Discoveries in Faith

Short, uplifting Bible lessons designed to build faith and inspire obedience. 

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seize this Day

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

~ Bill Keane

The Heart of a Champion

“I’ve never not envisioned success” ~ Kyler Murray

1. Who is Kyler Murray? He is an outstanding athlete.

  • 2018 Heisman Trophy Winner

  • Won 3 straight Texas High School football championships, finishing his career with a perfect 42-0 record as a starting quarterback

  • Drafted 9th overall in 2018 Major League Baseball to play baseball for the Oakland Athletics

2. Are his words, “I have never not envisioned success” important?

  • Technically speaking, the double negative is bad grammar but,

  • his optimism is impressive!

3. What does his statement have to do with the Christian life?

  • As Christians we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37)

  • We “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13)

  • We go “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7).

  • “Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (Psalm 60:12).

  • “The Lord will make you the head not the tail, you will always be at the top never at the bottom if you faithfully obey the commands of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:13).

“God grant me a prevailing optimism, a strong confidence in You. Help me to face life with the heart of a champion, and never imagine failure as I follow Jesus Christ”

Super Bowl Quote

February 4, 2018 the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots. 

“An individual can make a difference,” Coach Doug Pederson said, "but a team makes a miracle!”

Preach Jesus

“I preached myself, the scholars came and praised me. I preached Christ, the sinners came and thanked me”- Bernard of Clairvaux

 

Six Honest Men

I keep six honest serving-men
  (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
  And How and Where and Who.

~ Rudyard Kipling

Guidelines for Getting Better

In John 5:6-8 Jesus ministered to a man who had been sick for 38 years. In so doing, the Lord gives us some guidelines for getting better.

1. Quit Blaming Others - The poor fellow in John 5 saw himself as a victim. When asked by Jesus if he wanted to get better all who could do was blame others. "No one helps me. Other people cut in front of me." Woe is me. We see this pitiful thinking displayed all across the American landscape today. Everyone is a victim. No one is treated fair. But wait! This same victimhood mentality creeps into our thoughts also. We feel as though the reason we are suffering is because someone did us wrong. Jesus lovingly confronts this and redirects us to a healthier mindset.

2. Elevate - Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "Rise." In other words, "Get up, raise yourself up, don't stay down!" For us to get better we need to elevate the following:

  • We need to elevate our attitude
  • We need to elevate our virtue
  • We need to elevate our imagination 
  • We need to elevate our prayer.

3. Be Responsible - Jesus told the man, "Take up your bed." This is a command related to personal responsibility and it is the opposite of blaming others. We have to exert energy and make things happen. Getting better requires effort. Quit laying back hoping things improve. Take the initiative, and 

4. Go Forward - Jesus told the man, "Walk." This speaks of going forward, leaving things behind. A new future is discovered only as one leaves their current reality and embraces a new reality. Don't stay where you are at.

Thank God there is healing from old hurts, hangups, habits, broken relationship, and emotional scars. 

 

Finishing Strong

Races are won at the finish line not the starting line, and so it is with life, marriage, investing and everything else in life that's important.  It is not how you start, it is how you finish that matters.

John 2 records the story of a wedding that started good but was about to become an embarrassment when they ran out of wine. Yet in miraculous fashion, Jesus helped them finish strong when He turned water into wine.  Then it was said, "You have saved the best for last." 

And isn't that what we want? We want our last years to be our best years.

1. To finish strong we must pray. Mary wisely brought the concern to Jesus. "They are out of wine." Is prayer your first response or last resort?

2. To finish strong we must obey. The servants did as Jesus directed. They filled the water jars with water, and notice they filled them to the brim. How is your obedience bucket? Is it half-full or do you fill it to the brim?

"Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

Achieved Ministry or Received Ministry?

My friend Rick Shepherd talks about the difference between an "achieved ministry" and a "received ministry." That is, you can work for and attain some things or you can let God give you His blessings. Clearly the later option is best. This difference between an "achieved ministry" and a "received ministry" is vividly seen in Genesis 11 and 12.

At the Tower of Babel they said, "let us make a name for ourselves." So they built a tower up to heaven, but their "achieved ministry" did not last. In the next chapter God appears to Abraham and says, "I will make your name great." After these many years, Abraham is still revered by Christians and Muslims. His "received ministry" endures.

  • An achieved ministry involves works. A received ministry is from grace.
  • An achieved ministry is about my glory, but a received ministry is for God's glory.
  • Achieved ministries never last, received ministries have eternal impact. 

