How to Be a Faith Hero

What would it take to be listed in the “Hall of Heroes”, Hebrews chapter 11? What made people like Abraham and Sarah, Barak and Rahab, David and Daniel and the others stand out? Do you think you have heroic faith?

Romans 4:19 says, “And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.”

Maybe that’s what it takes—maybe the kind of faith God wants us to have never doubts, never weakens, struggles or asks questions.

Before you get too discouraged and give up, knowing you’ve already had a few doubts or questioned God a few times, let’s take a close look at Abraham’s life.

In Genesis 17, God told Abraham that He would give him a son and that through Abraham God would make a might nation. But Abraham was already 100 years old and Sarah was really old too! It hardly seemed possible that they could have a child. Abraham reminded God of this fact:

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’” (Genesis 17:17)

Abraham laughed at God! At first, he didn’t believe that God could really do what He said.

Later on in Genesis, Abraham was following God on a journey toward a promised land. He came to a city called Gerar. There, he told his wife, Sarah, to lie and say that she was his sister, because he was afraid that the king of that place might kill him in order to marry Sarah himself because she was very beautiful.

God never tells us to lie. But Abraham doubted that God would protect him, so he took matters into his own hands.

If we look through the rest of the Bible and examined the lives of the other faith heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11, we’d find that they sinned, failed and doubted God sometimes, too. Gideon did not believe that God would deliver the nation of Israel through him. David disobeyed God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing. Rahab was a prostitute, and Samson rebelled against his parents and acted pridefully.

God doesn’t expect us to have perfect faith. Even the men and women that the Bible commends for their strong faith, doubted sometimes.

One of my favorite Bible stories is in Mark 9. A man came to Jesus asking Him to heal his very sick son. Jesus told the man, “‘Anything is possible for the one who believes.’” With great honesty and humility, the man replied, “‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

At the end of the story, Jesus did heal the man’s son.

Don’t be ashamed if your faith wavers, if you have questions or difficulty believing. Ask God to help you with your unbelief and to strengthen your faith. The Bible says that God knows our hearts. Tell God about your fears and questions; He is big enough to handle your doubts and to give you answers.

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It Is Telos!

It Is Telos!

Why do you think Jesus died?

Let me give you a hint—I’m not looking for the Sunday school answer.

To discover the truth, you have to go way back before the Gospels. You have to go back about 700 years before Jesus was even born.

Isaiah 53:3-5 says,
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (ESV)

Did you catch it?

Of course Jesus died for our sins. Of course, it is through His substitutional payment that we are forgiven by God and enjoy full freedom now, and eternal life forever. That’s what we learned in Sunday school and it’s absolutely true. But did anyone ever point out that Jesus bore your grief and sorrow? Did you notice that his punishment entitles you to peace and healing?

The word for sorrow here is ma’kob in the Hebrew. It means both physical and mental pain. And the word for healed is rapha’, which means many things. It can refer to the restoration of nations, a restoration of favor, the healing of national hurts and personal distress.

I don’t mean to minimize the truth that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our iniquities and transgressions. (Those are big words for rebellion, perversity, depravity, iniquity and guilt.) Every single person on earth needs to be rescued from those things; no one is innocent of them, and each one must be paid for.

However, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was complete in so many more ways than we recognize in our annual skim through the last few chapters of the Gospels. There’s a recurring word in the final chapters of John that points to the all-inclusive, all-encompassing, all-surpassing, finished work of Jesus. It is the word telos. Telos means: the end of an act, that by which a thing is finished, the aim or purpose.

The first Scripture that I’m referring to is John 13:1. The Bible says that Jesus “loved [His own] to the end”, or telos.

Next, in John 19:28, as Jesus hung on the cross, moments before He spoke His last words, the Bible gives us a peek into His mind. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished…”.

Finally, Christ’s last words, “It is finished,” in John 19:30.

I think the word telos in each of these verses bears more weight than we ascribe. Throughout His ministry, Jesus said that He came to give us many things—far beyond our Sunday school answer of eternal life and heaven. Jesus said that He came to heal the sick, to bind up the broken hearted, to bring us abundant life and complete joy. (Matthew 9:12, Luke 4:18, John 10:10, John 15:11)

Where would we be without this Savior? Of course we would be alienated from God, dead in our sins, condemned for eternity. When we believe on Jesus Christ, according to John 3:16, we are saved. Then that it gets better than we ever imagined! We receive all good things from the bounty of our generous Heavenly Father’s riches.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, NIV)

Yes, thank Him for salvation! But may we fall to our knees with wonder and gratitude for all that He has given us—far beyond eternal life. Jesus came for our sorrows and sickness. He came to bring healing, joy and life.

There is nothing that we need or desire that remains undone. Believer—It is Telos!

An Interview With God’s Word

This devotional was first published in the ezine ‘Tween Girls and God

Have you ever heard of the “5 W’s and an H”?

