Posted by: New in Every Way | August 22, 2014

Who Is Smarter?

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9 NIV).

Why do you think it is that many Christians say that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, but then they think and live as if they know more than God. I mean, when they read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense to them, they ignore it or explain it away.

If they really believed that God’s thoughts are higher than theirs, wouldn’t they say, “Well, of course this passage doesn’t make sense to me. My mind isn’t on the same wavelength as God’s–not yet! But I’m going to ponder God’s words until my mind is renewed to think like His”?

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | August 14, 2014

Volcanoes and Geysers

GeyserIn the previous post, “Let It Begin with Me,” I mention the disheartening segment in the movie Lawrence of Arabia in which a larger-than-life British officer and his unlikely coalition of Arab sheiks achieve a brilliant military victory but could not successfully rule over the city they had captured. Their weak characters could not sustain their victory.

But not to worry–it doesn’t have to be that way.

Simon Peter is great example of a person whose character became able to sustain–everything. Triumphantly.

When he signed on as a disciple of Christ, his character left something to be desired. He was eager and loyal but impulsive and unreliable.

Jesus saw unusual potential in Simon because He singled him out, along with James and John, for closer mentoring. However, from Day One, Jesus hinted about a change that needed to happen in him, by nicknaming him Cephas. In the Greek-speaking world of the day, that translated to Peter, which means “rock.” It was a promise of what Simon would become.

Centuries earlier, the Lord had appeared to a timid man named Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. Well, Simon, Jesus’ disciple, might have considered himself a mighty man of valor, but the Master’s nickname told him what else he needed to become—a rock of strength and stability.

And it happened—somewhere between the Last Supper and the Day of Pentecost. At the Last Supper, Peter boldly proclaimed he would defend Jesus to the death. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied he even knew Him.

Fast-forward fifty days to the Day of Pentecost. That afternoon, the disciples came out of hiding. Peter stepped forward and announced to all Jerusalem, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36 NIV).

Who, Peter? The wannabe hero who behaved like a coward? Yes, his unstable character was now rock-steady.

One sign of his new stability was that he was able to focus on others. Jesus had asked him to “feed my sheep.” In 1 Peter and 2 Peter, his letters to the churches, he encourages those fearful of persecution, explains God’s ways to the immature, and even instructs believers to treat the heathen around them with concern and respect.

Was he all mellowed out? No! Read his epistles. Intertwined with the fatherly counsel and instruction are glad passages of power and glory.

The passion that Peter had always possessed continued to break out, wherever he went. But it was no longer the random, destructive erupting of a volcano. Instead, it sprang up, at the right times, like a geyser of life-giving water.

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | July 18, 2014

The Good Life, part 4: LET IT BEGIN WITH ME

Do you recognize the words in the title? They are the second line of a timeless song from the 1950s.angel with halo

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Actually, peace on earth–and THE GOOD LIFE, which is the theme of this blog–do not begin with me or any other person. They begin with God. Peace and a good life are possible for us because God is the Prince of Peace and He is good.

Hold it; hold it! I can hear some folks thinking. If God is good and the Prince of Peace, why isn’t the world in better shape? Why isn’t my life better?

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven back to earth, but not everyone chooses to become  a citizen of it. And not all who have become citizens of it live there full-time.

Similarly, the good life is available for “whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days” (Psalm 34:12), but — well, let’s look at this verse in context.

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:12-14 NIV).

Oh! You mean desiring the good life is not enough? You mean it is not even enough to pursue the good life with faith and courage?

Well, according to the psalmist, if you want the good life–if you want to change your world–you first have to change yourself!

A sterling example of this is the heartbreaking scene towards the end of the epic adventure film “Lawrence of Arabia.” The unconventional, charismatic British army officer T. E. Lawrence had done the impossible–he had managed to create a coalition of fiercely independent Arab sheiks, and, with their assistance, had conquered a major city.  However, in the following weeks, the sheiks refused to work together to restore normalcy to the city. It became a nightmare of rubble, disease, and starvation.  Lawrence, himself, fell into depression and made no attempt to re-forge their former unity of purpose.

