Serious Threats to my Faith

hebrews-11.jpg

I found myself struggling yesterday to keep my faith that God will come through for me. Does this ever happen to you? It left me feeling defeated and discouraged rather than victorious. I’m not sure why but I frequently forget about God’s faithfulness to me and focus on what doesn’t seem to be going right. Thankfully I recognized the error in my way and asked God to forgive me for allowing my faith in Him to slip. Sadly I’m sure this will happen again soon enough as it always does. Having faith in tough times is a continual process of ups and downs, and something I need to be mindful of.

Below are some things that can kill my faith so fast I don’t even realize its happening. (When I say faith, I’m not talking about my faith in Jesus Christ as my savior, I’m talking about my faith that God will get me through difficulty). Avoiding these things is critical to keeping my faith in God strong.

Focusing on the Negatives: When Peter walked on the water he looked at the crashing waves around him and started to sink. I can feel like I’m sinking sometimes despite the great things going on around me. Peter was walking on water and yet he was focused on the chaos around him instead of the miracle that was unfolding. I don’t know for sure if this was the case, but I wonder if Peter expected Jesus to calm the waters for him once he stepped out in faith. Maybe this is something I believe sometimes? I think that God will fix all the chaos around me in response to my faith. Just as this wasn’t the case for Peter its not the case for me or for you. In fact, we are told we will face various trials in order to test the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), not that our step of faith will eliminate trials. When we focus on the negatives we are doubting and displaying a lack of faith. Recently I started a thankfulness journal. Every day, or at least it should be every day, I write down things that I am thankful for that day. This helps keep my mind in the right place. Just today God faithfully provided something I was in need of but all I focused on was what He didn’t seem to provide. I know He was saying the same thing to me that He said to Peter. O Ye of little faith, why did you doubt? My prayer is that I will learn to focus on Jesus and his faithfulness to me, rather than on what isn’t going right.

Thinking it’s all about me: When it’s all about me and my selfish desires I forget that the reward I should be seeking is heavenly. Hebrews talks about how the men of faith in the Bible looked to a greater heavenly reward. In fact, many of them never even saw the promises God had made fulfilled until they entered into heaven and stood before their savior. It can’t be all about me and all about Jesus at the same time. Last night I was struggling to have faith because things seemed to be going all wrong. I realized that my joy was tied to things going my way, rather than trusting that if my life’s goal is to bring God glory and further His kingdom instead of my own I can believe that everything is going exactly as it should be.

Expecting the worst: Does my faith run out when I don’t see the evidence? What’s it going to take to get it through my head that God created me and that He has good things planned for me. Again this only strengthens my faith if I believe those good things He has planned revolve around Him getting glory and others lives being impacted for Christ. If I’m stuck thinking that it’s all about me then I’ll probably miss it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God has good planned for me according to HIS purpose, not Jamie’s purpose. If my focus is on Jesus Christ and its not all about me then I will only expect good things and so will you!

Advertisements

Alcohol and the Church

wine_2656481bI have contemplated writing about this for a while but honestly didn’t feel like it. I decided to do it because, what the heck, why not? This seems to me to be a highly debatable and touchy subject when it comes to Christians of most denominations. I’ve thought and read about it a lot and hope that I can discuss it in a way that is honoring to the truth found in God’s Word. This isn’t a post condemning or condoning alcohol, I simply wanted to share my thoughts on what I think God’s Word says about the matter. If you disagree or feel like something I say is way off base please feel free to share as I value your input!

Lets start by looking at some verses that condemn drunkenness, not alcohol itself.

Ephesians 5:18: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Isaiah 5:11: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!                                                   Definition of woe: things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles.

Romans 13:13: Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

These verses make it pretty clear that drunkenness is indeed sinful and leads to trouble. I certainly don’t disagree. So why is this such a hot topic among believers of Christ?

Some people have the opinion that alcohol of any amount should be avoided at all costs due to the risk it poses. This is fine unless it leads to judgmental thoughts towards others who don’t hold the same opinion, and vice versa. Overall, the Bible doesn’t state that followers of Christ should totally avoid alcohol.

