It is impossible to please God without some measure of faith. But the prospect of living life entirely by it, is viewed as impractical, unnecessary, and foolish by many. After several years of learning to be a bit more foolish, I remain unconvinced as to which is more difficult: being willing to do anything for the Lord or willing to believe He would do anything for me.
Willingness to be foolish
Sunday morning at 10:15 the words “Stand up and sing” formed in my mind...and lingered there like those of an unforgettable friend. And ten minutes before the sermon would end I heard them again and again. “Stand up and sing… sing Jesus loves me!” I looked around at a thousand quiet souls and wondered who it might have been that said it. Some craning their necks toward the pulpit to catch every corporate word, others with arms outstretched and nodding agreeably at what they’d already heard. But not one, including the speaker, had requested a song or singer to interrupt with something completely absurd…like “Stand up Kevin and sing Jesus loves me”.
I looked at my watch then down at my feet until clarity wrapped around my dignity and began to sink its teeth. Either God has a plan and had taken time to speak or I was about to be crowned church idiot and king of all freaks. If God indeed has a plan then He surely has a voice but sometimes He just hauls off and forces us to make a choice….
Faith comes by the hearing of God’s word but only with rigorous testing will its measure increase. To that end, any David willing to dance before God with all his might must first count the cost of being despised by others in exchange for his Father’s delight. If you consider yourself a sheep in the fold of Jesus, one that hears His voice and follows, then I have a question: What would you do if He asked you to raise your hands and worship Him on the front porch or in the supermarket? Or maybe while in the mall or jogging with your iPod? The question is not whether we think it’s unnecessary or even senseless but instead whether we know the sound of His voice and are consumed by obedience to it.
So my moment of truth came down to this: Avoid the entire charade and risk offending God’s Spirit or move forward obediently and risk offending the minds of men. With legs a prickling and every ounce of blood attempting escape through my face, I two handed the back of the chair in front of me and began pulling myself into place – a standing position. And inching into my periphery was the nauseating blur of faces who were about to be embarrassed…for me.
Willingness to believe foolishly
By late summer we’d been awarded a substantial work contract which held the promise of meeting our financial needs for another year. But as the project began with great hope, so it began with a series of hopelessly unexpected interruptions. Three months and twice as many postponements later our summer of great expectation had given way to another November of desperation. After all, without the benefit of this income we’d literally lose every inch of ground that was gained the entire previous year, and more.
Yet throughout this journey the Lord without fail has sustained our every need by His abundant provision. And all the more generous at times, He has grown our faith by withholding that provision until all seemed lost. So with Christmas only weeks away, a delinquent mortgage and every resource exhausted, we waited patiently for the good news to come, until finally…with no time to spare…it came. We rejoiced that the project delays were over – hallelujah! On the other hand, the project was also over, cut from the budget at the eleventh hour without warning.
I’m not a pastor, theologian or teacher. I don’t have a church, a fan club or a flock. I’m just a regular guy with a testimony who would rather tear away empty pockets than fill them with empty promises. Before any of us can stand on the banks of the Red Sea and believe that it will open, we’ve got to learn the sound of God’s voice, like Moses at the burning bush. And then be consumed by obedience to it in spite of the doubting opinions of others, like Israel, who would rather remain safely in bondage.
Finally, we must become unshakable before the Godless kingdoms of this world, like Egypt, who will stop at nothing to keep us enslaved. Or mammon, the spirit that makes us cringe when we ask if the Good Samaritan would help the same man twice or three times...as long as needed, or stop when it begins to reduce his own storehouse.
It was no accident that every time Moses stepped out in faith God turned up the heat. From the unwinnable assignment, to Pharaoh’s hardened heart, to making bricks without straw, to being ridiculed by his own people, Moses was well prepared to face the impossible when it arrived. And right on time, after years of preparation, our very own Red Sea moment has arrived to daunt the natural eyes and remind us that God, not man, is our deliverer and God, not mammon, is our place of rest.
Willing to stand up and sing…or not.
By now, halfheartedly standing in church, like the lone awkward applauder at a social event or the guy who tried and failed to start the wave in a stadium, I would become the gladiatorial fool who disrupted the entire service to stand up and sing Jesus loves me…loudly. With a brief glance at the auditorium door to weigh my last options for avoiding embarrassment, having easily stood to make a simple dash for the bathroom, the other half of my heart with great unction joined rank against my flesh and laid itself on the altar.
Just as the hymn whispered up from my spirit, these words…“do not offend the speaker” settled on my shoulders like the insisting hands of a remarkably strong grandfather. My posture recognized the escape long before my understanding and slumped without hesitation into a deep sigh of thanksgiving – praise the Lord! Then…with only a minute left, the speaker led the congregation in prayer before making a strange request:
“You know what folks? This is going to seem cheesy but before we dismiss…let’s all stand up and sing Jesus loves me”
And without hesitation I knew…I knew that the Lord had just restored what the thief of my struggle had stolen. Jesus loves me…He really, really does. Three days later I shared my experience with the pastor. After a momentary pause, he looked at me with conviction and said:
“Wow Kevin… it wasn’t until the closing prayer that God gave me that song for the congregation. It wasn’t planned or even thought of until I prayed.”
We both smiled and pondered the love of a God who reminds us He’s there by testing the limits of our willingness. And I knew for sure that a God who would captivate me audibly and confirm it, is a God who would never allow the needs of my family to go unmet…ever.
Willing to believe in the foolish things
In an upside down it’s the foolish things, not the practical, that glorify the King. When the fool has a need…he meets the needs of another. When his hands are empty…he offers his hands instead. When his storehouse overflows he remembers that life is a vapor and counts giving as a much greater privilege than making his future a little safer.
When he is maligned he is kind and when he is about to faint from depression, he offers high praise to the Lord and for others he makes petition. When the fool is counted by men as foolish in faith, lazy when things look tough and lucky when things seem great, he rejoices.
'When others would vigorously interrupt to increase the importance of their confident ideas...the fool is always humble and slow to speak. Why? Because he knows and is continually trusting that it is God Who is truly in charge anyway, and His Holy Spirit the faithful teacher...and because He continually wants to make sure that it is not he himself that is increasing...but it is Christ!'
The fool also gives thanks and reflects on these one-time foolish things: God made a way for Noah to escape, Sarah to conceive, Isaac to leave the altar and Abraham to father nations, Jacob to prosper over Laban, Joseph to feed the nations, Moses to deliver a nation, Joshua to win the promised land, Gideon’s three hundred over more than a hundred thousand. And God gave David the favor for an everlasting throne, Elijah the speed to outrun a chariot and power to feed a widow for months from a single meal, Jeremiah the zeal to stand alone, Daniel the conviction to pray out loud and face death, Esther the favor at just the right hour, Nehemiah the vision to rebuild...and ultimately He made a way for the birth, sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord, Savior and King of everything to exchange Himself for a bride.
If the prospect of living entirely by faith (in the One crucified entirely for us) is academically risky, impractical and even foolish…then our fork in the road is clear:
To one side, these bold men and women of scripture are like wonderful cartoon characters that we quote on occasion for practical wisdom. To the other, they are real people with blood and gut testimonies that have become the victories of our inheritance. To one side, we see a Savior pointing to our bootstraps who is willing to help if we’re willing to grab them first. To the other, we see that only momentary affliction is able to burn away such a Christian centered veneer. To one side, we see that practical wisdom aims to make life safe by storing up treasure for later and avoiding risky mistakes. To the other, we see that wise decisions are not even possible when made by the spirit of fear. To one side, we see the more sensible answers from the minds of men. To the other, we see the truth as it rings sincere through the veil of Christian ease:
Only when God becomes all that we want do we truly see that He is all we need.
My wife and I began learning to trust the Lord for our every need about four years ago. Within that time He has met them all abundantly and in His generosity, increased our lives exponentially – teaching us the sound of His voice, freedom from fear, and how to step into our identity. He has set our children are on fire, unified our marriage, and prepared our hearts with zeal for service. But none of our growth came without testing – testing that teaches us to rest in the Father’s arms like happy children, no matter how ugly the circumstance or radically foolish His instructions appear before men. In short, God has used the struggle set before our eyes in 2008 to remove a thousand struggles from within our hearts along the way.
Today, having our last resource stripped away at the eleventh hour, when all is lost without it, the most difficult test we’ve faced since the journey began has arrived. And honestly… we are worn out, having no taste or patience for the superficial. Never the less, we do well to remember that living by faith is the only way to know who we really are – any of us. The more we are willing to courageously trust Him with our life, the more willing He is to trust us with His plan.
Through the continued encouragement of publishers and others, I’ve been working diligently on my writing project and remain excited. Good things are just around the corner. Until then, please pray that we might endure gracefully. And please take courage in your own testing that you are not alone in the fight of faith – affliction is momentary, rewards are overwhelming.
Lord, today, when all seems lost, as we face our own Red Sea moment, we boast in your mighty works and offer thanks for your good plans. We lift up our praise and declare that the same God who delivered Moses from Egypt and delivered us these past four years will deliver us again for the sake of His glory. 'Vindicate us before all men that our testimony would prove us weak and helpless, so that it is You alone that is shown to be our strength and salvation'.
For all who are tired of relying, even a little, on something other than God, today you can rest in His arms like a happy child. But if you need living proof then come along and see what He does next.
For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Or connect on
As a student of God's word, photographer and writer, my chief aim is to help followers of Christ apprehend a real and passionate faith through the study of His word, by simple illustration, and regular encouragement. And by this faith they might catch a vision of who God shaped them to become. This blog is an account of my own journey toward that real and passionate faith, starting at ground zero. I hope it will offer some encouragement to any who've set their mind on seeking God's face, whatever the cost.
Isaiah 56 : "9Come, all you beasts of the field, come and devour, all you beasts of the forest!"
Can you imagine a cow attacking a tiger? Well, then how about a sheep feasting on a bear? Or a pig about to eat a mountain lion? Of course not...however, in the Kingdom of God this is exactly how things are done. Metaphors and Opposites, and more.....all to give us clear pictures of God and how He does things!
Isaiah 55:8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."
When God says His thoughts and ways are as high as the heavens are from the earth, He means it! Therefore, they are so much higher than we can even imagine! Yes?
When we think of the heavens, we think of the night sky that are filled with twinkly stars...but no, the heavens are way past what we can see. Therefore, the contrast here is immeasurable.
God is light...and He has no dimmer switch! He lives in "unapproachable light"(1 Tim. 6:16). In the following section of Exodus, God allows Moses to see just the back of Him after He passes by...because He is just too bright to look at - to the point where Moses would die.
So, think about the sun, it is millions of miles away, yet if we look at it for too long we can go blind. This gives us a perfect picture of God's brilliance...a brightness that darkness can not even look at, let alone be anywhere near! So, if we think we can willingly partake of the things that reside in darkness (as in Gal. 5: 19-21) and it would be OK with God...then we don't understand Him, His word or how different His ways are!
Meaning, if we do willingly partake, then in due time we'll be lovingly disciplined unless we decide to judge ourselves and do an about face in the opposite direction ~ and give our attentions back to God. 1 Cor. 11:31"If we were
judging ourselves correctly, we would not be judged. 32But when the
Lord judges us, he disciplines us so that we won't be condemned along with the
rest of the world."
Exodus 33: 17 "The LORD answered
Moses, 'I will do what you have asked, because I am pleased with you, and I know
you by name.' 18Then Moses said,
'Please let me see your glory." 19The LORD said, 'I
will let all my goodness pass in front of you, and there I will call out my name
'the LORD.' I will be kind to anyone I want to. I will be merciful to anyone I
20But you can't see my
face, because no one may see me and live." 21Then the LORD said,
'Look, there's a place near me. Stand by this rocky cliff. 22When my glory passes
by, I will put you in a crevice in the cliff and cover you with my hand until I
have passed by. 23Then I will take my
hand away, and you'll see my back, but my face must not be seen."
Something I find so wonderful about God, and what I read in His written word...and see in His Son Jesus, is that when He says something, anything...it is heavy with meaning. His words are weighty. He is thrifty and therefore packs a lot of meaning into each word. Weighty to the point where He clearly wants us to understand the reasons He makes these contrasts about Himself!
OK, so, what are the reasons? For one, that He is nothing like the human-fallen nature, and thinks nothing like our human nature thinks. In fact He is the opposite. Therefore, if the world is going south, then He is going north, for no better way to put it.
Take any given set of verses...and you will most likely see some of these contrasts and words heavy with meaning that God has made about Himself and His ways. The following section of scripture in 1 Timothy verse 11, there are many such verses in scripture like this one instructing us to 'flee from', or 'lay aside', or 'make no provision for', or 'turn from', and 'die to'...the ways of sin and the flesh.
Victory comes when things are done God's way. Man's way (and the reason we could not successfully keep the law) of dealing with sin is to set our minds on working hard at trying not to sin...but because of the weak human nature we have to try very hard over and over and over again to get even a little success! But then the law said that even one sin is too many! So, it is a hamsters wheel going no where!!
But our human nature still wants to give a lot of our attention to the sin we are struggling with....urgh!...to think and talk about it, muse over it, then try to discipline ourselves not to do it, then memorize scriptures pertaining to it, then pray and agonize over it and remind ourselves that it is sinning against God to do it, and it grieves Him to do it...and then on and on and on it goes.
But, as usual, God's way is opposed to human nature's way...typically the direct opposite! God's way is to put it to death! Not talk about it over and over again! No, but giving the sin NO attention, and instead giving your full attention to the things of God whereby starving the sinful nature! Gal. 5: 16 "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the
desires of the sinful nature."
The following verse in Romans is a good example. Romans 13:14 "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
It says to make no provision for the flesh's survival...so, I turn from it and give the sin none of my attention...I starve it! OK! Good! But now what do I do?? "Put on' the Lord Jesus! Yes, put Him on! Think about His great love, Talk about Him, talk to Him, serve Him, imitate Him, rest in Him, think about Him, enjoy Him, learn from Him, think about the things that come from Him, talk to others about Him...and love others as unto Him! The following verse is telling us to give these things our full attention (instead of giving it to sin).
Phil. 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things."
Can you name some other things of God to give your full attention to? How about what comes from the Holy Spirit?
Gal. 5: 22But the fruit of
the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong
to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (given no attention to the flesh - starved it!) with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by
the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (given full attention to the fruits of the Spirit!).
1 Tim. 6: "11But you, man of
God, (give no attention to)flee from all, and (give all your attention to)pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
endurance and gentleness. 12*Fight the good
fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when
you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
When God tells you and I not to do something, He is telling us to not give those things ANY of our attention ~~ then to turn and give your full attention to those things He wants you to do! Yes!? THIS is the primary way we deal with sin now, by not dealing with it! Please consider keeping this in mind when reading scripture. :)
17Command those who
are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in
wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides
us with everything for our enjoyment.
18Command them to do
good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they
will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so
that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
I would encourage you to keep these things in mind when reading and deciphering scripture...so you will "take hold of the life that is truly life."
*Fighting the good fight is still not paying any attention to sin....but to God - because we are fighting a spiritual warfare, where all our attention is still on the things of God.
Do you overeat on a regular basis? Do you have a tendency to talk about other's oddities or faults? Then according to many Christians today you are a glutton or a gossip. Not a fallen person JUST like they are. No. You are the sin you do! Your besetting sin defines you.
But this is what we do, don't we? The homosexual is nothing else but a homosexual. Have we have put a big scarlet letter on them so everyone knows that they are seperate from others? That some sinners are less sinful then others? So, I wonder; does this make us feel more spiritual or something? Because one thing it does do...is it lessens the power of God's grace and wisdom ~ as it says that God is not capable of redeeming some people as much as others.
Please take a moment and read the following short article by J.S. Park~
When God saves someone...they are saved. They are not halfway saved...no, completely saved! It would take very specific and rare circumstances for someone to lose their salvation! Yes, rare. God invested so much into our salvation...so do you think He would change His mind or let someone go so easily?? NO! We get shaken by happenstance, He does not. We change our mind on a whim, He does not. His mercies are new every morning...and this was spoken even before the New Covenant!
Rom. 8: 1 Therefore, there is now no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
2 Cor. 3:9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious,
how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!
Romans 3:21 But now
a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law
and the Prophets testify.
5:21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we
might become the righteousness of God.
Some people however will either come forward at an alter call or pray a prayer to be saved under very emotional circumstances, and not truly receive Christ...not unlike someone who would say almost anything under feelings of compulsion or hopelessness. So, in the following verses, when he was giving instructions about choosing Overseers, this is what he had in mind concerning new converts.
As God knows if someone has truly accepted Him, but we do not, so it is important for us to take these precautions. Then the scriptures after that is the parable Jesus told about the same issue....that there will be some that have not received Christ even though they appeared to have done so at the beginning.
This is my personal belief -- since I believe God meets us where we are, I also think some people are still teetering when they pray...meaning they are still in the process of being saved...and any slight wind can cause them to be swept away.
1 Tim.3:6Must not be a new convert, so that he will not
become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those
outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare
of the devil.
Luke 8:4While a large crowd was
gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this
parable: 5“A farmer went out to sow
his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was
trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.
6Some fell on rock, and
when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7Other
seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
8Still other seed fell on
good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was
11“This is the meaning of
the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path
are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from
their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those
on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but
they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they
14The seed that fell
among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are
choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
15But the seed on good
soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it,
and by persevering produce a crop.
The one unforgivable sin-
Luke 12:8"I tell you, everyone
who confesses me before men, him will the Son of Man also confess before the
angels of God; 9but he who denies me in
the presence of men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God.
10Everyone who speaks a
word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against
the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11When they bring you
before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, don't be anxious how or
what you will answer, or what you will say; 12for the Holy Spirit
will teach you in that same hour what you must say."
Against - eis (a preposition) – properly,
into (unto) – literally, "motion into which" implying
penetration ("unto," "union") to a particular purpose or
God in the flesh died for us and therefore paid an extremely heavy price...therefore He does not take it lightly when His Holy Spirit makes His home inside our heart and life. It would be compared to setting something priceless and sacred inside the finest gold...therefore a union He never, ever planned would ever be touched or removed!! Can you picture it?!
We can get mad at God and even allow our human nature to run at the mouth or have temper tantrums! However, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is very different...it is essentially tampering with that one union that God deems as the most sacred....because it is that one thing...the union between God and man...that He died for!! It is deliberately takingaction against the Holy Spirit...like, trying to extract something highly sacred and priceless from pure and fine gold -- and in so doing causing irrepairable damage.
We are saved, and God is faithful to keep us that way. If we ever get even close (which is still far) to being close to the edge of losing our salvation...God is more than faithful then too.
1 Cor. 11:32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being
disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not
disciplined by his father?