I believe, but do i need help with my unbelief?

I believe God has been repeating Himself to me lately.  Feb 16th of my daily devotional, Morning by Morning by Charles Spurgeon, was based on part of Philippians 4:11, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  Spurgeon says “Weeds naturally spring up in the same way covetousness, discontentment and complaining are as natural to us as thorns are to soil” and “Contentment is one of the precious flowers of heaven, and if we desire it , it must be cultivated.”  The point being is we have, as human beings, have a bent to complain and look at the negative and the things we don’t have or wish we had.  But somehow through his trials Paul had learned to be content in all his circumstances.  Which means contentment in all circumstances didn’t come naturally to him either.  Spurgeon goes on to say that there is a great lesson to learning contentment and that Paul probably failed at it many times before “getting it.”

There is not doubt in my mind as I write this and that I believe that God’s word is as true as Truth can get and that all of God’s Word is filled with promises that He is causing all things to work for my good and that His word goes out and does not return void.  But i was reminded of the man in Mark 9, who had a son possessed with an evil spirit and brought him to Jesus because, I’m sure he had only heard about the incredible things Jesus was doing, was desperate enough and asked if Jesus could help.  To which Jesus replied ” ‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Mark says the man immediately cried out “I do believe; help me overcome my belief.”

The man obviously had faith in and believed in Jesus being able to cast out the demon from his son, but yet the man still had a faithlessness or unbelief and wanted Jesus to help him with that too.  Learning these lessons is difficult and arduous at times.  But like a precious metal I truly believe I am being refined.  I just struggle with my natural bent to want to complain and, like Peter walking on the water, taking my eyes off Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.  I am grateful that I have a Savior who knows me and hears me and when I do turn to the right or the left speaks to me saying “This is the way, walk in it.”

I pray that those who read this know Jesus and this encourages them and if you don’t I pray that you would come to know Him, that you would read God’s Word and the incredible promises in it.  Unfortunately life here on earth does not get easier once you become a believer, but you can trust in the fact that you have a Holy Savior walking with you daily and that what’s in store for those who believe is incredibly, beyond our imagination, worth it.  The peace of the Holy Spirit that I have felt at times is amazing.

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Who’s your designated driver

Its been a rough week for us in a certain area of our life, and I have been praying for direction and wisdom in order to know what the right thing to do in our situation.  Then I opened up my daily devotional, Morning by Morning by Charles Spurgeon.  The devotional was actually yesterday’s, but the verse was 2 Samuel 5:23 “So David inquired of the Lord.”  The context is that David had just defeated the Philistines and ran them off, but the Philistines came back again and spread out around David and his men. Then in verse 23 it says David again inquired of the Lord.  I believe David had such a heart for God that he wanted to follow God’s will in all situations and because of this God gave him victory again over the Philistines, in fact, for the second battle God gave him the battle plans.

Spurgeon writes about this, “If you want to be able to steer your ship through the darkest, highest waves, place the control of the rudder into the hands of the Almighty.”  We’re much better off allowing God to steer and direct us as we navigate life.

So, I have been praying about this situation today, through Sunday School and church and believe God has answered my prayers and given me direction because I inquired of the Lord.

It amazes me, that when I truly pray for an open heart and for God to speak in my prayer time, He does, not always in that moment or in what I am seeking from Him, but he does.  He is the same God who spoke to David.

Not always “Fair winds and following seas”

I think I heard this term in an episode of NCIS, the one show my wife and I watch together. It’s a nautical blessing in hopes of a sailer or someone to have a safe journey.

This past Sunday our pastor preached on Mark 4:35-41. I’m no longtime bible scholar but am pretty familiar with these verses or thought I was. In context, Jesus had been teaching along the sea of Galilee and at the end of the day He tells them to go to the other side. So they get in the boat and during the trip over a storm comes up. The disciples were well trained and experienced sailors, and in the storm they get scared. That’s pretty wild in itself, sailors who most likely know no other body of water, scared in a storm on their local fishing grounds.