 

The End of the World

More and more believers, myself included, believe the end of the world is approaching. Prophecy signs are everywhere and common sense tells us the world is getting more dangerous. 

What should we do? How should we prepare? You and I may say, "We don't know what to do." We can find comfort from the example of Noah. He too was on the cusp of earthly destruction.

As recorded in Genesis 7, God does three acts of kindness for Noah.

  1. God tells Noah when and where to escape, v. 1
  2. God tells Noah what to bring, v. 2-3
  3. God tells Noah how much time he has, v. 4.

In these uncertain days, I am trusting God. If there are drastic steps to take, God will direct.

 

One and Done

The expression "one and done" sometimes refers to young basketball players who finish high school and go play basketball in college. But instead of staying and completing their education, they only stay one year in college and then enter the NBA draft. Because they are so good at basketball they are "one and done." But athletics is not what's on my heart today.

When I use the expression "one and done" I am thinking of young ministers who become a pastor of a church. But their experience is so bad, they leave their first pastorate never to return to pastoral ministry again. They are "one and done."

The names and faces change but the drama of these ministerial casualties is always the same. It begins with an enthused young pastor who normally has a wife and children. They go full of anticipation and hope to their first church. Their honeymoon with the church is often short-lived. They collide with stubborn traditions and entrenched power-brokers.  As the old saying goes, "Old age and treachery always beats youth and exuberance." But in church life everybody losses. The young pastor is wounded, carnality in the church is emboldened, and the kingdom of God fails to advance.

To be sure, it is not always the congregation's fault. Often young pastors make mistakes and must be challenged. But does it have to be a career ending stoppage?

What can be done to protect both churches and young ministers? How can we have fewer "one and done" preachers? 

  1. We should talk frankly to young pastors about power structures and the wisdom of implementing change gradually not abruptly.
  2. We should talk to congregations about the need for innovation. Failure to change always brings death. Help them value young leaders and the fresh ideas they bring.
  3. We should train church leaders in conflict resolution. How do Christians "fight fair?" How can Christians discuss ideas without attacking one another?
  4. We should always model love, humility, and forgiveness.

I am thankful for the patience of my first church. To be sure, I was young and stupid. I wonder, where would I be now if I had been terminated from my first church? 

My heart aches for similar young ministers today. Unfortunately, their first experience is not as forgiving. As they leave the church, will they leave Christianity? In their hurt will they be eaten up by bitterness? 

And what about the churches? Are they learning that if they disagree with their pastor they can just run him off? 

There are some in college basketball that don't approve of the "one and done" phenomena. They firmly believe young men need more nurturing and growth before going out into the cold hard world. I certainly agree with that, not just for basketball players but also for young pastors. 

 

Mark 4:35-41

The story of Jesus calming the storm is a meaningful passage to me. Three truths emerge from it.

  1. Sometimes Jesus leads us into trouble. "Let us cross over to the other side." He intentionally took them straight into a storm. Jesus knew what He was doing. He could read men's thoughts, He could certainly predict the weather. Adverse circumstances do not mean you are out of God's will. 
  2. Always Jesus is able. He has power over all things. "Who can this be that even wind and waves obey Him?" Omnipotent God can handle any situation. He can overcome any problem or person. Nothing or nobody is too difficult for God, and this includes your current predicament.
  3. Today I must respond with faith not fear. Jesus asked the disciples, "Why are fearful? How is it you have no faith?" Fear looks at the storm. Faith looks at the Savior. How will you respond today?
  • Are you looking at the problem or the all-wise Lord?
  • Are you looking at the sickness or the Great Physician?
  • Are you looking at the mountain or the Mountain-mover?
  • Are you looking at the shortage or Jehovah-Jireh, the Great Provider?
  • Are you looking at the conflict or the Prince of Peace?
  • Are you looking at the decay or at Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life?

 

Changing Theology?

Has your theology changed in the last 20 years? I hope so. A maturing theology reflects a growing understanding of God. An example of this from my life is my take on Psalm 37:4 which says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

When I was a teenager and even a young adult I understood this verse to mean, 'If I am a good Christian then God will give me what I want.' It was almost as if I had a personal genie in the bottle that I could summon to give me whatever my heart desired.

Then somewhere along as a middle-aged adult, someone pointed out to me that what Psalm 37:4 really meant was that if we were good Christians (delighting ourselves in the Lord) then God would deposit into our hearts noble desires. 

