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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Your Fear Didn't Come from God

  2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

God did not give us the spirit of fear but fear is often the most distinguishable spirit found in a room of Christians. They are fearful of doing what God calls them to do. I wonder if their fear originates in their inability to hear God, know God and, lacking of history of obedience, trust God.

Paul tells Timothy that he needs to get to the business to which he has been anointed. Evidently he had allowed his gift to take a back seat. It is certainly easy to do. There will always be those who will tell you that you are not good at the very thing to which you have been called and anointed. They cannot see past your outward exterior and know nothing of your heart but appoint themselves as great judges who can determine the will of God.

I lived in Nashville for at total of nearly twelve years. I started there as a Single Adult minister. I saw a girl who had visited the church in a retail store one day and asked her a little about herself. She had come from the Midwest to make her way in the music industry as a singer. I knew that lots of people with plenty of talent are destroyed on their way in Nashville and told her, "Whatever money you have left, do yourself a favor and use it to go back home. Perform as much as you can there and maybe you will be invited to Nashville but this is just to hard of a place to make it."

She looked at me very sincerely and said, "But God told me to do this."

To this, I replied, "Then, don't let anything stop your from doing it!"

You see, I didn't know if she was any good. In fact, I didn't care. Too many very talented people do not make it in Nashville. However, I forgot the factor of God's will. I assumed that she was doing this because she was good, I didn't consider her being called.

Fear is prevalent with God's people.They are afraid to step forward in faith to start a church. They are afraid to build a church. They are afraid to build again after the facilities become old or cramped. They are afraid to tell their neighbors about Christ. They are afraid to call the church to prayer for healing. They are afraid to step out of their secure jobs to do what God is calling them to do.

Instead of fear, God has given the spirit of power, love and self-control. The gifts we have been given were done so with power and they will be exercised with power. I heard a guy speak boldly Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, " just before he preached. Some might have thought that he was being arrogant. I think he was fully realizing the power in which God had called him to preach.

John told us that this fear should not exist in those who are believers. He said, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."   (1 John 4:18 (NIV))  God calls us to tasks in order to demonstrate His love to us and through us. Our response is to love Him by doing what He has called us to do. Jesus Himself said, " If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love."   John 15:10 (NIV)  It is abundantly clear that love is the motivation for obedience. It is clear that this love also casts out the fear. Love has been God's gift to us to cast our our fears.

Have you ever had your mind run away from you? That didn't come from God. God gave us a spirit of self-control. This means we have the ability to act rather than react to the circumstances we are in. The world is always going to bring us tribulation. This is a promise from Jesus. But He also promised that He has overcome the world. We are not at the mercy of the world. We are at the mercy of Jesus. This Jesus, who died for us, will not bring us to damnation. He will walk with us to the other side of our tribulation. This means we can have self control knowing that ur Lord- the Lord of this Universe- has lot left us to our own designs. He who allowed Shadrach,  Meshach and Abed-nego to go into the blazing furnace also went into the furnace with them. Nebuchadnezzar who ordered them into the furnace said as he looked into the furnace, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." (Daniel 3:25)   We can walk into the worst of circumstances knowing that our Lord walks with us.

If God has called you to do something, no matter what others tell you, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how inadequate you feel, do not let fear take hold. This fear does not come from God. He has instead given you power, love and self-control to combat this fear. His gifts will gloriously allow you to complete what He has called and anointed you to do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Please, Please Guard Your Heart

 Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

I just got news that a young couple in my church are getting a divorce. They seemed to have such great potential. They gave their hearts to Christ and appeared very committed to Him and to each other. What happened?

They neglected to guard their hearts.

The heart is the wellspring of life. Evil will always seek to invade it. The Evil One wants to destroy it especially if it has been given to the Lord. The heart is such a treasure that it must be guarded. The heart does not contain the treasure of  an individual. It is the treasure.

It is the place where our love begins:

 Matthew 22:37 (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

It is a place separated for the presence of Christ:

 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

It is at the center of our trust of God:

 Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Doing God's will begins in our hearts:

 Ephesians 6:6 (NIV)
6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

The evil one wants to turn the heart of the believer to:

Harden his heart so he will not respond the Spirit:

 Ephesians 4:18 (NIV)
18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

The individual cannot see in the darkness. The darkness of the heart keeps the individual from seeing and realizing the truth of things in the Spirit. He is separated from God's Spirit so that it is as if he is dead. A dead body cannot respond to the stimulus, thus we call it dead. A darkened heart cannot see (and thus respond) to the Spirit and acts as if it is dead. (Thus, it is separated from the life of God.)

