Breeds Of Belief

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that thy will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God its real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist – He would be a Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, Stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit.

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about is – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time – complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

Theodicy

You may be familiar with the cliche “Life is hard; God is good.” Maybe you’ve even said it to help get you through difficult times. If so, you’re going to appreciate knowing that it is more than a cliche. It’s a strong and solid theological truth. If you’re like me you are going to be encouraged by the fact that some really smart people who were here before us have wrestled with questions such as, If God is good, then why if this happening? Why is injustice allowed, and why does life have to be so hard? Why are children starving the death in Africa?

Philosophers and theologians refer to their conclusions on this topic with the complicated-sounding word theodicy (pronounced: thee od-euhsee), which is the name given to the study of how God’s goodness exists alongside the pain, suffering, injustice, and inequality of life.

Our problem is that we tend to assume that if life is hard, then God must not be good. But it’s not an either/or scenario — it’s both.

Life is hard; God is good.

Here are five statements that pretty much summarize the deeper reasoning behind Life is hard; God is good:

      • Although evil is an undeniable part of the world, the existence of evil cannot and never will cancel out the existence of good
      • Human beings don’t have to offer explanations for why evil is allowed to exist, only that it does. And by the same rules of reason, good exists as well
      • In the same way that Adam through disobedience opened the door of undeserved hardship for all of us, Jesus through obedience opened the door of undeserved favour for all of us
      • The fact that we experience undeserved consequences for someone else’s sin is now trumped by the fact that we experience undeserved favour for someone else’s righteousness
      • God’s undeserved goodness is not just equal to the undeserved hardship. It is surpassing in greatness

The evidence of these two realities is front and center in our lives every day. But what’s most important is which reality we choose to live our life from.

People who live from the “life is hard” reality see everything from that perspective. Sometimes when people are living from the “life is hard” reality they don’t even want to hear the good news. They have already decided that good news is not their reality. If you’re talking about something positive or something good, they usually wait for a chance to quickly turn the conversation back to the “life is hard” reality. It has become such a way of life for them that they don’t usually realize what they are doing.

The contrast between the two perspectives is so stark that it makes it difficult for people who choose to live in one or the other reality to get along. It’s like oil and water —the two don’t mix. You see things differently. You talk about things differently. You approach problems differently.

The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. In the natural realm we know that the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the absence of the sun. The clouds may temporarily block it, but the sun is still there. Even when you can’t see the sun directly, you can see it’s light as evidence that it’s there.

It is the same way with God’s goodness and favour. There are times we may not be able to see those attributes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When we don’t get the job we wanted or the person we were dating breaks up with us, we’re often quick to assume God’s favour and goodness is far away from us. But in time we come to realize that God was actually doing us a favour. He was saving us from hardship and struggle we would have had if we stayed in that relationship or got that job we thought we wanted.

So there you have it – Theodicy.

Now you know.

The Perfect Storm

The disciples were following Jesus wherever He went, assisting Him in all His ministries. They were listening to His Word and helping Him preach and share the Gospel of the Kingdom, yet they found themselves being tossed up and down by a storm and in real danger of drowning. The disciples were learning a difficult lesson – one every believer must learn: we can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a perfect storm at the same time!

When author Gary Thomas and his wife considered buying a house, they prayed diligently for God to guide them. If it wasn’t His will, they figured He would close the windows of opportunity.

The window did not close, so they proceeded with their purchase. Five years passed, during which they enjoyed their home and the blessing of God. Then the economy entered a tailspin, and the house was suddenly worth less than they had paid for it. They wondered why God hadn’t stopped them from making a bad investment. They had prayed. They had listened. They had not heard “no.”

As Gary’s wife was seeking God one day, she heard His answer: Have you considered the possibility that I wanted you in that neighbourhood to minister rather than to bolster your financial equity? That insight caused them to rethink their questions about God’s guidance. They realized it was all about lives touched for Christ rather than value earned from holdings. Now the question was, did they trust God enough to follow Him down a path with no financial profit, but with great spiritual profit?

Christ doesn’t ask us to take up our portfolios and follow Him; He says to take up our crosses. Comfort is not a factor. But He does promise that the way to grow into the image of Christ is by trusting and obeying in all circumstances.

