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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is It Okay to Hold On to Our Doubts?

I have been guilty of telling people that it is normal to doubt. Of course, that statement may be true but not helpful. There is a tacit approval of doubt when I say it. It is normal to doubt your salvation, to doubt God's provision and doubt God's deliverance but it is not helpful to our faith.

Faith always requires a commitment. We understand something is from God and commit ourselves to it. It may cause us to be calm in the face of a storm or to act without regard to the apparent consequences. The commitment reveals that we believe what we know to be true by God's own word to us. He said it and we believe it. The proof of our belief is found in how we act after knowing what God has said.

Being skeptical is not the same as doubt. A skeptic doesn't know whether or not something is true. They remain unconvinced that what they have "heard" is either good or godly. They question whether or not God has spoken. That doesn't mean that a person can remain skeptical forever. There comes a point when the skeptic becomes the doubter because he knows he has heard God but refuses to admit it. He refuses to make the commitment that faith requires and hides behind his skepticism.

The doubter has heard from God and knows he should believe what God has said. He simply cannot hold onto what God has said. He stands between two ways. He can say the truth but cannot make the commitment to continue in what he has heard. Therefore, he says that God will provide and worries. He wonders about his salvation and whether he knows God at all. He walks on God's path as if he is walking on thin ice. He can only continue on this path as long as the commitment is not too great and he is forced to believe God when sacrifice is required.

God doesn't give us permission to doubt. He has mercy on the doubter but He also works to eliminate that doubt. Jesus came to Thomas and let him touch His wounds to remove his doubts. James says that the person who doubts should expect nothing from God. Peter is rebuked for only being able to take a few steps on the sea because of his doubt. The Bible assures us that the mountains in our lives can be thrown into the sea if we give up on our doubts.

It seems to me that God is not content with our doubting and my words of "normalcy" can be damaging to others' faith. They may assume that they can remain in their doubts when the Lord requires them to act in faith. Thus, I have realized that I cannot simply let people hold on to their doubts. True, I have mercy on the doubter but I also should never let them languish in their doubtful condition.

I suppose I should tell people that they need to act on what they know to be true. They should ask the Lord to help them with their unbelief.

Is faith like climbing a mountain? You simply can't get any higher until you get past the places where it is hard to climb. Thus, doubt arises and we simply can't stay where we are. We will go on or we will go back down the mountain without ever reaching the top.

So, stop holding onto doubt and act on your faith.

Matthew 14:31 (ESV)
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Mark 11:23 (ESV)
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Romans 14:23 (ESV)
23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

James 1:6 (ESV)
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Can't Hide from God

How many of us have played peek-a-boo with a child? We hide our own eyes, uncover them and exclaim, "I see you!" The children must think we are morons. Do we really believe that we don't know where they are simply because we have covered our eyes? No, I think they just enjoy laughing at us.

Somehow Adam must have believed that God played peek-a-boo. He sinned, lost his innocence and tried to hide from God. Did he really think God didn't know where he was? But God asks him three questions which revealed where he was.

"Where are you?" Of course, God knew where Adam was but this is a question that Adam had to answer. He came out of his hiding place to reveal his presence. He told where he was. He was naked. This revealed where he was. It is always important that we answer this question. We can try to hide by putting our distance from God out of our minds or by denying we have gone anywhere. But this question, when answered honestly will either bring us to repentance or cause us to run rather than hide from God.

Once I got lost looking for an address. This was before GPS's and I had no idea where I was. I had a cell phone but knew I couldn't ask anyone for directions to where I was going until they knew where I was. I had to get these bearings first. Only then could I call someone and ask for directions.

"Who told you that you were naked?" No one could have told Adam that he was naked except Adam. This should have brought Adam to conviction. In fact, it made Adam squirm so much that he blamed God for what he had done. This question is pointed to who is at fault in sin. Adam missed the question but we mustn't. The road to repentance must include an admission of sin.

So many times I have heard a man tell me the reason for his affair had something to do with how his wife treated him or his lack of interest in her or how he she wasn't taking care of herself physically or - you get the point. He says he wants to repair his marriage but he won't admit who is really at fault. He can't take the right road back until he is willing to admit that he got himself on the wrong road. Admitting it was wrong is not enough. He has to admit that he made it wrong.

"Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat?" God knows the answer but Adam needs to say what he has done wrong. This is what the word confess actually means. It is not telling God something that He doesn't know. It is admitting to God that we have done what He told us not to do. It is another place that Adam would try to hide in. He knows that God knows at this point. He must say what he has done.

"I was wrong." Are these the three hardest words to say in all the universe? How many marriages would be healed if these words were said more often? How many jails would be empty if people would have said these words much earlier in their lives? How many churches would be full if people would admit their sins and come home to God. These are the words that the Prodigal Son had to say. "I have sinned. . . . ." The Prodigal came to himself and said these things. Isn't it interesting that the father didn't need to hear them as much as the Prodigal needed to say them?

God knows exactly where we are at all times but do we know where we are? Do we need to answer these questions too?

Genesis 3:8-11 (ESV)
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stressed People Make Bad Decisions

We live in a moment-by-moment news reporting world. I get updates on my phone for each "Breaking News" story. Many of these stories are upsetting.

A young man begins to shoot people, a young woman is shot while using her car like a weapon, another person sets himself on fire, a group of bikers violently beat a man- each of these stories flash across my phone. The news reports look for a reason why. Often they chalk it up to some sort of mental illness.

Shouldn't we be concerned why these people became ill rather than looking at the illness as if there is nothing that can be done? Nearly every case reveals that those who commit these acts have been under long term significant stress. They lost their jobs, were bullied, live in depression or somehow believe they have been denied something they deserve. This stress multiplied by time has caused them to become mentally ill if even for a moment. They are stressed and have no outlet for relieving that stress.

Think of Saul in the Old Testament. He didn't believe he should be chosen as king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the humblest of the tribes. He hid among the baggage when called out to be recognized by the people. Later, he would offered a sacrifice that was not his to offer because he was afraid that Samuel the priest wasn't going to get there before he lost to the Philistines. He kept the best spoil from a group of people whom God told to destroy with everything that belonged to them because he was afraid of the people. He opposed his best general when he wasn't given as much praise as that general. He lost his kingdom because he made bad decisions. He was a man under stress.

Each day I watch people burst into road rage. I believe that most of these people are normally good neighbors and good citizens. What causes them to explode over the insignificant slights of others? I believe they are under such stress that any added stress sends them over what they are able to take. It is like a balloon that can't take an ounce more air. It simply explodes.

This is so unnecessary. The Bible tells us to pray and turn it over to God. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that He wants us to give Him our fears and anxieties. But I have observed that few Christians are having Quiet Times with God. They aren't turning those things over to Him and, therefore, are carrying their stress on top of everything else that stresses them. Eventually the balloon must pop.

So, I urge you to make a very needed decision today before you make a bad decision. You may not do something violent but the decision may be just as harmful. (You might continue to bite your husband's head off until you have added so much stress to him that he leaves- another bad decision!) Tell your stress to God. Put all of it in His hands. Trust that He will take care of it and you.

Then, laugh for He has healed you from your bad decision.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.