“Enough” Faith

from Joshua 2

When I think about faith, and I am being bluntly confessional here, I think about how…well, how little I have. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m “saved” and am not running around wondering whether or not hell is at the end of my life road. And I’m not saying I don’t believe God has the best for me or even isn’t good.

I’m just telling the honest truth, and maybe you will be candid too…sometimes I don’t trust God. I like my control and, while I like to think myself an adventurer, I often prefer the safe and comfortable. But as Mark Batterson has said, “You can have faith or you can have control, but you can’t have both.”

Rahab, in Joshua 2, didn’t seem to have a lot going for her in the area of faith or God pleasing. First of all, she was from Jericho where they worshipped gods that likely required sexual rituals and often child sacrifice. Adding to that, she was a prostitute.

There may have been many reasons for her scandalous lifestyle. Perhaps she was part of the religious sexual ritual, or maybe she was a widow and she turned to it as her only means of livelihood. It is possible that her family was a debtor and she was trafficked as means of repayment or slavery. We don’t know if she stepped forward for her family saying, “I offer myself as prostitute!” but we can surmise that she didn’t choose this life as some kind of wonderful career option.

Whatever the circumstances and whatever her background, the Bible says in Hebrews 11 that she had faith. She is listed right there with Noah, Abraham, and Moses! Rahab had faith…such as she had.

She believed that God was bigger than her gods, and she believed that his people might just protect her and her extended family. By agreement, after hiding the spies that came from Israel, she left a rope hanging from her window to indicate that her house was not to be ransacked in the upcoming battle. Either window ropes were a thing in Jericho or maybe that’s how out-of-towners knew where a prostitute was available (its color was scarlet- we see you Hester Prynne). Whatever the reason, apparently it didn’t seem odd.

All that doesn’t seem like a lot of “faith” to me. But for God, it was more than enough. It was enough for Rahab to be considered among the greats, and to be a direct ancestor of King David and then Jesus. You heard that right; read about in Matthew 1:5.

When I think of faith, I think of giant spiritual leaps over the chasms of the impossible. If I’m not moving a mountain, then I don’t have enough faith! But mountains don’t move all at once. If a mountain is moved, it’s usually going to be done one rock chunk at a time with the swing of a believing pick axe. “Impossible” becomes possible one small obedience after another.

You see, faith is not often so dramatic as we believe it to be. It is a step of trust in the next moment. It is a moment of obedience when my feelings pull otherwise. It is seeing Jesus ahead, ignoring the distractions, and not wavering. Rahab’s trust wasn’t based on great biblical knowledge, but the amount she had was without a doubt.

You may be like me, and you might not always “feel” like you have a huge quantity of faith. But God doesn’t judge as humans do. By God’s measurement, it is a steady, step by step trust in him that walks us into humble greatness.

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Real Success

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From Joshua 1

I love going to Hobby Lobby, I admit it and am keeping my man card. I don’t understand half of the place, but it’s still interesting to me. I walked in one day and asked where I could find an item. The associate said, “Oh, that’s in crafts.” I replied, “The whole store is crafts!” Well, she was cordial, but not amused. I thought it was hilarious, but sometimes you get a tough audience.

When I go through the aisles of Hobby Lobby, one of the Bible verses I often see is Joshua 1:9. It’s on super cute pillows, chalkboard signs, and decorative items that are next to drawings of cows promoting “farm life.” It is a popular verse, and for good reason: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I was today years old when I fully noticed the verse before it. While athletes, stay at home moms, entrepreneurs, business people, and a myriad of others use verse 9 a motivator for courage and strength, the key to its understanding lies in the verse just prior to in verse 8. Remember that the verse numbers were placed there for our convenience: verses 8 and 9 were given by God in the same breath.

Joshua 1:8 says this, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. THEN you will be prosperous and successful.”

Joshua had been given leadership of the nation of Israel after Moses’ death. He had an enormous leadership task. Not only was he the social and political leader, but he also had the responsibilities of military development and strategy. The logistics of housing on the move and feeding hundreds of thousands while nomadic, managing conflicts and mobilizing an army were just a few of his burdens.

All of these things were laid upon him, but God gave him one primary, absolutely do no neglect task. He was to keep God’s word in his language, meditate on the Bible (in this case, the first five books) all day and as he went to sleep, and carefully obey its contents. THE key to being successful, strong, courageous, and experiencing God’s presence is simply to fill your mind and heart with God’s word and humbly obey it. You’ll need his presence and power to do that, and God promises that very thing to you in verse 9.