As in the case of Gary and his wife, the will of God is not always crystal clear. But on that day by the Sea of Galilee, God’s will couldn’t have been clearer to the disciples: Jesus had said, “Let’s go!” They didn’t call a meeting to deliberate; they didn’t pray; they didn’t seek counsel from others. God’s will has been right there in front of them, so without hesitation, they got into the boat. And now the thing that loomed right in front of them was death.

This unexpected peril was something new for the disciples. So far, following Jesus hadn’t been overly costly – little more than quitting their jobs and getting a bit of carping and criticism from local religious leaders (Mark 3:22). But they had faced nothing life threatening. In fact, it had been just the opposite: they were close associates of the most popular person in Galilee. They’s been welcomed in small towns as heroes. This movement of God was working; and all systems were go. 

Then came the perfect storm. It certainly raised some questions.

Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ does not keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.

Jesus faced a perfect storm when He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. He knew what He was about to face – unthinkable torture and death – and He dreaded it. In the garden He cried out, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He was fully aware of the storm He was heading into.

The disciples in their tossing boat weren’t cognizant of these underlying spiritual issues. Fear gripped them, pushing aside all concerns about being in the will of God. But they were about to learn a priceless lesson: there is security is the heart of God’s will. Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience! Those men were in that storm because they had jumped in the boat when Jesus said, “Let’s Go!”

You will follow Jesus in a storm someday. And you will learn that, although it may be overwhelming, it’s the safest of all places to be. 

It Was One Of Those Days

It was a cool and overcast day after a number of fairly warm and sunny days. My office has four large 4 feet by 4 feet windows and so when it is sunny it is an amazing place to work. But, when it is overcast it can be less inviting. But it is a window on my world. I have a great view of all that goes on on my crescent as I can clearly see in three directions. So, because of the weather – light snow and then rain and cool – I spent the day writing blogs and researching a teaching that was for the weekend. A teaching on worry.

During the day I related to a few people on various social media apps. I don’t normally do that. Yes, I contact my own people who are part of the church I attend. And, I answer emails. But, the rest I leave alone as I want to stay focused on what I am writing and researching. However, I spent my early morning coffee listening to the governor of New York speak about the Covid-19 virus and, on a personal note, the fact that his brother (a CNN personality) had just been diagnosed with the virus. I have been impressed with the man’s leadership of the State of New York and even more impressed by his leadership qualities that day … especially when compared to the President, my own Prime Minister and others. So, I made a Facebook entry about my personal observation (something I don’t do often on my personal Facebook page)

Well, the bell kept ringing most of the day with reactions to what I wrote. I would like to say all positive and everyone agree with me. Not so! Interesting. Meanwhile I received an unsolicited “forward” by someone I know in Ohio. Political issues about congress. Which I did not read. Then one from the province east of mine about the connection between the Coronavirus and 5G. An unwanted video forwarded to me which I did not watch. Then another one from the same province about a dream they had and a video to watch (which I did not follow up on). By the way, I am not anti-social. I simply don’t have the time nor the interest to read, watch, or listen to everything that people send to me when I didn’t ask for them. 

But the one that blew me out of the water was a comment by a believer whom I know stating that Governor Cuomo was not a good leader because he threatened to close down the churches and synagogues if people gathered to worship. Permanently close them. 

Now, I believe the rule is that you can’t have a gathering of believers of any religion if the number coming together is over 50 -10 – 5 or 2 depending on the place where you live. This rule is to prevent larger groups of people coming together and thus spreading the virus faster. It is a matter of social-distancing. It also means all concerts, sports events, and political rally are also now not happening. So, no one is picking on the believers or those that are religious. It is simply a general, across the board rule to see if we can slow down the spread of the virus. And, although I did not see the specific announcement – there is no way according to the United States constitution that a government could permanently shut down the church. 

Do I smell panic here? Do I sense a conspiracy theory (or two or three) arising? I mean other than the one that this is a God-thing to remove the excess population on the planet. Had you heard that one? Or the one that says … Well, never mind. We have all heard them, right?

On a similar note: I was amazed that a number of pastors of large churches – several whom I would know by name – actually encouraged their people to come and worship in spite of the rules and recommendations. Wow! Now that’s good for our reputation as thinking believers. Not! And, I noted that one well-known pastor from Florida was even arrested for doing so. Good for the authorities. 