Is there anywhere in the Bible that does say something like this? Well yes, pastors are called to a higher standard and are commanded not to drink. The Bible talks about this in 1 Timothy 3:1-7  Verse 3 specifically says “not given to wine.” Later on in this chapter in verse 8 it mentions that deacons should “not be given to much wine.” Notice the difference, pastors aren’t to be given to wine at all, and deacons aren’t to be given to much wine. God clearly calls deacons to use sound judgment and wisdom in drinking wine but not to avoid it altogether. In addition to these verses, in Proverbs 31 king Lamuel is encouraged by his mother to avoid wine and strong drink so that he may rule his people justly and with wisdom (Proverbs 31:1-9). If there was no risk in drinking alcohol God would not call those in places of leadership like pastors and kings to avoid it altogether.

These verses clearly indicate that drinking alcohol is to be approached with great caution and discernment. Another problem with the idea that alcohol should be avoided entirley is that this approach might not be taken regarding other issues. For example, the bible teaches us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), yet does this mean we should avoid having money at all costs just in case? In fact, I would argue that while alcohol clearly poses more danger to someone physically, the love of money poses a greater threat to a person’s spiritual health. We cannot pick and choose with God’s Word based on our opinions.

So does this mean that as long as you aren’t getting drunk everything else goes? Not quite. It can’t be argued that alcohol is a potentially dangerous substance. After all, many people have been greatly impacted by the damaging affects of it. My grandfather was an alcoholic and died when he was in his fifties from liver damage. His family was impacted deeply by his alcoholism. This is the story for many others as well. Considering this and the warnings God offers in His Word it seems that drinking alcohol should be something that is done cautiously and with discernment.

It’s a pretty common thing these days to hear about Christian fellowship in which alcohol is involved. I’m not saying at all that this is sinful, but it could potentially be harmful. For example, Romans 14:21 says “ It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” We are accountable for how we impact those around us. Don’t assume that the people around you have the same views on drunkenness that you do. In fact, you don’t know if someone you are offering a drink to has had struggles with alcoholism or is heading in that direction. Again, I am not saying that the Bible teaches us not to drink with other believers, what I am saying is that based on what I have read I believe it teaches us to ensure that what we are doing is not going to cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. We need to take this very seriously.

One other point I thought I would mention is that alcoholism is not the same as drunkenness. A person can become a slave to alcohol without being a slave to drunkenness. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” If for some reason you feel a deep need for alcohol and cannot say no to it there may be a problem. Maybe you have wanted to stop drinking for health or other reasons but can’t, or maybe you avoid gatherings where you know there will be no alcohol, as you need to have it to enjoy yourself. These could be signs that alcohol may have a grip on you and could end up becoming a struggle. This verse is true for anything in our lives, not just alcohol, but obviously that’s what we are talking about here.

I hope that if you are reading this blog you don’t walk away thinking that I am judging people who drink or who choose not to drink. I just felt a desire to write about what I feel that Bible teaches us as it relates to drinking. In my personal opinion because of the dangers of alcohol that the Bible does describe I do believe it is something that should be approached with much wisdom and discernment. Thanks for reading!

The Secret to Perfect Peace

peaceIsaiah 26: 3-4

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lordis everlasting strength

I don’t know about you but when I hear the phrase “perfect peace” I get a tad skeptical. Is it really possible to have perfect peace? According to God’s Word it is. My other question is this, Can I really keep my mind fixed on the Lord? One definition of peace describes it as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. This was my favorite, as oppressive thoughts and emotions are almost always the culprits behind my lack of peace. Can you relate?

So what is the secret to possessing this perfect peace that God promises us? First of all I think we need to take a step back and gain some perspective on just how incredible this promise really is. Here is a personal story of a time when I found perfect and unexplainable peace despite the difficulty I faced.

My daughter was only 4 weeks old when we were told that she had a large hole in her heart that would likely require surgery. I was shocked and had no idea how in the world I would be able to handle the situation. six months of daily medications, weekly dr. apts., constant vomiting, and stress over the possibility of dehydration, the time had come for her open heart surgery. I can honestly tell you that during those six months and the next four days to come my husband and I had a peace that was so real and unexplainable. We didn’t doubt that God would keep her safe, regardless of the outcome of surgery.

