Keeping It Simple

As Americans we tend to make things more complex than they need to be. We want to boil most things in life down to a formula. You know… If you do X+Y+Z-A=Success; or M+Q+N+F-S=Healthy Marriage; etc…. We have a list for everything. A to do list, a prayer list, a list of rights and wrongs, a grocery list, a bucket list, a career list, a list of life goals, a list of what we are thankful for, a list of what we are not thankful for, and the list goes on and on and on :).

Part of this can be attributed to our public education system. The American education model puts very little emphasis on creative, abstract, or relational thinking. Everything is boiled down to a “cookie-cutter” mentality. This has created a culture that has difficulty thinking apart from formulas and plans. From the time we are small children we are taught to think like everyone else, and we receive the exact same education as our peers. We want to hold tight to our formulas of success!

I say all this because I believe our relationship with God is not immune to this type of mentality. The habit to try to make our walk with God harder than it has to be. To make it into a complex formula of do’s and don’ts, instructions, and plans. We compile our prayer lists, our lists of how we are struggling, how we need to change, what we need to do, what we do not need to do, and how we need to do it. Then we begin to check it off. There is nothing inherently wrong with these lists, plans, or organizing things. However, more often than not, they become a burden instead of a help.

Consequently, all energy and power is zapped out of our relationship with Christ. We begin treating our walk with God as if we’re running a business, instead of enjoying a life of unity with the Creator of the world. I say all this from first-hand experience. It is so tempting to make our spiritual life another list, another formula, and try to boil it down to a science. Why? Because that is what we are accustomed to. Yet, we are missing something:

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

When Christ uses the word yoke in vs. 29 He is referring to a set of laws a person lives by. He is contrasting the difficult, and burdensome law of the Pharisees with the relationship one might have with Him through salvation.

This is very similar to how Apostle John described a relationship with Christ:

1 John 5: 2-3

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome

You see, the lists of do’s and don’ts, rituals, ceremonies, and systems were Old Covenant laws. They were the vehicle through which man tried to be holy before God, but God established a New Covenant. One in which the yoke of Christ is not burdensome, but freeing. Man accepts the grace imparted to us through Christ, and immediately we are declared righteous because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. From there, our lives are transformed into likeness of Christ, obedience to God, and a constant movement towards a holy life.

Nowhere in the New Testament are we encouraged to uphold systematic rituals, a list of do’s and don’ts, or instructed to boil our walk with Him down to a formula. In fact, most we often see our walk with Christ described pretty simply:

Matthew 22: 34-40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Now we all know that being a Christian isn’t always “simple” or easy in the sense of commitment, it is hard. And He does require that we pursue holiness. But, in terms of how to walk with Christ, I think that it is a lot simpler than we make it out to be.

God has reminded me lately to abandon my formula that I am so relentlessly tied to, and to keep it simple. You want to know how we can keep it simple?

Well, much of our relationship with God can be boiled down to one word. Love.

Now, I’m not going to go all 1960’s on you. I’m not talking about superstitious love, or how the world describes love. I’m talking about Godly love.

You see, God is love. Everything from His justness, His wrath, His holiness, His power, His majesty, to His grace, His kindness, His mercy, and compassion makes up who He is. And, who He is can be described by one word. Love.

1 John 4: 16

16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

It is through His love that He reached out to humanity, gave up His rights, and suffered and died the death we each should have died.

John 3: 16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

You see, He did it through His love. He offered His righteousness to us by acting in grace. We didn’t deserve it, nor can we earn it.

As I said above, I’ve been convinced to try my hardest to break this habit of treating God like He is a school project, or a business to be run. He isn’t. He is a person. He is the one who loved me so much to reach out and save me. He can’t be boiled down to a complex formula.

Now, I’m still doing many of the same things I once was. I’m still having a quiet time, still trying to seek Him in prayer (more often because prayer is how we talk to Him), still trying to do what He has asked of me.

