Category Archives: Faith

When We’re “Running Out”

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:1-4)

I can relate to this wedding dilemna! For my son’s rehearsal dinner, we put a lot of effort into making it really nice.  We held it at an upscale restaurant.  There were special decorations.  I created a video.  We planned activities.

The price of catering included wine for a certain period of time.  As the event went overtime, the maitre d’ came to my husband and whispered that if anyone wanted another drink, it would incur an extra charge.  It was a moment of counting the cost, because we were already spending a good deal of money.  But my husband was feeling joyful and magnanimous.  He said, “Sure, let them have more if they would like.”  It turned out that everyone had had enough, so it all worked out.

But the point is that we wanted the rehearsal dinner to be super special.  I’m sure the people in charge of the wedding at Cana felt the same.  For them, running out of wine in the middle of the celebration would have been a huge downer.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus’s mom stepped in to try and alleviate the situation.  She knew and cared about the young couple and their families.  She didn’t want them to experience this discouraging failure at the time that should be the biggest celebration of their life.

Mary didn’t think twice about going to Jesus and asking him for help.  And Jesus let her know that this request was uncool.  It was putting him out. It wasn’t his time to do miracles yet.

Yet, if we continue to read the story, we see that Jesus didn’t hold back.  He honored his mother’s request.  He used his powers and saved the day.

This story really helps my heart.   Sometimes I feel like I’m asking Jesus for something that is inappropriate.  I mean, he’s the Son of God.  My request is surely small next to the needs of the world.  It isn’t a salvation issue.  I’m not asking him to alleviate something grave like world hunger.   How can I bother Jesus with my little matter?  He has to have more important things on his agenda.

But this passage reminds me that Jesus cares about the day-to-day things going on in my life.  His heart was moved to help his mother.  I’m loved by him, and his heart can be moved to help me as well.

And in the story, Jesus didn’t just tell them how much he cared, or help in a token way.  He helped in a huge way.  He totally fixed it.

He performed a miracle. I’ve heard it so many times, that I forget how utterly amazing it is that Jesus changed water to wine.    I have a Brita pitcher of water on my kitchen counter right now.  If someone waved their hand over it and then poured me a cup of Burgundy, I would be astounded.  My heart would be racing.

That’s the kind of Savior we go to with our concerns.  We pray to God in his name.  He cares, and he has the power to fix them, no matter how impossible they seem.

So what are you running out of?  Okay, maybe it’s not wine.  But it could be money, or a another resource.  It could be time.   I confess that, lately, I’ve been running out of hope.

Several months ago, I put a situation on my prayer list that had been stuck for years.  For awhile, it got even more stuck.  But then one event occurred that was exactly what was needed to shake things up.  This led to more actions that really got the situation turned around. It has been amazing. The changes are still in progress, but, I’m telling you, it’s a true miracle!

Don’t think twice about taking your depleted situation to Jesus.  He loves you deeply!  You can ask, and his heart will be moved.  You won’t be inconveniencing him.  It’s not too small a request.  And if it’s in the scheme of God’s good will, Jesus won’t hold back. He’ll totally fix it.

Last night at our midweek house church, we ate fresh peach cobbler with ice cream, made from peaches I picked from my tree.  We didn’t study the Bible this time.  We just sat, and were close  and shared our lives with one another.  I felt such an atmosphere of love.

And I knew that this was a thumbnail of the warmth that Jesus has towards us — such a deep, encompassing, nurturing love.

When I think of it like that, I’m like, this is how we’re walking around in life.  We’re cushioned by love.  It’s natural to share our heart and requests with Jesus, and know that they will resonate with him and be honored.

Mary knew that was her reality.  Let’s remember that it’s ours as well.

 

 

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Seeing the Glory

“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:49-51

It seems like I’ve been praying like never before this week.  So many of my friends are going through really tough challenges — marriage difficulties, the death of a family member, a crisis regarding a loved one, impossible situations at work.

