Monday, January 30, 2012

Going Deeper - week of January 29

Yesterday we talked a little about the interrelationship between faith and doubt.  I shared my definition of faith based on Hebrews 11:1 (ESV translation): "Faith is not the absence of doubt.  It is the choice to believe in spite of doubt."  For without the possibility of doubt there is no need for faith.

We also said that Abram walked by faith as he learned to trust God.  The hard thing about faith is that we have to learn to trust God who we cannot see.  Not seeing makes faith difficult.  However, it does not make faith impossible.  In 2 Corinthians 4:18, the apostle Paul encourages us when he says, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
The truth is that God who we cannot see is more real than lots of the things we can see.  So "not seeing" makes faith difficult, but not impossible because our faith is in the living God!

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 1:18), he makes a similar affirmation: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."  If we read on through verse 25, we see Paul flesh this idea out even more.  You see we live in a world where people trust their eyes more than anything else.  What we see we "believe", but what we cannot see we treat with skepticism and doubt.  But God's wisdom is Christ (His life, death, and  resurrection), which is foolishness to this world.  Yet what appears to be foolishness is wiser than human wisdom because it is in fact God's power revealed!

So we are called to place our faith in the person of Jesus Christ because through Him God reveals His amazing power of salvation for all who believe.  Peter also says in I Peter 1:8-9 "Though you have not seen him (Jesus) you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."  

May this faith and this joy be yours, through God's power and His Holy Spirit.  Amen!

So share what are your thoughts about the relationship between faith and doubt?  Is this a new way of thinking about faith for you?  Has it encouraged you in any way?  Are there other scriptures to which you would like to bring our attention?  Let's discuss!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Going Deeper - week of January 22

Yesterday, I talked about the church as the people of God who are called to "gather" and "scatter" preaching the word wherever they go in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The question I want to raise in our study this week is what is the church, and how does the church's essence affect our day to day lives?

(Read Ephesians 2:11-22)

So what is the church?  According to Ephesians 2:19 and 22, the church is God's household and therefore "a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit".  So the church is people, who are brought together through faith in Jesus, so that "through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (verse 18)  So the church is not only a physical reality (a gathering of people in this world), but also a spiritual reality (included in Christ so that He is our peace and by Him we altogether are brought near to God).

Since this is the church, then how should the spiritual reality impact our day to day lives?  It is interesting to me to consider verses 19-22 and especially the reference made there to a building.  Buildings were important in the history of God's people.  Israel had a tabernacle (a tent) in which Moses and priests would go to meet with God (see Exodus 35-40).  Later, when Israel was settled in the "promised land" King David chose to build a temple (see 2 Samuel 7).  God did not tell Him to build a temple, as God had told Moses to build a tabernacle, still David felt a temple was what God needed.  God did not allow David to build the temple, but gave that job to Solomon (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13).  So from then on the temple became the place to meet with God.  However, when Jesus came the Bible says "The word became flesh and dwelt (literally, "tabernacled") among us."  Jesus was Immanuel, which means "God with us".  He was God's dwelling place.  He was the temple!  (see John 2:20-21)    

And when Jesus ascended to heaven He promised to send the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8).  The Holy Spirit came to dwell in our hearts through faith, so that now we are God's dwelling place!  This means that wherever we go from day to day we bring God with us.  So the church is no longer a physical building, but a spiritual household which "gathers" to worship God together, and then "scatters" to re-present God in the places we go.

So how are you re-presenting God everywhere you go?  Can people see God alive in you?  Do they know that He lives because He lives within you?  Let's talk about it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to post comments

Hello.  I had a request today concerning how to post a comment on my blog.  The first step is to go to and either sign into your google account, or if you do not have a google account you will need to create one.  Once you have created a google account, you should be able to make posts by entering your comments, then verifying the word/letters for security purposes, then clicking on the "publish comments" button.   If you still have questions, email me -  Thank you!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Going Deeper - week of January 15

What does "witness in a pluralistic society" look like?  Yesterday Rev. Dan Kuiper challenged us to not just talk about witness in a pluralistic society (i.e. a place with many gods and many truth claims), but to actually pray and begin to do it - witnessing to the person of Jesus.

Over the past few weeks we have also talked about the importance of not only HEARING truth, but also DOING it.  And one way that we can DO what we know is true is by "taming the tongue".  So our reading for this week will come from James 3.

Read James 3:1-18

James begins by highlighting the heavy responsibility shouldered by teachers because teachers are not only responsible for what they say but also what they do.  Speaking truth without living truth is hypocrisy, whereas living the truth we speak is integrity.  Teachers are called to teach with integrity.

