Category Archives: Our Faith Walk

Sure Facts, Overwhelming Odds, and God

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  Genesis 50:19-20 (KJV)

What do sure facts, overwhelming odds, and God have in common?  These are factors which often determine a person’s chance of success in the world.  While these may be actual considerations, they are not the final word.  We must always factor in the sovereignty and providence of God to not only level the playing field, but also to become the obvious advantage.

Sure facts take into consideration those elements we are born with or born into.  They include our “family factors”—our race, our gender, family structure (i.e., parental influence, number of siblings, birth order) and socio-economic position.  We had little control over their selection.  In the case of Joseph, he was born into the family of Jacob as the second youngest of thirteen children.  Jacob had two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah) who bore his children (Genesis 30) but Joseph was Jacob’s favorite (Gen. 37:3).  This created an unhealthy and toxic environment for child rearing marked with sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Overwhelming odds are circumstances that minimize the possibilities of success in life and relationships.  They sometimes affect one’s ability to earn a living, care adequately for one’s family, or to live safely and confidently.   Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver and was brought to Egypt.  Being a Hebrew slave, the odds of Joseph rising above his new found station in life was slim to none.  The odds became even smaller when he was thrown into prison as a result of the lies of Potiphar’s wife.  When it appeared release from prison was nigh, Joseph became the victim of the baker’s forgetfulness further obstructing any hope of freedom (Gen. 40:23).  But God was about to do exceedingly above all that Joseph could ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

God was on the scene for Joseph as the Holy Equalizer and Change Master.  What appeared to be sure facts and overwhelming odds for Joseph soon became “biblical history.”   God, the Holy Enabler and Way Maker, reversed the circumstances for Joseph whose journey began as a slave from Canaan but ended as a powerful ruler in Egypt.  He went from servant to savior for his people who would have perished from the famine in their land.  Joseph could have used the 16th Psalm as his personal testimony:  “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

Succumbing to what we believe are “sure facts and overwhelming odds” in our life can only result in despair and hopelessness.  Belief and trust in our God becomes the refreshing promise of rescue and provision regardless of the circumstances we face.  God’s plan and purpose for our life supersedes indisputable facts and devastating odds (Habakkuk 3:17-19).  Our future is not dependent on our family history or our personal past, but on Who we serve.  So the next time you’re weighing your options based on “facts and odds”, remember to factor in God.  God always has the final word.

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7

A Trilogy of Faith

“Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Matthew 9:29 (NLT)

We live in a world of skepticism—doubt as to the truth of something.  Our skepticism is reflected in the phrases we often use to reflect our disbelief:  “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is”; “nothing is free—everything comes with price”; “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!”

Skepticism is not unique to the twenty-first century.  During Jesus ministry, many refused to believe He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah.   Doubt about Jesus was expressed in a local colloquium of that day:  “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)   Although all His actions supported who He was, there were those with hardened hearts who refused to believe.   Skepticism operates on the theory that certain knowledge is impossible.  Let’s explore three (3) situations where faith and belief defied both skepticism and the impossible. 

Matthew 9:18-29 records the healing of three individuals by Jesus—the ruler Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood, and two blind men.    Three separate stories—a dying daughter, a decade of disease, and life lived in darkness.  Three situations viewed from man’s vantage point as impossible, irreversible, and hopeless.  The ruler and the woman, entered into their encounter with Jesus believing He was able to solve their dire situation; the blind men simply requested “mercy”, dependent on the integrity of the promised Messiah—His genuineness (He was who He said He was), His veracity (He could do what He said He would), His faithfulness (He would do what He said)—to make their healing a reality.   And how did they make their requests known?  The father humbly yet confidently asked Jesus to come.   The blind men called out and followed Jesus into the house.  The woman, disregarding the risk of discovery by the crowd (death by stoning) simply “reached out and touched”.  Jesus’ reaction was predictable, for no one will He ever turn away (John 6:37).  In response to Jairus, “He arose and followed Him” (verse 19); later Jesus cautioned Jairus to, “Be not afraid, only believer” (Mark 5:36).  To the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus gently spoke, “Thy faith has made thee whole” (verse 22).  To the persistent blind men, Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it (your healing) will happen.”  And their eyes were opened (verses 29, 30).

