The kind of faith that pleases God

April 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Hebrews 11 is the famous “faith chapter”. There the writer talks about what faith is and gives us some great examples of faith.

The two verses in particular that define what faith is are vss. 1 and 6:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Heb 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. -Heb 11:6

That’s from the ESV translation. I want to focus on vs. 6 Let’s look at it in the new DLNT translation, to get a better idea of the original verbs and tenses:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For the one coming-to God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. -Heb 11:6

You will see that the main difference is found in the last clause. First, the more accurate translation stresses that God “becomes” the rewarder, not merely that He “rewards”. This is not an esoteric difference, because it implies the passage of time.

Many times in our walk we have to sow in faith, and there is a time lag before we reap the harvest. Just as it is in the natural, as any farmer or gardener will tell you, rewards do not come instantly. For much of our sowing period, we’re putting in the work but it may not seem that God is rewarding us for it. But we press on in faith, knowing the reward will come in time. In this sense, God “becomes” the rewarder. Thus the original text adds a little color to the grammar to stress this delay between sowing and reaping.

But the second difference is even more powerful. Whereas the ESV simply has “seek”, the DLNT has “seeking out”. And for good reason. The original verb in the Greek is Ekzeteo – to seek out. The writer could have merely used “zeteo” – to seek. But the “ek” is added for emphasis. This word means “out”. We still say “eke out”, as in “eke out a living”, implying a laborious, tedious process, often not highly rewarding. Because the writer opted to include the intensive, we can conclude that he is trying to convey something more than routine seeking.

First, he is saying that there are going to be times when our seeking after God will not be comfortable. We will have to go out of the box to lay hold of Him. We will have to leave the comfort zone behind, because He is calling us to something much greater than ourselves. This alone will separate mere curiosity seekers from those hungry for God. The Gospels are rife with Jesus dissuading those merely looking for a sign or a heady religious experience, and with warnings that following Christ is going to cost us in the natural. We need to get it settled then, that we do indeed want God. That’s the first thing this tiny prefix tells us.

Secondly, the writer is telling us that even when we have to go out of our way, even when it’s hard, and even when the reward for our effort seems small, the kind of faith that pleases God still holds fast to Him, and maintains that our reward will come in due season, because faithfulness and lovingkindness are intrinsic parts of God’s character. We realize that the whole enterprise turns on God’s character, and because we will not allow any slander to stand, we will hold fast to our faith in His goodness and our ultimate reward!

So this little verse packs quite a punch – more than we might have seen on its surface. It is saying that we need to be serious about following God wherever that might lead us, and that our reward might seem delayed. It is saying that for now the reward might seem small – barely enough to sustain us; that this is what we should expect at times, and that when we encounter that test, we need to fall back on a determined, persistent faith that pleases Him greatly.

When things get tough we can remind ourselves of God’s wonderful character and His ability to reward us, and we will gain renewed strength for the task before us. 

Galatians 6.1 is on point here:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Gal 6:9

Maybe this little insight will help you next time you are seeking to know God better, or to know His will for your life. Stay on course, and immerse yourself in the love and promises of God. Everyone who asks, receives, everyone who seeks, finds, and to everyone who knocks, it is opened.




Categories: Christianity

How the “internet of things” will replace the web

January 20, 2014 Comments off

I found the article below very perceptive. We are rapidly approaching the day when everything will be connected and recorded. Technology dazzles. It is very effective, a lot of fun at times, and basically unstoppable. But there is a dark side to it too. The human heart has not changed, and technology is just a arm allowing us to do what we want.

Be careful with what technology you embrace. The other day I was going to use my google account to sign in for commenting on a news site. I stopped when they told me that I would be giving that news site access to my google contact list. Why does a newspaper in Oregon need to know who’s on my gmail contact list? Yet millions of people are allowing this to happen to them, most of them probably unaware of what they’re doing.

