It was the year 1980.
A mom of four, wild and rambunctious boys had come to know Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior a few months prior. A close friend had invited her to attend a Bible study. And Diann quickly obliged. She was sick and tired of those bible thumping, goody-two-shoe Christians telling her how to live her life. Hmph. What difference would Jesus make anyhow?
With ulterior motives, Diann planned and schemed to convince all the Christians in the room that Jesus wasn’t real. How he was some made-up, imaginary friend that people talked to as a way to cope with life’s difficulties. Why…if He were real…why was her life so hard?
The women in the bible study handed Diann a bible that day, and she began to read. She planned to read it from cover-to-cover and undermine its authenticity at their next meeting. She wrote down her arguments and continued to muse…“I bet I can change everyone’s mind.”
But, funny thing…she couldn’t put the good book down. It continued to draw her in. As if someone were personally speaking directly to her. Addressing her concerns. Peeling her heart open wide.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
And now that she had met Jesus, she wanted her family to know Him as well. When she heard Billy Graham was coming to Reno to speak, she asked her husband if he would go along for the ride.
Packing two of their teenage boys, her husband Jim agreed to the 45-minute drive. His plan was to drop them off at the Coliseum while he hung out at the neighbouring casino with the all-you-can-eat ribeye.
However, upon arriving, he decided to go in for a bit. Just to hear the music from a converted rock star. He would slip out in a few minutes. Purposefully picking a seat in the very last row.
But then Billy Graham got on stage and Jim felt glued to his seat, unable to go anywhere. He listened to every word from his mouth…and when an altar call was given, Jim walked forward to give His life to the Lord.
When he turned around, he saw that his two boys came forward too. I know this story well…because this is my husband’s testimony. Jim and Diann are his mom and dad.
Thank you, Billy Graham!
Here is the sermon they listened to…so many years ago. Enjoy!
I haven’t written a blog post in like forever (or so it seems)…but I thought I would give you a reason. I have been taking this discipleship class at my church and studying theology so that I can write even better blogs that are based on sound doctrine. Studying and preparing for the class have zapped away the hours that I typically would spend writing to you. But during this process, I have learned that it is really important for all of us as believers to have a biblically sound theology rooted deeply in God’s Word.
What is theology?
Theology is more than deep-rooted knowledge of the Bible. It is knowledge about God that impacts our thinking, feeling, and doing. And the only way we gain rightful knowledge about God is through His Word.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Why is it important?
Theology enables us to think rightly about God. We have to have our facts correct. As believers, we want our thinking about God to be in line with His character and His attributes as revealed in His Word. We have to ensure that our thinking lines up with the truth and accurately reflects Scripture. Whenever my thinking towards God is contrary to His Word, I know that I am out of line. For example, in Exodus 34:6-7, God describes Himself to Moses by saying, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Therefore, anytime my thinking towards God is contrary to His character…anytime I think the Lord is unloving or quick to anger, or is being unfair, or stingy…it is my thinking that has gone awry. We must seek to know the truth. We must dig into God’s Word. We must long to know God first-hand.
Theology results in right relationship and affection towards God. Without relationship, theology is dead, legalistic, mundane, and boring. It becomes task-oriented rather than relationship oriented. Correct theology desires to know God personally, not merely facts about Him.
Theology results in right action. When we begin to experience God, it affects the way we live. It begins to pour out from our lives in every moment. How we parent. How we spend our time. It impacts the decisions we make and the things we truly value. It is reflected in how we spend our money and what we do in our spare time. Whether you realize it or not…you are living for something. And your behaviour comes out of what you believe.
This morning as I read Romans 1:1 I was struck by the description Paul uses for Himself. It reads, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Paul’s extraordinary life of sacrifice reveals that he truly believed that he was set apart. He lived with great purpose. He preached with great confidence and conviction that Jesus is the way of salvation. Not a phoney baloney, half-hearted, mediocre, boring message. This is THE message of God becoming man in order to save a broken, sinful, complicated people like you and me.
When it begins to settle in that Jesus came to die for your sins and give you eternal life, in return you want to live differently. You want to know God and live a life that is set apart for Him.
Let’s become a people that love God and live devoted to Him in the new year!