You know what is different? The motive. See, if we make it a formula, quickly our walk with Him becomes void of power, emotion, passion, and energy. We just begin to check things off of a list. Yet, this is not what we are taught in scripture. We are taught to be in a relationship with God. To walk with Him, to talk with Him.

So, now, my motives are not to check off a box. They are to constantly be reminded of God’s great love for me. In return, How can I show Him love in return? I have been reminded to consistently ask myself, “is what I am doing (or could do) showing love to God, in return for the love He has shown for me? In what way can I glorify Him in my life?”

In this way, much of the Christian life (not all) can be boiled down to something very simple. Love. We must be reminded regularly of His love for us, which will motivate us to love Him more each day. This will transform us. This will fill us with power. Lastly, we begin to show the love that Christ showed us to those around us. We begin to serve, to sacrifice, to commit, and to offer grace unmerited.

-Caleb

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The Promises of God

A dear friend of mine once told me that one of the most important things a Christian can know are the promises God makes to His children all throughout Scripture. You see, there are countless promises recorded in Scripture that God made to those who were following after Him.

 

Here are a few examples of God’s promises:

·         God knows the plan He has for His children (Jer. 29:11)

·         God goes before His children

·         God gives strength to the weak, power to the powerless, and rest to the weary (Matt. 11:28-29; Isaiah 40: 27-31)

·         God protects His children

·         God gives His children all that they need

·         God will not abandon us nor will He forsake us

·         God’s love never ends for His creation or His children

·         God’s children will share in His victory in the end

·         Etc.

My friend was right. Very few things have proved to be more valuable in my life than knowing God’s promises. Why? Because God’s promises are what carry us through this life. Life isn’t always easy, and it certainly doesn’t go the way we “plan”. Because of this, God’s promises act as a lifeline in times of trouble, encouragement in times of discouragement, boldness in times of fear, and certainty in uncertain circumstances. In short, God’s promises act as our security in this life.

 

Let me explain it this way. Our circumstances are never consistent in this life, and no day is ever the same as the one before. Yet, for the believer, we can rely on a consistent and unchanging God. His promises are those “consistent” words of encouragement in times of inconsistency.

 

A Christian does not live on explanations; rather he/she lives on the promises of God.

 

The majority of people in this world have to know an explanation for why and how everything happens the way it does. They want to know what will happen the next day, the next month, the next year, and even the next decade. They need to knowwhy this person got sick, why they didn’t get the news they wanted. They want to know in advance every step to take, when they need to take it, and why.

 

As Christians, we shouldn’t have this attitude. For we live on God’s promises, not His explanations. We may not have a detailed itinerary of life. We may not know every detail of God’s plan for us, but we know He has one. We may not understand every circumstance, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing. We may not feel like victors now, but we know that we will be the victors later J

 

When I think about the subject of God’s promises, I think about Joshua just after Moses died. Joshua, who had always been Moses right hand man, was called by God to step up and lead the Israelites into the land God had promised to give them. I’m certain Joshua felt a combination of things. Fear, anxiety, pressure to fill Moses’ shoes, doubt, inadequacy, and many other feelings.

 

Yet, read what God promised Joshua:

 

Joshua 1: 2-7

 

“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with youI will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous.

 

See, in the midst of uncertainty, difficulty, and inconsistent circumstances Joshua could continue to live on the promises of God. God didn’t give Joshua an explanation of everything that the coming years would hold. God didn’t give Joshua a business plan or a detailed itinerary. God just said, these are my promises: “I will be with you, I will fight for you, I will help you to conquer those who stand against you.” “NOW, be strong AND courageous and go!!!” Joshua trusted that as He stepped out in faith, that God would give Him the direction and help that he would need every step of the way.

 

God’s promises are not only pillows to be rested upon, but they are also prods that encourage us to act!

 

One thing that pops out at me as I read the story of Joshua is that He understood thatdivine sovereignty is not a substitute for human responsibility. What I mean is that God’s promises are not intended to merely be heard, and then rested upon. Rather, God gives them to us with the intention that they give us courage and the strength to act! Many teachers in our current time talk continuously about resting in God’s promises. God’s promises are to be rested in, but that is not all! They are to give us courage that leads to the strength to ACT!