What struck me about this was that Jesus sent these guys out onto the lake, which they were fully obedient to do, yet in His sovereignty Jesus knew that a storm was coming. HE sent them out knowing there would he trouble. Yet Jesus knew they were going to reach the other side because that’s where He wanted to go.

Obedience to God doesn’t guarantee fair winds and following seas, but I know who is in the boat with me. Yes, at times I pull a Peter and look around at the winds and the waves and start to sink, but I know my Lord Jesus is causing ALL things to work for my good, because I love Him. The disciples, being the seasoned fisherman they were, couldn’t help themselves and in desperation they cried out to Jesus. Like them, we need Jesus, we can’t do life on our own. And Jesus may not always calm the storms around us but He may tell us to be quiet and to be still so that we may watch Him work in His grace and mercy and power.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV

Hillsong – Oceans

Lord, I pray for those that read this, that their lives would touched and forever impacted by your grace and mercy, that you would hold them in your hands as they navigate the waters they cross.

Sowers of the Seed

We talked this past Sunday about the parables of the Sower.  It was interesting to read this parable and think about which circumstances I tend to fall in.  As much as we want to believe we’re all the good soil, as someone mentioned in our class, I believe at times we can fall back into one of or more of the three not good soils.  For me I tend to fall back into the soils among the thorns.  I tend to get focused on my circumstances that surround me, the worries and attractions of the world and not focus on God.  Like Peter, I believe its easy to see the wind and the waves and take my eyes off Jesus because its the wind and waves I can see and not the workings of Jesus behind the scenes.  We need to focus on the One who, as Oswald Chambers has written, engineers our circumstances, instead of the circumstances themselves.

In the context of this parable, God is the Sower and His Word is the seed.  but if Jesus truly lives in us as believers, we should be sowers as well.  We should be the ones encouraging those we’re around and speaking God’s Word and Truths.  Unfortunately we won’t have successful seeds in all that we sow, but who knows when something we say may finally germinate into a rich and fruitful plant of Jesus’s.  To me its like bird hunting.  I like to dove hunt in the fall.  Legally I can carry three shells at a time in my shotgun and I tend to carry about 50 shell with me in my game bag.  Because I don’t get to practice much, I tend to go through all three shells when shooting at a single dove, sometimes I hit on the first shot sometimes I miss with all three and once or twice I have hit two doves on one reload.  But I know my chances are higher with three shells as opposed to a single shot shotgun and to shoot a dove it only takes one pellet from the shell.  If I don’t pull the trigger I go home with an empty bag.

The other thing about the good soil is that I believe it desires the seed to grow.  One can only be fruitful if one desires to be fruitful.  David was known as a man after God’s own heart.  We all know of David’s downfalls, but he truly desired to have a relationship with God and I believe God counted him as faithful because of his desire to know God and be drawn near to Him.

John 16:32“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

Radical Christianity

We’re studying the book of mark in Sunday school and the pastor is preaching on it in parallel. It got me thinking the other day along with another email blog I get by Jim Dennison called First 15, how radical the Christian life really is.

First 15 – Jim Dennison – Jan 20

This particular one talked about longing to be wholehearted in our Christian walk.

When Jesus called the 12 disciples, they essentially dropped everything to follow Jesus. Peter in particular left his dad’s fishing business, boats and all, to follow Jesus. Do you think they knew at the time what they would later face because they followed Jesus? The deaths they would experience because of their faith? They fact that they would give up at times the comfortable of home and family?

Living the Christian life truly is radical. And we have to at times take extraordinary steps I order to truly walk in faith and be obedient. Things that world would look at and call us crazy, like not taking a job that should be a no brainer.

