Building Christian Community (How To Invite Others Into Your Real Life)

Building Christian Community (How To Invite Others Into Your Real Life)

There’s a saying that goes:

“You can be a Christian alone,
But you can’t live the Christian life alone.”

Throughout scripture we see that our faith and relationship with God is personal and individual, but we also see that we are commanded to live this faith out in everyday life.

Towards other believers and non-believers alike.

But, specifically for this post, I want to encourage you on living out the former of the two:

Living life with other Christians.

As Christians, we are called to
Encourage each other,
Bless each other,
Help each other,
Pray for each other,
Worship together,
Hold each other accountable,
And generally live life together.

And this simply can’t all be done on a Sunday morning.

And so you have to make time in your week,
You have to prioritize making these relationships happen,
Or our busy lives will simply get in the way.

Adjusting To Life Stages

My wife and I have always loved to have other people over.

For dinner,
Game nights,
Coffee,
Doesn’t matter.

When we didn’t have kids, we would have people over a lot,
but we also would also go out to spend time with others constantly.

Out for coffee,
Over other people’s houses,
Taking day trips,
Everywhere and anywhere.

But then we had kids.

And going out became less and less feasible,
Especially when our oldest started Pre-K.

Bedtimes got earlier,
And getting out of the house was sometimes way too much work.

And so we had to adjust.

We started hosting even more in order to keep up relationships.

Sometimes when the boys are still awake,
And sometimes after they’ve gone to bed.

But we knew, because of our life stage, that it was unreasonable to think that we’d be able to keep up with our previous out-of-the-house activities with two young kids.

And so we bring the people to us.

Now that we’re “fully” moved in to our new home, we have been trying to get back in the habit of having people over 3 times a week – and it’s been completely worth it.

Yes, sometimes the house is still messy, and not all put together
But friends really don’t care.

Because we’re inviting people into our real lives,
Not our Instagram lives.

Yes, having kids complicated our lives,
But we adjusted.

I’m not sure what’s complicating your life,
Maybe it’s a weird work schedule,
Or school,
Or kids,
Or something else entirely.

But how can you invite people into your life?

Maybe it’s going out,
Maybe it’s inviting them over,
Maybe it’s coordinating your grocery shopping to spend time with others there (I’m serious – why not?).

Because we are called to build intentional relationships with other Christians, regardless of our stage of life.

Intentional Relationships

I considered leaving the post off with simply spending time with others,
But to be honest, we, as a Christian culture, have settled for watching a sports game or movie or playing a board game as sufficient for “Christian community.”

And it’s simply not good enough.

There’s nothing wrong with those things, in fact, they’re important too,
But there has to be more.

When we look at Scripture, we see a community that shares their struggles and pain. Their ups and downs emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally and every other area of life.

We’re told to build one another up,
To pray for each other,
To confess sin to each other,
To hold each other accountable,
To teach one another,
To ask for forgiveness,
To forgive,
To share in one another’s burdens

And these things don’t just happen because we’re in the same room for a couple hours.

Regardless of where you’re meeting with other Christians, or what the “event” was for.

Please don’t pass up the opportunity to do the above.

Push past the normal “I’m good” and find out how people are really doing,
Offer to pray for each other,
Set forward your own real problems and issues, and you’ll be surprised how quickly others open up back to you.

It can be awkward at first,
But push through the awkwardness.

Because it’s worth it.

It’s what Christian community is really meant to be like.

3 Steps To Build Intentional Relationships

So, here’s three questions for you to consider and a couple ways that have helped us break past the “fake” community relationships to build real Christian community in our friendships.

1. How will you intentionally invite others into your schedule?

For us, we had to intentionally find ways to get people into our home because of our two young boys. We do meet up at parks and other places, but we’ve found it easiest to really build relationships within our own home. And, you know what’s amazing? People seem to really enjoy being invited over, even if everything isn’t “perfect” and it brings a different level of intimacy that a lot of people don’t get anymore because hosting has become so uncommon in our culture.

2. How will you intentionally invite others into your real life, sharing your struggles, pains and joys, so that you may engage with them on a deeper level?

It’s amazing how many people will open up once you show them that your life isn’t perfect either. Whether it’s personal struggles or physical imperfections such as our house not being perfectly spotless or things we still have to fix/finish in the new house. The perfect “Instagram Life” has people on edge now-a-days always comparing and so when you show your imperfections, it allows for everyone to take a sigh of relief and let their own imperfections show.