 

Charles Spurgeon once said, “[Joshua] was not to use the promise as a couch upon which his indolence might luxuriate, but as a girdle wherewith to gird up his loins for future activity!” I love that! Talk about old-english! Ha!

Spurgeon is trying to encourage His flock to remember that God gives us His promises to make us courageous enough to upon them in faith! God is holding up His end of the bargain, will you hold up yours?

 

God’s promises are similar to a football coach who comes into the locker room right before a big game. He paces back and forth. Sweat is running down his forehead, his fists balled up, his jaws are clinched. Then he inspires his team to fight for victory, for the player next to them, for the pride of the school or organization.

The players don’t just lay down and take a nap do they? They don’t just say, “what an awesome speech coach!” That would be absurd! They get up and run out of the locker room, and they do so with courage.

Likewise, God has given us the pep talk, He has given us His promises. Are we content just looking to God and saying: “WHAT AN AWESOME PROMISE GOD!” I pray that you will not.

 

I pray that you will allow God’s promises to give you courage to act upon each of them.

 

So, what difficulty are you facing? What uncertain circumstance has gotten you worried? Are you unsure what the next step will be? Are you wondering if God really has a plan for you? Are you feeling defeated? Are you worried where the next meal is going to come from? Are you afraid that God might not really be with you?

Are you going to live on explanations, or are you going to live on the promises of God?

 

God’s promises are there for us, and we can be certain that He will always keep them. Yet, we must also understand that just like Joshua, we have to act upon them. We shouldn’t just sit around “resting in the promises of God”. We have to start living like we truly believe in them! It is then that we will begin to see them in action!

 

-Caleb

How’s Your Heart?

See this picture?  What is this a picture of?

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That’s right an ECG machine or, for some old timers like me, an EKG machine.  An Electrocardiogram machine.  What does it do?  Well, it checks to see how your heart is doing.  It can’t tell you everything about your heart but it can tell you a lot.

In Scripture, when it speaks of the heart, it is not speaking of the physical heart that pumps blood through our body.  But it is speaking of our very soul, of a very being of who we really are.  Remember we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1: 26-27) with that soul and that very spirit with which we communicate to God with.   We will see that Jesus is running an ECG on the people that he has encountered and finds something quite interesting.

As was custom there were great numbers of people in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.   As indicated in these verses Jesus took time to teach and perform many miracles.

John 2:23-25 – 23Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Because of these miracles many people believed in Jesus.   But what was it they believed about Jesus?  What was their motive behind their belief?  Were they committed to following Jesus?  Or were they just desiring more of the miracles?

Were they ready to follow him because of what they thought they could get from him?  Or, were they ready to follow him so they can give him everything?  Either way Jesus knows.  He is God after all and he is All-Knowing.  Think about the description of God’s Word in Hebrews.

Hebrews 4:12-13 – 12For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the hear. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Every thought and intention is laid bare and exposed before God.  God’s word exposes us and we are definitely exposed before our Creator as he looks at the intentions of our heart.  Even today so many want Jesus only for what he can give them.  We want our “Best Life Now”.   We see this played out many times through Scripture.  In John Chapter 6, after Jesus fed the 5000 the people continued to seek him out but Jesus knew why they were following him.  They were not after him because they saw him as the Savior but as one that can continue to meet their needs and keep their bellies full.  When he challenged them about true discipleship it says in verse 66 that many left him, 66 “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

One of the saddest portions of Scripture for me is found in Matthew 7 as Jesus is concluding the “Sermon on the Mount”  as he makes this warning.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

There are so many today that call themselves Christians but this is how there ECG graph would look.

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Jesus is just something they do and for some they have created a Jesus that fits their lifestyle.  They don’t want to talk about sin and they don’t want to talk about repentance from sin and to strive for a life of holiness.  We so many times want Jesus to rubber stamp our lives instead of giving Jesus our complete devotion.  But Jesus knows and that is why in verse 24 and 25 it reads, 24But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

 How’s your heart today?  What does your ECG read?

