Tag Archives: faith

True worship


Luke tells the true story (Luke 7) of Jesus having dinner at the house of one of the religious leaders. While there, a woman comes in. Not just any woman…THAT woman. Her ill reputation around town should have kept her from entering this respectable house. But she wasn’t concerned with what others thought. She began to wash his feet with her tears, kissed them, and poured perfume over them.


The pharisee Simon thought to himself that if Jesus were really a prophet, he would know what kind of a woman this was, and presumably would send her away with disdain. Jesus tells Simon about a moneylender who forgave two men their debts, one who owed much money and another who owed less. Jesus asked Simon which man would love the moneylender more, the one who owed much or the one who owed little. Simon correctly answered, the one who owed much. Jesus responded that this same woman who came to worship him and wash his feet showed him much love while Simon who was the host showed him little.


Jesus concludes that those who are forgiven much love much but those who are forgiven little love little. Then he forgave the woman of her sins. And when the guests murmured about this, he helped her faith again by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).


Astonishing, right?


If you had been a guest that evening, what would you thought as you walked home? Maybe like Simon, you would have remarked at the shameful woman who interrupted this special event. Or maybe you would have left amazed at the humility and love shown by the woman you had earlier judged. Or would you have left with a sense of awe and wonder about a man who could forgive sins, even THOSE sins?


As I leave this story, I think about how very large a pile of debt was created by my own wrongdoings. How about you? Perhaps in our eyes, it has become all past events, washed away and forgotten. In one sense, that’s true. When we confess our sins, Jesus forgives them and casts them away, remembering them no more. But I wonder, if we truly remembered each day how great a debt was forgiven, would we respond more like that woman whose only motivation and driving ambition was to worship the one who forgave her? How it would affect our daily worship if we remembered how great the grace was that washed over us. Maybe it would drive us to an authentic worship based on great love, not Sunday habits and rituals.


It’s the battle we all face: the shame of falling short, of not measuring up, of pursuing self in place of pursuing God. There is no self-cure; only the repentant heart that invites the forgiveness of Jesus. But sometimes we believe the lie instead of the truth. The lie says, “You’ve battled this sin all your life; you can’t overcome it.” The lie says, “You’re not worthy.” The only way to fight the lies is to take up the truth – God’s faithful promise of grace and peace that come from a repentant heart. Shame has no power over a heart fully given to God for this is what he promises:


“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7).


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).


“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).


Worship is not adherence to a set of dos and don’ts. It’s not a ritual of dressing up and going to church. True worship is going to Jesus full of love and gratitude wherever you find him, any time of any day. It is the deep acknowledgment that we are sinners in need of a gracious Savior, the only one who can pronounce peace upon our soul.


Confess. Receive forgiveness. Worship fully. Go in peace.


Does God hear our prayers?


We pray and pray. Sometimes we pray our whole life and don’t see the results of our prayers. We may wonder, “Does God hear my prayers?”


If we’re to believe God’s Word, we need to believe it all. It is his forever truth and he is the great promise keeper. He promises “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Elijah prayed for fire to come down from heaven and it came. David prayed to be delivered from his enemies and he was. The disciples prayed for boldness to preach the gospel, no matter what happened, and they received it. Jesus himself prayed for his Father’s will to be done – and it was. All evidence that God hears and answers our prayers.


Jesus told his followers, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) Some false preachers of the prosperity gospel treat this promise like a genie’s magic lamp. Read the words again. There is a condition in Jesus’ promise, an ‘IF.’


Some like to think that God sent his Son so everyone would be saved. But what the bible says is “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There’s a condition to the promise. We’re used to conditional promises: you get paid IF you do the work, you lose weight IF you follow your diet, you reap a harvest of veggies IF you plant the seeds. We like to think that it’s different when it comes to prayer, but it’s not. The answer to prayers sometimes depends on the condition of our heart.


