Faith Challenges — October 2008
October 2 "Faith and Patience"
Like so many other things in our society, we often desire instant faith. We want to believe for things and have them materialize right away. That is, however, not the way that true faith usually works. God wants us to get much more than simply the object of our faith so, his better plan is that through faith and patience, we will receive not only what we are believing but much more along with it.
October 3 "The Two Places God Lives"
We know and have likely been taught from the time we were very small that God lives in heaven. This is true to be sure, but there is another place, equally important to him, where God chooses to reside. He also lives with the one who is lowly and contrite. He wants to come in all his glory and majesty and move into our lives and make of them more than we could ever imagine.
October 4 "Radical Obedience Radical Commitment"
Jesus calls us to a higher level of commitment and obedience than anyone else ever will. His way is to decide to obey even before we know what is being asked and to say yes and follow it through no matter what it may mean or cost personally. It is that kind of Christianity that turned the first century world upside-down and it is that kind of real Christianity that our present-day world needs and is crying out to see.
October 7 "Following After Jesus"
Jesus said that anyone who would come after him must take up his cross and follow. If we follow Jesus to the cross, whatever that may mean for you and I individually, we dare not stop there but must continue to follow Jesus through death all the way on to resurrection. Following after Jesus is not just about hardship and suffering and death but about resurrection, new life, power and glory!
October 8 "Finding Peace in the Storm"
In the gospels, we read the story of Jesus asleep in a boat in the midst of a furious storm. He was able to do that because of the peace that he had on the inside. In the midst of whatever may be troubling us right now, we need to recognize the fact that Jesus is not far away. He is in the midst of it with us because he suggested that we travel together and we invited him into our boat and will supply all our needs. Do not fear. Only believe.
October 9 "A Famine in the Land"
In the Old Testament, Amos prophesied that a time was coming when there would be a famine in the land, not a famine of food or water but a famine of the word of God. We live in a time in which the word and preaching and teaching on it has never been so easily accessible or prevalent and yet we live in time in which many even within the church are living a "life" that is more like a slow death due to a self-imposed famine of the word of God.
October 10 "A True View of Sin"
In many places today, Christians have taken a very soft approach to sin. We may water down the gospel and suggest by our words and actions that sin must not really bother God anymore. In reality, God sees sin as a very serious matter, serious enough that he was willing to sacrifice his one and only Son to do away with it. A true view of sin sees that Jesus came to destroy it, and encourages our efforts to steer clear of any and all of it.
October 11 "Finding Myself in the Love of God"
We all "know" that God loves us. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us exactly that. However, time and circumstances — the sheer business of living life — has a way of causing us to forget or overlook parts of that or simply not "feel" his love in the way that maybe we once did. More often than we do, it is good to stop and find oneself in the love of God. For God so loved the world should be a reality in which we live each and every day.
October 14 "Jars of Clay"
Many of us work very hard to distinguish myself from the rest of those around us. In the end, what we discover is that no matter how hard we try, on our own, we will probably never rise above the rank and file. God planned it that way and yet has placed his indescribable treasure in our "jars of clay." He did that simply so that others could see that it was not anything about us but what God's power can do in anyone if they will let him.
October 15 "Lord, Teach Us to Pray"
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he gave them the outline that we call the Lord's Prayer and told them a story about going to a friend's house late at night to ask for bread. Jesus made the point that God is not like the friend in the story who gives only begrudgingly. God wants to give. But when he gives, he not only gives us what we ask for but more than that, he gives the Holy Spirit to help us pray even more effectively.
October 16 "What's God Up to Anyway?"
When humanity was created, we bore the image and likeness of our Creator in a perfect way. With the entrance of sin into the world, that image was marred and as long as sin is in the picture, we cannot and do not reflect his image in the way that he intends. In Jesus Christ, we are a new creation, reconciled to God so that we can once again come into alignment with respect to the image that we were created to bear and reflect.
October 17 "The Language of Tears"
It is often said that there will be no tears in heaven, however, the witness of scripture is that the tears will cease only after Jesus wipes them away. Only then will there be no more sorrow or mourning or sadness. Until then, we need to fully embrace our emotions and the language of tears. Jesus wept when Lazurus died. He was moved with compassion on many occasions. And only as we are real human beings who feel will the world know that what we say is true.