I have a little prayer box, and I keep putting more things in it.

Today’s passage speaks to this.  It describes how Nathanael reacted when Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite.   Nathanael could see the divine power behind this statement, and he declared that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

What’s really encouraging about this is Jesus’s response.  He told Nathanael that he would see heaven open and the angels going up and coming down.

Well, before we go on, we have to look at this mystifying image of the angels.  What did Jesus mean?  We don’t know.  We don’t have any record of Nathanael actually seeing this in the future.

But we do know that it’s probably a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28.

He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:12)

The outcome of this story of Jacob was that God was going to bless everyone on earth through Jacob’s descendants.  This is a continuation of the promise God gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  I believe that this promise is being fulfilled today as the gospel is being made known throughout the world.  Galatians 3 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)  

Thus, it very well could be that Jesus was telling Nathanael that he would see the miracle of the gospel being spread to all nations.

It could also be a reference to Nathanael’s entrance to heaven when he died.  When Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 and about to perish, he said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)  Jesus could be telling Nathanael that, as one of the first to have faith in the Son of God, he would have a similar vision when he passed away.

We don’t know.  But we do know that Jesus said that Nathanael would see something great and wonderful.  And I think the principle here is that because Nathanael was able to have faith in a small situation, he was going to see the glory of Christ.

And that is something that can encourage us.  If we can just have faith in the small things, we will be able to see glorious things.

It may be that we will see this glory as we see the gospel being spread in miraculous ways.  We will certainly see it when we get to heaven.

But maybe we will see the glory because faith allows us to live a glorious life.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12) I John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  And I love this verse, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  (II Cor 2:14)

Just being able to have faith in the small things makes such a difference. It helps us learn to have faith in the big things. And then God works in big ways.  And we see the world in a different way, that we’re not perpetually defeated, but, instead, part of something dynamic and thrilling and hopeful.

Earlier this week, a friend called me to unload about a difficult situation.   After we discussed it, we decided, rather than try and figure out a solution to the problem, to surrender it to God in prayer.  I put it in my “prayer box.”

The next day, she texted me and said that the situation had worked out.  It was a small miracle.

A day later, I heard about something that totally discouraged me.  I got a lump in my throat that was like a huge ugly ball, too big to swallow, too big to fit in my prayer box.

And I had to tell myself, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God.  This belief is my very core.  So I must surrender the unsurrenderable to him.”  And I’m trying to do that.

You know, as I reflect on this now, I realize that God works when we give things to him.  But we expect him to work while we’re still holding onto our concerns!  We have to have the faith to hand it over.

Nathanael took a step of faith. And Jesus said that he would see glory.

We need to take that step of faith, and then the next, and the next, even though they seem huge.  When we do, we will live a glorious life.

As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I see how true this is.  God did some wonderful things this week!  One friend had an amazing breakthrough.  I started studying the Bible with another friend, and it went so well!  God taught me truths that I was able to pass on to others to help them.  I could go on and on.

Jesus is the Son of God.  Our belief in that makes such a difference.

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Filed under Books of the Bible, Faith, John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

God Makes Wine With Our “Fruit!”

I will sing for the one I love

a song about his vineyard:

My loved one had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones

and planted it with the choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it

and cut out a winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,

but it yielded only bad fruit. (Is 5:1-2)

Here is what I am getting out of this passage.

First, I love that this is a love song to God.  Songs can express a story in such a moving way.  The fact that the prophet wrote a song means he wanted to convey an emotional connection.  He felt so deeply about the subject that he wanted to sing it, like a mournful ballad.

And that means that these are verses we should listen to with our heart.

Second, knowing that God is the loved one, and the vineyard is his people. we can see from the wording how much God takes deliberate and tender care of his people.

