a collection of steps

Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

In Like a Flood: How to Overcome the Onslaught of Evil in Our World

In Bible, choices, faith, fear, God, Jesus, prayer, Scripture, terror on September 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The Boston Marathon bombing poses searching questions for counter-terrorism agencies across the world. Photograph: David L Ryan/AP

When I was a child, the nightly news seemed like a foreign movie. It seemed that everything evil happened on the other side of the planet, far from our suburban home.

When we went to church and heard the Holy Scriptures, sometimes one of those news stories would surface in the sermon and the pastor would use it as an example that God was seriously going to punish those who did evil—but not here in the United States. At least that’s how I interpreted the sermon. After all, we’re all safe here in the good ol’ US of A, right? Sure, we had our crime as any country does, but generally, my view of America was that we are the peacemakers, the humanitarians—the civilized.

As Christians, we are called to spread the good news of Jesus Christ across the globe, but the uncivilized, dangerous and evil people were handled by missionaries. These were people specifically called by God to leave the comfort of their American home, travel to a jungle and tell the natives they need Jesus.  At home, we would dutifully pray the Lord of the Harvest to send workers to the fields to gather in the lost souls as Jesus told us too—but secretly we’d pray: please, Lord, don’t send me!

With the truly sacrificial duties left to the missionaries, we could focus on gossiping and judging each other; arguing about what color the carpeting should be in the new sanctuary and snubbing those who dared to enter our place of worship unkempt. After all, did God not say we must be holy and separate from the world?

Now our children kill other children for fun. Our teens set off bombs in our streets. Our junior high boys stock up ammo in their room and bring it to school so they can shoot as many people as possible.

How did this happen on our soil? The talking heads have endless theories and solutions, and some of it may indeed help, but those who call Jesus their Lord and Savior can no longer play church. Evil is here, in our homes, our schools, our churches and streets. Evil has come in like a flood and we will quickly drown in it if we don’t pay attention and get on our knees. We can no longer pretend that the bad stuff happens off shore. We can no longer just put a dollar in a church envelope as the offering plate passes by and smugly feel good that we’ve blessed someone somewhere.

The ancient book of Isaiah, Chapter 59, practically describes our country word-for-word. Life is bleak and overwhelmingly hopeless and our own sins have brought dark consequences upon us. Justice flees from us; peace eludes us and shedding blood is a sport. What can good people do? We try to live good lives and we give our time and money to help others, so what do we do about all this evil in our beloved country? Many snipe at the government, others snipe at the school system, the justice system, the lack of two parents in the home, etc., etc. Yes, all these are factors in our dilemma, but not one of them alone released this flood of evil into our streets.

In fact, none of the solutions we concoct matter in a flood–all that matters is survival, and undoubtedly, a flood of evil is here. It is sweeping away our religious traditions, setting our church buildings on fire and driving us into corners of fear and hopelessness.

Is there no answer?

In verse 19 of Isaiah 59, the Lord proclaims that, “When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

Though this chapter is written to Israel, God is the same everywhere, and He will not allow evil to destroy those who love Him. Interestingly, the west is mentioned in the first part of the verse:

“So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

God will save us, America, but we must fear only Him. We must call upon Him with repentant hearts and pure motives. This flood of evil rushing over our precious land, threatening to devour our families will not prevail if we get on our knees now and call out to the only One Who is mighty to save!

The church was never meant to be a building for good people to gather and revel in their goodness while everyone else gets what they get. The church is here to represent the unconditional love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us so much He chose to pay the penalty of our sin so we could be delivered from evil.

What will you choose? Will you drown in the flood of evil, or will you embrace the standard that God raises against it and look to Him for your salvation?

~ CCS

How to Know God

Photograph: David L Ryan/AP “The Boston Marathon bombing poses searching questions for counter-terrorism agencies across the world.”

Why Travel this Christmas?

In Bible, Christ, Christmas, faith, Jesus, love, plots, Scripture on November 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks to the underwear bomber who ruined Christmas, the friendly skies have turned dark. Travelers over this past Thanksgiving took to the highways in record numbers in order to avoid scanners and strips searches at airports. But travel they did and, regardless of the obstacles and inconveniences, nothing stops travelers at Christmas.

