Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Dirt on Doubt

Doubt is the soil in which fear grows. What a simple, but powerful statement, so let‘s ponder it today.  First off, doubt itself is not a dirty word, although some believers would like you to think it is.  There are those who will tell you that if doubt enters your thinking, you can’t really be a “true” Christian.  True Christians, they explain, never question God or the Bible, and if you do, well let’s just say you better buy asbestos underwear!!!  Those who doubt, don’t have faith.  Pish posh I say.  God hot-wired us with the ability to “doubt” things. Why?  I think the reason lies in the notion that God wants us to be sure of who he is.

To find out who or what anything really is, or stands for, involves some inquiry.  The dictionary gives us this definition of doubt: to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe. I’m sure we can all think of things that, at one point in our life, we were doubtful about. In the process of gaining information on it, we came to understand and accept it.  Doubt can be, and often is, the springboard for belief.  So then, let’s go back to the quote.  Doubt is normal and natural, but when it is not sated by knowledge, it will become the fertile ground in which fear takes root. Why do you think Jesus spent 3 years with his disciples?  Was it just to crash weddings, or tick off the established society?  Well, maybe just a little…NO, it was because he needed them to come to a decision about him based on their doubts being addressed.  He never said to them, or to us, “don’t ever question me.”  In fact, most of his top men were big time doubters.  Remember Thomas? The reason they didn’t wind up in a field of fears, was because they  let their doubts lead them to the truth.

We all have doubts, but God wants to remedy that.  Go ahead, ask him the difficult stuff. He already knows what bothers you, but he wants  us to be certain of our faith.  We can never be useful in God’s kingdom, if fear has us shaking in our boots.  Let me draw a mental picture for you.  Imagine that you , representing  Doubt, come to a fork in the road.  Two ways are offered; one to persist in doubt, and the other to seek answers.  Which direction will you choose?  When you’re faced with doubts, and we all will be, choose to explore his word, and by so doing, uproot fear.  God created us to flourish in the certainty of his love, not wither in fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

No Words on the Ground

The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. 1 Samuel 3:19.

This verse was part of a Bible study I taught last week, and although I’d read it before, it really impacted me today.  Think of it, how amazing would it be, if none of our words fell to the ground?  Imagine what it would be like if every sentence you spoke was valuable. That implies that idle gossip, and anything frivolous would never escape our lips.  Yikes, good bye Facebook! But, Samuel wasn’t just any average man. If you recall his biography, to begin with he was an answer to his mother, Hannah’s, fervent prayers for a child.  Not only that, but she had made a vow that she would give the child to God after he was weaned, and she did.

Before I get sidetracked, let me come back to the significance of this verse.  In an attempt to explain this to my study group, God gave me the following analogy.  I’ve been pouring over floor plans in hopes of building a new home this year.  Let me tell you, there are thousands of plans, but I’ve been looking for the one that doesn’t waste any of the precious, and expensive square footage.  Every nook, every wall must be useful. In other words, to paraphrase the verse, none of the square footage would fall to the ground, it must serve a purpose.  Imagine, with me, that Samuel’s words were a house.  The layout would be simple, but more than adequate to live well, and comfortably in.

God blessed Samuel with a gift that none of us in this tweeting, posting and texting generation can truly comprehend.  What would it be like to only utter the exactly perfect words?  Among other things, we could probably get a great job with Hallmark! But seriously, it would be phenomenal!   Think of your daily communications.  What percent of your words falls to the ground?  I’m guessing that the majority of mine wind up around my feet needing to be swept out.

Is it even possible to be a Samuel?  God knows how important our words are in the building of our spiritual homes, and he wants each one to count.  After contemplating this verse, I’ve been praying towards that end, that all my words be beneficial, and bring glory to God. Are you interested in doing the same? Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up social media, but ask God to help you simply. King David sums it up well when he wrote, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Don't Hide, SEEK!