Better a patient person than a warrior,

    one with self-control than one who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

If I want real, lasting victory–it has to begin with me.

What are some of the things that need to change about me if I want a really good life? Let’s go back to verses 13 and 14 of Psalm 34:

  • “Keep your tongue from evil.” That would include gossip, sarcastic remarks, off-color jokes, and pessimistic talk, right?
  • “Keep your lips from telling lies.” In other words, don’t mislead or take advantage of others by giving them false information. Don’t bury your heart by pretending to be someone you’re not. And don’t say things to yourself that are contrary to God’s gracious plans for you. Don’t say, “I can’t,” “Nothing good will ever happen to me,” “I’d better be content with a little. Who am I to expect anything special from God?” You’re of great worth to God. He delights over you with singing (Zechariah ). He has great plans for your future (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s the truth. Stick to it!
  • “Turn from evil and do good.” Well, that covers the waterfront: Don’t do what’s wrong, and do do the things you know you should.
  • “Seek peace and pursue it.” Stay out of strife. Did someone insult you? Don’t let it under your skin. Is you co-worker in a foul mood? Do yourself and the whole workplace a favor–be extra cheerful. Wherever you are, replace anxiety, frustration, and contention with faith, calmness, and harmony.

Imagine how good your life would be if your were this positive, mature, and holy.

Holy. Free from the internal garbage that keeps you from being and doing all God created you for.

Is that impossible? It must not be. God doesn’t ask us to do anything He doesn’t enable us to do.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV).

And it’s not as hard as it might seem. It’s not so much a matter of fixing yourself, as it is letting go of your old self and letting Christ’s life flood into your thinking and your desires.

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9 NIV).

put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and . . . put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).

Three years ago, the Lord said to me, “It’s time to dream. It’s time to plan.” My dream to move from Illinois, which had been my home for over forty years, happened quickly because the Lord caused my house to sell in ten days! Another dream–to write a novel based on the life of the apostle Peter–hasn’t taken off so fast. But as I have held onto the dream and learned to cooperate with God, I have changed a lot. It had to begin with me.

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | July 3, 2014

The Good Life, part 3: Fireworks and Wishes

FirecrackerLast night, standing in the parking lot of my church, I heard loud, popping sounds behind a screen of trees. Apparently, the children next door were celebrating the Fourth of July  two days early.

It fit in with my thoughts. I had wanted for this week’s blog to relate to Independence Day, so was seriously considering interrupting my series on The Good Life. But then I saw that the events of July 4, 1776, were a perfect illustration of what was on my heart to say next about “the good life.”

In 1776, many Americans  were ready to be done with English rule. They desired “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Does that sound like “the good life”?) But the 57 men who signed the Declaration of Independence didn’t just wish for the freedom to pursue these things, they did something about it. Over ninety declarations of independence were circulating around the colonies at that time. But these 57 men sent their declaration directly to the king of England. In so doing, they laid on the line their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor (as the last line of the Declaration says).

They are examples of what the previous blog said about The Good Life: they desired something passionately, and that desire motivated them to achieve something that made their lives worth living.

They also show that desiring things is a necessary beginning, but it’s only the beginning. As the old nursery rhyme says, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Wishing, alone, will get a person nowhere. Some people wish for something with all their hearts and feel robbed because what they desire never happens. But things do not become ours just because we want them. It doesn’t work that way when we go shopping, does it?

“Well,” some people might object, “I’m not just wishing for something to happen. I have faith that God will do it.” That’s an excellent statement in the sense that only God can guarantee good outcomes. But it implies that God fulfills His promises all by Himself.

One of the events that says otherwise is the story of the Israelite’s possession of the Promised Land. God had promised it to them. But the first generation of Israelites didn’t receive their promise. They didn’t think right–they believed the giants in the land were more powerful than God. They had no faith in Him.