Little is known about the Wise Men who traveled from the east to find the Christ Child. Their appearance, barely a few sentences on the pages of Scripture, dissolves so quickly, it begs the question as to why they have commanded such prominence in the telling of the Christmas story.

Like a side plot, the Wise Men weave into the narrative, unwittingly stir up trouble, present their gifts then sneak out of the country in fear of their lives. That’s it. But why? They were astrologers! Sure, there was one star that was brighter than the others, but what drove them to lay extravagant gifts at the feet of a two-year-old in a faraway land? Why travel if the star was the prize? They could study the sky and its heavenly bodies from their own rooftop.

Clearly, it wasn’t about the star. If that’s all they were seeking, why bring gifts? No, it was the One the star pointed to that drew them to Judea. They knew from their studies of ancient Hebrew writings that this star heralded the birth of a king—a very special king—and they were driven to worship Him no matter what that journey entailed.

Their quest, hardly a passing curiosity, undoubtedly absorbed years of their attention prior to the arduous journey. It was a quest that has inspired millions, including me—souls who will not rest until they find the Christ Child of Christmas.

Fortunately, we don’t need to travel to a physical location to find Him. Our pursuit is one of faith. Believing that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus is Who He said He was, that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that the story is not over until He says it’s over.

Yes, finding the Christ Child involves travel, but the land we must traverse to reach Him is that of our own heart: the mountains of lies and false doctrines, the valleys of pain and past hurts; the rivers of tears and misunderstandings and the deserts of loneliness and discouragement.

Why travel through such horrible conditions? Why leave the comfort of our habits and familiar surroundings to pay homage to an ancient character in a story that could possibly just be a fable perpetuated by religious fanatics? There is only one reason, and it throbs ceaselessly in every human heart from birth to deathbed: Love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse, John 3:16, like the Christmas story itself, is still to this day, the simple, uncomplicated reason why millions still travel to places of worship on a silent night in December.

It is the reason we stand in long lines of impatient shoppers to possess gifts for our loved ones—a reenactment of the extraordinary lengths to which God went when He wrapped His precious Son in human flesh—the perfect gift.

Love and hope, and the promise of an eternity of peace and goodwill, is that not the quest that calls to your heart every day of the year?

Travel to see the King this Christmas, He is worthy of your most extravagant gifts.

Window Shopping

In believe, Bible, choices, Christ, faith, God, growth, Jesus, Scripture on October 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

iStock-windowSmallOver the past few months I’ve been reading through the Gospels in my Bible. Starting with Matthew, I’ve read a chapter a day with a deliberate desire for God to reveal His Word to me in a fresh, new way.

By the time I reached the last verse of Luke 19, it dawned on me that God’s Word was so much more relevant and alive than all the times I had read the Gospels.

When this revelation fully manifested in my slow brain, I saw clearly that I had been ‘window-shopping’ through the most significant sections of my Bible.

“Oh, that’s neat,” I would say when reading how Jesus fed 5000+ people with a boy’s lunch.

“Huh, that’s cool,” I would mutter when I’d read that Peter got out of a boat and walked on water to Jesus.

I casually passed over these phenomenal acts of God’s Son with little more than a yawn and headed back to the Psalms where I could better relate to the ‘woe is me’, ‘please change my circumstances, Lord’  and ‘save me from my enemies!’ passages.

Don’t get me wrong, the Psalms are timeless writings of precious, heart-wrenching intimate moments of doomed souls crying out to God for salvation, deliverance, hope and healing. So why breeze through the four written accounts of God’s Answer to all those ancient pleas?

I am ashamed that I have merely glanced at the Gospels’ priceless treasure. In them is the path, the door, the key, the hope, the fruition of God’s promise to Abraham and all who would believe – by faith alone.

Now, I’m tearing apart my house like a crazed, madwoman who lost a valuable coin.  I’m selling everything I have to buy a field where I found a priceless pearl.

I finally get it.  The kingdom of heaven should be pursued.  It’s not history. It’s not a shopping expedition for what fits best into our lives.

It’s real. It’s here.

It’s mine.

