Believing is Seeing

Believing is Seeing

I am sometimes surprised to find a nugget of biblical truth in unbiblical places. One of my favorite quotes comes from just such a place and I often try to remind myself of it because it is significant to a life lived in faith. This quote comes from the character Little Elf Judy in the movie ‘The Santa Clause’ when she’s speaking to Tim Allen’s character, Scott Calvin. “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing,” she says. Despite the Santa themed Christmas story the sentiment behind this quote is quite true biblically speaking. In several places in the Bible, including Matthew 9:29, miraculous healing was meted out with a phrase like, “Let it be done for you according to your faith!” In other words, “in the same measure that you believe and trust in me to heal you, let it be done for you.” Belief was the cause, not the effect of seeing! This is the founding principle to every aspect of our relationship with God that faith must come first and then seeing follows. Human relationships tend to be backwards in this respect so leading with trust really goes against the earthly grain for us, except with young children. That is why I believe in Matthew 18:3 when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” He is speaking partly of this principle. Believe to see. Trust wholly in God in all that you do, when you do, you will begin to see His hand in your life more clearly. “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” One final note on trust. Trust is the state of confidence in someone or something, but faith is taking action relying on the one in whom you are confident to back you up. We don’t simply have faith, because faith is active, “we walk by faith”. Trust, act and see. 

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

1Peter 1:8-9

I pray that we all might learn this principle of faith so indelibly it becomes automatic like breathing! Amen. 

Moment of Clarity 

Moment of Clarity 

Positivity and optimism are not attitudes I am prone to, at least in reference to my own life. It is actually quite easy for me to be positive and optimistic for others. It is so much easier to believe in hope for and give encouragement to someone else. I am so painfully aware of my own utter depravity that I am sick in my very soul with it. I despise what I am and quickly forget the beauty of what God has done for me and all who call on Him. The devil loves to haunt us with our wretchedness in order to blind us to God’s precious gift. 

Every now and again though, the clouds part and in a moment of clarity I remember, now that I put my faith in God that my worth is not in what I have done but in what my God has accomplished for me through His Son. Do I know why the Father chooses to bless me for what Christ has done? Not a clue. It is a blessed foolishness to me. I just know that it has been done and that humbly, graciously and thankfully I accept His immeasurably precious gift. It is in this light, I should be living my life. Not focusing so much on what I am doing but on what He is doing and where He is leading. I should pray less about my weaknesses and failures and pray more to be aware and available to steward this gift for others in the opportunities God sets before me. Yes, I am depraved but that shouldn’t cause me to drown in self-loathing but should point me toward and focus on the amazing grace of God! The lesson I am so very slowly learning is this: that I need to continually put my trust in God in ALL circumstances and focus on Him not myself, always remembering my worth is found in Him and not my ability. 

“‘For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you’… 

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Isaiah 41:13; Philippians 2:13

What’s in an Identity? 

What’s in an Identity? 

Though we are all unique our identities, our worth, and our purpose are not found in our singularity but in our common origin; the Creator. We are created in the image of God for the purpose of magnifying his glory, not our own. If we cling to an identity outside of God, whose purpose is to build respect, notoriety and acclaim for its individual glory then is that not pride? Our search for acceptance, identity, individuality, honor and respect should be found in our pursuit of God and in bringing Him the glory, should it not? Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m a firefighter who has saved a hundred people in my time volunteering. The local news wants to honor me in a spot on a nightly broadcast. When asked what it feels like or what it means to me to be a hero, what should be my Christian response be? Does, “I’m just trying to do the right thing and help people in need as best I can” give the glory to God or to myself? I would imagine most would say I am just being humble but to me it sounds like the emphasis is drawn to my efforts rather than God’s sovereign hand. Wouldn’t, “I just thank God that He enables me to be where my skills are most useful and most timely to serve those in need best” better promote God’s sovereignty over my own? True Christian humility is not concerned with its own reputation but in how it’s reputation reflects upon God. True submission to God is when we value God’s desire, purpose and reputation more than our own. When scripture talks of loving the Father with our whole being, this is what it means. If we are so concerned about our identity outside of Him or in spite of Him then we are completely missing the point. If we, and I am preaching to myself here, want to sincerely serve and love God then even in the most mundane of tasks we will search for a way for our efforts to give glory to Him. When Paul writes, “To live is Christ” this is what I believe is meant. If we can train ourselves to subdue pride in all that we do then the potential impact God can have through us for His kingdom will be limitless! This my prayer for us all who bear His Name.

