Faith – Do We Focus on Christ or Quicksand?

October 31, 2011

Faith is a gift we are given from the Lord and we can choose to accept this gift or not.  When we accept the gift, we are saved by it, made whole through it, and protected and directed by it – and so much more.  That being said, we can’t feel it, smell it, taste it, touch it, or hear it – well, not in the ways we can soiled socks, roses, or chocolate cake, anyway.  It’s one of those “I just know what I know” concepts that both bless and frustrate, depending how you approach the equation.  If you are determined not to accept a gift you can’t touch from a Lord you can’t see, you will either stop reading this now or perhaps continue in order to add fuel to the fire of your response.  My hope is that you’ll let Jesus change your heart and that somehow these words written by this flawed human might inspire you to invite Him into your heart.  Meanwhile, I will share thoughts on faith that have been planted in my heart in the last few days.  First a quote or two which inspired them:

Matthew 21:21-22

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

1 Peter 5:8-9

 

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

 

My first thought after reading these two quotes is that our Lord has infinite patience.  I know this because I’ve given Him my heart but that sure doesn’t mean I don’t cry out “where are you?”  or “why haven’t you answered my prayer?”  Yet, I do have faith.  He has given it to me.  Trust comes separately.  Trust comes when my focus is on Him.  He is the source of all hope and strength.  If only I could be steadfast in my trust, my prayer with expectation and praise really could move that mountain.  However, as Peter’s letter reminds us, we are weak, we do suffer, and we are not alone in doing so.  The challenges we face are the same ones “the world is undergoing.” 

As I was pondering this, I thought of quicksand.  My troubles are many.  They surround me, just as though I’m stuck in quicksand and sinking fast.  What are my choices?  I can focus on the quicksand and my problems will be all I see.  I will feel myself sinking fast. 

I have another choice.  I can “be alert and of sober mind” and realize that my Lord is with me.  I can focus on Him and on His grace given to me.  I can let the faith He gave me wash over me and keep my eyes on Him. 

In both examples, my problems surround me, but in the second option, I focus on the Lord and see His hand stretched out toward me and within my reach.  I am surrounded by His grace and blessings in both cases, but when I turn my attention to myself and my problems, I’m not accepting His gifts, and not accepting His outstretched hand.   I can choose to sink into the quicksand, or not.  It is up to me.  Faith really is that simple. 

Consider, for a moment, my favorite writings on the topic of faith – the Letters of Paul in the New Testament.  So, we read his letters and they are loaded.  But, what I come away from them with is a feeling of a powerful love and faith.  I do not come away from them with a feeling of “poor Paul – nothing goes right for him.  He turned his life around and it’s just been one heart-break after another.”  I come away from it thinking “Wow, when you say yes to Christ, your life is never the same.  It’s AMAZING how grace and blessings flow!”  I also am blown away at his trust in the Lord and the love flowing from letters written while he himself is in prison and being very likely subjected to steady abuse. 

Paul’s life was, in many ways, a train wreck as he wrote his letters.  Okay, perhaps not every moment, but mostly.  He did, after all, get a few tents made and some traveling and preaching on the road done, but there was drama in his life for sure and scary constantly life threatening  situations .  Potential disasters were always near.  He was also a leader to others who were taking on the same ministry and whom he surely knew he was leading down a path that would very likely cost them their lives just as he’d end up losing his own.  It seems to me that regardless of his faith, that must have troubled him.  He surely loved these whom he taught and surely thought of the circumstances the “new life” would bring to them in this world.   Ultimately, as Paul wrote these letters, he knew where he was going and he knew if he kept steadfast in his faith, his Lord was with him.  Paul knew where he was really going.  The hand the Lord stretched out to lead Him was the very hand which He also stretched out on the cross when He gave up His life in this world, so that we could join Him in eternity. 

So, I ask you – where do you choose to direct your focus?  Accept the gift of faith, won’t you?


What Is Faith?

October 30, 2011

So, when things get tough and we grow fearful and discouraged, we hear folks saying “have faith” and I must say when this happens in my life I get frustrated and want to ask them if they even know what the word means!!!  I know, it’s wrong to judge but somehow when the same people who seem to think my Christian beliefs are a bit odd (at best) or seem to HOLD THEM AGAINST ME AS A CHARACTER FLAW suddenly  say “have faith” it somehow seems as though a reaction like that might not be wrong.  Okay, I’m learning to resist being reactionary.  Honest.  I’m working hard at it.  But, what is faith anyway?  So, looking in The Book for an answer, I found the following:

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

 

Hmmmm . . . seems to me upon reading the quote from Ephesians, that either admonishing someone to have faith or lamenting over not having enough is wrong.  Seeking another angle on this I looked to the dictionary where the word was defined as “belief that is not based on proof.”  Looking further, proof is defined as “evidence sufficient to establish something as true.”  Evidence . . . typically that needs to be something concrete which can be touched, seen, and handed over to another.  So, faith is what my heart and soul and ultimately my mind just knows.  Hmmmmm.

 

When a non-believer challenges me, I am certain of my faith and I trust in the Lord.   Pushed to provide evidence, I come up with testimony after testimony, but absent of being in a relationship with the Lord and having that trust in Him and being blessed with His grace and faith which He has given to me, I can only say things which to the non-believer sound like “I know what I know” and to that person, the response is “you don’t really know much.”  Jt reminds me of those concepts I was too young for during my childhood to which my parents replied “you’ll understand when you get older.”  Sure enough, when I “was older” I understood.

