Know What You Believe; Believe What You Know: Does it Matter?

 

 

 

 

 

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” Romans 1:20

“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”

Can that really be true? Does it matter what you and I believe? And what are we supposed to believe? How do we sort out all the different beliefs that come at us from the world? How do we determine which ones to grab hold of and which ones to let go? Those are a lot of heavy questions, and it’s really hard to understand why all this matters when we are working, raising families, doing chores, going to church, being involved in community activities, being responsible citizens. I don’t know about you, but at the end of a long day I’m too tired to think that hard.

But it does matter. It matters a great deal. Because what you believe translates into who you are and how you live. It determines your thoughts and affects every choice you make. It matters today and tomorrow. What you believe has eternal consequences. So I pose to you two questions: Do you know what you believe? And do you believe what you know? That sounds like double-speak, but I assure you these are the most important questions you’ll ever consider. In the coming weeks at Deeper Roots, we’re going to look into our core beliefs—what is known as our “worldview.”

A worldview is the basis from which we determine all things related to God, the universe, life and man. It is an overarching theme that sets our beliefs in some semblance of order. It answers important questions about the creation of the universe, the origins of all life, morality, individuality, the future of humanity and what follows after this life.

Worldviews often shift from generation to generation and culture to culture. The changes in the world because of advances in education, science, medicine, and a variety of other aspects, while beneficial in so many ways, have also caused modern man to turn away from a worldview that embraces God, creation, salvation and morality. Even the modern church has backed away from many of the foundational beliefs of her ancestors. They don’t ask these important questions and they no longer teach these core issues. This is why the unbelieving world judges the Bible as archaic and Christians as “out of touch” and even “dangerous.”  But a worldview that is founded on the timeless truths and principles of the Bible is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago for two very important reasons.

1) God has not changed. His character, His truth, His promises and His Word stand just true as they did in the days of Adam, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul and on through the ages.

2) Human nature has not changed. We are still creatures steeped in a sin nature and in desperate need of redemption. We are still self-centered and rebellious and foolish and we still demand to be our own authority.

The Christian worldview of Paul’s day remains the true Christian worldview of our day, because the foundation – Jesus Christ – “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). In a world of shifting ideologies and ever-changing “truth” it is more important than ever to Know What You Believe and Believe What you Know.

I encourage you – no I challenge you to join me in the coming weeks as we ask some very important questions and search for answers that are true and timeless. Share these posts with your family and friends – let’s start a conversation about what really matters in this life.

Mighty God – we want to fill our minds with something more substantial than the latest celebrity gossip and the thoughts of men. We want truth. We want to build our lives on what is solid and eternal. Open our eyes and ears to the deeper things of life. Open our minds to receive and believe Your eternal wisdom and truth

 

On the Outside Looking In

I was never popular in school. I had a weird name, I was tall and gangly, clumsy and awkward. I wore hand-me-downs and homemade clothes and every school picture looked like I didn’t own a hairbrush. I wasn’t very smart and wasn’t part of the “in” crowd. Oh but I wanted to be. I wanted so much to be accepted by the pretty girls who dressed in the latest fashions and carried themselves with an air of confidence I could never master. That carried over into my adult life, always feeling like I was on the outside looking in. When I became a Christian, those feelings didn’t change. I had a past—a pretty ugly one, and all those Bible-toting women at church, seemed so perfect. Had they ever made some of the choices I made? Did they feel ashamed of the things they had done? I drew back because I didn’t feel like I belonged among them. I felt like an outsider.

That’s why I love Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. He writes, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19). Paul says I belong. It’s not because I’m less awkward or because I dress better or finally found a hairbrush. It’s because of Jesus. Jesus made me acceptable to God. He made me part of the family. He died to cover all my sins and to take away my shame. Because of Jesus I am not an outsider; I’m part of the “in” crowd – because I’m in Him. It’s not a popularity contest. In God’s Kingdom everyone is the same – rescued, redeemed, restored and joined together as one holy dwelling place for the Lord (2:21).