I so want God’s blessings, his power, and strength. I want to be filled with courage, to be fearless and to feel God’s presence. In short, I am like everyone else…I want to be successful.

Joshua was a huge success; he brought the people into the land Israel had been promised and won battle after battle over the enemy. But God did not measure his success by those things, but rather empowered him to accomplish those things. Joshua’s actual success was evaluated by a different standard. We can build great wealth, develop impressive careers, accomplish great tasks and be lauded by people of influence, but if we fail in God’s definition of success, we have failed completely.

How do I know if I am being successful? Answer this question: am I being humbly obedient? For real success is simply obeying God.

The Weight of Our Sin

(Read Matthew 26:36-39)

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This is an olive press/crusher or, in Hebrew, a gethsemane. The weight of our sin was heavy on our Lord the night before it fell on him completely on the cross.

After a wheel extracted the juice, this instrument with large weights pressed the remaining oil from the olive. Gethsemane is not so much the official name of a place as it’s the place where this process occurred in the olive groves in the hills above Jerusalem.

Oh, the incredible weight of sin he bore for you and for me. It is no wonder that his sweat mixed with blood in deep anguish of what he had to do. His choice? “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” I simply can’t wrap my mind around such an unfathomable, willing response. l can only receive his love.

Matthew 26 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 

The Hour Has Come

(Read John 12:20-36)

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A question floating around social media right now is “What is the first thing you will do once this (the quarantine for the pandemic) is over?” There a million answers. My wife answered that we would go out to eat for Taco Tuesday. I agreed, if for no other reason than she actually decided where she wants to go eat. We have weeks to go, however, and we will see if she changes her mind. 🙂

I am joking about this, of course, and I am glad to go eat anywhere with my wife (no bats or anything weird like that, mind you), but looking forward to something makes any present situation more bearable.

In this passage, something struck me. Jesus is preparing to have Passover with his disciples, be tried, tortured, and ultimately executed. He knew what he had to do and is describing it vividly. The first thing he says, however, is “now is the hour for the Son of Man to enter his glory.”

True enough, Jesus’ crucifixion was a glory, but my guess is that he is thinking beyond that. His focus at that moment was of when he would be present with his Father again. He is focused on heaven, on eternity.

He understood, more than anyone, that death was necessary. He goes deeper in the passage, describing to us the way to life- that is, that we count this current life as nothing compared to life with him in eternity. If you didn’t catch it: death.

Literally, death is the moment of passage into eternity, but well before that, giving up our self-centered lives for the One who is eternal brings true living. The seed must die in order to reproduce into a living plant, Jesus describes.

To bear the here and now, we have to die to it. Yet, here we are and the thing about the present is that it is so, well, ever present.

So, to understand the now of our lives, we must have a heart toward the then. An eye on the ball here is required, but a heart focused on that which is eternal and ever present with Christ makes “now” make sense and makes the life we know worth it- even abundant (John 10:10).

 

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

Spirit of Christ

(Read Romans 8:6-11)

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Losing control is a scary thing. Suddenly losing ability to move our arms or legs, if the brakes were to go out on our vehicle, or watching a friend or parent slowly lose control of their minds from a brain attacking disease are the kinds of thoughts that strike fear and deep emotion within us.

Yet we fool ourselves every day that we are actually in control. We aren’t. So many things are beyond our ability to influence, we are tempted to throw up our hands and give up.

In our souls, we are also controlled. We will be controlled by our flesh or humanism, which is always hostile toward God (Romans 8:7), or we will be controlled by the Spirit.

Now, we do have control over one thing in this: we choose which will control us. If we choose to focus on ourselves, the circumstances of the world, or what gives us temporary emotional relief, we move toward our own self-centeredness. This humanism leads to self-sabotage that results in dissatisfaction, shame, and godlessness that dishonors our Creator. It is a death bringer.

If we choose the path of humility and focus on Christ instead, we experience the fullness of the Spirit and Christ in us. This is a life giver. The Spirit was given to us when we chose to receive Christ and began following him; we have this same power that resurrected Christ within us.

We do not have to obey the loud, but lying pull of our fleshly tendencies. We are controlled, rather, by the Spirit. When the Spirit controls our minds, regardless of the fear and chaos around us, we are led to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Be encouraged today!