3. How will you intentionally invite others to seek God with you during these times through prayer, discussion and encouragement?

One of the best things we decided to do after we moved was to offer our guests to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to pray together when they come over. We ask them ahead of time so that we’re not springing it on them, and so that they can decline if they would like, but these times of praying with friends who come over have been some of the best times we’ve had with them. It’s funny how simply asking to pray with or for someone can have such a dramatic impact on their lives and your relationship together – and it only takes a few minutes!

Moving Forward

I hope this has been helpful for you in seeing the possibilities of intentionally reaching out to build Christian community around you and I hope you take the steps to make it happen, it’s certainly worth it.

The Reason For Your Hope (Making God Your Priority, Part 2)

The Reason For Your Hope (Making God Your Priority, Part 2)

I wanted to add on another idea from last week’s “Drive vs Direction” post with another quick reminder that stems from 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:23-24.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:23-24

Just like in last week’s post, we have a choice of where we put our foundational drive: our core purpose and meaning in life.

We will all eat and drink, but you can choose to do so for God’s glory or not.
We will all work, but you can choose to do so for God’s glory or not.

So what will you choose?

One of the most influential things I have ever read on this topic came from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech:

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I don’t remember when I first read this quote,
but I do remember when it most impacted me.

When I was working at Starbucks, this quote came to mind and I remember for a couple solid weeks that I was constantly thinking about this quote and asking God to help me to do everything for His glory. Everything as unto Him. Even the boring, repetitive work of cleaning, making coffee and serving customers at Starbucks.

Now, I always would do my best at work,
But something was different when I had this mindset.

I didn’t merely do my best,
I did my best tirelessly,
I did my best… almost to the point where I would enjoy working in a way I hadn’t before.

And I’m so thankful God did that in my heart.

Because my co-workers took notice.

I was already one of the hardest workers,
But something else was different now.

And then the best part happened:

I had some coworkers complain about our jobs,
And they said they wished they could do something they love to do like I did.

And that was a way to share the Gospel with them that I never saw coming.

I got to share with them that I don’t actually enjoy our jobs anymore than they do.
Free coffee is awesome, but come on; coffee customer service is not what I’d call “fun”.

BUT, I got to share with them what (or Who) makes all the difference:
Jesus.

Simply doing my work unto Him opened up an opportunity to share the hope I have in Jesus and talk about how they could have the same hope and relationship with Him as I have.

And THIS is what I believe Peter meant when he wrote 1 Peter 3:15:

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

1 Peter 3:15

The reason for the hope that is in you

I think we’ve misconstrued this passage to mean that we need to study and know the reasons “why we believe what we believe.” To study the history and apologetics of the Christian faith.

Those things aren’t bad, but Peter didn’t say to “make a defense to people who doubt Jesus’ resurrection.”

Peter said to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

And my defense for having joy at work?

Jesus.

My defense for having hope through trials?

Jesus.

My defense for forgiving when someone wrongs me?

Jesus.

My defense for asking for forgiveness when I wrong someone else?

Jesus.
Jesus.
Jesus.

I think you get the point.

A hope to be lived out, or an idea to be shared?

I have no problem with apologetics and learning a defense of scripture and history.

But, the Gospel is not merely an idea to be shared and defended.

No one will care what apologetics you learn and know,
If your life looks no different than their own.

And, truth be told: Jesus doesn’t care either.

You can know all the right things,
And still not follow Him.

You can say all the right things,
And still not know Him.

You can even do a bunch of good things,
And they still be meaningless and empty.

In fact, Jesus says that many will come to Him saying that they prophesied, cast out demons, and did many might works in His Name, and He won’t know them (Matthew 7:22).

Paul echos this idea that you can have a super Christian life with miracles and sacrifice and still be or gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

You know how to make it all worth it?

Surrender to Him.
And do everything as unto Him.

Which brings us back to the original passages:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:23-24
Drive vs Direction (Making God Your Priority, Part 1)

Drive vs Direction (Making God Your Priority, Part 1)

Just a little over a month ago, waves of people were setting New Years Resolutions and goals for themselves: personal, financial, business, even spiritual goals.

But these goals, these directions, are generally propped up on a foundation, a drive, that is crumbing.

Your direction is simply where you’re going.
Your drive is why you’re going.