Waiting and enduring is extremely hard. But I promise you–weaning ourselves off the ways of this world and onto the richness of God’s glory is worth it. Do not grow weary in the wait.
We were created with a desire to be happy. There is nothing wrong with this desire. We do not need to repress or deny it. The problem, however, is we are far too easily satisfied with the things of this world. We sell short, rather than holding out for the greater reward.
You were made for more. There is more. But will you believe it with all of your heart? Will you live it out with all of your might?
When we dig deep into God’s Word, we quickly see that God’s way are counter-intuitive to our own. His ways are different from the ways of this world. Here are just a few examples:
- God rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6, “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.”
- It is better to give than to receive. Acts 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
- Suffering is worth it. Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
- Heaven is real. John 20:29, “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
- God wants your joy to be full and complete. John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- God wants to give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4,“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
God wants you to be happy. He wants to be your greatest treasure. He wants to make your joy complete in Him. God is not about less satisfaction, less happiness, less joy…He is all about more. And the only way we will get there is by experiencing God in His Word and in prayer.
Be honest with yourself today. Is God your greatest delight? Do you really want to know God more? Spend some time reflecting and going to the throne room in prayer.
God allows situations into our lives to test-drive our faith. In other words, testy people or unlikeable circumstances may be permitted into our lives in order for us to put our faith into action.
Do we really believe what we say? Or are we just talking the talk and not walking the walk?
For example, let’s say I wanted to buy a new car. First of all, I would sit down with my husband Coby and talk about what we could afford. Then, I would spend countless hours meandering through the worldwide web looking at cars that would best suite our family. And of course, I would probably glance at a few options that may not be a good choice, but nonetheless, are quite tempting. I would also read some car reviews by actual owners and peruse the Consumer Magazine car rating (just because my dad always told me to). And then, the day would come that my hubby and I would drive to the car dealer and look at the car we wanted. We would try out the seats and the beautiful amenities. Satellite radio. Sun-roof. Internet for the kids. The car salesman would now be hounding us and we would comply by asking to take it for a test drive. Why? Because we want to know first-hand how the car handles. We don’t want to just hear it from somebody else.
In much the same way, you can say you believe in God. You can memorize a few bible verses and sing a few worship songs. You can go to church and even be arm-twisted into serving in the kid’s area. You can take a bible study class. You can even be extremely bold and tell someone else you believe in God. You can go through the all the motions. But you will never know God in the deep, rich, abundant way that you should until you experience Him for yourself. It must become personal.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
God tests our faith to produce steadfastness, which is also translated as endurance. It comes from the Greek word hypomonḗ and is defined as “a remaining behind, a patient enduring.” Not getting out in the lead. Not running your own show. Patiently enduring the challenges God allots in our lives so that (keep reading James 1:2-4)”…steadfastness will have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Isn’t that what we all are after? A mature faith. A steadfast faith. Perfect and complete, lacking nothing. One more verse…
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
May you find hope in knowing that our trials are but for a little while. They are temporary. They will not last forever. And yes, we will be grieved by our various trials, but we can hold on to this truth: “We are tested so that the genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” God allows us to be tested over and over again so that we become seasoned faith walkers.
- So that we grow deep roots.
- So that we are not easily shaken.
- So that we are tenacious and steadfast in our pursuit of Him.
Stick in there, my friend. Heaven is worth this crazy ride!
“The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” Tom Landry
The same could be said of Christianity! It will take some work. Elbow grease will be required. If we want to look more like Jesus, it will require from us spiritual discipline. Things like reading God’s Word, praying, fasting, listening, and doing. Growing into godliness requires much patience and time…but it is worth the effort! Everything we do to look more like Jesus is worth our time.
“…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7
Waiting is an essential ingredient to the process of prayer. When we fail to see prayer as a process rather than an end result, we become discouraged and frustrated and downright mad. It is during this time that many of us drop-out. We forget about the importance of prayer. We begin to think that God is not there. Prayer is useless. It is a waste of our time.
However, when we see waiting as part of God’s refining process in our lives, our perspective changes. We see waiting from a new point of view. We see that during the wait God is changing us and transforming us and making our desires be in line with His. Prayer removes us from our time bound, earthly thinking and helps us see things from a heavenly view.
