Shield of Faith

In our spiritual journey do we feel more like a target than a soldier? Struggling to keep our joyonly to find we’re constantly being taken down in worry, frustration, disappointment and fear? Perhaps we’re missing our shield.

Wildernessjpg
Patagonia, Argentina

Many helpful pieces comprise our armor, but none’s more essential in spiritual warfare than the shield of faith. (Ep 6:16)

Above all. Above our sword, above the girding belt, above the shodden feet, salvation’s helmet and the breastplate of righteousness … we must have our shield of faith.

Faith: knowing God is for us, because He says so. (Ro 8:31)

Faith: knowing, no matter what happens, that all things work together for good to us who love God, because He says so. (Ro 8:28)

There are many dangers, toils and snares in our homeward journey, yet God is faithful. Faith is knowing God sees the end from the beginning, that He’s able to keep us from falling, and that He’ll present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. (Jud 24-25)

articles      blog

Live by Faith

Faith is basic to spiritual life (He 11:6), but what exactly is it?

LiveByfFithFaith is supernatural confidence (Mk 11:22), absolute assurance (He 10:22), the absence of doubt about something. (Ja 1:6) It is so inexplicably complete and strong that it becomes in itself evidence of the veracity of its object. (He 11:1) It is distinct from desire and wishful thinking; it can only be stronger or weaker in terms of the scope of what is believed, not in the strength of the belief.

Faith is God’s gift enabling us to trust Christ for eternal salvation (Ep 2:8), to abound in hope (Ro 15:13) and to access the transforming power of God. (He 10:38) It is the flip side of repentance(Ac 20:21): God’s gift of full persuasion convincing us of truth.

When we lack faith, let’s follow the disciples’ example and ask God to increase our faith(Lk 17:5) He is able to glorify Himself in and through us. (Ep 3:20)

articles      blog

Be Persuaded

Repentance is central to spiritual life (Ac_20:21), but exactly what is repentance?

Stairway2LightRepentance is God’s gift causing us to change our minds, to become convinced of truth (2Ti 2:25), or to be persuaded (Lk 16:30-31) such that our behavior changes from within. It’s different from confessing sin, admitting guilt, being sorry and trying to obey. (2Co 7:10) It’s a renewing in our heart, a new way of thinking, and only God can do it. (Ps 51:10,  19:13)

Repentance is what sets us free from the stranglehold of sin in our lives, delivering us from Satan’s power to hold us captive (2Ti 2:26), so we should immediately seek this gift whenever we find ourselves not acting, feeling, thinking or believing as we should (Is 55:6); any other response is loving our darkness instead of His light. (Jn 3:19) God never tells us to set aside time to repent … that’s like setting aside time to take antidotes; the longer we hold on to the poison of sin within us the more damage it does. Thinking any other way about repentance reveals we’re missing God in a big way.

articles      blog

 

My Course

Why am I here? Alive on this earth? It’s a question we all ask; rooted in our nature. We’re driven to find purpose and meaning, but what does this mean – for life to have meaning?

Claustral Canyon, Blue Mountains, Australia
Claustral Canyon, Blue Mountains, Australia

If no one ever acknowledges my life, considers how I’ve lived or what I’ve done, I have no purpose. Having meaning implies being evaluated: judged.* But by whom?

In the end, Man can’t give me meaning; I can’t give myself or others purpose. Living just to please others is empty. (Ga 1:10)

Only the One Who made me gives me purpose; Jehovah designs and creates each of us for a reason, and this defines our purpose. In Him I find my race, my course. (2Ti 4:7-8)

God gives each of us unique gifts, dispositions and opportunities (1Co 12:8-11) so that we can fulfill God’s unique purpose in creating us. He commands each of us to diligence in finding our calling, making sure of it (2Pe 1:10), for it’s in leveraging my own unique design to serve and honor God the best I know how that I discover my course and run my race. (Ro 12:6-8)

I can’t spend my life trying to exercise other people’s gifts; I’m not designed to do everything for God. (Jn 21:22) What I do best is where I fit in His kingdom; it’s where I belong, for His glory. (Re 3:12)

In the end, only one thing matters: hearing God say, “Well done.” (Mt 25:23)

articles      blog

 

*See first comment below

Your Father Knows

In giving perspective in prayer, Yeshua grounds us in the fact that we aren’t informing God of anything: He already knows what we need. (Mt 6:7-8) So it isn’t the form or quantity of our prayers that matters; the key is in our motivation. (Ja 4:3) Prayer is God inviting us into His work. (Ep 1:11)

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Brazil
Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Brazil

Given this, it really makes no sense to recite prayers unless our hearts find honest, sincere expression in them. Just think how anyone else would feel if we scripted conversation like that!

