What is faith if it is not tested?
Years after the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham of a son, Abraham experienced a test that squeezed his faith to the max in the most frightening of all ways for any parent. God told Abraham to take his long-awaited, beloved son Isaac to the land of Moriah and to offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which God would tell him.
Gulp! Did Abraham run in the other direction or pretend he didn’t hear God? No! He listened to God’s instructions and obeyed.
When Abraham, Isaac, and the servants reached the mount of God’s choosing, Abraham spoke out of the abundance of a faithful heart, for he told his servants at the bottom of the hill, (one of my favorite faith-filled verses), “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (Gen 22:5 NLT)
Up the hill of sacrifice they went to worship! Abraham’s faith started at the bottom of the hill while the rescue plan was yet to be unfurled. Once they reached the top, Abraham laid all on the altar, all that was valuable and precious to him, his only son, trusting that God would raise him up again.
Isaac asked his father the whereabouts of the sacrificial lamb and Abraham replied, “God will see the lamb for Himself,” (Gen. 22:8 Masoretic Text), meaning to perceive something apart from seeing it with one’s eyes. Or “God will provide for Himself a lamb.” (Gen. 22:8 NKJV)
The origin of the English word for provide comes from the Latin providere, which means to foresee, before seeing, to take measures with due foresight, to get ready beforehand, look after, and so on.
God is so good at before seeing and providing.
Can any parent imagine it?
Abraham held his dagger high in the air, his hand quivering as the dagger glistened in the sun. Sweat poured down his forehead. He held his breath in anticipation of committing the most horrifying act for a parent and, instead, heard, “Abraham! Abraham!” The Angel of the Lord commanded him to stay his hand of destruction.
Then, God said, “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Gen. 22:12 NKJV)
Abraham raised his tear-filled eyes, turned, and saw the ram in the thicket. God presented a sacrificial replacement, a male sheep with its horns entangled in the bushes, as the foreshadowing of a crown of thorns upon the head of the Lamb of replacement.
Abraham then called that place “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” (Gen. 22:14 NKJV)
On our refrigerator is a white board. Some time ago, as financial woes hounded us, I wrote this on it:
Faith is not moved by what it sees.
“There is a sound of abundance…” (1 Kings 18:41 NKJV)
Elijah spoke it…
and after the drought, the rains came!!!
Then, up in one corner, I wrote: There’s a ram in the thicket!
After I wrote all that, I made up a simple, little chorus to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.” It goes like this:
There’s a ram in the thicket just for me,
There’s a ram in the thicket just for me,
There’s a ram in the thicket that’ll be just the ticket,
There’s a ram in the thicket just for me!
And there has been!
Abraham passed the faith test. His hill of sacrifice became his pinnacle of obedience and his summit of provision. All Abraham did, the Bible says, he did by faith, and the promises of God were, thereby, fulfilled.
Do you have some hill of circumstance before you? Do you believe God has already foreseen and provided an answer, awaiting your unfaltering, Abrahamic obedience, even when you see no way of escape? Mount that hill with praise and worship!
God provided the lamb of rescue for Abraham. And He will do it for you. There’s a ram in the thicket just for you.
Have you ever gone to the beach and floated around in the ocean on a rubber raft, enjoying yourself and your surroundings, and then, looked up to find you had drifted far away from your starting point?
A small boat unattended will also drift along with the watery current and possibly out to sea. Sometimes, the drifting is subtle, imperceptible. Sometimes, it comes with the compelling force of a storm, wrecking the boat on an unseen sandbar or a hidden, rocky reef.
Though the ship is battered and the sails torn, as the lyrics go, the anchor holds.
Have you ever felt de-anchor-ized? That’s a Lynnism for feeling like life’s anchor has let go and you’re now drifting away with the rushing current of life’s circumstances.
When we are in one of life’s storms, the anchor of our peace, is Christ. He anchors us wherever we are, whatever the situation.
One day in my quiet time, I read the following in one of my devotionals…
“Never a heart’s need that I could not comfort and soothe.”
I said, “Lord, if this is true, then why do I sometimes feel as though You are not there?”
Part of His answer was this…
“My dear one, I have been here all along, through it all. I’ve been here by your side, though unnoticed. I’ve been here, holding your hand, though not felt…
“I’ve been here, through the floods of adversity, rowing your boat for you through all those uncharted waters.
“I am the Navigator. I know where we are going. It is your job to sit still before Me and trust that I know best. Don’t rock the boat by telling Me where you want to go. Just let Me take you to the place best suited for you.