In Awe of God

In Awe of God

Since I remember most vividly the damaged, deluded and detestable thing that I was, I am confounded by God’s grace and mercy which He extends so freely to a wretch like me. I am in awe of such an immeasurable love that would offer me this redemptive hope I can scarcely fathom and almost dare not cling to. I marvel at what hidden beauty the Potter sees that I cannot in these scarred and jagged remains of mine. Yet, despite my past and in spite of my brokenness and frailty His love, His life, His truth has won me, overcome me and continues to transform me. Though I cannot change the past, I can stride boldly into the future proclaiming the wondrous love, awesome mercy and enduring faithfulness of my Creator and Heavenly Father. And I am dedicated to spend the rest of my life doing exactly that!

A Loftier Perspective

A Loftier Perspective

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalms 8:3-5

The murky mire of shame

I am many times overwhelmed by memories of my myriad failures in life. Because of the harm and damage I have left in my life’s wake I contend constantly with stinging regret and ceaseless remorse. In fact, I cannot recall if I’ve done even one thing right. I certainly haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile; you know, those long-term goals that when completed fill one with that prized sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. I look back on my life and I see only a swath of ruin and a multitude of wasted opportunities. For over 40 years I’ve squandered my God given potential so lavishly I’ve become a mogul of destruction and defeat. In my own eyes, I have become the very picture of futility and worthlessness. Daily, the devil harries and haunts me with this extreme self-image. This relentless onslaught against the view and estimation of myself is formidable and grueling. While I am aware we are to be conscious of our spiritual destitution, so that we are grieved to our core and cry out to God for salvation, we are not supposed to be so overwhelmed in that revelation that we become immobilized by it and what the devil attempts to do is just that! I struggle most days to resist this constant oppression. I imagine I am not unique in this and that there are many out there that experience this in some degree and if you are one of these then I am writing this article for you.

Necessary remorse

This is disturbing to experience or even read about and because of this, the intensity and consistency of this oppression suggests that shame and remorse are evil and are to be avoided or even “cast out” of our lives. I am surprised to very slowly realize that they both serve a useful and necessary function in our salvation transformation and it is the devil, as usual, who abuses these godly tools and convinces us to do the same. When we reflect on our past misdeeds, shame and remorse are the natural righteous reaction to an unrighteous past. At some point God’s light shines on our life and our eyes are opened to the horrific extent of our depravity. Like the cleaning of a fresh wound this revelation is very painful and clearly for the first time we can see the scope of the injury we have so blithely caused others. We are cut to the quick and are ashamed of our ungodly actions and feel remorse for perpetuating pain and darkness in the lives of others. This shame and remorse spur us to seek God for forgiveness and mercy. We seek Him to create within us a new heart of flesh and a fresh mind and petition Him daily for His continued grace. Without shame and remorse, we would be sociopaths both psychologically and spiritually. We need these two things to continue to grow in God’s Light. Every good thing, however, when taken to excess becomes bad or when we are stalled out and stuck mid-stride become a hindrance, not a help. When we become mired in shame and remorse it devalues the worth God places in us, it entombs us in the past and makes us fearful for the future by undermining our trust in God to save us. Like quicksand or thick marsh, it immobilizes and slowly devours us. This oppressive work seeks to debase the image of God we are made in by abusing and misusing our perception of time and its purpose in furthering a relationship with Him. Ultimately this erodes our foundation of trust in our Heavenly Father and without trust there is no relationship.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalms 139:13-16

Know your value in God

It is very important to be firmly aware of your value in God and be assured, it has no bearing on the quality of your past but in the quality of His. Loving someone or something is placing a high value on that person or object. Many verses speak directly of or infer His great love for us. For instance, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;”, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” [Genesis 1:27; John 3:16; Romans 5:8,10; 1 John 3:1a; Luke 12:6-7; etc.] Yet despite these many affirmations of the great worth God places in us, the devil still uses his infamous sleight of hand to skew our view of it by using our past as a smoke screen and in doing so causes us to cast doubt on our future.