Similarly, neither does praying in tongues, apart from our understanding and will, make any sense — using our bodies as passive conduits rather than expressing our hearts. (1Co 14:14-15)

To pray apart from thoughtful passion is to think wrongly of God, that He’s disinterested in our hearts, that He’d rather partition and fragment us than engage intimately with our entire being. (1Jn 5:14-15) It treats Him more like a vending machine than a loving father, like a robot responding to command stimuli, regardless of motive or source. It’s a pagan view of God.

While God delights in engaging us in His work and transforming us through prayer, He’s not limited by our ability to pray, or even our lack of prayer. (Da 4:35b) He’s actually the One moving in us to pray according to His good pleasure (Php 2:13); and when we don’t pray like we should, or don’t know how to, He is praying for us Himself according to His own will. (Ro 8:26-27)

So let’s pray like we breathe … organically, intrinsically, continuously (Ro 12:12) … telling Him everything, moving in and through Him with every pulse of our being. (Ep 4:6) Dial Him first thing in the morning, and never hang up.

articles      blog

 

Let Us Draw Near

Jehovah, being central in all things (Ro 11:36), calls us to Himself. But most of us don’t seek after God as He is (Ps 53:2-3); we’re content with shallow sentiment and ritual when our hearts are far away. (Mt 15:8)

Mt Ararat, Turkey

It’s tempting to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re close to Him (Ja 1:26), imagining a god we can be fond of (Ro 1:21), as if He were a doting grandpa or a cute puppy … when in reality He’s a consuming fire (He 12:28-29); it’s an awesome thing to fall into His hands. (He 10:31)

Being close to God is not about feeling fond of Him; it’s not in sentimentality. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” (Ps 24:3-4) If we are not pursuing holiness as a manner of life, we’re nowhere near God. (1Jn 3:10)

Let’s draw near to God! (He 10:22) Value what He values; love what He loves and hate what He hates. (Mt 16:23) Pursue truth (2Th 2:10)seek His face (Ps 27:8) and keep His commandments. (Jn 14:21) Serve Him with fear … and rejoicewith trembling (Ps 2:11), humbly thanking Him for everything. (Ep 5:20)

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.(Ja 4:8-10)

articles      blog

 

Seek My Face

God commands us to seek His face. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Ps 27:8) What does this mean, and how do we do it?

Phoenix Nebula

Seeking God’s face is the seeking of God Himself: it is laying down our self to seek Another, the heart of a greater Self. It’s connecting relationally with God, abiding in Him, heart to heart, abandoning at our core all that’s not of God. (Ps 73:25)

When we look into another’s face, when eyes meet eyes, two souls meet in a way that’s not physical. There is a relational connecting, a vulnerability, a seeing that is deeply intimate.

As we behold God’s face He transforms us (2Co 3:18), to deliver us from the shame of Eden, that shrinking, that hiding that springs from the shame of sin. (Ge 3:10) God frees us of the dominion of sin, and thus from shame (Ps 119:6), so that we may look into each other, and into Him, with confidence and joy. (1Jn 2:28) This is our destiny. (1Co 13:12)

Are we content with anything besides God Himself? (Ps 42:2) Have we abandoned self-love in order to seek His face? (Jn 12:25) Are we, with every fiber of our being, distilling every place to this one? (Ps 42:1)

Are we willing to live anywhere else? Pursue anything else? (Ga 5:24) Be anything else? Not if we’re children of God. (Php 3:18-20)

With all our finding then let’s find the face of God; let’s continually behold Him (Ps 27:4), that we may both know Him (Jn 17:3) and be known by Him. (Mt 7:23) And in that great and final Day when God’s face is finally unveiled (Re 20:11), destroying all that can be destroyed (He 12:27), we will be at home. (Da 12:2-3)

articles      blog

 

Not Under Law

Of all the phrases used by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, “not under law” may be the most misunderstood. Most think it means God’s laws in the Old Testament are obsolete, but context implies something very different: Paul says, “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro 6:12-14)

Grace&Glory
Svolvaer, Norway

Not being under law is what causes us to overcome sin … yet sin is breaking God’s Law.  (1Jn 3:4) Paul is not telling us we can sin all we want now, but how being in Christ causes us to sin less and less.

