Faith Wins (Why Not To Be Too Political)

Today it's quite easy to plant a flag on one side or the other of the culture war in our great nation. You can get loads of likes and shares by throwing red meat to people who agree with any given position. But at what cost do we take sides?

By becoming apologists for politicians, political positions, or any given party...we can lose credibility when we appear to have lost objectivity. In a broken world there is no person who is without fault. The inability to recognize both successes and failures, upsides and downsides in ourselves and others, undermines our credibility.

This is a big problem for Christ followers, or those who claim to be. When we are more known for our political position than our spiritual passion we can blind people to the riches of grace and the hope of the gospel. When we appear to be unwavering apologists for a position/person/party without acknowledging any failings or downsides, we may win friends but we'll be ineffective in reaching the world – and being beautiful feet who carry the message of hope is our mission.

In the middle of the night some 2000 years ago, Jesus rebuked Peter for chopping off an ear of a militant who came to take Jesus away. Jesus actually insinuated that Satan motivated him, that's serious. Peter was justifiably angry at the injustice but timing is everything in God's economy. Jesus was actually perfect in his politics and yet he had a greater goal that was part of the bigger picture – sacrificing his life so the world could live like never before.

There is only one true giver of life. Only one who sets people free from the inside out. We can't vote for him but we can surrender to him. No matter how right we may feel or even be, we simply can't let our passion for the grace of Jesus to be clouded by our absence of honesty and objectivity. The righteous don't live by partisanship, anger, or rage..."the righteous live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4).

Bulletproof

How great would it be to go through life unwounded and unfazed? What if, more than fending off physical threats, we could take direct emotional/spiritual hits and keep stepping forward? That's not a foolish dream. If we get wrapped up and armored up in God's soul suit, we'll undoubtedly flinch but we can keep moving with victory.

There's a few things we've gotta get branded into our thinking:

1. People are NEVER the enemy. "Our battle is not against flesh and blood". We can see people's actions and hear their words but the power behind every shot we take is from a force of darkness. We need to look through people, almost make them translucent to the minds eye, and see that they are only pawns of spiritual "principalities" (Ephesians 6:12)

2. Some people ARE pawns of the enemy. We must remember that we have all been a pawn of darkness at some point in time. Jesus didn't tell Peter to "get behind me satan" because he was the devil. Peter, in a weak moment, was being driven by personal agenda. He was hasty and off the page of God's plan and God's agenda. Be alert for when people running counter to God's will. (Matthew 16:23)

3. Spiritual wars are NOT your fight. If we fight spiritual forces with our own wisdom and strength we're going to get beaten badly. Sceva's boys got rolled and bloodied because they came to a fight in their own prideful power. If we take on dark forces, even if there's 7 of us, we'll hear the words "who are you" right before we get our spiritual keister kicked. Battle in the name and confidence of Jesus. (Acts 19:15)

4. It's NOT about you. It's a freeing thing to know that we simply don't have to take things personally. Tim Keller calls it the "freedom of self forgetfulness". When we are so secure in our friendship with God, we become increasingly oblivious to the attacks on our lives. When we can truly say, "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ live in me", we are well on our way to being bulletproof. (Galatians 2:20)

Within each of us is the capacity to hold deep reservoirs of rich and powerful faith. To be so filled with the power of God that we see things for what they are. To recognize that well meaning people can harness a personal agenda and ride right over the top of others. To respond, not just in the name of God, but also with the words that flow from the God who indwells us.

We may never be fully bulletproof. But we can suit up in armor from the inside out. Yes, we can fend off direct emotional/spiritual hits and keep stepping forward!

Belief Is Power

My dad gave me a huge gift, he believed in me! That belief didn't revolve around my ability alone, it revolved around the gift of helping me believe beyond my ability. I've tried to do the same for my own children and I can tell you it works. Everyone needs someone to believe in them, that's why the gospel is so powerful. 

Belief in a God who believes in his children is central to abundant living. God left his kids (flawed kids) in charge of sharing the life saving message of salvation so that everyone could have a shot at life. This exchange of belief moves ordinary people to live extraordinary lives. Belief has caused millions to live powerfully in the face of persecution, pursue spiritual adventure, bust through fears, and shake off those nagging habits that enslaved us for years. 

Never forget why John wrote his gospel account "...that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name". John 20:31

Belief is power! Look at the simple progression of belief that is grounded in truth...

