God Fixed It!

Our family recently had an experience that reminded us of the power of prayer. It was a Monday morning and I was trying to get off to work when we discovered that the water wasn’t working in our home. Now, to some of you, this probably sounds like a minor problem. But we felt pretty fragile at the time. We had just moved into a new home and had already dealt with a lot of repair issues and we felt like the last thing we needed was another problem to deal with. To make matters worse, you don’t realize how much you rely upon water until you go without it.

 

I won’t go into all the details but I will say it ended up being a long morning. First, I went to the township building, then they suggested going to an auto-body shop (the water guy works there), and finally I came back home. Along the way I made some phone calls and bought some water at the grocery store. Nobody seemed to be able to give us any answers as to why the water was not working. After Steph and I talked things over for a while and I tested out a few more things, I had an idea. I called our little family up to the kitchen and we held hands and we prayed. We had done pretty much everything we could think of, and now all we could do was to leave it in God’s hands. Probably around half an hour later, Steph came up from downstairs and asked, “Did you try anything more with the water?” I said, “No honey, nothing.” She proceeded to walk over to the sink and turn the faucet on. Of course, I was skeptical given the amount of times we had tried without success, but low and behold, it worked! We were shocked!

 

The best line, without a doubt, came from our 4-year-old son John. “God fixed it!” I love how little minds are so logical. He had heard the prayer, he had seen the result, and there was no doubt in his mind what had taken place – God had fixed our water problem! I said to Steph, why did you all of a sudden want to test the water again? She told me, “I just felt like God was saying, ‘trust me and try it.’”

 

To be honest with you, we have had a few of these faith-building experiences over the past year. God has come through for us time and time again. I feel kind of silly that I am so prone to doubt when God has taken care of us and provided in a million different ways, but I often do. What was so memorable about this one was that our kids got a first hand experience in the power of prayer. Only God could have ordained and ordered things in this manner, and it’s safe to say our kids won’t soon forget this experience.

 

The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” This is a simple verse but it is oh so powerful. If you are a child of the King, you have the privilege of asking your loving heavenly Father for literally anything. You may not get exactly what you asked for, but you can trust that God will answer your prayer according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 puts it this way: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

 

Before I forget, let me tell you the rest of the story. Later on that afternoon, one of the water guys finally showed up. As it turns out, they had been doing some work in our area and had to turn off the water. They had told everyone else about it, but had neglected to tell us, perhaps because we were the new kids on the block. But Steph and I were not bitter at all about what had transpired that morning. God had given our family a powerful lesson that we won’t soon forget.

Of Passports and Faith

Last summer, we made a last minute decision to visit my family in Saskatchewan. For most people, taking a summer trip (even if it involves crossing international borders) is not that big of a deal, but for us it was. Our twin daughters were almost 4 at the time and our son John was almost 2, not to mention that Steph was at the midpoint of her pregnancy with Jeremiah. Needless to say, we felt strongly that God was leading us to make the 2000-mile trip to visit my family.

 

Forgive me for going into so many details, but you need to have this background in order for this post to make sense. For the better part of a year, Steph and I had wanted to get John a passport but for several reasons, it had been put off. Finally, at the end of May 2014, we sent away for John’s passport and were told it would arrive in 4-6 weeks. Not long after that (around mid-June), we made our decision and booked our flights.

 

Having booked flights to Saskatchewan without yet having John’s passport, we knew we were taking a bit of a risk. We knew that our mid-July trip was beyond the 4-6 week range that it takes for them to process passports, but there was no guarantee. For 2-3 weeks as we waited for the passport, Steph and I fretted over the situation. We asked ourselves, what do we do if the passport doesn’t come in time? Do we cancel our trip? That didn’t seem right because God had impressed it upon our hearts that we needed to make this trip. Finally, after praying about it and asking God to come through for about the millionth time, it hit me that my faith was lacking. Did I think that if I just prayed enough times, that finally when I got to the magic number of ???, that would be enough and God would come through? I don’t know, but it kind of seemed that way.

 

Like most everything, the Bible has something to say about this. In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.” Or consider James 1:6: “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.”

 

As a pastor, I often encourage our people to pray and to make prayer a way of life. The true Christian is someone who communes frequently with God and has hunger to increasingly know the Savior. But is it possible to be good “prayers” and have our approach all wrong? You bet it is! Like my illustration above, we can find ourselves going frequently to God in prayer, but not praying “the prayer of faith” (James 5:15). Sometimes as Christians, we tend to hope God comes through instead of truly believing and trusting that we have what we have asked for. Let me give you one more passage of Scripture: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him (Christ), that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

 

When we ask anything according to God’s will, the Apostle John tells us we already have it. It’s as good as done. This is not “name it and claim it” prosperity theology. It is simply what the Bible teaches us. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). I fear that far too much of our praying is not done in faith and this needs to change.