The key appears to be in the contrasting phrase – under grace: experiencing the power of God as He transforms us into the likeness of Christ. (Ep 2:8,10)

As God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Php 2:13), we are no longer under law, trying to obey in our own strength, feeling only the duty and command but no empowering life, with no inclination to obey, always failing, rebelling and feeling the terror of our condemnation. Rather, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), Who delights in the law of God within us, moving in us to obey Him in spirit as well as the letter, that the righteousness of the law might be realized and fulfilled in us as we obey it from the heart. (Ro 8:4)

Jesus Christ overcame the world (Jn 16:33) and is doing it all over again in every one of His children (1Jn 5:4), delivering us from both the penalty and power of sin, giving us grace unto glory. (Php 1:6)

articles      blog

 

Edify One Another

Why go to church? I find hiking in the mountains and looking at sunsets more worshipful; I can listen to uplifting music and sermons any time, and I learn so much more about God from just reading my Bible.

As I see it there’s only one reason to go, yet I can’t find a single church set up for it! I think we’ve totally missed God’s purpose for church and it’s hurting us all. I go and make the best of it, but I’m afraid these aren’t the churches Jesus is building (Mt 16:18); I long for His design.

God’s churches are spiritual families of brothers and sisters regularly assembling for one unique purpose: to help each other follow God. (1Th 5:11, He 10:25) It’s an extension of God Himself on Earth. (Ep 5:30) I think the early Christians got this, and it’s why they were powerful.

If we started meeting for the right reason we might find we need to change a few things … lose the fancy buildings, stop hiring musicians and pastors to entertain and sermonize us … and diluting the message so we can get people who aren’t seeking God to help pay for it all.

Maybe we’d start building relationships with people who challenge us to grow, who love us enough to humbly confront our sin … and invite us to humbly challenge theirs. Maybe we’d come to meetings with more of a sense of responsibility, more prepared to give than receive. (1Co 14:26)

Maybe we’d start teaching each other about things that matter … how to overcome sin and walk joyfully with God. Maybe we’d pray for and comfort each other more, and ask for prayer more, and maybe we’d think more soberly about salvation, eternity and holiness.

Then maybe we’d even find God Himself living in and through our churches like He used to, Christ in us, showing up in our meetings and filling us with faith and power to glorify His name. (1Co 14:24-25)

articles      blog

 

Saved by Hope

Hope: an expectation that something good will happen, the delightful foretaste of blessings not yet seen, the heart’s response to God’s faithfulness. Hope is a cornerstone of spiritual life, intrinsic to all godliness. (1Co 13:13a) Life can be unbearable without it; Jehovah says we are saved by it. (Ro 8:24)

Hope saves by rescuing us from anxiety, worry, despair and despondency, giving us strength to live joyfully, to walk worthy of Him, with purpose and dignity even in the midst of our afflictions.

Knowing God is just and good keeps hope alive in this broken world. We must remember that YHWH has a glorious purpose in allowing evil and suffering. His Day will come: He will right all wrong; He will judge all in righteousness and truth. (Ps 9:8) In the end, as surely as we are, God’s children will exult in Him.

The Almighty makes no promise lightly; He puts His name and character on the line in every single one. He need not do so for Himself: He is giving us an ultimate opportunity to honor Him, to trust His heart before seeing His hand.

Will Heaven see any promise unfulfilled? to even one person? What have we to lose in acting out His faithfulness? Is there a better way to glorify Him? Or any other way … is it even possible to honor Him without trusting Him?

Let the world go its way, heedless of glory and judgment to come. Keeping our eyes on the heart of our King, let us count on Him; expect Him to fulfill His Word. Let our story be the joyful anticipation of heavenly reality … an abiding witness of God’s eternal faithfulness. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Ro 15:13)

articles      blog