My friend, God’s hand is stretched out to you too, to welcome you into the family, to be “in,” and to never be rejected again. It doesn’t matter what you wear or where you live or work or whether your hair is neatly brushed. It doesn’t matter if you never finished school or if you have a string of letters after your name. It doesn’t matter if you made all the right choices in life (like anyone has) or if you made every mistake possible. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, live in a mansion or a tent come from the right family or the wrong side of the tracks. God says to you “Come.” Take Him up on His offer. There’s more than enough room at the family table for you. You can sit next to me.

Holy Father, what a blessing to be part of Your family, to be accepted and welcomed with every other saint of God. I have nothing of value or worth, I’m just a sinner saved by grace. Oh but grace! Thank you for making a place for me a the family table. Amen.

The Lovely Dwelling Place of God

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!” Psalm 84:1

Home décor and aesthetics are big business today – and with good reason.  Who doesn’t want a well-appointed home worthy of a magazine cover.  If your family is like mine, that look wouldn’t last more than a day past the photo shoot. What really makes a home beautiful? It’s not the paint or the furnishings or the landscape – it’s the ones who dwell there. It’s the people who call it home.

The Old Testament pointed to the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, as the dwelling place of God. The Tabernacle was made with the finest wood, the richest tapestries and was adorned with gold and silver elements. When Solomon built the Temple, the walls were covered with gold and only the finest stones were used throughout. It was necessary and fitting for the dwelling place of the Lord God to be the very best.  After the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, the Jewish people rebuilt it and the older generation grieved the smaller, less opulent structure. In time Herod remodeled and expanded the Temple to appease the Jews but, as Jesus predicted,[1] it was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans.

There are many awe-inspiring structures of worship throughout the world. Have you seen St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris? Maybe you’ve seen pictures of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow or St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. They are all awe-inspiring structures of worship. But the most beautiful of all God’s dwelling places is YOU. The Scriptures says that if you are in Christ Jesus “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you” (Romans 8:11). You are the place where God chose to reside through His Spirit. You are the place God calls home. Whether you are tall or short, light or dark-skinned or any other color in between, no matter your weight or the color of your hair (even if you have none!), despite any scars or imperfections you may see, you are the lovely dwelling place of God in the world today. It’s not your physical appearance nor your clothes and accessories but it is the One who lives within that makes you the beauty you are.

Beloved, if you struggle with your physical image, may I suggest you look deeper than the surface? Look past the garments and flesh and see yourself as the exquisite abode of the Lord of heaven and earth. See the beauty within and let others see it too. My but you’re looking lovely today!

Holy Father, anything good in me is because your Spirit dwells within and makes me into someone beautiful, inside and out. Thank you for moving in – please make Yourself at home in me. Amen

[1] See Matthew 24:2.

Search Me O God

bright-light“The lamp (light showing the way of truth) of the Lord searches (examines, tracks down) the spirit (breath, life) of a man; it searches out his inmost being (heart, chamber, bedroom, the most intimate part of the heart),” Proverbs 20:27.

When we are searching for something important, we turn on every available light and look throughout the room.  We move things that might be covering up what we’re seeking.  We check every corner, hunt through drawers, closets and shelves and we keep looking until we find our target. Sometimes we even go back where we’ve already looked, just in case we missed it the first time.

God has a holy light, a brilliant, powerful light that illumines every corner and crevice of our lives.  He shines that spotlight on us, searching our hearts and minds, out thoughts and intentions, our desires and passions and our actions.  He moves everything we use to cover over our hearts. He looks far deeper than we even know exists, to the most intimate levels of our being, to the place where we find the truth about ourselves.  His purpose is to locate and root out everything in us that does not meet the perfect standard of His children. 

 I need this holy light of truth to examine my life, to track down everything in me that is not conforming to the image of Christ.  I need God to search out every offensive way in me (Psalm 139:24).  In the deepest part of my heart, there are passions and desires that need to be crucified to Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:24) if I am to truly love Him and be a vessel for His glory. 

Lord, I want to be fully open to the Spirit’s examination, I want You to roam throughout my heart, mind and body and expose me to the core. 