I studied journalism in college. I loved reporting, interviewing, writing and even editing articles. My favorite part was talking to people I’d never met, asking them questions and then piecing the story together. Being concise is one of the most important elements of writing a news story. I remember Dr. Senat saying over and over, “Cut out the extras! Get to the point! Answer all the reader’s questions and then stop writing!”

The best tool Dr. Senat gave his students as we were learning to write “tightly” were the “5 W’s and an H”. So, I figured, it might also be a good tool to pull together the most vital information about the Bible. Let’s ask God’s Word these questions!

Who is the Word of God? John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
The Word of God is much more than just the thick book you carry to church. It’s more than a collection of stories or even a “road map to heaven”. The Word of God is a person.
John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This means that Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

What is the Word of God? Even though the Word of God is a person, we are also told that it is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path”. (Ps. 119:105) The Word of God guides us to make right decisions, teaches how to obey God and shows us how to follow Him.

Where is the Word of God? Isaiah 55:11 says that the Word of God comes directly from His mouth. “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” And it is also hidden in our hearts. When we believe in Jesus, He sends His Spirit to live within us and since Jesus is the Word of God, then God’s very Word can live inside us. From within us, it helps us to keep from sinning against God.
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11)

When is the Word of God? This one’s easy even though it’s hard to understand. God’s Word is forever. It never ends, it never fails, it’s never wrong and it’s never silent. 1 Peter 1:25a says, “‘…but the word of the Lord endures forever.’” And Ps. 119:89 says, “Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (There’s a freebie, too! That’s another answer to the “where” question!)

Why do we have the Word of God? Oh my goodness, can you imagine if we didn’t have God’s Word? How would we know Him? How could we believe in Jesus and be saved?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives us many other reasons we have God’s Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

How do we use the Word of God? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 answers this question to. We use God’s Word to teach ourselves and others about Jesus. God’s Word is useful to correct us when we’re wrong and to train us to be righteous; to teach us that through Christ we “have right-standing with God”.

That was some good investigative reporting! We asked all the essential questions and essentially “interviewed the Bible” about God’s Word. Do you learn something new?

Why don’t you try writing a good news story about God’s Word. Write a short article telling someone about God’s Word—how important it is to you, how you use it every day and why everyone in all the world should hear it?

Feel the Sunrise

shrimp-boat-sunrise-1445726-mSun rose, bold and brash,
Flaming bronze across the sky.
Horizontal in its peeking,
Not yet determined to push away the night.

I sat still as stone,
My feet grown useless,
A part of the splintered floor beneath them.
I sat still as stone, paralyzed by anticipation,
Awaiting glory.

The air is clear.
Not devoid of color, warmth or sound,
Indeed full of bird song,
Tenderness and blushes, tints, pops of pigment.
Waiting…

It is clear of confusion—
That slept away.
Clear of fear and timidity,
Not yet risen for the day.

Sun bold, streaks upward,
Advancing on the night.
But as I listen and feel for glory,
Eyes close to restrain my sight.

Have I felt the sunrise before?
This so remarkable, could I forget?

First a small toe, then five
As heat seeps up my ankle.
Goosebumps swell, pop and fade
As radiance explores me.

Glory.
I feel it stealing over me, slowly,
Awakening each pore.
Devours knee, thigh, waist,
Shoulder, neck, cheek…
And I am Glory.

Melded one and melted into
Divine joy, newness, declaration.
Life Lives! It calls:
Awaken.

In Your Light, I’m Glowing

untitled-1430946-mMalachi 4:2 “”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

I was about twelve years old. The neighbors had asked me to feed their pets while they were on vacation. Eager for an extra few dollars to call my own, I agreed and stubbornly refused the help of my sisters or parents. The neighbors’ house was only one door down from ours; we lived in the country without the felt threats of boogymen or busy streets. They had a young German shepherd, a gerbil and two fish—pretty easy.

One night, I put off making my evening visit to let the dog out and turn on the porch light until the sun had set. Undaunted, I pulled on boots under my nightgown and traipsed across the lawn. I finished the chores quickly, turned the key to the right and headed home. Goodness, it was dark.

We lived several miles outside a small, Oklahoma town. There were no street lights to cast guiding halos, only a stray firefly. For some reason, it hadn’t seemed this dark only 20 minutes earlier. Taking a deep breath, I struck out.

It wasn’t the dark itself that scared me. My nemesis was a 12-inch high, brick planter that ringed the solo tree in our backyard. My shins tingled. Just recently we’d studied the eye in science class. I knew the planter was real, but without the sunlight to bounce its revealing rays off the surface of those fierce bricks, it might as well have been imaginary to me—unless I struck it with my shin.

I held my hand up in front of my face. With pupils gaping, just enough moonlight filtered through to reflect the shape of my fingers. But that cursed planter loomed invisible, transparent in the night. Waiting.

I considered turning around to borrow the neighbors’ flashlight. No, if I simply hurried, pressed on quickly toward my goal, I’d soon find myself safe in the welcoming glow of our kitchen.

