Discoveries in Faith

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

The Heart of the Matter

Religion focuses on the outside, while authentic Christianity focuses on the inside. The Bible says we are to keep our heart with all diligence. Here are four aspirations for your heart health.

  1. Strive to have a clean heart. Ask God to wash away all sin just like David did in Psalm 51.

  2. Develop a merry heart. You can do this by being thankful, praising God, and blessing His holy name (Psalm 100:4).

  3. Have a loving heart. This love must be both horizontal and vertical. Love God and love others, in that order.

  4. Be pure in heart. Don’t let your heart get polluted with idols. My wife would not be pleased if I came home from a business trip and I said, “Darling while I was away I was 90% faithful to you.” She wants my full devotion. Similarly, we must love God with a pure heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” When our hearts are healthy the other affairs of our life take care of themselves; but, if our heart is sick, then generally speaking the rest of life will also suffer.

When Jesus Returns

When Jesus Christ returns to planet earth, as He promised to do, several exciting things are going to happen in the life of every believer.

  1. We will see Him. The Psalmist says, “I will see Your face” (17:15).

  2. We will be transformed. John says, “We shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). David declares, “I will awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

    Why is this important? John says, “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

    1. I am inspired to live godly today because I know that one day I am going to stand before the Lord face to face. There will be a judgment for believers. See 1 John 2:28.

    2. I am also inspired to live godly today because I know God wants me to become like Jesus. Knowing God’s will for my life, I gladly cooperate with His sanctifying process. I am eager to make progress in my journey toward Christ-likeness.

    At the culmination of history, we will at last be satisfied (Psalm 17:15) and we will experience permanent joy that no one will take away (John 16:22). We’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Fullness of Joy

Discouragement is an old enemy I have dealt with over the years. And yet, when I look in God’s word I see this is not God’s plan. Consider these three scriptures.

1 John 1:4 “These things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Psalm 16:11 “In Your presence is fullness of joy.

John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

How do you get this joy? It comes from intimacy with Christ.

  1. Joy is found as we fellowship “with the the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3

  2. Joy is experienced in God’s presence. At His “right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

  3. Joy happens when we “abide in [Christ’s] love” John 15:10

So a question I must ask myself is, “Am I happy in the Lord?” And if I am not, then I know I must draw near to God. My joy or lack of joy reveals the level of my spiritual well-being. And if joy is missing, it should be like a flashing red light on the dashboard of my car, alerting me to danger and calling me to immediate action! “Men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

One day when Jesus returns we are going to have joy forevermore. Jesus promised, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22).

The Attitude of a World Changer

The Apostle Paul was accused of “turning the world upside down.” Clearly, he and his missionary brothers rocked the ancient world for Christ. How did they do it? We could look at their techniques, but today let’s only look at their attitudes. In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul acknowledged two attitudes we would do well to emulate.

  1. “We have such trust through Christ toward God,” (2 Cor. 3:4)

  2. “We have such hope” (2 Cor. 3:12).

Suggested Prayer: “God help us to have unbridled confidence in You and fill us with excitement about our God-filled future.”

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.