Make him unable to respond to conviction:

 Romans 2:5 (NIV)
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

While this scripture is specifically addressed to those who are unrestrained by God and are, therefore, non-believers, it is easy to understand why Satan would want to return the heart back to its lost state. The believer becomes rebellious to spiritual things. He shuns spiritual instruction. He desires what his flesh desires and plunges his heart into these desires.

 Acts 7:51 (NIV)
51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

What can be done for this couple who have separated and will soon divorce if things go as they have planned? Nothing but prayer. Unless their hearts are recaptured, there is no real hope for their marriage. In fact, there is no real hope for their spiritual walk either.

This couple is not unusual. I hear this same story often. It always carries a tale of one (or both) failing to guard their hearts It is a story that could be told of all of us unless we guard our hearts.

Robert Robinson penned these words in the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:"

Prone to wander, 
Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

Here's my heart, Lord,
Take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

It should always be our prayer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Grace of God's Purpose for You

Most people appear to be clueless about their purpose in life. It appears that there purpose is to use up as many natural resources as possible before departing from this earth. They are spending their energies passing time by doing whatever they can conceive to avoid boredom. The waste is immeasurable.

They have wasted the most precious resource in the universe. They have disregarded their own responsibility toward others. They have either never known or ignored the calling God has given them. They have worked hard at things that are bringing no eternal results. Their names will someday be placed on tombs or urns or gravestones. Two generations after their deaths no one will remember they have lived.

That is not God's plan.

 Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God has plan for each one of us. It will give us an impact on the world around us. It may not make us rich, powerful or famous but it gives us an eternal purpose that will never be forgotten.

 Matthew 10:42 (NIV)
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

The things done in the name of the Lord will never be forgotten. They may not be praised on this earth but they will never be forgotten where eternity exists. These things are God's grace to us. He places things before us so that we will walk in them.

 Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It is by His grace we are saved. It is by His grace that we walk in the good works that He has prepared for us.

Thus, Paul, seeing God's grace in His calling, knows the grace of a life being filled and fulfilled by walking in God's grace.

 Ephesians 3:8 (NIV)
8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

It is grace to have a purpose in your life. It is grace to walk in that purpose. It is grace, no matter what hardship befalls you when walking in that grace.

I like many others want to claim God's grace only when things go well but there is a deeper meaning to grace that transcends circumstances. It is God's grace simply to be called to His purpose. It is God's grace to have the calling shape the one being called into a persevering disciple because of circumstances that may or may not go well. It is God's grace that these works done in the name of the Lord are never forgotten by the Lord. It is God's grace to know that God's calling is giving eternal meaning to the one who is called. It is God's grace to truly rest in the midst of the hardest work ever done because it is by His grace that the work is done.

Many people are looking for an easy road. They seek a god who will lead them to a life of riches, fame and fortune here and now. But where is the true grace in that? How can that which will be burned as meaningless as we stand before Christ truly be considered grace?

 Philippians 3:18-20 (NIV)
18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

It is this grace of being called; this grace of God's purpose that allows us to await a day when we shall walk into Glory. We have sought His appearance. We have it through His grace. We will have it through His grace.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV) 
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Danger of the Excess

The world lives on a principle that cannot be explained. It believes that a good thing cannot be truly good if it cannot be good in excess. For example: If it is a good thing to help a man when he is hungry, it is a better thing to provide all the other things that he might need. On the other hand, if it is a good thing to make money, then it is a better thing to accumulate the wealth at any expense.

And thus we have excesses in all areas, especially in the church. One church will preach that it is a good thing that people drink alcohol only in moderation. The next says that it is best that they have no alcohol at all. One says that it is best to show some emotion when worshipping, the next displays wild histrionics. It seems that there is no end to excesses. It does not matter whether you speak of prayer, the Bible, the Holy Spirit or any manner of deportment, excesses abound.

My own assessment is that the Spirit is not leading when people are brought to excess. The excess can be in stoicism or in emotionalism. It can be in allowing the Priest only to read the Bible to denying that those who preach have any knowledge of the Word. It can be in wild dancing in church to denying dancing outside of the church. It can be in avoiding prayer or cloistering oneself for a lifetime for the sake of prayer.

It is much easier to go to excess. Excess denies self-control. It allows the good act to control the individual. This can be done without thinking, being Spirit led or even consulting the Spirit for that matter. Excesses more easily tear people away from their relationship with the Lord because the excess pushes out the relationship with the Lord. God is no longer the focus of the individual who is given to excess. The excess has become his lord.