  • He locates the vineyard on a fertile hillside.  There is plenty of nourishment.  This is also true for us today.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (II Cor 9:8)
  • He clears out the rocks.  This is a theme we see all through the Bible, that God takes away the things that can make us stumble.  “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Ps 56:13)
  • He builds a watchtower so the field is protected.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  (Ps 23:4)

Third, we can see that just as the vineyard was planted to yield fruit, God intends for his people to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. Like the vines, we were intended to grow and produce.

  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
  • “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Lastly, the passage tells us that the husbandman of the vineyard cut out a winepress.  He intended to do something with the fruit so that it would be useful.  Isn’t this how God works with us?  We do our good deeds, and he multiplies them!

  • Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
  • “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20
  • “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. . .  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matt 25:23, 29
  • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously . . . And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work  II Cor 9

So that brings us to the question of the day.  If we are designed for a purpose, to do good things, and if God can multiply, can we not have even the smallest bit of faith or make the smallest of efforts?  It is exciting to think what God will do if we step out!!

Today I went to a doctor appointment.  I prayed beforehand, knowing that God is amazing and we should expect him to work in amazing ways.  And then I knew I needed to act in order to give God something to work with.  So I was friendly with the nurse and doctor.  In the course of our conversation I got to share with the doctor that I go to church with one of her former interns.  She asked me what church I go to so I got to tell her.  And then I handed scripture cards to the nurse and her co-worker before I left and they really appreciated them.

It doesn’t feel like much.  I was struggling with feeling emotional and gloomy this morning.  But I got centered on the good things, remembering God’s love and joy, and that I am a child of the light.  (I Thes. 5:5)  And when I did that, I could smile at the nurse and reach out of the little ball I wanted to curl myself into.

It reminds me of the parable of the talents.  One person was given ten talents, another five, and another got just one.  God still expected the person with one talent to use what he had.  It would have been easy for that man to think, “I just have one talent.  It’s not going to make much of a difference.  I don’t need to do anything with it.”  Or he might have thought, “What if I try to invest it, and lose it?  I’ll feel like a failure.  The master will be mad.  Let me save myself the emotional pain and just do the safe thing and hide it in the ground.”

So that is our challenge.  Let’s practice faith, even if we only have a tiny bit to practice.  Let’s do something, even if it doesn’t feel like very much.  It’s our job to have faith and do good works.  It’s God’s job to make these into something of consequence.

Last night we had house church.  A family was there as a result of an invitation I gave out when I was voting.  Another woman was there because I had followed up on her after I met her at church.  There are so many times I’ve made efforts and nothing has seemed to happen.  But we keep on trying, because sometimes we can see how God is making wine out of our fruit!!

(The woman on the left is the one who came to house church when I invited her.  She is shown here with the amazing Kenonia!)

 

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Filed under Faith, Isaiah, Mutiplication

He Will Do It Again

See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,

is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on:

every bit of bread and every drop of water,

the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet,

the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank,

the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.

“I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them.” (Isa 1:1-3)

Sometimes God takes away the things we depend on.  We can lose our job.  We can lose a relationship.  We can lose our health.  We can even lose our church.

God can take away that strong leader whom we relied on, and put someone who feels like a child, a simpleton, in their place.  Some in our nation feel as if that is happening right now.

So much was taken away from the early believers.  Jesus died, and then went up to heaven.  The church was persecuted, and it had to split up.  Disciples were jailed, beaten, and even killed.

But look at what Paul wrote about this:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.  II Cor 1:8-10

God allows us to experience loss so we learn to rely on him. This was certainly the case for the Jews in the time of Isaiah.  They needed to learn that all they put faith in was worthless.

And sometimes it’s true for us as well.

What I like about the passage in II Corinthians is that we see how God is faithful.  Even though we feel like we’ve lost everything, we never lose God.   He is always with us.  And he will rescue us in the end.

It reminds me of the song, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet .  . . 

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

God wants to rescue us.

