Faith-Filled Vocabulary

I love this short story in Judges 13. There’s this woman, who for whatever reason, cannot have a baby. The Bible doesn’t  say whether she had a miscarriage or just simply couldn’t get pregnant. Perhaps her husband’s body wasn’t “cooperating” in the process. In any case, this is a couple who desperately wants a child to carry on their family line, but they have been frustrated.

And then an amazing thing happens!

There must have been countless couples who were childless, but an angel from God shows up to this barren woman and says, “You are going to have a baby boy!” This thrilled (and probably somewhat dazed) mother-to-be runs to tell her husband Manoah what has just happened.

We know from the book Hebrews that the definition of faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. But how do we express this faith? … this hope? … this certainty in unseen things?

It starts with our every day vocabulary choices.

Look at Manoah’s vocabulary. When he hears this news from his wife, he doesn’t say, “Yeah, right!” Instead he prays this incredible faith-filled prayer

“O Lord, I beg You, let the man of God You sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”

Not: “I need more proof.” Or even: “A child.” But: “The boy that is to be born.”

God answers this prayer and the angel appears again. Once again Manoah’s faith-filled vocabulary is on display

When Your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?”

Not: “If.” Or even: “I hope.” But: “When Your words are fulfilled.”

What a great example from Manoah!

Is there something for which you waiting on God? Do you feel like He’s given you an assurance in your heart for this? Then change your vocabulary … let it be faith-filled vocabulary. Change your If’s to When’s to show that you are sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.

How are you expressing your faith? I’ll go first…

Going Through The Motions

I was talking to a friend who is a missionary in Africa who had just experienced an interesting church service. Many times Africans will hear a worship song from a visiting group of Americans, and they will try to implement that worship song into their church services. Sometimes this can be quite beautiful.

And sometimes it’s quite comical.

In case you are unfamiliar with the song Friend Of God, you can listen to it here —

These precious African saints were trying their best to imitate the English words they had heard sung to them. However, their chorus sounded something like this —

I am afraid of God

I am afraid of God

I am afraid of God

He calls me Fred

Comical? Sure. But it’s also very instructional.

How many times do you and I go into a church service and just mimic words, without really thinking about the meaning behind the words? We go through the motions — we imitate the sounds we have heard before — and think we are really worshiping.

Here’s what Jesus said

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases… [and] think that you will be heard for your many words.

Are you going through the motions?

  • Do you pray the same prayer at every meal?
  • Do you sing the same songs the same way every time?
  • Do you worship God the same way every time you come into His presence?
  • Do you pray the same prayer every night before bed?

Do you really mean what you are saying? Or are you just going through the motions?

Lead Like Ike (book review)

There is so much to like about Lead Like Ike by Geoff Loftus!

If you like military history, you will love the narrative of the strategies and implementation that Dwight D. Eisenhower – or “Ike” – oversaw. It is an amazing recounting of how Ike had to balance so many pressures from not only the Germans, but within his own ranks as well, to lead the Allies to victory in Europe during World War II.

If you like business strategies, you will enjoy the way Loftus renames the military build-up in Europe during WWII “D-Day Inc.,” and assigns titles like Board of Directors, CEO, C-level staff, and competitors to the battles in Operation Torch, Operation Overlord, the Battle of the Bulge and others. You will see how Ike functioned as an effective CEO to lead D-Day Inc. in their head-to-head challenges with their German competition.

And if you like biographies about strong leaders, you will see the incredible leadership principles that Ike employed in his personal life and in his military career. You will see a man firmly fixed on his goal, but also a man who felt deeply about the individual soldier, sailor and airman under his command.

Sprinkled throughout the book (and summed up nicely at the end of each chapter) are strategies for success, implementation plans, and tips for personnel management.

The only thing that disappointed my about this book was that it came to an end! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I believe you will too. I give it five-out-of-five stars.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Uncomfortably Quiet

Yesterday we dove into part two of our series The Stranglehold Of Worry by looking at anxiety. The medical dictionary defines anxiety as worry compound by our own self-doubts about our ability to cope with worry. Wow, talk about a double whammy!

You’re already worrying about something, and then you worry about what you’re worrying about. Or for many people, anxiety boils down to worrying about what others are thinking about what you’re worrying about.

There’s a story in Luke 10 where Dr. Luke notices Martha’s anxiety. She is trying to be the best hostess she can for Jesus and His disciples, but it has gone beyond that. She is worrying about what Jesus thinks about her hospitality. She’s tied up in knots. What makes it even worse for Martha is that her sister (who was helping Martha get everything ready for the meal) is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him speak.

Jesus tells Martha, “You are all worked up over trying to make a good impression. You are worried and upset. Look at Mary: she’s sitting quietly and listening to Me.”