I believe that God loves all people and offers everyone salvation, 
that anyone can experience the joy of radical transformation,
and that together we join God in a spiritual revolution. 

That's what I believe, how about you? Dip into the truth of God's word until your belief begins to build. Chew on the truth of God's words and his promises until it's fully digested and becomes a part of your spiritual DNA – it's our greatest hope. 

Unbelief stalls the most seasoned Jesus follower but renewed belief pops us out of the deepest ditches and even valleys of despair. Don't stop believing, belief is power.

Risk Taking Requires Right Thinking

Right thinking is the key to releasing your grip on lesser things and getting on with your God-given dreams. Here's a few liberating truths:

  1. When I surrender my self-will, God promises that the risk will be rewarded.Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
     
  2. My step of faith may look foolish for a season but God’s good purpose for me will prevail.And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
     
  3. I will find people who radically love God because they alone are the people who will truly love and encourage me. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (I John 4:8)
     
  4. My God-given dreams will thrive as position myself to live and walk closely with Jesus.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

You can be one of the few who risk everything without regret. These truths can break the back of lies and free you from old habits that need to be broken. Keeping turning over truth and you’ll soon have a fertile place for new habits to grow. The way you fertilize dreams is to repeat truth often and watch change begin to grow in your life.

Truth - Freedom - Big Steps of Faith

The following truths are designed to bury bad habits and renew our thinking so new habits can be built. Repeat these daily for thirty days and watch what God does in your mind and life.

1.  I’m free to step out in faith because God is ready to take the weight of my fears. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

2.  When I aim for eternity and holiness, my earthly needs will be fully met by God. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

3.  I can be certain that God will reward every single step I take to honor Him.And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

4.  My next big step of faith is not reliant on my natural ability, but God’s supernatural strength.For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6–7). 

You never have to get stuck again. These truths will strip off the old thoughts that have covered our minds and allow truth to give us hope. It’s more important to invest time in speaking truth to yourself than trying to fight off lies. Repeat these often and watch radical change continue in your life.

Hope Matters!

Hope is incredibly powerful. It can heal a broken heart. It can fill our lungs with breath and lift the crushing load from our shoulders. And hope can radically alter our perspective on things that, at first blush, appear completely hopeless.

Here's the awesome truth that evil doesn't want you to know: Hope is both a destination and the vehicle that gets you there. (Romans 5:1-5)

So here's some easy takeaways: Get every hope killer out of your life that you possibly can. Stop negative self-talk right now. Open God's word and pour truth into your mind until it's overflowing onto others around you. Don't ignore the facts of life but never draw conclusions until the "eyes of your heart" have seen "the hope to which he has called you". Let's roll! (Ephesians 1:18)

Believe: It's The High Road

When we're up against what appears impossible, believe God to deliver. Don't let unbelief have a chair in your soul. Unbelief in a small area of our lives has a way of permeating every area of our lives. The disciples were warned of the "leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". Jesus' warning was about a permeating theological pollution that can be defined this simply: Instead of trusting God and believing him for all things big and small, the P & S constructed a man-centered gospel. This was a dead end for them and their listeners. A seed of unbelief allowed to grow is like cancer to the promise of abundant life. 

But the high road isn't the easy road. Believing God for the impossible isn't blind religious foolishness. Belief entrusts God with the things we can't figure out. Belief says "okay God, my life is yours - all of it". Belief is surrendering to the God of miracles without demanding anything in return. Those who trust God live through a full range of emotions. The pain of loss, confusion when there's no apparent solution, and feelings of betrayal or even abandonment are all real feelings that giants of the faith have experienced. But God! God's rewards of faith aren't always immediate, but they are definite. Belief never goes unrewarded. 

Believe God for that wayward son or daughter. Believe God to heal that pain. Believe God to release you from your shame. Believe God for that uncertain future. Believe God for the wisdom you need today. Believe God for what appears impossible and on the high road of faith you'll soon see, belief never goes unrewarded.

Matthew 16:5-12

Please Say It..."God, Make Me Clean"

The good news and the result of God touching our life just isn't wimpy. But for too many the reality and power of salvation is illusive because they've settled for intellectual assent but the power of the gospel has never touched their soul. Many have walked isles but not yet walked with God. This doesn't have to be the case.

