to reconsider? This kind of thing happens to me often.

Recently, I contacted a yard treatment company for an additional application for my yard. The price for the work seemed much higher than the quote I was given a few weeks earlier. I texted them back and told them the original quote on the work was $70.00, not the $100.00 they quoted. Let’s stop right here for a moment and see how the new information affected me. How do you respond when the information you receive is counter to what you have been thinking is correct?

Trustworthiness is the first thing I look for in a company. Some bad experiences have caused my unconscious thinking to be a bit skeptical until I believe I can trust what I am told by the company. Thus far, the work by this group had been very acceptable, but this new quote raised a suspicion that I might be getting ‘bamboozled.”

Then, I did something I should have done before responding to the quote. I went to my notes on our initial conversation to verify that I was correct. What I discovered was that I had conflated different parts of our discussion. My thinking was wrong and I acted on wrong thinking. There it was in my notes; the cost for the application was $120.00, not the $100.00 they quoted.  

What did they think about me? Did they think I was trying to get a better price? A cheap person trying to cheat them?  Well, I wrote a quick text apologizing for my misunderstanding and told them I would be getting back to them concerning the work.         

You probably have stories of how you were on one side of a situation where you or the other person were acting from wrong information. How did the issue get resolved? Or, did it ever get resolved? How did your feelings change once you got better information?

What am I getting at with this story? I want you to consider how the truth underlying my simple story can have profound effects on the most important relationships in your life. The truth is: your thinking will determine the way you act toward God, your spouse, your children, etc.. Actions follow thinking. I will attempt to share more specifics about this in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, consider how this idea is working in different areas of your life.

Since the way we think is so crucial in how we act, let me offer a few pieces of advice for all of us.

  1. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19.
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  3. Consider the possibility you don’t have all the facts.
  4. 4.Hold yourself accountable for how you think and how you act.

Who Are You Trying to Please?

I believe we are in a cultural war that will determine the future of our country. Forces of hell are working to change the very nature of our society in several different ways. Evil is behind this effort in high places in government, schools, powerful corporations, and many media outlets to replace the Christian principles that undergird our constitution and way of life. They are inciting hate and division which can ultimately destroy us. Those who participate in these activities have a plan based on lies and use intimidation, and often shut down or attempt to cancel the message of those who oppose them.

These entities make the rules about what you are supposed to believe and the words you can use in your opinions. They are right, and if you oppose their “superior” way of thinking, you are called a racist, homophobe, or some other derogatory name. To avoid being canceled or suffer their wrath, you must agree with their lies, as many are doing. At the very least, you must be silent and let things happen as they will.

Don’t get me wrong; our country isn’t perfect. There are lots of areas where change is needed. We have gone through some dark and challenging times, but we have made considerable progress in race relations and many other areas. I believe the “systemic race issue” is a pretext, a smokescreen to divide our country and fundamentally change us into a socialist nation. Power is what this is all about.

So, as a person of faith, a follower of Jesus, what can I do? There are several things for us to consider. First, remember who you are and Who it is you are to please. We belong to God, and we do not bow the knee to anyone but Him.

Also, remember that evil is always trying to defeat good. Genesis 4: 1-8 recounts how the jealous, angry Cain killed his brother, Abel. The difference in their gifts was not in the substance (animal vs. fruit) but their attitude toward their Creator. Abel honored and pleased God with the best he had, while Cain’s gift fell short of what God deserved. Don’t be surprised that evil is showing its ugly face in our society in unprecedented ways.

Third, we need to stay aware of the issues and be faithful, like Abel, to give our best to God every day. Live your faith and become active where you can to lovingly oppose the evil you see. You can learn about issues such as “critical Race Theory” at www.hillsdale.edu.

And pray against the evil. Prayer is a subversive activity against evil schemes and the schemers of this world. Prayer is a powerful way to fight the devil and those who have joined him to destroy all that is good about our country.  Pray against the evil and for the souls of those who perpetrate it. Love your enemies by praying for them.