“Ride quietly and trust Me and we will reach our destination much more quickly. Don’t be a hindrance to the One who knows the way. I will not steer you wrong nor will I allow the waves to overtake you. Just trust Me, because I love you.”
So, when an immense storm comes with its swelling surges of heartache, when an ill wind of financial circumstances wraps its tentacles of debt or lack around you so tightly that breathing is difficult, or when you create your own dark clouds of anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness, and it all begins to rock your life’s little dinghy…remember…you are not as one without hope or peace.
David knew this so well, “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He hushes the storm to a calm and to a gentle whisper, so that the waves of the sea are still. Then the men are glad because of the calm, and He brings them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30 AMP)
Christ is not only our Anchor but also our Life Preserver. We are not as those who end up wrecked on a sandbar, as those without a Savior.
Stay anchored to God’s hope, His peace, His truths. Listen to Him, “So we must listen very carefully to the truths we have heard, or we may drift away from them.” (Hebrews 2:1 TLB)
As I was writing this, a song came on the cable music station I was listening to: I Am One in Peace. I started thinking about those words: I. Am. One. In. Peace.
I am…one in peace. I am one…in peace. How? Because I am one in unity with Christ, THE peace. And so are you.
If your heart wanders like a rowboat let loose, drifting away from the shoreline, drifting far from your starting point, remember you have a Rescuer.
Don’t become de-anchor-ized! Cling to your Anchor of hope and your Life Preserver of peace.
For. You. Are. One. In. Peace.
If you have Christ, you have peace.
In your difficult circumstances, may you know the safe haven the Lord provides.
How many times have you seen commercials about this or maybe you’ve experienced this yourself…
…your husband or kids (or even the dog) enter your house from outside, either from playing or working, and have muddy feet? And of course, you’ve just cleaned the floor, right?
And you say…Don’t come in here with those muddy feet!
But what about God’s house? God is holy and His house is holy. Do we try to enter it with muddy feet?
In Old Testament times, God commanded the priests to perform special cleansing duties in order to be purified and fit to enter the tabernacle or the Holy of holies of the temple to serve. They were to cleanse themselves in the laver or the molten/brazen sea before entering His presence, so that they would be pure and not die before a holy God. Die? Yes, die.
God appointed Aaron, his sons, and their descendants to be priests and said, “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from [the laver]. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die.” (Ex. 30:19-20 NKJV)
This was serious business. And it was a forever statute.
The application for believers today is that we, too, have been made priests. Christ is our High Priest (Heb. 9:11) and, through His death, He “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” (Rev. 1:6a NKJV) In order, then, to serve the Lord, to minister before Him, or to worship Him, we need to be cleansed.
Therefore, “since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Heb. 10:21-22 NLT)
Humility: As priests before a holy God, we cannot enter His presence with muddy feet…or a muddy heart, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thess. 4:7 NKJV)
To come before the Lord in holiness, to worship at His feet, to give Him glory and honor, being cleansed is mandatory. We are to worship in the beauty of holiness, as David reminds us (Ps. 29:2). Yes, the Lord always accepts us, but, to worship in holiness, we need to be cleansed.
We cannot worship a holy God when covered in the mud of sin.
Questions we need to ask ourselves:
- Do I allow the Lord to cleanse my heart to sanctify me, to purify me and separate me from the filth of this world that I might draw near to Him in true worship? James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a NKJV)
- Am I out traipsing through the sludgy side-roads of life, dragging my heart and feet through its muck? James continues, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8 NKJV), “for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (James 4:8b NLT)
- Do I try to enter the Father’s presence with those muddy feet? Or do I allow Jesus to wash my feet? As Peter said, “‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’” (John 13:8 NKJV)
Oh, that I may have a cleansed heart, purged mind, sanitized spirit, and purified body to enter the holy presence of the Lord to offer my worship!
“Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.”
One of my very favorite verses is Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV) I love taking verses apart and finding the definitions of words to discover a deeper meaning. Wanna see what I found?
Faith, to be beneficial, must always be now, in the present tense. We can’t have hindsight faith. However, the meaning of the word used in this verse for now does not mean at this moment of time, though many good sermons have contained that meaning.
It is a conjunction or connecting word between two thoughts. It means but, moreover, moreover also, and, also, and also, or but rather. It would be more appropriate to say, “And also faith is…” or “Moreover faith is…”
The Greek word for substance is hupostasis, which means a setting under, support, essence, assurance, confidence, person, the substantial quality or nature of a person, substructure or that which has foundation, hence, is firm and has actual existence.
