Posts Tagged With: faith

Individual Initiative

It has been quite a while since I have posted and I apologize for my negligence.

Here we are in the eve of yet another election. I have kept pretty quiet about politics in general, but I’ve been pondering and it felt like a good time to share my thoughts.

Most of us have an opinion about the presidential candidates and most of our opinions are pretty strong. But let’s face the facts, folks – there’s not one single candidate who can fix our problems. Not even the most perfect candidate in the world has what it takes to make everything right. Why do I say this? Because it’s not a government official’s job to fix everything. All a government can do is make laws and create programs. Laws and programs are good to a degree, but they have no power to cure the real issue at the heart of our country. They are only things, and things can’t fix the root problem.

See, the root problem is the same as it’s always been – sin. Sinful people can only be changed on a personal level one by one. The right person in the government simply can’t do that. It’s our job as individuals. Our personal conduct day in and day out, our taking the initiative to find ways to care for the people in need in our circles and communities, our own attitude towards every single face we see as we go about our lives. We, especially as Spirit-filled followers of Christ, have the power to make it break a nation; a single president can change the governmental structure of the country, but we can change the heart and soul of it.

So we shouldn’t worry too much about who wins the election. If, say, you wish we could have a pro-life president (and that is a great thing), I submit to you that you might be missing the point. The point is for you to be pro-life. Not by posting on facebook, slamming the people who disagree with you. That’s not pro-life; that is a disgrace. Be pro-life by looking at that pregnant teen through eyes of love. Be pro-life by investing in her long-term, both now and after the baby is born. Be pro-life by being that person who adds to her quality of life. Be pro-life by being willing to take on her baby if she feels she can’t keep it.

The kind of politics that matter the most are the ones we live, not the ones we talk about. It’s easy to just vote and have done, but if you want to see hearts change, you have to be willing to take the initiative as an individual. Because that kind of change is our job, not the government’s.

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Choice in Weakness

I was driving pretty late in the day (9 o’clock is late to me, yes) and was listening to the radio like I always do to keep my brain alert. I switched frequencies just in time to catch the tail end of a song and as the music was fading a little child was recited Isaiah 40:28-31, one of my very favorite Bible passages. I did a double-take, because that was the second time recently that I had caught just the verse part of the song, so I listened carefully.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and grow weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

If you read the whole chapter, it’s all about the utter magnitude of God. Then it sort of switches gears. Instead of focusing on the mounting up like eagles part, this time around I noticed something different: there’s a lesson here about weakness.

First we have the reminder that God’s strength is unending, and His wisdom without limit. He is the one with the ultimate power and strength and wisdom. And who does He grant that strength to? The one who is faint; the one who has reached the end of his own capabilities. Why? A friend once told me that sometimes we have to be empty of ourselves in order for God to fill us, which reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Weakness is universal, and contrary to our opinion, it’s perfectly natural and acceptable – even desirable – to be weak. Isaiah 40:30 says that even youths grow weary and young men fall exhausted. Translation: no one, even those in the prime of life with all the energy and enthusiasm of youth, has the strength to make it. We’re all unavoidably weak. It’s not a question of if we will get to the end of ourselves, but a question of when.

So here’s the thing – weakness is inherently neither a blessing nor a curse. We get to choose what we do with it – and what we do with it determines whether it becomes blessing or curse. Let me give an example. Throughout my struggles with insecurity, inadequacy, ineptitude, and a generally clumsy view of myself, I knew I was weak. My understanding of my inability was all too clear, but it did not lead me to trust God for His strength instead. It lead me to depression and a nagging despair of ever being able to do anything right. On the other hand, Paul gladly welcomed his weaknesses, because they kept him relying on God’s power day in and day out. Paul is an example of one who “waited on the Lord” and “mounted up with wings like eagles” as a result. He allowed his weakness to cause him to trust God to come through.

It’s like a little girl trying to tie her shoe. You know she doesn’t know how to do it, but you can’t help her unless she chooses to let you help her. As long as she stubbornly pushes your hand away, you have to just watch her make a hopeless knot of the laces. When she realizes she can’t do it, she can pout and throw the shoe away in anger or disgust, or she can turn to you and ask for help.

The thought I want to leave you with is this: There’s no shame in being weak – but the question is, are you throwing the shoe away and having a pity party, or are you choosing to make it a blessing by running back to God for His strength?

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Believing “Hard Enough”

It’s kind of funny, I’ve had this subject thrust at me like three times this past week. People posting on Facebook. Thoughts that interrupt my attempt to fall asleep and result in me scrawling an illegible “believe” on my hand in total darkness. (Which same writing next morning got the line “I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true” stuck in my head all. day. long.)

What is faith? You hear music artists singing all sorts of nice sunshiny things about faith and believing, but most of the time I wonder if they really know what they’re singing about. Because people make faith sound like some sort of mystical something you have to conjure up. If you can “just believe hard enough” it will come true. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like wishing on a star, not faith. Whups.

