Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Trial of Faith

If you have faith as a mustard seed . . . nothing will be impossible for you —Matthew 17:20

Really?  Is that true?  Nothing?  Then why couldn't I start my car this morning?

We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith, and it may be so in the initial stages. But we do not earn anything through faith— faith brings us into the right relationship with God and gives Him His opportunity to work. Yet God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself.

It is true that I tend to think this.  I keep thinking that if I have enough faith, then things will go somewhat easily for me.  The problem is that God never promised this.  Instead, he promised the opposite...that we would have trouble in this life.  I'm thinking of the Apostle Paul who had all sorts of trouble for his faith...and eventually martyrdom.  I'm thinking of believers in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia...where it is downright dangerous to profess Christ as your savior.  Life is no picnic for those people of faith. I do have trials...but they are really a cakewalk compared to some people's.  Mine are somewhat trivial.  Yesterday I had a flat tire in the rain.  A trial? inconvenience.  I have Triple-A membership and there was a nice store for me to stay in and keep myself warm and entertained while I waited for someone to come.  Today my other car would not start when I attempted to leave for a day of substitute teaching.  A trial?  No...another inconvenience.  I went inside, called the school.  Within a few minutes they called back and told me they had already found another sub.  I have a warm house to stay in and I can catch up on laundry today I guess. Disappointing because we need the income, but we have food to put on the table.  Plenty of it in fact.  

Then God withdrew His conscious blessings to teach you to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7). 

I really have had terrible times of trial...which I lived through, by God's grace and mercy.  I do in fact know what it is like to be absolutely tested and stretched to the breaking point.  I know what it is like to cry out to God in the depths of despair and feel nothing but utter darkness.  It was during that time...that I had to choose to walk by faith.  It was a choice that I made in my mind as I battled against the darkness.  I did not feel any hope at all...but I decided to believe and choose to live. (yes...literally choosing to live over the other choice of ending my life)

Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried.

Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive.

I guess this is what I was talking about when I described my circumstances as "inconveniences."  I watched the news last night.  The people who lost their homes due to hurricane Sandy-theirs is the real trial.  I woke up to a few branches and whole bunch of seed pods on my lawn from the tree in my yard. (Impressive? Not really.) Not being able to find a job and being financially strapped right now?  Is that the result of simply being alive or an actual trial of faith?  Sometimes it is actually hard to tell the difference.

Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.” The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). 

No one is trying to slay me...but it would be easy to slip into anger and self pity or complaining about my circumstances.  I am choosing to remain true to God's character in all of this (or at the very least, try to do this).  I will not complain. I will thank him for who He is and what He has done for me.  I will thank him for a warm house and for laundry.  I will thank him that he loves me and that he really does have a plan that includes my best interest (Jer 29:11)  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Without faith it is impossible to please Him . . . —Hebrews 11:6
Yet faith must be tested and tried before it becomes real in your life.

I believe this is absolutely true.  I once said to a friend who was going through some trying times, "What is faith that has not been tried?"  Words of wisdom...straight from my mouth.  Hahahaha.  It's easy to spout that off until you are the one being socked with all the trying circumstances and are left wondering if God has left you out in the cold.  Of course I really don't believe that He has left me out in the cold...but I kind of have to wonder when we get a bill in the mail for over $500 that we have to figure out how we are going to pay.  (Thank you Mr. Boiler...our annoying resident in our basement...unfortunately in upstate NY, we cannot simply evict him.) or when I have had the 7th job interview and they call to tell me that they have chosen another candidate. (3 last summer, 3 this summer and 1 recently for a long-term subbing position.  Teaching is not a good field to be in right now.) 

Faith always works in a personal way, because the purpose of God is to see that perfect faith is made real in His children.

Lately it is much more than Mr. Boiler or trying to land the job...we have a list.  So I am struggling to have faith that this is all going to work out in the end.  One of the big questions lately that has been gnawing at me is, how are we going to send Allen off to college next year?  Shouldn't we be farther ahead by our mid-40s in order to do this?  (And how did I become the mother of a senior in high school already?...I'm certainly not old enough!

Faith is a tremendously active principle that always puts Jesus Christ first. The life of faith says, “Lord, You have said it, it appears to be irrational, but I’m going to step out boldly, trusting in Your Word”

So in all of this, I am still believing that Jesus Christ saved me and that the Lord loves me and will take care of us. (Matthew 6:25-34)  History tells me that he has taken care of us.  We have always had food on the table and clothes on our backs.  We always managed to have a car or two that ran (usually). Somehow the bills got paid...even when it seemed like they would not.  Back then I always thought it was a season of life that we were going through and that certainly things would get better and financially more secure as the years rolled on. We have new hurdles now that we didn't have in the past.

God brings us into particular circumstances to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make the object of our faith very real to us. Until we know Jesus, God is merely a concept, and we can’t have faith in Him. But once we hear Jesus say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” we immediately have something that is real, and our faith is limitless. Faith is the entire person in the right relationship with God through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Lord, I must be awfully thick headed.  I keep failing your "classes" because it seems that I am going through the same types of trials over and over again.  Haven't I taken this course before?  Did I fail it?  I thought I had passed it because I got through it. What am I doing wrong? I am getting very frustrated. Here I am again in "Remedial Faith 101,"  but then again, if I graduate from this, what's next?  A harder class?  I guess that I must admit that I do not want to take the classes anymore...or at least I would like a summer vacation.  How many days until summer vacation, Lord? Yeah...I want things to be easy but that's not the way it's going to be.  Life is full of hurdles.  Some are Big and some are small.Through it all I am going to choose to remain in right relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I guess that is what the test is all about.  Am I still going to trust Him and remain in Him?

Right now I am trying to learn prayer...perhaps that is what this is all about. 