Crack! Pain sliced through my shin. In my haste, I hit the planter with force. Tears sprang to my eyes and a whimper escaped my lips.

It may seem a stretch, but my long years in recovery from anorexia remind me of that night. Mired in addiction to food restriction and compulsive exercise, I felt only half-human. Conversations were a loss on me, as I stood face-to-face with a friend and their words seemed to slip right through me—transparent. I couldn’t see my physical self with objectivity. No light filtered through my mind to illumine the damage I was doing to my body. So I pressed on.

Fear gripped me. Counselors, friends and family who stood but a short distance away, safe in the light of truth, saw me clearly. They urged me to seek the light. They struggled to explain the dangers ahead. But I only hurried faster. In my blindness, something told me that if I just worked out harder, ate less, stayed in control, sooner or later I would come out on the other side. Sooner or later, everyone would realize that I had been right all along—I was stronger, wiser, in control, enviable.

But I was scared too. I couldn’t see myself. I couldn’t rightly govern myself. I couldn’t change my behavior and doing things my way wasn’t working. In a downward spiral, I became more and more miserable. All I could see was this tiny section of my life—food, thinness, exercise. The rest of me disappeared—no light. I failed to see the full spectrum of my life; confined only to this addiction.

I was about 30 years old. After nearly fifteen years of blindness, light spilled through my atrophied retinas. Turning my face to the light of Jesus Christ, glory erupted on my vision. Now in health, the full spectrum of light reflects off of my body, soul and spirit. In Him, I see who I am and have been able to address the true physical needs of my body, feed the actual hunger of my heart and the experience the richness of real relationships.

You see, for so long I searched for the end point. I longed for relief from my eating disorder, but couldn’t see the direction, could not navigate the perils before me, could not understand the truth of my body’s needs. But when I began to seek not the destination, but the light of Jesus Christ, everything became clear.

All of the things I feared between me and the life of freedom and purpose I longed for, were suddenly easily seen. The truth about my own beauty became evident; the reason for my unique and precious life was no longer a distant hope but a biblical promise.

I mourn the lost years sometimes. “Real-me” needn’t have been shrouded and transparent for so long. The Bible, my companion from youth, tells over and over that Jesus is the light that makes our lives, my own life, real, visible and tangible. It cannot be seen, embraced or experienced fully without the light of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:14 “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Psalm 36:9 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

How Much Do You Love Me?

This post is a follow-on, or closely related to this one from last week. I hope you’ll take the time to read both 🙂
Looking past your stated beliefs, what do your actions indicate you really understand about God’s love for you?

Have you ever asked someone, “How much do you love me?”

What did they say?

What did you want them to say?

What if Jesus asked you, “How much do you love me? Do you love me more than these?”

Such an uncomfortable situation happened to Jesus’ disciple, Simon Peter, shortly after Christ rose from the dead. Even though Christ had risen and appeared to the disciples on several occasions, Peter was having a hard time dealing with his own denial of Christ before the crucifixion. How could he ever prove his love for Jesus after that? How could he call himself a true follower of Christ?

Discouraged, he turned to his friends and announced, “I’m going fishing.” The wording here in the Greek indicates that Peter was resigning himself to the life of a fisherman, disqualifying himself as a fisher of men.

After a catch-less night, Jesus appeared on the shore, miraculously filled their nets with fish and called Peter and his friends to the beach for breakfast. There He posed the question, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”

There are several ways we can interpret the word “these”, but I think Jesus was referring to the fish, or Peter’s occupation as a fisherman.

Put another way, “Simon, do you love me, will you choose me, over fishing?”

Peter responded to Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

What is your “these”? What in your life is competing for the love that only Jesus deserves?

John 21:15-16

How Do I Love Thee?

“Peter, do you love me more than anything, do you choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, of course you’re my best friend.”

“But Peter, do you love me more than anything and choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, I think the world of you.”

“Peter, do you really like me?”

That’s a paraphrase of the last conversation Jesus had with His once bold disciple, Peter. Repeatedly, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him using the word, “agape”. This Greek word refers to perfect love, like God has for us. But Peter hesitated, unsure if he was capable of agape love. So he responded to Jesus using the word “phileo”, the Greek word for the love of a close friendship.

Peter was having a crisis of faith. Just a month earlier he had told Jesus that he loved Him enough to die for Him. Then, everything had gone wrong. Not only had Peter been unable to save His Lord from crucifixion, he lost control of his emotions and actions and denied that he even knew Jesus.

How could he be sure that he really loved Jesus now? How could Jesus love him?

Finally, Peter burst out, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you!”

The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us. Jesus also commanded us to love others as He loves us. God knows us completely. He knows and loves us even when we doubt Him and even when we aren’t sure if our faith is real.

Jesus accepted Peter’s words and said, “Feed my sheep.” With this instruction, He gave Peter the responsibility of accepting that love and sharing it with others.

Do you believe God has agape love for you? Are you sharing it?

first published at http://www.swagga4christ.com