Posted in Christianity, Faith

Is Your God Big Enough?

God is Big Enough

Ayiesha Woods’ song, Big Enough, asks us why we ever doubt the help that an uncreated God who created everything out of nothing can offer us:

You turned water into wine – how extraordinary
Gave sight to the blind – and still I carry
My own load when you told me
To take your yoke ’cause yours is easy

And I don’t wanna box you in
You’ve been doing big things since the world began
Sometimes I just don’t wanna believe
That you’re big enough – but you’re big enough yeah!

(http://www.lyricsmania.com/big_enough_lyrics_ayiesha_woods.html)

Jesus proclaims the definitive surety of our safety in the hands of an almighty God:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

Still, we humans find it difficult not to worry when we are waiting for test results in a doctor’s office or watching serious weather bear down on us.  We even often get so caught up in worrying about our personal issues that we often forget to look outward, failing to help others because we are so busy trying to take care of our own problems that we suffer from a tunnel vision that keeps us from even seeing anybody else.

Besides keeping us from truly loving others because we are too busy worrying about ourselves, failing to trust that God is “big enough” also keeps us further away from Him.

In his series, “Amazing Place,” preacher Rick Atchley points out that besides worry, another thing that keeps us from fully trusting God is having too small a vision of what His promise of eternity really means.  If your idea of heaven is small, then what you manage to learn in this life in your preparation for the next one inevitably suffers.

But instead, if you embrace the infinite power and possibilities that our Creator God IS, then how you live moves towards the goal of His perfectness:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen  (Jude 1:24-25)

So, what does having a big enough God look like?  How about putting the needs of other people before your own, even people you do not know?  Or what about having the courage or gumption to help out at a local food bank, even though doing that is out of your comfort zone?  Maybe it looks like waking up in the morning feeling anxious and immediately saying a prayer that gives that anxiousness to God, that asks for the insight during the day to see the lessons He wants you to learn, that thanks Him for times in the past when He has proven that He will see you through tough situations.

God doesn’t lie.  People make mistakes.  People get zealous and condemn before learning all the facts.  People fail to keep their promises.  But God doesn’t lie.

And God has promised through His Son to save us from ourselves, to forgive us for every sin we profess as long as we are willing to accept Christ as our Savior.  But that forgiveness is the promise of more than just escaping eternal damnation.  It is the reality of an eternal existence that is so awesome, that even the apostle whom Christ most loved found it difficult to describe the vision he was given of it:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4)

God is big enough.

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Posted in Faith

3 Ways to Fertilize Your Faith

Grow your mustard seeds of faith
Grow your mustard seeds of faith

That the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.  (Philemon 1:6)

 1: Know WHAT You are Fertilizing

When it comes to plant products that have been bottled to be sold as food supplements in a health store, I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know.  But, when it comes to real plants in the real world?  Well, I’ve been known to kill bamboo!

Despite my brown thumb, my West Texas roots have taught me that knowing your crop is the beginning key to success.  When to plant, when to harvest, when to pray for rain–these are just some of the elements that go into the very hard job of being a farmer.

Just like knowing the plant you want to grow before you can expect to succeed in growing it, you should also begin your goals to grow your faith by understanding what faith means.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith:

is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson states it this way:

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

The heroes of faith are further examples to help us define the concept.  From Noah who believed enough to build an Ark to Mary who had the courage to bring the Son of God into the world, the Bible is replete with people who understood faith in the most profound way possible, by believing and doing.

The most important step of faith in this modern world is the one you take to submit your life to Christ as your Savior.  When you admit to Him that you are a sinner who has no chance of redemption without Him, you climb the first rung of the ladder toward a closer relationship with God that is the ultimate goal of faith.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
― C.S. Lewis

Faith is believing in God when things are bleakest as well as when things are going well for you.  Faith is the beginning of hope, which is the most important quality for us to have if we expect to make it through the valleys of this life.  Faith is knowing that God IS and the He loves me.

2: Know HOW to Fertilize

 

With faith as small as this mustard seed, Christ says we can move mountains.
With faith as small as this mustard seed, Christ says we can move mountains.

 

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”  –Elbert Hubbard

As Elbert Hubbard explains, in order to grow a belief in God, we cannot expect to proceed easily.  Christ promises us a light yoke, but not a life without trouble.  In fact, it is through troubles that we learn perseverance, which builds character and ultimately leads to hope (Romans 5:4).

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.
― Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones

In order to grow our faith, we have to exercise it, like a muscle.  As with all things concerning our relationship with God, we can begin that exercise by studying His word, spending time in prayer with Him and joining in fellowship with other believers to share our belief.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  ― Corrie ten Boom

Other ways to fertilize our faith is to learn to listen with intent to the voice of the Holy Spirit in us.  When we feel the pull to reach out to help a stranger or say something about our beliefs to our acquaintances, we should become more accustomed to following those feelings.  The more we know about what the Bible says, the more we will know it is God talking to us and not our own interests.

Fertilizing our faith will often be uncomfortable because it will mean stepping outside our normal comfort zones.  Sitting in my recliner writing a blog is not the easiest thing to do on a Sunday afternoon, since sitting here doing nothing at all would be easier, but writing has always at least been comfortable for me.  Making my way to church on Sunday is stepping outside my comfort zone.  As an introvert, I am highly challenged in group settings, and large groups can lead to sensory overload for me.

But, going to church improves my faith.  Besides learning things about the Bible I didn’t already know, my church attendance has also allowed me to meet a wide variety of people who share my same goals and struggles but who approach them in ways I would have never thought of but greatly admire.  I have learned better ways to approach life’s problems and even to pray by participating in church, fertilizing my faith.

