Saturday, May 30, 2009

252 Challenge mid stream

It is the 5th Sunday of the month. That means today we are talking about the 252 Challenge. Do you remember what that is? I dabble with weightlifting once in a while. When you read about it, one thing that comes out is you need balance. I’ve seen pictures of guys who just target one thing, like their right bicep. If you take a close-up of their arm, it looks great. But when you pan out you see scrawny little chicken legs, and no significant chest development to support huge biceps. They look more freakish than anything. The 252 challenge is about balance, about maturing in each of the 4 main areas of your life. Here is the challenge for this week:

Physical: I had a car once. The oil light would sometimes flicker and go on. I would check it, maybe a bit low so I put in some oil. Still issues with the light. I put off getting it looked at. Money was tight and who needs diagnostic stuff anyways? Well, it wasn’t long before I am driving down the highway and bang, the car stops. Turns out at some point when someone had changed the oil earlier, some paper towel had dropped into the engine block. It took awhile, but the paper towel ended up clogging the intake on the hose that takes the oil to different parts of the engine. The car stopped because the engine had over heated and a piston seized. So, the lesson learned was that diagnostic stuff is important, and in the end can be a lot cheaper than allowing issues to go unattended.
Sometimes we do the same thing with our bodies. There are little warning signs, but we ignore them because we are not other people. We have a sense that we are above the frail human condition. Not true. Let me encourage you to know yourself – know your body and what isn’t normal. Be proactive in your body’s care. The New Testament says that your body is the temple of God. Even before that, we understand that we are creations of God. We need to take care of our bodies and in so doing worship God.
Life is always about extremes. We need to find balance in most things. Take care of your body, knowing that you are a steward of it before God, but don’t focus so much on it so that it draws your attention away from the Creator.

Wisdom: How’s your brain today? I have encouraged you to read. It is not just because Bonnie’s book is out now either. Reading exercises your brain. It expands your vocabulary. It opens up the world to you; places you would otherwise never visit. Read history. Read the Old Testament, which is old history. As we watch Jesus walk through life in the Gospels, we see Him referring to Scripture often. Scripture for Him was just the Old Testament. There is much value in reading through it. We understand that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. How do we correlate what happens with the Old testament with what is in the New; with what we are commanded by Jesus? Do know that it is not God that has changed. Our way of communicating and relating to Him has changed. Our understanding of what is foundational in our spiritual lives has changed. God has not. Spend some time this summer to read and understand some of the Old Testament. Next month we are starting a new series for the summer. I have called it our Psummer Psalm Pseries! Let us all expand our minds a bit over the next few months and read through the Psalms and other parts of the Old testament.

Social: Summer is the best time for being more social. It does not take much effort to throw hamburgers or chicken on a barbeque, so invite your neighbours over often. Do it with your church friends, but don’t forget to focus on those in your sphere of influence who don’t know Jesus. We are called to be the salt of the earth, a light to the world. If we spend all our time with people who are already salty and light, those in darkness are the ones missing out. 
At the same time, it is important to cultivate good and close relationships with a few people who  are spiritual mature. Some people think that they will do fine spiritually if they read their Bible occasionally and are otherwise good people. You need more than that. Find people who stretch you spiritually, who encourage you.  Don’t get caught up thinking that you don’t need good friends who are also followers of Jesus. Have you ever seen a kid playing in the dirt or mud wearing a pair of white glove? What do you think would happen? Sometimes we think we are outside of the natural order of things and that instead of our gloves getting muddy, we think the mud will get “glovey”. It doesn’t work that way.
And don’t just wait for someone to come to you. You are responsible for your own life, your own health, your own well-being. Take some initiative in looking after your “temple of God” body and get out and socialize. The older I get, the shorter life seems. It also seems more tiring, but don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.

Spiritual: Can we make this a summer of prayer? Can you make a list of 3 – 5 people who need Jesus in their lives, and just start praying for them? DO it faithfully over the next 3 months, and let us see what God will do this coming fall. There are things I want to do this fall program-wise. I want to see this church grow. We have continued to shrink even a bit more over this last year and to be viable we really need more people. I pray every night with Bonnie and the kids that God will bless our church, that He will help us to grow. I pray the prayer that Jesus said we should, that we should be praying for workers to come help with the harvest. Right now, it is seeding time. Let us spend our summer praying for people, and even praying for opportunities to talk about our spiritual life with those around us. Let us encourage one another. Ask how things are going. Then ask the second question, “How are things going spiritually?” Ask if there is anything you could pray for. Don’t just cruise through life assuming someone else will take the initiative. If you do, you are believing the lie that Satan is feeding you that says you are nobody. That’s just not true. One of the things we are going to discover as we read through the Psalms is how special we are before God. We are going to understand how we should be different from the world. We are going to learn about praise and prayer, confession and petition, and maybe even a bit about how to stand up for God.

