Oh, to Believe It!

One of the hardest lessens each of us must learn is that it really is to our advantage to do God’s will instead of our own. Many never learn this lesson.

Using the free will God gave us, we can choose our own way in life. How easy it is to do what we want instead of what God wants!

To believe that it is truly to our advantage to do God’s will, we must believe that:

  1. God knows best. We do not. He is far wiser than we. Like a small child intent on disobedience, we fail to understand our Father’s purposes for both our immediate and ultimate welfare.
  2. God not only knows best, He asks of us only what is best for us. Doing His will may hurt (cause us pain), but doing His will can never hurt (harm) us.
  3. His way brings far greater benefits than any supposed gain we might receive from doing our own thing. “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  4. Sin means doing my will when it runs counter to His will. Obedience means voluntarily yielding my will to His.
  5. It is so easy to focus on the cost of obedience and overlook the rewards of obedience. And yet the rewards far outweigh anything we may give up in order to obey (Mark 10:28-30; Romans 8:18). God is the Great Compensator.
  6. Satan will make sin look so attractive, so glamorous, and so alluring, that I must keep reminding myself that it is all a sham, a pretense, a lie. Satan does not deliver the goods.
  7. Sin (doing my will instead of God’s) may bring me momentary pleasure (Hebrews 11:25), but sin will destroy me if I don’t repent (Romans 6:23).
  8. To repent may sound tremendously hard and unappealing, but in view of the blessings God pours out on the truly penitent, repentance must be one of the most sensible, positive things I can do for myself (Acts 3:19).

His way may not be easy, but His way is truly best.

Now if I can just keep believing that—and act accordingly.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Facing the Future: How?

As I approached the tracks on Park Street I heard a train. My first thought was, if only I had left the post office a little sooner I would have made it across before the train arrived. Shutting off the engine to save gas, I prepared for the wait.

I watched as the locomotive rolled by, followed by a tank car, followed by another tank car, followed by . . . . But that was it! The entire train consisted of only one engine and two cars. I was delayed less than a minute.

Outcome unknown

Sometimes things do turn out better than we had expected, don’t they? Murphy’s Law doesn’t always operate. Hooray!

Life is an adventure. We never know what’s around the next bend. Since we don’t know, can we afford to make big plans without taking the Lord into account? James tells us that people who plan big while assuming they can definitely do what they intended are actually arrogant (James 4:13-17).

On the other extreme, do we tend to worry about how we’re going to have enough to meet tomorrow’s needs? This indicates a lack of faith (Matthew 6:25-34).

If we belong to Christ and if we keep our priorities straight, He promises we will have our basic needs met (Matthew 6:33). What an anxiety reducer!

Avoidable pitfalls

Looking to God as we face the future saves us from two errors. On one hand we’ll avoid pride in our planning—failing to remember that we can accomplish what we’ve planned only if it is the Lord’s will.

On the other hand, we’ll not forget we have a loving Father who takes good care of His children—as we seek His kingdom first.

These two errors have one thing in common: they both fail to take God into account. When we remember Him we’ll be neither arrogant nor anxious.

With Him beside us we can face the future with both humility and confidence—whatever may come down the track.

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Our Common Ancestor

Ark-aeological?

From time to time we hear that Noah’s ark has been sighted. While I seriously doubt it, I have no doubts about the historicity of the biblical account.

The biblical account of the Flood is accepted as historical by none other than Jesus Himself (Matthew 24:37-39). Three times Peter referred to the Flood as historical (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:3-7). Are we prepared to take the position that Jesus and Peter were mistaken?

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews cites Noah, along with other examples of faith such as Abraham, Moses, and David. The point is, you don’t mix legendary characters with historical and treat them all the same.

Noah is treated as historical in Isaiah 54:9 and Ezekiel 14:14, 20. Noah is included in the genealogies recorded in 1 Chronicles 1:4 and Luke 3:36.

Father of us all

When we research our family tree we’ll find some scoundrels among them. But God told Noah, “. . . you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Genesis 7:1).

We think things are bad now, and indeed they are, but the evil of Noah’s day surpasses ours (Genesis 6:5, 11-12). It was so bad that God saved only eight people from the Flood that destroyed all the rest.

Because of the exceeding wickedness of that age, Noah’s righteous character stands out as all the more exemplary.

What a task God gave Noah! He was to build a ship 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. Even without power tools he did it. Surely he must have grown weary at times. Although it doesn’t say so, likely his neighbors mocked his efforts.

What kept him going, year in and year out, until the ark was seaworthy? At least two factors: 1) his faith in God and 2) his love for his family. “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household . . .” (Hebrews 11:7).

History repeated

According to Peter, there is a dramatic parallel to Noah’s Flood, and that is the future destruction of all things by fire (2 Peter 3:3-14). In view of this eventuality do we have the spirit of our ancestor Noah?

Like Noah, we have been “warned by God about things not yet seen.” Will we respond in obedient faith, as Noah did (1 Peter 3:20-21), or will we be like his unworthy contemporaries?