Then James talks about the tongue's destructive power.  I am sure many of us can think of times when someone cut us down with their words.  Words are destructive and their power is wielded by the tongue.

While the "taming the tongue" portion of James 3 is often quoted, the real payoff comes at the end of the chapter.  Here James tells us not only what NOT to do, but what TO DO.  This is true wisdom, and it is the source of righteousness.  (Read James 3:13-18; esp. verse 18)

You see true wisdom is not measured by what we know, but by what we do.  A person who knows what to do, but chooses not to do it is not wise.  The person is only wise who knows what to do and then does it!  Again the emphasis is not simply knowledge, but action (not just hearing, but doing).

So how are you sowing in peace so that you will raise a harvest of righteousness?  Can you think of other scriptures which might shed light on this subject.  The book of Proverbs is a good source for learning true wisdom, but remember wisdom is not measured by what we know, but what we do.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Going Deeper - week of January 8

At the beginning of Genesis 6 there seems to be a contradiction.  Verse 5 says, "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." Yet verse 9 says, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God."  So which is it?  Were all people wicked, or was Noah the one exception?

Since the Bible tells we are all born into sin (see Psalm 51:5), we know that Noah was no different from anyone else.  He also was a sinner.  So how can the Bible call him righteous?

Noah's righteousness stems from his faith in God built on a covenant relationship ("he walked with God").
In Hebrews 11:7, God gives us greater insight into Noah's righteousness.  "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."  Therefore, as one commentator points out, Noah's righteousness was based on his faith.

This begs the question then what exactly is the relationship between righteousness and faith?  Is actual righteousness expected of those who choose to follow Jesus, or is imputed righteousness which comes by faith all that is expected?

In order to help answer this question, we can turn to James 2.  (Read James 2:1-26)

Faith and actions are set side by side in this passage.  It begins with an admonition, "Don't show favoritism" accompanied by, "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom".  These admonitions emphasize the importance of what we do.  So what about faith?

In verses 14-26, James discusses the relationship between faith and deeds.  "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  No one wants "dead faith", so what exactly is required by God?

It is important to recognize that "faith" is always the main issue here.  For example, when James quotes the hypothetical person who says, "You have faith I have deeds."  He does not answer this person as we might expect.  We would expect him to say, "Show me your deeds without faith, and I will show you my faith by what I do."  But that is not how he responds.  He actually says, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do."  So the main issue is still faith.  Just as faith without deeds is dead, even more deeds without faith is bankrupt.

So how does this relate to Noah and his righteousness?  In order to answer that question, we need to look at the examples James gives at the end of the chapter.  Both Abraham and Rahab are considered righteous because they act on their faith.  Their faith is in God, so they choose to trust God, and act in a way that demonstrates that they trust God.  This is faith in action.

God desires relationship with His people, a relationship based on faith.  Jesus is our righteousness, so God tells us to place true faith in Jesus so that we might be saved.  When we do what God says, we are acting on faith and He credits the act of faith as righteousness.  But that is not all.

You see when we place true faith in Jesus, something else happens too.  God gives us the Holy Spirit who works in us what is pleasing to Him so that our faith leads us to pursue God's ways or as Jesus commands, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness ..." (Matthew 6:33)

This is a really big topic.  There are no easy answers here.  I am interested in hearing what you think.  Do you have questions, comments, can you offer other scriptures for us to consider?  Please let's discuss.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Going Deeper - week of January 1

In Genesis 4, the LORD says to Cain, "... sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you but you must master it."  The question that comes to my mind here is has anything changed?  Is sin still crouching at the door of believers in Jesus?  The answer is "yes", and we too must master it, but how?  Read through James 1:1-27.  In this chapter James highlights the cause of temptation, and the way to master it.  So where does temptation come from?  Let's read what James says, 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  Temptation does not come from God.  Temptation comes from within each of us.  We are tempted by our own evil desire, which drags us away and entices us to sin.  So sin "crouches" at our doors in the form of temptation.  Temptation is not sin, but it is the first step toward sin.  So temptation is what we must seek to master, but how?  The answer is found in the second part of the same chapter.  "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."  The key to mastering temptation and sin is found in "doing" what God's word says.  This is easier said than done.  But one thing God's word tells us to do is "look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom."  What is "the perfect law that gives freedom?"  The perfect law is God's word, and it comes from God Himself.  Earlier James had said, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  So the key is not to do this on our own, but to "ask God".  We must ask God to help us "do" what His word says so that we can learn to master temptation and even sin in His power and His strength.  If you have thoughts on this, please feel free to share them, and may our LORD give you His blessing and His peace in this new year!