Take the time you need this week, this summer, to be all you can be. A toddler can’t mature in a week, and neither can you or I. But we can set our direction, we can set our goals. If you need help, grab Bonnie’s book Your Best You to help you know yourself. She has some great information in there on using your strengths and talents to facilitate change in your life. You can do it. Start today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waiting – Part 5: God’s Timing

James 1:2-11 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

We have been talking about waiting; the difficult waiting. The waiting where we try to connect with God but our prayers feel like they hit the ceiling and bounce straight back to us. We all face dark times in our lives, and maybe it is current for you today. We started by understanding that it is these times that can produce the greatest spiritual growth in our lives. These times are like the refiner’s fire - it burns hot but it brings the dregs and impurities to the surface so they can be dealt with. It’s not automatic, it takes work; but there is a blessedness in tough times we will find nowhere else.
We then looked at three words and how they relate to this time of waiting. Hope, Faith and Grace are all key words and should be part of our daily conversations. Today we conclude this series talking about God’s timing, trying to have a better perspective on what God is doing in and through these times.

God’s Perspective: History
The first thing we need to understand as we consider God’s timing when it comes to problem is perspective. The foundation of our understanding of God is that He is eternal. From before Creation to long after history is closed, He is. Not only is He outside of time, but He has been in time from the beginning, directing His plan of restoration of His creation to Himself. At the beginning of history God created. In that creation God made man in His image. In that image he gave man the ability to choose. With that choice, man sinned and a gulf was created between man and God. Even then God knew and had a plan to bring them back together. So, as you look through the annals of history you see God at work. You see man multiplying on the earth and constantly turning from God. You see Noah being used to save the world from destruction. And then, at the right moment you see Abraham picked out of all the inhabitants of the earth and chosen to be the start of a new nation. You see promises and covenants. In fact, what you don’t see is God’s absence. You see Him quiet at times, you see periods of what may be timed slowness, but God is active throughout history.

God raises a nation to reveal Himself to the world, and through the ultimate revelation of His Son through the incarnation within that nation at just the right time. Then we see God working in and through the people of the early church. As you read through the end of the New Testament you are also reminded that God never stops being actively involved in His creation. The whole of history is moving along God’s timing. We are not privy to all the why’s and why not’s, but we do know that God is Sovereign and in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise, for He is outside of time and can see any situation from both sides of time, before and after. Christ was born at the height of the Roman Empire, which allowed the Gospel to be spread quickly around the world. Even now God is waiting for the 2nd coming, giving everyone a chance to repent and come to Him. In his 2nd epistle in chapter 3, Peter says God is not slow concerning that promise; that it is in His timing. How many years was it from the fall in the Garden of Eden to the resurrection of Jesus, the solution of that fall? Jesus has taken over 2,000 years so far to come back and He is still not here. When you look at history we talk of God moving in the hundreds and thousands of years. Our 70 or 80 or 100 years here on earth are but a blink in time when it comes to the time before us and what follows. God can make even that small blink have lasting effects. If you lead even one person to Christ in your whole lifetime, consider that you have changed eternity for that soul. That is remarkable. By faithfully doing the small things day in day out, month in month out, year in year out, you are involved in the eternities of countless people God brings you in contact with. It is a remarkable thing to be used by the God of History.

God’s Plan: Nations
God’s plans and perspectives are not just some broad movements over millennia, though, they involve the creation of nations, and using nations to do His work. Israel He built from scratch, and exists to this day. The Bible shows that Israel was to represent and reveal God to the world around them. Through their laws they would reveal God’s character, His holiness and His love. The Old Testament tracks the nation of Israel from its birth, to its deliverance and rebelliousness, to its acceptance of dedication to God alone. Not only Israel, either. We see many nations involved, and continue to see God at work in nations. In Latin America we see some large scale movements of God. A few hundred years ago there was the Great Awakening that went through Britain and the US and Canada. In 1972 we saw God start a revival here in Saskatoon that reached around the globe.

The Bible says that God raises up leaders and lays them low. God is Sovereign and we see it throughout history as He interacts with nations. When it comes to His timing we also note that it took hundreds of years for Him to deliver Israel out of Egypt. Generations were born and died in slavery all the while crying out to God for deliverance. So many generations made that cry, but at the right time God touched a man and used him to deliver. Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, another 40 in exile, and then when he was 80 years old, he led the children out of Egypt, and then eventually through 40 years of wandering in the desert.