3: Make Faith Personal

The beginnings of this blog post came when I was thinking about how helpful God has been to me in my life, despite my literally clinical problem with worry.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which comes with unhealthy bouts of depression.  With the proper medication, nutritional support, and help from my family and friends, I lead a pretty productive life.  But the thought that I had earlier this week was thinking about how I spend so much time worrying about things that are going to happen, but when something really does happen, I am somehow able to be really strong and make it through the bad thing.

My power in times of crisis doesn’t come from medicine or me, but from God.  So, as I was thinking about this earlier this week, I was asking myself, how come I’m not doing a better job at remembering how often God comes through for me when I let worry win out over my faith? 

So, when I suggest making your faith personal, I mean just that.  However you do it–journaling, scrapbooking, or making time to remember on a regular basis–make your faith stronger by building on your personal experiences with faith.  We don’t have to be prophets to have real experiences with God.

In fact, when Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, He made it more possible than ever for “regular” people like you and me to experience God every day.  Of all the people in history, we can have as close a relationship with God as any of the heroes of faith you’ll find in Hebrews 11.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  –Psalm 91:2

In Nicole Nordeman’s song, What If?, the singer asks:

What if you jump, just close your eyes?  What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?  What if it’s LOVE?

Faith is personal, but it’s not something to be hoarded.  Sharing our experiences of faith with others is what helps us spread God’s love in a broken world.  Faith has the courage to admit that what good we do comes from God and not ourselves.  Faith has the courage to step out knowing we may stumble.  Faith knows that even if we wind up with egg on our face, God catches us and always loves us.

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” ― C.S. Lewis

Each time I hit post, I risk offending somebody, looking foolish, or making an actual mistake in a cyberspace where they say nothing ever actually goes away.  But faith without works, as James tells us, is a dead faith.  How can I not risk everything for the One who gave everything for me?

Grow your faith muscle this week.  If we truly believe, what other choice have we?

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

3 Lessons from David

David's_Grief_Over_Absolom_(Bible_Card)

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  (Acts 13:22)

When you read about one of Israel’s greatest heroes, David, you can see his passion for God, but you also see his humanity.  Despite David’s love for God, he still does things that go against God.  He takes another man’s wife.  He takes a census of his people, even though that denied God’s claim that Israel would become a nation so large, it could not be counted.   He lives a life of such violence to secure the Israelite nation that God leaves the building of His temple to David’s son, Solomon, whom God promises will be able to live in a peaceful kingdom.

There are many lessons to learn from the story of David’s life.  Here are three pointers that have stuck out for me in the previous weeks:

Lesson 1: Repent with everything you’ve got

When David returns the Ark to its home in Jerusalem, he rejoices in God’s glory with his whole self, dancing with such exuberance in front of all his people that one of his wives reprimands him for it because she finds his actions undignified.  But God, who sees the heart, knows the truth of David’s love for God and actually punishes the woman for her attitude towards David.

When David messes up, he repents with the same kind of passion with which he rejoices.  He wears burlap, he fasts, he begs for God to forgive him, he doesn’t try to blame anyone else or his circumstances for what he ultimately did.  Most importantly, his repentance means something because he really intends not to mess up in the same way again.  He wants to do what is right in God’s eyes.

David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24:10)

Lesson 2: Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty

David had plenty of opportunities to let his worldly successes go to his head.  Even though he had to fight many, many battles during his lifetime, he won.  As a young shepherd, he even took on a giant an entire army didn’t want to fight and killed Goliath!  Women fell at his feet, men bowed to his will, and almost no one had a bad word to say about him.  Think about how we Americans idolize the famous in our country and how few of them even believe in God, and you will begin to realize the real challenges David faced to not let his successes make him think he was close to being a god himself.

But, because David did have a heart for God, he didn’t fall into the trap of claiming his worldly successes for himself.  As you read through David’s story, he always gives God the credit for any success he has.  He asks for God’s permission before making battle plans.  He begs for God’s help for every problem that he faces.  In short, David understood that every step he took was under the protection and oversight of his heavenly Father.

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. (of David, Psalm 34:1)

Lesson 3: Believe in God’s Love for YOU

No matter what bad things happen to David in his life, whether he felt he deserved them or not, he never doubted that God loved him and would see him through according to God’s ultimate plan.  When David’s son born out of his sinful relations with Bathsheba ultimately dies, David rises from the fasting he had been doing to ask God to change His mind, cleans himself up and begins the hard task of living again.  Because David accepts that God knows best and realizes that God loves him, he can continue to live by trying to follow God’s edicts and worship God for the One and Only God that He is.

Throughout the story of David, in even his most despairing Psalms, David always expresses the belief that God is good, God loves him, and God’s will being done is what is ultimately the best thing to happen–even when what happens really hurts.  Ultimately, I think, it is David’s sincere commitment to believing in God’s love for us that makes David’s heart like God’s own.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.   Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;  so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.   Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;  you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;  wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness;  let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins  and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence  or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation  and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,  so that sinners will turn back to you.  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,  you who are God my Savior,  and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;  you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart  you, God, will not despise.  (Psalm 51:1-17)

The Next Step

Being like David, flawed but loving God with all your heart, is a really grand goal.  You might consider it a first step toward the ultimate goal of being like Jesus, who had nothing to repent, but loved God, acknowledged His sovereignty and followed His will as an example for all of us.

Luckily for us Christians, we have Christ’s sacrifice so that the wrath we so deserve He took upon Himself on the cross.  With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have a guide to help us be more Christ-like each day.  Following David’s, and Christ’s, examples, we should find ourselves praying more, throwing our whole selves into our relationship with God, and growing our faith.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)