As believers it is important that when we approach God we come with an expectation of belief that He is the solution for whatever our impossible situation.  He will never turn us away. “He who comes to Him must believe He is (God, the Great I AM) and is a rewarder of those who diligently (sincerely) seek Him “(Heb. 11:6b).  These desperate characters in Matthew’s trilogy of faith earnestly sought Jesus knowing He would reward their belief with healing.  

As believers let us enter every personal encounter with God believing He can do the impossible.  Because of the integrity of God, we need never doubt nor fear.   Because of the love of God—His benevolence, grace, mercy and persistence—our faith in Him will enable us to stand fast in the most difficult of circumstances.  The characters in Matthew’s trilogy of faith exchanged their impossible situation for the God of possible (Mark 10:27).  That exchange is available to each of us who believe.  For with God nothing shall be impossible Luke 1:37). 

When God Closes Doors

“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt,

to the end that he should multiply horses:forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you,

Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.” Deut. 17:16 (KJV)

My favorite aunt gave me a small wood plaque to hang on the wall in my office. On it were written these words, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” The inference is that God in His wisdom and providence will always provide a way for us. The question then is, why does God close doors?

 For our benefit. Closed doors often lead to new opportunities in our lives. Closed doors force us to try new options, meet new people, and exercise spiritual gifts and talents that may never have been used. Joseph faced many closed doors in his life. The first door closed when his brothers sold him into slavery; the second door slam in his face when Potiphar’s had him falsely imprisoned. The final door, he thought, shut tight when the cup bearer forgot him for two years. Though the closed doors were first “used for evil, God used them for good.” (Gen. 50:20)

 For our spiritual maturity. Closed doors result in the strengthening of two important spiritual muscles–“trusting by faith” and “learning to wait.” In Hebrews 11 we see the “Faith Hall of Fame”, made up of those individuals who trusted God even when the doors appeared closed. (Hebrews 11 :4-31) Though the closed doors were first viewed as obstacles, they trusted in God’s promises and waited … even unto death. The results were both rewards and “great faith.”

For God’s glory. Closed doors position us to accomplish God’s purpose and plan for kingdom building. The Holy Spirit forbade Paul to preach the word in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). God had a different plan for Paul that would first take the gospel to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10) Though this door was first viewed as a detour from proclaiming the gospel, God expanded Paul’s ministry beyond anything he could have imaged; his epistles would become part of Holy Scripture, read and preached in countries around the world.

 In the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” contestants choose from “prize doors” that offer either a rich reward or an ugly, disgusting “zonk”. Knowing this, contestants must choose to open the right door and leave others closed. Our omniscient God doesn’t operate like this game show. Whatever door He closes can only lead to our good and His glory.

 Good to the Last Byte…

We are often in need of special assistance from influential people to help us with our request. We may ask them to help “open the door” byway of introduction or getting access to someone or something on our behalf. Are we, in like manner, able to trust God Him to close doors on your behalf” Has He closed doors that resulted in your good? 

The Plan of the Master Weaver

Our lives are but fine weavings,
That God and we prepare,
Each life becomes a fabric planned
And fashioned in His care.
We may not always see just how
The weaving intertwine,
But we must trust the Master’s hand
And follow His design.
For He can view the pattern
From the upper side,
While we must look from underneath
And trust in Him to guide.

Sometimes a strand of sorrow
Is added to His plan,
And though it’s difficult for us,
We still must understand
That it’s He who fills the shuttle,
It’s He who knows what’s best,
So we must weave in patience
And leave to Him the rest…

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why–
The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
And the threads of god and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

~Anonymous

Do Men and Women Sin Differently?

