Archive for Faith
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
~ James 2:26
After two weeks of meditating on this verse, I started to get worried. I was deliberating with myself, determining whether or not my faith was confirmed by works. I was concerned that maybe I don’t do enough works, and then my mind got to thinking that maybe my faith isn’t genuine.
I work full time and I don’t seem to volunteer much. I am not very active in my current church (though I have been in the past). I’ve never been on a mission trip. I’ve only been to a soup kitchen once, and did street ministry once. My mind kept mulling over what was lacking. Then I thought maybe I should think about what “works” are before I go jumping into service without thought and prayer.
So what are “works?”
The notes in my Bible gave me a clearer understanding. It describes it as “all righteous behavior that obeys God’s word and manifests a godly nature.” It also specifically pointed to “acts of compassion” found in verse 15 of the same chapter. These include clothing the naked and destitute and feeding the hungry. (The soup kitchen wasn’t that far off, was it?)
But God was speaking to me, telling me to go deeper. FEEDING. This is not just physical hunger, but spiritual hunger. This symbolism is used throughout the Bible – and your works should be addressing spiritual hunger. And maybe I started feeling a little bit of relief.
After some prayer and conversation with God, I concluded that works are evident in my life. I won’t enumerate them here for fear I might boast in anything but the Lord. Yet, I also came to realize that I could do more.
And then just this morning another word came to me as a warning…
Do you want to do more because you think you should or because you love God and His creation? Are you compelled by love or doctrine?
Apparently the Lord is trying to keep me in check!
I urge you to consider the words of James. You should not try to rack up works in a worldly effort to prove your faith. Works flow out of your faith and a love of God and people. If you consider your faith genuine, then there should be evidence. It doesn’t hurt to take stock, but at the same time be careful not to do more simply for the sake of doing more.
This entry was cross-posted at Jolene’s Journey.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Heb 10:36
The topic of endurance came up in my daily reading this week, and as a runner the topic strikes a chord with me. We are said to be in need of a spiritual endurance, and like running, that endurance doesn’t just come in one day. It takes time and training. I was really thinking through this the other morning, and thought to myself, how do we build that endurance? Time and training – what does that really mean? So bear with me here as I work this out…
Proper training – we need experienced people who have the right information to help guide us. This means we need to have a pastor who is steeped in the Word, knows it well, and presents it to us unashamedly. We need Bible study leaders who are strong in their faith and understanding of the word. We need brothers and sisters of faith who challenge us, encourage us, hold us accountable. And then when we get that truth, we need to actively apply it to our lives. We can listen all we want to the running coaches, but if we never get up and move – nothing will change.
Consistency – Training is not good for much if you don’t apply it and apply it consistently. Endurance is built up over time, and it builds upon itself. It’s hard to endure hardships when you’ve stopped and started, stopped and started building your endurance. Instead, that stop-start pattern actually leaves you pretty stagnant. I’ve experienced this in my running as well as my spiritual life.
With the right guidance, and the consistency of action (prayer, study, service, worship), spiritual endurance blossoms. A steady determination and perseverance grows and flourishes. It is an active process that enables you to face the challenge of the race of life.
Endurance is that point when you have the strength and determination to keep going even when you want to stop. It’s the will to put one foot in front of the other when the temptations threaten to lure you off the path.
The weary runner needs to focus and press onward in a straight path watching carefully so they do not injure themselves before the race has ended. Endurance is that focus, that determination, that strength to get you through the challenges and on to your second wind. I love the imagery from Hebrews 12 that illustrates this so well. Any runner will understand the slackening arms/hands, and the wobbly knees, and the need to stay strong…
Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Heb. 12:12-13
Cross-posted at Jolene’s Journey.