The second generation did have faith in God, but their faith was not passive. They didn’t camp on the east side of the Jordan and wait for God to give them the “all clear” signal. No, they understood that God had guaranteed them the land, but He required them to play a part in taking possession of it–a part that required faith and courage. It took faith and courage to show up for battle. It took faith to follow God’s unusual battle plans. Then, after He performed a miracle (like causing the walls of Jericho to fall), they needed faith and courage to follow up on that and complete the conquest.

As James 2:20 says, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, faith that does not do its part, is not really faith. It’s wishful thinking.

When Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites, the Lord said to him,

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8 NKJV).

Hmm! There’s a part for us to play if we want to experience the success God has promised.

 

Fireworks&PeopleThere’s a reason why our memory of the Fourth of July, 1776, is emblazoned on the skies every year with multi-colored bursts of fire. On that day, a group of men rose above mere wishful thinking. They placed “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” then courageously played their part in birthing the great nation known as the United States of America.

What kind of “good life” do you desire? If it is, indeed, a good desire; that is, a healthy, God-inspired one, don’t say it couldn’t happen. Don’t doubt your ability to partner with God in reaching such a goal. You will no doubt need new attitudes and behavior in order to be successful, but God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). If you let Him, He will make you a person of faith and courage who can lay hold of The Good Life of your desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been thinking about the upcoming holiday myself, and a question had popped into my mind. Why do we call July 4, 1776, “Independence Day”? Why not September 3, 1783–when the war was won, the peace treaty was signed, and we actually had our independence? But the more I thought about it, the more impressed I was with what happened 238 years ago on the Fourth of July.

 

It would be fascinating to go into why the Declaration of Independence was written, but that’s not my purpose. What I want to focus on is that at least 57 or the dissatisfied American colonists decided to do something about their desire for the freedom to rule themselves. They didn’t just wish to be free. They didn’t just vent about British rule. The didn’t just circulate a declaration of independence among themselves. (There were over ninety such documents circulating at the time!) wrote a well-reasoned declaration, concluded with the words “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor,” and sent it to King George III.

The reason we shoot firecrackers in their memory is because they didn’t just wish for freedom; they did something about it.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

 

liked the fact that our memory of the Fourth of July is emblazoned on the skies every year with multi-colored bursts of fire. Because it was a truly momentous thing that happened that day.

I mean, it’s easy to celebrate when the war is over and victory is in hand. What is really impressive is that 57 men

 

They put wings to their wishes. A wishing well just collects wishes—in the form of pennies sitting idly at the bottom.

“if wishes were horses then beggars would ride”

Just coins at the bottom of the water.

Always wishing, never enjoying

Need to pursue

God helps those who help themselves. Not in Bible. Not necessarily. Eve helped herself to an apple.

Those who seek the Lord

Seek peace and pursue; those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Wishing is not faith. Wishing trusts things to blind fate. No solid object.

Wishing is passive, futile.

Can wish with all your heart, and feel robbed because never see good. Psa 2

Desire is gn to motivate to action, to faith. Woman with issue of blood.

Delight self in Lord—desires. My dad got to travel. My friend employed on a horse farm.

Expecting that you will have because you want. Doesn’t work that way in a store.

Josh 1:8—the way to be successful (you will make ur way successful)—not just asking for it. God had already promised.

Go ahead—dream. Tell the Lord. Ask him for it. Meanwhile, begin meditating on and doing the Word. Your faith will grow and you will change into the person who can handle the blessing when it comes.

Not because want, or need, or desperately desire—but because He wants to do you good—and because He can. But his gifts are free but not cheap. Easy come, easy go. He gives when we’re ready to appreciate and handle them right. Like parent who lets child drive a used car b4 gifting her with a new one.

Wishing will get you nowhere. Seeking the Lord, and doing what He says, will get you where you want to be –and then some Eph 3:20

Riddle: what’s the difference between the Fourth of July and a wishing well? Fourth of July put wings to our forefather’s wishes. A wishing well just collects wishes.