In the latest Barna study, the data was put forward that for the most part, men and women admit to being tempted by the same things at about the same level.  There are a few temptations that seem to affect men and women differently.
 On the men list
  •  Pornography (28% versus women 8%)
 On  the women list
  •  Gossiping or saying mean things about others (29% versus men 22%)
  •  Jealousy or envy (68% versus men 20%)
  •  Eating too much  (58% versus men 52%)
  • Spending more money than you have or can afford (39% women versus men 32%)
 I personally think eating and spending more money are really close and should be called a “temptation tie.”  Read the article link on WordBytes this week, then share your temptations–remember to be honest 🙂

The Top Lessons GOD Taught Me in 2012

God is the greatest teacher in the universe.  He began when He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I can image He shared with them what He wanted them to know about Himself along with how He wanted them to behavior while living in the garden.  The most painful and consequential lesson was what obedience looked like.  Adam and Eve learned that lesson the hard way!
God continues to teach us today.  He uses our life experiences and relationships to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), to transform our minds (2 Cor. 3:18), and to renew us in knowledge of Him (Col. 3:10).   God also teaches us through the tutorledge of His Holy Spirit, who lives within us (John 16:13).
As I reflect on 2012, I am always obligated to assess my spiritual growth the past year.  To that end, God has put it on my heart to develop a list of the “Top Lessons God Taught Me in 2012.” While I didn’t initially assign a “specific number”, it did result in a list of 20 items–and the list continues to grow.  For the purposes of “sharing” I will list my top 10 items.  It’s been fun reviewing the Scripture God has led me to memorize and become part of my personal “rhema.”

  1. What it means to forgive. 
  2. How to prayer daily for those who “do spitefully use and mistreat you.”
  3. The value of Christian community (outside your local church)
  4. I don’t have to have it “my way”!
  5. What it means to love like God.
  6. Daring to believe God for greater things than I can imagine.
  7. How extraordinary the gift of salvation really is and to read Scripture about it daily.
  8. God’s Word is the final word.
  9. What submission to God’s will looks like. 
  10. Learning to silence myself, listen for God and follow His leading.   
 Like Paul, “I do  not claim to have apprehended.” (Phil. 3:13) I will continue to embrace these lessons and learn from them until either The Rapture or God calls me to heaven.  Now it’s your turn.  We will make it easy only asking for three bt feel free to further expand your list for your own “spiritual review of 2012.”

Rising Above Sin: The Grace Factor Multiples

Our September 19th, we published a WordBytes entitled, “What Do We Do with Sin?”  Our intent was to show the relationship between our nation’s current social/economic dilemma and “sin.” In response, our guest writer, Bethany Spilde offers encouraging options to address the “elephant in the room”–SIN.  ENJOY!


That 6-word question (What do we do with sin?) splashed color on the elephant (SIN) that had blended into the walls of churches, homes and society.  And, like a carpet stain, it drives us nuts at first because we know it’s not supposed to be there.  Then, life gets busy and distractions come in.  Every day that passes, the stain is tolerated a little more until eventually it “blends in” and is forgotten.  That’s what we refer to as the “slow fade.”
Well, the freshly painted elephant needs our attention.  Take a deep breath and reflect on what is going on in our world. What sins have we accepted, tolerated or become numb to – which are leading families, leaders, communities and nations to ‘death’ (Ephesians 2)?   
So, what more could we do with ‘sin’ after we have confessed, repented and are dead to it?