Now as one who is old enough to get unsolicited AARP applications in the mail, let me share with you my current understanding of Psalm 37:4. Here is a paraphrase.

If I will lovingly desire and pursue God with my whole heart, then as I love God I will begin to love the things He loves. And as I love and desire the things God loves my heart is purified from selfish desires. This is important because God never promises to give us the desires of our flesh. But as my heart is purged and molded toward the will of God then yes He will lead me into fulfillment. As my heart mirrors the righteous desires of the Father I will pray with confidence and faith knowing He will surely bring to pass the holy dreams He is stirring. 

 

 

Corrie Ten Boom quote

I've been thinking a great deal about these words lately,

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” Corrie Ten Boom

How to have Peace

The bumper sticker, "No God, no peace. Know God, know peace," reflects good theology as seen in the life of King Asa (2 Chronicles 15). 

Israel, the northern kingdom, turned away from the Lord and experienced "trouble," "great turmoil," "no peace," and "every adversity" (verses 3-6).

Yet under the capable leadership of Asa, Judah, the southern kingdom, enjoyed 35 years of peace. How did they they find the Shalom of God? and how can we likewise find peace in our troubled world?

I. REMOVE FALSE IDOLS (verses 8a & 16)

II. RESTORE TRUE WORSHIP (verses 8b & 18)

III. GET OTHERS TO JOIN IN (verses 10-15).

The prophet Azariah told Asa, "If you seek [God], He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (verse 2). Because we know God never changes, we know this is still how to relate to God. We must pursue Him. We must take the initiative. But praise God, if we turn away from our sins and turn in faith to God He will be found and ensuing peace will occur. 

The Neck, Knees, Eyes, and Back Prayer

The Neck, Knees, Eyes, and Shoulder Prayer is an ancient prayer to be used when a nation was in trouble. It goes like this:

1. "God help my neck to bow before You. I don't want to be proud and stiff-necked, but humble and submissive to You." An example of this is Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:18).

2. "God help my knees to kneel and pray. Give me a spirit of prayer. Help me to get down on my knees and call out to You in earnest prayer." An example here is Elijah (1 Kings 18:42).

3. "God help my eyes. I want to see Your face. Help me to seek You and know You better and love You more." An example here is Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1).

4. "God help my back to turn away from all evil. Help me to hate sin and reject it consistently." An example here is Joseph (Genesis 39:12).

God first taught Solomon the Neck, Knees, Eyes, and Shoulder Prayer in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves (NECKS) and pray (KNEES) and seek My face (EYES) and turn (SHOULDER) from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."

This is a powerful prayer, but it is not being used like it should be. CALLING OUT TO GOD IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR AMERICA. I am going to start trying to pray this prayer twice a day. Will you join me?

 

God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will

Currently in my tribe (Southern Baptists) there is a lively debate between those who emphasize God's sovereignty and those who make much of man's free will. Which one is correct? Are they both true? Or are they both in error? Perhaps a look at the tabernacle of Moses can shed light on this theological controversy.

There was only one entrance into the tabernacle and it was through a gate on the eastern side. With two million Hebrews it is probable that long lines existed outside the tabernacle. Here is what I suspect happened.

A priest probably would shout, "Next!" This signaled for the next person wanting to make a sacrifice to enter. Upon receiving the priest's shout or wave the worshipper would walk through the gate and into the courtyard of that tabernacle.

The tabernacle points to Christ. So this act of entering the tabernacle symbolizes a person coming to Christ for salvation. And how did that occur? People came to the tabernacle (Christ) through both a call from God and an act of human will. The priest as God's representative would issue an invitation and the one coming to Christ as symbolized by the tabernacle would have to act in faith. Or sometimes this act of salvation began with an act of human will (coming to the tabernacle) that led to a divine invitation (a call from the priest). 

And so it is today, salvation involves both God's sovereignty and man's free will. They are complementary. Modern theologians would help the church if they taught how these truths work together and are not in competition. 

Case Worker Skills

Recently, I had a fascinating conversation with a case worker who helped families with disruptive teenagers. I asked, "How do you handle those situations?" He outlined a three-step process.

  1. Assessment: What is going on in the home? What are the dynamics? Who is involved? What are the issues?
  2. Build a relationship: Be an active listener. Show the family know you care.
  3. Earn the right to speak into their situation: Only after accomplishing steps one and two is the case worker ready to make suggestions.

I was convicted about how often I have been quick to prescribe solutions. It reminded me of how the Bible says we are to be "quick to hear and slow to speak."