Sitting quietly.

We don’t do that very well, do we? Our lives are bombarded with noise. In fact, when Jesus tells Martha she is worried, the Greek word means overly-busy. That’s how too many of us try to cope with worry, but the noise and busyness just leads to more anxiety.

We closed our service on Sunday in a very unusual, very uncomfortable way. We were silent. No music, no singing, no closing prayer. Just sitting silently at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him. It was uncomfortable, but so beneficial.

Listen to King David

I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.

It might be uncomfortable, but it is just what the Lover of your soul ordered. Find some time to switch off the radio, leave the iPod and cell phone behind, get someplace where you can just sit quietly at Jesus’ feet and hear the loving words He has to say to you.

How do you get quiet before God?

A-to-Z Love

You probably have heard that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible (176 verses). The anonymous author clearly loved God’s Word… everything about it from aleph to taw (that’s Hebrew for “from A to Z”).

The psalm’s 176 verses are divided into 22 sections, with eight verses in each section (the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters). All of the verses except three mention God’s Word in some way (law, statutes, commands, etc.). In other words, this author loved God’s Word from start to finish, and everything in-between!

How about if we continue the A-to-Z love? Comment below on what you love about God’s Word. Follow along with me –

I love that God’s Word is…

A – An attitude adjustor

B – Bright hope

C – Comforting

D – Direction

E – Educational

F – Fulfilling my deepest longings

G – Good

H – Historically accurate

I – Illuminating

J – Just what I need, when I need it

K – Keeping me from sin’s grip

L – Liberating me from anxiety

M – Making me the God-fearing man I should be

N – Never condemning, always encouraging

O – Opening my understanding

P – Purifying my motives

Q – Quality time

R – Revealing God’s love for me

S – Strength for today

T – Temptation defeater  

U – Unfailing truth

V – Visionary

W – Worth more than all my other books

X – Xenografted into my heart (James 1:21)

Y – Yahweh’s love letter to me

Z – Zoe (1 John 1:1)

Add your A-to-Z love of God’s Word in the comments.

Living Free In An Anxious World (book review)

When I say that more people today are worried, or stressed-out, or suffering from anxiety attacks, I’m not saying anything that you don’t already know. But in Living Free In An Anxious World authors R. Lanny Hunter and Victor L. Hunter give us a whole new way of looking at worry and anxiety.

Many times I’m frustrated by some author’s one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with worry and anxiety. The fact is, we are complicated and we are individuals. But more than that, many authors tend to focus on just one part of the human, when in fact we are a three-part being. There is a physical component, an emotional/mental component, and a spiritual component.

The Hunter brothers are well trained to address the affects of worry in all its forms, as one brother is a medical doctor and the other is a pastor who received specialized training in both religion and psychiatry. They both bring their specialties to this book in a way that I found both informative and comforting.

One of the first concepts they address is that the key is to not eliminate worry from our lives. That, they say, is impossible. The goal is to not worry in a self-destructive way. Right from the first chapter I found myself buying into their insights which were so real and applicable.

The Hunter brothers explore the biblical, scientific, and even philosophic origins of worry, and provide very real solutions for even a layman like me. This book wasn’t “over my head” nor did it over-simply the very real and challenging task of dealing with worry the right way.

Since 6.5 million Americans suffer from general anxiety disorder every year, chances are good that you are going to have to confront worry in your life or in the life of a loved one. So I highly recommend this book to you.

I am an Abilene Christian University Press book reviewer.

I’m Just Not Feelin’ It

Ever been there?

My job is boring…

My finances are barely making ends meet…

My relationships seem stagnant…

I’m bored…

Church just doesn’t thrill me anymore…

My devotions are lackluster…

My prayer life is sporadic…

I just don’t feel like praising God…

What do you do? You certainly can’t listen to your feelings. They will betray you as many times as they help you. My experience has been that you cannot wait until you feel like doing something to start doing something. But if you just do the right thing, the good feelings will usually follow.

King David was in a similar position – no job, no prospects, no income, strained relationships, no chance to even go to church. Psalm 34 has this introduction, “When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him out, and he went away.” In other words, David was not having a good day. He certainly wasn’t feelin’ it! How did he get out of this funk?

STEP 1Use your will to praise God.

I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises. I will boast only in the Lord.

David said, “I’m not really feelin’ it, but I’m gonna praise Him anyhow!”

 

STEP 2 – Be prepared for your emotions to engage.

My soul will boast in the LORD.

The soul is the seat of the emotions. It started off as an act of David’s will, but then it got down into his soul and he started feelin’ it.

 

STEP 3 – Become an encouragement to others.

Let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.

When David used his will to praise God, other helpless, hurting people began to join in. Soon it was a choir of praise!