1 John 5:14 – “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”


Sometimes we don’t receive the answers to prayer because the condition of our heart is not right. Sometimes it is because we lack faith. We ask, but we don’t really believe God is willing or able to do what he says.  Sometimes God’s answer depends on the actions of others. He will not ‘make’ someone love you the way you want to be loved anymore than he will ‘make’ you act against your own will. Sometimes we live out the consequences of our own thoughts and actions: the sin is forgiven, but the consequences live on. Sometimes God answers prayers but we fail to recognize it because we want something else. He doesn’t give us what we want because he knows what we need and has something better for us. We want only ice cream and cookies for dinner but he offers real nourishment for our bodies and our souls.


There are multiple reasons why God might not answer every prayer or answer it in the way we ask. But if we believe God exists and accept his Son, we can be assured he hears our prayer and will be faithful to respond – regardless of how it seems. Maybe it would help our prayer life if, in addition to asking for all those ‘things’ we desire, we primarily focused our prayers on drawing closer to God . . . to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly. Would not our Heavenly Father be pleased to hear such a prayer from his beloved children? May this be the true desire of our hearts!



What if salvation was all you had?


We ask God for so many things: safe travel, a happy day, a secure job, good health, more of nearly everything, and so much more. And it’s well we do come before Him with our petitions for He encourages us to depend on Him for all our needs. He wants us to ask for everything in the name of Jesus, according to His will, not ours. IF we desire Him more than anything else, He will give us the desires of our heart.


If you have ever been to a land where believers have no access to clean water, safe food, or barely sufficient shelter, you’d realize we live in a land of plenty. We say we walk by faith and yet we all depend so much on our own resources as much – perhaps more – than we sometimes depend on God. And I wondered:


If all we had was our salvation would that be enough?


What if the job goes south (perhaps literally) and leaves you behind? What if you lose your prized home? What if suddenly and unexpectedly your healthy life is turned upside down by cancer, Alzheimer’s, or some other chronic condition? What if you lost your family and fortune? Job experienced all this and he remained faithful to His God. Would we? Or would we be like His friends saying, “Curse God and die.”


It won’t always be prosperous times for us. The bible is clear that times are coming when it will be very hard to even survive. It’s likely that in a single day, money will lose all its value. Your lifetime savings will be worthless. Standing firm in the faith will come only at a very high cost, even your life. And then there are the bowl judgments that will pour over the earth with unimaginable destruction.


Maybe real believers will have been raptured to heaven by then. But maybe we’ll have to endure a much stronger testing of our faith than we’d like to think. It doesn’t have to be the end times to test our faith. All sorts of trials come into our lives with no invitation. And the question is:


What if salvation was all I had?
Will God be enough if I have nothing else?


What if your rights were curtailed and you couldn’t go to a public church that worshipped Jesus? What if your means of earning an income or even enjoying basic comforts were taken away by a wretched disease? What if inconsolable sorrow came upon you at the loss of a child? What if your friends abandoned you? Would dwelling in the presence of God be enough for your soul? Would His grace be sufficient and His strength manifest in your weakness? Could you praise Him in the storm? Could you find His goodness and beauty in the smallest places around and within you? Could you see His spark of goodness in others you meet, even those you don’t particularly like?


The tragic slaughter of Christian students in Kenya might make us wonder, “Would I take a bullet for Christ?” But the real question isn’t, “Am I willing to die for Christ?” Perhaps the most important and relevant question is, “Am I willing to LIVE for Christ?” If salvation was all I had (and that is so very much!) would that be enough for me? And if so, should I not be completely satisfied in God today since he has blessed me with so much more?!



What season are you in?


There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
Ecclesiastes 3:3-8,14


What season are you in right now?


There’s the season of the young mom putting away her toddler’s toys and clothes as her little one busily empties them out again. Of giving them a bath only to have them spill soggy cereal on their head.


There is a season when careers threaten to hijack our lives, squeezing more out of the day than we’d like. At the same time, it is a season of accomplishment, income generation, and hopefully beneficial relationships.


For some there is a season of expanding homes to make room for growing families. a season of launching children into the world ‘on their own’ and the season of them ‘coming back.’ There’s a season called ’empty nest’ and a season of ‘all alone.’ There’s a season of illness that sometimes stays for too long a time. There’s a season of going and a season of waiting. There is a season of seemingly endless frustrations and a usually shorter time of a plan coming together.