David wanted to build a temple for God. He collected gold and had the plans drawn up, and made some of the instruments and stuff needed, but he never saw the temple because that was for his son Solomon to do. Go back to Joseph, who was cast into a pit and then sold into slavery. After working in Potiphar’s house for awhile he was falsely accused and then jailed. For two years he languished in jail, and then spent another 7 years preparing for famine. Finally, after all that and then several years of famine, God used him to bring his family to Egypt so they could survive the famine.

Again and again we see God’s timing, and it seems so slow but consider that God is still in the business of bringing people to Himself. So we see God moving in history, we see His redemptive story in and through nations. What is God’s timing about? What is He trying to accomplish?

God’s Perfection: Holiness
God’s plan for us, all of us, all humans, is to become Christ-like in our attitudes, our words, and our actions. We are to reflect Jesus in our lives. We are to reflect the character of God in our lives. That is holiness, and why we are called to be holy. When we consider God’s timing and how sometimes He seems quiet or far away, consider that He didn’t place us on earth to be rich or poor, to be smart or not so smart, to be surrounded by family or utterly alone. God placed us on earth to be a reflection of Himself. So when we go through a rough time financially, we are reminded that as difficult as it may be to go through the experience, the question that should be at the top of the list is not how can I get more money, but how can I reflect the character of Jesus in this circumstance. Yes, you pray for deliverance, you work hard to do what you can to get out of that circumstance, but you do that with a sense of integrity and faith, knowing that God is aware and near. The God who has been working throughout all of history; the God who raises and lowers kings; He is the same God that has put His Holy Spirit in you as a seal of His promise of salvation, and is helping and guiding you to be all you can be. He is the God of grace that died on the cross that you might live. He is the God of love, modeling a selfless love called Agape throughout history, that we might in turn reflect that same love to those around us.
What is your right as a person? Is health? No, we are not guaranteed health. Is wealth? No, we are not guaranteed money. Friends? No! Then what? We are guaranteed eternal life that started the day we accepted Jesus into our hearts. We are guaranteed the presence of God in our hearts and lives regardless of circumstance. We are guaranteed to never be pushed beyond what we are able to bear. We are guaranteed to be loved by God.

We live in a fallen world. Sometimes rough times are a chastisement from the Lord for wandering away from Him and pursuing our own selfish ends. Sometimes we are just caught up in the fallenness and sin of this world, and the consequences there of. Whatever the reason, we need to affirm that through it all, God is making us more like Himself. There is a fig that grows in Israel that needs help to ripen. At a certain time in the growing process the farmer goes out with a little instrument that looks like a spoon, and he gently taps the fruit, bruising it. In so doing, it causes the fruit to become sweet and lose its bitterness. If it is not done, the fruit is not easily edible for it would be quite bitter. Let the rough times in your life be the bruising of God.

As we close, listen to this passage from 2 Peter 1:1-11 “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Waiting - Part 4: Grace

Matthew 18:23-33 “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Ever had someone try to sell you something? I was leaving a mall on Friday, ahead of Bonnie and the kids with some groceries. This nice young man stops me by a booth and goes into a spiel about moisturizer and dead sea salt and oils. I was able to walk away without buying anything, especially when I found out I needed to spend $60 to get something. He rubbed some stuff on the back of my hand and it went into my skin. He did the same thing on the inside of my wrist and it didn’t - and he claimed it was his product that made a difference. I understood that it was because the skin is slightly different and he was just using it as a sales pitch.

I am up here speaking from the Bible. Sometimes people may look at me and think I am doing a sales pitch, just trying to get their money or something from them. What they don’t understand is that I am trying to give them something… for free. No strings attached. In fact, it is not even me offering it, I am just trying to make them aware of it.

In the Old Testament the word for grace means “to bend or stoop”. It talks of a superior granting something unasked and unearned to a subordinate. We often read in the Old Testament where people found favour in the sight of God. That is the word Grace being used. The first time it is used is when Noah finds favour in the sight of God – in the midst of judgment for sin, we see the grace of God. It is something that is extended fully and freely to those who won’t ever be able to repay it. It is favour undeserved and unearned.

You and I, then, could never offer grace to people on a human level, because we are not superior. What we understand, is that we never offer our grace, we offer the grace of God to those around us. He is the Lord God, the gracious Host of Heaven. His grace is offered freely to all. Romans 6:23 talks about the free gift of God. The passage where we started this series of sermons was Romans 5 where we read that it is grace in which we stand. So what is this grace? What is this thing that allows us to find a place to stand even in the midst of struggles and difficulties?