- Read Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
- Read Romans 8:24, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”
- Read 2 Corinthians 4:18, “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
What do these verses teach you about faith and hope?
We can trust that when God brings waiting periods into our life, it is for our good. It may appear that God is holding back and hoarding His riches. We may be tempted to think that we must convince God to let go of His resources and play nice. Possibly you view prayer as a means to pry riches out of God’s reluctant hands. When we start thinking God is stingy, mean, outdated, far away, reluctant, or apathetic…we should be alerted to go back to God’s Word. For starters, what we see in our earthly realm is only an appearance. It is not the full-truth. It doesn’t include what is happening in the heavenly realm. And secondly, we need to assure that our thinking is in line with the Word of God.
Listen to what God’s Word says. God lavishes on us the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7-8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. He richly blesses all who call on Him. Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
It pleases God to do you good. I’m going to say that again because I have a feeling this may not be settling well with some of you today. You may not believe this to be true…it pleases God to do you good.
It gives God great joy to give you every good thing. –sue a. allen
There is this thing called the wait. We pray. We wait. And it is during this time that we often feel anxious, frustrated, discouraged, and without hope. We forget of God’s provision. We wonder if He will answer our call. Living a praying life requires a 180° turn from our natural, human inclination. It means doing things God’s way, which may or may not make any sense. It may mean going against popular opinion. It may mean taking a stand against our flesh by letting go, yielding, and admitting we need help. And for most of us…no, let me rephrase that…for all of us, admitting we need help is hard.
I have a five-year old named Comerson. Many of you have heard me talk about him before. And I have noticed a particular trait in him: IMPATIENCE. If you tell him we are going to go do something, he has no concept of why he has to wait. He doesn’t comprehend time like my older children. If I tell him he is going to have a playdate with his buddy tomorrow, he thinks tomorrow is right now. Pronto. On the double. He will pester me to get ready. To get in the car. And drive him down the street so that he can play. In all honesty, I would have been much better off by keeping my mouth shut than to tell him about any of our future plans. Why? Because he cannot comprehend that today is not tomorrow. He doesn’t understand the concept of time.
I think we can all relate. We have our mind set on what we want and how we want it to come to fruition. We have a dream. A plan. An idea. We don’t understand why we cannot have it immediately. We don’t see the goodness of time.
In his opening remarks to his very first sermon, better known as the Beatitudes, Jesus addresses how we are to approach God. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” means ptōxós (from ptōssō, “to crouch or cower like a beggar”) – properly, bent over; (figuratively) deeply destitute, completely lacking resources (earthly wealth) – i.e. helpless as a beggar. I wonder how often we view prayer in this way. I wonder how often we feel utterly destitute and helpless without God. I wonder what hinders us from being “poor in spirit.”
Until we recognize the blessedness of being wholly dependent on God, we won’t live with the abundance that is available to us. Our helplessness is a blessing. Being dependent on God is for our good.
Why is waiting so good for us? What is God accomplishing with us during this time? What idols are being revealed?
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
6-7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.
8-11 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11
As I have watched my friends and family struggle through this unthinkable storm named Harvey, I have also been encouraged by the ferocity of their faith. Thank you, Houston for showing our nation how to work together. Thank you for giving God glory in the midst of the storm. Thank you for showing us that God can (and will) carry you through.
I have seen Christ in you this past week…and I just want to say Thank You!
You are loved.
You are cherished.
You are being prayed for.
There come times I need to be reminded that God is sovereign. He’s in control. Of all things. From the beginning to the end.
He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. He has a plan. He has a story to be told.
Nothing takes Him by surprise. He has an answer for everything. All things, big and small, are being woven into His sovereign and redemptive plan.
Psalm 33:11, “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (NIV).
But despite the knowledge of God’s sovereignty, our minds struggle to reconcile the atrocities we face. Brutality in Charlottesville. Terror attacks in Barcelona. Policemen shot down. Just to name a few.
Maybe it even becomes more personal for you. A broken relationship. Rebellious child. Or terminal disease knocking on your door.
It is at times like this that it is difficult to find an answer. We cannot solve the problems that we see. We grapple to make sense.
