Discoveries in Faith

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

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?

 

Reverse the Curse

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and commanded his wise men to tell him what it meant (Daniel 2). Only problem is, he wouldn't tell them what he dreamed. The king required both the recounting of the dream and its interpretation. To make matters worse, if the wise men failed they would be killed. Without delay the executions began. 

This was the double dilema facing Daniel: darkness and danger. 

But amazing things happend when God's people call on the Lord! Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had a little prayer meeting and after their supplication, God revealed to Daniel the king's dream and its meaning. The Lord had given Nebuchadnezzar insight into future world history.

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The chapter ends with an amazing reversal. Where there had been darkness and death, now there is light and life and all this as a result of prayer. 

What confusing frightening situation are you facing? Learn the lesson of Daniel and his three friends. Call a prayer meeting right away!

The Second Greatest Fish in the Bible

Matthew 17:27 tells about Peter catching a fish with a coin in its mouth. As Christians we can identify with that fish. 

The fish felt uncomfortable. He did not know that his pain was actually a treasure. God was using the fish for a higher purpose. Keep the faith dear one. Someday it will all make sense.

A Theology for Suffering

Christians have established teachings on many topics including God, salvation, church, and the end times. But we also need a doctrine on the subject of suffering, because if our belief system is unsettled pain can potentially derail our Christian life.

Here is a simple set of beliefs based on Psalm 34:19, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

I. CHRISTIANS SUFFER

II. CHRISTIANS OFTEN SUFFER

III. JESUS DELIVERS

IV. JESUS ALWAYS DELIVERS.

These four simple statements provide comfort and reassurance. I encourage you to adopt, memorize, and use these truths the next time your experience heartache.

What is your theology of suffering? Please share it with me.

 

 

 

The Fellowship of the Criticized

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he defended himself against bogus accusations. These false teachers complained about Paul:

  • "He's not a real apostle."
  • "He is fickle."
  • "He appearance is deplorable."
  • "His speech is contemptible." 
  • "He can't get churches to financially support him."
  • "He doesn't carry letters of recommendation."
  • "It is obvious God is not blessing him because of all the suffering he endures."
  • "He is holding you back."
  • "He's bossy."
  • "He's crazy."
  • "God doesn't speak through him."
  • "He doesn't love you."
  • "He is cheating you."
  • "He doesn't have the authority to tell you what to do."

These enemies of Paul were probably the Judaizers who stalked him throughout his travels. They tried to inject law into the gospel and that's always a bad combination. 

Since Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, had critics, we should not be surprised when people complain about us also.

How to Handle a Fool

All of us have people who irritate us. We are tempted to lash out them and "give them a piece of our mind," but the best course of action is to leave the alone. Solomon the wisest man who ever lived had this to say Proverbs 29.

"If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace." In other words, there is no talking sense with some people, so best leave them alone.

"A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." Here Solomon advises it is never good to fully express your disastisfaction. Hold your peace.

As I write these words I acknowledge I am frustrated with a couple of people. I have thought about reasoning with them, but I have tried that before. I have also briefly thought about really unloading on them and telling them how disappointed I am in their behavior, but I realize nothing good will come out of me scolding them. So I am left with the words of Solomon. I must hold my tongue, move on, and try to be a person of honor. 

How to Overcome a Bad Beginning

 

 

 

Johnny Cash's song "A Boy Named Sue" is about a dead-beat dad who named his son "Sue." In a humorous way the ballad tells of the young man's struggle, growing up with a girlish name and an absent father. 

In a not so humorous way, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 gives the two-verse biography of Jabez. His mother named him Jabez because she complained, "I brought him forth in pain." The name "Jabez" sounds like the Hebrew word for "pain." I thought all chilldbirth was painful. Regardless, can you imagine being called "pain?" What a tough name to get stuck with!

Throughout human history, countless children have faced worse situations including alcoholic parents, broken homes, abuse, poverty, handicaps, war, etc. Some of these young victims were crushed and permanentlly scared by life's injustices, while other young people overcame their difficulties and became productive citizens.

Here are three important life skills we learn from this overcomer Jabez.

