Faith in Action

Today’s readings are Ezekiel 25-27, Psalm 82, and John 9.

The story is told of a man who was watching the news and heard a flood was coming from an approaching storm, and he needed to evacuate his home. However, he thought to himself that he didn’t need to because God would save him. Shortly thereafter the flood waters approached his house and a neighbor knocked on his door telling him he needed to leave, but he told the neighbor he didn’t need to and he’d be fine because God would save him. As the flood waters overtook his house and he fled to the roof, a rescue crew came by boat and asked him to get onboard. He declined again saying God would save him, and he didn’t need their help. Finally, he climbed up on his antenna on his house as the waters now covered the roof. A helicopter flew up and dropped a rescue ladder, but his answer was the same in that he didn’t need the help because God would save him. This ultimately led to his demise.

We read in John 9 today where Jesus spit on the ground creating mud, rubbed it on a blind man’s eyes, and told him in John 9:7 to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” The man followed Jesus’ prompting and was able to see after doing so. Let’s unpack the craziness of this a little more for a second. John 9:1 tells us this man had been blind from birth so him believing anything could help him see is far-fetched to say the least. We don’t know if he had ever even heard of Jesus prior and in any event, he might find it a little weird when a guy hawks up a loogey and rubs mud from it all over his eyes. Jesus then doesn’t just tell the man to open his eyes. The man must walk to the pool of Siloam. We aren’t told how far it is away, but it doesn’t seem like it’s right there by him and remember the man is blind. So that means it’s going to take quite a bit of work for him to get there. He’s going to have to get a friend (if he has any) to take him there or ask quite a few people for directions along the way. This man has plenty of opportunities for excuses to not only think this wouldn’t lead him to see because he was blind for his entire life, but also now he must go through some extra steps and challenges to make it happen. However, he follows Jesus’ steps, and we all know the miracle is complete and he’s able to see.

Well known pastor Mark Batterson says there is a human element to most all the miracles Jesus performed. Each person had to take a step in faith for God to perform a work in or on them and for them to see the completion of it. You can’t get the job or change careers like you’ve been praying for if you don’t send out your resume or apply to college to get your degree in the field you want to go into. You can’t save your marriage if you don’t work on it and take actions to heal it through conversations, counseling, and putting God first through going to church and studying His Word and praying together. You can’t fix financial challenges of overspending without creating a budget and sticking to it. You can’t fix your addiction problem if you don’t admit you have a a problem and get some help from others. He wants to see that you will take a step with faith in Him to help you complete the rest.

My question today for all of us is…what miracle are you asking God for? And from there…what is He laying on your heart for you to do first in faith trusting Him so that He will then complete His work in you?

Do You Believe God Still Does the “Supernatural” today?

Today’s reading is Acts 11-12.

In these chapters we see what I will call the following “supernatural” events….

  • Jesus speaking to Peter in a dream and showing him a vision making certain foods now clean to eat and also representing that forgiveness is possible for Gentiles, not only Jews, through repentance and belief in Jesus.
  • A man declaring an angel had appeared to him to tell them to go to Joppa to get Peter who would give them a message to help their family be saved.
  • A prophet Agabus accurately telling of a future famine.
  • An angel freeing Peter from prison.
  • Herod being struck down and being eaten by worms because he did not give glory to God.

Where do you draw the line in what “supernatural” things God still does today? Do you believe angels still appear delivering messages and even physically helping people today? Do you still believe Jesus appears to people or that people hear the audible voice of God? Do you believe real prophets still deliver messages God gave them (I’m not talking about psychic call lines)?

I find most Christians, including myself, likely believe some of these things still happen today, but for some reason may question others. If someone told you one of these things happened to them today, you would either think the person was completely nuts, it was just a coincidence, they were dreaming, or they just imagined something?

In 2019, I was struggling to make a decision if I was going to step down from my role as a Managing Director and solely focus on financial planning for clients. In fact, I had been struggling for years with this decision. In September of 2019 I made the decision, although I still wondered if it was right and what the future would hold. I told our Managing Partner my decision and drove back from Champaign to meet with one our new advisors I was coaching. He proceeded to tell me that he normally doesn’t tell people this (because many would think he was crazy), but God had given him a spiritual gift of prophesy…not in his own life but for the lives of others. He told me that he was praying for me that week and God clearly laid it on his heart that I was going to have some major professional change, although he didn’t know exactly what, and that the change was going to be a great thing for my future. He felt he was supposed to and should tell me this. Because my Managing Partner and I agreed my decision was confidential and would not be made public yet, I some how kept it together until he left my office despite being absolutely blown away. Keep in mind, he would have had absolutely no idea that less than 2 hours previously I told my Managing Partner of my decision. I had told no one except my wife. When he walked out, I broke down and thanked God for delivering that message through him to give me peace and confidence moving forward.

I would say before this I believed in angels helping people, but someone hearing the audible voice of God or prophesying for the future..I wasn’t so sure I believed. But why? If God did those things in the Bible, why not today? Most in the Bible who experienced these events were regular people and some of the worst sinners (take Saul/Paul for example). Does God not have the same power now as then as well? Most Christians believe that God orchestrates seemingly normal events and occurrences for His purpose and plan. But doing “supernatural” things like those listed earlier..c’mon..get real.

I would challenge all of us to reflect on why we may put limits on what God either can or does do still today. Does this also reveal a lack of faith and add more stress, worry, and anxiety because we put limits on what God can and will do today in your life or our world? How would your life be different if you believed God can and still does “supernatural” things like those which occurred in the Bible today? If God did them then… again, why not now?