All around us we are encouraged to have a self-centered “why” for every thing we do.

To make me feel better,
To make me happier,
To fulfill my dreams.

Even our attempts at being others-centered come back to wanting to feel better about ourselves, to please someone else in our lives, or to feel like we’re part of something bigger.

No matter which way we slice it,
Our drive has become self-centered at its core.

And that’s not what we were created for.

We weren’t made to use each other,
Or serve each other as an end of itself,

We were made to be in relationship with our Creator and have all of our life grow from that relationship.

Our relationship with God is to fulfill and replace all our inward drives and to propel us forward in the direction He has for us.

Our God centered drive

For example, let’s take the five self-centered drives I listed above and see what happens when we replace those with what God offers us.

I don’t need my drive to be about…

Feeling better… because He is the God of all comfort.

Feeling happier… because He is the God of all joy.

Fulfilling my dream… because He promises a better plan things than we could have created on our own.

Pleasing others… because God has already given us our self-worth and we don’t need to find it from others.

Manufacturing a “bigger purpose…” because God has already given us the greatest purpose we could ever know.

What’s your drive? It will affect your direction

It’s important that we root our inward drive in God, because where you put your inward drive will affect the direction you go in.

As seen throughout scripture: whatever we set our hearts on (whether God, or ourselves) will outflow into our words, our actions, and ultimately our direction.

So may you guard the drive of your heart,
And not get caught up focusing simply on the direction.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Proverbs 21:2

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34
Surrendering to God’s Plan (And Not Halfway)

Surrendering to God’s Plan (And Not Halfway)

Last week, I wrote about how I got to teach on the life of Peter in our church’s kids class and how we talked about his example in following Jesus with all of our lives (you can read that post here).

But I skipped something we talked about with them, because I thought it deserved its own post.

Last year, I read a book called “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs which was extremely insightful and encouraging regarding submission to God and contentment to Him. I encourage you to read it as well. I wrote a blog post sharing some favorite quotes and ideas from the book that you can read at this link, but I highly encourage you to read it for yourself.

Our call to surrender to Jesus.

In Peter’s life, we come across an all-to-familiar problem that is often found in our own lives:

Peter was willing to give up everything for Jesus,
But only on his terms.

Here’s what I mean:

Peter is famous for telling Jesus that he will die for and with Him, only to deny Him shortly after.

But I think Peter was ready and willing to die for and with Jesus that day.

But only in the way he wanted,
Not surrendering to what Jesus wanted.

In that famous scene when Jesus is being betrayed,
Among a crowed of armed guards and angry men,
Peter draws his sword and strikes the first blow!

I truly think Peter expected to die that day.

You don’t go up to a crowd of armed people and start a fight you’re clearly going to lose, unless you’re ready to die with your leader (who already said He was going to die).

So what went “wrong”?

Simply this:
Peter was willing to die for Jesus while fighting and standing his ground,
But not by laying down his sword and his life without a fight.

He was willing to die for Jesus on his terms,
But not on Jesus’ terms.

And that is not surrender.
That is merely sacrifice on his own terms.
And I think we often get them mixed up.

Sacrifice is giving up your things,
Surrender is giving up your will to someone else’s.

It’s been said that “a god you fully agree with is just a mirror of yourself”.

Expressed another way: if your “god” can’t tell you “no” or you can’t be wrong before your “god”, then it really isn’t your God. You’re simply projecting what you want onto someone else and calling that person “god”.

Similarly, a “god” whose plan you never have to adjust to is simply just you projecting your plan onto your “god”.

And Jesus hasn’t called to simply sacrifice for Him.
He has called us to surrender.

We even see this being expressed later when Jesus restores Peter to ministry, as He tells Peter that his death will be one of surrender (John 21:18-19).

7 Areas Of Surrender

When we aim to surrender to Jesus, it’s not simply sacrificing (as we saw with Peter). Here are 7 areas to consider as you aim to fully surrender to God in your current season of life:

What is God calling you to do? Are you doing it?

When has God allowed this difficult season in your life? Do you trust His timing of when it started… and when it will end?

Where is this happening? Whether a physical place or maybe a specific area of your life, do you trust God in what He has allowed?

Why is it happening? God promises to not waste any trials or circumstances, but sometimes we cannot point to a reason until long after – and sometimes we won’t know this side of heaven why God allows for some things to happen. Do we trust that He is good and that His ‘why’ is worth it?