First of all, Grace is Freedom. What is freedom? In a sense it is the opposite of legalism. Galatians 5:13-14 says “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."” It is freedom from control, from the tyranny of sin and the Law. The Law could never grant us freedom, never will. It was there to show us the need for grace; the Law was there to show us that we could not do it. Romans 6:17-18 says this: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Do you hear that? Sin is no longer master over you. People are walking all around us in this city in bondage to sin and they don’t realize it. They may feel it; they may know something isn’t quite right, because the Spirit of God is pointing them to the answer. But they are still without hope, for hope is found in Jesus Christ. The hope you and I have is that Jesus is coming back for us; that He has gone to heaven and is preparing a place for us. You are free, in the grace of God, from the tyranny of sin. Romans 8 explains that God has provided you everything you need to live a life of holiness. He has given you the Spirit to guide and direct; to chastise and convict. All you have to do is respond in faith to the grace of God and you will be victorious.

Understand that Grace provides the way, but it doesn’t force you down the narrow path of righteousness. You have to respond to the grace that goes before you. Did you hear Kathleen’s testimony last week? She knew something heavy was coming her way. God was getting her ready, so that when her husband Rick became seriously sick with the West Niles Neurological Syndrome, grace was already surrounding them and going before them. God is faithful and just and will not allow us to be tempted or tried beyond what we are able to endure, but will with the trial provide a way through it.

This grace is also the freedom to be all you can be. The armed forces are notorious for campaigns that talk about being all you can be. The truth is we are in a spiritual war. We are involved in a heavenly battle not just for a commodity in the ground, or a piece of land, but for the very souls of people. God gives us in His grace the freedom to use our strengths and gifts and talents unhindered by sin and the fallenness around us, if only we respond to Him. Grace is freedom, the freedom to choose where we had no choice before.

Grace is also all about God and what He has done for us, not about what we have done for Him. Listen to this quote from Chuck Swindoll’s The Grace Awakening: “To believe by grace and to live by grace include the reality of risk. Most people find this uncomfortable. Most want some moral report card that objectively measures their progress. Works provide that. But if works are not the basis of our relationship with God, then there is no external proof of salvation or spirituality. If, on the other hand, grace is the basis of our relationship with God, then the reality of our faith is internal. It can be seen – and judged – only by God.” In trying to be obedient to God, to living holy lives, we can sometimes think it is about us. We think that we are doing God a favour. He has done all the work. There is no more work that needs to be done, other than worshipping Him. And holiness, works of service, kind and encouraging words, those are of a higher worship than standing here singing a song. All your doing and stuff, if you are not doing it out of worship to your Creator, it does nothing for you except maybe make you feel good for helping. It does benefits the one you are helping – but I am talking to you as mature Christians. Do it for God, not for my approval, nor for the approval of the person in the chair beside you. How many of us have seen what we thought was a “wonderful Christian” blow it. Anger, or words, or bad deeds… somehow they blew it and we were surprised because we thought we had pegged them as a great Christian. You know what? Extend them grace, God’s grace. Let God worry about where they are at with Him and encourage and do what God calls you to do and be with them. If I blow it, I hope grace is extended my way from you. Life is too short, and the work too much and too hard to be “piddling” around without grace. It is only in grace that God will move in and through us.
Grace is also to be given away. Remember the Scripture we read earlier in the service? How can you and I, who have been forgiven so much, go through life with an unforgiving spirit? God has said we will be judged for that. Jesus said it in so many ways: Your brother strikes you on your cheek, turn the other and let him strike that one. He took your coat? Give him your shirt as well. The point is that we are called to be agents of grace. It is not our grace. Our grace could never be big enough or broad enough. We are agents of God’s grace. Let me leave you 4 thoughts on how to do this:

1) Accept others as they are. Don’t approach relationships trying to change people. Let God do that part, for that is His business. The Commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves; not love them if they look like us.
2) Let others decide for themselves. We can’t force people to follow Jesus, or to be kind, or even to talk to us. We can pray for them, try to talk to them, encourage them with a verse of Scripture – Grace is lived out in so many ways.
3) Refuse to judge others. Again, this is God’s business to know where they are at with Him. Our business is to love them with the love of Jesus. That is balanced with the stewardship we have of what God has given us, but judging is not part of it. Let people be who they are, and recognize God loves them as much as He loves you. He died for them just as He died for you! And who is to say you have it all together? Who’s to say that you are worthy of being the most Christ-like follower of all?
4) Lastly, express your freedom in grace wisely. Don’t be doing things that cause a brother or sister to stumble; model for them integrity. This does not mean you give in to someone’s legalistic control over you, but be aware of a genuine concern someone approaches you with. Do everything as unto Jesus, not people.