Leadership Lessons From David

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 30 and Psalm 31.

One of the things I love about writing for Bible Journal is it really makes me take a step back and ask myself what God is teaching us through Scriptures where I may have easily glanced over it during a quick read. Today, I was blown away by 2 great leadership examples through David in 1 Samuel 30.

First, we see in 1 Samuel 30:6 David “strengthened himself in the Lord His God.” How did David do this? He came to Lord in prayer, asking for wisdom as to what to do, and then he took action by following the Lord’s direction pursuing Amalekites. Let’s not glance over how terrible it looked for David. His town had been burned and his family was gone leaving him not knowing if they were dead or alive. David faced trouble with Saul, but I often think of the people always loving David due to his victory over Goliath amongst others, but apparently it was still a “what have you done for me lately world” back then because we also read in verse 6 the people talked of stoning him. Psalm 31 gives us a prayer by David which is likely very similar to what David prayed during this time. We know in Matthew 11:28 Jesus tells us, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.” God doesn’t care if you haven’t turned to Him in the past and if it took things getting really bad before you turned to Him for the first time or again in some cases. He just wants your heart..now.  He wants you to believe fully that He will pull you through it trusting in Him. What challenge are you facing today you don’t think you can handle or rebound from? “Strengthen yourself in the Lord” by praying for wisdom and guidance…then trust in Him and act upon His direction.  This is what David did and his family was safely returned through he and his people’s victory over the Amalekites.

The second lesson we learn from David is when things are going great and the Lord gives us victory, we give the glory to God. For it is Him who does these things through us. How easy is it to be prideful in thinking…”look at what I did”….when things are going well. We are all guilty of this. Psalm 31:23 tells us that is not a good thing to do. Those who went into battle did not want to give their winnings to those who stayed back, but David says in 1 Samuel 30, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us and given into our hand the hand that came against us.” David immediately recognizes in the presence of others this victory came from God and gives him the credit.  I love the quote, “Being humble does not mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less.”  Why should we think less of our self and that we are not capable or that God doesn’t have big things planned for us? Psalm 139:13 tells us we were created by the Almighty God and he “knit” us together. Thinking less of our self essentially means thinking less of God then since He created us, doesn’t it? But, in being humble, we DO think of ourselves less, and we give to those around us just as David models in 1 Samuel 30:24. We must think to ourselves, “For it was not me who did this, but God through me.”  David realized not everyone is meant to be a mighty warrior and go into battle.  He shared with those for whom God had a different role.

Both leadership lessons of strengthening ourselves in the Lord by trusting in Him through prayer, believing He can pull us out of any situation no matter how impossible it looks because our confidence is in Him, not our self, and then giving the glory to God are summed up by Paul again in Ephesians 3:20-21.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Let us move forward today in confidence and give him the glory!

Obedient To Our Beliefs

Ladder

Numbers 5; Psalm 39; Song of Solomon 3; Hebrews 3

We lead extraordinarily busy lives. Between the pressures and problems of our work lives and the turmoil of training children to have healthy lives, we find ourselves chasing one thing after another, never stopping. If you are like me, there is a still small voice in your heart that is crying out for more. So what do we do? We choose more. We think that working harder, maybe earning that next promotion, will finally silence that nagging voice. We transfer the belief of more to our kids, assuming that my happiness comes from more, theirs does too. We add new activities and focus attempt them more intensely. The result: more pressure, more turmoil and more problems.  Too often these become manifested in depression, substance abuse and a myriad of illnesses. Exactly the opposite of what our heart is crying out for and definitely not the life that God promises us. He is calling us to one simple thing, obedience.

I don’t think of myself as disobedient. Maybe that is why I find myself annoyed when I read Biblical truths about disobedience. In fact, Instead of translating disobedience truthfully, I reinterpret it with positive words like progressive and enlightened.   These twists of truth allow me to avoid guilt while fully embracing, even amplifying my individuality. My prayers are also shaped by this belief. I ask God to help me in the places I am falling short. They sound like, “God give me that promotion,” or, “please help Junior play well today. He deserves to win.” All seems well until God doesn’t perform for us. When we fail to get recognized at work or our kids fall into trouble, we accuse Him of not providing and our restlessness accelerates. James 4:3 confirms this, “you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Today, in Hebrews 3, we read a related comment. It says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:15).

If we want to have rest as God promises throughout Scripture, we must look toward obedience. This means that I can no longer avoid the hard work of transformation. The first step of obedience is listening.  When I pause and listen for God, I realize that the still small voice in my heart is not asking for more. Instead, recognizing that this is the still small voice of God, I hear Him calling me, calling me to obedience. Waiting in silence, He convicts me that my past re-interpretations are nothing more than a hard heart.   This hardness gives way to misbelief in my individuality and self-importance.  According to the Bible, they are more than misbelief, they are unbelief  (Hebrews 3:19).  My unanswered prayers, therefore, are not the result of God’s punishment or wrath, but my unbelief!  OUCH!

There is hope. When we turn our cry of desperation toward Jesus, stopping to listen, he responds. Thankfully, he does not ask for more than that.  When we do, He assures us of the rest we are looking for. (Matthew 11:28-29)

I found myself captured by the picture I added to this post.  Our stories parallel the boy’s burning of the ladder rungs.  He believes that the fire will keep him alive while we believe that “more” will lead to rest. His comfort is temporary, short-lived even.  What about ours?  Proverbs 14:12 says it clearly.  “There is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death.”  

Thanks to Pawel Kuczynski for creating a fantastic illustration of how our true beliefs shape our actions.