In this world, if we are without God, the past is a millstone around our necks that gets heavier with every decision we make and the future is only a bleak certainty of an even more oppressive weight. However, with God, the past is a burden we no longer have to bear because He bore it on the cross and our future is bright with the hope we have in sharing it with Him. If we accept God’s saving grace and He breaks the chains binding the millstone to our necks and yet we continue to view ourselves as the world does, then it’s as if we are clinging to the broken chains and dragging the millstone behind us in spite of being freed from its weight. Being unburdened from the past does not mean we are to forget the past since the reminder of the darkness we were drawn out from is our connection to those still lost and maintains in stark relief that it is by God’s grace alone are we able to be saved. It simply means we have to let go of the chains of our past even knowing the world won’t, otherwise we will strive to be accepted and justified by those in the world instead of resting in our forgiveness and justification by God. The world will always rate our worth by our past deeds and not by the glorious work of Christ we are clothed in. If we choose to follow Him and be transformed from what we were, then we must remember our true value is not in what we have done but in what He has done. While letting go doesn’t save or redeem us, it does honor what God has done and perpetuates His grace through our lives into the lives of others still enslaved to this world. By committing ourselves to Him we become not simply recipients and beneficiaries of God’s grace but conduits of it. We work with and for God, not against Him. We become part of God’s redemptive solution not part of the problem being resolved. We must be willing and persistently hold to this biblical view of ourselves in relation to our past to grow and be effective as Christians.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalms 9:10

Trust in God

There is a big difference between belief and trust. To believe in God is to accept that He exists. To trust in God is to believe He is a God who is faithful to His promises and rewards those who wholeheartedly seek Him and walk in that trust. For instance, if I trust God to answer prayer, according to His will, then I pray expectantly. If I trust that God’s will for me is in my best interest, then I strive not to worry, confidently and boldly living out my faith. This complete trust is what real faith in God is all about. Many times I am weak and I catch myself trying to walk out my faith in my own power. This becomes very evident because it is then that I am most prone to worry. In these times of worry, I am fearful that on judgment day I will be one of those who cry, “Lord, Lord!” and the Lord will deny even knowing me. I have always wondered how I could know for sure I won’t be one of these. I think the answer boils down to in whom do I put my trust. I believe those people referred to in Matthew 7:21-23 chose to put their trust in what they had done for the Lord instead of in what He had done for them. Their mighty righteous acts weren’t a result of their trust in God and His promises but were essentially them trusting instead in their own piety. In contrast, the faithful servants in Matthew 25:31-40 performed their acts of mercy out of an outflowing of the change of heart God had worked within them. Their intentions and fruits of love were so innocent they weren’t even aware they ultimately were ministering to the King Himself. They were willing participants who trusted wholly in the God’s promise and power to save which was evident in their actions.

Keep an elevated view

Is maintaining this loftier perspective easy? By no means! But nothing worthwhile ever is. It is something we just have to return our focus onto, again and again. Will we fail at times? Inevitably, but we must always turn our eyes back to Him in whom we hope. Honestly, I’m not very adept in holding fast to this view yet, and I have to keep reminding myself that my purpose here on earth is not to convince others I’ve changed, or satisfy those I’ve wronged or myself with a worldly subjective view of justice. I am here to live for God and proclaim Him. I have no one to please but Him. In pleasing God, I may end up pleasing others as well but I will likewise offend many more because Christ is the Rock of offense, a stumbling stone and folly to the world (Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 1:23). Though I remember most vividly the broken and detestable thing that I was, it only serves to fuel my determination and anticipation to watch the Potter’s crafting of the beautiful man of God I continue to become. So, if we remember the past but leave it at the foot of the cross, practice continually putting our trust in the Father by acting on His promises and not on our fears and we seek the praise of God and no one else, then I am convinced that we will be amazed at what God will accomplish through us!

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever…” Psalms 138:8

The Beginning of Wisdom

The Beginning of Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” 

Proverbs 9:10

And so it begins

The first chapter of the first book of the bible sets the scene for creation by opening with this simple verse, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This modest sentence reveals much more about our Creator than its simple arrangement would suggest. In these few opening words an eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent deity is unveiled who, by inexplicable means and for His own mysterious purpose, brought into being the foundation and framework of our existence. The density of insight presented in such a meager package is a testament to the incomparable workmanship, unfathomable depth, and immeasurable wisdom of its Author. I was amazed to find how much information is packed into these first ten words of scripture but then again, mighty things accomplished through humble means is a recurring theme with the Almighty so it really should have come as no surprise. In light of this, it occurred to me, if the briefest glimpse of the opening sentence to scripture can supply this much insight, then how inexhaustible must the full extent of understanding that could be discovered from the study of its entirety!