So all things must be held in discipline. The body must know when it is working in harmony with the Spirit. Thus, it neither overeats or over-exercises. Thus, there is prayer and Bible study. Thus, the Spirit is leading and emotions are felt and expressed without drawing self attention.

The Spirit gives glory to the Son. He does not draw attention to the believer through excesses. He allows for extravagence without excess.

This Spirit led self-control is a matter of discipline. It allows for the tears but not for the wailing. It seeks God in prayer but not at the expense of soul-winning. It allows for eating but not for gorging. It permits dancing but not as a public sexual display.

Yes, it takes a great deal more discipline to exercise self-control than to either eliminate the action or allow it to continue unabated. Yet , that is what makes it a remarkable Christian life. It is what we call maturity.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Without Faith, It is Impossible to Please God

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I often ask people why they have come to church. This question is especially true of those who are coming for the first time. I tell them that they may be here because others have invited them, have seen the app, our sign or simply don't know why they have arrived but there is a purpose for their arrival.

Many people may come to church for purely fleshly reasons. They come because they make business contacts, are looking for a spouse or are looking for some way to beat the system. The latter are hoping to find some spiritual principles that will give them power over others. They want to be rich, famous and powerful. They are hoping for a teaching which will enable them to manipulate God into giving them their fleshly desires.

Many of the unchurched people who come to our church have no real understanding why they come. They tell me that they just thought they should be in church. They have no background of church, no one telling them they should come and know no one in the church. They don't know the songs or what to do but have bravely walked into this strange place with strange people who talk a strange language. They really don't know that God imprinted His image on them so that they will seek to give Him glory even if they have no idea what it is. He has drawn them in to please Himself. He is reaching them within themselves. They can resist coming but have no reason to do so because they know nothing of what they are getting themselves into.

However, they are not pleasing God simply because they have come to church. They will please Him when they accept the faith He has waiting for them. They will please Him when they continue to act on faith which is given by His grace.

Pleasing God is accepting faith to see Him change us, the situations around us and others. It is by faith that we come to Him in prayer believing that He is a God of love who will not give us a serpent when we have asked for bread. It is by faith that songs of praise originate in our hearts and come through our voices. It is by faith that we give out of our love for Him. It is by faith that we daily take up our crosses and walk determined that the world will be changed for His glory.

Faith pleases God because it is an outward manifestation of who God is. It loves on the world rather than condemns it. It points toward righteousness because of the character of God inside the believer. It brings His image in the believer to clarity.

It pleases God because He loves to see His children grow. We show to Whom we belong when we act in the faith He has given us.

And what is the reward that He gives us?

It is peace. Now, before you dismiss this peace as worthless you should look at the lives of many of the people who are rich, powerful and famous. Do most of them appear to have peace? Are their lives full of broken relationships? Are they often pursued by the demons of drugs and other addictions? Why do you suppose that Jesus said it was so hard for the rich to enter heaven? Do you think it could have been because the riches they sought to own now own them?

Faith is a word from God that must be believed. It is a belief that must take action. It is an action that gives Him the glory. It is the glory that pleases God.

And that glory is our fulfillment.

What is God saying to you that you must accept by faith? What is keeping you from acting on that faith? If you fail to act when God says go you will fail to believe He responds to your prayers. You will fail to seek Him.

Each believer comes to moments in his life when he must act on faith or his faith will stagnate and grow cold. It isn't about doing something great for God that should be sought. It is always about being obedient to what God is telling you.

And that always takes faith.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Same Old, Same Old Won't Do God's Will

Galatians 5:1-6 (NIV) 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You probably know the story of the Galatians. They were teaching that a person must become a Jew before he could become a Christian. Therefore, a new believer had to subscribe to each and every Jewish practice to remain faithful to the Lord. Indeed, as Paul stated, they had fallen away from grace and were again working for their salvation.

No doubt, the Jewish practices seemed very right to the Jews. They had practiced them all their lives. Abandoning them was denying the comfort these practices had given them throughout their lives. Surely, the Messiah, who was a practicing Jew, would want them to continue as Jews. Of course, this meant that the Gentiles would have to be circumcised too. All Gentile proselytes had been circumcised in the past.

Yet, returning to the old ways would actually prevent the gospel from being preached because it became a false story of salvation. Requiring circumcision made Jesus' sacrifice on the cross inadequate. It made man's salvation dependent upon himself. It made the shedding of blood by the believer crucial for salvation.