Posted by: New in Every Way | June 26, 2014

The Good Life, part 2: The Fountain of Desire

This post is dedicated to . . .

Whoever of you loves life 
and desires to see many good days . . . (Psalm 34:12 NIV).

Is it alright to love life? To desire good days—actually, to desire a lot of them?Fountain

As I considered these questions, a more profound one came to me: does God have desires? Do things matter to Him?

I concluded that He must have feelings, because Jesus told his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 NIV). Not just desired but eagerly desired.

Is it any wonder that we have many desires? We were made in His image.

I imagine you are thinking, “Some of my desires couldn’t have come from Him.” You would be right. I want to address that shortly, but first may we consider the difference between honoring our desires and ignoring them? I see an example of each in the story of the “lost son” in Luke 15:11-32.

Usually, when this story is told, the emphasis is on the father who loved his wayward son unconditionally and welcomed him home after he had partied his inheritance away. But I want us to look at the two sons. The younger son apparently had a taste for life. He liked to enjoy himself. However, his notion of how to enjoy life was immature and distorted. It caused him to self-destruct. On the other hand, eventually, he was capable of appreciating the home he had left behind and desiring to return to it.

The older son took pride in his hard work and responsibility and despised his fun-seeking younger brother. He was indignant that their father received his brother home again—especially that he fully reinstated him as a son.

The older son appears to have been driven by obligation. The younger son was drawn by his desires.

The older son’s best reward for his efforts was pride. The younger son reaped joy and, ultimately, love and self-esteem.

The older son was faithful but his heart was far from his father. The younger son was neither faithful nor loving—at first. But the day came when remembered his father with affection and realized it would be a pleasure to work for him.

There is a pernicious (plain English: nasty) idea out there that God wants us to be serious and dutiful—that the less we think about our desires the happier He is with us.

There’s some truth to that last point. God is selfless, so when we put others above ourselves, we are like Him. Yes, God is selfless, but He is not desire-less. If you doubt that, read the whole story of the lost son and see how longingly the father watched for the son’s return and how extravagantly he showered him with gifts of love. He also told his older son that he would have held a feast for him and his friends at any time, if he had only asked.

So here’s the truth about what the Lord wants from us:

Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing (Psa. 100:2 NKJV).

Anything less grieves God’s loving, generous heart. It also diminishes our fruitfulness, because joy and desire are huge motivators.

Earlier, we acknowledged that not all desires are good. In fact, the lost son’s youthful desires ruined his life. But there’s a way to live from your heart safely.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart ( Psalm 37:4).

When did the younger son’s desires become healthy? When his heart turned back to his father and he took delight in being back home.

What if your life is in disarray because of unhealthy desires? Connect with the heavenly Father.

What if you are a good Christian, but you’re not enjoying it? Unstop the fountains of desire. Uncover how you feel about things. Resurrect your dreams.  Don’t drop your responsibilities but develop a taste for them. Let your actions spring from desire, not just duty, and approach the Father with an open, trusting heart.

As Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (NIV).

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | May 15, 2014

The Good Life, Part 1: TAKE A TASTE

Stuffed MushroomsI made some stuffed mushrooms for lunch today. I chopped some zucchini, red bell pepper, and onion; added parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and crumbled goat cheese; stuffed the mixture into the mushrooms; and popped them in the toaster oven. They came out looking good, but when I bit into one—oh my!—it tasted even better than it looked.

In the middle of Psalm 34, David makes an interesting suggestion:

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

The caption at the top of the psalm, as well as the first several verses, show that this psalm was composed in thankfulness and praise to the Lord for rescuing him from King Saul and King Achish.  So the goodness of the Lord that David is talking about must be that he rescues believers from danger.

Well, yes, but then he goes on to say:

 9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Hmmm. Now he has gone on to a whole different way that God is good—he not only helps people in danger, but he is a giver of good things.

Most Christians would quickly say, “Oh, yes, God gives us everything we need—not everything we want, but everything we really need.” If you point out to them that Jesus said He came to give life in abundance, they would say that means an abundance of love, joy, peace, etc.—in other words, spiritual blessing.