There’s a temptation to believe that the season we’re in will last forever – forever young, forever happy, or forever in pain, grief, despair. But the truth is that seasons change, sometimes without notice. And there is a constant thread that binds all the seasons of our lives together.


Whatever season you are in right now, the God of all ages is there to meet you. He has gone ahead to prepare this place for you and you for this time. Seasons of life reveal what’s in our heart. Every season bears the mark of his “in all things” goodness if you search for it and the opportunity to seek his purpose. He gives wisdom, strength and courage to those who ask and grace that sustains to those in need. In all seasons you can find faith, hope, and love.


Always a season for resting on God's promises!

Always a season for resting on God’s promises!


Whether you are in the season of sunrise, sunset, or the noonday sun, let it be marked by God’s enduring love.



The sum of your life


Do you ever think about your purpose in life? About what will be remembered after all the work is done and the chores are finished (at least for the day)? Days go by and turn into weeks and months and years. You might ask, “Does my life account for anything?”


For those most seen in the public’s eye, Wikipedia may include a page listing notable accomplishments. For many, decades of struggles, accomplishments, sorrows and joy are summed up in a few paragraphs in the paper’s obituaries.


Sometimes I think about the genealogies of the bible. You know, where so and so begat so and so. The dream, passions, and life efforts of an entire generation of people were represented by one single name. And what about the “400 years of silence” between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament?! Surely, there was something worthwhile to be remembered, wasn’t there?


And then there’s Damaris. Her name is recorded just once in the bible (Acts 17). And what was accounted to her? What was her famous stake in life that led her to be mentioned in place of many others who remained anonymous?


She believed.

She responded to the good news and believed in Jesus.


No doubt, there was more than that. Likely, she cooked countless meals that nourished her family, washed baskets full of clothes, and swept the floor hundreds of times. Being a believer, I’m guessing she spent long times in quiet wonder of the amazing Jesus she adored. Maybe she sang songs of worship. Probably she encouraged others in the faith, possibly opening her home up welcome strangers so they could experience the truth and grace that flowed from her transformed life. I suspect troubles and sorrow visited her house just like they come to you and me. Maybe there were times of doubt and despair. We don’t know the details of her life. It’s not that they were unimportant. It’s just that they weren’t the most notable aspect of her life. What mattered most was that she believed.


Isn’t that true for us as well? Certainly, when God says, “Go” you should go. When he says, “Encourage your neighbor” we should be about that task. What we do matters much. But in the end, who we are matters more. God says to each of us:

Stay faithful in the presence of doubt.
Keep trusting in the face of fear.
Stand firm when your life is shaken.
Show grace when you are offended.
Speak truth in the presence of lies.
Love when you don’t feel like loving.
Keep on believing.


Our whole life is summed in this:
What did I believe and how did I live it?


May your day be marked by your all surpassing belief in the one true God who makes life worth living!



The Death of a Vision


There comes a dark time in most of our lives when hope dies.


Or so it seems.


Perhaps you’ve been there when the lights went out and darkness suddenly swept in, ushered by a minimum of spoken words:

“You – have – cancer.”

“You’re – fired.”

“I – want – a – divorce.”


In the blink of an eye, all that was good has suddenly turned to bad. It’s a dark moment when your vision dies. If it weren’t for the deep pain, you’d have thought you died too. Indeed a part of you did.


Abraham was there. God had promised him not only an heir but descendants as numerous as the sand. But in his old age, his wife was still barren. It seemed his vision had died. But then God intervened and the promise was fulfilled, the vision reborn.


Joseph was there. God revealed to him in a dream that he would be a great ruler of the people. Then left for dead in a pit, falsely accused and forgotten in prison, it seemed his vision had died. But the God intervened and the promise was fulfilled, the vision reborn.


David was there. God promised he would be king of Israel. But after being anointed, the present King Saul continued to persecute and tried to kill him. Taking refuge in the cave of Adullam, it must have seemed David’s vision had died. But God intervened and the promise was fulfilled, the vision reborn.