Summer vacation is in full swing here in the Northeast. As a teacher, I sometimes struggle with summer because I am prone to idleness. A few summers ago I started running, and that seemed to keep me up and out and productive. The summer after that I was a voracious reader – of the Bible and of other things. I was still running too, and I have to admit I felt alive. Last summer I joined a running program, and like the summer I started running, I was energized and invigorated. I was particularly active in my garden and backyard too. I even painted the garage all by my lonesome!
This year, however, has been a challenge. After a long school year, I was quite honestly burnt out. I had plans to be in the yard, exercise every day, and read. I even wrote a post on my personal blog about how I intended to cultivate a place of peace in my home – work hard at making it a safe and healthy place for me spiritually. Alas, I feel as though I have failed. I’m halfway on my way to nowhere this summer, and as I read the words in Proverbs 31:27, I am strongly convicted…
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. ~Pro 31:27
The Bible has a way of convicting you, pressing you to right the wrongs in your life! So, no more blaming the heat or drought as reason to stay inside. No more pushing aside my nightly Bible reading for extra time staring at the stats on my blog. No more laziness and skipping runs or workouts, because like my household, I should look well to the ways of my body. And workouts for me are perfect times for meditation on the word. I memorized so many verses last summer. This year? Not a single one. Shame on me.
I may have been halfway to nowhere this summer, but right now I’m going to flip the switch. Idleness off. Spiritual and physical fruitfulness on. It’s time to salvage this summer, and by God’s grace and mercy, I pray it will be the case.
Before I get started, I’d like to extend an apology to those of you who have been faithful readers and listeners of the blog and podcast. The last few months have been busy, overwhelming, and desperately needy of some quiet time alone with God. He’s been preparing me to share more with you here on the blog.
2 Corinthians 8:10-11a
It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it.
Upon reading this two weeks ago, I was struck with it like bricks. I’ve rarely had such a profound experience where the Lord just presented me with scripture that is so convicting and pertinent to my situation. I was lamenting about going back to work, overwhelmed with the stress of my job. It was hard not to consider the scariness of budget cuts, and I was almost at a point of quitting. I figured what better way to avoid this toil!
And then I read these verses. Now, I know that the context of the scripture is referring to giving, but I felt strongly about the parallels to circumstances in my own life. Just one year ago I was faced with a job that was literally destroying me. I was sick all of the time. I was tired. My spiritual growth had gone stagnant. I had suicidal thoughts. And though I don’t think I would have acted on them, I was sure scared out of my mind at the mere notion of what I could do driving along the highway to work in the dark each morning, in the rain and snow and facing semis barreling down at me in the opposite direction.
It was at this time that I firmly intended to listen to God, and search for a new position. I was afraid, yet I was at peace with the decision I had made. I began to desire something better for myself and my spiritual growth.
And I haven’t been sick since.
As I felt these familiar thoughts creeping back lately, I needed this reassurance from scripture. I thought back to a year ago and what was happening, and what God has worked in my life since that time. WOW! And when I read the last part there “and now you must complete the doing of it” I was convicted that I need to stop complaining, focus, and rely on Christ who has brought me to this place. I have work that I must finish.
Now I want you to read these words and think back to a year ago. What had God started in your life? What were you desiring and wanting to do? Are you prepared to complete the work set before you?
Podcast: Play in new window
We talk a little about Westboro Baptist and some of their atrocious actions, then move on into talking about giving an answer for the hope that we have.
What is the reason for your hope?
I wonder why it has taken me 4+ years of marriage to figure out how to really love a person? Lately, I feel as if I have finally grasped what it means, and I have really started loving my husband.
It started with going back to church weeknights on a more regular basis. I really have been tuned into God and I’ve more than realized that when I put God first in my life and love Him first, it makes loving others so much easier. I’ve actually come to a place where I’m “in love” with my Savior. We talk about this all the time, but knowing it and experiencing it are INCREDIBLY different.