Is it just me or has the spirit of stupid been released upon the world. Folks, this is not a game. People (several whom I know) have gone from healthy to dead in a week. Let’s take this seriously shall we. Let’s not spiritualize the epidemic. Let’s use our common sense and follow the medical advice we are all hearing – advice every decent doctor is giving. And, let’s pray for those who are on the frontlines of fighting the virus. Let’s not distract attention away from what we can all do to slow the spread down.

And, by the way, believers … instead of all the conspiracy theories and dreams and visions and whatever – Let’s use this opportunity to share the love of Jesus and boldly tell others about the love of God and the salvation from sin that He offers to each and every person who believes. Let’s not get sidetracked and miss the opportunity to practically care for those in need and speak to hearts that are open.

Let’s represent Jesus in a practical and sane way and take advantage of the situation to bring people into the Kingdom. 

Stop Worrying

As we continue to face major changes in the way we live life due to the Coronavirus commonly known at Covid-19 … I am noticing how many people are worried about what is happening and what they should be doing. This is natural when you think about it. Jobs are being lost. Family income is being effected in adverse ways. Stores are closing. Schools and universities are closed. You can’t go out for coffee or a meal. Life as we know it has been abruptly interrupted. And, the level of concern and worry has gone up.

So, repeat after me: Hakuna matata. It means “no worries. You might think I’m kidding around or that I’ve watched The Lion King one too many time, but that is basically what the Bible says! Look at what Peter writes:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

When Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties on the Lord, he means that we should take all of what bothers us in this world and what worries us and what gives us ulcers, and we should toss them into the mighty and waiting hands of the Father.

This includes every fear, worry, anxiety, or misgiving we may have about presenting the gospel and receiving rejection. I say this because it is a good time to be speaking to others about the Lord and eternal life. With people dying daily from the virus in almost every country of the world people’s hearts are open and the world is looking for hope. So, it is a great time to speak up and let others know that you are a born again believer. Ad, what exactly it is that you believe.

Are you nervous that the people may say no? Don’t worry about it. Cast your anxiety on the Lord. Are you anxious that a relationship might be ruined because you opened your mouth and told someone about Jesus? Hakuna matata. Give your distress to God.

Because, trust me, He can handle it. He created the world in seven days (technically six: He took a breather on the last one). He split the Red Sea in two. He raised His Son from the dead. I think He can handle a stomach full of butterflies not to mention the effects of the Coronavirus we are all suffering through.

Stop wasting time and energy fretting about how it’s going to turn out. Give every twinge and ounce of nerves to God and do what you have been called to do! Not just during the current crisis we are all involved in and facing daily. But, even after everything returns to normal or near normal, continue to trust God with all the things that worry and concern you. Be free. 

Researchers tell us that 95% of life is out of our control. So, stop worrying about and being anxious over everything that is happening. Focus and concentrate on the 5% that is within your control and move on with life. Leave the other 95% to God, our Heavenly Father. He is still in control and is very capable of taking care of things if we just let Him do so.

Stop worrying!

Take a Deep Breathe (Covid-19)

Well, there was toilet paper in one of two stores I went to this morning during the “Seniors Shopping” hour. And, with my trusty small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket I was able to defeat all the germs that were attacking me (at least in my imagination). And, I worked hard not to touch my face while out until the itch on my nose just became seriously unbearable. 

It has been one of those days when my Apple Watch needs to remind me to stop and take a minute to breathe. 

A text saying a wonderful believers who I have known for years died this morning in South Africa. A prayer request for a baby who almost died last night at 6 weeks young. A lawyer from Kazakhstan stuck in Florida after his classes ended because all flights have been cancelled. A series of text messages from a pastor and friend in Russia whose wife has been diagnosed with cancer as things there just begin to close down as they have done here – including his church. Good news from another city where prayer has been ongoing for a young girl with cancer and it has been healed by Jesus and verified by doctors treating her. A thank you from a young person I prophesied over in 2012 in Kazakhstan who wrote to thank me as the word has come to pass. It has certainly been a morning of ‘connections.’

In the midst of all these fast moving connections two stood out. 