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Worried woman and shopping bags

“Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2

“If I only had a boyfriend, I would be so happy.”  “If I were married, I would finally be content.”  “Oh, if I could have a baby, my life would be perfect.”  “Lord, I don’t need a mansion, but if I could just have a home of my own, I’d be satisfied.”  Ever said one of these, or something similar? I’ve said all of them – and guess what – they didn’t deliver what I thought they would.  The boyfriend was a jerk, the marriage turned sour, the baby cried. All. The. Time.  And the house ended up in foreclosure.

Our key verse is part of God’s call to the nation of Judah to leave behind all the things that had failed them and come to the only sure thing that could satisfy – Himself.  They had wearied themselves trying to gain wealth and power, position and pleasure – but still their lives were empty.  The harder they tried to create a satisfying and fulfilled life, they further they got from it.

Does that ring any bells for you?  It sure does for me.  I’ve known moments of what I thought were satisfaction or joy or peace, but they were only temporary and soon I was looking to the next thing/person for what was missing in my life.  But the truth is that I was not looking for what I needed, but for what I wanted.  And my wants changed with the next commercial, the newest pair of shoes or the next hunger pang.

Beloved, what are you relying on for satisfaction?    Or maybe the better question is what is it you want?  Wealth?  Status?  Food?  Ministry?  Perfection?  People? Acceptance?  None of these will fill that void inside you.  It is only when you and I look to God to fill our wants that we gain a satisfaction that is eternal and unshakable. There is no need to look for the next thing, because there is nothing more satisfying than Him.

To be Accepted by God

one_way_1240x1024“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one come to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

I’m so thankful that there is no algebra entrance exam to be accepted by God – I would be out in the cold.  Right now you’re probably thinking, “What a crazy thing to say, of course we don’t have to take an entrance exam for God to accept us!”  You’re right – that’s a really crazy idea. So let me ask you, what test do you think you have to pass for God to accept you?  The perfect-parent test?  The never-think-bad-thoughts assessment? The serve-till-you’re-exhausted exam?  Or maybe, like me it’s the Bible-teacher-with-all-the-answers quiz.  Most of us have an unwritten and personal level of expectation we think we have to meet to be acceptable to God.  If we fall below the standard we berate ourselves for our failure.  My friend, God didn’t set that bar – you and I did.

The Bible says, in very clear language, only one thing is required to be acceptable to God – to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.  Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’”  It really is that simple.  Confess and believe.  No hoops to jump through.  No standard to meet.  No test to pass.  Salvation equals acceptance.  If you have bowed your heart and your knee to Jesus Christ, God has accepted you and welcomes you.  Yes, be the best person, parent, servant you can possibly be – but never forget that your relationship with God doesn’t hinge on how well you do it.  It all rests on Jesus.  Maybe you and I should too.

 

Is There a Point to All This?

motivator-confusion

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days” (Joshua 6:3).

“Is there a point to this?” I fumed last week as I worked nonsensical logic problems.  Once again I was frustrated by course work that seemed to have no practical purpose.  I want to know the reason for whatever I’m being asked to do.  It helps me in the learning process if I can understand the “why” as much as the “how.” 

The Christian life rarely give us practical reasons for what we’re called to do.  Often we don’t even know how to accomplish that calling.  Throughout the Bible we see God calling people to do the impractical as well as the impossible.  Deliver two-million people from slavery, go through a raging sea with your captors literally on your heels, oh and I’m not telling you where you’re going; you’re just going to follow me day-by-day.  “Lord, how am I going to pull this off?”  “Just trust me and you’ll see.”  Take down a fortified city with no weapons – just walk around the city every day.  I can hear the bewildered people asking, “Lord, why such a crazy battle plan?”  “Just trust me and you’ll see.” 

How often does God ask you and me to do something that makes no sense and is completely outside of our power and ability to accomplish?  Is there a point to all this?  Why on earth would He make such a request?  How does He expect us to do the impossible?  I can almost hear His answer: “Just trust me and you’ll see.” There really is a logical and practical purpose – to give God the glory and honor He deserves.  He asks us to do the impractical and the impossible to show His power and might and sovereignty.  He asks great things of us to show that He is a great God.  Beloved, you and I have the awesome blessing of being vessels for the glory of God.  And that is the point of it all.

The Path at the Edge of the Sea

Long-Path-Over-Water

God said, “This is My path for you. 

   It will take you far and wide. 

