Faith in Any Moment

Hebrews 11 begins with these words, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  The writer of Hebrews then goes on to write what is often called the “Hall of Faith.”  He quickly recounts the stories of those who walked in faith through many different circumstances. 

Faith is not the lack of something, it is the presence of something.

Faith is not the lack of doubt, question, or struggle.
Faith is the presence of belief with substance and conviction in spite of circumstance.

Faith is often questioned because a person has questions.  Moses had questions.  So many, he finally just asked God to send someone else.  Faith is often doubted when someone has a doubt.  Abraham and Sarah had doubts.  Sarah laughed when they were told of the promise of a child to come.  Faith is often struggled with because struggles are faced in life.  David faced many struggles.  Some of David’s struggles were the result of Saul’s sin and some the result of his own.  Yet each of these is in the “hall of faith.”

Faith is belief with substance; belief that has some consistency to it.  Faith that not only causes thoughts or opinions, but faith that changes attitudes and actions.  Faith is belief in spite of the circumstances.  Belief that is consistent no matter the crowd you are with, the financial situation you are in, or the pressures you face.

Faith is more than simply believing what you know about Jesus.  Faith is belief in Jesus, Himself.  It is more than trusting in the facts as they have been told.  Faith is belief in the person that has been told of.  Faith is not something you show up to church to express.  Faith is something that is expressed with our mouths and through our lives every day, no matter what we face in life that day.

Often faith is a struggle or is questioned or doubted because we find ourselves in a particularly difficult season spiritually.  These types of seasons are typically experienced for two reasons:  testing and tempting.

James 1:1-15 is a great passage about testing and temptation.  The two words have very different meanings in their original language, yet we often confuse them in our spiritual lives.

God tests us.  He does not tempt us.

Test means to put to trial.  Something is put to trial to see that it works; not to see it fail.  A new product is put to trial with great expectation and hope of success.  The interesting thing about this test is that the test giver does not need to see the results of the test, the test taker does.

God doesn’t test you so He can know if you have faith.  He already knows.  He does it so YOU can know you have faith. 

Tempt means to put out to trap.  James tells us temptation is the result of our own evil desires.  The source of temptation is within, yet, there is also an adversary who uses these evil desires to persuade us away from God.

We all face struggles, doubts, and questions.   The source of these circumstances can be God testing us or ourselves tempting us.  Faith is the substance of belief that pervades both and prevails through them all.

Square One Standards – Question 2

How do you approach people who think they are “good” – they are a Christian but don’t seem to have a real relationship that impacts how they live?

It takes a few key points of obedience.

1st – Love.  You must love this person enough to approach them about their sin.  You must love them enough to desire their restoration to Christ above all other things you desire for them or from them.  You must love them enough to examine yourself and your motives before bringing their sin before them.  Don’t deal with their “splinter” while ignoring your own “plank.”

Speak the truth in LOVE.

2nd – Patience.  You must have a long view toward relationships in Christ.  Presenting a sin issue to another follower of Christ is not a microwave ministry.  It is a slow cooker type of process.  You must allow the time for the Holy Spirit to do the work of convicting someone of sin and righteousness.  It is not your job.  You might even find out that you were not right.

Forgive 70 times 7.

3rd – Steadfastness.  As patience is to time, steadfastness is to intentionality.  Are you willing to put in the work to help another follower of Christ walk in obedience to Christ in an area they struggle in?

Bear one another’s burdens.

These are 3 key issues to dealing with sins of others.  Your heart must always be their restoration to Christ.

 

 

The Yoke Is No Joke

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“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”…2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)

In our modern, technologically advanced Western culture, we don’t talk- or even think- much about “yokes.”  To be real, I’m not certain I’ve even seen one.  Despite the relative unfamiliarity of the term, though, when it comes to our relationships, we are, with very few exceptions, experienced “yokers.”  Be it in marriage, friendship, business, or even ministry, almost all of us either have “yoked” ourselves to someone else, are currently “yoked” to someone else, or one day will “yoke” ourselves to someone else in a deep, intimate relationship.

The Bible has clear words for us here regarding such relationships, warning us in no uncertain terms to avoid “unequal yokes” with others.  As followers of Jesus, there is no circumstance under which entering into such a close partnership with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus can be good, healthy, or productive in the pursuit of God and His desire for our lives.  Such a partnership will be limiting to our flourishing in Christ at best, and perhaps in some cases outright destructive.

Though this teaching seems simple enough at first glance, in reality it can be much more complex to play out in practice.  Relationships involve real people– not just theories or principles- and real people must be treated with consideration and concern, even in the face of uncompromising conviction.  Most of us know this, and as a result, we take a biblical text like the one above and co-opt it to run of two relational extremes when it comes to “yoking.”  Here are two primary dangers we must ask God to enable us to avoid if we are be healthy and vibrant in our closest, most intimate relationships…

1- Rigid separation from the world
This is the old “come out and be separate” approach to relationships with those who don’t follow Jesus, best summarized in the statement, “Don’t have them.”  Those of us prone toward this extreme look on “unbelievers” as though they are sick with a virus that will infect us if we get too close.  So we stay away…far away.  We don’t invite “them” into our homes.  We don’t allow our kids to play, or even go to school, with “them.”  We work incredibly to avoid even the appearance of association with “them.”  Notice the repeated use of the term “them” here.  What message does that send about the heart of our God?

While those who don’t know Jesus are admittedly sin-sick, if we are in Christ, they don’t have a virus that we can “catch” if we relate to them.  Paul’s call to avoid “unequal yokes” is decidedly not a call to run and hide fearfully and judgmentally in a Christian “bunker”.  To do so would be to cut ourselves off from any opportunity to be faithful to God’s call on our lives to be intentional, on mission, sharing and showing the Gospel to others in relationships.  We simply can’t be “light” in our dark world if we’re hiding out.  That wasn’t Jesus’ example, and it ought not be ours either.