Who are you trying to please? If you are a believer, you are in a fight whether you want to be or not. It’s time for all of us to wake up and do what Paul says in Ephesians 6: 10-18, “ Put on the whole armor of  God……”  Take a couple of minutes to read this passage for yourself.

Where’s the Evidence?

Many years ago there was a question being asked from pulpits and in Christian writings that went something like this, “If you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Today, Christians are being persecuted in many different parts of the world. And, the way things seem to be trending in our country, the idea that you and I could be put on trial for our faith in Christ may not be far-fetched

What if you were arrested today for your faith? Would there be enough indisputable facts, witnesses for the prosecutor to convict you as a follower of Jesus? What do you think your accuser would look for as evidence against you? What would be the conclusive proof, that one thing that would leave no doubt in the jury’s collective mind?

What if John, a neighbor or family member, is called as a witness concerning your faith? Imagine the prosecution’s line of questions: “Does ( put your name here) profess to be a follower of Jesus, a Christian?” “Yes,” John answers.

“Does (      ) attend and support a local church?” Again John answers, “Yes.”

“Does (        ) pray and read the Bible?” “I have reason to believe they do.”

“Why do you believe they do?” “Because (            ) has told me they pray for me and my family. And, they talk with me from time to time about things in the Bible.”

After hearing these things, the prosecutor presses for John’s conclusion to convict you as a Christian, “So, on this evidence that (           ) claims to be a Christian, attends and supports a church, prays and reads the Bible, that you believe he is a follower of Jesus?”

“No,” John answers, “There is something more that has convinced me.”

The startled prosecutor continues, “More, what do you mean?”

“(               “ is the most caring and consistently good person I have ever known. (              ) has dealt with lots of stress and loss but it hasn’t changed their basic approach to life. I believe this is true because (            ) has a personal relationship with God. I don’t know any other way to explain it.

The prosecutor says, “John, I have one other question for you. Are you a Christian?”

“No, I am not. But, if I were, I would want to be one like (            ).

Conclusion      

Do you love Jesus? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? “By this all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Where is the evidence? It is in the way we live in relation to the truth in these verses. The life of faith in Jesus produces the kind of evidence that proves our guilt.

Paul was proud to be found guilty as a follower of Jesus, ” The life I  live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

Not Guilty

The guilt or innocence of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is in the hands of twelve jurors. Chauvin, as you know, has been charged with the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020. The jury’s task is to listen to witnesses, weigh the facts, and decide the innocence or guilt of Mr. Chauvin. The verdict will determine this man’s fate, a judgment that is likely to be unpopular no matter which way it goes.

Courtroom or legal words such as judgment, guilty, and innocent are part of the language Paul and others use to write about the life of faith. For example, God is the supreme Judge, sin is the breaking of God’s law, and the penalty for sin is death. Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is our only hope for a Not Guilty verdict.

Human judges and jurors have been known to make mistakes in judgment, sometimes convicting the innocent or freeing the guilty. Our judicial system is not perfect because people are not perfect.

But God is perfect; He doesn’t make mistakes about our guilt or innocence. Guilty or not guilty? What is your standing before God?  In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells us we are all guilty before God, “All have sinned and come short of God’s expectations (glory).” Thankfully, that’s   not the whole story, “For the payment we receive for our sin is death, but the gift from God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What role does faith play in our guilt or innocence before God?

Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into the grace in which we stand; and exult (have joyful expectation) in the hope of the glory of God.”

The legal term, justified, is used to describe our standing with God. What does the word mean? It means you are innocent of the sin you have committed. Your past sin is expunged or erased, as if it never happened. Yes, you have sinned against God, but now you are declared innocent. Is that because God doesn’t care about sin, or He takes your wickedness lightly? No, a thousand times no!  Why did Jesus die on the cross? Your precious Lord died for your sin so you wouldn’t have to face life and eternity separated from God.

God has done everything necessary to save you, and the one thing you must do to have your sin and its penalty canceled is to put your faith in Him, to trust him with your entire being. You don’t have to agonize over the future of your soul; God declared you “innocent” the moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior. You are justified, pronounced NOT GUILTY, before God. The battle is over, and you are at peace with Him by faith. Your trust in Him brings you into a relationship of grace where you are especially pleasing to God. And, because of faith, you can live in the joyful expectation of your eternal future with Jesus, your Lord. Not Guilty, what an indescribable verdict !! Live in that victory today.