In one of the parables, Jesus tells us that when a king went off to secure his kingship, he told his servants to conduct business until he returned (Luke 19.13). The word for conduct business there is Pragmateuomai, which speaks of being pragmatic or practical. So we need to be engaged in the affairs of life.

But the Bible tells us to walk in wisdom because the days are evil. Jesus sent us out as sheep among wolves. We need to be cautious about this technology blanket being wrapped around us.

And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. -Gen 11:6

How the “internet of things” will replace the web

Categories: Christianity

Caught in spiritual and moral rapids

December 15, 2013 Comments off

Yesterday a horrible story came out of Pittsburgh. A nun in her seventies was brutally raped by a teen in her church parking lot, as a statue of the Virgin Mary silently looked on. You have to ask yourself what kind of person can do such a thing. Our prayers are for the healing of this woman and her community.

Let’s get some basic historical perspective on the problem. In 1963 the most innocuous prayer imaginable was banned from public schools. It was a simple 23 word non-sectarian prayer asking for blessings on school, families and the nation. The following year it it became illegal to read – and later to even carry – a Bible in public schools.

We’re to the third generation from those rulings. Have you noticed that it’s rapidly getting worse and worse? We have condom dispensers hanging on school walls in NYC. Can you imagine what it must be like to grow up in this atmosphere, where the authorities have capitulated and now appease – even encourage – the immorality that dominates every other aspect of the culture? Christianity has been outlawed and expelled, and humanism enthroned. Even a cross, privately funded, is being stripped from a WWII veterans’ memorial outside San Diego which happens to be on government land. 

As a nation we have lost our spiritual and moral compass. Or rather, it has been stolen from us. We are to the point where evil is about to break away unrestrained.

At the same time, obama has been building the “civilian force, just as powerful as the US military” that he promised in the 2008 election. Local police are being militarized, using equipment that meshes seamlessly with the armed forces. They’re also becoming more thuggish, as new stories attest to every day.

Draw these two lines in your mind as on a graph. Public virtue descending, the power of the state ascending. You’ll see they are rapidly converging and soon are going to intersect. And it’s not going to be pretty.

Do Americans still understand how blessed we have been with a constitutional republic of limited government? That’s the same blessed system that obama is aggressively working to “fundamentally transform” – another 2008 campaign promise of his. Each day brings a new assault on our underpinnings by him and his fellow humanist statists. If we somehow don’t reach the young generation and teach them how it’s supposed to work, and especially the fear of God that brings wisdom, the nation soon will be lost.

Remember that the next time your dear leader comes on the tube and looks so sincere, so intelligent, so personable and so helpful, and gives you his solemn word: If you like your freedoms, you can keep your freedoms. And if you like your nation, you can keep your nation.

I have a modest proposal. Let’s take the condom dispensers off the school walls and put the Ten Commandments back on. You know, the ones that include, “Thou shall not kill”, “Thou shall not commit adultery”, “Thou shall not steal” and others. But accountability to God would violate the humanist narrative, and we can’t have that!

But there is one principle that will not be violated, no matter how popular or powerful the forces arrayed against it – the law of sowing and reaping. If we keep piling garbage into our culture and our youth, we should only expect garbage out.

Categories: Christianity

Spirit of the age

December 3, 2013 Comments off

You take on the nature of what you worship. And as time rapidly accelerates, a great divide appears between those who worship the Lord and those who hate Him. It’s getting worse, not better.

Here’s a recent scene from Argentina, traditionally a Catholic nation, in which pro-abortion protesters are trying to breach a line of praying men in order to storm a cathedral. The difference in the spirits driving the two sides couldn’t be more stark. It is not easy to stand still when someone is spitting on you. It reminded me of the Lord’s forbearance during His passion, when He easily could have called ten thousand angels to deliver Him. Be advised this might not be suitable viewing for young folk.

