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This Year: A Simpler, More Authentic Faith

2 Jan

I love the simplicity of a dog’s life.

Think about it. All they care about is food,  affection, someone to chase and a soft couch. And maybe the freedom to bark.

I think my dog might be praying . . .

Dear God:

  • Can you make my master give me more turkey and less dressing?YorkshireTerrier_DearGod_Pixabay
  • Is it OK if I kiss my human after I chew on his underwear?
  • In heaven, will I have to apologize to the mailman… and the trash collector … and all the others I’ve chased?
  • When I get up there, can I sit on your couch? Or is it off limits too?
  • If I bark like crazy and nobody hears me, am I still considered a “bad dog”? (1)

Yes … a dog’s life is so simple. Actually, our lives could be too, I think.

Confucius say“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

I’m one of those people who complicates things in the midst of simplifying them.

Ask me to clean off a shelf and I’ll make labels and add “separators” and categorize everything. Ask me to purge a closet and I’ll do that, but I’ll also add dividers between sleeveless, short-sleeved and long-sleeved blouses … and … you get the idea.

I’m never satisfied with doing “just enough” or “bottom line.” I’ve always got to add something.

Actually, that works pretty well for me most of the time. At least, it keeps me organized.

ChildlikeFaith_MachenQuote_PixabayGraphic_LOLwithGod-blogBut I’m learning an important lesson about faith.

Whenever I try to add anything to faith, it complicates and even diminishes what could be a beautifully simple thing.

American Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen wrote:

“The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust Him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith.” (2)

Better yet, Jesus said, “… ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4, ESV).

Oh, the simple, humble faith of a little child.

I read about two little girls, playmates, who were counting their pennies.

One girl said, “I have five pennies.”

The other bragged, “I have ten.”

“No,” the first little girl corrected, “You only have five pennies too.”

“But,” the second child quickly noted, “My father said when he comes home tonight, he’s going to give me five more pennies. So I really have ten cents.” (3)

The little girl’s faith was all the proof she needed, though she did not yet have what she hoped for. Why? She believed her father!

Faith is the substance–the confidence–of things we’ve hoped for. Faith gives us assurance or conviction about things we cannot yet see. (Hebrews 11:1). The question is, do we believe our Father in heaven?

There’s a huge difference between childish (immature, unreflective) faith, and child-like faith that says, “I believe and trust my ‘Abba’ (Daddy).” Our faith, to appear authentic to a watching world, must express itself in whole-hearted, whole-minded confidence in the One who loves and cares for us.

We can ask questions of our Father–in fact, He invites all humble inquiries. Christians are not brain-dead zombies. But there is no fear of the unknown when we still have unanswered questions. We have the confidence that what we cannot know, our Father already knows. We can walk on in child-like faith, leaning on God’s wisdom and purposes.

Frank J. Exley wrote a poem that blesses me whenever I am tempted to complicate this simple faith (emphasis mine):

Child of My love, fear not the unknown morrow,
Dread not the new demand life makes of thee;
Thy ignorance doth hold no cause for sorrow
Since what thou knowest not is known to Me.

Thou canst not see today the hidden meaning
Of My command, but thou the light shalt gain;
Walk on in faith, upon My promise leaning,
And as thou goest all shall be made plain.

One step thou sayest—then go forward boldly,
One step is far enough for faith to see;
Take that, and thy next duty shall be told thee,
For step by step thy Lord is leading thee.

Stand not in fear, thy adversaries counting,
Dare every peril, save to disobey;
Thou shalt march on, all obstacles surmounting,
For I, the Strong, will open up the way.

Wherefore go gladly to the task assigned thee;
Having My promise, needing nothing more
Than just to know, where’er the future find thee,
In all thy journeying I go before. (4)

Do you have this kind of simple, authentic faith as you face uncertain days?

– Dawn

(1) Adapted from http://danesonline.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-30718.html

 (2) Machen quote.

(3) Adapted from an illustration:  Otterbein Teacher–Encyclopedia of Illustrations, #3352.

(4) “Step by Step” by Frank J. Exley, Bible Truth Publishers.

Graphics adapted from photos at Pixabay.

Rely on Joy

28 Mar

After Zeuxis, a Greek painter, completed his painting of an old woman, he thought it was pretty funny. The painter laughed so hard at his creation he couldn’t catch is breath. He ended up choking to death! (Mentalfloss.com relates this and nine other stories about people in history who laughed themselves to death.)

It’s one thing to laugh until you cry. But laugh until you die? I’ve heard the phrase, “I laughed my ClingToJoy_LOLhead off.” Really? Maybe it just felt like it. It’s been my experience that extreme laughter can give me a headache.

Have you ever laughed so hard, maybe even while crying and holding your sides, that you declared, “Oh. Oh! I can’t breathe!”

I’ve had those moments. Once, while on vacation with my husband, his sister and her husband, we got so tickled we were all laughing, crying and pounding the table, yelling, “Stop! Stop! Oh . . . it hurts!” Just when we got settled down, one of us made a comment and we’d sputter into a laughing jag all over again.