 

Faith is a gift the Lord hands to us, but if we turn away from it, which our free will allows us to do, we truly miss so much.  It seems we are much more willing to believe in earthy things than heavenly things.  Why is that?  Why does Paul, in the quote from Ephesians, warn us against boasting?  I don’t think boasting is wrong if we are honest.  I am nothing without my Lord who lives in me and who empowers me through His Holy Spirit.  If I boast of the Lord and express my faith in Him, those in darkness can see and hear that He is good and hunger for Him then be similarly blessed if they choose to take a chance and say yes to the Lord.  We take a chance on a lottery ticket and pay our dollar and odds which are TOTALLY STACKED AGAINST US assure us that we are likely to lose the dollar and gain nothing.  Alternatively, we can say yes to the Lord without spending a penny.  The result?  We can and will grow close to Him and gain ETERNAL LIFE. 

 

Take a chance!  Accept the grace and faith offered and get to know the Giver!  The gift costs you nothing yet it cost Him EVERYTHING, even His very life when He died on the cross in order to procure this gift for you and for me.  Trust me on this.  Actually, I’m just a flawed human, so you don’t have to trust me.  Trust Him instead!  You won’t be sorry!


Thought For Today About God

October 29, 2011

It’s been said time and time again that “when God closes a door, He always opens a window.”    Lately I’ve  been wondering if that’s an accurate statement.  It seems to me that I’m far more likely to close doors in my life than He is.  Infact, it seems clear to me that when He says no, it’s a lot like I’m taking the smaller piece of cake and He’s saying “no, take this one instead” and reaching toward me with the prize piece which is much larger and has the frosting rose on top of it besides!    Now, if only I could listen better! 

He’s about beginnings . . . I believe it’s actually we humans who are about endings!


News Flash!

October 28, 2011

An article I wrote was published in the Charleston Post and Courier today.  If anyone would like to read this, here’s a link to it published in the online version of the paper.  It’s identical to the “paper” version. 

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/oct/28/things-are-looking-up-in-the-holy-city/?print


DEAR READERS – WANT TO READ MORE?

October 27, 2011

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my articles!  I am part of the writing team for Technorati and!  To read my articles there which are on many current hot topics including health, social justice, and much much more, please see my new page called ‘My Technorati Articles” on this blog where you will find a complete list of the 32 articles currently published there.  It is listed with the titles and web addresses.  You simply need to type the web addresses into your browser or “copy and paste” them there to bring up the articles of interest.  Thanks for looking!  It will be updated regularly with new content.


Think Your Way to ABUNDANT JOY?

October 26, 2011

Psalm 55:2
hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

Psalm 94:11
The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile

Proverbs 15:26
The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him

Isaiah 55:8
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD

Matthew 9:4
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts

The Bible is full of verses about our thoughts.  Pondering that a moment I am reminded of many things.  Our thoughts, or our focus if you will, direct our attitude, our abilities, our choices, our beliefs, and our actions.  Can you not recall a time when you were in a good mood until someone in a negative frame of mind spoke to you and suddenly your mood was as dark as their own?  Can you think of a time when “everything” in life seemed to be going wrong . . . the world seemed totally against you . . . . you just couldn’t “get a break” and life seemed hopeless?  Does it seem that there just are some folks who seem to be magnets for gloom and doom, as this world calls  it – bad luck?  Perhaps they are bringing it on themselves.  Perhaps we all do this and we don’t even realize it? 

 

The Bible quotes above are but a small number of the many teachings on our thoughts.  The Lord is the source of our hope – our true hope lies in Him.  When we’re in a challenging point in our day or our life, we have a choice to make.  We can dwell on all that we perceive as wrong, and thus it truly will be all that we see, or we can focus our eyes and our hearts on the Lord and keep our focus on Him and the fact that He dwells in us.  Jesus – our source of hope and peace – is in us.  Our specific circumstances may not change immediately when we focus on Him, but our eyes will open!  Our “bad luck” suddenly looks like an opportunity to grow and to learn.  We suddenly start to feel His love which was there all the time, yet because we turned our focus to the negative, we also turned it away from all that is good.  What you focus on becomes your ultimate reality.  Wouldn’t you rather keep your eyes, your heart, and your soul on Him?  He is your source of all joy – and circumstances cannot rob you of His joy!

1 Chronicles 16:27
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place

Job 8:21
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy


Thank the Lord Anyway

October 25, 2011

Ephesians 5:19-20


speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This quote is one I cannot read often enough.  It’s so easy to be thankful when things in my life are just as I wish them to be, but when my plans don’t work out, or my prayers aren’t answered in the way I wish they’d been, I don’t always think to say “praise the Lord anyway” and I KNOW I should.  The quote both reminds and convicts me because God’s plan is always best and when He blesses me by not giving me what I want, what I receive ultimately turns out to be more than I can ever desire or pray for, just as the Bible repeatedly tells us.  So, join me in saying “thanks” even when the answer is “no.”  Thank you Lord for always knowing what’s best for me and for your patience! 


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