My excitement by this monumental revelation was tempered by a sudden sobering cautionary thought. We are all imperfect so the potential to misuse or abuse what we learn is in all of us and knowledge, whether secular or godly, is very powerful both for building up and tearing down. As we each are accountable to God for how we wield His Sword of Truth, our motive and perspective require close examination to ensure the responsible handling and application of that power.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” 

Psalms 63:1

A pure motive

To understand or “rightly divide the Word of Truth” we need to verify that our motive in searching it out is pure. Are we searching scripture to find the answers we want to hear or the ones we need to hear? If we’re searching scripture to prove something then our motive no longer lies in seeking the truth but in supporting what we’ve already concluded the truth to be. If we aren’t searching scripture for the purpose of knowing God as the Spirit reveals Him or seeking the answers God chooses to entrust us with, then our motive isn’t to know Him but to define Him and those are dangerously different things.

In order to seek God and His wisdom rightly we must practice setting aside our presuppositions, our expectations, and our pride and simply petition Him, as we study, to reveal to us those things He knows we need to see.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

Isaiah 55:8-9

The proper perspective

Study and truth seeking need a proper perspective in order to keep our pride and expectations in check and prevent us from overreaching into the purview of God. What I mean is, just because we want to know something doesn’t mean we aught to know it.

All the knowledge in all the world no matter how brilliant or ancient amounts to the barest glimmer of nothing when compared to the incomprehensible knowledge of God. The vastness and depth of wisdom found in the living and active Word of God that He has condescended to share with us is like a mobile hung above the crib of humanity when compared to the totality of the Creator’s understanding. We have to accept that we can’t expect to get every answer we want from scripture but only the ones God says we need to have.

We don’t need to know how God created light and separated it from the darkness or how he separated the waters from the waters with the creation of the sky or know by what criteria He determined the limitations of their domains. We only need to know that He created it, bound it, and sustains it by the limitless power of His sovereign will. We miss the significance of “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” if we argue about the length of its duration. Just know that God created light and in separating it from darkness He alone set the wheels of time in motion and in defining and filling the dominions of Night and Day, waters and Sky, Earth and Seas, He displays their dependence upon Him and not His upon them.

“Woe to the one who argues with his Maker — one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, ‘What are you making?’ Or does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 45:9 & 29:16-17

Take no offense

This dependence upon God is what offends our sin nature because of pride’s delusion of independence. It offends our idolatrous sense of self-sufficiency and this must be constantly contended with to correctly and responsibly apply God’s truth to our lives. Many people view the will of God as capricious and whimsical because He chooses not to explain His actions or His reasons to us fully. That is the way petulant children view parents because they don’t understand the boundaries and structure set for them and why it is for their good. Even when the odd parent attempts to explain the reasoning the child still can’t comprehend discipline’s necessity and goodness because they don’t possess enough of an elevated perspective or depth of understanding or breadth of experience to grasp the complexity of nuances that is required. And so it is with us in respect to God. “Why do you allow this?” and “How is this done?” both show a lack of submission to His sovereignty and of trust in His character. Yet these questions are most often the first uttered in times of trouble and disbelief. At these times, the most important thing to remember is, there is only one God and we are not Him. As it says in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding”

 Psalms 111:10

Application of wisdom

The application of the truth of scripture to the life of the believer is an intensely personal thing. It is a particularly intimate relationship between the individual and their Creator. While many of the principals of truth discovered in scripture can be generally applied to all believers, such as salvation, most others are specifically spoken into the heart of the believer by the Spirit for their unique walk with the Master. God knows we are frail and weak and apt to struggle with change and salvation’s ongoing transformation is no different. So integrating new truths into our lives is really, as the psalm points out, a matter of practice. Like the label on the shampoo bottle says, “Rinse, lather, repeat.”

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalms 9:10

Conclusion

As you sincerely seek to know our Lord with pure intentions, from a healthy spiritual viewpoint and continue to apply His revelations to your life through practice and perseverance, remember, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Amen.