But then I remember the story of Joseph. A boy who was sold into slavery by his older brothers. When you look at the story of Joseph, it appears that something went deeply awry. Somehow God’s plan got messed up. From the outside looking in, it looks like evil wins.
But now, take a look at God’s perspective. Psalm 105:8-13 says, “He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance. When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people.” Long story short, God had a plan all along to take Israel to Egypt and back to Canaan. It should not come as a surprise to us. This was part of God’s plan all along. Four generations ago, to Joseph’s great grandfather Abraham, God said this, “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13).
This really does blow my mind. We may think we are in control, but in actuality, it is God. And because God is ultimately in control, we can find rest for our weary souls.
What are you facing today? How will you face your personal adversity?
God’s plan in your life may not look anything like you expect. Things may not appear to be going well. You may not be able to see how God is going to use your life for good…and for His glory. It may appear that God has somehow messed up. But hold on…because there is more. There is always more. God is working out his plan from generation to generation. His plan is never short-term!
Under the protection of Joseph, we see the nation of Israel grow and flourish. Psalm 105:23-24, “Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And the Lord made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes.”
God’s story is not just about Joseph. God’s story is not just about you. God’s story is about every tongue, tribe, and nation. God’s story spans the entire globe.
When I was five years old, I really, REALLY wanted to have a pet. I begged and begged my parents for all kinds of animals to come live in our home. I remember being allowed to babysit the pet gerbil from my kindergarten class over one weekend and sitting in my room for hours and playing with that little critter. You would think that would be the tipping point for my parents and persuade my parents to run out to Petsmart to buy something. Anything. They could ignore me all weekend! I kept to myself. No arguing with my brothers. No whining that I had nothing to do. I was a happy camper. But then the little critter had to go back to school and I kept up the fight. I enlisted my two brothers.
When the little critter went back to school, I kept up the fight. I enlisted my two brothers alongside me. My parents were outnumbered. We thought of all the reasons why a pet was a necessity in our home. It would teach us responsibility. It would be a companion for us. We would teach it tricks. We would somehow get jobs and pay for the pet food and supplies.
And then a lightbulb went off in my head. I would get God on my side. I would ask Him for a pet too.
“Dear Jesus, I want a pet. I want a kitten. A cute, cuddly kitten that I can sleep with and eat with and push around in my doll stroller. But if that’s not okay with you, a puppy is fine too.”
And then I started bargaining with my parents and with God. I will be obedient. I will take out the trash and set the dinner table. I will keep my room clean. I will be nice to my brothers. I will say “please” and “thank you.” Just tell me what you want from me and I will do it. I will earn a pet with my good behavior.
Funny how much our prayers sound like my childhood prayer.
We feel like we have to convince God to do what we want Him to do. We feel compelled to explain to God all the reasons why we need Him to answer. We think we have to prove ourselves. Maybe we need to give God some new information or inspire Him with some fresh ideas. Maybe if we talk more, He will listen. We feel like God is holding out on us and we have to put up a fight. We have to pray harder and longer and maybe…just maybe, He will see our side. This kind of praying puts a wedge between God and us…as if God were some kind of hoarder and we have to win His will.
The problem with this kind of praying is that it has an unbiblical view of God. It portrays a view that God is stingy, ornery, stubborn, and unkind. It makes one think they have to do something to earn God’s favor. Like He is an ogre and you have to steal your blessing from him or somehow get Him to release it.
But there’s more. This kind of praying also has an unbiblical view of self. It puts you in the driver’s seat. It makes you think that you can do something to get God to give you what you want. You can build a better argument like I tried with my parents to earn a pet. If you have the right words. If you have the right formula. If you pray in the right posture or order your words in the right order…then maybe, just maybe God will act on your behalf.
There’s a lot wrong with praying this way. For starters, it is burdensome and anxiety prone. It puts a burden on you to be more clever, wiser, and persistent. This person believes they have to work hard to get God to answer prayer…and they are left always wondering if their prayers will be heard.
The truth is God thought of prayer, not humans. God loves answering prayer. And God longs to do His work here on earth by involving us, humans, in the process.
God answers prayer…but He doesn’t always follow our instructions.
What are you praying for? Do you have a proper view of God? Do you have a proper view of yourself?