Beyond Belief

I believe in wearing deodorant, a seatbelt, and my wedding band. I feel these items benefit me and, in some cases, those around me. But, in these instances, if I don’t actually DO these things, my belief is irrelevant.

Many people say they believe Jesus is the Son of God. They have heard promises in Scripture like John 3:16 that says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” True, those who believe are saved. But when we stop at this entry level of faith, we miss out on the greater blessings God is yearning to pour into our lives.

Jesus’ half-brother, James, encouraged and perhaps shocked believers with this: “I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:18b-19). He emphasized that faith includes action. Paul described it this way, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6b).

So for those of us who do believe Jesus is the Son of God, may we seek the Lord today and follow His lead in where to step forward … beyond belief.

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Fighting Back

Ugh! My mind was awhirl. I awoke way to early, hit with a reminder of one of the previous day’s failures, something I should not have said, or should have said or done differently, followed by a full-blown attack with me as the punching bag.

When this happens, we can evaluate what is true and decide what to do differently in the future, including whether an apology is needed. But, when our mind continues to hit the ‘replay’ button, we need to move from defense to offense!

Reading or quoting Scripture against our enemy is powerful. It was the weapon Jesus used when tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Other times we find victory in reminding the enemy who he is talking to. Hit it!

Because I am a child of the King,
I am saved.                (Acts 4:12)
I am forgiven.            (Acts 13:38)
I am justified.             (Acts 13:39)
I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am righteous.          (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am redeemed.         (Titus 2:14)
I am called.                (Romans 8:28)
I am adopted.            (Ephesians 1:5)
I am known.              (1 Corinthians 8:3)
I am His.                     (Psalm 100:3)
I am blessed.             (Revelation 1:3)
I am heaven-bound. (2 Peter 3:13)
I am chosen.             (Colossians 3:12)
I am holy.                   (Colossians 3:12)
I am dearly loved … (Colossians 3:12)
By the great I AM!

“Fight the good fight”! (1 Timothy 6:12)

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Neighborly

When driving through my neighborhood this last month, I couldn’t help but notice the political signs dotting many front yards. (The same is probably true of your area.) While we do have the opportunity to vote in America, we do not have a choice of whom to love.

Jesus clearly taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). He expounded on this teaching with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), demonstrating that everyone is our neighbor. The following categories should not factor into who we show God’s love to:  political preference, race, nationality, economic status, address, their employer or employment status, popularity, the make of their car, or the brand name or style of their clothes. This list could laboriously go on and on, but you get the point.

Let’s make a conscious effort to love all people without favoritism or discrimination and offer a helping hand to those God puts on our path.

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Spur On

This verse from Hebrews came to mind this week:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24).

I decided to query my horse-loving, horse-owner/rider friend about the role of spurs. She explained that spurs are used to encourage the horse, to move it forward, or in another direction, or with more intensity. She described spurs as an extension of a rider’s legs that are used as an aid in training. She also warned they should be used appropriately. According to Webster, the verb form of spur means to urge or incite.

When we apply this to our Bible verse, I imagine believers giving each other that extra ‘nudge’ in the ribs or word of encouragement, a reminder to continue demonstrating acts of kindness and love. Instead of becoming complacent in our current form of ‘quarantine,’ may we contemplate how we can reach out, step out, text out, and look out beyond our own tiny world and spur on that friend, family member, neighbor, or fellow believer by sharing a word of encouragement or act or love.

Consider yourself nudged.

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Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

What time is it anyway? It is always time for something! Time to get up or go to bed. Time to go to work, school, or church. Time to begin a project or end a vacation. Time to plant or harvest. Time to milk the cows or collect the eggs. And, depending on where you live, it may be time to see evidence of changing seasons.

Long ago, the prophet Hosea warned the rebellious nation of Israel what time it was. He begged the people to return to righteous living, be productive, and repent of their wicked ways. He encouraged them to make a radical change and restore social justice, loyalty, and mercy in the land. So, what time was it? The key words of Hosea 10:12 say, “It (was) time to seek the LORD.”

That says it all. If only Israel would have listened and responded with obedience, God would have poured out His rich blessings upon that nation. Instead, Israel was invaded by Assyria. Many lost their lives while several thousands of others were deported and made servants.

Now is the time for us all to seek the Lord, to seek Him above self and receive His blessing. Whether we confess our sins or the sins of our nation, whether we repent and/or seek God’s guidance in our daily lives, proclaim Him as our Savior, or all of the above, let’s take the time … let’s make time … to … seek … the … Lord.

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No Footprints

Couples walking hand in hand, joggers getting in their daily run, and children racing the waves back and forth, all leaving footprints on the shore. Muddy footprints mark a rainy day and the footprints of grandkids running through wet grass dot the sidewalk. The presence of others leaves a sign.

When God’s people were fleeing Egypt, they appeared trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. They cried out in despair. Moses reassured them, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). As Moses stretched out his hand, the sea was driven back with a strong wind and the people of God walked across dry ground all night between two walls of water. God’s presence was undeniable.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19).