Take a listen to some of the clearest evidence of what happens when authentic change happens. When God touches a heart and turns a life, it comes "not only in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction". This is how each of us can have assurance of salvation...to know "that he has chosen you". I Thessalonians 1:4-5

Yes, we can be so close and yet so far away from saving faith. The illusion of salvation is so blinding that no one is beyond the reach of its deception. Jesus says that preachers, demon casters, and even Christian workers can claim the name of God...and not be his kids. Matthew 7:21-23

It's no accident that, just following those stone sobering words by Jesus, a leper (one that was filthy and believed to suffering from his sin) approached him. He simply said "Lord, make me clean". The answer for our lostness, deception, and powerless life is to confess the uncleanliness of our soul and trust Jesus to touch it and turn it. Let him! Matthew 8:1-3

Fear Drives Us To God (or it can)

Some people use fear as a way of measuring courage or emotional strength. The more fear, the lesser the person, or so some believe. But this leaves out huge variants, like the size of the battle or the nature of what's striking fear into a person. Also, we can't know from where a person began and what they've overcome. But most importantly, scripture is clear that we don't have to be slaves to fear but God never implies we'll become fearless. This "fearless" pursuit is timeless. It has never gone out of style to try and overcome fears by believing they don't exist. But fearlessness ignores reality and is inherently man-centered. It actually seems to driven by the fear of fear.

Fearlessness leaves faith on the shelf and renders the mystery of trusting God as wimpy. But the essence of faith in God isn't the absence of fear in life. Faith stares fear in the eyes and crosses over by a power outside of ourselves but deposited within us. What God can do for us is amazing. And yes, he can address our fear in any form it may take, as it attempts to crush us. 

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ""Abba," Father."

This is real straight forward. Fear helps us connect with God! When God removed our slavery to fear it didn't eradicate fear, he ushered in a new Spirit to deal with that fear and direct us to God in our darkest days. Trying to shake fear is like running from our shadow. It's exhausting and we'll never get away. The running must stop. The craziness of "fearlessness" must end. Stop measuring your worth by the amount of your fear. God's not that small and the fears we face can confirm that we're on the right path - fears don't have to stop us dead in our tracks, they can drive us to God.

Romans 8:15

The Tomb Is Empty...So Let's Go

What a day! Yesterday we celebrated that Christ is risen. He did it - he did for you and me what we could never do for ourselves. He crushed the tempter. He carried our sin and shame. And he beat the odds makers when he rose from the grave.

This was more than a day to remember. It's a day to hit the reset button. It's a time for new beginnings, fresh God-given goals, and to honor God's victory by embracing things beyond our capacity.

Yesterday marks a new day. It can mark the beginning of a whole new you. I Corinthians 15:57 is clear "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Let's go!

So how do we go? I have three thoughts: 1. Jesus rose up and you don't have stay down. There is nothing you have done that God can't redeem. No amount of past failure has to define a Christ follower. So today is a day to get up and dust yourself off. 2. Get so focused on Christ that distractions look blurry. The statement that "a person can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good", was invented by someone who couldn't see beyond themselves. With eyes fixed on Jesus our life will be full of light. 3. Step out by faith. Faith doesn't wait until peace floods our soul. Peace is often granted as a result witnessing God deliver us while we are gripped with fear and uncertainty. Take that step today.

 

Go Over!

Every one of us has a river in our life. That river stares us down and dares us to take that first big step.Your river stands between you and God's great promises for your life. It has to be crossed because a river can't be walked around. At times the river taunts us and tells us to not even make plans for the other side. But make no mistake, your river is cross-able by God's grace and power. Joshua couldn't taste the promise without crossing the Jordan. There's a crossing in your life and it's just ahead. Taking that first big step is often the toughest step to take. It's a huge fear to step out because there are so many unknowns. "Will I make it" and "will it be worth it" are just two of the questions that will bombard your mind with fear. But to get on with life we have to go over a river, we just have to take that first big step.

You can do this. You can get where you need to be tomorrow by crossing something that seems impassable today. When you've imagined long enough. When the moment has finally come. When God gives the nod, it's time for a crossing. We simply can't let the fear of taking that first big step keep us from walking with God - and that's the cost of never moving. Too many people live with regret of what would, could, and should have been - don't be one of those people. And don't think that because you missed an opportunity in the past you've disqualified yourself today. Get on with livin' and get on with life. It's the first big step that sets adventure in motion, creates compelling stories, produces brave kids, floods us with waves of fulfillment, and launches us into our God-given adventure. 