We need to keep in mind that this spirit is what animates the other side in much of our public discourse. It seems impossible to pull these people out of the flames, but then I know from what depths I came, and if the Lord can reach me He can reach anyone. May He give us insight and wisdom to be able to reach many.

Categories: Christianity

Dismantling the nation

November 26, 2013 Comments off

Two stories are in the news today that show what level of damage is being done to this nation on a continuing basis.

The first is about Obamacare. Fox news reports that experts from a wide political spectrum are predicting that next year when the employer mandate takes effect under the law, some 80 million Americans are going to be forced off their existing health care policies. 80 million!

Remember “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”, and “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”? Now it looks like we won’t even get to keep our hospital! And this comes with higher premiums and deductibles, when we were repeatedly promised an average $2500 reduction in premiums.

The most frustrating thing in all this is that anyone with an open mind could have and should have seen this coming long ago. Even the Fox article referenced above states that the government is on record knowing it three years ago. Obama simply was lying to us – repeatedly, smoothly and in cold blood, the way only a pathological narcissist could. Obama has to sell you “Cadillac” policies with benefits you don’t need and will not use, in order to fund the redistributional nature of Obamacare. Remember when he told “Joe the plumber” that he liked to “spread the wealth around”? Too few listened.

Now, you may think redistribution is a good thing. That we need to take money from those who have it to buy services for those who don’€™t. To that I would argue that government isn’t the one to play robin hood. Charity belongs in the private sector, where it can be applied effectively, with discretion, rather than as entrenched indiscriminate entitlements, which breed a welfare culture destructive to both the economy and the human spirit.

But even more basically, this was outright fraud on a colossal level. This makes the dishonesty of Watergate look like taking an extra cookie. If America tolerates this level of mendacity at its highest level, all is lost. No nation so morally obtuse can long stand. This is a big deal.


The other big deal this week is Obama-Kerry’s breakthrough agreement with the radical Islamists running Iran. We are going to relieve sanctions and free up frozen assets, and in return Iran will leave off development of the Bomb.

Except it won’t. Already a loophole has appeared that allows them to continue openly working piecemeal on the program as long as the parts are not assembled together. The stupidity here is breathtaking. It makes you wonder whether the damage being done to us is intentional.

This is being received in Iran as the tremendous victory it is. It’s nothing but a variant of “land for peace” – that is, we give them something tangible -€“ economic prosperity and the right to enrich uranium, €“ and they give us meaningless intangible promises.

Great job guys. It’s only a matter of time now before Iran goes nuclear. And now what does Israel do to protect herself from a weaponized religion sworn to her demise? No doubt Obama will lean on her to fall into line.

Next up, Mr. Obama is going to “help” the nation with its immigration problem. Hold on for dear life.

The nation is becoming undone at a rapid pace. The root of it is an ignorant electorate susceptible to manipulation by liberal elites running our institutions, including academia and the media, for no informed electorate would stand for what’s going on, or would have installed these clowns in office in the first place. We are talking the capturing of multiple generations by a godless dominant culture. And if you lose three generations, you lose the nation. We are perilously close.

Our national foundations are very eroded. We need to be aware, and fight it as best we can. May God bless those who are standing firm against this onslaught.

Categories: Christianity

Experiencing God’s love

November 21, 2013 2 comments

I’d like to tell the story about how I experienced the astonishing love of God that I had heard so much about, but not really seen firsthand. Oh, I did have some experience with it, but it was little compared to the transformational encounter I was going to have. I probably have mentioned this here before, but even if so it’s time to focus on it. There’s a lot of church experience stuff in it, but it has a point. So here goes.

When I was first Saved I quickly found a church to call my home. It was an on-fire independent charismatic local church. There was plenty of Word and plenty of Spirit. I loved it there and began to flourish.

It was a difficult time for me because I was going through a very painful divorce. I had joint custody of two beautiful young children, I owned and ran my own business, and I was attending night school for an engineering degree. Something had to give, so I decided to jettison the night school and place the Lord first in my life.