It seems to be human nature to return to our past. The past is the foundation for our future. It feels comfortable and right.

Years ago I learned to play a specific song on a guitar a certain way. I had watched someone play the song and did it exactly as he showed me. After playing the song that special way for about twenty years I watched the original artist play the song differently. I realized that the correct way came from the original and began reteaching myself to play the song. It wasn't very long before I returned to my old way. It just seemed more comfortable to play it the old way even though the original was a much easier finger pattern.

If we take life's experiences and place them in the denominator of our lives and take new teaching and place it in the numerator we will find that few experiences will have a lasting effect if we do not continue to repeat them time and again. We will find that older churches typically die because they cannot bring themselves to adapting to new methods of reaching people. We will find that older Christians cannot understand that many of those coming to church today have no church background. They do not know where most of the books are in the Bible. They may not know whether to look for them in the New Testament or Old Testament.They may not know who we are speaking of when we mention Paul, Elijah or Samuel. They may have heard of Moses and David but could not give any background material they haven't seen in a movie.

So, sermons change from speaking to people who have a biblical background to those who have none at all. And yes, much of this is unnecessary for those who have a solid background developed over years in the Bible. It is necessary to make the change if we want to reach new people.

It is God's will that we reach people, you know. Its just that the same old, same old is going to get us the same old, same old.

Matthew 9:16-17 (NIV) 16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Do God's Choice Servants Have Such Persecution?

2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV) 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Why is that? Why should God's most faithful suffer persecution? Couldn't He make things go smoothly for those are seeking to live godly lives.

Of course, God could make everything go smoothly but He doesn't. Persecution comes to those who live godly lives.

God is not the author of evil but He allows evil to exist. He allowed Satan to live in the Garden of Eden. He allowed him to seduce Adam and Eve.

In fact, God has frequently allowed evil to oppose His servants. He allowed Pharoah to stand in Moses way. He allowed Jezebell to threaten Elijah. He allowed Saul to oppose David. And never forget that He allowed Judas to betray Jesus.

Persecution is a torment for one's beliefs. It is obviously volitional when a person is opposed for his faith. It often appears circumstantional when a person is treated harshly after committing his life to Christ. It seems that his commitment of godliness resulted in the opposition. Yet, that also seems to be God's pattern. He makes what He wants seem impossible.

Remember that God told Joseph in a dream that his brothers and father would bow down to him, then let him go through a terrible time which made his dreams seem impossible. God told Moses to lead the people out of Egypt and then let Moses go through a terrible time as Pharoah opposed him. He led them to the Red Sea and made their journey to the Promised Land look impossible. Even the first city the Israelites would conquer looked impossible at the beginning.

God stretches the faith of those who seek to live godly lives. He leads them to places that they would never have gone to do tasks that they would never have taken in order to make them totally depend upon Him.

Doesn't it seem strange that God would tell those who think they have surrendered all to him to surrender more? They have claimed a desire to fully follow after God. All that they know of themselves commits all they know how to commit. So, God allows persecution to intercede to increase what they know of themselves and deeped their commitment to Him.

I suppose I would rather tell stories of sugarplums and lollipops which follow those who want to live godly lives but it would simply be a lie. A person who follows hard after God will find that he must drink from the bitter cup of opposition. Then, he discovers whether or not he meant what he said when he said that he surrendered all.

Most of the time I want to want to live a godly life. I know that really seeking a godly life will result in persecution and, frankly, I like smooth sailing with the wind at my back. The struggles define my godliness. They bring me to the realization of who I am.

The question I must ask myself is: Am a ready to seek godliness or do I want to just keep hoping that I want it?  I am either choosing the stagnant Christian life or the one that is truly full of life but accompanied by persecution.

Today, I choose godliness.

Tomorrow, I am afraid I will have to make this decision again.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Give Me That Mountain!

The Bible is certainly full of heroes of the faith. It is common to hear of Moses, Joshua, David and Paul when people are giving examples of faith and devotion to the Lord. And, yes, I admire these too but this morning my quiet time took me to the story of Caleb.

Caleb was forty years of age when he was sent to spy out the Promised Land. He came back telling the people that it would present a challenge but that the Lord would give them the land because He had said so. For no fault of his own, he was sentenced to wandering in the wilderness until the faithless generation had passed away. He entered into the battle with rest of the Israelites when the time came to go into the Promised Land. They had victories coupled with a few failures but eventually the time came to give the inheritance to each who had fought. There were still others living in the land. There would still be battles.