Something I thought about while planning to write this blog really opened my eyes to the gravity of this verse. Living in America and being told that my child has a large hole in her heart is a lot different than living in a third world country and being told the same thing. Children are dying from this very same condition simply because they lack the medical care necessary for repairing it. This verse is just as true for these mothers as it is for me. Its not the potential outcome of a situation that determines the level of peace we can have, it is God’s mercy and goodness.

This verse is true for us when it comes to horribly tragic scenarios like the death of a loved one, and seemingly simple scenarios like a conflict with a friend. The secret to receiving this promise of peace comes through keeping our minds on Him. Below are three things that have helped me to keep my mind on God even when it seems impossible, resulting in experiencing His perfect peace.

Trusting God: Isaiah 26:3-4 points out that those who keep their minds on God do so because they trust in Him. If we don’t trust in God then we wont be able to keep our minds on Him, its as simple as that. The reason I was able to have peace while my daughter was in surgery, and even during the months leading up to it, was because I trusted in God’s love and goodness. I knew that no matter what might happen God would take care of me and would remain faithful. Honestly, there is no secret to trusting in God. In my opinion you either do or you don’t. Its all about your heart and whether or not you have made the choice to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, the choice to live for Him.

Loving God’s Law: Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have those who love your law and nothing causes them to stumble.” We have to have a love for God’s law if we expect to be able to keep our minds on Him. Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. I don’t know about you, but the people I can focus positively on are those that I love deeply and affectionately. If you aren’t deeply in love with God and longing to please Him it will be hard to keep your mind on Him. Jesus pointed to this very thing when He said in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” To love God’s law is to obey Him. To obey Him is to trust Him.

Praying Diligently: As I mentioned earlier disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions are steelers of peace. We can keep our mind on God by submitting our requests regarding our worries, hurts, and pain to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Believe me, I mess this one up a lot. I often find myself ruminating on negative thoughts before I decide to go to God in prayer, resulting in a lack of peace. When I choose to go to God with my fears and worries and surrender it to Him I am able to experience His peace. Prayer helps you to shift your focus from the worries that are stealing your peace to God.

The interesting thing is, if we don’t trust in God we wont love his law and we wont seek Him through prayer. We have to remember that we can only walk in the promises of God once we have made the choice to follow Him. For me personally, I have to start with trusting in God and believing in His goodness in order to love Him and His Word enough to keep my mind on Him and experience peace. Have you ever tried this? Are you struggling to find peace in tough times? I promise you that He is there and is waiting for you to place your trust in Him. Once you do there are endless promises of peace and goodness waiting for you.

What are some other things that have helped you focus on God and experience His perfect peace? I would love to hear your insights!

 

If Sin Doesn’t Bother us there’s a Problem

biblePsalm 119:136
Rivers of water run down my eyes because men do not keep your law.

I love David’s passion for God. His clear and, as he puts it, freewill offerings of his mouth to the Lord are awe inspiring. This verse really spoke to me. I should be devastated when I see others willfully sinning against God, choosing not to obey Him. Even more so other brothers and sisters in Christ. Earlier in this same chapter in verse 11 David says “your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” . This is the difference maker right here. If Gods Word isn’t hidden in our hearts and we aren’t passionately in love with Him and seeking to obey Him seeing others willfully sin probably won’t bother us.

Are you desperate to obey God? Does it break your heart to see people living against His Word? Other Christians even? Funny story, recently I was told that after my husband and I left a get together the rest of the group started acting differently than they had when we were there. First of all, I was devastated and sad by what I was told. Secondly I was okay with the fact that they felt they had to hide this behavior from us, knowing that would be bothered by it. We have to wake up and take an honest look at our lives and determine who we really want to please. David wanted to please God and he knew that in order to do so he had to make a serious commitment to living each day with Gods Word in his heart. He couldn’t afford to flip flop and neither can we.

What this means is that we can’t be okay with our own sin or the sin of those around us. We can’t hide from God. If people living against God’s Word doesn’t break our hearts it might be because it really doesn’t bother us. What choice will we make each day? Will we hide Gods Word in our hearts and strive with all our effort to not sin against Him? We won’t get it perfect, but if we make this our daily goal we will certainly be on the right track to living a life with a heart after God, according to His will with an abundance of joy.