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. . . He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. Selections from Ps. 18

How do I explain that I am at peace this week, when I was in so much turmoil before?  I see myriad strands of ways God worked to weave together a change for me.  How do I explain that so much of what I’ve dreaded hasn’t come to pass?  It could only be God. It could only be God who put marriages back together, who moved hearts to repent, who put the right person at the right place at the right time.

I want to keep repeating the words of the song, and keep believing that God has moved the mountains and he will do it again.

He will allow us to go through the loss of everything we depend on.

And out of that, when it seems at the worst, he will rise up to give us relief, and work in amazing ways.

To him be all glory and praise.

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Filed under Faith, Isaiah

Fear, You Don’t Own Me!

People will flee to caves in the rocks

and to holes in the ground

from the fearful presence of the Lord

and the splendor of his majesty,

when he rises to shake the earth. (Isa 2:19)

This passage talks about a SUPER earthquake, something cataclysmic that happens when the Almighty and Holy Lord comes to earth and the whole planet is shaken.

Let’s look at some other places in the Bible that mention this:

  • The earth is utterly broken apart, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken violently. Isa 24:19
  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be dissolved in the fire, and the earth and its works will not be found. II Peter 3:10
  • At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth, but heaven as well.” Heb 12:26 (Quoting Haggai 2:6)

This has got to be the Day of Judgment, when this world will pass away and a new heaven and earth will come.

  • “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  II Peter 3:13 (Note that this follows the II Peter verse above.)
  • Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Rev. 21:1

There’s actually a pretty cool contrast here.  On one hand, there will be terrible destruction, but on the other hand, something is created that is indestructible.

It is as Daniel prophesied: “In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever. ” Daniel 2:44

Wow.  Just wow.  Think about all that for a bit.

And there’s more.  I believe that this eternal kingdom that will never be destroyed isn’t just the new heaven at Judgment Day.  I believe we are experiencing it now with the salvation of our souls. Look at this passage:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect . . . Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:22, 23, 29) ”  

In being saved, we are in such an amazing place.  Our names are written in heaven.  Our spirits have been made perfect.

And it makes perfect sense that God goes on to say at the end of the chapter:

Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem? (Is 2:22)

Exactly!!  Why trust in men, or, for that matter, anything else on the earth, which isn’t secure, but will be destroyed?

We can only trust in God.  He’s the only thing that is truly solid and reliable.

And when we realize that, we worship with gratitude, reverence and awe.

Having a fear of God, rather than a fear of man.

Lately, I’ve been plagued by the wrong kinds of fears, fears that crawl around my insides like ugly creepy insects and resist extermination.  I saw that these fears began to control me, instead of vice versa.  They dragged me down the path of negativity.  Something would go wrong, and I would start to believe that more and more would go wrong.  I felt like I wouldn’t be able to make it right.  People would get upset, and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to mend the relationship or help them feel better.

I  knew I was going down this path of cynicism and defeatism.  I felt the ickiness and the wrongness of it, but I didn’t know how to change directions.

Until I realized that I have to start believing in good again.   That’s what resonates in my deepest self.  I have to believe there is good in people, kind of like there was in Darth Vader.  And I have to believe in the good in God, that he will do what is best at the right time.  I have to have that magical, Pollyanna, makes-no-sense kind of faith, knowing there is hope!

I have to remember, and listen to the voice that will get me back on track, not the voice that has me quaking.

I love the chorus in Francesca Battistelli’s latest hit:

Fear, you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
And I ain’t got time for you
Telling me what I’m not

Tell fear, “You don’t own me!”   Walk away from it, and walk towards the knowledge that you stand with God in a place of goodness that nothing can shake.  There’s always hope.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Ps 42:1-2

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The Best Resolution for the New Year

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”  Mark 9:14-19

As I face 2018, I confess that I am in a bit of a funk.