How is it happening? Going back to Peter’s example from earlier: sometimes we can be ok with what we need to do or go through, but only on our terms. How is God wanting you to proceed with areas of difficulty in your life?

Who is this happening to? Sometimes it’s easier to go through a difficult time ourselves than to try to watch and comfort a close friend or family member go through something. Whether it’s a “why them” or “why me” situation; do you trust God with the who?

Practical Surrender

I don’t want to come across as unsympathetic; surrender is painful and difficult.

But surrender is worth it – as long as the One you are surrendering to is truly good.

And, God IS good
Even when our circumstances tell us otherwise.

I’ve written this verse out many times before, and will continue to quote it:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8–9

God’s thoughts are different than ours,
And just in case we got the wrong idea from that statement:

God’s ways are also better than ours.

Not just different,
His ways are better.

So, as difficult as it can be,
Let us surrender to Him,
In every area of life.

What is next for you?

I’m not sure what you may be struggling with at this moment, but I thought I should link to other posts on related subjects at the bottom of this one. I hope this time of reflecting on submission has brought you nearer to Jesus and that if any of these below resonate with where you are right now, that they do the same.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

Trust God, Even When You Don’t Know the Details

Waiting On God (And Thriving In The Transition)

God’s Plan Is Not A Straight Line

Verses For When You Face Discouragement And Hard Times

Thirsting for God, and coming up empty – Psalm 42

The Life Of Peter (How We Can Follow Jesus)

The Life Of Peter (How We Can Follow Jesus)

Yesterday, I got to teach in the older kids class at our church.

We’ve been going through the book of Mark and are about to cover the crucifixion, but before we got there we were doing some character studies. I got to teach on the life of Peter.

Peter is probably one of the most relatable characters in the entire Bible.

He’s very passionate,
He gets a lot of things right,
And gets a lot of things wrong.

Peter was one of the disciples closest to Jesus (part of the famous trio: Peter, James and John). He got to be part of a special group even within the 12 disciples, which was already pretty special, and because of his passion and drive, he got a lot of other special experiences with Jesus too.

Some of Peter’s highlights are…

  • The only disciple to walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33)
  • One of three to see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8)
  • One of three to see Jesus raise a girl from the dead (Mark 5:35-43)
  • The one to answer Jesus and confirm that he knew Jesus was the son of God (Matthew 16:17)
  • The one so committed to Jesus that he said he was ready to die for Jesus near the end (Mark 14:29-31)

And some of Peter’s low points are…

  • He quickly sunk on the water (Matthew 14:30)
  • He couldn’t stay awake for a few hours when Jesus asked Him to (Matthew 26:40)
  • Jesus had to rebuke Peter’s thinking that in line with Satan’s (when He told Peter “get behind me Satan”) (Matthew 16:23)
  • He denied Jesus (multiple times) (Mark 14:66-72)

Overall, we see Peter to be a great example of our own Christian life:
We have high points,
And we have low points.

But what causes Peter to be a good example for all of us is his resolve to continue to follow, repent and run after Jesus in the midst of his highs and lows.

We discussed Peter’s life more in-depth with the kids class, but the big idea we took away was that Peter is an example for us to follow in three simple ways. It’s through these three things that Peter continually does that we see him continue to grow in his relationship with Jesus and to be used by Him.

Get to know Jesus more

Peter had the privilege of getting to live and talk with Jesus for a few years, but we have Jesus’ Word (the Bible) that we can read, and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) living inside of us, Who also reveals the person of Jesus to us. It is through knowing Jesus more that we will grow in our relationship with Him and become more like Him.

Live Passionately For Jesus (Hold Nothing Back)

One of Peter’s biggest strengths was that he never did anything halfway. Walking on water was the perfect example. When everyone else was staying in the boat, still processing what was going on, Peter said “Jesus, if it’s really you, tell me to come out on the water with you!”… and he did. In order to live a full life with Jesus and be transformed by Him, you have to be willing to lay everything out on the line and pursue Him with all of your life.

Have A Lifestyle Of Repentance And Reliance On God

I’ve written about the importance of confessing sin and repentance in the past (here’s a link to part 1 and part 2) and it’s no surprise that this is one of the things we see clearly in Peter’s life.

Through his ups and downs, we see him continually turn back to Jesus and resume following Him.

