Friday, April 27, 2007

Faith Is the Victory

What if there was one medium of exchange that could get anyone everything needed and desired in life? Money is fairly well established, but it can’t buy you love nor can it save your eternal soul. The satisfaction of a job well done or a life well lived lasts but for the fleeting moments that the memory is fresh: it's never too long before someone's asking, “What have you done for me lately?” A promise coming from another human being is not bankable either, just look at what the native Americans got from the new Americans, or what the baby-boomers will get out of the Social Security system.

Bible declares that God has given everyone a measure of faith. Jesus said the following about faith:
be it unto you according to your faith
if you have faith... nothing will be impossible to you
whatever you ask... you will receive if you have faith.”
The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith and that we await the hope of righteousness by faith. Faith is the answer!

Faith, however, is directional, it inherently points at something. For faith to “work” it must be directed at the right “thing.” Lots of folks have some type of faith in something, but is it capable of getting all that is needed or wanted? Faith in Jesus Christ is. When one believes Jesus is at the right hand of all power and authority, that everything has been given to him by the heavenly Father, that all prayers prayed in his name are heard and answered, that he is capable of doing all things, that his work on the cross as verified by the resurrection is capable of making one eternally right with God…when one believes in Jesus for who he is, for what he’s done, and in what he’s said, that one has the currency of heaven and the means to everything necessary and desirable under God.

But we are, pitifully, more often than not those of such little faith! Thankfully, less than a mustard seed is powerful enough for most any purpose. What is your mustard seed growing? Is Jesus who he says he is to you? In your mind does he have the power he claims to have? Are His words reliable according to your value system? Does he have the goods, or not? These are the distilling questions of faith, and their answers of utmost importance, because my friend, faith is the victory.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's Your Story?

Never underestimate the power of your personal testimony. I would say that our own heartfelt story of how Jesus changed our life is one of the most powerful tools in our evangelistic tackle box. I know that signs and wonders and conviction are absolutely essential too, but more fundamental to the fulfillment of our commission from Christ is our personal witness: telling people from a first-hand perspective what Christ has done for us. For a great story of the power of testimony, hit the link in the post title. Now you may think that story is only stellar because it deals with a star, and it would be hard to contend that did not have something to do with the results, but let's not miss the point-- the proclamation of the life-changing power of the gospel by a life changed by the gospel has fantastic alluring affects (especially in conjunction with the conviction of the Holy Spirit).

For the past few days, the trout fishermen have been lining every brook, trickle and drip around these parts. They're not wading through frigid water, and mucking around slippery banks, and fighting their way through branch and bramble to waste their time fishing with empty hooks! They offer what they consider the best bait they have. We have some mighty fine bait in our personal testimony. Use yours and get out there and fish for people.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Test Any of Us Can Pass

Not long ago, I experienced an unexpected shock when I preached about God testing the faithful. It seems there were some in the audience who did not believe that God would ever test his children. The thought that He would led to a minor dust storm. To bring a clearing breeze, and to shine some biblical light on the subject, (not only for those who were in that audience but for whoever may read this in the broader world) let me offer the following thoughts.

The biblical concept of God testing his children has nothing to do with entrapment. God does not tempt us to do evil, only to say "gotcha!" when we fail. The process of testing is actually one of love-- God searching for that which most delights Him. It is most akin to assaying or refining, or even panning for gold. When God tests us He is attempting to uncover and reveal the best that is in us, our delightful streaks. He's never trying to prove our unworthiness; instead, he's highlighting what's good about us.

Why would God do such a thing? It's not like he doesn't already know! Since he is omniscient, our testing must be directed at some other audience. Who could that be? Angels, yes, but also, us. Our hearts are so contorted, we don't even understand ourselves. Anyone not blinded by pride, knows the pain of the awareness of our own failings. When God tests us he allows us to see what he sees: that in him we are becoming something truly wonderful to behold.

That God tests his children along these lines cannot be denied as attested by the following scriptures:

Exodus 15:25; 16:4; 20:20
Deuteronomy 8:2,16; 13:3
Judges 2:22; 3:1,4
I Chronicles 29:17
Psalms 7:9; 11:5; 17:3; 26:2; 66:10
Proverbs 17:3
Isaiah 28:16 (even Christ was)
Jeremiah 11:20; 12:3; 20:12
Daniel 12:10
Zechariah 13:9
I Thessalonians 2:4
Hebrews 11:17
James 1:2-4, 12
I Peter 1:6-7; 4:12

Be blessed in your study of the Word (and don't worry, there won't be a test afterwards!).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Count the Cost

I was 19, lost in the fog of drug abuse and crushed under the weight of self-loathing, when I remembered something I had once known about Jesus. I picked up The Way and started reading the Bible between bong hits. About 3 weeks later, a knock at my door revealed two Campus Crusaders doing their witness thing.

They wanted to "share" a little booklet with me that would tell me how I could receive Christ. I may have been a burn out, but that didn't mean I wasn't polite to strangers. I invited them in and listened with interest. At the end of their presentation they asked me if understood all they had shared, "yup," I answered.

"Did I believe it?" they wondered. "Sure," I said, "and added, "that's the coolest thing I've ever heard!" "Then let's pray to receive Christ right now!" they pressed. "No," I said, "can't do that." Why?" they asked incredulously. "Because I'm not willing to give up everything to follow Christ," I answered naively. I had been reading the Bible and I knew one couldn't follow Jesus just by acknowledging him mentally and not changing the direction of his life. I wasn't ready to do that.

They thought going through everything again would shake my reticence, and so, pencil in hand marking the words on the page as we read, we did it all again. They asked again, and I resisted again. We discussed, I resisted, they got upset, I kicked them out. I didn't receive Christ for another two years. Thank God my life didn't end before my resistance to Christ did.

I wish that we would stop playing the "bait and switch" game; that we would stop, in blatant distrust of Jesus, sugar coating the gospel. This non-evangelistic evangelism is demeaning to Christ, to the cross, and to all those who have faithfully gone before. This is not some frivolous social club, it's the kingdom of God. It comes at a price and those saved need to count the cost...

at least that's what's spelled out in the Word.