 

So what about the rest of the story? The passport arrived about 5 weeks after we had sent it off to be processed, and well over a week before our trip. By that time God had already convicted me and the lesson had been learned. But as write this, almost a year later, the faith lessons continue. I praise God that Steph and I have grown so much in the area of faith and trust in Christ, but we still have a long ways to go. Lord increase our faith!

He Knows Before We Ask

A couple weeks ago we were playing in our back yard when I noticed our son John headed towards the red wagon. We store our little red wagon underneath the deck and I watched John grab ahold of the wagon and try to pull it out from under the deck. John is not quite two years old so I knew he was going to have a hard time moving the wagon and it did not take me long to figure out what would happen next. Past experiences told me that John likes to be pulled around in the wagon and so I said to myself, it is only a matter of time before he would soon be trotting over, asking me to pull the wagon out, put him in, and start dragging him all over the place. Sure enough, that’s exactly what transpired. It was fascinating for this happy parent to witness these events and I enjoyed every minute of my time with my son.

This experience made me think of the words of Jesus. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8). What follows is the passage on the Lord’s prayer. But isn’t it amazing that God knows what we need before we ask Him? Isn’t it remarkable that when we pray, we are not bringing new information to God? Of course, we all know that God is omniscient – He’s all knowing – and He knows us better than we know ourselves, but how much does that knowledge affect our prayer? If God already knows our needs before we ask them, then it follows that prayer is more about admitting our need and then going to the One who is all-sufficent to meet that need. You see, one of God’s great purposes in prayer is to build our faith and trust in Him. As we go to God again and again in prayer and see how He answers our prayers in the most amazing ways, our faith grows. Like a son that is inclined to go to his father when he has a need, we too as followers of Jesus begin to naturally look to him for our needs. My hope for you and me is that this humble, child-like dependance upon our Heavenly Father would only grow and multiply in the coming weeks and months.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Telling Our Faith Stories

One thing we don’t do enough of as Christians is to tell our faith stories to one another. What I mean by “faith stories” is quite simple – stories that communicate God’s faithfulness and sufficiency to meet our every need. I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, we aren’t stepping out in faith and trusting God so we simply don’t have any. And second, we are fearful that if we tell them, it will sound prideful on our part. We fear that if we tell the story, it will come across as if we are trying to gain glory from it. Let me affirm that our testimony as Christians should be centered upon the message of the gospel (1 John 1:1-4), but at the same time our testimony should be backed up by evidences of God’s faithfulness in the here and now (Acts 12:17). A couple weeks ago, I decided to tell one of these faith stories to our church. What follows is an account.  

 

Several years ago, I believed that God was calling me to attend a conference. At the time, I was in seminary in Vancouver and the conference was in Atlanta. If you know your geography, you will know that that’s a long trip and it would have to be by airplane – so I booked a flight. I also booked a hotel that was pretty close to where the conference would be. Now, given my flight times, I would have to stay three nights, but I only booked a hotel for the middle night. It sounds foolish but that is just how I felt God was leading me. I would have to trust God to provide accommodations for the other nights. There was also another thing that would have to be of faith. At the time, I wasn’t yet 25 and if you want to rent a car, you need to be 25 or older (maybe this has changed by now). And I didn’t have the money to hire a taxi take me all over the place so both transportation and my accommodations for two nights would have to be “by faith.”

 

As this trip approached I was starting to get concerned about how everything would come together. But the week before I left, as I was telling one of my friends about the trip and some of the details, he said that his wife’s brother was in university in Atlanta. I can’t remember how it all came together, I just remember this guy agreed to pick me up at the airport and then take me to the conference the next day. Coupled with that, another one of my seminary friends said he had a pastor friend in Atlanta who was attending the same conference I was attending. He gave me his cell number and once again, this connection would prove to be vital.

 

So off I went to attend this conference. My flight arrived at midnight the night before the conference started and just as planned my friend’s wife’s brother (sounds funny doesn’t it?) picked me up, and I stayed overnight with him and his little family. Early the next morning, he drove me to the conference about a half hour away. It’s amazing to me, but that’s the only contact I have ever had with him. God placed him in my life for that very short time and I have never talked to him again.