That’s not how the Jewish people understood the Lord’s blessing. They trusted God to bless them spiritually by atoning for sin, but they also very much expected Him to bless them abundantly with material things.

Their history started with Abraham. He was a nomad in a strange country. But the Lord promised it all to him and his descendants at the appropriate time. In the meantime, the Lord caused him to become enormously wealthy and influential AND enabled his formerly barren wife to bear their son when she was ninety years old.

Abraham’s son Isaac also experienced an economic miracle because of the Lord’s blessing:

1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.

The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. 13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. 14 He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.(Genesis 26:1-2, 12-14 NLT).

God created life to be good. That’s why we feel distressed when our resources are in short supply. Distress (pain) is the response the Lord built into our beings to let us know when something is wrong. Scarcity is not good, minimal health is not good, strained relationships are not good. God never intended his people to be saddled with this kind of experience.

Why do Christians have them? A big reason is: we settle for all these things because we don’t really believe God is good and that he is generous with those who allow Him to be. We don’t know how pleased He is when we seek Him about the things that we lack.

Let’s taste and see how good God is. If we seek Him, we will lack no good thing.

 

Posted by: New in Every Way | May 9, 2014

Who’s in Charge?

In a democracy like the United States, we understand the concept of choosing who will be in charge. We don’t have a choice about whether to have a government, or whether to obey the laws, but we do have a voice in choosing which individuals will make and enforce the laws.

That is very much the case, Votingalso, in the spiritual context of life. We can choose whether to put ourselves under the authority and protection of God and his angels or under the domination of satan and his demons.

This is where you might be saying, “I really did not need to hear this. It freaks me out.”

The good news is: with spiritual “government” you don’t have to wait up until midnight to find out who won the election. You can choose who will be in charge over you at any time, regardless of how anyone else is “voting.”

How do you do that? Let’s look at an example from the ancient history of Israel.

God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was returning them to Canaan–the land he had promised them 400 years previously. The native Canaanites had become so corrupt that they sacrificed their own children in fiery furnaces to their god, Moloch. God is merciful, as he showed in the case of Nineveh. He will forgive those who repent. The Canaanites must have shown themselves unredeemable, because the Lord sent the Israelites to destroy that civilization and claim the land for themselves.

So here they were at the border of Canaan. The Lord told Joshua to send twelve spies into the land to familiarize themselves with it before sending in their troops. The men came back with a glowing report about the land. But then ten of them gave the opinion that they could not conquer this land because some of its inhabitants were giants. Most of the Israelites allowed themselves to be caught up in fear. They spent the night weeping and complaining. By morning they were ready to choose a new leader and return to Egypt.

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, . Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. ” (Numbers 14:5-9 NIV).

Who was right–the ten fearful spies or Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb? The answer is obvious in the story of the first battle (which took place 40 years later–after the doubting generation had been replaced by their children). This battle did not involve giants, but it did require the Israelites to enter the walled city of Jericho. You no doubt know the story: The army walked around the city multiple times. On cue, the priests blew their rams’ horns. The soldiers shouted. And the walls of Jericho crumbled.

Clearly, Joshua and Caleb had known what they were talking about–“Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us” and “Do not be afraid of them because we will devour them.”

The second generation, led by Joshua, cast their vote for God and won big. The first generation cast their vote in the opposite direction and died in the wilderness. In what way did they “vote”? It all boiled down to whom or what they chose to fear.

The second generation–the winners–“feared the Lord.” (Whenever this terminology is used in the Bible it means they had awe and respect for God.) In spite of the unknowns ahead of them, this generation chose to trust the Lord and follow his directions. They put God in charge, and they gained everything He had promised them.

The first generation feared everything but God. By default, the “other entity” took charge of this situation in their lives, and they were big-time losers. They were still God’s people. He had set them free from slavery and continued to care for them miraculously for 40 years. Their clothing and shoes did not wear out and they had manna to eat every day. BUT they missed out on all the blessings He was ready to give them–because they gave into fear of things God was easily able to overcome.