The disciples were there. They had devoted their lives to following their Lord, Jesus. But in a horrific turn of events, their master was tortured and crucified and they were in fear for their own lives. In those dark hours it must have seemed that their vision had died. But God intervened and Jesus rose victorious from the grave. The vision was reborn!


There are times in our own lives when the apparent death of a vision overcomes us with despair and grief. Despite the best efforts and all our plans, things don’t work out as we plan. And it seems as though the entire earth has swallowed us whole. And sometimes the vision we have does perish. But it is never the end of hope.


The smallest flicker of faith dispels the darkness that surrounds us. That small flame seems to grow as we feed it with increasing trust. It illuminates and reveals what we thought had been lost. God still has a good plan for your life. You were made for a specific purpose. You are not alone. His vision has not perished and neither have you. Hope remains. Hope always remains.


If it seems your vision has perished, don’t give up. Never give up. Turn to God and ask for His vision. Reach out to a friend. Write us at Go Light Our World. Don’t stay in the darkness. Keep your light of faith shining.



Faith through trials


Don’t let your troubles determine how you see God.

Let God help you see your troubles through His eyes.

There is something about trials that strip away unwanted elements and reveal our underlying character and abilities. More importantly, trials speak evidence to God’s work in us. We speak of the ‘trial by fire’ that destroys all that is merely temporal and leaves that which is everlasting, the mark God places on the faithful. There is the heat of the furnace that removes the impurities and leaves only that which is pure. Shadrach and his buddies experienced the fiery furnace first hand. In the face of what appeared to be certain death, they stood firm in their faith. Daniel’s trial of trusting God when surrounded by hungry lions speaks to God’s role in the dangerous times of our lives.


Most of us don’t have to face real lions or a literal furnace of fire in our lives. But we are no strangers to trials, are we? Trials beset everyone. Some trials, like an upcoming exam or handling an audit well, are relatively easy for the well-prepared. Other trials spring upon us with little or no notice. Some trials rank at the level of inconvenient nuisances; others threaten our families, our finances, and even our physical well-being.


Like the metal that is refined by fire, trials reveal our true inner character. While preparation can’t prevent trials from coming our way, we can prepare ourselves to withstand the fire.


Like the musician who practices diligently, the athlete who pushes their physical limits, or the supervisor who builds and coaches teams committed to quality, when the test comes they’re prepared. But what prepares us for those trials that test our very soul? How do we stand firm when our livelihood and even our life is threatened?


We build faith, day by day. Jesus said that even as the tiny mustard seed grows into a large tree that provides shade for the birds, so our faith grows. Our small faith grows when we acknowledge God when all is well. It grows more when we acknowledge Him in the small trials we face throughout the week. Day by day, year by year, as we write the story of our lives, we have opportunity to grow the seed of faith into something that withstands the most severe storms.


God helps us see our trials differently, by seeing Him in the midst of it. Every problem is an opportunity to trust God and exercise your faith. Today is your preparation for tomorrow’s storms. Let your faith guide you through any difficulty you face, big or small.


Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.
Psalm 26:2



The Christmas gift of faith



“In those days,” the Christmas story begins, Caesar Augustus issued an order for a census to be taken. So Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the town of His family to register.


Like Joseph we too are called to register and declare that we belong to the family of God. We are his.


It was undoubtedly a tough journey for Mary. If you get uncomfortable riding in the car to your Christmas celebrations, imagine being pregnant and riding on the back of a donkey! As you gather with friends and family, perhaps in a room too small for the number of guests, ponder spending the night in a barn, and giving birth to your child in the presence of barn animals.


Likewise, it was probably tough for Joseph. His betrothed was expecting a child, not his own, but brought about miraculously by God. Imagine the whirlwind of confusion that swept through his mind. And yet, in faith he believed what the angel said. In faith, he protected his bride and their child. In faith, he obeyed.


In faith, they both humbled themselves to accept a dirty manger for the birthplace of their child. Although there was no room in the inn for Jesus at the time of His birth, let’s be sure to make room for Him by unwrapping the gift of Christmas faith. We do this by making room for his Word to speak to and transform our lives. Jesus IS The Word. We can’t experience the real Christmas without making room for the Word, that is Jesus, in our lives.