Do you need this? Inline image 3To get this!!   Inline image 4

God’s Blessings to you this glorious day!!

Dale

Slow to Anger

Are you quick to listen to someone? If they have a need, are you ready, willing and able to listen? Many times, if I’m honest, I’m trying to accomplish all that’s on my “to-do” list for the day and I don’t slow down long enough to do this. But, I can tell you what I am “quick” to do. I’m quick to jump to conclusions and even get angry before I know the full story. Is that you too?

James said:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

These two verses are some of the most practical, yet least used in Christendom. Christians get just as angry as anybody and it often shows. Anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Paul said to the Ephesian church:

Ephesians 4:26-27

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Yes, Paul says, “Be angry…” but he also says: “…and do not sin…” So we are told that anger can come, but do not sin. But, how is that possible? Well, that’s the ten million dollar question. How can you be angry and not sin? Well, think of Jesus. Did Jesus get angry at the Pharisees for their false religion and false doctrine? Sure He did. He called them “Vipers.” Did He get angry at the money-changers in the Temple for cheating people? Sure He did! He took cords and wrapped them together into a whip and ran them out. Did He sin? Nope! He never sinned. Was He angry? Yes. But, He never sinned.

Would it make you angry if you saw an elderly woman shoved or wronged by someone in a grocery line? Sure it would? Would it make you angry if you saw a child being beaten up by a teenager at a park? Sure it would. Would it make you angry seeing a Christian brother or sister posting curse words and crude language on their Facebook? Absolutely! But, in our anger, do not sin. Anger must be handled constructively.

So, how do we control our emotions? I know this is going to sound simple, but reading the Word of God! It’s the Word of God that does the work. It’s not something we do on our own or in our own strength. It is God’s Word (it’s supernatural) interacting with the Holy Spirit inside of us that molds our character, thoughts, actions and words. Are you immersed in the Word? If you are, then there will be a process of emptying out our emotional bucket as we read the Word and pray each day. If we do this, then we will not “let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

We must be careful not to give the Enemy a foothold in our lives. He lies in the weeds waiting to pounce. He studies our lives, like a tiger after its prey and waits until the opportunity is right and then he moves in for the kill.

Anger. Oh, it’s going to come into our lives, but we have a choice. We can choose to be quick to hear (be understanding) and slow to speak and SLOW to anger. If we’ll choose this path, we’ll be walking toward righteousness.

Are you angry with someone today? That will eat you up. Pray and ask the Lord what He would have you do to rectify the situation. He’ll show you. Maybe it’s just saying, “I’m sorry.” Maybe it’s a quick email or phone call or visit to clear the air. In the strength of the Lord, you can do this. Choose to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. I promise you that choice is better than allowing Satan the opportunity to twist you up inside.

Let’s choose Scripture, not our emotions.

-Kevin

Firstfruits

I love early summer when those first vegetables from the garden are ready to be picked. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, beans, corn. Wow!

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Let’s pick up in James chapter one, verse 17 so that we can have a bit of flow.

James 1:17-18

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

When you initially look at verse 18, it might appear a bit confusing.

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…

What does that mean? We know God allowed us to be born, but what does it mean that “he brought us forth by the word of truth?” Well, the Apostle John helps us to see this a bit more clearly. In John 1:11-13, we see this…

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

It was God’s will that we become His children. Just as the ground brings forth fruit and vegetables, the Lord in His sovereign will brings forth spiritual children. The divine act of regeneration, or the new birth is an act of God. John says as much in the verses above.

Now think about corn…

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This corn is worthless at this point because there is no fruit. But, for those stalks that eventually produce corn, well…we know that there is value to that stalk…

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James says that we the Lord’s firstfruits…

James 1:18

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

The term firstfruits is an Old Testament expression and we can think of it best at Thanksgiving in culture.

