Do You Still Have “NO” Faith?

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40 NIV

I always find that verse interesting.  These were the disciples.  These guys had left everything to follow Him.  Jesus gave them authority to cast out demons.  I don’t have that authority.  These guys had a front row seat to all the best of Jesus’ teachings.  Some of them wrote books of the Bible.

Yet Jesus asked them if they have “no faith”?  What’s up with that?
I think it was because Jesus really does not feel our faith is complete until we are removed of any doubts.  I am not suggesting we will ever get there on earth.  I am certainly not there yet, but I do think that should be our goal.  We should strive daily to continue to grow in our faith and trust in Christ.

We will have days where our faith is so clear we feel we could move mountains and other days where we are barely hanging on to our beliefs, but over time, through a consistent and persistent walk with Christ He molds us into the person He wants us to be.

What would have to occur in your life today for you to take the next step of faith in Christ?   Is He calling you to a deeper level of trust?  Would He be more likely to say to you today, “Do you still have no faith?” or “Well done my good and faithful servant.”?  I realize that can change daily, but we should consider our lives in seasons and examine whether over time we are growing to trust Him more. Are you?

Walking The Talk of Authentic Christianity

I love this teaching Jesus did for the disciples, especially in the Message Version.

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. Matthew 23:1-3 The Message Version

I do not know about others, but I want to see authentic Christianity lived out in the lives of others. I do not want to follow someone who teaches God’s Word, but does not live it out in his or her personal life. Jesus seems to say here that some people talk a good talk, but they do not really “get it” in their hearts. They know all the right verbiage, but their actions do not mirror what they say.

One example is how we may teach a Gospel of love, but then we spew so much hate out in the way we treat others. It is okay to denounce sin, in fact we should, but when the sinners who practice the sin we are denouncing do not believe that we love them, then I am not sure people hear our message, because they cannot get past what they see as condemnation.

Jesus had a way of building a relationship with sinners, without condemning them, giving them an example of holiness, but fully convincing them that He loved and cared for them as individuals. He is the guy I want to follow as my example.

How about you?  Do you long to see authentic Christianity?

Quiet! Be Still! (Words of Jesus We Need To Hear)

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39 NIV

Just like that…storm over!

How many times have I underestimated the power and majesty of my Creator?  How many times have I tried to do something in my own strength only to realize that His touch is really all I needed?  How often do I struggle alone while He is waiting for me to allow Him to take over the situation?

Regardless of your struggle, no matter how hard things may seem for you right now, in spite of your perspective that things are impossible, the solution to your problem may be as simple as a “Quiet, be still.”  One word from Jesus and it could all be over.  One touch of the Master and your troubles could be solved.

Consider this question: What if your biggest problems are really just an easy fix for Him, but you have never trusted Him enough to work His will? Sometimes we underestimate His power and His love.  Sometimes He has the solution, but we are too busy trying to find it without Him that we never get to His solution for us.  James wrote in the Bible, “You don’t have because you don’t ask…”.  Could that be your problem today?

What are you facing today that is bigger than you?  Is it time for a conversation with the One who holds the answers?

Dealing With Negativity In the Church

One of the most frustrating things I know about being a pastor is the number of people who are negative about everything.  Thankfully I am in a great church and most of our negativity comes from outside our church, but I talk with pastors every week who tell me that groups of people are always negative about something they are doing.

Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church. The chief goal would be to love people no one else loved, even when they were not very lovely.  We have tried to plant a church with that philosophy.  Along the way we have discovered what Jesus experienced in working with religious leaders in His day. (See Matthew 16:5-12)  When a church reaches genuinely hurting people or when people in the church lead messy lives, the complainers will rise up, mostly among the most religious of people, and when these type people talk, their negative energy (yeast) spreads fast.

I have often told our staff that our ultimate goal is the same as every Bible-believing church in town. We are trying to help people grow to know Jesus and be more like Him.  Churches tend to try different methods, some work and some don’t, and sometimes churches can get more passionate about those methods than about the work the church is called to do, but the goal of the heart of any believer should be the same.  With that in mind, how do we respond to those who choose to complain and remain negative towards our own methods of trying to build Christ followers?

What do you do with negativity towards the mission God has called you to?

  • Be on guard against negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying line up with truth. Is it true?  If not, dismiss it.
  • Learn when necessary.  We should not refuse to listen to any criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss.
  • Surround yourself with the right people.  Some people are negative about everything and never encourage. Find people who can encourage you to walk closer to Christ.
  • Remember negative people spread things about others too.  It often helps me reconcile what a negative person says about me when I realize they are always spreading something negative.  If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim.  Do not give as much attention to the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention.  The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always negative is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity.  The fact is that if they are given a continued voice they will bring people into their negativity.  If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence then they will bring people along into positivity.
  • Remind yourself of truth.  Ultimately you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.
  • Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth, but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you.
  • Be truthful and positive around others. Decide that you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person.   Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious.

What ways do you have to deal with negative people?

Storms Of Life Come Quickly

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Mark 4:37 NIV

Is that not the way normal life happens?  One day you can be doing everything you know to do right, smooth sailing seems to be the forecast of the day, and then out of nowhere comes a furious squall. Has that ever happened to you?  On days like this in my life it always seems that one problem never gets lonely, because trouble seems to follow trouble.  When one thing goes wrong there will most often be other troubles come as well.