It takes time, it takes pain, and it means change. Are you ready to experience grace anew in your life?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Waiting Part 3 - FAITH

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

I was doing some work on my computer one time. I was careful to not touch anything I shouldn’t I was careful to ground my hand on the chassis before I touched the stuff I was supposed to. I get it all together and it doesn’t work. I spent much time going back over what I did, checking this and that. I finally discovered my problem was that the power bar was turned off. Sometimes we get so caught up in details we lose sight of the most basic things. Sometimes it is the basic things that aren’t working and that shuts everything down. Today we look at faith, one of the most basic things of our… faith.
The context of 2 Corinthians 4 talks of problems. Listen to the chapter again and look at how faith interacts with the difficulties of life.

Faith is following Jesus by living intentionally (by our choices) regardless of circumstances or emotions, having an eternal perspective in the present.

The Object of our Faith: Faith is not based on who we are, but on who God is. Notice in verse 7 that we are described as earthen vessels. Earthen vessels were the basest or lowest kind of containers available. The rich used metals like gold or bronze. Clay pots were used for the mundane. They were like today’s cardboard boxes. This verse is not saying what we are worth, but describing the context of our physical bodies. This is a very important distinction. It is akin to saying we carry diamonds around in a shoebox. The real you and I, the part that will last forever, the part that is redeemed is not this physical being. Our worth is not based on this flesh and blood, even though the world tries to lead us down this path. When you read the tabloids or watch the celebrity and media shows it is all about being skinny and rich. It doesn’t matter your weight, your strength, or even your health. What matters is how much you are tapped in to the eternal God. The key here is not to just recognize God as the Creator of the ends of the earth, the all powerful Host of Heaven. We need to connect with God in relationship, where our life is lived out of who He is. God can use a donkey if he so chooses, or a whale, or a king who commits adultery and murder, and lies and struggles with pride. When you give yourself over to Him, you are giving yourself over to the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Creator of you. In what better hands could you place your trust in? If we don’t have a proper view and understanding of God, our faith, our response to that Truth will be minimal.

Let me give you a quick survey. Answer either yes, I believe that, or no, I don’t think so to the following 5 statements.:
1) God can do anything He wants (healing, raising from the dead, change weather, create the world/universe, use a man or woman caught up in sin in successful ministry)? 2) God is aware of all that we do and think (even in the darkest night, or when we are alone, or when horrible things are done to us or ones close to us)? 3) God knows the big picture, from eternity to eternity, and thus has at His disposal all that information to inform his actions towards me. 4) God is basically love, and so He interacts in human history out of that context. 5) Holiness is the character of God, and so reflects in all His dealings with people. Those 5 statements deal with the Biblical revelation of who God is.

The crisis of our Faith: Faith is choosing to rely on God and His power for His promises. Notice that verse 7 talks of the power being recognized as from God. It is a choice to say and act in a way that relies on God. One great example is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The bad king sets up an idol of himself for people to worship. These three refuse. Listen to this conversation in Daniel 3: 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

This story is about faith. Survival wasn’t the highest calling. Obedience to God was. Notice that they recognized that God was able to deliver them. That wasn’t the issue, for they new God was sovereign and could choose to, or not to, rescue them. The choice they made was made in faith, that God was sovereign and in control. They understood that God was making them into something in this world. It related to holiness, and they would not compromise that. They also recognized that God was leading to a promised land spiritual in nature. A place that death not only was ineffectual at keeping them out, but where death was the actual doorway into the very presence with God. There is a future for them, for you and I, as we pursue God and His holiness.

What would happen today if we really believed that like those three guys, that God was sovereign and all powerful. First, fear would not be part of your vocabulary, You may have a sense of dread, but if God is for us, who can be against us? Remember that passage from Romans 8:35-39 we read last week: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Application of our Faith: Faith is lived out in our day to day life. So, we believe in an all-powerful and merciful God. We believe that our ultimate future is to be with Him in heaven, What does that mean for us today?
Listen to Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Look at the 4 phrases in here:
1) find encouragement in those who have gone before us (fellowship) – this is a choice
2) lay aside the obstacles and the sin (sanctification) – this is a choice
3) run with endurance (perseverance) – this is a choice
4) fix your eyes on Jesus (who modeled this for us) – this is a choice

We have been talking about “waiting right”. Today it was about the faith part of it. I challenge you to more fully put your faith in the God of the Bible, the Creator of the ends of the earth, for He loves you ever so much. You are worth His Son dying on the cross. You will not be disappointed, just persevere and see what wondrous things God will do in and through your life.