That worked for a while, but at the same time the church was experiencing its own challenges. It was growing like a weed, and we began breaking ground for our own building. All that was exciting, but it brought along with it some great danger. Unfortunately, much of that danger was shielded from the eyes of the elders, and they ended up jumping into the trap.

Church growth through evangelism become everything. Saving souls was perhaps 80% of what was preached. We all became frenetic about witnessing to those on the outside. The upshot was that there indeed was a constant flow of new people into the church. That was great, but I began to notice a disquieting truth. For every new person coming in, someone was leaving. We had a ton of people who were falling through the cracks, and we weren’t even acknowledging the problem, let alone doing something about it.

That’s what happens when you get out of balance. We were so gung-ho on evangelism that we were neglecting character development and maturity. When things get that lopsided, it’s time to check motivations. We were doing it for the fleshly reward rather than following the spirit, and it was all nicely camouflaged as “the Lord’s work”. I even heard later that the pastor was receiving a stipend for every new member that was signed up. I was shocked.

We had four services a week at the time, and something developed in the Sunday night services that was very exciting. The elder there had gotten a vision of God’s lavish grace, and began preaching on it. When grace is preached strongholds are broken. People are set free. There is power in the Blood, and we need to tap into it. But watch out, because there is going to be – not might be, but going to be – opposition.

The senior elders thought that the grace message was getting out of balance. There wasn’t enough law, in their estimation. Finally they put their foot down and pressured the grace elder to contain his teaching. I remember the night very clearly when, rather than tempering his grace message with an appropriate amount of caution, he did a complete 180 and started preaching condemnation from the pulpit. He mocked sinners, in particular homosexuals. He was trying to make the basic point that grace is not license to sin, but instead he killed the grace message completely.

Have you ever seen a church devoid of spirit? We became one quickly. It was like we were a car tire with a puncture. The air (“pneuma” = spirit) rushed right out of us. And what begins in the spirit WILL become manifest.

A lot of feelings were being hurt by men clamping down on the Spirit of God. People began having visions of pain and difficulty ahead for the church, and these were not visions that contained the Lord’s encouragement. Rather, they were admonitory. We were in disobedience and were losing our way.

As discontent grew, people began leaving. The first few were “sent out” by the whole church, making it all look sublime. But then later ones just left in droves. People were praying about it, and also talking to each other. We felt we had to, because the elders apparently were in denial.

And then the elders began to crack down. They felt they were losing control, which they were, and that they had to do something about it. That also was true, but what they did was to start beating the sheep. Faithful members were given ultimatums to toe the line or leave. Many left, and with them the hearts of many more were grieved. The same elders who had preached laying down your life to help your brothers succeed were now slaying those brothers.

Finally I too had had enough. I brought my grievances to the pastor, and then to the board, but essentially I was told I could leave if I didn’t like the way they were running the church.

I can’t express how deeply this hurt me. I had been blessed with two parents who loved me with all their hearts. But the problem was they didn’t know HOW to love me. They did the best they could, God bless them, but were too hurt and damaged themselves to give me what I needed. And so when I joined the family of God I believed that I finally had found what I needed. Here was a family that would deal with problems in the context of both what was right and unconditional love. When this hurt came down I, and many more like me, felt totally betrayed. Many stumbled. Quite a number left the faith. A Christian bookstore was sold. Marriages were destroyed and families broken up. Two elders began using and even dealing drugs on the streets of New York City.

In hurt and anger, I stopped attending. What does one do though? I knew I couldn’t go back to the world. I was filled with such hurt I took my Bible and slammed it on the floor and told God, “if this is what you’re about, you can go on without me. I’ve had it”.

In my immaturity I had projected man’s failings onto God. The church represented God. So if the church failed, didn’t God fail? The church was God’s fruit, and “by their fruit you will know them” I reasoned. I in my utter stupidity was judging God! I hadn’t learned that even the church is imperfect, because it is made up of imperfect people, and that this is not a reflection on the God who patiently calls us to perfection.