When you find a promise in the Bible that relates to you, expect the enemy of your soul to behave the way he did toward the Israelites camped on the border of Canaan. Expect him to plant a fearful thought or intimidating circumstance in your path to hinder you from believing God and receiving His blessing.

When that happens, what will you do? Will you give in to the fear and let the enemy take charge of that situation? Will you let him do what he does best–“rob, kill, and destroy” the destiny God has for you?

Or will you fear the Lord? Will you purposely remind yourself that God can easily overcome any obstacle? Will you tell yourself that God means what He says? If so, He will remain in charge of that situation in your life, and you will receive “immeasurably more than all” you could “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

P.S. This post can be subtitled “What’s the Hold-Up, Part 3.” We don’t have to be in the dark about why some of our prayers are not answered. God does keep his promises! The Bible shows us how to cooperate with Him to receive them. 🙂

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | March 27, 2014

Are You Attracting or Repelling?

Magnetic DogsOne of my earliest experiences with magnetism was a toy–two small Scottish Terrier dogs, each mounted on a magnet. When we slid one dog close enough to the other, they would suddenly unite with a click–that is, if they were facing each other. If we brought one of them up behind the other, the second dog would move away. No matter how frequently or how rapidly the dog in our hand pursued the other, it could not connect. It only succeeded in chasing it away.

In a recent message to my bible study group, Pastor Elizabeth Smither likened our belief systems to a magnet. She said that our thought patterns and beliefs can create a “magnetic field” of faith that attracts (receives) God’s blessings–or they will create a “magnetic field” of anxiety and doubt that repel (cannot receive) His help. The problem, she pointed out, is that we have mixed beliefs. One day, we believe the promises in his Word and are confident he will help us. The next day (or week)–because we have not yet received what we are expecting–our minds are a tumult of thoughts like: “Well, maybe it’s not God’s will after all.”

This yo-yo effect is a serious impediment to receiving God’s blessings. It’s as if the answer was being pulled in, closer and closer, by our faith, but then (when doubt turned our magnet around), we chased the answer away. This is the situation James describes:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:5-8 NIV).

Yikes! How in the world can we help having contradictory thoughts? Is it possible to make sure our magnetic field is always one of faith, which can receive God’s blessings? It must be! God doesn’t tease us with impossibilities. If He requires us to believe in order to receive, then there’s a way to become confident believers.

Building unwavering faith happens when we “look” at the Lord and meditate on his Word. This involves not only reading the Bible but speaking it and thinking about it–day and night! When the truth saturates our minds and the wrong thinking is gone, we can hear the Good News and believe it! And “anything is possible if a person believes.”

P.S. This post could be subtitled “What’s the Hold-Up, Part 2.” You might find it helpful to scroll down to the original blog on this topic and read it. Some more thoughts along these lines can be found in a devotional I wrote for cbn.com.

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | February 26, 2014

What’s the Hold-Up?

I can’t remember too many traffic slow-downs in the small town of 16,000 where I traffic jamused to live. Now that I live in a city of 300,000, traffic patterns are a daily consideration. Rush hour. All the traffic lights on Nicholasville Road. A 5-mile detour because of an accident.

My siblings who live in the Denver area, Dallas area, and Chicago area would probably laugh that I consider this to be a big city, but they can surely identify with my point, which is: when I am traveling around this town, I often wonder, What’s the hold-up?

I met someone this week who was wondering the same thing–about what was happening to his prayers. Had God heard? Had he asked something that wasn’t God’s will? Did God expect him to do something in order to receive his answer? What’s the hold-up?

It would be impossible to give a simple answer that would fit the situation of anyone who has not received an answer to prayer. But an important general answer is this: When there’s a hold-up to receiving something from God, there’s probably a blockage in that person’s faith-pipeline. Because faith is the pipeline through which God sends the things we’ve asked for.

A story in Mark 9 shows how this works. A man had brought his son to Jesus.