No excuses,
No hesitancy.

He’s corrected,
He repents,
He follows Jesus with the same tenacity he did before.

Peter was someone who learned to be humble in his own eyes and to rely on God’s grace through the ups and downs of his spiritual walk following Jesus.

May we do the same…

As I challenged the kids in our class yesterday: may we all do the same.

May we pursue knowing Jesus more from His Word and from spending time with Him.

May we live passionately for Jesus and pursue Him holding nothing back in our lives.

And may we have a lifestyle of repentance whenever we fail so that we may receive the grace and forgiveness that God offers and may continue to run our race of faith with endurance until the end of our lives.

May we get to heaven and hear Jesus say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Being Still Before God

Being Still Before God

When this post goes live, we will be at a 2 day retreat with our church and I’m sure we’ll be having a great time.

Over the years, I have been to dozens of conferences and heavy Bible teaching courses, but there’s something incredibly special about retreats, whether big or small.

In our busy world, rarely do we get a chance to disconnect and be still,
And if we do, we generally fill that time with anything but God.

There’s always another thing to learn,
Another thing to study,
Another thing to experience,
And, of course, another thing to do.

And Christians aren’t exempt.

But instead of rushing to do your next task,
I encourage you to be still before Him.

Instead of rushing to learn something new,
Reflect on the things you already know.

Instead of praying for the big next thing,
Stand in awe of what He has done in your life.

All of these things are good,
But we tend to lean heavily on our next action,
And forget the relationship that God wants to have now.

So, you may not be on a physical retreat away,
But you can have (even now) a Spiritual retreat of rest for a few minutes.

To disconnect,
Pause,
And breathe,
With Jesus.

I hope you do.

My Favorite 7 Books I Read In 2019

My Favorite 7 Books I Read In 2019

In 2019 I read over 20 books! Which is far more than I’ve ever read before (I can’t suggest audio books enough).

With that said, they were all very good, but I thought I’d share my favorite 7 books with you and a brief summary of each in case you’re interested in reading any of them as well. Enjoy!!

(I’ve written this list putting my favorite book first, at the top)

#1: Letters To The Church by Francis Chan

Our church read through this book together in the beginning of 2019 and it was definitely a great read. Francis Chan has such a passion for Jesus and His Church that shows though every book he’s written and His message is always so clear and simple: Let’s desire nothing less than a complete and whole relationship with Jesus. It’s a great book that I suggest you read if you haven’t already.

#2: The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

This is one of the few biography style books I’ve read and I’m so glad that I did. I’ve already written about The Cross and the Switchblade, sharing my favorite quotes from the book which you can read at this link.

This book was so encouraging and inspiring to read as it follows David Wilkerson though many ups and downs, both in the ministry and in his personal doubts and struggles. It has many extremely important reminders for the Christian life and I can’t recommend this book enough.

#3: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

This was one of the first books I read in 2019 and it’s still one I reflect on occasionally a year later. I can still remember listening to it and pausing it to reflect on the truths that he wrote. This is also a book I’ve shared some favorite quotes in a previous post which you can read at this link.

#4: Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp

Dangerous Calling is certainly geared towards Pastors and church leaders, but I can see benefit for anyone to read it. Paul Tripp gets extremely personal in the book and is such a breath of fresh air when it comes to some of the issues often left ignored or even hidden on purpose today. If you are in church leadership in any way, I cannot recommend it enough, and even if you aren’t, I think this book would help you know how to better encourage and pray for the leaders in your church.

#5: The Case For Miracles by Lee Strobel

I read “The Case For Miracles” kind of on a whim. The book came up in a conversation and I decided to check it out – and I’m so glad that I did. This book is filled with tons of stories of God working in miraculous ways and gives ample reason to believe that we serve a God Who is clearly still working today. There was fantastic insight, interviews and stories throughout the book, but my favorite part was actually the chapter dedicated to when God doesn’t provide a miracle. In a book surrounded with miraculous stories, he was sure to cover what to do and believe when we don’t see the miracle we prayed for. I quote the book a little in a recent post “What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith?” but I think you should also read this book in its entirety for yourself.