2- Naïve flirtation with the world
This is the other end of the spectrum, in which we getascloseaswecan to the “line” without crossing it.  Those of us who are tempted here don’t fear sin as our separatist counterparts do, but at the same time, we don’t take it- or our own holiness- seriously enough.  We abuse God’s gift of grace by treating it as an excuse for license in our relationships.  This is most often seen in dating relationships, in which we naively convince ourselves that we can somehow influence our partner to “get right with God” so that we can finally have what we want without feeling guilty about it.  In such cases, our “love” for God- or others- is little more than a ploy to satisfy our own desires.

This was the precise situation into which Paul wrote in the above text.  The Corinthian Christians were flirting with their wicked, idolatrous culture in numerous ways, and Paul rightly recognized the danger ahead of them.  They weren’t charging the darkness of their city with the “light” of Christ; they were simply playing in the shadows in an effort to “fit in.”  This is a grave temptation for all of us.  Let’s recognize it for what it is, and take holiness far more seriously than we do.  In so doing, we will actually much better position ourselves to engage others who don’t follow Jesus in a bold yet winsome way.

I don’t know where you fall on this spectrum.  I know that I can find myself at both extremes in different aspects of my life, depending on the specific circumstance at hand.  Regardless of your tendencies, here is my strong encouragement to you today- Beg God for His heart for those that don’t follow Jesus, so that you might respond rightly to their need without compromising your own spiritual integrity.  Here’s a hint- This is much easier done when we “yoke” ourselves appropriately to some other Jesus loving, Gospel saturated brothers and sisters, and walk together in encouragement and accountability toward God’s best in holiness and in mission. 

How will the “square one” reality of Jesus in your life impact the way you navigate your closest, most intimate relationships this week?

Unseen Beauty

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.   However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  Ephesians 5:31-33

One flesh…beautiful or not?  Honestly.  Does that idea/ideal for marriage cause you to think how wonderful marriage is to be or does it cause you to give pause to the reality of marriage?

Our culture values individuality and the individual above everything else.  Moral standards are relative and personal.  Rights and freedoms are for the benefit of the individual over good for the community.  Marriage is for happiness not holiness.  Nothing matters more than your happiness.  These are the things people see as beautiful. 

The strange reality of this worldview is that much of what is beautiful loses its beauty because of it.  The beauty of community, rich with love, is lost in a world without absolutes.  Rights and freedoms that are have been honored over and over again through sacrifices of many are often disfigured for personal agendas and personal gain.  Marriages that simply exist for my happiness rise, fall, and split just as quickly as happiness rises, falls, and splits because of life circumstances that cause such happenstance.

Wendy and I have some friends that are reading a book with us titled When Sinners Say I Do.  The Gospel is the core of everything in the book.  The author applies the beauty of the Gospel to us and our marriages.  It is the most Biblical approach to discussing marriage I have ever read.  I am learning much about the Bible and myself, and am both loving and hating it, honestly.  (One caveat on his writing.  He writes, illustrates, and communicates from a very masculine mind.  A female editor would have done him wonders.  Women might have wrestle through his communication style, but truths are worth it.)

The book has caused great thoughts for me about the depth of what God has done for me and what his love for me really means.  Do I love Wendy like that?  I do, but I don’t.  I try, but I don’t try.

I have, however, recently seen a beauty that has been unseen in my marriage.  It is the beauty of servant leadership and submission.  In course of a conversation recently, I asked Wendy what and how did she feel she submitted to me.  I was not accusing of her of not submitting, but acknowledging I am not sure what that even looks like.

She reminded of a conversation we had just a week before.  I thought Wendy was simply struggling to make a decision, but there was more to it than that.  She really wanted my thoughts, my guidance, and my help.  Why?  She values the protection that comes through it.  Do not read protection as my guarding her.  She wanted the protection of unity.  There is protection in shared life.  Often our problem is we want our spouse to share in the responsibilities our solo decisions put upon them, but we do not desire for them to share in the decision itself.   Wendy did.

I told her that I was very careful in that conversation (about her taking a job) because I did not want her to feel she had to or she had to not.  I wanted her to make the decision she felt was right.  In doing that, it meant I had to be willing to serve her and our family with a very different schedule and lifestyle.  I am okay with that.  If she would feel fulfilled in life and in serving the Lord in this position, I want her to do it.  So, I was trying to not lead her strongly.

In this one moment beauty went unseen.  She lived out Scripture in submitting to me in this matter, and I never knew it.  I lived out Scripture by loving her as Christ loved the church and giving her life up for her.  And she never knew it.  And that is what made it beautiful.

It is no longer beautiful the moment it has to be seen.  The moment you need your spouse to see and recognized your service or your submission it loses its beauty.  I realized that this has been a truth in our marriage for years.  Unseen beauty after unseen beauty.  And that alone, makes it more beautiful.

When Jesus is Square One in our lives, when we live acknowledging him as foundation in everything, he makes beautiful what the world would assume is ugly.  We quit leaning into our own understanding.  We begin to acknowledge him in all our ways.  And He makes our paths straight.

Our vision for our marriage is that Wendy and I would be a clear picture of the love of Christ for the Church and the Church for Christ to a lost world and a confused Church.  I realize that the more this is true of us, the more the world and the Church sees this in and through us, the less we see the little things that cause it.  Why do we no longer see those things?  They just are.  It is life and marriage, not service and submission. 

The unseen beauty is exactly what makes it beautiful.