Like Mary, in faith, let us take quiet time to ponder in our heart this wondrous gift from God, a gift we don’t deserve but desperately need. Like Joseph, let’s have our hearts follow in faith even when things around us don’t make sense. And let our hearts respond with praise to the one who is worthy of all our praise. And may those who follow us say, “In those days, they lived by faith.”
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 1 John 5:4





Do you (really) love me?



In one scene from Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye ask his wife of 25 years, “Do you love me?” She exclaims, “Do I love you?!” She lists all the things she has done for him in the course of their marriage. Affirming this, Tevye asks again, “Yes, but do you love me?” She ponders 25 years of living with and taking care of this man, concluding with a sigh that she does indeed love him.


God asked this same question of you and me every day. Like Tevye’s wife we might answer in amazement, “Are you kidding? I go to church. I give money. I read the bible and pray …at least a few minutes every day.” And quietly, God replies, “Yes, but do you love me?”


We’re reminded of Peter’s experience with this same question. Three times Jesus asks Peter with increasing intensity. By the third time, I imagine Peter’s eyes were filled with tears, remembering how much indeed he did love Jesus, though his behaviors had contradicted that love. Jesus wasn’t looking to ‘beat up’ Peter for his mistakes. He was looking to renew Peter’s fellowship with Him. I think He is asking us the same questions:


Do you love me… enough to trust me?
Sometimes it’s hard to trust. Of all the rooms in our life, the waiting room is perhaps the most difficult. Presented with lots of pain and anxiety but few answers, we’re quickly tempted to try any door marked “exit!” We just want to escape. But the question rings in our ears: “Do you love me enough to trust me, your sovereign God, even while you wait?”


Do you love me… enough to obey me?
Here’s the truth: we obey what we love and really trust. A reporter once scoffed mother Teresa saying, “How can you expect to be successful ministering to all the poor and hurting people?! There are too many!” She responded with truth, “I’m not called to be successful, only faithful.” And the question burns in our ears, “Do you love me enough to obey in faith?”


Do you love me… enough to abide in me?
Marcia and I have always enjoyed spending time together, but the cancer journey further enhanced our appreciation of simply abiding together. God wants us to abide in Him wherever we go, whatever we do. It doesn’t matter if it’s doing the dishes or paying the bills. Abiding implies contentment and satisfaction. “Do you love me and find satisfaction when abiding in me?”
As we conclude this week of emphasis on the Go Light Our World missions, we invite you to partner with GLOW in regular times of prayer and through your tax-deductible gifts. Beyond that, we invite you to consider your relationship with Jesus.  LOVE is the mark of a devoted Christian. Let your love be marked by your faith-in-action. Let your answer be always, “Yes Lord!”  Because if it is not ‘yes’, to Him, then who is Lord in your life?



The rest of the story



Sometimes the work of God in our lives is a mystery. In my journey through AML, I recall feeling that His grace did not dispel the pain. But it did give me assurance to bear it a little longer, one day or moment at a time with certainty that God’s Word remained true despite how I felt or experienced it.


What are we to say about the part of our story that is filled with seemingly hopeless and unbearable trials? Only that they add to a long history of faithful warriors fighting seemingly unbeatable odds. Our singular expectation is to stand firm in God’s protective armor, faithful and courageous, prayerful, and mindful of God’s blessings in the face of turmoil. Even so, the testimony of strong warriors and faithful servants have not always gained them access to the promises they sought. For example:


“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with US would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:35b-40


The passage that follows points to US…and our leg of the faith relay which somehow completes theirs:


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3


So it seems that our journey of faith through all kinds of trials is necessarily linked to the completion of the race of the faith heroes of all history. You and Moses, Gideon, David. It seems that we are presently completing the chapters in the REST of the story that will be told in heaven for all time. Perhaps in ways unknown to us, our most difficult chapters of our story are also influencing the story of others who will be encouraged to press on and continue their race. It is evidence that Jesus’ suffering for us was not in vain, and that His grace continues to strengthen so we will not lose heart.


Live well, until you reach the end of . . . the rest of the story.