With that, a dark period began to wash over me. I wasn’t in the world, but neither was I doing any good for the kingdom. A heavy spirit gripped my heart. Finally, several months later, I had an open night vision.

In the vision, there was a great darkness. I was dangling over the mouth of a great abyss by a single slender thread. The thread was attached to my back, so I was hanging face down toward the abyss. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to help myself. Were I to struggle, the thread would snap only that much sooner. All I could do was wait for the inevitable breaking of the thread and the plunge downward. There was nothing to be done, and I knew that I was lost.

I woke from the vision deeply shaken. There was no question but that the vision was a real depiction of my spiritual condition. And yet the vision clearly showed there wasn’t a thing I could do to change anything.

Consequently I began to get my affairs in order. I took only small jobs. I organized my finances and wrote goodbye letters for my kids to find later. And I waited. I didn’t know whether I was going to die or lose my mind, but I knew it would be one of those two, and I knew it was going to happen soon.

Days turned to a week, two weeks, and then a couple of months, and still I didn’t go. The months began to pass, and I became perplexed! I should be dead! What was going on?

Finally it dawned on me. I couldn’t keep myself, but all this time the Lord Jesus was keeping me. “when we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” I was astonished. The One I had forsaken had not forsaken me. He never said a word. He just silently bore me up when I was at my absolute most undeserving, and He waiting for me to understand what was happening.

His gentleness, when I knew full well that I deserved punishment, broke me. All my life I had been a hard-head. My mother had even called me “testa dura”, which is the term for that in Italian. But now God had broken that curse over me. I no longer had to operate from a place of not being loved. I KNEW that Jesus loved me more than I could ever understand, that He saw through all my sin and rebellion to my deep needs, and He humbly laid himself down to meet those needs.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  -Matt 11:28-30

I’ve noticed time and again that when God wants to show us something, He allows the exact opposite into our lives, and then He shows us by contrast. As they say, never pray for patience! The Greek word for this process is krisis, which means to divide. Here God allowed the ultimate rejection to take place, to expose my neediness and my misguided reliance on man to fill that need. And then when I was at my most helpless, He made His faithfulness known to me first-hand. It came as a brilliant light on a deeply dark background.

God is always doing that sort of thing with us. He allows circumstances to bring us to the end of our natural strength, in order that His supernatural strength can be perfected in us.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2Cor 12:7-10

What we need is the eyes to see what He is doing. And more basically, the faith to trust even if we can’t yet see.

I hope this has encouraged you. If you are going through something deep, know that God is doing a deep work of restoration in you, one that He could not have done any other way. Remember in John 11, when Jesus learns that the friend that He loved, Lazarus, was dying, He intentionally lingered for days rather than going to him forthwith:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. -John 11:5-6

Did you catch that? Look at that little word “so”. That’s a logical connector. Jesus lingered because He loved Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die because He loved them. Because He loved them, He decided to do a greater work in their lives, a work which while costly in the short term, would lift them up to a higher permanent place spiritually, so they could be closer to Him forevermore. By Jesus’ calculus, the pain and difficulty Lazarus and his sisters would have to go through in his dying could not compare to the glory they would know when he was raised from death!

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. -John 16:21

This is our lot. If we want to get closer to God we need to get used to the trials that test our faith. We need to get to the place where when things go wrong – even horribly wrong – even in our pain we do not doubt God’s love for us, do not doubt that God still has us in the palms of His hands, will not let go, and still is guiding and perfecting us. We need to keep abiding in his love, peace and rest. That is where His wisdom lies, and that is where his power will be perfected in us.