Will you walk the road I give

   and trust Me with your life?”

“But Lord,” I said, “Where could it lead?

   The path ends at the edge of the sea.”

“My child,” He said “You’ve not reached the end;

   just trust yourself to Me.”

I walked the long and difficult road,

   and watched the horizon to see,

Would bridge or boat be waiting

   at the end of the road for me?

I came to the shore and stood on the beach,

   no boat or bridge in sight.

“Lord I followed the path you gave,

   trusting with all my might

That you would make a way for me,

   yet here I stand tonight;

With neither boat nor bridge

   to cross the ocean wide.”

Tears fell across my face,

   my heart broken to see

That I had trusted in my God

  and He had forgotten me.

Then I saw my Savior,

   His hand stretched out to me;

“Do not doubt our Father’s heart,”

  He spoke so patiently,

“Come beloved and I will teach you

  how to walk upon the sea.”

The Desire of the Heart

follow-your-heart“Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  James 1:14-15

I used to work in a church office and we were often contacted by prisoners in jail who wanted us to visit and usually to try to intervene with the law on their behalf.  They almost always gave the same story, “I found myself in jail.”  As if they were innocently living their lives and suddenly looked up to see bars all around them.  It’s just one example of the human mantra, “It’s not my fault!”  And it’s as old as humanity itself.  In the Garden, at the scene of the first sin, Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve and even God.  But the Lord knew the truth then, and he knows the truth now.  As our key verse clearly says, we are tempted by our own evil desires.  No one ever just wakes up unexpectedly in the pit of sin.  There is a progression and we are wise to recognize where it all begins.

James lays it out:

Man’s own sinful desire

The lure of temptation

Taking the bait

Sin is born

The final outcome: Death

At the heart of all sin is our innate sinful nature and our own sinful desires.  Paul explained it in Romans 8:5 saying, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires.”  The Bible offers us countless examples of this truth. King David showed a previous bent toward lust with many wives, and when he was tempted with the beautiful Bathsheba, he answered that call.  The same was true of his son, Solomon, who “loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1). He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines – that’s a thousand women – and “his wives led him astray” (1 Kings 11:3).  In fact, sexual lust was, and continues to be, the most “popular” desire among human beings.

Judas was tempted by wealth; the gospels reported that he was stealing from the funds for the poor even before his betrayal of Jesus (John 12:6).  When the temptation was offered to earn thirty silver coins, his desire overwhelmed him and he turned on his Friend.

Satan goes for our desires, which are often our weaknesses.  Money, sex and power are the usual enticements into sin and death, but there are more than we can conceivably count.  Every person has their own desire, their own personal lure, and be assured Satan knows it.  He has devised a scheme just for you and just for me, tailor made to match that craving inside us.  We answer to the temptation that calls out to our innate desires. If your desire is for material possessions, he will pull you into the mall, or entice you with advertisements for the newest shiny thing.  If your desire is lust, every TV commercial for lingerie will catch your attention and he will make certain you get plenty of pop-ups for sexual sites on your I-phone.  Want power, prestige, fame, a high?  He’s got just what you’re looking for.

But Satan is not the one that God will hold responsible. We are all held accountable for our own desires.  King David warned his son Solomon, “The Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9).  He knows that while Satan sets the trap and pulls the string, you and I are to blame for crawling in to take the bait.  Our hearts – our desires – will deceive us and lead us into self-destruction (Jeremiah 17:9).

Our only way of escaping his trap is to have but one desire: God.

God wants to be the desire of your heart and mine.  Nothing can drag us away into sin if the desire of our heart is to please and honor the holy, sovereign Lord of the Universe.  We will still face temptations, but if our one and only desire is to be like Christ, those temptations will fail to entice us.  Jesus resisted temptation because He had no evil desires.  His desire was only to do the will of His Father, therefore He had no pull to the temptations of the devil.

One of the church’s favorite verses is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.”  I have it highlighted in my Bible too.  But we tend to overlook the first part in favor of the second.  We hone in on “He will give you the desire of your heart,” but rush past the requirement expressed just before it: “Delight yourself in the Lord.”  In other words, if your heart yearns for God alone, He will give you your heart’s desire.  And after that desire is met in all His fullness, any other gift He chooses to give to you is “icing on the cake.”