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The pilgrims and Indians celebrated the firstfruits of the harvest together. Giving God the initial crop was an act of faith that He would fulfill His promise of a full harvest to come. Abel brought his best. Cain brought that which was defective. But, the Lord is bringing forth His best in us. We are the firstfruits of a new creation. We are the first evidence of God’s new creation that is to come. The new life that we taste upon accepting Christ is only a foretaste of the life to come in heaven.

Paul speaks of this thought in Romans…

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23

Think of that first tomato from the garden. Oh how wonderful it will taste. Think of the harvest to come and as you do, think of the kingdom to come and the wonderful and majestic joy it will be as we feast together at the Marriage Supper of the Lord Jesus in heaven (Rev. 19).

I can’t wait!

-Kevin

Is Faith a Weakness? Is Theology Acceptable As a Form of Truth?

Today, will be a little “deeper” than normal. It might take a little longer. You might have to break it into two parts. Do what you need to do. But I encourage you, especially if you have young people in your home to read this.

I’ll start with a question:

Are the sciences the only viable way to explain truth and reality? If science cannot explain something, does it mean it cannot be true? What about theology? Is the Bible and theology capable of informing us about reality and truth?

We live in a society where theology and science are not viewed on level ground. Historically, theology was seen as the highest form of education, because it was the study of God and of Human existence… not merely of matter and substance. Recently, theology and religion are viewed as substandard and weak.

Hebrews 11:6 6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Where do we come from? How did we get here? How did everything else get here? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Is there life outside of this earth? Is there life after this life is over? Is there a God? If so, can He be known? Are miracles really possible? Is the earth, and the entire universe designed by someone or something?

These are some of the questions that have constantly been on the hearts and mind of men all throughout history. There is something deep inside of us which yearns to understand the “bigger” picture.

The answers to these questions are what forms a worldview. A worldview is the lens through which one sees the world, both physical and intangible (aka metaphysical). Of course, as a Christian, my answers to those questions are obvious, yet in our society are these answers acceptable? It depends on who you are talking to. We live in a society today that claims that the only acceptable worldview is that which is based on physical empirical data. If you cannot see it then it is not reasonable, or acceptable as an intelligent argument. We live in an age which is dominated, in the academic realm, by philosophical naturalism or “materialism”. This is essentially the assertion that any truth claim must be based upon what is physical or natural. Basically, the only reality to this life is that which is made up of physical properties (DNA, periodic elements, cells, atoms, particles, etc.). The ultimate result is that science has become the only discipline, in which knowledge is sought, that is acceptable as a reasonable argument for a worldview. All other arguments or ways of reasoning are ignorant and weak.

 

Until about the 1600’s theology (The study of God and His nature) was the predominate form of truth in our world. Science was viewed as the second book of God. Many professional theologians were also practicing scientists on the side. They viewed this as a way to grow closer to God.

However, in the last couple of centuries, this has all but disappeared. Now, some are even rejecting theology as a legitimate pursuit of truth because it studies that which is SUPERnatural, and cannot be solely explained by physical properties. This has given rise to many such as Richard Dawkins who claim: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” But is it really? Is faith really a weakness as some in our society assert? Is theology really no longer an acceptable form of truth? In order to answer that question, I must ask you another… Is our world made up of only natural, or physical, properties? Or, are there things in our world that are unphysical (metaphysical), unseen, and supersede that which is natural?

Is it reasonable to assert that there is also a SUPERnatural? My answer to that question is, absolutely, there are many things in this world that are not physical, yet still real; unseen, yet still true. And many things that are supernatural. In this way, faith is a requirement, not an option. If you are to ignore the need for faith, it is you who are fooling yourself. Let me illustrate this truth in a familiar way. A human being is made up of DNA, cells, molecules, tissue, blood, skin, bones, etc. Yet, is that the human being? Could you clone an exact replica of that human being, and it still remain the same exact person. You could not. For a human being is more than the sum of our physical properties. We are not robots. We are human beings. We have a soul, a mind (which is different from a brain. Our brain is our physical brain, but our mind is the metaphysical aspect of that), desires, etc. We long for things, we love, we rejoice, we are sad, we are happy, we smile, we become angry, we are much more than our DNA. Another illustration. The earth is made up of physical properties, yes. But is it solely physical?