On the other side of the test are higher pastures of pleasant intimacy with the Lord, and greater power to minister. We see this lost and dying world waxing worse and worse. It’s happening on a daily basis now, quite openly. There is such a need for willing servants to take on the disciplines of God so they can meet the world’s needs with Christ’s love and tidings of comfort and joy.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. -Job 23:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. -1Pet 5:10

Categories: Christianity

Lies and liars in the public square

November 4, 2013 Comments off

Back in 2008 I was visiting my sister in Pennsylvania. This was during the presidential election. My sister had been a Democrat for years, through marriage, but had more recently seen the wisdom of conservatism. I was glad for the change.

But by 2008 the pendulum had swung back. She had read both of Barrack Obama’s books, and had fallen head over heels for him politically. There was nothing I could say that would change her mind.

As we were preparing a meal one day, a cut of an Obama speech was on the TV. I observed to my sister that he was lying, that every word was a lie. She countered, “no he isn’t.” She knew better.

I can sympathize. I recalled when Obama was asked in one of the presidential debates that year about his voting against the Illinois Born-Alive Children Protection Act. This bill mandated that if an aborted child was born alive, a physician must be brought in and tasked with saving his life and health. Obama countered that he voted against the bill because it was redundant and unnecessary. There already was a law in Illinois that required a physician attend to the newborn’s needs, and this new bill was just political posturing by the prolifers.

I was taken aback. I am quite up to date on the abortion war in the US, yet was unaware of what Obama described. But he was so smooth, seemed so knowledgeable, and was so convincing that I was left speechless and neutralized.

This wore on me for a few days, until I finally decided to search out the truth. I did, and found that existing Illinois law stipulates that if an aborted child is still alive the abortionist himself must attend to his life and health.

Now, imagine that scenario. The person who had just been trying to kill the child suddenly is going to turn and save him? When a surviving but impaired child would certainly bring massive lawsuits, and quite possibly career-ending bad publicity? I don’t think so.

And there it was. Obama showed himself to be the smoothest, most effective liar I had ever witnessed. He would have gotten away with it, had I not done my own research.

That brings me to our current situation, regarding health care. For five years now, Obama has defended and promoting his healthcare scheme by promising that if you like your plan or doctor, you can keep your plan or doctor. “Period”. Anyone with half a brain should have known that the government taking over the healthcare sector was going to cause MASSIVE disruption and that an untold number of people were going to lose both plans and doctors. Certainly, any of the wonks informing Obama’s policy should have known, and Obama himself would have known as well. And yet Obama got up and lied to the American people again and again.

This wasn’t an unimportant lie. It wasn’t, as was used to defend Bill Clinton, merely about sex. The loss of plans and doctors was going to affect some people in life and death ways, literally.

Now caught in the lie, what do Obama and the Democrats do? They continue to lie. Observe this unbelievable cut from senator Diane Feinstein on Face the Nation yesterday, starting at 1:15:

What she says is that the president’s promise that you can keep your plan was valid until the bill was passed, but not after. Did you get that? The promise Obama used to sell his plan was only good until that plan was implemented! Schieffer should have called out Feinstein for her astonishing level of sheer inanity. We no longer can tell the simple difference between truth and lies. That is a very dangerous place to be.

The lies don’t end there. It may be “only” the 5% that purchase individual insurance now, but next year when the Obamacare mandates hit employer-sponsored plans, it’s going to be a whole lot more people dumped from the plans they are used to, that are tailored to their needs and ability to pay. The Dems are trying to deflect criticism based on the relatively small number of individual plans currently affected, but they’re heating the pot slowly until it’s too late for the frog to leap out. They planned this incremental approach just for that purpose, and the whole thing is designed to lead to a single payer system, as the private insurance industry is subsumed by this government takeover.

This is the problem with America. Lies like this are promoted every day by politicians – and I mean far and away mostly Dems – and the media doesn’t break out in humiliating scornful laughter as it should. Imagine the children growing up in this sea of delusional mendacity, with their schools also is a major contributory part of the problem. What chance do the kids have? What chance does the nation have unless we call these liars out and send them packing forthwith?

Categories: Christianity

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