But really, what is faith? People always quote Hebrews 11:1 and it confused me for a long time because it didn’t really seem to give any kind of concrete answer:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Then last year I heard someone defined faith simply as ‘dependance on God.’ “Now dependance on God is the assurance of things hoped for…” A little better, but it’s still not very clear. I think the problem is that whenever we read all these “something is something else” verses like they are definitions. Like “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The definiton of the fear of the Lord isn’t “the beginning of wisdom” any more than “the assurance of things hoped for” is the definition of faith (or dependance on God).

Several months ago I started doing a little studying up on the fear of the Lord and in the process I sat down and looked at that verse about the beginning of wisdom. I discovered, you can replace the “is” with “produces”. Light bulb! The fear of the Lord produces the beginning of wisdom. In other words, wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord. I believe that Hebrews 11:1 is kind of the same concept. “Faith [dependance on God] produces the assurance of things hoped for…” In other words, the assurance comes *from* faith. Why? Because when you’re depending on God, you have that assurance that He will hear and answer and lead and protect and that He works all things for good.

That makes much more sense than this nebulous mental believe-really-hard-wishing-on-stars idea that we tend to have about faith. I already defined it as dependance on God, but I think there’s actually two parts to the definition of faith that you can’t quite see with that one. But let me back up a bit. That night that I scribbled “believe” on my hand in the dark; I wrote it because I had been thinking about how to define it. The definition I came up with was “to percieve something as truth and to act accordingly.” And I’m not talking about flippant ‘believing’ right now. This is believing that actually manifests itself in our lives. It’s very simple. You can tell what a person believes because of what they act on. If you percieve that the floor is sturdy enough to hold your weight, you walk across it. Now, it has nothing to do with whether or not the floor is actually strong enough – you might find out that what you “percieved as truth” was actually false…and fall through the floor. But we can still tell you believed it, because you acted on it.

Faith – dependance on God – is the same way. When you percieve His word as truth, you act on it. If you don’t act on it, you might think you believe it is truth but you actually don’t because it never resulted in action. Faith, like my amateur definition of ‘believe’ is two parts. You don’t just sit there and ‘believe hard enough’ and God will do something. Depending on God isn’t a passive thing. Yes, it is looking to Him to provide, but then it is acting on it. That’s why James wrote about faith without works being dead. Faith without works is dead (aka. nonexistent) because actions are an inherent part of dependance on God. It’s kind of like saying a campfire without smoke is dead. If you don’t have any smoke, you probably don’t have any camfire. Smoke is proof of a campfire. Actions are proof of dependance on God. If you depend on God, you will act like it.

So here’s a question. What do your actions say you are depending on?

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Only a Mountain

Fear…It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. Over the past few years God has been working on me, slowly revealing just how much a slave to fear I have been. It has been an eye-opening, faith-stretching experience, as along the way He has also been teaching me to fight that fear. And there have been times when I truly felt God’s presence replacing the ever-crushing fingers of my persistent fears. And after experiencing that, I don’t want to go back to the bondage of fear again. As expressed by Justin Parks, “God is too good for me to limit my faith in him because of my fear.”

In my quest to vanquish my fears, the Lord has given me many helpful verses; one of my favorites is 2 Tim 1:7 which says,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

This verse is very meaningful to me, especially because I have often felt so powerless in the face of the spirit of fear. And the thought that the God of the universe has given little old me the power to battle, and, yes, even defeat that fear was a revelation to me.

Maybe it’s because I have struggled with fear so much that it is such a burden for me when I see others in the same predicament.  I have tasted God’s goodness and seen His strength, and I believe that our God is too great and too good for us to waste the power He’s given us by cowering in fear. We have His strength; why don’t we use it? He didn’t give us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind just so we could lock it away in a box like Frodo and the ring. But what exactly is this ‘spirit of power, love, and a sound mind’? And more importantly, how do we use it?

It seems to me that the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (some translations say self-control) is basically the Holy Spirit within us. After all, it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can have these things fully. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to overcome obstacles and trials, the ability to love unconditionally, the sound mind (or self-control) to resist temptation. And it is this same Holy Spirit that allows us to defeat the spirit of fear.

Okay, so it’s easy to say that the Holy Spirit helps us defeat fear, but how? We now have the weapon, but how do we wield it? I believe the answer lies not in strength, but in weakness. Not in trying to “power up” and muscle our way through, but in admitting that we aren’t strong enough to fight fear alone. (And in all honesty, we aren’t strong enough, so why don’t we go ahead and admit it?) See, it’s by coming to the realization that we are helpless on our own that we allow God to help us. The only way (that I’ve found) to successfully fight fear is to embrace the fact that I am too weak to handle it on my own, and then to cling to the truth that God is strong enough. When I submit my fears to Him, He is always faithful to remove the spirit of fear far from me and open the floodgates of his power into my life.

I believe this is what gives birth to that child-like faith that takes God at His word when He tells us, “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21) The same power that can remove a mountain can also remove the spirit of fear.

This is only a mountain

You don’t have to find your way around it

Tell it to move, it’ll move

Tell it to fall, it’ll fall

This is only a moment

You don’t have to let your fear control it

Tell it to move, it’ll move

Tell it to fall, it’ll fall

~ Jason Castro, Only a Mountain

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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