Postscript: Do you occasionally have past sins called to your attention? Are you sometimes reminded of the wicked things you once said or did before you accepted Jesus? Who or what is that? It is the work of the accuser, the devil, attempting to discourage you. The evil one is alive and well and wants to cause you to doubt your salvation and lessen your witness for your living Lord. By faith you have been brought into a place of grace (Romans 5:2). Your standing with God is secure. When the devil visits, remind him that you belong to Jesus and watch him run.

Everyday Faith

 

In last week’s blog “Entering the Faith Adventure,” I emphasized the absolute necessity of biblical faith for a personal relationship with God. Faith connects our spirit to God, who is Spirit. Our saving relationship with God begins and continues in faith until we come into His presence at death.

Do you recall the early days when you first trusted Christ as your Savior? What was it like for you to be “in love with Jesus?” Did you want to please Him? Did you feel so grateful for His forgiveness that you were willing to give your life to Him, to do whatever He asked you to do? How about today, is your greatest desire to please Him?

Have you allowed the strain and pain of everyday life to dim the glow of your early experience with the Lord? Have you, like the church in Ephesus, “left your first love?” (Revelation 2:1-7). You haven’t denied the faith, you continue to give and support ministry efforts, but something isn’t quite right. You don’t sense the closeness to God that you once had. Could it be that you depend too much on yourself and others and less on God? Has your faith in God lessened since you first trusted Him?

The joy of living for the Lord comes by trusting God daily, an everyday faith. Paul writes about this in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”

Paul’s life became complicated after he became a follower of Jesus. However, he seems to have discovered a joy of living by faith in Jesus that he had never known before. His desire to please the Lord was so compelling that he willingly endured hunger, beatings, shipwreck, imprisonment, and death. He had a daily faith, one that worked for him in all circumstances of life.

I believe we can discover the reason for his positive approach to life in a faith-statement he makes in the letter to the Romans. Read these words aloud and consider the profound effect they can have on your life if you trust the character and integrity of God in this way, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Your adventure in faith can be seen in three ways: past, present, and future. In the past, you put your trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Presently, you continue being saved by your faith in Jesus. In your future, when your life comes to an end, your faith-journey will be over. You will no longer need faith because you will be with the Lord.

Currently, you and I are in phase two of our faith adventure. We are in the world of everyday life of covid, crime, corruption in high places, sickness, with some joys sprinkled here and there. The Lord has saved you and continues to keep you from the power of sin in your life. I want to please Him with my life, and I believe you also do. There’s only one way to do that, the daily exercise of your faith in Him. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that comes to God must believe that He is (exists) and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” ( Hebrews 11:6).

Remember: Your faith in Jesus is about much more than being saved from hell. Biblical faith trusts God to guide you in your decisions and actions every day. Biblical faith is about how to please the Lord in the nitty-gritty details and challenges of everyday living. God cares about every concern of your life; why not trust Him with it?

Entering the Faith Adventure

There is something I need to tell you about why I’m doing these blogs about faith. At the end of last year, I decided to take an in-depth look into the subject of faith, what it is, why it’s important, and how to live faithfully in such turbulent and challenging times. My investigation has led me to re-examine some basic questions and understandings about why this subject is so crucial for me and others who want our lives to count for God and His purposes. Today, we look at one of those fundamental questions about faith.

Why is faith important? In last week’s blog, I briefly touched on the idea that biblical faith is the key to and foundation for your hope for eternal life. It is also necessary for the personal growth God wants for you. Because these truths are so important, I want to lay a good foundation for other blogs about why faith is essential.

Although you are created out of the same essential elements as every plant, animal, and everything else in creation, you are uniquely different. You are created “Imagio Deo”(in the image of God) and have the hunger and capacity for a relationship with Him. God made you for Himself, to know Him, and to be known by Him. God is Spirit and invisible, not directly accessible through the five senses and reason by which you use your practical, everyday faith.