“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.”  Isaiah 55:6

As a child I loved to play hide and seek with my sisters and friends.  We had a big, old house and a large yard, so there were plenty of spots to hole up.  To be honest, the only part of the game that I liked was the hiding, because seeking took effort.  Often times, the “hiders” would tuck themselves in so tightly that it was almost impossible to find them.  Seeking was frustrating, but finding them was sublime!

While preparing to teach a Bible study, recently, seek was the operative word in this verse from Isaiah. It came as no surprise to me that seek is found at least 368 times in God’s word.  Time and again, God tells us to seek Him.  Why?  As I’ve already stated, the act of seeking is an effort, and effort isn’t usually fun.  So why must we seek Him, wouldn’t it just be easier for everyone involved if we could just meet up someplace for coffee?

The dictionary definition pretty well sums up the action;  Seek: to try to find or discover by searching or questioning:  Aha!  God isn’t hiding behind a door, or in the laundry basket, he needs for us to search and question him, and by so doing discover who he really is.  How can we truly have a relationship with someone we know nothing about?  Oh sure, most of us have hundreds of Face Book “friends”, but how many do you really know?  Meeting a person face to face is a start, but seeking to know about them, cements a friendship.
God wants us to Google him, check his references, whatever it takes, and by so doing,  we’ll forge a personal, intimate relationship with him.  The verse continues by urging us to seek him, and open His door, while he may be found.  A day is coming, and by the looks of the world, coming quickly when that door will be bolted and locked.  Have you ever misplaced something that you needed, and then tore the house up looking for it?  We all have. God isn’t a lost theater ticket, or a set of misplaced keys, and he won’t be found at the bottom of your sock drawer.  But he wants us to seek him with the same diligence we would search for lost items.  Don’t merely “friend” him on Facebook, seek, and find out all you can about Him for yourself.  “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Psalm 105:4

Monday, January 12, 2015

Strength vs Fragile

“Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile…” Job 8:13-14  .

 I captured this frozen bubble the other day, and thought it was amazingly beautiful, but I knew, that for all its beauty, it was extremely fragile.  Strange as it may seem, this got me thinking about my relationship with God, in particular how strong it was, and did I trust Him?

Consider yours now, what would your response be. Probably, like most people, your first instinct would be to say strong.  We all like to think that our faith is solid, but what happens to it when it’s tested?  Perhaps, like Job, you’ve suffered a terrible loss, or maybe a serious health problem has plagued you.  In this verse, Job is visited by one of his well-intentioned friends.  As you may recall, this poor man had lost everything; children, livestock and even his own health.  It was a very bad situation, one that most folks would have shattered under.  To make matters worse, he had been a very good, and godly man, so why had these series of tragedies befallen him?  That’s exactly what his friends wanted to know.  Had he forgotten God, even for a moment?  He must have done something to deserve this torment.

 All Job’s problems aside, the crux of this story, the gem of great value we must glean from his trials isn’t what he suffered, but how going through them grew his faith.  Instead of caving in, and cursing God, as his wife suggested, he kept honoring and praising him.  He never forgot God, and was fully aware that he gives, and takes away.  While other’s faith, when they come under fire, may dissolve like a frozen bubble, his developed layers and depth which sustained him despite the circumstances.

 It’s hard to read the story of Job.  No one wants to suffer, but at some point, all of us living in this imperfect world will.  Is God up in his celestial office pushing disaster buttons all day?  Of course not, but all of us living in the shambles of Adam’s mess, will have some rough patches.  Jillian Michaels, my exercise guru, likes to say that as we strengthen our physical bodies it will effect every other aspect of our lives.  She always mentions this during the most difficult section, just when you feel like giving up.  Do you feel like that ?  Are you dealing with something that makes your trust in God feel like a fragile, frozen bubble?  Bad news: Merely having a strong faith won’t make it vanish overnight.  Good news: with a heart and mind focused on God, and not the adversity, that bubble will become as dense as a lead ball-bearing, and the problem easier to handle.  When the trials come, and they will, remember that the word strength is found 517 times in scripture, fragile only 3. That’s a promise to bulk up on.  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29