DREAM BIG - Jabez wanted his borders enlarged. He dreamed of better things and was not content to stay the same. Maybe he wanted greater influence in the form of more farmland or a bigger business. In spite of his bad begining, Jabez knew his past did not dicatate his future. What God-sized dreams smolder in your heart?

PRAY HARD - Jabez asked God, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed." Do you hear the passion in that statement? The dreams of Jabez were humanly impossible and required divine intervention. So Jabez eanestly cried to the Lord "that [God's] hand would be with [him]." How fervent are your prayers?

HATE EVIL - Jabez knew that sin always brings pain. There is no such thing as sinning with impunity. Thus, Jabez asked God to guard him from evil. He did not want to live up to his name and bring pain on himself or others. Centuries later Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Maybe we need to emulate the Puritans who came to Plymouth Rock and separate ourselves from worldliness. How serious are you about clean living? 

The name Jabez is unusual and found in only two Bible passages. The other mention of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 2:55 where it refers to a city of scribes named "Jabez." Perhaps the young Jabez who once caused pain became so honorable that a city was later named after him. 

You too can overcome the hurts of your past. Dream big dreams, pray with passion, and always avoid evil. Only God knows what remarkable things He wants to do in you, through you, and for you.

How exciting to realize your story is not yet over. There are still wonderful chapters waiting to be written. And by your actions you get to guide the Author.

The Gift of Persecution

Every Christian knows there is great reward in following the Lord. Jesus told His disciples they could expect to "receive a hundredfold now in this lifetime, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:30).

What an interesting list of divine blessings: eternal life and hundredfold blessings in this life, including houses, land, family, and persecution. Persecution? Yes!

Instead of seeing persecution as something to be avoided, we need to see persecution as a gift from God (Acts 5:41). Tribulation and persecution are opportunities for us to experience God's deliverance. God always delivers His people in one of three ways.

  1. When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians out. Early in Paul's ministry he got in trouble with the Jews in Damascus. His friends helped him get out of town by lowering him in a basket over the city wall. Probably more times than we realize God has removed us from trouble, and we thank Him for it.
  2. When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians through. When Paul and Silas were unfairly beaten and imprisoned in Philippi they prayed and sang hymns to God. At midnight in the dungeon God gave them grace to courageously face their trial. Our testimonies are similar, as we have walked through dark valleys God has given us strength to endure. 
  3. When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians up. According to church tradition, Paul was beheaded outside of Rome along the Ostian Way. In that moment, angels came and carried Paul heavenward where he met the Lord face to face and entered the city not made with hands. This is the ultimate deliverance, leaving this troubled world and moving into heavenly mansions. 

I am convinced Paul was grateful for each of these experiences, because in each instance of persecution Paul received deliverance from God. And since we know God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34), we know that we too can expect the Lord to deliver us when we are persecuted. He may take us out, he may take us through, or He may take us up; but, one way or another, the Lord will deliver. Indeed, persecution is a gift from God whereby we get to experience God's deliverance. 

"Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home."

 

Collateral Damage

Collateral damage is the unintended death, injuries, and damage to property of people who are not the intended target. Just as errant military operations may cause civilian casualties, sin wounds others.

Achan committed a secret sin, but his disobedience affected others. Joshua 7 tells how innocent soldiers died, the nation of Israel was defeated, and Achan's own family perished!

There is a gross myth today that says, "I am free to do whatever I want to do. I am not hurting anybody." The biblical record says otherwise.

Here's the challenge: the next time you are tempted to sin, remember your iniquity will hurt both you and the ones you love. Count the cost. Think again.

 

Four Storms in Scripture

Recently, my friend Dr. Richard Hipps shared this outline with his congregation. He said he read it in an article, and since I like it I thought I'd pass it along. The four storms in scripture are as follows:

  1. Storms of Correction: a storm due to your own sin.
  2. Storms of Connection: a storm you experience because of other people's sin.
  3. Storms of Perfection: a storm intended to grow you.
  4. Storms of Reflection: a storm giving you the opportunity to glorify the Lord.

Are you in a tough time now? If so, what do you think the Lord is up to?