I want to do what makes Him happy, and I find so much joy and peace dwelling in His presence. To get here, you really have to give everything else over. It becomes reality when you get to the point of understanding God is the only one capable of loving you without any conditions. You recognize the flaws of others and accept them as they are, but then you strive to love like Jesus loves – and that covers over the inadequacies…
I have never loved my husband more than I do now because of this revelation! I’ve changed my expectations because of my internal grasp of what it means to Love like Jesus. I no longer think of what my husband’s love should provide me. Instead I look to God to fulfill my needs. A man cannot provide me what I need for joy and contentment. That kind of peacefulness ONLY comes from the Lord. And so I no longer see my husband as one who should make me happy, but as one who is deserving of all the love I can give because Jesus first loved me. My love has become a choice of unconditionally loving like Christ. It’s so unlike what the world teaches – but in practice it is truly astounding!
And even as I have experienced this love revelation in my life, I continue to find it strange – a mystery even. When you let God take over, be first and foremost in your life, living and loving others becomes easier. I am to that point where my emotions control me less, and my faith guides my decisions. My energy is no longer wasted on trying to control my circumstances, or holding out unrealistic expectations. I’m simply free to love. And that is an amazing feeling!
If you remember my last post, I was feeling a tad ashamed for not having the words at the forefront of my brain to give a defense of the hope that is in me. But when I sat down and really just focused on this question, I found that the reasons came to me quickly.
I’d like to share with you the hope that is in me, and I pray that I will do so with meekness and fear as I am exhorted to do in 1Peter 3:15. And if you feel so led, I’d love to hear your defense as well.
When I think of why I believe and have hope, it is ultimately because I believe that God exists. I look at the world around me, and I cannot deny that all of creation was created. All things living and non-living are far to complicated in my understanding to have simply come together in a “Big Bang”. When I think about scientists who try to deny creation, it really makes me sad. Without being a braggart, I feel that God has created me with a good deal of intelligence. I am not the smartest person out there, but I recognize that some things are just beyond man’s ability to explain. Hence, God. I will stand firm to this until the day I die.
Knowing that there is a God, and having learned enough about other religions through my education, I come to my second conclusion. Jesus is God. He is who he says he is. He is the One that fulfills hundreds of prophesies. Who else can claim that? Who else is recorded in history as doing that? And this is not just Biblical accounting – extrabiblical sources also validate this.
And having accepted that Jesus is God – the Messiah who can transform lives and save souls – I have experienced first hand this truth of Jesus. Coming to Christ I did not really understand what I was doing. I was a teenager, but even in that teenage heart of mine, I knew I was missing something. I was compelled by something outside of myself that I needed Jesus. Growing in my faith and coming to a greater understanding of who Christ is through the scriptures, I have seen miracles! I have been pulled out of years of depression and sadness. I have purpose. I am certain, without any doubt that I am to worship God and serve Him by serving others. I have never been so certain about ANYTHING in my entire life. It’s amazing how God can do this.
Lest you think that I was brainwashed, take heed. I have made these decisions of my own accord against the status quos of my family. Is it not amazing that my own sister and I came to Christ without discussion on THE SAME DAY? I have never been one to fit in. I didn’t choose Christ to fit in. I chose Him because He is the ultimate truth in all of existence.
And lastly – though its not fun to dwell on – a reason for my hope in Jesus is a very REAL fear of Hell. If I believe in God and Jesus and the saving grace exerted on my life, then I must believe that Hell is real. The Bible speaks far too often on it to deny it. Thinking about Hell, quite frankly, scares the livin’ daylights out of me. I can’t fathom it. I don’t want to fathom it. What would it be like to live in Hell for all eternity? I get scared and emotionally upset just thinking about it. There is nothing good or funny about Hell, and I will not make jokes about it. Hell is real, and it is scary. So yes. Part of my hope and faith comes from fear. But in realizing this fear – there is hope. Because Jesus is the One who can save us from this. And all we have to do is make a choice. One simple, life-changing choice.