 

I attended the first day of the conference, and quite frankly, the conference was a disappointment. I could tell you more about it but I think the Lord had me there for other reasons. The theme of this trip was – faith.

 

After the first day ended, somehow, I was able to find transportation to the hotel I had booked. I had a good nights sleep but there was no “resting easy” in the sense that I knew the next morning I would have to find someone to drive me to the conference center. I could only rest in the knowledge that God would care of everything. The next morning, yet again, the Lord provided free transportation to the conference. A coincidence? I think not.

 

During the second day of the conference I was able to connect with my other friend’s friend who was a pastor. I didn’t have a cell phone so I think I was just borrowing other people’s cell phones but eventually I got a hold of him and we found each other and really hit it off. After the conferenced was over I was privileged to spend some time with the staff of his church and they took me out for a fancy meal and then ice cream afterward. By now, you won’t be surprise, but my new friend asked if I would like to stay overnight at his place. Of course I agreed, and after a short sleep he took me to the airport first thing in the morning (like 4am) for me to catch my flight home.

 

There is more that I could tell you about that trip but I think you get the picture. Just like the Christian life, this trip was all about faith. I remember when I first told that story to my wife (we were dating at the time) – she thought I was crazy! After six years of marriage, she now knows that without a doubt, but as I look back on that whole experience, I see God’s hand. Simply put – He took care of me. Not having transportation and accommodations was no barrier too difficult for God (Job 42:2).

 

My wife and I could tell many more stories of God’s faithfulness in our lives (you may have already heard some of them). But as the apostle Paul reminds us, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17). Paul also tells us, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God must get all the glory! Let me encourage you to tell your faith stories, and to tell them often, but do so in a way that honors God. The orientation of faith is always off of self and onto God. Telling these stories will remind others that God is faithful and trustworthy. So go ahead – tell your story!      

Understanding the Origins of the Universe

How can we understand the origins of the universe? This is an important question that great minds have probed into for centuries. The problem is, of course, no one was there to witness it all….except for God. “In the beginning, God….” We are not left with the impression that anyone else was there. Later on in the chapter this is confirmed with the creation of man. By the time Adam and Eve come on the scene, the created order was all in place. What that tells us is that God was the only person who witnessed the creation of the universe. Therefore, if we are going to understand the origins of the universe, we must trust God’s self-revelation.

The Scriptures have much to say on this, but perhaps a good place to start is Hebrews 11:3. “By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.” The world was literally created by the word of God. In Genesis 1 we see how God spoke, and everything came into being. God said, “let there be light, and there was light.” This same pattern is followed throughout the rest of Genesis 1. The Psalmist picks up on this in Psalm 33:6 and writes, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breathe of his mouth all their host.”

So how did God created the universe? BY HIS WORD! By the breathe of His mouth. All He had to do was speak and the created world came into being. But it gets even more amazing – God didn’t have any pre-existing materials to create with. If you were to tell your neighbor that you could make something out of nothing, they would think you were nuts, and, they’d be right.  If you want to make a chair, you don’t go “abra cadabra” and poof – there it is. No, you need certain materials, certain tools, and then you have to form and fashion them in a particular way. You can’t make that chair out of nothing.  There’s only one person who has ever performed such a work and that’s the Creator God and person of Jesus Christ.  The bible says that it is God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17) And Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  So before the creation of the heavens and the earth, God existed. And then at a particular point in time, God made something out of nothing. This is sometimes referred to as “Creation Ex-Nihilo.”

Going back to Hebrews 11:3, the only way we can understand creation is “by faith.” I know that answer does not satisfy everyone out there, but it is biblical truth. There is a sense of mystery in terms of how God “spoke” (Genesis 1) the cosmos into existence. But we must believe that God created all things, and now sustains all things. Like we read in Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

If we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 11 and verse 1, we see that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now compare that with verse 3. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  You can’t miss the parallel here, or should we say the contrast? Verse 1 – the conviction of things not seen. Verse 3 – so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. So we have…. seen and not seen – visible and invisible. If you are a doubting Thomas type of person, then ask yourself this very simple question. Where did that material world come from? How did it originate? A typical modern answer is – the big bang theory or evolution, which I’m sure you are familiar with. But that theory still doesn’t answer a very basic, fundamental question – where did all that star-stuff (in the words of Carl Sagan) come from that was involved in the big bang? How was it created? How did it come into being? Going back to Hebrews 11, if you want to understand the origins of the cosmos, then it starts with faith. There is no other way to explain the created world. There is no other way to explain the seen, but by the unseen. There has to be a first cause to everything, and the Bible tells us that first cause was God.