Quite a few years ago I was in a job that was probably the toughest job I have ever had. As a result, I was interviewing with other companies and was in the process of getting a job offer on a position that would have been an incredible career move. And I didn’t take it. I prayed over the situation for some time and it just wasn’t the right choice to make. Later my wife even told me that she couldn’t believe I didn’t take it. But in looking back, God had a better plan for me. That plan included me getting laid off from probably the best job I have had. But I now have another great job.

I have a small daily calender with quite from Tony Evans. Below is the one from the 16th.

We have to live with no plan b. Unlike the many choices we face these days to live a wholehearted life we only have one choice and that’s seeking Jesus and His will for our lives.

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/1co.2.9.NIV

Desiring contentment

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

Last year ended up being quite the year.  I had the opportunity to really see God work in my life.  I was laid off from my job mid November of 2017, but as I look back at it, God was really preparing me and my family for that event.  During that fall, the pastor at the church we were attending was preaching on the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  I realized, in times of our life we all have seasons of plenty and season of famine.  The years before my lay off we were in a season of plenty, God had blessed us incredibly financially to prepare us for the season of famine, I was actually out of work for only about two and a half months and but didn’t have income for only about a month, but life changed very little during that time.  Yes, we had to watch our spending closely, but life really didn’t change incredibly.  But I also think God was working on me to instill in me my dependence on Him and the fact that it is truly Him that provides for our needs, I have learned that I am more than what my job is.  I love the work that I do and I do truly find joy in my work because I believe I get to use the gifts God has given me in my job, but my job is simply the vehicle through which God provides for us.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

The context of this is Paul is writing to the church of Philippi, and he is thanking them for the gifts they sent to him.

We also look to many things to make us happy.  So much of life can become very emotional.  We look to be happy or comfortable so much of the time.  We look to our jobs, marriage, kids, social status, cars we drive, etc to make us happy.  I’m not saying I have this down by any means, but truly its in Jesus Christ where we should find true contentment.  My men’s small group is studying “Morning by Morning” by Charles Spurgeon, and he says “I ask you, are you not complete when God is yours? Do you desire anything but Him? Isn’t His all-sufficiency enough to satisfy you even when everything else fails?”  In Jeremiah, God promises to be our God.  That should be enough.

Its so easy to get caught up in the materialistic things of this world.  Materials things are not bad, as long as you can hold them with an open hand.  I struggle with this myself.  I drive a 14 year old truck and I would love to have a newer truck, but, all I really need is transportation to and from work during the week, and I have that.  The crazy thing is I saw God provide in in credible ways over the last couple of years and know that He will provide, but I struggle with the desire of wanting more, and at the same time I know He will continue to provide and bless us as he sees fit.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:2-5

The thing is God never promises all our wants but He promises to provide for our needs.  Our basic needs are simple, food, shelter, etc.  If we keep our eyes focused on Him, He will provide.  Its us who are the ones that look beyond our needs and focus on our desires.  We see this in the Israelites while in the desert, they tried to store more manna up than they needed and it rotted.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, a I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

Moving on

At times I can feel like new years can be so cliche with all the focus in new years resolutions, but my thinking is, if you don’t like something or want to do something better, then just choose to try and change it right then, regardless if what time of year it is. Recently I feel like like I have been dwelling on choices and things I have done in the past that may not have been honoring to God. Then last Sunday one of our pastors preached on Philippians 13:13-14.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I think this just proves even more that when you are truly seeking God and His will, He will speak in His perfect timing. For Christmas I received a flip book with quotes by Tony Evans. January 2nd’s quote was

“Sometimes God allows something in your life that only He can fix so that you will get to see Him fix it.”

Paul had some ailment or thorn in his side, yet God told him that His grace was sufficient. I do believe that God causes all things to work for my good because I love Him, but more importantly because He loves me more than I can imagine. It’s just not fun to go through the storms we face, but I know God is with me and waiting for me on the other side with open arms.

Lord Jesus, give me the courage and humility to give over my chains to you that you may remove them from me so that I may press on to the future you have for me. May the words if my mouth and meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Zach Williams – Chain Breaker