I had the most wonderful Christmas.  The highlight of it was that my son and daughter in law surprised me and showed up at my door Christmas Eve.  I didn’t think that I would be able to see them.  But they came, and my whole family got to be together for the holiday.  I was beyond ecstatic.  Here are a few scenes —

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My husband and son grilling Christmas steaks.

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But now I feel like my grandson after we took him to a the small town of Valley’s Christmas celebration.  He rode the merry go round.  He saw Santa.  He slid down the slide bunches of times, and jumped in several bouncy houses.

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But when it was time to go, he got an attitude and kicked the ground.

He wanted to do more.

I want more — more time with my children, more ways for God to work.  I know it’s ungrateful, and I am so awed and thankful for the many things God has done.

But now I am facing the year ahead with a feeling of insufficiency.  There are things my heart is looking for in the new year that I feel totally inadequate to help bring about.

Today’s reading is perfect for this, because it gives me my answer.   The disciples were also feeling totally inadequate.  They couldn’t heal the boy.  I didn’t include the scriptures for whole story, but Jesus did drive out the evil spirit from the boy, and at the end, when his disciples asked him why they couldn’t drive it out, he said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

This year, things will only be accomplished by prayer.  This doesn’t just mean intense prayer, or prolonged prayer, although these are good.  But Jesus healed the boy in an instant, not with many words.

His disciples were stymied, because they had previously been able to drive out many evil spirits.  (Mark 6:13)  So there was something they were missing here, and Jesus said the missing ingredient was prayer, but not just any prayer.  It had to be the kind of prayer that was deep and daily, the kind that would bring them into a more faithful and powerful relationship with God.

That is what we need: deep and daily prayer.

We need to pray with listening ears, so that God will give us wonderful sustaining insights. “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”  (Ps 16:7)

We need to pray so that our faith is strengthened, by putting our requests before God and waiting in thankful expectation.  (Ps 5:3, Phil 4:6)

We need to pray so that we will remain in Christ, close to his power, just as he remained close to God.   “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  John 15:7

And much more.  What are the ways you will deepen your prayer life in 2018?

There are daunting things we will face in the coming year.  Will we be an unbelieving generation?  Or will we be able to face them with a strong faithful relationship with God?

“This kind can only come out with prayer.”  That’s the only way we can face the challenges to come.  That’s the only way to deal with our feelings of insufficiency.  That’s the New Year’s resolution we need.

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Filed under Faith, Mark, Prayer, Self Worth

Do We Have “Following Faith?”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

When Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, it wasn’t something new.  From the beginning, God asked people to “follow” him.

He told Abraham (then Abram) to leave his homeland and go where God led him. “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1)

Abram3

abraham journey

He led the Israelites out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

pillar of cloud

pillar of fire

The thing is that people often weren’t great followers.  One case in point is the Israelites.  God tried to lead them through the desert, but they kept complaining.  When Moses went up on the mountain, they created an idol and worshiped it.  Once they got to the Promise Land, they didn’t believe they could take it.

But then there were Joshua and Caleb.  They were quintessential examples of how to follow God.  Let’s look at Caleb.  After scouting out the Promise Land, he reported, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb and Joshua

Joshua and Caleb

Caleb got it, when so many others didn’t.  God said about him, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me fully, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Numbers 14:24)

Caleb had incredible faith.  But God described him, not in terms of his faith, but in terms of the way he followed.  He followed fully, or as some translations say, wholeheartedly.

That really got me thinking about the correlation between discipleship and faith.  Could it be that the reason Caleb had incredible faith was because his entire heart was set on God and his entire life was centered around God?  His heart wasn’t pulled in other directions, or sapped by love for other things.  And that meant that, to him, God was HUGE and all powerful.

It makes sense to me.  The more we get our needs met by something else, the smaller God becomes.  And the more we go to God as the real source that will meet our needs, the bigger he becomes.

We need to have what I am going to call following faith, the kind of faith that comes from following God fully.

It’s pretty convicting. Out of all the thousands of Israelites who were brought out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb were able to take possession of the Promise Land.

“Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’”  Numbers 32:11-12

Following faith is a big deal to God.

Now I’m seeing what Jesus said in Mark 8:34 in a whole new light.  Of course he asks for self denial and commitment to the point of dying!  Only that will produce following faith.  And if Joshua and Caleb needed to have following faith in order to follow God into the Promise Land, how much more will we need following faith to follow Jesus into heaven?  How much more will we need following faith to be Jesus here on earth, and carry out the Great Commission?

So how is my faith?  Hmmm, let me check.  Do I believe God will work when the obstacles seem like they’re too much?  Do I believe God is ready to do something amazing in my life?  As I think of my recent prayers for our church, for people who are in tough situations, and for myself, I have to admit that I’m far from saying, “Let’s go take that land, for we can surely do it!”

This past week I attended a totally cool event.  A global charitable organization, HOPE worldwide, was presenting a Civil Rights pioneer, Fred Gray, with a Lifetime Service Award.   Gray lives in nearby Tuskegee, and the awards ceremony was held there.

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Fred Grey with HOPE CEO Robert Carrillo. (Photo: Mickey Welsh/Advertiser)

I was excited that I was asked to compose and send out the press release to promote the event.  It was a fun challenge to write it and get it to the proper individuals.  But then I needed to call and follow up by actually talking to the members of the media.  Oh, this I dreaded!  I procrastinated.  I made excuses.  I tried to tell myself we’d be fine without it.  And it really hit me how little faith I had.  If I thought  God was working in amazing ways, it would have been easy to make the phone calls.  But I was afraid that the newspaper and TV people wouldn’t think this story was as big I thought, and would feel like I was bothering them.

The end of the story is that the Spirit worked, and I did make the calls, and we had great media attendance!

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But it was a wake up call to me that my faith needs to grow.  After studying this out, I’ve been asking myself, “Is my faith small because I’m loving other things too much?”  You know what the answer is?  Yes!

I think part of the problem is that I’m so comfortable in my lifestyle that I don’t want to put forth the energy to act in accordance with more faith, and go out and “take the land.”  Just thinking about God doing incredible things makes me feel tired.  I just want to stay in my little cozy nest of routines.  It’s like there’s this tether of comfort holding me down.  Trying to pull away feels like I’m fighting against something sticky.

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Yeech, I need to repent!

How can I do that?  How can we develop more of a following faith?

  1. Go to the world less. What is that called?  Oh yeah, self denial.  For me, this means going less to the things that numb.  It means watching less television, because I can see that I’m becoming addicted to Hulu zone out!  I’m learning to, instead, go to God more when I’m tired and emotional.  “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Ps 62:5
  2. Make God bigger.  We need to remind ourselves often how HUGE and all powerful God really is.  Praise God daily for all of his incredible qualities.  Pray impossible prayers. knowing he can answer them.  Find verses that magnify the Almighty.
  3. Take leaps of faith!  What would we do differently if we really believed God is working in amazing ways?  We would jump off our cliff of comfort.  We would take action to help bring about those things we’re praying for and dreaming about.
Celeste leaping

My daughter Celeste jumping off a cliff.  (Her Facebook cover page.)

As I attended the awards ceremony for Fred Gray, and visited the civil rights museum there afterwards, I was deeply impressed.  How different the world would be if men like Fred Gray hadn’t stepped out to do what they could.

“As a teenager in Montgomery, I saw problems that needed to be corrected,” Gray said in his acceptance speech.  “With a lot of help along the way from a lot of people, including divine help, I believe we have been instrumental in changing the landscape of America.”

Gray is a godly man who didn’t shrink back in fear, but lived what he believed.  Surely that is an inspiration for us all to do the same.

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Gray conducting a tour of the Tuskegee History Museum.  (Photo:  Mickey Welsh/Advertiser)

Fred Gray and Me

Fred Gray and me.

 

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