Caleb is eighty-five years of age when he asks Joshua to give him Hebron. It was where the Anakim lived. The Anakim were known for their size and considered giants. They would have been the hardest group to defeat since they also had fortified cities.

His age should have given him the opportunity for retirement. He could have told the younger members of his family to go to battle without him. He could have sat in a rocking chair and waited out the rest of his life but he still wanted to meet challenges head on.

This strikes me as very unusual because I live with a people who are enamored with retirement. They not only save for it but look forward to it. They brag of having no bosses, no obligations and no challenges.

I realize that there comes a time when a person must realize his limitations. Too often people try to continue when they cannot do so physically. Worse yet, some coast because they know that they can retire at any time. People need to make an assessment which includes others who can honestly tell them when it is time to step back.

Retirement has become doing only what you want to do for the sake of yourself. I don't believe that is what God wants us to do. Yes, you may retire from your money making job but your service to Him has no retirement date. Somehow many people have thought that these two go hand in hand. They don't.

Serving the Lord does not end because of age. In fact, the godly believer should be looking for God's challenge to him no matter what his age. I want to stand (if possible) before the Lord all of my days asking for new challenges.

But I don't have to wait for that, do I? I can ask God for His challenge before me today. I can ask that the challenge be filled with giants and full of reasons that it can't be done. I can ask for His glory to be known. I can say:

Lord, give me that mountain!

Joshua 14:10-14 (NIV) 10 "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There Is No Promised Land for the Faithless

People act the same no matter how many years have passed. The people of the New Testament acted like the people of the Old Testament. Today people act like those in the New Testament. Human nature remains the same.

The Israelites could not see how they could get into the Promised Land because there were obstacles in the way. They simply could not believe that God would empower them, provide and lead them to take this land which had men the size of giants. They saw the obstacles and thought they were being prudent.

They wanted to go back to Egypt and be slaves rather than take a step of faith in entering the Promised Land. They would rather be mediocre than to follow God completely. They would rather keep their little idols that they had carried with them from Egypt than to serve the Lord God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. They had been so corrupted by the world they had lived in that they could not believe in the God who had already proved Himself to be the Almighty.

It didn't seem to matter that they had seen God split a sea so that their enemies would be defeated. It didn't matter that He had provided water and food in the desert for them. It didn't matter that He provided the direction by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They still clung to the faith they had in the world they had known. They couldn't understand the love of God, His power, wisdom or His truth. They saw Him as someone who might not prove faithful at a crucial moment even though they had already seen Him faithful.

When the spies came out of the Promised Land, they expressed their faith in faithlessness. They just wanted things they could depend on without faith. Isn't that the way many people who call themselves believers act today?

People are worried about the economy without regard that they have a God who loves them. They fret over their medicare or their job or their children or any number of things as if God has no plan. They live as if they are the masters of their own faith and they know how little power they have to do things. Their definition of faith is "believing in something that you know isn't true." They don't pray, give or serve because they lack belief. They haven't had any contact with God because they haven't truly believed in Him.

 O yes, they say they believe in God but the god they believe in is impotent rather than important. He is silent rather than speaking. He is absent rather than omnipresent. He is clueless rather than omniscient. He is stoic rather than compassionate. He is false rather than true.

Thus, they come to church with all their worries. They oppose anything that stretches them. They are willing to do anything in which they can see personal benefit that will not change their lifestyle. They don't want to be asked for another thing.

So, they never enter the Promised Land.

Do you know why?

It isn't because they won't try. They tried on their own after they had rejected God's promise. They assumed they could act like nothing had happened after they had been faithless. They were like people who after dying enter God's presence and tell Him that while they didn't ask Jesus into their hearts while on earth, they are quite willing to do so now. That's not faith. Its just fear of the consequences.

God leads a people of faith into the Promised Land. This land is before us every day. It is how our faith stands when the economy is bad. It is how our faith stands when we are challenged to join God in any endeavor. It is how our faith stands when the circumstances tell us that something else is more practical.

Of course, we have the Old and New Testaments to remind us of those things. We need to accept God's faith in all matters or else we are doomed to fail.

The Promised Land is for the faithful.

Numbers 14:39-45 (NIV) 39 When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. 40 Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. "We have sinned," they said. "We will go up to the place the Lord promised." 41 But Moses said, "Why are you disobeying the Lord's command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword." 44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord's covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.