Biblical faith is essential to having a saving relationship with God. Faith connects your spiritual nature to God. Because God created you with the capacity to trust Him, you can know Him at a personal level through that faith. You are a spirit with a body, and because of that, you will always have a Creator/creature relationship with Him. God wants you to interact with Him at a deeper, more personal level. He wants to give you a “born again” eternal life that is only possible through faith. You remain separated from Him and ‘lost” from His plan until you trust Him. You can enter the “adventure of faith” by turning away from your sin (repenting) and accepting what He has done to “save” you through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “By grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Our saving relationship with God begins and ends with faith.

One thing is sure, you and I are worshipping beings. Our spiritual nature requires that we worship a “god” of some sort. Your “supreme being” can be yourself, family, possessions, or some vague, unknown “man in the sky” idea. Biblical faith is very narrow about the focus of our faith. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one worthy of our faith. He alone can deliver on the promise of eternal life He has made to those who trust Him to guide our lives.

Have you entered into this adventure of faith with God? Do you know someone who might need to read this blog?

Adventures in Faith: What is Faith?

As we enter upon this journey, let’s think about the kind of faith adventure we will be taking. There are different ways to use the word “faith.” For example, we may refer to a person as adhering to the Christian Faith, Jewish Faith, or the Moslem Faith. This way, the term refers to a somewhat orderly set of doctrines or beliefs to which the believer subscribes. Don’t worry; this is not the destination of our adventure.

I think there are three categories of faith. First is the type of faith I like to think of as practical, everyday faith. This faith allows me to depend on and use electricity, drive my car, rest in my bed, eat my food and go about my daily life without being frozen in fear. Most of us learn to use this kind of faith from our early years. Our physical existence depends on it, we can’t live without practical faith.

Then there is the faith of mental ascent; I can accept my religion’s doctrines and teachings in my head, but believing those truths may not change the way I live. Faith that does not change me is the kind of faith James refers to in James 2:19: “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.” I can “believe” there is one Supreme Being, but if that belief doesn’t reach a deeper part of me and change my character, it is useless. If you recognize what I have just described as your faith journey, I want to invite you to embrace a very different and risky kind of faith.

The faith I challenge you to consider has some elements of the two just mentioned but is uniquely different in one important way. That difference is a living relationship with the unseen God who becomes the sustaining and guiding Source of your life. What is this “faith” I’m talking about? Biblical faith has knowledge and action parts to it, just like the two faiths I have already mentioned. Biblical faith, however, challenges you to take a “leap” into the unseen reality we refer to as “spiritual.” Biblical faith is trust in the unseen God and acting in obedience to what He reveals to you to do. Hebrews 11:1 tells you this faith is the key to, the foundation for the life for which God has created you. You can only receive eternal life and become the person God intends you to be by this kind of faith.

This kind of faith often defies human knowledge and understanding and calls for actions that may not “make sense” at the moment. Abram demonstrates this kind of faith as he obeys the call of God, leaving his homeland in search of the place God promises to give to his descendants. Noah works for seventy years building an ark on dry land because God tells him he and his family will begin a new civilization after the great flood.

We who enter the adventure of biblical faith have much in common with the biblical heroes who have gone before us. We believe in the unseen reality of God, trust and act on His guidance through his word, prayer, and His Spirit. Our faith endures and sees us through tough times when God seems silent and looks with hope and assurance that He is working in everything for good to all who love Him and participate in His purpose.

In the coming blogs, we will join the adventures of many biblical characters and discover some of the things they learned about themselves. It is my hope that your faith will be strengthened, deepened, and your commitment to this adventure will increase as you know more about the loving and trustworthy God you serve. Keep the faith and see what God is going to do in your life.

What’s coming next week?  We’ll build on what we’ve learned today and discuss the question: Why is faith important? Give some serious thought to this before reading my blog next week. Thanks and have a faithful week.

 

 

Adventures in Faith

For the next several weeks I plan to address an issue that is important to each of us. Faith is vital to us in our practical, everyday life as well as things we often refer to as “spiritual.” I believe all things related to our lives have a spiritual meaning or component but for the sake of clarity I will address the faith topics or questions individually. Today’s blog is about  the kind of faith we use daily, what I like to think of as practical faith.

Trust or faith is operative in practically everything you and I do. Without it we would be frozen in a state of overwhelming fear and inactivity. Think about how literally true this is. Your very life depends upon your ability to trust the safety of the food you eat and the water you drink. If you do not trust they are safe and refuse to eat or drink you will eventually die of hunger or thirst.

Think further about how ordinary living requires a certain amount of faith. Are you sitting down as you read this? You must trust the chair or whatever you are sitting on to hold you up. Did you sleep in a bed last night? Few things in our life are trusted like our bed. When you lie down do you tense your muscles in an attempt to support yourself while you sleep? Of course not, instead you lie down with an abandon, giving your tired body to the comfort of your bed. Resting is one of our greatest exercises of practical faith.

Where would we be without the constancy and reliability of the things we trust in life? As I take a break from typing I rest my elbows on my desk. I just take for granted the desk will support me. I am very comfortable doing this because somehow I learned my desk is dependable and will easily tolerate the weight I put on it. What if this were not true of all the things we rely on without question?

Faith is vital to everyday living, isn’t it? Well, it’s also important in our health and the way we see life. So, in future weekly blogs I will be dealing with some of these critical questions: What is faith? What is “saving” faith? How is faith developed? How do we come to faith in God? What is the difference between belief and faith? How does faith affect the way we live?

These are just a few things for you to “chew on’ ’til next time. Thanks for reading. I always appreciate hearing from you. Questions or suggestions are always welcome. Cos

Do the Birds Know Something We Don’t?

Years ago, I heard a conversation between a robin and a sparrow which gave me a “bird’s eye view” of what’s going with much of the human race. As I recall, the discussion went something like this:

Said the robin to the sparrow, “I would like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.” Said the sparrow to the robin,  “Well, I think that it must be that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.”

If birds and other creatures could see how we live, would they conclude we have no Heavenly Father? As believers, we claim to have a Heavenly Father. We pray “Our Father who is in heaven…” but sometimes live like atheists, as if God doesn’t even exist. We tend to live on our terms and wonder why we are so dissatisfied with our life.

We need God. We are made for fellowship with God but often miss out on the abundant life He offers. Why is that? Is our Father lying to us, misleading us? Is he a “good” Father? Or, does the reason for our discontentment lie with us?. Have I misunderstood what I need to do to be contented? Worse still, do I know what I need to do to have that peace that “passes all understanding” and refuse to do it?

Now, back to the birds for a moment. It is much more complicated to be a human than being a bird. God made birds and other animals with instincts for survival and other functions, but He made us as a “soul.” We have a deep need for contentment which comes only from knowing  God. To paraphrase something Augustine said long ago,” You have made us for Yourself, and  we find no rest until we find our rest in You.”

In his book, Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller probes why people are discontented with life and the various ways we try to address our deep hunger for meaning and purpose. He refers to Saint Augustine of Hippo, a fourth-century bishop I referenced earlier for the reason for our discontentment.

My take on Keller’s assessment of Augustine’s thinking is that our character is shaped by what we love. What we love is more powerful to determine our actions than what we think or say we believe. What we set our affections on is the central issue of life. There is no problem that we love our children, spouse, job, friends, and God. The problem is the order of priority we give them. For example, if I love my job more than my family, I begin to neglect them, and ultimately these relationships deteriorate. If I love my family or other things more than God, I depend on them to supply my most profound sense of contentment, which they cannot do.

The ultimate reason for our discontentment is the “source,” what or who we choose to make us happy. The only lasting source of our contentment is Jesus. When we put Him and His will first, real joy and happiness come along with Him.

I often get distracted and find myself needing to get my priorities in order and return to the only trustworthy “Source”  of peace and contentment in my life, Jesus. What about you, are the things and persons you love in the right order? If they are, you are experiencing the joy of the Christian life.  Blessings, Cos