God’s presence remains real today. If you watch carefully, you will observe Him opening doors and defending His children. He is interceding and answering cries for help all over the world. He powerfully brings healing and meets financial needs. He works in intricate details against insurmountable odds, helping the helpless and hopeless. He has left no footprints since His resurrection, but His Presence is ever present. Hear His whisper. Let Him soften and heal your heart. Turn to Him. He is right beside you!

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Things Above

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” Colossians 3:2.

Things above? You mean like cirrus clouds, draping power lines, and planes leaving white trails across the blue sky?

No. Things above, as in the things of God. His glory, goodness, and grace. His majesty, mercy, and might. His promises, patience, and power. His faithfulness, forgiveness, and friendship.

Spend a few minutes focused on these amazing character traits of God. Close your eyes and let your mind take you beyond what you see, hear, and feel. Let your imaginings revel in the greater, the deeper, the wider and higher. Bask in the things above.

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Why Gather?

To gather … or not to gather, that is the question. Or more importantly, why do believers gather at all?

In looking back at the early church, we see that Christ followers met to hear the apostles’ teaching, to have fellowship, and to eat the Lord’s Supper together, remembering Jesus’ sacrifice. We know they spent time in prayer and powerful miracles took place. Believers also came prepared to share with others who were in need. For some time, they gathered in the temple courts daily as well as met in people’s homes. The description in Acts 2:42-47 notes that the people were devoted, filled with awe, had glad and sincere hearts, praised the Lord, and enjoyed the favor of all the people. Sounds like an amazing experience!

Obviously, that occurrence cannot be entirely duplicated if one is home alone. Today, we try to do some of those things via Zoom meetings, but you must admit, it is not the same. Raising our voice in song, or hands in worship, or even whispering private praises to our King is somehow elevated to another level when done among and with others. In a group gathering, whether small or large, we have the opportunity to reach out and meet someone new, speak or receive a word of encouragement one-on-one, or perhaps connect to rejoice or grieve with others.

So, if you are able to gather corporately or in a small group, I would encourage you to do so. I also understand that for many, the risk of Covid is too great. In that case, I pray you will personally experience a blessed time with our Lord and His church via whatever means you have available. May we all take the opportunity to regularly join with other believers in praise and worship, receive and apply Biblical teaching, participate in giving, and witness God doing a mighty work in His church.

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Crowd Influence

“… but everyone else … is doing it/has one/gets to …”

And the traditional response is … “If ____ jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

I thought about the influence of the crowd recently when studying Acts 3 and 4. The apostles Peter and John had healed a man who was unable to walk, announcing that they were healing him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (3:6). Wow, did that rile up the religious leaders! The two apostles were seized and put in jail for the night.

When the religious council met the following day, they found themselves in quite the predicament. Peter and John had done nothing illegal, but the group of rulers, elders, and teachers of the law could not bear to hear anyone proclaiming the name of Jesus. The leaders threatened the apostles to not speak any more of Jesus and then, shockingly, released them! A key influence in their decision is revealed. “They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened” (Acts 4:21b).

But wait a minute! Aren’t these the same residents of Jerusalem who just a short time prior had been persuaded by these religious leaders? Pilate had appealed to the crowd and tried to release Jesus, knowing He had been falsely accused. That time the outcome was different. “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed” (Luke 23:23).

The voice of crowds, reporters, and social media echo in our head, demanding the action we must take, who we should support, and what we should believe. May we stop, do our diligent part in finding out the facts, and prayerfully seek discernment from the Lord.

Then we can cast educated votes! (Check your state for voter registration deadlines. Here in Arizona, the deadline is October 5th.)

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Butting In

Somewhere … in the back of her mind, she vaguely recalled there was a plan, but now that plan seemed absolutely inappropriate and impossible! What difference would it make if she had an idea to make her dream and God’s promise come true now? Well … sort of. With a little finagling, she could make it happen.

Sarah thought she had it all figured out. God had promised her and Abraham a child, but now at age 75/76, it apparently was time for her to intervene. Surely, God had forgotten His promise or they had misunderstood what He meant. God must need her help!

Many times, we have the same attitude. We think we know better than God, that His timing and way of doing things are wrong. We demand our way, interfering to control people and/or circumstances to change an outcome, timing, or both. Personally, I have found that butting in usually backfires in my face. Like Sarah, we make the situation worse and must suffer consequences.

Sarah’s answer was to give her maidservant to her husband Abraham (an ancient custom). Her foolish intervention would be a source of hostility for all generations once Sarah gave birth to her own promised son, Isaac, at age 90. (Genesis 16:1-18:15; 21:1-21)

Thank God for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness when we foolishly butt in. BUT may we learn from Sarah’s mistake and patiently wait on the Lord, surrender to His plan, and trust that He knows best and is working even when we are unaware.

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

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