This first step is gateway fear and evil knows it. If evil can scare us into being a lifelong dreamer it's just fine with that. But God's not okay with that, that's why he said to Joshua and to each of us "go over", take that first big step. Overcoming this fear creates space between the pain and regret of the past, and moves us toward the anticipation and expectation of a richer future. This fear must be overcome because life on this side of our river is just plain empty, no matter how we may justify it. Dealing with this fear has two big benefits. It causes us to have deep questions about our own ability. But this can lead us to more fully trust God to pull off what is clearly beyond our capacity. The ultimate reason to face our fear and make the move, is because taking that first step is how God is glorified and God-given dreams are realized. Let's "go over".

Joshua 1:2

Believe

Take the high road! When we're up against what appears impossible, believe God to deliver. Don't let unbelief have a chair in your soul. Unbelief in a small area of our lives has a way of permeating every area of our lives. The disciples were warned of the "leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". Jesus' warning was about a permeating theological pollution that can be defined this simply: Instead of trusting God and believing him for all things big and small, the Pharisees & Sadducees constructed a man-centered gospel. This was a dead end for them and their listeners. A seed of unbelief allowed to grow is like cancer to the promise of abundant life. 

But the high road isn't the easy road. Believing God for the impossible isn't blind religious foolishness. Belief entrusts God with the things we can't figure out. Belief says "okay God, my life is yours - all of it". Belief is surrendering to the God of miracles without demanding anything in return. Those who trust God live through a full range of emotions. The pain of loss, confusion when there's no apparent solution, and feelings of betrayal or even abandonment are all real feelings that giants of the faith have experienced. But God! God's rewards of faith aren't always immediate, but they are definite. Belief never goes unrewarded. 

Believe God for that wayward son or daughter. Believe God to heal that pain. Believe God to release you from your shame. Believe God for that uncertain future. Believe God for the wisdom you need today. Believe God for what appears impossible and on the high road of faith you'll soon see, belief never goes unrewarded.

Matthew 16:5-12

Stay Faithful To What God Has Shown You

There is a core spiritual truth that needs to do laps in our mind. Some words of God correct us, some direct us and others give us a shot in the arm to keep on keeping on. Our ability to stay the course with God often hinges on one single truth held captive in our heart, soul and mind: God rewards faithfulness. That's it and sometimes it's all we got. With every ounce of grace God's given us, we have to hold on to that promise for dear life. If the whole world were to say we're crazy, lean into God, he rewards faithfulness.

Love the people around you but never surrender commitment to truth. Listen to those around you but hold fast to what is in your heart. Caleb was a bold Israeli scout who had just a single comrade who believed God for the promised land. When fear gripped the many, when the majority were saying "we can't go", Caleb said to himself, I must trust what God has placed "in my heart". That's it. Guard whatever God plants and we're sure to watch something amazing begin to grow. Even when seemingly respected people make "the heart of the people melt" with fear, stay faithful. When you're up against resistance and when you feel outnumbered, let your heart lean into God. God rewards faithfulness.

There's two tough prongs to God's promises: Sometimes ranting about the right way is the wrong thing. It could well be that what God places in our heart will just need to be held for a time. Restraint in the face of resistance is not caving, it's waiting. God doesn't need us to force anything. Caleb let his heart be known but he was outvoted. So Caleb kept his head down and mouth shut for 45 years. And that leads to the second tough prong of God's promises. God rewards faithfulness but don't watch the clock, this could well take some time. 

Here's the kicker: Caleb received for an inheritance what had struck terror into ten spies. Caleb asked for the very land that was the toughest to take but with the biggest prize. The reason is simple. Through journeying with God for 45 years, Caleb was dead certain that God rewards faithfulness. Whatever you're up against, lean into God, he rewards faithfulness.

Joshua 14:6-12

Don't Fight...But Do Wrestle With God

Wrestle with God or languish in fear and nameless ambiguity. This is no joke and there is no option. So we think that God can't be touched? Wrong - God must be touched, no, better still - we must be touched by God.  Wrestling with God isn't fighting with God. To fight with God will leave you battered and embittered by your own stubborn self will. But to not wrestle with God will leave you alone, trembling, without identity, on the run, and bluffing your way through life. 