 But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.“Anything is possible if a person believes” (New Living Translation).

Did you catch that? The father said, “If you can do anything . . .” and Jesus said [allow me to paraphrase], “The question isn’t whether I can do anything. I can do anything. The question is whether you believe I can. If you believe [in Me] everything is possible.”

Well, how are you supposed to believe, if you don’t already? 

First of all, believing isn’t mental or spiritual gymnastics. When we try to conjure it up, it’s not real. True belief (or faith) is based on solid information and experience. To have faith in God, we need to know what he is like, what he has promised to do for us, and what he wants of us. God gave us the Bible so that we don’t have to guess, but we can know, everything we need to know about him and how he relates to us.

The problem is, we can read the Bible but not believe what it says. Our ability to believe God is blocked by ideas such as, “If God intended to answer my prayer, he would’ve done it by now. Since nothing has happened, it must not be his will.” Or, “God answers other people’s prayers but not mine.” Or, “The promises in the Bible must have been for people long ago, not for now.” Or, “I’m not surprised God didn’t answer my prayer. He’s probably angry with me for [whatever].”

If our minds are saturated with a life-long accumulation of doubts and fears, it will take deliberate exposure to the truth in the Word to cleanse our minds.* The Bible describes this process in such passages as these:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8 NIV, emphasis added)

Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (Psa. 1:1-3 NIV, emphasis added).

Notice that the process of getting truth into our minds includes not only reading the Word but speaking it and thinking about it–day and night! When the truth saturates our minds and the  wrong thinking is gone, we can hear Good News and believe it! And “anything is possible if a person believes.”

__________

*Also, in order to believe the Bible, we need to make up our minds to turn loose of any idea we have that is different from what God says is true.

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Posted by: New in Every Way | February 22, 2014

The Fear That Ends All Fear

frightened girlHow can fear do away with fear?? It’s a matter of what you mean by “fear.” This song by David, the fugitive, includes two very different kinds of fear:

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears. . . . 
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them (Psalm 34:4, 7 NIV).

The word “fears” in verse 4 comes from a Hebrew word (megowrah) that can mean the feeling of fear or can mean a situation that is fearful.* It’s what we normally mean when we say “fear.” It’s the kind of fear David experienced just before he wrote this psalm.

But David’s fears ended because the Lord delivered, or rescued, him. In fact, his angel had been camping around David all along, ready to deliver him from any danger that cropped up. How did David rate 24/7 angelic protection? Because he feared the Lord (verse 7).

Awed boyHuh! It doesn’t seem as if a person would be afraid of a God who is so gracious and caring. Well, this word “fear” isn’t what we usually think of as fear. It comes from a Hebrew word (yare’) which means to stand in awe of, be awed, to fear, reverence, honor, respect.* 

Perhaps you have always vaguely understood that “the fear of the Lord” meant awe and respect for Him. But you may still have trouble seeing how fear fits into that equation.

Years ago, I stumbled upon my first experience of it. Life was a blur of pain because of a betrayal, and I needed to talk to someone. I had all kinds of choices, but I had a deep sense I had better speak with my pastor only. I recognized that if I did not stick to the Lord’s way of behaving, things would not turn out well for me. Because I respected His wisdom above all others, I feared to depart from His ways.

Shortly after that, I encountered this respect and fear again. I was president of a local teachers’ association, and we were deep into rocky negotiations with the school board. The Lord made it clear that he expected me to refrain from criticizing or accusing the superintendent and school board members–and that, if I did that, he would help us gain what we truly needed. It was rather counterintuitive for me, but–who can refuse God, especially when he cares enough to intervene personally in your life?

One night, my vice president called to tell me of the talk going around the community concerning us teachers. I went to the basement to pray. I asked for some things–like wisdom and protection–but mostly I marveled at how sure I was that everything was going to be alright. That’s when I found out it’s true–if you fear the Lord and obey him, that puts an end to all other fears.

________

*Based on definitions from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, which is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.”

 

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