The choice is ours.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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See for Yourself!

Check it out!

The Bible encourages seekers to investigate the evidence for the Christian faith (Luke 1:1-4; 24:36-43; John 1:45-51; 4:28-30, 39-42; 20:19-21; Acts 17:9-11; 1 Peter 3:15).

How does someone go about examining the claims of Scripture?

Some areas worth investigating would include: how the Bible came into being, biblical archaeology, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, the miracles of Christ, evidences for Jesus’ resurrection, including the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, etc.

How do you explain . . . ?

At one time Saul of Tarsus was the church’s chief antagonist, but then became its leading proponent.

What could have led him to make such a complete turnaround? For the answer, please consider his dramatic conversion story, as recorded in Acts 9, 22, and 26.

Paul is well qualified to testify. He has been there—on both sides. He was totally convinced that his new-found faith was well worth suffering for, even dying for.

In addition, there is his tremendous influence, even down to our day: “No single event, apart from the Christ-event itself, has proved so determinant for the course of Christian history as the conversion and commissioning of Paul” (F. F. Bruce, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Eerdmans, p. 75).

Credible faith

As the last stanza of the hymn “Art Thou Weary?” so beautifully states it:

Finding Him, and foll’wing, keeping,/ Is He sure to bless?

Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,/ Answer, “‘Yes!’”

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Sources of Strength

In the hard times

Two incidents in David’s life illustrate how we can draw strength when things are not going well.

During the time when Saul was seeking to kill David, Saul’s son Jonathan “arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).

We’re not told how Jonathan encouraged David. Surely just being there must have meant a lot. Also Jonathan probably had some well-chosen words and may have also prayed with David. Whatever he did, it worked! David was encouraged.

But what if no one is around to give us support in a crisis? What then?

There was the time when David and his men returned to headquarters and made the shocking discovery that the Amalekites had burned the city and captured their wives and children.

“. . . David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.”

The story has a happy ending with the safe return of the captives, but before David knew how it would turn out, “he strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

The same Hebrew word for “strengthened” is used here that was translated “encouraged” in the previous passage.

How did David strengthen himself in God? Surely he must have prayed fervently, and perhaps familiar scriptures came to mind. Maybe he thought about all the times God had previously delivered him. Whatever David did to strengthen himself, it worked.

Our ultimate Helper

Note that Jonathan “encouraged him in God,” and David “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

Later David could write, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer . . . . I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; and I am saved from my enemies” (2 Samuel 22:2, 4).

The stronger our relationship with God before a crisis comes, the better off we are when the storm hits. If we’re in fellowship with God, He is there for us, even if no one else is.

And that’s encouraging!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Four Characteristics of Faith

To say that faith is a major theme of the Bible is an understatement. What better place to begin than the great Faith Chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11. In this chapter the noun faith is found 24 times and the verb believe once.

People of faith

Hebrews 11 could be called Case Studies in Faith. Here are real people much like us who struggled with major problems and overcame them by faith.

What are the characteristics of faith? First, faith is the assurance that what we do not see is real (v. 1). There are three categories of what we do not see: 1) those things in the past we did not witness (v. 3); 2) present realities that are invisible to our eyes (v. 6); and 3) things yet to come (vv. 7, 10)

Second, faith acts. It does something. “By faith Abel offered unto God….By faith Noah…prepared an ark….By faith Abraham…obeyed….By faith Abraham …offered up Isaac….”

Third, faith enables us to please God (vv. 2, 6, 39). God is pleased when we show we trust Him.

And fourth, faith brings a great reward (v. 6). God richly blesses those who live by faith, not by sight.

Living by faith

Note the words immediately preceding the Faith Chapter: “But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (10:38-39).

Believe it!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Believe!

“Believe” is the main key word of the Gospel of John. From the 12th chapter of John let’s see what we can learn about what it means to believe:

Many believed (vv. 10-11).

A large number who witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection came to believe in Jesus (11:45). This is as it should be, for that was why Jesus raised Lazarus in the first place (11:4, 15, 42).

Some did not believe (vv. 37-40).

In spite of Jesus’ many miracles, some still refused to put their trust in Him. Why? It’s not that they didn’t have ample evidence, but they willfully closed their eyes against the Light. In doing so, they forfeited their only hope. “Having so hardened themselves, they inevitably suffered the penalty of God’s judicial hardening, making them no longer capable of believing” (James Burton Coffman, Commentary on John, Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing Co., 1974, p. 305). Could anything be sadder?

Some believed but would not go public with their faith (vv. 42-43).

They knew if they confessed their faith, they would be put out of the synagogue. So they kept quiet. In doing so they took their stand with those who did not believe. In contrast, those who believed as a result of Lazarus’ resurrection were willing to bear public witness to Christ (v. 17). They weren’t ashamed to say so.

“While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light . . . . I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness” (vv. 36, 46).

Those who do not believe and those who do not confess remain in darkness.

Those who take their stand for Jesus are the ones who become sons of light.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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