If we are serious about living pure and holy lives, especially in this culture, we must adopt the attitude of Asaph who proclaimed: “Earth has nothing I desire besides you…God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26).  When God is our heart’s desire, He will make sure we have the desire of our heart.

 

Holy Father, I know my desires are not often pure and the enemy know it too, as he casts his temptations before me.  My only hope is for you to be the sole desire of my heart.  I can’t do that on my own Lord, I need you to change my heart.  I want you to be my heart’s desire.  Amen.

The Good Giver

giftgiving“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . .” (James 1:17).

“Please sir, I want some more.”

You probably recognize those words spoken by Oliver Twist in Charles Dickens’ classic tale of the same name.  Oliver is a young boy, orphaned at birth in Dickens’ story set in 1830’s England.  He is one of many orphans who are kept in cruel near-slave conditions and given meager rations to survive on.  He warily approaches the master and makes his plea, but his  request only causes the boy even more trouble.  How dare this no-account waif ask for more!  Who does he think he is to presume upon the charity of the master?  We see the cruel irony of a hungry orphan approaching the well-fed head-master, and we understand that he at least deserves a decent meal to sustain him.  He is not acting out of greed, but out of need.  It is a reasonable request, we think.

Yet how often do we approach God with the same trepidation as Oliver Twist?  How often do we approach Him as if we think He is a harsh master who will refuse us even the humblest request?   We assume He rations out His blessings only to the most deserving, or worse, that He is holding back His blessings from us.  That is what Satan implied to Eve in the Garden when He told her, “God knows that when you eat [of the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God . . .” (Genesis 3:3).  You can almost hear him hissing: “God is holding out on you missy, don’t be a naïve fool!”  But we know that Satan is a liar, and the Bible reveals God as a generous Father who loves to give good things to His children.

Jesus compared our Heavenly Father with earthly fathers who provide for their children’s needs.  And even though it is really no comparison at all, the Lord said if we, as human parents give our children what they need and desire, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11).  How much more will the God who gave us life (Romans 4:17) give us what is necessary to sustain life?  Why then, do we hesitate?

James 4:2 says “You do not have because you do not ask.” And Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Jesus Himself said “Ask and it will be given to you…” (Luke 11:9). I think we can all agree that this isn’t so much about stuff—houses and cars and a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, although God has generously provided a home and a vehicle for me when I needed them. (Still waiting on the shoes 🙂 But God promises to bless us when we ask for those things that are in His will, such as wisdom (James 1:5), healing (James 5:14-15), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), faith (Luke 17:5), joy (John 16:24), strength (Philippians 4:13), love (1 John 4:7), grace—actually “more grace” according to James 4:6. Best of all He gives us what we don’t even think to ask for: peace (John 14:27), hope (Romans 5:5), light (John 1:9), a future (Jeremiah 29:11), glory (John 17:22), revelation (John 17:26), direct access to the Father (John 16:23), and eternal life (John 17:2).  He gave His only Son for you (John 3:16).  Does that sound like He is holding out on you?

2 Peter 1:3 says He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness;” those things we need for life, like our daily bread (Matthew 5:11), clothes on our back (Matthew 6:30) and “all these things” that are necessary for life (Matthew 6:33).  I’ve been the recipient of His practical generosity and kindness many, many times.  He also promises to give us everything we need for a godly life: chiefly His Word (John 17:8) and His Spirit (John 14:16).   God provides with a generous heart and an open hand.

I love John’s affirmation in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  The writer of Hebrews echoes the same thought: “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  That is an invitation we should jump at!

You do not have to come to your Heavenly Father with a sense of apprehension, as if you are asking for more than God is willing to bestow.  He has so much he desires to give you—till your cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).  Don’t come crawling to Him with a little teacup in your hand. Come running to your Father with the biggest bucket you can find, and He will fill it till is spills over and you can’t contain it all.  He is a God who loves to give!

Holy Father, I cannot count the number of times You’ve blessed me—You have given and given and given even more.  Not only do you give from an endless supply, but You give from extraordinary generosity.  Please help me to always come to you with the confidence of a child coming to her loving Father.  Amen