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)


Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

In all areas of life, remaining static is not an option. One of the grocery stores I shop at has a small rise in the middle of the parking lot. As much as I try to not park there, I still seem to end up at the top of that small rise. You can guess what happens when I get my cart to the car and try to open the trunk. The cart starts to roll away. Those who say multitasking is really not a very efficient way to do things have never seen a 52 year old grandma fling open the car trunk, hang onto the cart and stuff the bags of groceries inside. Multitasking is essential. In the same way growth is essential in our lives. Life, so often, is like a juggling act, one that takes off even as we struggle to hang on, just like my gravity bound cart. If we do not make purposeful choices to grow, life will get away from us.

Growth in our Christian lives should always be our goal. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but no, we have not arrived and we never will until we meet Jesus in the air. We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be Christ-like (Philippians 2:1). We are to do whatever we do for the Lord, rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Unless you know of some special pill we can take to make us instantaneously Christ-like, we have to grow.

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

It sounds so simple. You've heard sayings such as, "Bloom where you are planted," and "Sew seeds of love." So quaint. So easy. Not! True growth is like exercise: repetitive, grueling discipline. Wanting to do better, go higher and be more is a choice. And most often, not an easy one. Paul spoke in Philippians 2:12 of working out our salvation. Notice in the verse there is a four letter word - work. Work implies effort, but it also implies reward. When God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and tending the garden (see Genesis 2) he was rewarded, not only with a beautiful companion, but with the satisfaction of his effort.

Some of you may be gardeners. I like to play with flowers and plants. I find something richly satisfying about getting my hands dirty. I love the feel of the soil in my hands and the tearing of weeds from their deeper holds. This comparison transfers easily to our Christian growth as well. Is is satisfying to read God's word with attention and understanding. It can be enriching to find a church home where you can have fellowship and teaching with other like-minded individuals.

Think of growth like a river. As long as the river flows freely, growth and health are taking place. When the river hits debris in its path, it may become backed up resulting in a stagnant, murky pool. Do you want to be a stagnant and murky Christian? Or do you want to allow Christ's Spirit to flow freely, directing your life and taking you where He wants you to go?

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

Is growth necessary? Absolutely! Examine your life and ask Jesus to show you where you need to grow. Maybe your prayer life is weak or nonexistent. Maybe you have secluded yourself because you have been hurt. Take steps to reconnect with those who care about you. Maybe you feel God calling you to get back into His word. Why not start a Bible study with other women at a coffee shop? Even in our wilderness wanderings, we still need to grow. In fact, it is often in these times of loss, loneliness and suffering that we have the most opportunity for growth, but it is up to us.

If you were a tiny seed or a bulb, down in the dark earth, you would not think to question, "Gee, should I grow this year?" As soon as the earth started to warm in the spring sun, an energy would fill you with urgency to push yourself up and out of that black sleep, to rise and bloom. We are the crown of His creation. If a little seed can be transformed into a beautiful plant then we too need to push ourselves our of our black sleep and grow.