 

You may not be feelin’ it, but if you’ll just use your will to praise God, you will begin to feel better, and you’ll help others to feel it as well. You may not be feelin’ it this week, but borrow a phrase from Nike: Just do it!

Worry Unlearned

We started a new series yesterday at Calvary A/G called The Stranglehold Of Worry. The word worry originated with shepherds. When a wild dog or a wolf had killed a sheep by grabbing it by its throat and choking it to death, the shepherds said that sheep had been worried to death.

In modern times, researchers at Purdue University found that worrying can chop 16 years off of someone’s life. Not only does worry rob your life of years, it can rob your years of life.

What exactly is worry? Fear is our natural response to real threats, like a car heading toward you in your lane of traffic. Worry is our response to perceived threats (to unseen things), like the car that may head toward your kids’ car when they are driving.

Get this clear: worry is being fearful of the unseen.

Compare that to the Bible’s definition of faith = Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Worry and faith both operate in the unseen dimension.

Fear is natural, it’s inborn. But worry is learned. Faith is worry unlearned.

Worry tells your brain a story about bad things that may happen.

Faith tells your brain a story about good things that should happen. Based on what you’ve already experienced of God’s power, what you’ve already seen in God’s provision, or what you already know of God’s promises, your faith in God can unlearn your worry.

The prophet Jeremiah tended to be a worrywart. Maybe that’s why he’s been called the “weeping prophet.” But in the middle of his worrying, he unlearns his worry by using his faith to tell a different story about God’s provision, power, and promises —

I well remember [the bad things], and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

Did you notice that Jeremiah talked to himself? He wrote, “I say to myself.” If you have a tendency to worry, it’s time to start talking to yourself and telling yourself a different story. Instead of being fearful of the bad things you cannot see, why not be hopeful of the good things of God you can see?

Let your faith in God unlearn your worry. You can overcome worry and anxiety by telling yourself a new faith-filled, hope-oriented story. You can recall God’s faithfulness in the past, and apply it to your current circumstance.

What stories are you telling yourself today? Feel free to share how you overcame (or are overcoming right now) worry in the comments below. Your faith stories will help others overcome their worry too.

Anger That Crosses The Line

Last night in our Selah Bible study we looked at some words that David penned when he was angry. He was on the run from his son Absalom, and it seemed like everywhere he turned people were after him, or slandering him, or just doing their best to make him miserable. Yet in two back-to-back Psalms David says, “I lay down every evening and get a great night of rest.”

His sweet sleep comes from a moment of reflection before dozing off. He says

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah.

  • Did my anger today cross the line into sin?
  • Am I allowing the time for the Holy Spirit to search my heart?
  • When the Holy Spirit points out where my anger crossed the line, do I justify my anger, or am I silent?

How do we know that our anger has not crossed that line and become sin?

Aristotle wrote, “Anybody can become angry — that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Being angry is not the issue. David said it (and Paul quoted it in Ephesians 4:26): “Be angry; just don’t sin.” God gets angry, but He does not sin. Jesus, in His public ministry, got angry, but He did not sin. We need to search our hearts to make sure our anger has not crossed the line to sin. We have to be angry in a godly way.

I see at least four ways to become angry without crossing the line into sin.

1.  Selfless Anger = anger at sin, but not angry at the sinner.

[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:5, 6)

2.  Slow Anger = lengthen your fuse a bit.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19, 20)

Good advice from Thomas Jefferson, “When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.”

3.  Protective Anger = when sinners entice others to join them in their sin. God is sad when people leave Him; He is angry at them when they take others with them.

But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep His statutes. Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, He was very angry; He rejected Israel completely. (Psalm 78:56-59)

4.  Righteous Anger = against those who are keeping others from coming closer to God.

For I endure scorn for Your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons; for zeal for Your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult You fall on me. (Psalm 69:7-9)

This verse was recalled by Jesus’ disciples when they saw Him get angry and clear out the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was angry because of the religious clutter that was keeping God’s house from being a house of prayer for all nations.

I think everyone is familiar with the acrostic WWJD = What Would Jesus Do?

I’d like to propose something similar … WGGA – Would God Get Angry? This is a great question to ask to make sure our anger does not cross that line into sin. Get angry — in a godly way — and do not sin.

Any feedback or thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you.

Help! I’m Being Strangled!

I’m kicking off a new series on Sunday about breaking the stranglehold of worry. The origin of worry comes from a word that means choking, strangling, hard to breathe. And isn’t that exactly what worry feels like?

I’m sure that none of the readers of this blog ever struggle with worry. But if you know any “friends” who may benefit from an honest look at both the origins of worry and how to gain freedom from worry, please send them to Calvary A/G over the next few Sundays. They will be so glad that you did!

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