Jacob is more than a bible figure, he is you and me. He knew that God had cast a monster vision for his Grandpa Abraham many years before. And in spite of staggering odds and human impossibility Grandpa had "believed God". Jacob heard the hair-raising story of God providing a sacrifice just before a knife was plunged into the heart of his dad. But no matter how powerful the stories, Jacob had no story. Jacob needed what we all need, a defining moment when "the Lord shall be my God'.

Jacob was born into a deceiving world, was a master of deception and got the wool pulled over his own eyes - just like the life we live. And then soul-crushing fear got the best of Him. He couldn't wiggle or waggle any longer. The unknown was shredding his mind, soul and spirit. It was at this very point when he finally "strives with God". This wrestling match marked him for life and changed him so much that God changed his name. Maybe you've never wrestled with God. But most probably, you're stuck in fear and need a fresh reminder of who you are. You need a fresh touch from God. Stop standing alone in your fear. Face the reality of your situation - it sucks life from you - and it will only continue to suck - until God touches you and marks you. So grab hold of God, don't let him go, tell him what you're facing. Let Him feel you tremble and in short time he'll touch you. Yes, God will touch you. Shoot, He might even change your name!

Genesis 32:22-32

The Fear of Taking that First Big Step (Part 4)

Plan To Get Wet

When dealing with a fear of taking that first step we have to be honest enough to own what could potentially happen. When you put your toe in the Jordan that stands before you, you may witness a parting of the waters, but you may well not. God is always at work and He may do a miracle, but we might have to get wet. We can't impose on God how He delivers us, just know that He will. When Joshua was initially called by God to make his crossing he had no idea how the miracle of crossing the Jordan would happen. He didn't know if God would send rafts or provide the strength for the entire nation to swim for it. But Joshua knew one critical thing, and this we must allow God to etch on the walls of our minds: If God has placed a dream on our heart, he has the plan and the power to get us from here to there.

Every crossing in our life must be a God thing. But a “God thing” doesn’t come in a tidy package. Faith is at the heart of every crossing. And faith without a little trembling would be a little odd. So we need to anchor ourselves in truth when we step out in faith. God is "doing a new thing" and he will “make a way”. Just when we think we will die of thirst in a wilderness, God will bring river for relief and to quench our thirst. Faith doesn't remove fear, but faith in God to make a way can bust us trough our fears.

So we have one thing to do. Make plans for the obvious. If there is a mountain in front of us, plan to climb it. If there are tar pits, plan to weave carefully and step gingerly around them. And if there is a river, plan to get wet. The Jordan was ultimately stopped up and the river bed wasn't even damp - it was dry. But that came after the crossing began. Don't wait for the miracle. Maybe you are the miracle. Don't look around, jump in. In all the forecasting God gives us, he almost never gives us the details of the plan. That's for one simple reason: The dream God has given us can only been realized through utter dependence. Faith is what keeps us from falling away, and faith is what gives us follow-through. I don't know how God will get you there. He may do something for you he's never pulled off before. But either way, plan to get wet. 

Isaiah 43:19

Take The High Road...Believe God for the impossible

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Take the high road! When we're up against what appears impossible, believe God to deliver. Don't let unbelief have a chair in your soul. Unbelief in a small area of our lives has a way of permeating every area of our lives. The disciples were warned of the "leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". Jesus' warning was about a permeating theological pollution that can be defined this simply: Instead of trusting God and believing him for all things big and small, the P & S constructed a man-centered gospel. This was a dead end for them and their listeners. A seed of unbelief allowed to grow is like cancer to the promise of abundant life. 

But the high road isn't the easy road. Believing God for the impossible isn't blind religious foolishness. Belief entrusts God with the things we can't figure out. Belief says "okay God, my life is yours - all of it". Belief is surrendering to the God of miracles without demanding anything in return. Those who trust God live through a full range of emotions. The pain of loss, confusion when there's no apparent solution, and feelings of betrayal or even abandonment are all real feelings that giants of the faith have experienced. But God! God's rewards of faith aren't always immediate, but they are definite. Belief never goes unrewarded. 

Do a 180 now. Believe God for that wayward son or daughter. Believe God to heal that pain. Believe God to release you from your shame. Believe God for that uncertain future. Believe God for the wisdom you need today. Believe God for what appears impossible and on the high road of faith you'll soon see, belief never goes unrewarded.

Matthew 16:5-12