One was a person wondering if I had any prophetic sense of when the shut down because of Covid-19 will come to an end and life return to normal. My first thought was ‘take a deep breath everyone.’ I have seen so many posts linking the Covid-19 pandemic to this spiritual event or that biblical prophecy. Let’s all just take a deep breath and not spiritualize the pandemic. God is not using it to reduce the population on the planet. You can repent – always good to do that – but it won’t stop the pandemic. We live in a fallen world and germs are a part of that. Let’s just step back, take a deep breathe, and relax. 

The second was a prayer request … to do spiritual warfare against a demonic attack. It seems that in some areas where there is a captive audience – seniors homes, prisons, hospitals – people from the ‘outside’ are not being allowed in. I understand that this can be frustrating and may prevent you or me from ministering to those who are shut in. But, this should not be linked to an outright ‘demonic attack.’ How about the authorities are simply trying to limit ‘outside contact’ so that the virus does not enter these closed communities and then spread like wildfire. Again, take a step back and take a deep breathe. Everything isn’t spiritual. Maybe it is just a common sense move that will protect those within these institutions as inconvenient to those of us who minister to these people. 

One of the last churches I worked in before flights stopped … I mentioned to a person that I would likely not be heading to Vietnam for a scheduled series of meeting. I was met with an incredulous look and a comment … “You can go because if you drink any deadly thing it will not hard you.” I honestly just let it drop and didn’t respond. Not because I don’t like a good fight but because I was so shocked that someone could actually believe that. God wants us to use our common sense. I have faith that things can’t hurt me. I have eaten things which would normally send me to hospital (never mind why) and with prayer and faith I did not react to the food. But, I don’t intentionally go looking for things to eat that I know I can’t have. God wants us to use our common sense. But when faced with a situation where I don’t want to offend my host, God protects me and I enjoy eating the forbidden food. Let’s all just step back for a minute and take a deep breathe. 

I didn’t go to Vietnam because of the possibility at that time that flights would no longer be available and that on returning I would need to have two weeks in self-isolation in the city where I land which would not have been my home city. Yesterday would have been the first day of ministry there. Common sense told me the best thing to do in this situation.

You know, instead of panicking and stockpiling food – and toilet paper – why not take this opportunity to share Jesus with others. Let’s not panic as so many are doing. Just step back from the ‘panic’,’ take a deep breathe, relax. God is in control. And He want us to focus on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3a) and be ready to share God’s love, compassion, and mercy with those who are panicking. Take time to pray with them and for them. Don’t get caught up in the panic, concern, worry, and anxiety that is rampant out there. Just follow the medical suggestions to wash your hands and avoid contact. Take the extra time to read your Bible, pray, and share Jesus with others on the many social media platforms that are available to us. 

We are in an amazingly challenging time and I am excited with all that I see God doing. We simply need to “seek first the Kingdom…”

Christians – let’s be careful that we don’t end up looking like a bunch of idiots reacting without any firm understanding of reality and the Scriptures. Let’s step back, take a deep breath, relax, and use your common sense. Don’t glorify the devil (he may be less involved than you think), and trust Jesus!

How to Deal With Betrayal

As a healthy Christian you are called to build relationships with those you come into contact with. This means opening your life and even your heart at time. Opening up to believer and non-believer alike. And, when we live relationally; when we are transparent and vulnerable; when we invite others into our lives … we are likely to be hurt at times. Betrayed. Rejected. Misunderstood. Attacked.

We need to have a heart that does not allow unforgiveness to fester. We need to instantly forgive those what betray our trust and not allow the situation to damage our heart and our relationship with God. We need to learn to deal with betrayal.

How much money would you spend to get an hour to ask Jesus all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask Him? In person. Face-to-face.

What would it be worth to you to go back to the first century and spend an entire weekend with Jesus, watching Him perform miracles, listening to His teachings. participating in private conversations, watching Him pray and interact with others?

Most of us would give anything and everything to have such an opportunity and resulting experience. 

So, consider Judas. He had just such a weekend. And, in the midst of that weekend he betrayed Jesus. Seems somewhat ungrateful, doesn’t it? Jesus gave him a front-row seat to the most significant life ever lived, and Judas sold Him out.