My advice is not to be surprised when troubles come.  They are a part of everyday living in a fallen world, even for the most dedicated believers.  In fact, the strongest people of faith I know are those who have experienced tremendous heartache and pain, which has shaped who they are today.  From very personal experience I can say that I would not be half the leader, Christian, pastor, father, husband or friend that I am without the times of excruciating torment I have experienced in life.  (If you want more of my story read previous posts on my BLOG, but there are some stories of heartache too personal to share. You have your stories too.)

The question for me at this stage of my life is not why the storms come, but how am I going to allow God to use them to make me into who He wants me to be?  Are you asking that question?

How has God used storms in your life to mold your character, your faith and your life?

Taking Jesus Just As He Is

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. Mark 4:36 NIV

At least the disciples went, that’s better than I have done at times. There have been times in my life where I followed Jesus closely and other times where I did not and, therefore, missed out on what God was trying to do in my life.

I love the phrase in this verse that says they took Jesus “just as he was”.  While I am certain some theologian can impart wisdom to me about exactly what this means, I’m a simple-minded guy and it speaks volumes to me with what I do know of Scripture and my life experience.

Too many times we try to take Jesus, as we want Jesus to be, not as He intends for us to be. We like Jesus to do things on our terms, not His terms. We try to put our stamp on Jesus rather than allow His stamp on us.  We try to fit Jesus in our box rather than conform our lives to Christ.

We don’t have to be followers of Christ long or have a Bible degree to figure out they would be better off with Jesus’ way than their own. I have often said that if you get better at something than Jesus is I’ll follow you.  Even an unbeliever often knows the teachings of Jesus are a better way for us to live.

That leads me to ask an important question: Are you following your way or Christ’s way?

If God should choose to alter your life agenda would that meet your approval?

When is the last time you really took Jesus…”Just as He is”?

Jesus Wants To Take Us To The Other Side

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
Mark 4:35 NIV

Over the next several days of posts I want to walk through a Scripture that has shaped my life over the years.  I preached on this passage recently.  You can listen or watch that message HERE and clicking on either Audio or Video Podcasts.  I intend to walk through this familiar passage verse by verse and share my thoughts along the way.  Feel free to add your own as we learn together.

Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat.  This was His idea.  I often have to remind myself that Jesus was always purposeful.  Even in His moments of play, Jesus was keeping the bigger picture of His role as a disciple-maker in mind.  He never let go of the fact that He was on earth a short time with an intended objective.  If I want to be like Jesus, I must continue to be purposeful with how I live my life.

The phrase “to the other side” is one that reminds me where Jesus is attempting to take me.  The other side is where God’s glory shines brightest.  It’s where I can fully and completely, even if only for a brief moment, know that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can and will do what He says He will do.  Going to “the other side” develops my faith.

Regardless of your situation today, no matter how grim it may appear, even if you have almost given up, Jesus wants to take you to the other side.  Even if everything is going well in your life today, He wants to do something new with your faith.  He wants to build a deeper trust in Himself.

Numerous times in my life I have sensed God was doing something new in me or around me.  At times it has taken months to figure our what He was up to at the time, but every time I have found that if I am patient, obedient to what I know to do and follow His lead, He has delivered me safely and securely to the other side.  Sadly, I can equally look back at times where I resisted His leading and missed out on what He was trying to do in and through me.

My prayer today is to always be willing to trust and follow Him to the other side.  Do you sense God’s stirring in you to take you somewhere?  Will you follow?

Exciting Series of Devotionals

I am excited about a new series of devotionals, which begins tomorrow and runs for 7 days.  Check back each afternoon for the next week and let’s be encouraged together about the power and strength of our relationship with Christ.  I believe these teachings can be helpful if you:

  • Are struggling to discern God’s voice.
  • Are going through a difficult period in life.
  • Can’t seem to find your way right now.
  • Need to grow in your trust of God.
  • Just want some encouragement.

If any of these match something in your life then check back each afternoon beginning tomorrow.

Feel free to answer this question now: What are you trusting and asking God to do in your life right now?

Be Careful Of The Love Of Money

us-money-photoI love progress.  I think a country thrives best under capitalism.  I frequent the businesses represented in my church because I want them to do well. They will do best when they earn more money. (Profit!)  I love for people who make money to invest money in the Kingdom of God.  It takes a lot of resources (money) to do the work of the church.

I have had time periods of my life where I have had plenty of money and times where I have been stretched for money.  One thing I have learned about money, and the point of this post, is that money can also be a dangerous force for the control of a person’s heart.

One of the most sobering verses to me of the Bible is:
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. Ecclesiastes 5:10

I think that statement could equally be said about the love of the things money can buy.

Regardless of whether you have lots or money or you are struggling to buy basic needs, please let me counsel you to be careful how you handle the things you love, especially money. I have seen the love of money destroy many lives.  Do not let it destroy yours.

Jesus said it like this:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

An Encouragement to Stay Faithful to God’s Call

In some quiet time this morning, God led me to pray for some of the struggling ministers I know and work with each week.  I was reminded also of this verse:

1 Corinthians 16:8-9
But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Sometimes we keep doing what we are doing because God called us to do it, not because we are popular, the work is easy, or even that we are being well received at the time.  Being obedient to the call of God is sometimes painful, unpopular, difficult, and seemingly unrewarded (at the time).

I am also reminded of this passage from Mark 10:29-31 (The Message Version)

Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.”

Do you need a reminder to hang tight to the call God has placed on your life?  How can I or the readers of this blog pray for you right now?