Hidden

In believe, Bible, choices, faith on September 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

If your Bible was taken away today, how much of it would you remember?

iStock_000006157983XSmall

As the world becomes more and more intolerant toward those who uphold the Holy Bible as their moral standard, it is not so hard to fathom that Bibles will someday be outlawed.

With prayer – and any form of spiritual expression – being banned from schools, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that one day our personal copies of the Word of God will also be removed.

So, what if you could not walk into a bookstore and choose from hundreds of Bibles published in various versions, paraphrases, translations, colors, bindings or sizes? What if you could no longer have a Bible sitting on your nightstand, on your bookshelf, in your car or purse? How much of it would you remember if you could never read it again?

When America was founded, it was the standard textbook in every school. Our ancestors learned how to read from their family Bible. But that is not the case today. Political Correctness now dictates that ‘tolerance’ of all religions is the norm, though any Christian who has confronted this edict knows well that Christianity – and its Bible – are not included.

Still can’t get your head around this? Watch. Pay attention. It’s coming. Jesus warned his disciples as recorded in Matthew 24, that we will know when we see the things happening of which he warned us, like we know when the seasons are about to change.

So, dust off your Bible, crack it open and read. Know what God says about your life, your world, your end. Believe, be saved, get ready.

Soon, the only Bible you’ll have is what you hid in your heart and mind.

Lord, I have hidden Your Word in my heart so I won’t sin against You  (Psalm 119:11).  Help me be diligent in reading my Bible, which You so graciously wrote and preserved all through the centuries so I could touch it with my own hands, see it with my own eyes and believe it with my own heart. May You find me still believing when You return.

F Words

In believe, choices, faith, fear, help, Jesus, love, power on September 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

No other letter in the English Alphabet begin words that are so extremely polarizing than “F.”

To be sure, two of those words are embattled to the bitter end of life itself: Fear and Faith.

iStock_000003868453XSmall

More acutely for students is the dreaded grade: F. No other letter can mark a child so deeply.  To receive one means we FAILED.

Such a connection to ‘F’ can drive us down untold paths of perpetual failure, locking us into a prison cell with all sorts of nasty inmates: self deprecation, disconnection, stigma, depression, discouragement, disenfranchisement, etc.

Failure has such potential to kill a human soul that those who are wise to its power can weaken it with another ‘F’ word: Funny!  Truly, laughing at our failures is a God-given weapon to combat this deadly word.

(BTW: the ‘FAIL BLOG’ has the corner on this right now, so if this post is too depressing, go there, laugh your head off, then come back and read the rest of my post!)

This battle has armies on both sides:

Fear – Faith

Fault – Forgiven

Fierce – Funny

Famine – Food

Filth – Finery

Forsaken – Friend

By no means is that an exhaustive list, but you get the point, ‘F Words’ are at war. I won’t even list the most infamous F word since it probably popped in your head when you read my title. So dirty is that particular word, that common reference to it is the ‘F-Bomb.’ How ironic, given the devastation a bomb has in today’s society, both physically and metaphorically.

This war, as I mentioned above, has two captains: Fear and Faith. And, based on my studies of Holy Scripture and years of experience in both of these camps, I have concluded that the front lines of life are fought on the battlefield of the mind by these two foes. But by no means are they an end in themselves.  These captains war for two kings: Love and Hate.

The Bible teaches that Faith and Fear, to a human being, are the means by which we choose Love or Hate.  To live in fear is to vote for hate. To live by faith, is a choice for love.

Since these foes are not tangible on earth, like a gun or a kiss, they are often missed altogether. We search all our lives for answers to life’s questions and dilemmas, and yet, even when such a quest leads us straight to God’s Word our minds still can’t get our head around faith, how it ‘works’ (sorry about the puns, they just happen when I write).

The king of Hate works hard to disguise the simplicity of faith. By no means does he ever want you to get behind the power of faith.  If you do, you would be walking on oceans to feed nations with a loaf of bread. You’d be healing everything you touched and worse, casting him out everywhere you go!

No, wielding the sword of Faith is no easy task. Neither is Fear easy to flush out. So much of our lives are subject to its trickery we rarely view it as an enemy!

But I digress.

Why is Fear vs. Faith my topic today?