And yet at the Last Supper, when Jesus washed His disciples feet, Jesus made sure that Judas was still present. Jesus knew that Judas was in the process of betraying Him and selling Him out for 30 pieces of silver. In a picture the sheer wonder of which leaves me in awe, Jesus used the two holiest hands that have ever existed, the two most precious hands in the history of mankind, the hands pierced for our salvation – Jesus took those exquisite hands and washed the feet of His betrayer.

Even in the face of ungratefulness and malice, Jesus kept the door open to relational reconciliation. He loved Judas to the end, essentially saying, “You can’t make me hate you. Your toxicity and anger and betrayal won’t change the way I act towards you.

Just as astonishing to me is what happened during the actual act of betrayal. When Judas walks up to Jesus to hand Him over to the soldiers, Jesus looks at Judas and says, “Do what you came for, friend” (Matthew 26:50)

Friend?

How about skunk? How about snake?

Jesus said ‘friend’ because Jesus didn’t have any unforgiveness in His heart or soul. There was nowhere for unforgiveness and resentment to take root. He sets the example for all of us who call ourselves His disciples and followers.

God is radically for people. He wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). As His followers, we also must be for everyone, even if we oppose what they are doing. If we must live and work with toxic people, our call is to make sure their toxicity doesn’t become ours. We don’t threat them as they treat us. We don’t offer evil in exchange for evil. We love. We serve. We guard our hearts so that we are not effected or poisoned by their bad example. And we must continue to love them unconditionally. Accept them just as they are. As well as forgive them when they speak against you and cause others to speak against you and reject you.

Follow the example of Jesus who still considered Judas His friend.  

A Sense of Urgency

Everything and everyone currently seems to be on “urgent.” It is urgent that we keep 2 meters distance between us. It is urgent that we self-isolate to slow down the spread of Covid-19. It is urgent not to be in groups bigger than 50 or 5 or 2 depending where you live. Because of the impending death toll from this virus everything – even the small details of daily life – have taken on an urgent edge.

It is interesting to me that this sense of urgency has not existed within the Church. It does now. After all, our church finances are taking a hit if we cannot come together as a family. So, it is urgent that we get our Sunday message up on line on Facebook Live or one of the many other ways to have an on-line presence. It is urgent we stay visible because otherwise it is “out of sight and out of mind” and we will have an urgent financial crisis. 

But, may I ask, where is the urgency when it comes to getting the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom out there so that it is heard. If we expect the death rate from this Coronavirus to keep climbing should we not have a sense of urgency to get our message out there. Even without the impending doom of high fatalities due to Covid-19 should we not have a sense of urgency that compelling us to share the Gospel. 

Paul, Peter, James, John, and even Jude all use urgent language to help us understand how vital and pressing our mission before God is:

JESUS: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4)

PAUL: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none …and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” (2 Corinthians 7:29, 31)

JAMES: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17)

PETER: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming” (2 Peter 3:11b-12a)

JOHN: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16, 18)

JUDE: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

If you are in Christ, you aren’t just saved; you are enlisted. You have been called into a tremendously important work – an urgent work – and there’s no time to lose.

A football player doesn’t worry about mowing his lawn the morning of the Super Bowl

A bride doesn’t blow off her wedding to watch a sitcom

A fireman doesn’t finish his sandwich when a building blows up

Why?

They all have more urgent things to do

That’s the attitude we need in the Kingdom of God. What every believer is doing is crucially important. Because our message is so precious, because the Holy Spirit within us is so powerful, and because the work of building God’s Kingdom is so necessary, we don’t have time to waste. 

Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The classic Christian writer Andrew Murray wrote: “The Lord gave Himself entirely and undecidedly over to accomplish His work; He lived for it alone … As with Jesus, so with us. Christ’s mission is the only reason for our being on earth …When I believe this, and like my Lord in His mission consecrate myself undecidedly to it, shall I indeed live well-pleasing to Him.”

Too many think our salvation is all about us – personal peace, assurance, happiness, and security. One of the greater needs in the church today is more workers. Not just believers. Not just church attenders. Not even tithers. It is workers, those who believe that to be saved isn’t to wait for heaven but to get busy bringing heaven’s presence and authority to this present earth as ambassadors for Christ.