At the beginning of time God set the world in motion. He spoke the universe into existence. And the way He did it is totally unique. What is seen (that being everything around us) was not made out of things that are visible. God didn’t create from pre-existing materials. No, He created everything, out of nothing. And as Christians, we understand this by faith.

Many have said this before, but I will just echo their thoughts. It takes a lot more faith to be an atheist (someone who doesn’t believe in God) than it does to be a theist (someone who believes in God). And while we must believe, by faith, in the Triune God and in His Word, there is evidence all around us. The apostle Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

What about you, friend? Have you accepted God’s self-revelation? Let me encourage you to start with what the Bible tells us about the origins of the universe (or any subject for that matter) and then allow God to confirm His testimony through the created world and “the things that have been made.”

Having an Active Faith

We hear the word “faith” all the time. Someone will say, “He made a faith commitment”, or “My faith is really growing”, or “She’s a woman of faith”, etc. But sometimes I think we forget the basic meaning of the word. The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). According to the author of Hebrews, faith involves trusting in something unseen. Of course, this goes against human nature. We tend to trust in the things that are most obvious and evident to us, which is what makes faith in a God who cannot be seen (1 Peter 1:8) a big step for many. Still, millions of people have made “professions of faith.” They have prayed to God (believing that He is real), repented of their sins and asked Jesus to come into their lives.  Sadly, for many, this is the extent of their faith. They trusted Jesus for that moment with the expectation that upon dying they will be rewarded with heaven and kept from hell.

When you truly trust Jesus as your Savior, it’s an active faith. We are trusting Him with our lives every day – not just some day in the future when we die and enter eternity. The follower of Jesus is required (yes, it’s not optional) to live by faith on a daily basis. God will ask things of you that could never possibly be done in your own strength. But remember what the Bible says – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God is looking forw men and women whose confidience is not found in their own abilities, but in His great power. As you step out in faith and trust Jesus, he will come through and show His strength and power. As Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Far too often, I think our vision of God is too small. We don’t readily believe that God is capable of doing great things in and through us. We don’t have an active faith that touches every aspect of our lives. If this is true for you, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. We can say, God “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). We can say, Jesus, give me faith for today and faith for tomorrow. We can say, I can’t overcome this particular sin in my life _________ , but by the power of your Spirit O God, I believe you will give me the victory. We can say, God, I don’t have the courage to share my Christian faith with my friend, but I believe you can help me overcome that fear. And the list goes on and on, but it all starts with believing God.

Friend, don’t settle for having a “profession of faith” that leaves you content to wear the “Christian label” but unwilling to truly “live” by faith. That is nothing more than dead Christianity at its finest. The genuine believer WILL have an active faith. Paul said “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). God doesn’t change the world through men and women who are unwilling to trust Him. No, he uses men and women who have great faith and confidence in Him. He uses men and women who, to quote from Galatians 2:20 again, Christ lives in and through. Are you willing to be that man or woman?

God’s Deliverance

“And Moses said to the people, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Each time I read these two verses, I find myself amazed. The context of this passage is the crossing of the Red Sea, where God delivered Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. What’s amazing to me is that right from the beginning, this is clearly the Lord’s battle. Through his servant Moses, He would win the victory and destroy Egypt. God was not looking for assistance from His people, just obedience. Their task was only to “be silent” and watch “the salvation of the Lord.”

I will be the first to admit this does come naturally to us, Christ’s followers. To sit in the passenger side of faith and let God take control is not always easy because it requires total surrender, something essential in our Christian walk. Until we are willing to let God fight our battles, we will never experience deliverance. We simply don’t have the strength in and of ourselves to fight the enemy apart from God.

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a similar verse in 2 Chronicles. “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17) Indeed, we find this same message through the Scriptures – God’s deliverance – when we trust Him by faith.

This all starts with salvation. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) In salvation, we are delivered from sin and death and eternal damnation and given the keys to the Kingdom. But the battle doesn’t end at the point of our conversion – it’s just the beginning. As a child of the King, you will face temptations and trials for the rest of your earthly days (2 Timothy 3:12). Deliverance will only come to those who yield themselves to the power of God.

Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I do know the battle belongs to the Lord. If you are willing to step aside, surrender, and give it over to God, you will experience His deliverance. You might have to wait awhile (the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years), but take heart, “it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).