Is there a way to lead our families, communities and nation away from their current direction?  What about the hopeless, ungodly, and captives which the last WordBytes referenced in 1 Peter 4:17-18?
YES!  If you have experienced God’s grace – it’s time to take it up a notch to GLORIFY Him! 
Your TESTIMONY has the power to inspire others to faith in Jesus Christ.
By SHARING your personal story of God’s saving grace, He is glorified!   It is our duty and privilege to share who God is and what He has done. We must never lose sight of the reality that God is active among us – it is what sets us apart from the rest of the world and inspires the lost soul to know Him.
In Romans 5, Paul writes: “…He [Jesus] has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.  And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!”
Also, in the tenth chapter Paul states that salvation is for ALL.  “How can people believe if they have not heard the message?  How can they hear if the message isn’t proclaimed? … How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!”
Indeed, it’s time to get real and relational with the people around us.  Bring the message.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we let our walls down and stop judging, we allow God’s love to overflow onto everyone around us.
What would happen to families, churches and society if parents and leaders humbly admitted/shared their personal failures and how their life has changed because of God?  What if there were more “God’s grace stories” in general – at breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Your testimony will encourage and increase faith in fellow believers and lead the lost to Jesus.  Even David took testimonies as a heritage, which rejoiced in his heart (Psalm 119:111).
What is the most effective way to share?
Start with God.  Talk about who He is and how He created the world and each of us in his image, with plans to prosper and give us hope.  He knew us before we sinned (example of Adam and Eve) and had a redemption plan in place (Jesus) to save us from a fallen world. 
Past sin/struggle. Describe the sin, a little of what life was like living from human nature/fleshly desires of the world, while realizing that God is bigger than any sin.  Note, this is where most people start their testimony (“I was a sinner” i.e. alcoholic, glutton, thief).  It’s important to start with God because He has been and will always be with us.
Jesus.  Next, explain your encounter with Jesus.  God sent His only son to die upon the cross for our sins, while we were still sinners, so that we might have a relationship with Him (Ephesians 2).  God loves you and cares deeply to not leave you where you are at.  He sees you as whole, complete, and His child above all else (Philippians 1:6).  He has specific plans for you, for good.  God’s kindness spurs us to confess and repent, knowing He is quick to forgive and shower us with the depths of His grace (Romans 4:7).
Life.  Share how are you living now after coming to Jesus with your sin and receiving Forgiveness and Grace.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  He has placed a new heart and spirit in us, which inspires us to do what is right and good (Ezekiel 36:26). 
It is my hope that you and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will be bold in rising above the sin through your testifying of His Grace in your life.   I pray boldness and courage…and an increase of faith and revelation for you.  Who will you “say it forward” to for His Glory? 
 Bethany Spilde is the founder of Social Buzz Media, a leading social media, relationship marketing and branding firm. She is also an adjunct professor, and recently honored as an Emerging Leader of the Year by eWomen Network.  Bethany is an international speaker on leadership, dream discovery and team building.   She is also the founder of iRiseAbove, a non-profit focused on positive youth development and purpose discovery. Bethany’s desire was to create an organization that would support young adults in realizing their soul print and calling, grounded in Truth. You can find out more at socialbuzzmedia.com and iriseabove.org. 

 

Examine Yourself

This morning I had the opportunity to listen to one of my favorite Christian radio shows. The show is formatted to resemble a Bible study session, where there is an open discussion of a particular Bible passage, character, or faith principle.  
Before closing, one of the study member said something that really resonated with me–so much that I had to share it with you.  The question was this, “Do people think well of God from being around me?”  This is a question worth some discussion.

We are told, in Scripture, who we are “in Christ”.

  • We are children of God (John 1:12).
  • We are His workmanship–His handiwork–born anew in Christ to do His work (Ep. 2:10).
  • We are partakers of Christ; We share in His life (Heb. 3:14).
  • We are ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

Since Christ has done so much for us, we should be the ultimate “poster child” for Him.  

  • For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him  (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  • Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
  • In whom we have redemption through the blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14).
As followers of Christ, we are to be “salt and light” in a dark world.  Our light should “shine” before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.  We are not to be conformed to this world–darkened by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  All this is  passing away.  But he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). 
So, now, your response.  “Do people think well of God after being around you?  If your answer is “yes”,  glory be to God.  Hold fast to your profession of faith, in both word and deed.  If your answer is “no” then it may be time to examine yourself to determine, “why not?” (2 Cor. 13:5)

    

Faith that Perseveres: THE APPLICATION

 Read Hebrews 11.  All the Faith Hall of Famers “died in faith not having received “the promises” but having seen them afar off were and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13).  The word “promises” is a metonymy for “the things promised.” This speaks specifically to the promised Messiah and future heavenly inheritance.  
As “partakers of God’s glory”, we have begun to receive the promises of God on “this side” of eternity”(2 Pet. 1:3-11) with the glorious assurance eternal life on “the other side.”   Informed with the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 4:6) and empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), we can move forward with that which God has set before us “being fully persuaded, that what He (God) had promised, He was able also to perform (Rom. 4:21). 
 