Photo Image: "Dinner" from the album: Sum,Sum, Summer Time by my darling sister, Martha Teal.  Used without permission. :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Justification by Faith

If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life —Romans 5:10

Read the following very carefully.  It took me a couple of times to get it.  In fact, use the link to the right to go to today's devotional and read the entire thing yourself and let it sink in.

I am not saved by believing— I simply realize I am saved by believing. And it is not repentance that saves me— repentance is only the sign that I realize what God has done through Christ Jesus. The danger here is putting the emphasis on the effect, instead of on the cause. Is it my obedience, consecration, and dedication that make me right with God? It is never that! I am made right with God because, prior to all of that, Christ died.

I sometimes get very confused about what saved me.  I think that what saved me was my decision at age 15 to go forward in a church and pray to accept Jesus Christ as my savior. That is not what saved me.  Jesus Christ dying on the cross saved me...I simply realized what the amazing thing He did for me really was on that day in 1981 and actively decided to follow Him.  I cannot take credit in any way for His salvation.

Lord, thank you for your salvation.  That you did it all...and that although I have not done anything to earn it, you have given that salvation to me.  Amen.

Photo of cross imbedded in concrete. Taken by Photographic Textures, Creative Commons Flickr

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Method of Missons

you've been warned
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . —Matthew 28:19

Oswald is quick to point out that it is not our job to save souls (that is the work of the Holy Spirit)...but it is our job to point people to Jesus. -The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus.

We can't point anyone to Jesus unless we have a personal relationship with Him ourselves. am I doing with that?  I think it is important to do self-examinations of our walk with the Lord.  I often think that my relationship with the Lord is not what it really could be, but I am trying to take steps in the right direction.

“Don’t rejoice in successful service— the great secret of joy is that you have the right relationship with Me” (see Luke 10:17-20).

So, I am not perfect...but am I walking with Him?  Everyday?  Not just a couple of times a week, when I finally have time to carve out of my busy schedule?  OUCH!  Sometimes, I must admit,that is what it amounts to. The other night at Bible study, an older man named Dennis got up to share how he has been journaling and praying every morning.  He sets apart a specific time of the morning to do this. He said this not to brag, but to encourage us to do the same. He shares what a difference it has made in his daily walk with the Lord. I must admit, that I definitely see the Holy Spirit of God in this man's gentle and wise demeanor. He really is similar to my own father in that way. He is truly leaving a legacy to his children and grandchildren just like my own father did. I'd like to be this way too.  I have so many excuses why it won't work for me. I think- "Sure it works for Dennis, he's a retired teacher. He probably has so much free time now that he's not getting up and ready to go to some high school every morning." I am not a morning person and I already must wake up at 5:30 AM and sometimes before then just to get where I am going that day.  It has always been difficult for me in the morning.  (Just don't try to have a real conversation with me for at least and hour and half!) When I get home in the afternoon...there is the cooking, interacting with the family, the cleaning up, the laundry, the evening's activities and then it is being so tired and going to bed and starting all over again.  Did you ever feel like you are on just a daily rotation through life?  I just don't think God intended us to be this busy with life so that we can't even get off the rotating merry-go-round of life to spend time with Him.

Do I have to get up at 4:30 AM? Readers, do you have something that works for you?

The challenge comes from the perspective of the missionary’s own personal relationship with Jesus Christ— “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. 

Also...if I truly believed that God would be so much more powerful in my life...that the Holy Spirit would become more real to me because of devoted prayer with Him...that He could touch other people's lives through mine, wouldn't I go out of my way to make time for Him?  Wouldn't I?

Wouldn't you?

Photo: "You've Been Warned" by Robert Couse-Baker. Creative Commons Flickr

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nothing of the Old Life!

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new —2 Corinthians 5:17

There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.

When we are born again, the Holy Spirit begins to work His new creation in us, and there will come a time when there is nothing remaining of the old life. Our old gloomy outlook disappears, as does our old attitude toward things, and “all things are of God”

I still see too much of my sinful nature...I'm taking an awful long time to be changed into his likeness.  Sometimes I get so frustrated about it.

How are we going to get a life that has no lust, no self-interest, and is not sensitive to the ridicule of others? How will we have the type of love that “is kind . . . is not provoked, [and] thinks no evil”? (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). The only way is by allowing nothing of the old life to remain, and by having only simple, perfect trust in God— such a trust that we no longer want God’s blessings, but only want God Himself.

Have we come to the point where God can withdraw His blessings from us without our trust in Him being affected? Once we truly see God at work, we will never be concerned again about the things that happen, because we are actually trusting in our Father in heaven, whom the world cannot see. 

I had to underline that because it exactly what I want to be...but I'm not.  I still worry about things and money and this and that.  I don't seem to be changing.  It reminds me of what I decided today about something else in my life...that I feel I need to change.  I always bumble around during job interviews because I get so nervous. I kept thinking that in time, the change would happen naturally the more I interviewed...but it hasn't.  Instead, I have to work at it to get it to change.  I have to take active steps. So I am getting together with someone who has been in the field for 30+ years to practice. 

One other thing I have decided to change is my prayer life.  Simply put: I don't like to pray.  I know...I can hear you all just gasping in shock.  "What?  She doesn't like to pray?  And she calls herself a Christian?!!!??"  So I have joined a small group about prayer.  I have also signed up to come to my church on election night and pray for one hour for our country.  I need to...practice...what else? I know I need to grow in the area of prayer.  I've heard that it can change you so that you hear God more.  I know that Oswald has said that prayer is getting to know God...or something to that affect.  The truth is that I don't like to pray.  I can't hear God and I struggle to trust Him.  It's the ugly truth about myself.

Photo by Vincent Lock. "Practice" Creative Commons Flickr