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!





How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

An Old Fixer Upper!

Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It is also a day to remember those who have gone on before us, our loved ones and friends, whose lives were ended by age,  disease or accidents. I am thankful for the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and security. 

My husband and I were able to get away for two nights after our "kidney stone vacation cancellation" occurrence this past week. We went somewhere just a couple of hours away and had a fun, relaxing time. On part of the trip, rather than take the usual interstate highways, we traveled a few country roads which meandered through smaller communities and old farming towns. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Each town and community are unique. Some are still bustling, with streets lined with pretty houses, lawns freshly manicured and flowers blooming. They have downtowns that are full of cars, with people milling about in cute little shops, pizza joints and coffee houses. Driving through these villages you get a life vibe, like the whole town cares about and contributes to the upkeep and betterment of the community.  Others, however, feel dead. As you drive through these places you might see a few houses where the lawns are mowed and flowers grace the porch, but many are untended. The downtowns of these communities, while boasting businesses of the past, are now mostly empty except for an occasional gas station or quickie mart. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we drive through this sort of community I always feel sad. My mind begins to wonder, who were the people that made up this community in the past? What were the businesses that used to call this town home? What happened to cause the eventual end of those businesses and why didn't new businesses move in? Who used to occupy those big old houses that now stand empty? Or if they are still lived in, what occurred in their lives that made them lose hope? Are they too old to properly care for their homes? Do they have some sort of debilitating disease that keeps them from getting out to mow their lawn? Did their lawn mower die and they don't have any money to replace it? Maybe life has thrown them too many curve balls and they have just giving up!

Suddenly, I realized, I am on the cusp of becoming one of those people. I'm tired! I'm getting older! I am, in some ways, becoming, not only like the people who live in those houses, but like the very structure itself; used up, in disrepair and feeling rather empty. I keep asking myself, what is wrong with me? Life has thrown an inordinate amount of curve balls my way. Maybe I have lost hope. But, I can't seem to get the words of that hymn out of my mind:

Pixabay

Pixabay

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

When Jesus came into my life, he became the owner of this abode. It was His blood and His righteousness that bought me and it is His grace and His Spirit that enables me to live in this world. Just as if a person of unlimited resources could go into one of those old, abandoned houses and refurbish it, Christ came into my life, not to let me get run down, worn out and empty, but to repaint, rebuild and fill up. It is on this solid rock of Jesus that I must stand. If I try to build my hope on anything else, I will become an old, rickety, empty house.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

Even when things seem their very darkest and those curve balls keep coming and coming, I still can stand on Him. I rest, not in what I can see right now, but what I already know to be true of Christ through his Spirit and His word. He does not change. He doesn't get tired, or worn out or depressed. He is our anchor, always and forever!

Stocksnap

Stocksnap

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

His oath, His covenant, His blood....not mine. We give ourselves too much credit. Every commercial you see, every song you hear, everything we read, tells us, "You can do it! You deserve it! You can win! If you just....." It wears me out and that is precisely where Christ can begin to do His work. Some of the greatest saints of the past were those who appeared, from a worldly perspective, to be the weakest. 

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
— I Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

Leave it to God to switch things up! He's so good at that. Our human point of view would never think to use the foolish things of the world, or the weak things of the world. Our flesh is all about getting its own glory. I'm strong! I'm smart! I'm powerful! Not! But He is! Oh, the blessed peace and rest, to know that is true.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

One day, this will be true. I will stand before His throne, faultless, because I stand on HIm alone. His blood and righteousness, not mine. Until that day, I am going to keep trying to let Him work in this old fixer upper. I want people to be able to look at me and see, maybe my porch is a little saggy and maybe my flower beds are not completely free of weeds, but that Jesus is working, always working to make me into something beautiful.