Health mag* shared some facts about laughter.

  • 25 – number of calories burned in a five minute laugh session
  • 17 – average number of times an adult laughs every day
  • 15 – number of facial muscles that contract when you laugh
  • 5 years – age at which we laugh the most exuberantly
  • 30 times- greater likelihood of laughing when with others rather than alone
  • 3 months – age at which humans start to laugh
  • 4/10 second – amount of time between the occurrence of something funny and your brain’s  reaction to it

Clearly, laughter is good for us – when it doesn’t kill us!

And it is, the Good Book says, “good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

But what do we do when laughter escapes us — when circumstances hurt and we think we’ll never smile again, let alone laugh?

Then we rely on joy.

Depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” show up in the Scriptures around 30 times, but “joy” and it’s cousin “rejoice” appear more than 300 times!

James says joy can occur even in the midst of trials (James 1:2) . . . “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). This kind of joy comes through the Lord as He strengthens and matures us, in spite of our struggles, but also in our struggles as we place our trust in Christ.

For Christians, when happiness flees, joy remains. It’s not dependent on circumstances. Paul could speak repeatedly of joy while in Rome’s prison because God transformed his perspective about suffering. Paul rejoiced because He relied on God’s purposes, and He understood one of those great purposes was for him to share the Gospel with the prison guards (Acts 28:30; Philippians 1:12-24).

Cling to joy. It’s a gift of the Spirit. And when you can, enjoy a good, healing dose of laughter.

When do you find it most difficult to laugh? Can you cling to joy instead?

* “Laugh It Up,” Health mag, June 1013, p. 90.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

– Dawn

 

Missing God’s Signs

5 Oct

StoveNoteA busy, often distracted mother sometimes accidentally left pots and pans on the stove with the burners on. Concerned about the possibility of a fire, she resorted to posting this reminder on the kitchen door: “STOVE?”

One day her daughter, just back from college, noticed the sign.

Beneath her mom’s note, the daughter taped her reply: “No, it’s a DOOR! (Trust me. I went to college.)” *

Some signs in life are obvious. Others can confuse or misrepresent.

But there are some signs we might miss entirely.

God gives us signs every day that declare His love, His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His wisdom, His faithfulness and so much more. The enemy, Satan, wants us to DontMissGodsSignsmiss those signs. The devil wants us to miss all the signs of the glory of God in our lives.

If we have doubts about our Father in Heaven, it’s often because we’ve read some of the enemy’s misleading signs about God. We look at our current circumstances and “read into them” something that simply isn’t true.

For example, if our finances suddenly take a downward turn, the enemy would like us to believe this is a sign of God’s unfaithfulness. And we may give a nod to this lie because we tend to be proud and selfish, and we don’t like inconvenience or difficulty.

But if we took a moment to REFLECT on all that God has done in our past to show His daily faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23) and love (Ephesians 3:18-19), we might RECOGNIZE God’s presence in our lives. And when we recognize His presence – and all that comes with that (God’s power, provision, peace, etc.) – we can REJECT the enemy’s lies.

Just because we can’t see God’s purpose in allowing inconvenience, difficulty (and even suffering) in our lives, this doesn’t mean God stopped loving and caring for us – any more than a parent stops loving a child when it’s time for that child to get some tough medical care or experience situations the parent knows will bring growth and maturity. Our loving God may be allowing a tough time simply to strengthen us (James 1:2-4).

We need to look outside our current circumstances to the signs of what our loving, all-wise Father God has done for us throughout our past … how He brought us through tough times, how He answered prayer, how He met a need, how He displayed His power and glory. God wants to help us, but we need to learn His ways (Proverbs 3:5-7).

We need to turn to the scriptures, which can dispel our doubts and encourage our faith.

The truth is:

Armed with this truth, we can praise God and give Him glory for His faithfulness (Psalm 71:8; 103:1-2). We can look to scriptures about what He will accomplish in and through us in the future (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Be encouraged! If God gave Jesus to deliver us, we know we can depend on Him in all of life’s circumstances (Romans 8:32).

A good example of this is the life of John, the beloved disciple (Matthew 11:1-6). We know Jesus loved him, but can you imagine how John might have felt sitting in a jail cell. Satan surely brought him signs that said, “You’re all alone” or “God has forgotten you.” Just as Jesus encouraged John to look beyond that Jail cell by faith, He encourages us to look past the darkness in our lives to His light.

Jesus ends with these encouraging words – “… ‘Blessed [Happy] are those who don’t doubt me'” (Matthew 11:6, The Living Bible).

Are you struggling with doubt in a tough circumstance? Cast away any thoughts that rise up against God as He truly is (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Reflect on how God has been faithful to you in the PAST, and His promises for the FUTURE; and use these signs of His love and care to encourage you in the PRESENT.

* Humor adapted from Cybersalt Digest Issue #3730, 8/23/11

PHOTO of Sign: Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

— Dawn

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