October 18 "The Crazy Love of God"
Brennan Manning tells the story of a nun who dreamed that she was dancing with Jesus and how he leaned over and told her he was crazy about her just as the dance ended. We all "know" that God loves us, but do we know that he is crazy about each one of us. He would have to be crazy about us to send the one who was most precious to him to redeem a people who don't acknowledge him and don't even really care that he exists!
October 21 "Not Quite There Yet"
There is a sense in which we should always be speaking and wanting and desiring beyond where we are presently. That is okay. Pressing forward with our words so that our actions can follow is never hypocritical. And even when it feels like we sometimes go two steps forward and one step back, gaining ground is the important thing. This side of heaven, we will never "be there" because there is always more. I can never exhaust what God has in store for me!
October 22 "A Forward From God"
Many of us dread seeing those letters "Fwd:" in our inbox, especially if nothing personal accompanies it. It seems too easy. Just point, click, send. At the same time, there is at times something of interest in them (after all, the person who sent them to me thought so) so we scan them and every once in a while, find something really excellent. I received just such a message in my inbox the other day from an old friend, it was a forward from God.
October 23 "Whose Fool Are You?"
John Wimber was walking through Times Square in New York and he saw a religious freak approaching him wearing a sandwich board that bore the slogan "I'm a fool for Christ." John felt compelled to agree with him. "Yes," he thought, "you certainly are." As the old man walked past him, he saw what was written on the back of the sandwich board: "Whose fool are you?" Would we rather be lost and wise in our own eyes or a fool for God?
October 24 "Fiery Furnace Faith"
In the book of Daniel, the story is told of three young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to an image of gold the king had set up. They stood in faith and were confident that God was not only able to save them from the flames, but that he would. However, their faith stand was such that even if God did not come through for them in the way that they wanted him to or expected him to, their commitment was the same!
October 25 "The Final Apologetic"
When Jesus was on earth, he gave a new commandment to the disciples: to love one another. He said that to the degree that we loved one another, the world would see that we truly were his followers. And, Jesus went on to say that the unity which grows out of love would actually be the final argument or apologetic that Jesus had been sent from God and that his claims and teachings were true. Without real love between believers, it all becomes simply words.
October 27 "That Your Faith May Not Fail"
In Luke 22, Jesus told Peter that he was slated for some "sifting" by the enemy. Apparently, Satan does this to each one of us who take the name of Christ and God allows it. Thankfully, Jesus prays for Peter and for each of us. Otherwise, we probably would not make it. He knows that we will all often fail in our attempts to walk out what we want to be and do for him. His concern is not perfection in practice but faith that takes us beyond even our own failings!
October 28 "Second Mile Christianity"
The Pharisees were some of the most religious people of the day, but Jesus says that "unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, we will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). Jesus' kind of faith is about going above and beyond what is normal or reasonable. As he lived and died, he calls us to more than is reasonable, more than is feasible, more than we think we have to give.
October 29 "Who Is Your Teacher?"
There is much good teaching available and many good churches around in which to be taught. We should take advantage of every opportunity to learn. However, we each have the resources and a personal responsibility for our own growth. God's plan is that we allow ourselves to be taught by himself directly through his word and Jesus through his Holy Spirit — he wants to be our teacher — and in this process grow up into him and become like him.
October 30 "Returning to Our lordship"
We were created by God to be as someone has said, "lords of the earth." We surrendered our lordship when we settled for less than what God had given us thinking it to be more. Jesus Christ came to undo all of that and to put us back in the place where we were when we were originally created. Jesus has given us the right through his cross and resurrection, that having dealt with sin and death, we can return to our rightful place.
October 31 "The Weapon of the Word"
God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. We can do all things through him who gives us strength. He has provided all things necessary for our victory. We have it all. And, of all the things that we have, his word is at the center and of prime importance. It reveals to us his will. We don't have to question it. It is a powerful weapon, a two-edged sword, in the battle that we fight each and every day.