Jesus Wept

(Read John 11:1-45)

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When I lived in Florida, we lived near the beach. Now some of you are thinking, why did you ever leave? Well, it’s a long story, but yes, I do miss it from time to time. The ocean is such a powerful force; its boisterous strength can be seen and heard while standing on its edge in the sand.

Those that frequent the waves know of an even more powerful force in the water. It is unseen but more deadly than the loud waters that rise and make themselves heard. It’s called the undertow or the rip current.

Hidden in the waters is an undercurrent so strong it pushes like a rushing river in a direction altogether different from the easily seen waves. (PSA and by the way, if you get caught in one, the lifeguards recommend a survival approach. Rather than fight it, relax and let it carry you down the shoreline. You’ll be further from your cabana, but you’ll be alive. Now you know, but that is beside my point here). 

It is easy to be fearful of what we see. Mary and Martha saw the death of their brother. How could they not see it for what it was? Bro was dead. Like, dead dead. Yet, Jesus knew he was and is the ultimate dealer of hope. The resurrection lies within his power, and he used it to show everyone that he could raise the dead. He IS the resurrection.

The waves may look ominous. The dangers, the pain, the discouragements, the problems may seem insurmountable. And they are loud, easy to see- like the waves, they roar. And yet, a greater power, a greater strength lies unseen. Jesus is there and, yes, he cares.

Jesus knew that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead; yet, he cried with his friends. While what you experience and see is real and painful, Jesus walks and weeps with you.

Even though Jesus knows that the end of the story is no more night, tears, death and pain…there he is with you. And he is stronger than the roaring waves of crisis or discouragement you see. You can see his hope, his strength- and he is there whether you believe it or whether you don’t. But, believing is seeing.

Be encouraged today!

Unfailing Love

Read Psalm 130

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There are corners of my heart, far from the public eye, deep, hidden, out of view. Dark. They are so dark. I don’t mean the kind of dark that is a shadow of good that falls a little short. I mean dark, absent of light. Actually, I just lied there. They are the antithesis of light.

Bringing those tendencies into the light: lust, envy, despair, despising others, jealousy, or worse, total apathy, is the work of the Spirit. It was also the cost of the Savior. Publicly, shamefully, naked and in full view, Jesus brought into the light the hideous ugliness of those sins and more. He became sin for me on the cross.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But. BUT. BUT! You offer forgiveness… – Psalm 130:3-4

How great the price he paid for our sin. How little he asks: abandon pride, bondage to sin, expose the dark corners and let him forgive us so that we can know him now and live with him forever. What wondrous, unfailing love is this?

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be ‘til I die. – William Cowper

p.s. I invite you to take 3 minutes and 37 seconds to pray and worship through this song, an acoustical remix in studio, by the songwriter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeCbpYx5eBQ

Be encouraged today!

Bones

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I have a running joke that there is an 11th Commandment. It is “Thou shalt not creep Timbo out.” Of course, that’s bad theology, but I don’t like creepy things. I don’t watch horror movies or The Walking Dead, and I don’t care how “wonderful” the story line is. It’s creepy. I’m out!

Ezekiel’s vision from Ezekiel 37:1-14 definitely falls into the violation of the 11th Commandment camp. He has a vision of a valley full of skeletons; like Simba and Nala at the elephant graveyard in The Lion King Movie. Except, it’s people. Creepy! Oooh, Mufasa!

God had a point to make, however, and even if it was a nightmare for Ezekiel, it was a message of hope to a discouraged people. See, the people of Israel were in exile. They were far from home in a place called Babylon. Their disobedience had brought them there and they had been overrun by the Babylonian army and taken captive. They felt hopeless.

In the midst of this, Ezekiel was given the message of dry bones that developed flesh and skin (still, creepy), and ultimately were brought to full life. The message to Ezekiel was simple: I, the Lord, will bring you out of this exile and back to your home.

It is so easy to allow discouragement to set in. As we trust in the Lord, regardless of our circumstances or the chaos of the world, we must set our focus on eternity and stir up hope in the midst of the crazy.

Whatever pain we are experiencing, whether it is physical or emotional, it will not last forever. So, don’t you dare quit! Christ himself is our living hope. (jump over and read 1 Peter 1:3 right now for a hope shot in the arm).

Pain is certainly real, but it is not permanent. The things that last forever are found in Christ. As you pray right now, let the Spirit of God stir up hope within you and rise above the circumstances. Keep believing. Keep trusting. And have a Titus 2:13 day.

– Timbo Fowler