So, what do you have hope in? I pray that it is in Jesus Christ. If you are a believer and you have this hope, what is your defense? Feel free to share. I’d love to hear it, and it’ll give you practice in being ready to give account of the hope that is in you.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Peter 3:15
This verse has been on my heart for the last week. I keep coming back to it each night during my quiet time. I feel sort of ashamed. For as strong as my faith is, I feel like I am not prepared, right now to give an answer with meekness and fear. I have been pondering what I might say, and how I might say it if I were asked. I think before I always relied on the Spirit to give me the right words to say.
But, as I go into this new year, I feel a pressing need for me to have this answer. So, I am going to pray on this, and come up with an answer this week. And I will return here to you with an answer that I pray will be shared with meekness and fear – because I do have a hope, and I need to be prepared to share it.
Come back soon if you want to know the reason for the hope that is in me!
I was reading through my journal from 2006, and found this entry which I thought appropriate to share with you.
The Lord just saved my family and me. I was lying here in bed waiting to fall asleep – but I had a sort of stomach ache. I thought maybe it was about closing on the house tomorrow, but then I started thinking about leaving my computer on downstairs. So the Lord prompted me to get up and sign offline. Well, I did that, and while I was down there, I started to smell a pungent odor. I immediately thought my computer was burning out, so I shut it down and unplugged everything. I came back upstairs but still wasn’t satisfied. Something was still bothering me. Going back downstairs, I smelled the odor even more strongly than before.
I decided should check with Dad even though he was asleep and it was near midnight. He came down and checked computer, but didn’t think anything was wrong with it. He could smell the odor too, and so he went searching. After going to the back room of the basement, he found the sump pump was broken. I think it kept trying to kick on, but it would work and so the motor was burning up, causing the smell.
If God had not prompted me to go down and deal with the computer the thing could have caused a fire. I am sure that could have happened. Either that, or we might have become sick from the fumes. And God woke me up to warn me. WOW! I am so worked up about this. I want to go and tell everyone about it. I really do believe God gives us signs and speaks to us. All glory and praise and thanks are due to Jesus the Lord who protects his children. AMEN!
Perhaps my entry is a little over-emotional when it comes to this situation. I’m not sure it would have cause a fire. BUT, I don’t know for sure. And I do trust that God protected us from some sort of harm. Take it from me, that listening to God is a good thing. When you feel prompted to do something that seems inconsequential – don’t underestimate what God may be doing!
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I so desperately want to be cheery! Especially at this time of year. I want to be excited to celebrate the birth of our Savior, to sing joyously with a choir of people, to feel energized to give, and decorate.
And yet, this season (of all that I can really remember) I am very un-spirited. I was driving this afternoon during rush hour down a major road in town. I saw the brilliant colors of traffic lights, decorations, and the tail lights of hundreds of cars in front of me. And then I remembered how I used to feel as a child seeing those same things. I was filled with excitement, singing carols with my sister in the back seat. I was so unaware of all the problems of my parents and the stress of obligations and responsibilities. Growing up has really put a damper on the way I see things, and I know I need to do something about it.
I want to feel that again. I want this Christmas season to be filled with joy. And yet all I think of is the negatives. And then my husband’s grandmother gets even more ill, and they are going to put her in a home before this weekend, and my in-laws had to drop everything and head out of state. And I have the audacity to wonder what my Christmas will end up looking like.
I share my negativity, not to be depressing or bring any of you down. But I guess to illustrate a point – one that Elizabeth made in her last post. There are many of us out there who are hurting during the Holidays. Even those of us who feel like we always have to have it “together.” I have hope though, because even though I am feeling these things, I know that my God is greater than these. I know that with prayer and time in the Word I will feel that child-like joy return. I have faith in that, and will trust that God is greater than my fleeting emotions! Because our emotions are fleeting – but God’s joy is everlasting!
Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy [shall be] upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; [and] sorrow and mourning shall flee away. Isa. 51:11