Friday, May 29, 2009

Do You See Him?

Have you ever questioned your usefulness to God? Have your worried about the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of your faith? If yes, don’t worry… you’re normal. If no, at worst you are lying. At best, you are fooling yourself.
I have had those times as well and such has been the case in recent days. Such difficult situations and tests of faith that I wonder, “Am I up for the task?”
Perhaps even more difficult is walking down the road with someone else. Those who is struggling in their marriage, or those facing hopeless situations in their job or those battling addictions. They come to you looking for answers and your best attempt at comforting words seem to all fall short. All these scenarios can leave you feeling empty.
But never underestimate the importance of being with Jesus, even during times like these. In fact, its most important for us to seek Him…especially during times like these. We need the truth of His word revealed to us in order to protect us from the inevitable lies of Satan. Those lies that tell us, “You’re not worthy. You’re a failure. You should be ashamed.”
One thing we know, our enemy is good…but he is not all that creative. He consistently attacks us when we feel weak so in those moments…especially in those moments…fill your mind with His truth so that you will not believe the lies the deceiver will whisper in your ear.
Just this morning, I read the words of Jesus when he says in John’s gospel:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

Did you see that? Jesus is saying that He can do nothing apart from His Father. He must see His Father doing something and once this is observed, He goes and does the same thing. Jesus later reminds you and I of our same dependence on Him:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

I read this and I prayed, “Lord, give me eyes to see. Help me to walk in the ways you have prepared beforehand. Teach me to find my satisfaction in You and live in the confidence of your promises fulfilled. By your grace may I see the evidence of your hand upon my life and may my faith be strengthened.”

Soon after, I had a conversation with a friend. One of those difficult situations that I did not have a good answer for but was compelled to be there for them anyway. I listened to the honest emotion and the desired action of this person. I could not blame them for their feelings but I could not support their desired actions. What do I say?

I told my friend, “I understand your emotion. What a difficult situation you are in. Can I ask you to consider something before you make any decisions?”

He listened.

I continued, “Before you make any decisions, filter them through God. And when you go to Him, don’t pretend. Take your raw emotion as you just shared with me - your anger, your hurt, your disappointment. Go honestly and go humbly.”
“Tell God, ‘This is how I feel…this is what I want to do…’ and then ask, ‘Is this pleasing to You?’ Make an honest commitment that you will not do anything that you are not convinced He is leading you to do. Will you do that?”

“Yes, I will” he said. “Thank you for telling me that.”

I hung up the phone and a light bulb went off in my head. I realized I had just spoken to my friend the words God had spoken to me this morning.

“Filter through Me. Don’t do anything you do not see Me leading you to do. Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Today my friend and I were both encouraged by the words of God as the hand of God was revealed in our life. He is still at work…do you see Him?

Friday, May 8, 2009

From Theory to Practice

Believing in the theoretical is not so difficult. Most people do well when it comes to believing in a future possibility. Faith is safe from a distance. However, when theory moves into practice, now it costs something...not so easy anymore.
Abraham and Isaac are a good example. What must it have been like the day Abraham and his son travel to the Mountain of Moriah. Abraham had been asked by God to do the unimaginable. Take his only son, the promised son, and present him as a sacrifice. How could Abraham even bring himself to get up early that morning and prepare for that agonizing journey?
The New Testament gives us the answer. Abraham had developed a theory. Since God had promised the build a great nation from the decendents of Isaac, and now God has asked him to sacrifice his son before a single decendent had been born, then in order for God to be faithful to his promise, He must intend to bring Isaac back from death (Heb 11:17-19). What a odd explanation, but it was the best he could do and it was enough for Abraham to get up that morning and begin the journey of faith.
Each step must have been increasingly difficult as it moved Abraham from theory to practice. Its one thing to imagine what God might do...its quite another to walk in obedience in order to experience that reality.
And yet, even as they arrive, His faith remained. Abraham instructs his servants to stay with the donkey as he and his son travel up the mountain. "Wait here" he says, "Isaac and I are going to worship together and Isaac and I will return." (Gen. 22:5)
At some point, Abraham had to explain the events to his son. "Son, let me first tell you that I believe God is going to perform a miracle today. In ways I cannot explain, He is going to provide the lamb for a sacrifice. But for you and I to experience that reality, we are going to have to put our faith to the test. Do you trust me my son? More importantly, do you trust our God?"
Isaac's face grew pale as his father's theory was explained. Abraham too must have grown faint at the thought of seeing his son's blood drip from the knife he now held in his hand. But yet they each fearfully continued to take heavy steps of faith. Without a struggle, Isaac allows his father to bind him with rope and lift him to be placed on the altar.
Everything is theory until the moment of final obedience. He pulls the knife from its sheath, lifts his hand in the air, and cries out, "Oh, God is there any other way?!" His son, staring into the eyes of his father says, "Daddy please!"

In that agonizing moment, the fruit of obedience gave birth to the miracle. The angel of the Lord answered both father and son and the sacrifice was made in a way neither had planned. God made His way. Abraham and Isaac worshipped together. Abraham and Isaac descended the mountain transformed by the miraculous.

Steps of faith are increasingly difficult as they move us from theory to practice. Faith is safe from a distance. I understand this today more than ever. But obedience is the perquisite for the miraculous. Each step of faith, as we walk from theory to practice, deepens our understanding of God and transforms our assumption of "what He might do" into the reality of "what He has done". It is from this vantage point that we can say with experienced conviction, "He is able to do immeasurable more than we can ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20). I pray that we increasingly experience this reality through faithful steps of obedience. May I live it even as I write it.

...To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.