Category Archives: Faith

“God Is Real”

   For children who grow up in church, it is very easy for them to view it as nothing more than a religion if they never see the evidence of God at work. This fact was brought home to our church in a very real, but positive, way this past week.

   Bro. Jackie and his wife were a dear couple in their seventies. After he had a stroke about a year and a half ago, they moved down from Illinois to live with their daughter. The stroke affected his speech and his mobility, causing him to be mostly confined to a motorized wheelchair and leaving his speech somewhat halting. Additionally, he was dealing with Parkinson’s disease and a number of other ailments.

   Over the last few months, Bro. Jackie had two or three close calls with death, going in and out of the hospital and nursing home.

   Sunday before last, he was able to be in church. It was always a pleasure to see him there. He had a million-watt smile and an obvious hunger for the Word of God. He was one of those people who could make a preacher hurt himself preaching.

   At the end of the service, he motored his way down to the altar and requested that I and the elders of the church pray for his healing according to James 5:14. I called the deacons to the front and we gathered around Bro. Jackie and prayed for God’s hand to raise our brother up.

   That night, Bro. Jackie slipped into a non-responsive state. Over the next three days his vital signs began to slip and it was obvious that the end was nearing. On Wednesday, about an hour before prayer meeting, he went home to be with the Lord. His family, as well as the church, felt a real sense that God had answered the prayer of faith and given him ultimate healing.

   This past Sunday, one of our young boys at church, age 11, approached his Sunday School teacher and told him he needed to be saved. This young man had been raised in church and had actually been baptized at an earlier age. When I talked to him about his decision, he shared with me that his earlier baptism had not been based upon a genuine profession of faith. He further testified that seeing Bro. Jackie come forward for prayer, and then seeing God take him home had convinced him without a doubt that God is real.

   Most of us have seen the staggering statistics about 85% of those church members who reach the age of 18 leave church, never to come back. Could it be that in their entire lifetime in church they have never seen God working in a manner that proved His reality? This is certainly not the fault of God as we know that He responds to faith.

   The answer to reaching our young people is not another program, trip, rally, camp, car wash or (dare I say it?) class. They need to see real faith in the lives of those who are older, real faith that produces real results from a real God.

   This song says it best, listen and be blessed.

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Pitfalls of Cynicism

Cynicism: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

A recurring theme in the New Testament is that of hope. We are to have hope in the provisions and promises of God, the return of Christ, a glorious future and especially the great salvation that is given to us. The fifth chapter of Romans reminds us that our hope will not be put to shame because the love of God is working through us to accomplish our hope.

Sadly, too many of God’s children live a life devoid of hope. While they give mental assent to the contents of my previous paragraph, their general outlook on life is characterized by cynicism. As I have contemplated this, I have identified what I believe to be a few pitfalls that cynicism presents, that Christians should avoid.

1.  It abandons hope.

As Christians we should live daily in the hope that I have already described. A person who has given up hope allows their faith to become an easy target. Romans 8 describes the strength of faith that a person who has hope can develop.

2.  It pulls our focus from God to man.

Peter began to sink after he took his eyes off Jesus. While he was looking at the storm around him, it occurred to him that this was bigger than him. Those whose hope rests in politicians, doctors, lawyers, parents, family, friends or self will certainly see their hope eventually turn to cynicism.

3.  It accentuates the negative.

While the concept of “positive thinking” may be a bit overblown at times, it is something that is vital to a Christian perspective on life. Paul reminds the Philippian believers to think on things that are lovely, pure, of good report, etc. It is hard to be cynical when one is contemplating the goodness of God.

4.  It leads one to be judgmental.

By its very definition, cynicism assumes the worst about people and circumstances. It causes us to overlook our own flaws and concentrate upon the mistakes (either actual or imagined) of others. It will drive us to pass judgment upon the motives of others, even though we cannot see our own hearts, let alone theirs.

This is something that should never take place in the life of a Christian. James raises the question, “Who art thou, that judges another?”