Here are key principles we can learn 
from the Faith Hall of Famers on persevering faith.
 
1.      We must believe that He who promises faithful.  This requires you know Him in a personal way—in relationship.  This includes daily communion and fellowship with Him to better understand His will and His ways.  Would you put your life in the hands of someone you don’t know personally?  Confidence comes from knowing Him.
2.      We must understand His promises for our life.This begins by acquainting oneself with the promises of God.  Some scholars cite 365 promises of God for His people—one for every day of the year.  “Seeing afar off” requires visual acuity beyond our physical sight resulting in seeing beyond what we can see.  It is with spiritual eyes and the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to “see afar off.”   
3.      We must look past our experience here on earth and look forward to the effect of our work on the greater effort of “kingdom building.”   We must actively declare ourselves as “pilgrims” traveling through this temporary thing called “time.”  We have an assignment from our King (Matt. 28:19-20) to complete while here on earth.  But we must never forget our home is heaven.  We must, like the Faith Hall of Famers, declare ourselves as “pilgrims on this earth.”

Prosperity In The Word

There is much ado in the news this week about Creflo Dollar, pastor of the World Changers Church International in metro Atlanta, and his recent altercation with his daughter.  I found it interesting that most news releases gave special attention to the fact that Pastor Dollar is a proponent of the “prosperity message”, the size of his congregation, and the monies he earns through speaking and writing.    
 
Let me begin by saying this about Pastor Dollar’s prosperity message.  I think Pastor Dollar has been successful in sharing God’s desire to bless and provide for His children. This is not new information but clearly communicated throughout God’s Word.  In The Sermon on the Mount, specifically, Matthew 6, Jesus shared God’s promise for provision and attempts to relieve the anxiety of people over their needs (vv.27-32). Jesus, however, in the same sermon warns the masses not to lay up treasure on earth but in heaven.  “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.” (Matthew 6:21, New Living Translation)  We are instructed to seek Him first and He will take care of our needs (v.33).  Writers of the Old Testament warn of the fleeting value of riches and the perils of allowing them to become our “idol”. Proverbs 23:4 specifically warns: “Labour not to be rich…”   
While many criticize Pastor Dollar for his “prosperity message”, they must also recognize his success in preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).  I think the “hating on Pastor Dollar” originates from believers and ministries who are being challenged to better present the “Gospel message”—clearly, unabashed, and unashamedly. This is not happening in many of our churches.  Let me further explain, by sharing my experience with the prosperity message. 
While I was “saved” at nine (9), I didn’t relinquish lordship to Christ until I was forty (40).  Good church training but no clear presentation of what it really meant to be “die to sin” and “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:2,4).  What Pastor Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and other prosperity promoters did was “to stir up in my spirit” (2 Tim. 1:6) the desire to learn more about the Triune God.  In Christ, I learned I had a new identity—I was God’s child and joint heir with Him (Rom. 8:16-17) and I could be in a personal relationship with the Triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (who now lived within me). I was familiar with religion but relationship was something new!  And as I drew near to Him, He drew near to me (James 4:8).  The more I studied His Word, God directed me to more light and more truth about Himself.  God then re-directed my study to better teachers and ministers who built on my new knowledge of God (2 Pet. 1:3-8). Isaiah 55:11 best describes my experience with prosperity ministries:  “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
As believers we are personally responsible for developing and expanding our relationship with God. It requires us to get into His presence to know Him and be “known by Him” (Ps. 91:14).  It is God that we must seek—His face and not His hand.  He alone can provide what we really need—“grace and peace through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet.1:2) and “an inheritance incorruptible that doesn’t fade away” because it’s eternal (1 Pet. 1:3-4).