Can the earth be explained by only what is physical? No. The earth is unbelievably intelligent. God has given such great design and purpose to the earth that it is incredible. The very fact that trees breathe in carbon dioxide, yet exhale for us human beings oxygen that we need to live off of. There is an amazing connectivity in our universe. Still there is more. There is this awareness in the heart of men, that there is something greater, something that is SUPERnatural. You do not have to teach a child to be angry when someone steals their candy. They realize immediately that this is unjust. We all have an awareness of something greater than the physical properties of our universe, of a moral law written on our hearts, a sense that something has gone wrong, and a realization that there are things that we do not see occurring all around us.

So, we can conclude that our reality is not only what is based upon science. That truth extends far beyond what is physical. It is true that you can love another human being, and that they in turn have the power to bring you great joy or great sadness depending upon their actions. Yet, can science explain this? Is this attributable to only physical properties. Also, man experiences great fulfillment and satisfaction upon having a relationship with God. He is not seen, nor can science prove Him. Science also cannot explain why, or how this connectivity with God results in such great fulfillment for man. In this way, we can see that science has its limits. Science was not designed to explain to us all of reality, to give us our entire worldview. It was always meant to be paired with theology. For, one cannot know the creation unless they are aware of the Creator. Yet, there are some who still believe that science is explaining away God. That science is removing a need for theology.

I’m going to get really deep for a second… Atheism, the belief that there is no supernatural/God, cuts off the branch that science sits upon. Science seeks to explain reality based upon a study of past or current phenomena, in order to accurately theorize the future or to explain how it works. A meteorologist studies a previous weather pattern and theorizes about a future one. However, the foundation of this all is that there is a rational intelligibility of the universe. That the universe functions off of certain natural laws, such as gravity, and that these things are constant and reoccurring. Atheism, the belief that we are all here by a great accident that could never occur again and that there is no direction to this universe, cuts off the very branch that science sits upon. They remove and rebuke the idea that this universe has a design (from God), and hence is rational.

So, is faith a weakness? Is theology an acceptable form of truth? Faith is not a weakness. And, yes, theology is an acceptable form of truth. Faith is required if we are to believe and understand that which is not physical, natural, or what is supernatural. We cannot prove God by science, it is limited in that respect. We can know God through a relationship with Him, through faith, and through prayer. Some assert that faith is blind. That it ignores everything in order to believe whatever it wants. There is nothing that could be more false about the Christian faith. Our faith is based upon the evidence all around us. The evidence for God, for His relationship with man and all of earth, the law He has written upon our hearts, our tragic sin against His law, and the evidence of His love reaching out through Jesus Christ, and the continuance of His love reaching out each and every day. Theology seeks to understand that truth. To know God more, to understand Him, to love Him, to please the One True God.

I encourage you today, to not be ashamed of your faith in this lost culture of ours. You are not weak for having faith. Rather, you have seen the evidence for God and your need for Him. You have faith in your wife, because you have evidence for it. She has given you evidence and proof that you can trust her and have faith in Her. It is similar with our faith in God. Our faith is not blind, it is not ignorant, rather it would be ignorant to reject it. Faith is required in some form no matter what worldview you believe. Some choose to have faith in creation (science, man, etc.), we choose to have faith in the Creator. There is nothing sweeter than this. To know God and to be known by Him. There will always be some who see our faith as a weakness, as an ignorance of reality. That we are insecure in our knowledge and ourselves, and this is why we reach for God. Yet, it is because of our knowledge and our realization of who we really are that we MUST REACH FOR GOD!

