Traits of a Godly Person: Faith - Part 2

Last week we took a look at a Biblical example of a man who had great faith. The faith of the Centurion in Jesus, to heal his servant, was so strong it made Jesus marvel. This week I would like look at our own faith. Do you have faith like the Centurion? Do I? If not, what can we do differently that will cause Jesus to marvel at our faith? Today, I want to look at a few of the verses where Jesus speaks of faith, then I want to compare a living faith to the development of a child

Image by  congerdesign  from  Pixabay

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

This first quote from Matthew 17 occurred shortly after Jesus had cast a demon out of a man’s son. The disciples had tried to cast out the demon, but were unsuccessful.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”
20 And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
21 [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
— Matthew 17:19-21 (NASB)
Image by  GOKALP ISCAN  from  Pixabay

Image by GOKALP ISCAN from Pixabay

These are mustard seeds. They are tiny. Jesus compares faith to this tiny seed. He says if we have faith, even this small, we can move mountains. Wow! Just wow! The fact that I have never moved a mountain, puts my faith to shame. Obviously, God doesn’t want us throwing mountains all over creation, but you get the point. We don’t have to have a mountain of faith, to do amazing things in Jesus name.

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.
14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
— Mark 10:13-16 (NASB)
Image by  WikiImages  from  Pixabay

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In this passage, Jesus becomes indignant with the disciples for keeping the children from coming to HIm. Once again, I am amazed by the emotion exhibited by our Lord. The word, indignant basically means becoming angry because of something unjust. Jesus must have felt that the children were not begin treated justly, because they were being kept away from him, as though they didn’t have as much right to talk to Him and be near Him as the adults did.

Jesus then goes on to make an important point, which I have brought up before. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Jesus just made a statement about faith that is often overlooked. We must have child-like faith to enter God’s kingdom. What exactly does that mean?

Children go through a certain progression in their development that coincides in the progression of our faith. Let’s take a look.

1 - Look & Listen - When a baby is first born, they experience a sudden assault on their senses. The sounds, sights and feelings outside the warmth and comfort of the womb must be overwhelming. As the tiny one grows they begin to use these senses to learn about their environment. They hear their mother’s voice and see her face. As the days pass, their eyesight and hearing becomes more clear and they begin to find pleasure in looking at their mother’s face and hearing her voice as she sings and talks to them. Looking and listening become a way to learn and grow.

Image by  fancycrave1  from  Pixabay

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

In the same way, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we must look and listen. We need to become familiar with His face and His voice. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to see God in His word, the Bible, and in His creation. He also gives us the ability to hear Him through the Scriptures, Biblical teaching, personal devotions, music and even through the singing of the birds in the early morning. However, we need to actually look and listen. We need to learn the lines of His face, the color of His eyes, the wave of his hair and the sound of His voice.

It has been scientifically proven that if a child does not bond with his or her mother early on, the child will undergo certain psychological impediments as he or she develops. We are God’s creation. The movement of humanity away from God developed when Adam and Eve sinned. That inability to bond with our Heavenly Father has impeded our ability to develop psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is only after we traverse that gap, by walking the way of the cross, that we see His face, and hear His voice clearly.

2 - Reach - As baby grows, he/she begins to reach for mom’s face. I can remember playfully chewing on both of my daughters’ hands when they were little, as they began to smile, and coo. Babies will reach towards toys, and other brightly colored objects, continuing their path of exploration and discovery.

Pixabay - toddler reaching

Our faith grows and solidifies as we reach for God. Reaching involves beginning to get outside our comfort zones. Many of you grew up in the church. You were used to hearing the songs and prayers, and had the example of others in relationship with the unseen God. For someone outside the church, becoming a Christian is much like the birth of a baby, bringing them into a world of light and sound that they are not used to. Reaching for God may seem a little odd, but it becomes quite natural as we grow in our faith and relationship with Christ.

How do we reach out to Him? Reaching is about focus. When my grandson was just learning to crawl, I was reintroduced to the focus that a little child can have. He would see something across the room and immediately fixate on it. Then, as he gained more mobility, he would scuttle himself towards the prize. Nothing could deter him, once he was focused on that thing he wanted. I know my girls did this too, but being a grandmother allowed me more time to watch that little guy develop. It was beautiful the way the Lord spoke to my heart through that tiny boy.

This is exactly what reaching means, to focus and yearn for that prize that is across the room. As a Christian, my focus is to be Jesus. I reach for Him as I study, read, pray, thank and rejoice.

16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit;
20 do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
22 abstain from every [m]form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NASB)

3 - Crawl, Walk, Run - From the point of reaching to the actions of crawling, walking and running, it is a very short time period. Look at how much a child develops in the first year and a half of his/her life. It is amazing! They go from being totally dependent to having the desire to be fiercely independent.

Image by  Sasin Tipchai  from  Pixabay

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

As we grow in our faith in Christ, we mature learning to see Jesus’ face and hear His voice. We deepen our understanding of Him, and His desires for us as we reach for Him. Once we are mature, we don’t stop moving forward, but our development changes. We no longer have the immature faith of a new believer. Now we have been through hard times. It is in the difficulties that our faith is challenged. When tragedy comes we need to run to Jesus. We may be so tired we can only walk. Or we may be on our faces and the best we can do is crawl. Each time we reach for Him our faith becomes more real and more solid. Each time we remember His promises, our faith deepens and broadens. Every day that we focus on Him the Spirit works in our lives making our faith live.

The worst thing we can do is become stagnant. If a child suddenly decided to no longer crawl, he would never learn to stand. If he/she never stood, they would never walk, and if they never learned to walk, they would never know the pure joy and delight of being able to run.

Let us run with Him.

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
— Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)


Traits of a Godly Person: Faith - Part 1

I was praying for clarity this morning as I thought about this post. I wanted to have some semblance of organization to my thoughts, as well as a sort of progression to the traits as we look at them. I am definitely a picture learner. It helps me to see a picture in my mind of what I am learning. That picture gives me the ability to remember the concepts better. At my age, anything that helps me remember is good. Ha, ha.

Image by  congerdesign  from  Pixabay

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

As I prayed, it seemed the Holy Spirit was impressing on me, the idea that Faith is the precursor to all the other Godly traits. Not only did it seem a Spiritual impression, but logically it makes sense. Without faith, we cannot know God, otherwise why would Jesus repeatedly refer to faith when interacting with people. Let’s look at a situation involving our Lord.

5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,
6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”
7 Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;
12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
— Matthew 8:5-13 (NASB)

In order to understand the wonderfulness of this passage, we need to be clear on what is happening. The Centurion was an officer in the Roman army. He was a man of authority. He probably was fairly well off and he fully understood how things worked within the hierarchy of the Roman kingdom.

Image by  jacqueline macou  from  Pixabay

Obviously, he was a man of compassion, because he was deeply concerned for his servant who lay “paralyzed at home, and fearfully tormented.” He didn’t just come and ask, the passage says, “…imploring Him…” We do not know what the servant’s illness was. It could have been anything, including demon possession, but whatever it was came on fairly suddenly, and could have been deadly. Having been on the receiving end of malaria, I understand the severity of an illness that leaves you flat on your back and hallucinating, due to a fever, that when once measured at a clinic in Africa ,was over 105. However, it is clear that this servant was important to his master. Doesn’t this say something about this man? He probably could have gone out and purchased another servant without any thought, but he cared for this one.

Image by  Stefan Schweihofer  from  Pixabay

In addition to being a man of authority and a man of compassion, this Centurion was curious. If you know your Bible, you know that many times when Jesus was present, there were large crowds. Often these crowds were docile and listened intently to hear what Jesus had to say. Other times, the crowds got a bit rowdy, especially if there were Jewish religious leaders present who did not agree with what Jesus was teaching. I am speculating that Roman soldiers were often milling about, just to make sure the peace was being kept. This particular man must have been watching with some amount of intensity, because he knew what Jesus was teaching and doing. He observed how Jesus handled the people and how they responded to him.

Image by  Wajari Velásquez  from  Pixabay

The next characteristic of this man, is humility. He didn’t seem to feel dumb approaching Jesus. He just did it. He came to Jesus and immediately let Him know the problem he was desiring help for. How many times have I been afraid to speak up or try something new because I was afraid? More often than I’d like to confess. Pride, and the desire to not be uncomfortable, often keeps us from learning new things, meeting new people and experiencing life to the fullest. This Centurion was probably not accustomed to asking for help. He was a man who ordered others around. I can imagine the plan that went through his head as he contemplated walking up to Jesus and posing his desire for his servant’s healing. He didn’t hesitate. He just did it.

The Centurion shows great respect to Jesus. He knew the tension that existed between the Jews and the Gentile Romans. Under the circumstances it is understandable why there would be tension between the conqueror, and the conquered. This man approached Jesus with this thought in mind. When Jesus offered to come to the Centurion’s home, the man responded, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof…” Not only did he understand the cultural differences, but he honored Jesus as a man on equal footing, or even at a higher position of authority than himself. This proclamation brings us to the focal point of the passage.

The Centurion had faith. He knew Jesus could heal his servant without even being at his home. What an amazing statement of faith. HIs faith and declaration of it was so outstanding, that it says “…when Jesus heard this, He marveled….” I find that so fascinating. The Son of God, marveled. Would it be that my faith could be as straight forward and sure as the faith of this Roman Centurion. I would love for my faith to make the King of Heaven and Earth marvel! How about you? Jesus goes on to commend the man’s faith before the crowd. He says, “…Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” This heathen man’s faith was the stepping stone for all Gentiles to partake in the salvation from sin given freely by Jesus.

I love this passage. It is a reminder of how important our faith is. Next week we will look more specifically at what having faith means to us in today’s world. Have a marvelous week and keep the faith!





Traits of a Godly Person: An Introduction - Becoming Like a Child

It is time that I get back to regularly posting on my Faith page. I apologize for the hiatus. Faith posts are more difficult for me to write, because I want to be accurate, according to Scripture, as well as sharing information that is encouraging. This often requires a quiet place to write and the time to do it.

As a writer of fiction, I can get into a groove of writing a scene or dialogue and conquer pages without even blinking an eye, but as all authors know, those times are infrequent. Writing is a discipline, just like going to the gym, watching what you eat and spending time in God’s word. As I have confessed previously, I am not a very disciplined person. That may be why I don’t have anything published yet. Yes, I do blog on a regular basis and that is a form of published writing, however, in the writing to publish realm it only counts as a way to build a following and a way to practice writing. That is okay. I need all the practice I can get, and you would be surprised how much better my fiction writing is, because I regularly write this blog. That’s a big shout out to all of you who read my blog, because you keep me writing. Thank you.

This morning my older daughter and I went to the gym. It has been a while since we have gone, so as hard as it was, I felt good afterwards. We didn’t get overly zealous, just did a fifteen minute walk on the treadmill, a few weight machines and some stretching. Still, it was a choice to do something good.

Image by  David Mark  from  Pixabay

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

As I was pondering good choices after I got back and took a shower, I thought about my last Mulling It Over series in 2 Peter 1:1-11. I had suggested that perhaps further study into each of the characteristics listed in that set of verses would be a good idea. I was about to begin a few other tasks after breakfast, when it struck me to sit down and do my devotions. I am sporadic at best, and I usually reach for Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. You might think me strange, but this is the only devotional I have been using for, lets see, the date inside the book says my hubby gave it to me Christmas of 2007, so over eleven years.

The title of today’s devotional was, The Habit of Having No Habits. You can read it in full by clicking on the title. You can see that I actually read the wrong day…or did I? If you believe in an Almighty Creator, who is able to control all of our circumstances, then you will probably agree with me, that God could have easily placed May 12th in front of my face rather than May 13th…or it could just be the dementia setting in. Ha, ha.

If you read the devotional you will see Oswald talking about the habit of becoming godly. When we first become a Christian, many of our habits may have to change and we purposefully have to make choices to change them. It is when those habits no longer have to be thought about or fought against, that our lives have become, as Oswald says, “…the simple life of a child.” It is with this in mind, that I want to start this new series.

When we take the time to look at children, we can see, generally they live without a care in the world. They trust their parents to take care of them. If they are afraid, they know they can go to their parents and be reassured. Children are full of curiosity, innocence and joy. Sure, they have their moments, but don’t we all?There are references in the Bible to children and becoming like a child, revealing a special fondness our Creator has for these miniature humans.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
— Matthew 18:1-6 (NASB)

I would love to go into a detailed description of the place of torment I believe God has for predators of children, but I’ll save that for a fiction piece. Make no mistake, what Christ says in these verses is of primary importance. We cannot become Christians if we do not become like little children. God is also a God of justice and those who lead little children astray will be subject to an Almighty God’s wrath.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with the traits of a Godly person. If we do not become like a child, as Christ said, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I also believe that it is only in becoming like a child that we are able to obtain these traits of God, traits like love, joy, peace, brotherly kindness, etc.

A child has a large ability to believe, and belief is key, both in becoming a child of God and in walking in His spirit. Ask a four year old if he believes in Santa Clause, unicorns, or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. They believe these things because we as parents invite them in to a fantastic world of imagination and possibility. In the same way our loving Creator invites us in to a world of unfailing love, perfect peace and streets paved with gold.

Image by  Stefan Keller  from  Pixabay

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Becoming adults, we think we are doing ourselves a favor by putting aside our imaginings and dreams, but we only do ourselves a disservice. Obviously, only a chosen few have had the privilege to see God. The rest of us must leave his appearance to our imaginations. Using our imaginations does not make God any less real, in fact, the ability to believe who He says He is, and what He says He can do, takes a bit of imagining, but who gave us this ability? He did, and He did it so that we could come to know Him more fully, so that we could come into His presence and experience all that He tells us in His word.