(This word is used in Hebrews 1:3 of Jesus as the “express image of His essence,” or the actual existence or personification of God.)
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “It here may signify a title-deed, as giving a guarantee, or reality.”
*Things hoped for…
The word for things hoped for is elpizo, which means to expect, confide, trust, or confident expectation. Its root word means to anticipate, usually with pleasure.
Evidence also means that by which invisible things are tested or proved, conviction, proof, or test.
Pragma is the word for the second use of the word things, which also means an object, business, matter, work, that which is an accomplished fact or is being accomplished, that which exists, and so on.
(From this, we get our English word pragmatic, which one definition means the testing of concepts to determine their validity by the practicality of their results.)
Therefore, defined, this verse might say, “Moreover, faith gives actual existence as a guarantee to what is expected, as the confident anticipation of matters being accomplished with practical results as proof of the invisible.”
When we co-operate with God by faith, we are fellow-workers with Him and we will see the answers to our prayers, which are already accomplished and held in expectancy in heaven as something yet to arrive or be revealed.
Only when faith is attached to all we do are we pleasing God, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith.” (Heb. 11:6 NLT) If we have no faith to please Him, how do we co-operate with Him?
Those who are willing to trust God and apply faith to His Word, without further evidence, will receive the visible proof of His promises. And “if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom. 8:25 NKJV)
Smith Wigglesworth said, “I believe there is only one way to all the treasures of God and that is the way of faith.” And St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
Just remember, faith is not a big, copper cauldron in which we conjure up our slightest wish. Nope, nope, nope! Faith is the producer of the will of the King, not the will of the servant. As Jesus said, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 NKJV)
A. B. Simpson once said, “True faith drops its letter in the post office box, and lets it go. Distrust holds onto a corner of it, and wonders that the answer never comes.”
Faith: Though the eye beholds no evidence, the spirit is assured of its existence.
Exhausted. Forsaken. Lacking.
Barren. Depleted. Void.
Dry. Unfilled. Empty.
Do any of those describe how you are feeling? Has your bucket of joy, peace, and faith been drained and now you’re looking for an answer, a refill?
You say to yourself, “What’s missing?”
So, you begin to search for that elusive “something” to fill up your bucket. You decide to go on vacation in search of “it.” Maybe “it” is in the soothing sands of the beach, with the ocean’s gentle waves lapping at the shore. But the remedy doesn’t work. When you return home, all the vacation drains out of your bucket. You’re still empty. “It” was not in the vacation.
Next, you buy a new car, thinking “it” will pump up your ego. But that does not fill your void. Your bucket is still empty. “It” was not in the car.
You purchase a new house to inflate your pride, but the house just cost you more money and didn’t fill your bucket. “It” was not in the house.
Then, you go after a higher paying job because you need more money. You think the power of your new job will appease your empty bucket. But now, you work late every night to pay off the car and the house you couldn’t afford, which only causes more problems in your marriage. Your bucket remains empty. Work was not “it.”
So, you begin to bar hop. All the drinks do not contain “it” until you meet a lovely young thing or a handsome young hunk. That pumps you up libido, for a while. But all the air escapes from your balloon one night when you come home from your tryst and find that all your family has moved out.
Then, the words of the old song hit you in the face, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” And your bucket seems even emptier. An affair was not “it.”
So, you find yourself upon your bed, in tears, wondering where it all began, where you went wrong. Reaching back into your memory box, you pull out the memory of you on your knees beside your bed, saying your prayers.
You slide off the bed and onto the floor, with knees popping and creaking from years of not bending. You bow your head and begin to sob as you seek the One True Answer…Jesus. The One you have so long ignored. The One you have been searching for and didn’t even know it. The One Who loves you more than anything, enough to die for you.
You pour out your heart to Him. He comes and kneels beside you, wrapping His loving arm around your heaving shoulders and whispers in your ear…
“What you needed was not to be found in your vacation, nor in your new car or new house, or all the other things you used as a substitute, for what you needed was My Love.
“I’ve been here all along, kneeling by your bedside, night after night, waiting for you to kneel and find Me once again. Now, you’ve recognized your need.
“Let’s get rid of all that stands in the way between us, separating us from that special companionship you so desperately need and I so desire to have with you. You have found your Answer. “It” is Me, the Lover of your soul. I am your dwelling place. Never leave My side again.”
Whatever you have been through or are going through right now, I pray that your bucket be filled and runneth over with faith, hope, joy, and love in Jesus.
“For God so loved…”
John 3:16 NKJV
God so loved…
…so loved that He gave…
He gave of Himself, His only begotten Son Jesus.
Love, then, is embodied in Christ. For Jesus is the “express image of [God’s] essence.” (Hebrews 1:3 Received Greek Text)
Express image in Greek is charakter. Our English word character. It means the instrument (or person) used in engraving or carving, to cut into, also a stamp or impress, the figure stamped or exact copy.
Essence means substantial quality, nature, actual existence, substance, outward manifestation, etc.
Jesus is God’s real nature, His essence. The exact copy of God. All of God is embodied in Christ.
If God is love and Jesus is the embodiment of God, and if one is a believer, that Love resides in that one through the Holy Spirit. And each believer is then the extension of this great Love to others.
But it’s not always easy to love those who are unloving to us, is it? If “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 5:5 NKJV) then how do we not see other believers as vessels containing God’s Spirit, unless the snarling monster of self raises its ugly head? And then, our very unlovely and unloving side creeps out.
How can we love God and hate Him in other believers at the same time? Paul said to the church in Philippi, “Be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God.” (Philippians 2:3b-6a GNB)
But what about loving those who are not believers? The others who are rude, crude, and mean? Who vehemently disagree with us or who want to do us harm? Solomon said, “Those who have contempt for their neighbors are sinners.” (Proverbs 14:21a Voice)
The disciple John wrote, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love…and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:8 NKJV, 1 John 4:16b NKJV)
Uh-oh! Not loving? Not abiding in God.
So, how do we know how to love? We look to Jesus as our pattern, our standard, our example. He told the disciples how to love, “Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends…Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 15:12b-13 Msg, John 13:35 NLT)
Do we really think about that commandment? Do we love others the same way Jesus loves them? And loves us?
May we continually abide in God and remember Paul’s exhortation, “Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NKJV) For he says if we “didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever,” and we would be “worth nothing at all without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:3b TLB, 1 Corinthians 13:2b TLB)
“May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper
understanding of the love of God.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:5 TLB)
From His feet, Lynn
“From the rising of the sun to the going down of it…
the name of the Lord is to be praised!”
Ps. 113:3 AMPC
Are we obedient to praise the Lord?
The writer of the book of Hebrews says we are to “offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name…the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15 NLT, NKJV)
First, do we know what praise means? The combined words in Hebrew mean to extend the hands to revere or worship, make confession, give thanks or glory, bless God in adoration, to celebrate in music, to sing forth praises, and so on. The combined Greek words mean thanks offering, to celebrate God by singing religious songs, to give glory, honor, or applaud, and so on.
But sometimes, I don’t feel like praising, you say.
Yeah. I get it. When your heart is aching, when the world comes crashing down on your shoulders, when storms hit and there isn’t much you can do, it’s difficult to still praise the Lord.
There are some trials and sufferings for which we question giving thanks, but we trust God in those circumstances, relying on Him to remedy them and thanking Him for His working. And that’s when we need to praise Him the most!
So, what usually happens to our thanksgiving and praise when peace disintegrates into chaos, when a husband loses his job and finances are cut off, when a child is in a car wreck, when the repo man stands knocking at the door, when buying Christmas presents is a vague recollection, when pain strikes the chest and there is no insurance, when the roof overhead is in jeopardy of being taken away, or when the cupboard holds no more than the cup?
How lavish, then, is our praise of the Creator?
Our grateful praise and thanks to God is to be fruitful continually, offering “thanks at all times for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20 Received Greek Text) David said, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” (Ps. 113:3 NIV)
David says those “who seek Jehovah shall praise Him.” (Ps. 22:26 Masoretic Text) If we seek the Lord, are we praising Him? And Paul instructs us, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18 TLB) God’s will!
If it is the will of God for us to be thankful in all circumstances, then how disobedient are we?
Paul said he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10 NKJV) That is called a sacrifice of praise, for it costs us the sacrifice of our feelings in difficult situations, praising even when we do not feel like it.
I have learned to praise God no matter what. When my eyes spill over with the tears of heartache, when chaos invades my world, when I feel pulled apart by schedules, do I still claim His peace and praise Him? Yes, indeedy! For “I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of His glories and grace.” (Ps. 34:1 TLB) Amen!
If we constantly boo-hoo our circumstances more than praising God, we magnify our circumstances above God’s character and power. We are to “magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (Ps. 69:30b NKJV)
Therefore, do we still raise our hands in praise and worship when in painful despair?
The disciple John said it most succinctly, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV)
Are you being obedient to praise the Lord and increase Him in your life?