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

 

 

 

 

Distracted

I pulled in behind a large SUV and got out my member and debit cards to be ready for my turn to pump gas. Nothing was happening at the pump in front of me, so I assumed the person might have finished and would be leaving soon. I waited patiently a couple more minutes, and it dawned on me that the driver had not even begun to do what they had supposedly come there to do, to pump gas. A minute or so later, the person got out, and with no acknowledgment they had kept me waiting, began the process, and got back into their vehicle. When the pump kicked off, they casually got out, took their time to put some trash in the receptacle, finalized the transaction, and drove away.

I admit I was somewhat offended by this person’s lack of courtesy. More than that, this incident got me thinking about what was possibly behind her lack of good manners. I choose to believe she is probably a nice person and was not deliberately trying to wield her power over me. Putting that aside, I think she was dealing with something that tends to snag each of us at times; she allowed something to distract her from why she was at the gas station.

While it may not be the same with you, sometimes the things others do that offend me are things I also do. The underlying issue is a distraction. For example, I may become distracted when I should be listening. A thought of an unfinished task intrudes to distract me when I am supposed to be praying. I go into another room and don’t remember what I came to do because I allow my mind to wander from my purpose of going there.

Go with me to a deeper level of thinking about living a distracted life. As His followers, Jesus calls us to put Him first and to love others as we love our self (Matthew 22:36-40). That is our purpose in being here. Are you sitting distracted at the gas pump, or are you pumping gas?

You need to continually pay attention to three things if you don’t want to be distracted and miss out on the abundant life Jesus has promised you. First, remember who you belong to and why you are here. Second, recognize that the enemy wants to make you ineffective and distract you from your mission. Put aside anything in your life that causes you to be distracted from God’s will to conform you to the likeness of Jesus (Hebrews 12:1, Romans 8:29). Third, be proactive and get your life focused on how to honor God by the way you love Him, yourself, and others. Create daily habits and rhythms in your life that keep you focused on giving your life as an offering to Him (Romans 12:1).

What is distracting you? What can you do to minimize the distractions that can keep you from giving your best to Christ and others?

Let me know what you think.

 

Faithful Change

 

Faithful Change

Do you sometimes feel dizzy or a bit depressed by the magnitude and pace of change? Does it seem to you that you are continuously dealing with some form of change? The weather, your body, mood, finances, job-related transitions,  sickness, death, or marriage of a family member require some form of action. Additionally, we must learn how to respond to the deteriorating societal values and the increasing intrusions of government and powerful corporations in our everyday lives.

In his book, Faithful Change, Dr. James Fowler states that each generation has felt they lived in unprecedented times; experiencing the full range of challenges of human living. To live faithfully, we must learn to make good choices in light of those challenges. Our need to change comes from at least three choices which he identifies as (1) developmental change,(2) healing or reconstructive change, and (3) change due to disruptions and modifications of the systems that shape our lives.1

Developmental change is the process of physical, emotional, and intellectual changes and challenges we face in the life cycle from conception, birth, young children, pre-adolescents, teenagers, young adults, and so on until old age and death. This process is ever-present as we deal with two additional areas of challenge.

The second area, which Fowler refers to as “healing or reconstructive change,” has to do with the need for healing from harmful patterns of emotion and thinking which we have adopted to help us feel safe and less vulnerable to the realities of life. This false sense of self and security is challenged when we lose a job, face a serious health crisis, lose a loved one or go through a divorce or other major disruption. Such a crisis presents an opportunity to reassess who we are and to make the necessary changes.

“Change due to disruptions and modifications of the systems that shape our lives” has to do with the challenges which come from our participation in the social, political, and economic processes of our society. Very often we feel the only control we have in these areas is how we will respond to the decisions those in power are making. We are in the midst of what is often labeled as a “cultural war.” One of the challenges a believer faces is in this postmodern culture is how to maintain a faithful, loving witness in a society we believe to be in a rapid downward spiral.

How can we live faithfully in a world that seems so chaotic and out of balance? I often ask this question but have no advice to offer concerning the solution to many of our challenges. But, I  know where to start, and then it is a matter of trusting  God to lead me daily in how to be faithful day by day. This morning as I wrestled with a sense of being overwhelmed and confused about what to do with all the change, I was reminded of the Anchor in the storm, the firm Foundation as I read these words from Psalm 1: 1-4,

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scorners! But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law, he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its seasons, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 46 is also a great encouragement if the pace and enormity of change are getting to you. Blessings, Cos

 


1. James W. Fowler, Faithful Change,(Abingdon Press, Nashville,1996), p.9-11.

 

 

 

Lonely?

 

 

 

Lonely?

Sometimes I feel lonely. What about you? I believe everyone struggles with a sense or feeling of loneliness from time to time. This deep, uneasy struggle for meaning may last for a day or two for some of us while others live with it day after day, never really escaping its drain on their energy and sense of purpose.

There are many reasons you may feel lonely; an unrequited love, loss of a job, illness, lack of meaningful relationships, or marital issues. The common denominator of these and other issues related to loneliness is that they touch a deep area of need in each of us; the belief that I have purpose and meaning, that I matter, I am loved and important.

The Psalms of David often give poignant insight into his inner struggles. Although he was in the very center of God’s will, Saul was relentless in his efforts to kill him. He suffered the disappointment of trusted friends who turned against him. In Psalm 142 we get a glimpse of the depth of David’s loneliness. I find what he said in verse 4 very moving,” I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”  

There are times when we can be with people and be lonely. There are also experiences when we are alone but not lonely at all. Being alone and being lonely can be two totally different things. The issue is whether or not we feel understood and cared for in that relationship. Good relationships require the work of  purposeful communication; the willingness to talk about our feelings, wishes and desires and the disciplined attentiveness of deep listening.

I often feel lonely for God, feeling distant and out of touch with Him. In times like these I must live by faith and remember that, while I may feel God is silent, He is there and ready to hear me. When David experienced loneliness He turned to God, “ I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living…Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name…” (vs.5,7).  God answered and restored David’s sense of meaning and purpose.

One more thing. Do you know someone who may be lonely today? Will you make the time to reach out to them? Will you try to really listen deeply to them? They may have been crying to God concerning their loneliness. Who knows but what you may be God’s answer to their prayer.

Time is Flying

What is time? If you consult a dictionary you will discover no fewer than a dozen options. One such answer is “a period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”

Over the centuries mankind has measured time with calendars, sundials, clocks, and watches. A dash on a tombstone between the date of a person’s birth and death represents the years and month he or she lived. We humans seem to be very conscious of time. Why is that? Could it be that somehow we instinctively know our days are numbered? I confess time is very important to me; there are no fewer than eight to ten calendars and time devices in my house to keep me focused on what I need to do. 

Ways to measure time are human constructions to help us manage our lives by setting appointments, mealtimes, bedtimes, and the hours we work at our jobs.  Calendars help us remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant days. Obviously, these instruments for measuring time can be helpful to us in ordering our lives in productive ways. But, there is another purpose these devices can serve that we may not think about very much. What is that?

For Me, the clock and calendar remind me that my life is speeding by. There was a point in my life, somewhere around age 50, when I began to be more aware of this reality. I  compare that awareness to a roller coaster ride that ascends rather slowly to the highest peak and drops with breath-taking speed, never to slow down again. The truth is that my life has always been speeding by but I didn’t have enough wisdom or understanding to realize it until that certain point on the roller coaster ride.

There is a clock in our hallway that has two Latin words inscribed above its face, “Tempus Fugit.” In my  high school  Latin class, I learned those words mean “time flies.” Indeed it does. I need to be reminded that my life is speeding by and the way I use this gift is very important. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.  

How will I use my time today? That all depends on what I really see as a priority and what I will choose to do based on what I say I believe. I say I believe a relationship with God and others is the central meaning of life. However, what I do is what I really believe. How I invest my time will be the true test of what is important to me. 

We have the gift of now, today. Yesterday is gone and cannot be recalled. Tomorrow is not here and may not come for us at all. As for me, I will attempt to be intentional, purposeful to use my time in a way that will honor God by helping others with an encouraging word, prayer, and deeds of kindness.

Tempus Fugit.  How will you use your day?

Two Important Words

 

 

Two Important Words

“Thank You” are two of the most important words we can use. They rank right up there with “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” Of course, none of these words are meaningful if they are not sincere, coming from somewhere deep inside us.

Giving thanks, expressing gratitude are highly encouraged in the scriptures. Paul reminds us in his prison letter to the Philippians (4:6-7) that thanksgiving is a great antidote for anxiety. Try it sometime when you are feeling anxious. Take a few minutes to make a list of all the good things God has done for you in your lifetime and see the anxiety give way to hope and confidence in God.

Saying a heartfelt “Thank you” acknowledges our dependency on God and others who do good things for us. Expressing gratitude also demonstrates an awareness that our lives are intricately interwoven with God and others. We are the recipient of kindness and grace we do not deserve. Expressing gratitude shows respect for God and others and tends to dispel the selfishness and entitlement into which we can so easily fall.

As I think about my need to be more thankful I am reminded of a couple of phrases from prayers I have heard. The first is from a deceased friend who often prayed at mealtime, “Lord, give us grateful hearts for what we are about to receive.” The other was passed on to me from a woman whose heart was deeply touched by her aging father’s gratitude for his health, “Father, thank you for the measure of health I still enjoy.”  Both prayers express a tremendous truth about life: God is good to us and the proper response is to say “Thank You.”

Do you sometimes get frustrated when you do something generous for a family member and there isn’t the least acknowledgment of your kindness? Now, I know we are not to do good things for selfish recognition but I admit that the lack of “thank you” bothers me. This is probably something I need to work on but I honestly feel disrespected when this happens. When I am tempted to judge the character of others for this omission, the Spirit causes me to ask these questions, “Do treat God the way I think I am being treated?  How does God feel about the way I treat Him?”

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom that springs from the soul.” Henry Ward Beecher