5.  Cynicism spreads.

Paul uses the analogy in Hebrews 12 that we should not allow a root of bitterness to spring up as it will cause many to become defiled. It is impossible for us to hold this negative perspective inside. A cynic will see himself as simply being “realistic”, better informed than others or simply caught up in the refrain of “same song, second verse.” Unfortunately, everyone around them will be exposed to the hopelessness that pours out of them.

Are we abandoning hope? Is our focus on man instead of God? Are we focusing on the negative and becoming judgmental of others motives? Is our cynicism spreading to those around us?

There is still hope. God’s grace is strong to deliver, not only from the power of sin, but also from the negativism of this world.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  I John 4:4

Book Review: God In The Whirlwind

God In the Whirlwind, by Tim Ellsworth

In the circles of the blogworld that I frequent, there have already been a couple of reviews of this book offered, but I feel compelled to add my two-cents worth.

This book chronicles the accounts of several students and faculty of Union University in Jackson, TN, whose lives were miraculously spared from the fury of an EF4 tornado on February 5 of this year.

I have never read a book (the Bible of course being considered separately) that fed my faith like this book. On a night when emergency personnel informed the local hospital that they should be prepared for one hundred casualties, God providentially delivered everyone on campus from dying in this storm.

Testimony after testimony provides a cohesive and gripping account that literally left me with goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. Without a doubt, the faith and lives of those who encountered this twister have been changed forever.

It is a powerful testimony of the grace and glory of God. My recommendation is, “Buy this book.” Read it. Read it again and then pass it along to a friend who may be going through a storm of their own. It just may encourage them to look for God in their whirlwind.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

This was the question that the Philippian jailer posed to Paul and Silas after the midnight earthquake in Acts 16:30. Their answer was short and simple, “Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

I was asked by a fellow believer at my church recently, “What exactly do you think a person must believe in order to be saved?”

The content of saving faith has been a hot topic recently among some of the blogs that I frequent. The answers run the gamut of a broad spectrum of extremes, with many other positions between the two.

Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

There are two texts that I believe shed some light upon exactly what it is that we must believe in order to be saved:

  1. Romans 10:9-10, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
  2. I Corinthians 15:1-4, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Both Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9-10 refer to Jesus as being “Lord”. This recognition of His lordship is where I believe we find the element of repentance imbedded in saving faith. This recognition is not a work of the flesh, but is indeed a “change of mind”, realizing that it is to Jesus that we are accountable and that it is He who holds the keys to eternity. He alone has the authority and the ability to provide salvation to those who believe. It is an awareness that we are a sinner, that we are not “okay” as we are and that we have a definite need to be forgiven of God.

When the angels announced His birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:11, they stated, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

His work as Savior was coupled with His lordship, even at His birth.

These texts also refer to Him by His name, Jesus. One must know in whom they are believing to be saved. Rom. 10:14, How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? It is not enough to receive Him as a mere teacher or prophet, one must believe that He is the Son of God, receiving Him as the light of God come into the darkness of this world. (John 1:12)

These texts also refer to Jesus as “Christ”. There can be no salvation apart from a belief in what Jesus did as the “anointed one” to cover our sins. The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world is the only worthy sacrifice for our redemption. It is only through the message of the cross that one understands their need of salvation. One must understand that they are a sinner in need of divine forgiveness and that Jesus has provided access to that forgiveness by His death, burial and resurrection.

If you are reading this post and have never put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I would encourage you to take this step. Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. Come to Him in faith, believing that He is the Son of God and that He died and rose again to cover your sins and you can receive His gift of eternal life.

What Do You Think About God?

In my recent book review of Confessions Of an Amateur Believer, by Patty Kirk, I mentioned that the author dealt with some poignant questions concerning her ideals about God. Blogging friend, Danny Kaye, suggested that perhaps we could discuss some of them. Rather than spoil the book for you by revealing all of them here, I am going to present a “composite question” to you for discussion.

Mrs. Kirk expressed that she abandoned her early belief in God because the reality of her life did not match the ideals of God that she learned in her religious upbringing. The Roman Catholic church had painted a mental picture of God that she simply could not reconcile with the events of her life.