 

-Caleb

 

1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[a] to save those who believe.22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Blessed by God

What does it look like to be blessed by God? Is it to have a nice house, a healthy family, and a successful job? What about intangibles like happiness, safety, and love in our life? These are the things that make us blessed by God, right? Well, maybe, but we might be forgetting one crucial characteristic of a life blessed by God. What if I told you that God is blessing you if you are working through a trial in your life right now?

I’m guessing that this is how most of you are looking at the computer screen right now! Ha! You are probably thinking, “where are you pulling this from”! Well, our passage today, of course! J

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

You see what James says there? Blessed is the man who… has a big house, a nice car, and lives to be 95? Nope. Blessed is the man who is… healthy, wealthy, and wise? Nope. James tells us that the blessed man is the man who remains steadfast under trial!

You see, most often we see God’s blessings from a limited scope of view. If it makes us happy, then it is a blessing. If it makes us sad, then it is a curse. Right? Wrong.

The problem with viewing God’s blessings from this limited scope is that we fail to see that God’s blessings can come in the form of things that do not bring us initial happiness. Have you ever heard the song, “Blessings” by Laura Story?

In that song she sings about how God sends us blessings in the form of difficult circumstances. That a blessing from God often comes in disguise as something harmful.

She wants you to get the same thing that I want you to get this morning… That our trials can be blessings, through the power of God.

We want you to get the fact that God’s blessings aren’t always the things that make you happy. In fact, some of God’s greatest blessings are in the form of things that are tough to swallow… initially. When God tells you “no”, when a door that you wanted to go through is closed, when things don’t work out the way you thought they would. All of these things are used by God to bless us.

The word trial is defined in the dictionary as, “a formal examination of evidence before a judge, and typically before a jury, in order to decide guilt in a case of criminal or civil proceedings— test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something.”

So, a trial is something more specific than a difficult circumstance. A trial is a difficult circumstance that God is using as a tool for revealing the substance of our hearts and lives. It means that we are undergoing examination according to our faith, our beliefs, and who we name as our Lord. We are being “experimented” to see if our faith holds true to our beliefs.

A test is never easy. For ease does not reveal our deepest knowledge. Difficulty is what reveals our inner character, our deepest knowledge, and most importantly, it shows who we really love in this life. So, God will often use a trial in order to reveal who it is that we are serving (God, or something else), how much strength we really have, what we are really made of, and who it is that we really love.

“Well, if God knows everything, then shouldn’t He already know this stuff?”

He certainly does, but have you considered that it is not Himself that He is trying to show, but someone else? You… Maybe He is trying to prove to you that you are stronger than you think you are, that you do have more faith than what you initially thought, and that you are capable of big things through Him? Or, maybe He is trying to make you stronger. He is showing you where you are weak, hurting, sinning, or where you may lack faith.

We should understand that a trial may come in the form of temptation. Do you remember how Christ went through a period of testing in the wilderness just after He was baptized? It was there that satan tried to get Jesus to sin, and by doing so, disqualify His ministry. As we know, Jesus “was without sin or blemish” and by doing so He fulfilled yet another prophesy.

Whether our trial comes in the form of temptation, difficult circumstances, or something entirely different. What is the one requirement for it to become a blessing? The requirement is that we remain steadfast.

To remain steadfast means that we remain faithful, we remain true, we remain dedicated to God. It means that we are unwavering and firm, just as we are in the good times of life. We remain faithful, we remain hopeful, we remain loving (in action and in heart) towards God and others, we continue to do the work God has given us.

It is through remaining steadfast that we prove our love and faithfulness to God. Love always leads to sacrifice. Is it so terrible that we should suffer a little, after our Savior suffered so much? I think that we’ll survive! J

So, today, if you find yourself in the midst of a trial, see it as a blessing. Remain steadfast in your faith and love! After all, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Maybe you already knew this, but it wasn’t you that needed to hear it. Perhaps, the person that is in the cubicle beside of you, or the house beside you, or the friend that sits beside you needed to hear that the difficult circumstance they are facing can be a blessing from God, if they remain steadfast in love to Him.

Be BLESSED!

-Caleb

Blessings by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise…

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy