Search Me

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24.

What a prayer! Praying that God would search and test your heart is a dangerous prayer. It is not only a dangerous prayer, but I think it is an incredibly faith-filled prayer because in order to pray this mighty prayer of faith you need to trust God. I don’t see any way you can pray for God to test you unless you trust Him to be gentle with you. If you are scared of God, you can’t ask Him to search and test you. Not because of what He might find but how He might react. If you are scared of God, then you are afraid of how He will respond. However, when you love and trust Him, you know even if He finds junk, He is going to be gentle with you because He loves you.

When my daughter asks me if her room is clean, she is saying “Daddy I trust you to be honest with me and not freak out because I missed something.” If (and when) I find something I am more than likely going to pick it up and take care of it for her. How much more does God help us? We must come to the same place with God. We must come to the place where we love and trust Him enough to ask for testing. The testing is for our own good. James says that the testing produces perseverance and we need perseverance to move forward in this life. The testing then becomes a time of growth and communion between us and God. Oh, how good it is to be tested by the Lord.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

 

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Fight Time

Growing up I loved watching wrestling and boxing. One of my favorite moments was when they announced the fight was going to start. It didn’t matter if it was a bell or an announcer saying something. The start was this magical moment when the story that had been building reached its climax and the fight would begin. My favorite wrestler was Sting (Steve Borden). He just carried himself in a great way. By the way, if Steve happens to see this feel free to pop over to the site and grab a mission’s t-shirt. Anyway, my point in telling you this is that we have similar things going on in our lives. For each of us, God is always building us up for something that he wants to do. For our family it is missions but for you, it might be something different. Either way, things have been building and growing or maybe they are still building and growing but there comes a moment when its go time.

The thing to remember is that you don’t go it alone. Ephesians 1:3 and 1:13 say that we are blessed in Christ and that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. It’s a done deal. So yes, there is a go time, but we go from a place of being blessed and sealed. We don’t fight some wild fight out of anywhere. It has been building, growing, and waiting for the right time for you to move. Whatever God is doing in you and moving you to, you will have a fight time, but you fight with God for His mission.

That is amazing when we really think about it. We fight from a place of Christ’s victory. It is still scary, but it is awesome too. When we start to get scared because it doesn’t seem like things are going the right way, we have to remember three very important things. First is that Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If you could see it then it wouldn’t be faith. Second, is Hebrews 11:6. I like the way the Message version reads – God cares enough to respond to those who seek him. Third is that failure is an option. If it wasn’t then it would not be a fight. I know that is not comforting to some, but it always makes me feel good. To know I could fail means I need to be that much more determined not too.

So, wherever you are at in the battle or whether the story is still building, it is going to be great in the end. Keep pushing into Christ. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep pressing into Jesus. It might hurt and it might be scary, but God is so worth it.

Just a thought,

Mike

Foolishness

Sometimes I do foolish things. This one time I thought it would be a good idea to dye my hair red. The problem is my hair was recently bleached so instead of red it was like a flame. It was red on the bottom, but it got lighter towards the tips. It was not my best look. Another time (about 3 years) I wore Jnco style jeans. It was not a good look and I am glad there are no pictures. Other times I do what look like foolish things, but I am doing them in obedience.

Right now, as a family, we are working on something big. It is big in terms of what it is, what it will accomplish, and what it will cost. We were approached about postponing it a bit but the more we spoke and prayed about the more postponing it felt wrong. Postponing it would make more sense, but God has already opened up so many doors that should be shut but he keeps flinging them wide open. It feels like we are giving Him and out by postponing it and we have no peace about it. Do you ever do that? Maybe it is just us, but sometimes we like to give God and out. We say things like, if it is your will, if You want to God, or something similar. It is not that those things are wrong to say or pray but when you know God is calling or saying something it does become wrong.

So, we are going to be fools for Christ and I think that puts us in good company. Paul and the other Apostles were fools for Jesus. David was a fool for God. Early missionaries to China, India, and other parts of the world were fools for God, thousands of missionaries around the world are fools every day. People all the time are fools for Christ by daring to believe Him for the impossible. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says that God chose the foolish things to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong. Right now, we know God is calling us to do something foolish in the eyes of some. It is huge but so is He. The thing is if you cannot trust God for the impossible what can you trust Him for? If you can believe that Christ lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose again three days later can you trust Him for a miracle now?

We are doing something foolish but I think we should all be willing to be fools for Jesus.

Just a thought,

Mike

Character study – Ananias of Damascus

The first question and a good one I might add is why do a character study on Ananias of Damascus? A good second question might be what is a character study? Another well thought out question dear reader. To answer the former, I will say that the Lord revealed some things about Ananias to me and I thought it only fitting that I share them, and as to the latter I am referring to the character of the man Ananias, not the character named Ananias for that makes it sound more like a study on Bugs Bunny and while interesting that is not my aim and he is not just some character but a real man.

There are two other Ananias’s mentioned in the Bible the first is the man who he and his wife lied to the Holy Spirit, and the second was the High Priest. We are not speaking about either one of these men. The only Biblical references to Ananias of Damascus are found in Acts 9:10-18 and Acts 22:12-16. From this text, we are able to tell some important things about this man.

First, he was a man of faith in the Lord Jesus, verse 10 of chapter 9 tells us he was a disciple of Jesus, and 22:12 tells us he was devout and highly respected. The fact that he was a disciple was evident from his response to Jesus calling his name when he responded with “Yes Lord”, unlike Saul who answered, “who are you.” Ananias knew who it was that was calling him and answered the right way “yes Lord” oh if we would answer that way every time the Lord called our name. If we would say “yes Lord” maybe we would be able to better receive what He wanted to say to us.

Second, he was a man who could be trusted by the Lord to do His will. Not only did Jesus reveal to Ananias what He wanted him to do but Jesus showed Saul in a vision that Ananias would come. He was a man that could be trusted by God to do the will of the Lord. That says a lot about a person, and I can say that I would like to be that person. The kind of man that God can come to and say, “Mike this is what I want you to do, and I have shown someone in a vision that you would be coming.” What a time that would be. Ananias could be counted on.

Thirdly we can see he was an obedient man. When the Lord told him what He wanted, Ananias told Jesus that he knew of this man Saul and that he knew he was there to arrest men like himself. He knew that the man he was being sent to lay hands on for healing had been sent to lay hands on him for imprisonment. This was not an easy task. We sometimes struggle with praying for someone in the body who God directs us to. But this would be like living in Iran and God telling you to pray and lay hands on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the supreme leader. This man Saul was bad news, he was the one at Stephens stoning, the one who testifies of himself that he persecuted the Way. Ananias’s faith and obedience in this situation should not be quickly overlooked. It is something that we should strive for, something to be sought after.

Fourthly we will quickly look at the fact that he was bold. Acts 22:14-16

“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

What a statement! Did you catch it in verse 16 get up and get baptized; this was not a man who would dance around the point. He knew what he was directed to do and boy oh boy did he do it. I am not sure if I could accurately convey the point of that passage so I will not try other than again saying that Ananias was a bold believer who knew his mission and would do it.

From these texts, we can see that he was a true disciple who could be trusted, had faith, and was bold in mission for the Lord. What separated him and us? What made him so special? One word…Nothing!

That’s right he lived the life that you can live, the life I can live. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Did you catch that; He (God) has given (past tense) us everything we need to live the life He wants us to live. We must simply (and I use that word very loosely) walk in it. We must walk in the power He has already bestowed on us. If we want the life of abundance that Jesus promised in John 10:10 than all we have to do is walk in it. That does not mean there will not be hardships, or trials, or difficulties, but it does mean that we can get through all of it by His grace and for His glory.

One last thing about this great man of faith named Ananias; he was martyred in Eleutheropolis sometime in the 1st century. He faced a trial and problem, but he met that one with the same faith as the one in Acts with boldness and faithfulness to his Lord and God. May it so be with us.

Just a thought,

Mike

p.s. this is an older study from about 8 years ago but I just re-read it and thought it worth sharing again.

The Practicality and Reality of Faith

I am always caught off guard when I read about Jesus praying. I shouldn’t be because Jesus is fully human and fully divine but here I am caught off guard again.

I remember that Jesus is God and I can defend that statement but to remember that Jesus is a man that one I struggle with. I struggle with it because it amazes me. I struggle with it because it twists my mind in ways that I don’t have words for. I struggle with it because to remember that Jesus lived as a man does something to my weakness.

There is a part of me that likes to forget that Jesus was a man because forgetting makes my weakness ok. It makes it ok to be weak and self-serving because after all, I am only human. It makes it ok to slip into sin because after all, I am only human. It makes my self-reliance ok because after all, I am only human. But to remember that Jesus was also human and was without sin well that changes things. To remember that Jesus did not rely on Himself but on the Father and the Holy Spirit that takes away my excuses. To remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a bondservant (Phil 2) that changes the game.

When you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus rarely did anything in His own power. Instead, He prayed to the Father trusting and obeying. Instead of going where He pleased, He moved only by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit (see the temptation). Now it would be easy to say that it is different because Jesus is God but again He chose not to rely on His divinity.

Instead of using His omniscience, Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 disciples (Luke 6:12). Jesus could have used His infinite power and ability but chose to spend all night in prayer asking the Father for direction. Jesus could have used His command of the whole host of heaven to rescue Him from the band that came to take Him on the night of His crucifixion but instead He chose to submit to the will of the Father. Jesus could have done so much in His own power but instead, He chose to live as a man. The problem with remembering all of this is that He commands us to do the same.

I want to rely on my human weakness and frailty to excuse myself from having to do the things God calls me to do. I want to forget to pray and say it’s ok I am only human, but Christ does not give me that out. In taking humanity and living on earth He not only set an example but demonstrated the practicality and reality of faith (the ability to live that life). Now to be sure He does not expect perfection but at the same time, the excuse for not attempting has been removed.

We are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be moving towards the goal of maturity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have no out as Christians. We have no safe zone to escape to and no claim to ignorance. We have instead a great high priest who was tempted in every way and was without sin. Again, perfection is not the requirement, but excuses are not allowed. It is a strange thing indeed but yet here we are.

Jesus among many things is our example of the practicality and reality of faith. We must walk as He walked. We walk by the will of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and by faith in Christ. If Jesus prayed and trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit how much more should we?

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Proving or testing

It’s Friday all so let’s Greekout. Most people who read the Bible know about James 1:3 even if they don’t know where to find it. James 1:3 says knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and this is talking about testing our faith so that we can know the genuineness of it and grow. What you might not know is this was a not a new concept.

In Judges 3:1-2 we read and see that God left a few nations to test Israel. If you know Judges, then you know they failed. The best verse to sum up the book of Judges is 21:25 which says, “In those days Israel had no king: everyone did as they saw fit.” This is actually repeated a few times in Judges which should give us some insight.

Let’s look at the original language to see what we have here. In Judges the Hebrew word for test or prove is nacah in 3:1 which means to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test. In verse 2 the word for teach is lamad and this means to learn. teach, exercise in.

That was a lot so let’s break that down. If we combine what we see in verses 1 and 2 we see that God left enemies in the land to test the people, so they might learn how to fight. What seemed like a challenge and struggle to the people was indeed a challenge and a struggle and it was a God-ordained challenge and struggle. God intended for it to be that way because the people needed to learn.

If we jump ahead a few thousand years and books, we see in James the Greek word for testing is dokimion and it means the proving. This is the exact same concept as Judges. It means that something is happening to prove your faith so that you might learn from it. It is not just about proving the faith but proving it so that we might learn from it.

God often leaves challenges and struggles in front of us to prove us for the purpose of learning. Jesus says that he who is faithful in much will be given much. God does not test us just to see what we know or what we will do. He already knows. Instead, God is testing and proving us so that we learn and can handle more of His will and His ways. God desires so much more for you and for me, but we need to a person and a people who can handle it.

So, if you are being tested or proved right now focus on the goal. Focus on the prize in front of you. Focus on God your great and might reward.

Just a thought,

Mike

Walk it out

Paul said we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but James says a man is justified by works and not faith alone. So, who is right?

Well, they both are, and I am not just saying that because both statements are in the Bible and I need to find coherence. When we come across things in the Bible that does not seem to make sense or things that contradict one another we need to back up and look at the context (I feel like I say that a lot). So, what is the context here?

Paul is talking about salvation. Specifically, he is talking about being saved apart from our own efforts. James, however, was not talking about salvation. He is talking about showing your faith or living out your faith. I think an illustration might help.

Here is an obvious statement: When you have a child, you become a parent. But let’s break that down. You are connected to that child and you cannot be any more related to that child then you are as a parent. You cannot become more related or less related. I know that is redundant but stay with me. You share DNA with that child, you share ancestry with that child, you share a larger family connection with that child, and so on. You and that child and related. That is salvation. It happened the moment you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is done. That is what Paul was talking about.

James is talking about acting like a parent or being a parent. James is saying “OK, parent you have a child now be the parent.” This is the works portion. This is waking up a 4 AM to feed that child, teaching that child to walk, changing diapers, and so on. It is taking the thing you claim to have and actually doing with it what you are supposed to. The statements from Paul and James are not opposed to one another but completely connected.

Now as I have said many times all analogies fall short, but I hope this helps.

When we read these statements from Paul and James we should put them together to see the bigger picture. We should see that we are saved by grace, through faith, and now we need to live like that is true.

Just a thought,

Mike