As we begin to look at these Godly traits over the next few weeks and perhaps months, try to revisit the feelings and thoughts you had as a child, when you looked forward to Christmas morning, a vacation or a surprise. Look with anticipation and joy at what God will teach you, and me, with trust in His very best for us.

A Christmas Lesson Learned from Charlie Brown

So what is the lesson I learned from good old Chuck? Simply put, it has to do with child-like faith. There is a certain amount of wonder involved in the whole Christmas story. As far as that goes, there is a certain amount of wonder for many children at Christmas time.

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Three Little Commands - Pray without Ceasing

When we think about our lives how many things do you do without ceasing? Well, I can come up with a few like dishes, laundry and.....Okay, okay, so maybe they aren't constant, but it sure seems that way sometimes. The things that we do without ceasing have more to do with those functions of our bodies that we call involuntary....we do them without thinking. Breathing, swallowing, blinking, these are all things we don't really think about. Yes, our brain does think about them, but we don't consciously choose to breathe, unless we are taking a birthing class or meditating. Ha, ha. Our brain controls all of those cycles and tasks that our body performs that we never give a thought to. Good thing! If I had to think about making my digestive system turn food into all its usable and unusable components, I would probably just give up.

When Paul tells the believers at the church of Thessalonica to "...pray without ceasing..." what exactly does he mean? Is he saying that we should pray like we do our laundry and dishes....when the piles get so high they have to be done or we will be wearing the same pair of underwear again, or we will be eating without plates and silverware? In all honesty that is the way my life is. I only do laundry when we are starting to run out of the essentials and the dishes not only take up the space in the dishwasher and drying rack, but in the sink and on the counter next to the sink! 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Even more unfortunate, that is how my prayer life is. I put it off and put it off until I am driven to my knees by forces beyond my control. When life piles it on higher and higher until there is  no more avoiding it, the only option left is prayer.

I know I feel better when my laundry is done and my dishes are all in their homes in the cupboards rather than in messy piles around the sink (or even the whole kitchen when it is really bad). I feel like I have accomplished something and have a sense of peace that those things aren't hanging over my head, waiting to be attended to. When my home is messy, cluttered and chaotic, my life feels that way as well. So why is it, so often, things get to that point? Because life happens!

The same is true of our prayer lives. When I am in sync with God and I am praying in His spirit, I feel at peace. Life can be chaotic around me, but I am one and at rest with HIm. One of my favorite authors of the past is Oswald Chambers. His devotional My Utmost for His Highest is a daily read for me and has been since my husband gave me the book in 2007. I'd like to share a few things from one of His devotionals. 

Prayer does not equip us for the greater works—-prayer is the greater work.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

We live in a world that is work oriented. Not only do we work at work, we work at home and we work at play. All that work is good. Having a job helps pay the bills. Doing the laundry gives us fresh clothes to wear. Being part of a health club or a sports team gives us benefits socially and physically. However, as a Christ follower, my greatest work is prayer. 

Ever since I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of twelve I have acknowledge this idea in the back of my head, but it didn't really become a central part of my life until I became an adult and then became a parent of adult children. Prayer is the force that moves mountains. I cannot change a person's heart, but God can. I cannot heal a sick child, but God can. I cannot direct this country, but God can. He is in control. I won't go into why God says yes or why He says no, but it comes down to trust. 

When I became a grandparent a little over six years ago, I was able to revisit the idea of child like faith. As I watched my grandson grow and learn and experience life I realized how very much God desires we come to Him as a little child; full of wonder, curiosity, and trust. My grandson never wondered where I was. He always knew I was there. He didn't wonder if I would pick him up when he cried, he just knew I would. 

We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a ‘wise’ man does not.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

A little child has a degree of trust that far exceeds anything we can understand, that is, until that trust is broken. The little child has an amazing capacity to believe. Just think about children and Santa Clause. Unless someone explains that Santa is merely a tale based on the historical figure of Saint Nicolas a child will enjoy the belief that Santa is a very real and magical being. He will also believe that Santa is good and will bring him gifts on Christmas morning.

Pixabay

Pixabay

That is what coming to God in prayer should be like. We should come to Him, regularly, consistently and with anticipation of what He will do. He may not answer our prayers in the fashion that we deem best, but we can choose, like that little child, to trust Him, because we know that He is good. Goodness is a part of His character and He cannot be otherwise.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
— Psalm 106:1 (NASB)

How do we pray without ceasing? Just like we breath. Without a thought. When the day is sunny and the sky is blue, I breath a prayer of joy. When I am tired and need His strength, I breath a prayer of petition. When I am sad, or scared, I breath a prayer of scripture, knowing that His word brings peace and hope. When life is so overwhelming I feel as though I cannot go on, I only breath and let Him do the rest.