Now, I am in no way saying that God can be limited to the scope of our experience or understanding, please do not infer that I am. God is who He is, and His ways are far beyond our ways. My understanding of God has no power to shape God, but it does have the power to shape me.

Now with that in mind, here is my question for discussion.

What should we do when the evident realities of life do not reconcile with the ideals of our faith?

Book Review: Confessions Of an Amateur Believer

Confessions Of an Amateur Believer

By Patty Kirk

Published by Nelson Books, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

ISBN: 0-7852-2041-0

 Confessions Of an Amateur Believer is the record of one woman’s journey of faith. Patty Kirk is an assistant professor of English at John Brown University. Raised in a Catholic home, she developed an awareness of God that was based upon religion and liturgy. Her understanding of God was limited to what she had been taught, which was often an unrealistic and somewhat distant view of God.

After being victimized by a violent crime, along with other adverse circumstances in her life, she abandoned all belief in God. She was unable to reconcile the realities of life with a somewhat unrealistic understanding of the grace of God.

As God does, however, He continued to draw Patty to Himself. Through family members who had become believers, she was introduced to the concept of a vibrant relationship with God instead of dead religion. Eventually she became a believer, not in an impersonal being, but in a loving, heavenly Father.

This book tells of her progression to a stronger faith. In a very transparent manner, she provides insights into what she has been learning about God through the everyday experiences of life. Although at times, the book seems to get a little bogged down in the details of these moments, it is an uplifting testimony of the many graces of God that we can encounter at every turn.

One thing about the book that I really appreciated was Mrs. Kirk’s honesty in asking questions about God. Free from pretension or fear of being considered “unspiritual” for asking difficult questions about who God is and what He does, she approaches her walk with God as one who has abandoned preconceived notions and is completely open to learning what God would have her to know.

I recommend this book for anyone who has ever questioned the love of God, His grace and mercy, or even His existence. I was blessed by it and I feel you will be also.

The Test of Faith

Genesis 22 has always been one of the most intriguing chapters in the Bible for me. In the text leading up to this story, God has been working in the life of Abraham, affirming His covenant, miraculously giving Abraham a son in his old age, and interacting with him in a marvelous way.

Then, quite unexpectedly, God gives him the command to take his only son, Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering unto the Lord. This account gives us many lessons that we may learn concerning our walk with God.

First, God may test our faith. Faith could be compared to a muscle. If it is never exercised, it will never grow. Were God to remove all of the obstacles from our way, we would never have the opportunity to grow and learn. While these trials are not pleasant, it is important to remember that they are very beneficial. Peter describes them as a “fiery trial”, but the result is faith that is purified as fine gold. In the middle of these testings, priorities and values can become distinctly clear.

Second, our love for God motivates our faith. God commanded Abraham to take his only son “whom thou lovest”. This is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible, and it is used to describe the feelings a father has toward his son. We could compare this to Matthew 3:17 where God spoke from heaven, calling Jesus His “beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. The trial of our faith will reveal to us how much we love God and therefore how far we are willing to trust Him. God, in essence, was saying to Abraham, “I know you love Isaac, but I want you to love me more”. Is not this the same love that God demonstrated toward us in giving His only Son for our redemption?

We love Him because He first loved us.

Finally, the magnitude of our test reveals God’s evaluation of our faith. We know from I Corinthians 10:13, that God will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to withstand. The thing we must always remember is that God does not test us so that HE can learn about our faith. God’s testings, though, reveal much to us about our faith. If God will not tempt us beyond our faith, then the size of the test can reveal to us what God knows we can overcome. This should never cause us to become proud about our testings, but it does give us hope when we are facing them.

Each of us will face multiple tests of our faith during our life. Few, if any of us, will ever be given one as drastic as Abraham’s. Yet even if we are, we can know that the God of Abraham is still sovereign in our lives today. The same God who guided a ram into a thicket on Mt. Moriah is going before you on the mountain you will climb.

Accept the test of faith. Climb that mountain. Build that altar. You will find that God is already there.