Early this morning my husband jostled me from a troubling dream. In it I was surrounded by demons. It was just me and one other person and I was screaming at the top of my lungs at them to ‘leave in the name of Jesus!’ but it wasn’t working. When I ‘came to’ I begged my husband to lay his hand on my mind and to pray God’s peace over me as I was filled with fear.

Only by knowing and understanding the power of faith was I able to know how to defeat the assault of fear in that nightmare.  The Truth set me free from its grip.

Do you want power over fear?

Know your enemy. Dig deep into a Bible as soon as possible. Find out who, what, when, where and why Fear is your enemy.  ‘be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8)

Know your weapon. As a soldier learns to use and respect his weapon before he goes to war, so must we learn how faith works and how to use it against our enemy. Knowledge will dismantle most of Fear’s power, but you must understand that nothing in you has power over fear.  No method, mantra or effort on your part – outside of a choice to walk by faith – will defeat fear.

Get serious. Make no mistake: if Jesus is your Savior, then Fear has power ‘over’ you and Faith has power ‘in’ you.  To allow both, and it is your choice, is sin.  ‘…for whatever is not from faith is sin.’ (Romans 14:23b) You can’t have it both ways.

Choose your F Word: Fear or Faith.

____________________________

How do you get more faith?  Read your Bible every day and get grounded in a church that teaches the Word of God without apology.  ‘…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Romans 10:17)

Surprised?

In believe, faith, Jesus on September 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

As a child I was fascinated by the road.The Way Forward sign in the sky

We had a station wagon and relatives out west so in the summer we would pack it full and head that way for vacation. I managed to talk my Dad into letting me sit next to him by promising to be still.  No problem. My eyes were glued to his every move.

I caught on fairly fast that the road signs sometimes changed my Dad’s actions. If a sign had big numbers he would either slow down or speed up.  If the signs were green or brown, he might turn the wheel to the right and our wagon would curve in a big arc. That was cool because it made my little body lean real close to him and it wasn’t my fault.

Dad taught me what signs were for and how to read them. I’m grateful for that training as it really comes in handy when I’m the one behind the wheel. What I like about them is they tell.

Road signs tell me where I am, how to get where I’m going, warn me of dangers, measure my progress and build my anticipation. When signs are not there, I get lost.

This summer I began a journey through the Gospels of Jesus in my Bible. I’m now in Luke and today finished Chapter 2. My eyes are glued on what God is doing behind the wheel and a big sign is forming in my understanding: God provides clear signs for my safe travel.

God’s road signs started back in the Garden of Eden where he placed a big one that said, “Steer clear of this tree!” When they failed to heed that sign, He promised Eve that from her womb would come One Man who would cancel the curse of evil she and Adam were now under.  Throughout the subsequent years until that Man, Jesus Christ, was born, signs were there, telling, warning, measuring and building anticipation.

What I see now is how surprised everyone was when he finally arrived. Even his parents, after having one-on-one personal, supernatural visits from God’s angel, with clear instructions on what was about to happen and what to name the child, still marveled when shepherds rushed into the stable, prophets grabbed their child in the temple and openly  proclaimed his deity and kings showed up at their doorstep with gold. Am I saying they shouldn’t have marveled? No way. Who wouldn’t? Everything God does is marvelous.

But, as I read through the entire Gospel (it’s especially clearer in Mark), there is a pattern of surprise.

Surprise? Why? Did they not see the signs? Did they not read them? No. the signs pointing to the Messiah were well documented and taught throughout the generations. The problem was not in their lack of knowing, it was in their lack of believing. The surprise expressed by those who encountered Jesus was directly correlated to their level of belief or unbelief. It still is.

This lack of belief is what keeps floating to the surface in the Gospels. Near the beginning of his ministry Jesus comments on his disciple’s lack of belief and understanding. But as their time together increased, he became irritated, then incredulous and in the end hurt by their unbelief.

How convicting!  I have been an eye-witness to his incredible power both in my life and in others and still, after all these years of walking with him, I doubt!

Those who approached him with the faith of a child got what they asked for and he honored them openly for their belief. Those who tried to process his works and words through their logic, their pride or their ‘God-box’ were confused and/or offended.

Why are we surprised when God shows up? Believe the signs.