Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Faith Vs. Faithfulness

What do you think is worse in God's eyes, making a golden idol to worship or doubting God's ability to guide you and protect you?

My answer to this question would be making a golden idol but that wasn't God's answer.   -I find it interesting that the Israelites' idolatry through worshiping the golden calves didn't exclude them from the Promised Land. However, their hard hearts and unfaithfulness by not actively believing God's promises and God's ability to protect them and take care of them warranted 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

I have been studying the book of Hebrews for my Bible Journey class and I have been pondering a statement that the professor made about the word "faith" in Hebrews. Dr. Greaux said for the author of Hebrews having faith meant faithfulness while to the Apostle Paul having faith was about believing in God. As Dr. Greaux put it, faithfulness in Hebrews is about persevering and enduring by believing that God's promises are true because God made the promises and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

The antithesis to faith in Hebrews is believing that God is not faithful and will not do what He promised. Three different times in the writer tells us "If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion" (Hebrews 3:8-11, 3:15 &4:7). This is repeated to make sure we realize that what kept the Israelites out of the promised land was unfaithfulness that grew out of a hard heart. They doubted God's promise that He would lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey. They doubted that He would be able to protect them and their children.

Hebrews is famous for its eleventh chapter, "The Hall of Faith" as it is sometimes called. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Noah and Samson all make the cut and are commended for their faith in action. They not only believed in God but they believed God and their actions were the result of their faith even in the midst of extremely challenging circumstances.

As I think about faithfulness to God, I realized that I am much more likely to struggle to act on God's promises than to worship a golden calf. It seems to me that on-going faithfulness, faith in spite of difficult circumstances, faith that holds on in the midst of suffering and doubt requires a tender heart that is not hardened to the things of God.

What do you think?

How to Boast

God has given each of us unique giftedness that allows us to bless others and bring glory to Him. In my last blog, I wrote about the amazing privilege we have to join God in His work in this world. When we work out of our strengths, it is so important that we do not lose sight of all that God has done so that we do not boast. I like to think that writing is one of my strengths so I need to make sure that I am not just writing out of my ability to put words on a page and my desire to check off my mental list of "write today" and instead I need to make sure I am using my gift of writing to bring Glory to God.

The Book of Judges tells the story of how God gave an amazing victory to Gideon and  a small group of soldiers with pots and torches to keep them from boasting against God. God knew that the Israelites were very prone to idolatry and wanted to make sure that they didn't replace Baal worship with worship of their own strenght or military expertise.  Boasting elevates our efforts, our resources and abilities over God.

Boasting can become a form of idolatry and take our focus off God.Jeremiah 9:23, 24 says clearly,
"This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,

but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.

Just as Gideon and his fellow soldiers gave God glory for the victory, we need to boast about awho God is and all that God has done for us whether we are in the midst of limited resources or abundance. God is so good. He showers us with kindness, saved us through the sacrifice of His blood, He is just, He passionately pursues a right relationship with us and He delights in us. He loves us so much.

As I was writing my Bible study about Hezekiah, I found it exciting to use the gifts, resources and experiences that God has given me to write a nine chapter book. But as I have struggled to write a second Bible Study I realized I had started to think that all that what I do- reading, marketing, researching, and typing were most important and I forgot all that God did in helping me to write my first study.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Do it All

It is Lent again. Lent is a time that challenges me to listen to God more closely and be more intentional on focusing on what He wants me to do rather than what I want to do. My first Lent started many years ago with the question “what should I give up.” In college, I did Lent because my friends did it and so one year I gave up chocolate and the next it was soda. By my senior year, it had become a conversation and a time of not only giving up but of putting on. I realized that God calls us to not only let go of things that hold us back and keep us from living eternal life- here and now- but He also calls us to hold more tightly and more intently focus on the things that draw us closer to Him.

 This year is a different one because when I asked God what I should do for Lent- I felt like He said “Do it all.” “Do it all” to me meant do everything that I was thinking/ praying about doing for Lent. Exercise More – Check, Journal More- Check, Read the Bible More- Check, Create More Bible Studies- Check, Blog More- Check, Pray More- Check.

 “But I can’t do it all” was my first thought. “How will I have time? “How is this even possible to do?” In response to my questions and my certainty that I can’t do it all, God brought to mind Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 This has been a weird situation and very different from the years when I have felt God call me to fast one day a week or to stop reading fiction, to limit watching television, to cut back on eating sugar and to not make any new commitments. Those seem easy in comparison. One thing or two seemed manageable on my own with a little help from God.

 But this, to do it all- seems impossible in an already busy life. I’m a little in shock- though I am not at the place like so many of my friends who already feel as if they are doing it all and doing even one thing for Lent would send them over the edge they teeter along every day into a ravine of chaos and guilt- I feel as if I already have a full plate. Yet, I know that voice after all these years of conversation about giving up and letting go, is a voice that calls me to live the best life, an eternal life without regret and I trust it even if following it seems impossible.

This year Lent isn’t about what I can do on my own- by giving up soda or exercising more, instead Lent is about finding strength in Christ to do what He has already called me to do - not just for these forty days – gently whispering to me all year- write more, exercise more, create more, pray more, depend on Me more, trust Me more, love Me more because I love you and want the best life for you.