#6: The Next Right Thing – Emily P. Freeman

My wife suggested I read this book as we’ve experienced a massive amount of loss and transition in our lives these past 2 years. The author is a well-listened to podcaster who compiled and expanded upon a series of episodes to write this book. It was a great devotional style read, with her own prayers at the end of each chapter and action steps/things to consider that summarize the stories and ideas for that chapter. This book was specifically good for our previously mentioned situation in life, but I think anyone, at anytime, could benefit by reflecting on the things she writes about in this book because they are simple, yet overlooked, practices that we should incorporate into our daily lives to continually be sensitive to what God has for us, even when we’re not explicitly in a life stage of change.

#7: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer is one of those authors who I could just keep pulling quotes from. So many things he wrote were simply said so well that I write it down and just kind of sit there thinking about it. This book in particular was an incredible one to read because it was so broad in its topic that it felt like each chapter was a different mini topic with tons of encouraging and thought provoking quotes. I definitely suggest reading this book and taking the time to think about the various areas of Christian living that he covers.

My Top 10 Posts In 2019

My Top 10 Posts In 2019

I’ve seen a lot of “best of” type posts and I thought I would join in.

Most of these were written in 2019, but I was surprised to see a few posts hit the 10 most read in 2019 even though it was written years ago.

I hope you enjoy them and find encouragement from what were my top 10 most read posts in 2019. (They’re ordered with #1 being the top read post).

1: Responding To The Fallout Of Christian Leaders (Specifically After Joshua Harris)

2: The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Self-Control

3: Forgiven And Empowered To Forgive (Mark 11:25–26)

4: The Problem With “Thoughts And Prayers” (For The Christian)

5: The Birthday Of a Friend Who Has Passed

6: Jesus’ Family Tree

7: Receiving Life From Jesus, Unlike The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17–27)

8: Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

9: A Child Born, A Son Given (Isaiah 9:6)

10: The Love Of God

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 4, Days 23-31)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 4, Days 23-31)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

Below is my reflection on the verses from week 4. Here are the links to week 1, week 2 and week 3 if you want to check them out.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.

Day 23:

Sometimes, all we need is just a little encouragement that we’re not alone. That others have faced the doubt and struggles we have. Press on, don’t give up. Many have gone before us and have held onto this truth: Jesus is for us, so who could be against us.

Hebrews 11 includes many encouraging words (and I’ve actually written a 3 part series on it which you can read here)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1–2

Day 24:

Are you persecuted for the good you do? You’re blessed.

Are you reviled by others and have false things accused of you? You’re blessed.

Regardless of our circumstances, we have a reward in heaven that cannot be taken away.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10–12

Day 25:

They definitely took Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the previous reading seriously. They encountered great persecution – and were filled with joy and praise from it! I wonder how our daily responses would be different if we focused our eyes on Jesus through our suffering instead of ourselves and our pain.

And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Acts 5:40–42

Day 26:

So often we assume we did something wrong when we’re in a trial. And sometimes that’s true! We can bring things upon ourselves, but there are many things that happen that are not a result of poor decisions and they shouldn’t surprise us: God will use even those to make us more like Him and to glorify Him in our lives.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:12–13

Day 27: CATCH UP DAY


Day 28:

Even in the most difficult suffering, we can know that God is using even our suffering for our Good and His Glory as He continues to make us more like Him.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3–5

Day 29:

Because we know that God uses even our deepest sufferings, we can take joy that today’s tears will sow into our character and steadfastness of faith.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

James 1:2–3

Day 30:

One of the biggest factors of joy is contentment. May God give us the grace to be content in Him in the midst of all circumstances.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10–13

Day 31:

This Christian life, following Jesus, is not meant to be lived alone. May we encourage others, and be encouraged, as we continue to live for Jesus.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:1
Joy Writing Challenge (Week 3, Days 16-22)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 3, Days 16-22)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

Below is my reflection on the verses from week 3. Here are the links to week 1 and week 2 if you want to check them out.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.

Day 16:

More than anything else, our joy, our security, our hope is in the Person of God, not in things or situations around us.

For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Acts 2:25–28

Day 17:

The early church lived out…
Daily
Time together
Eating together
Receiving gladly
Giving generously
Praising God
And lived so that others would have nothing evil to say of them.

May we ask for the same Spirit to live the same holy lives.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:46–47

Day 18: CATCH UP DAY


Day 19:

Sometimes we look for excuses not to do something,
This eunuch saw nothing but what God had commanded to do.

In light of the Gospel, what prevents us from having joy? What prevents us from giving generously? What prevents us from living a Spirit filled life?

Surely, nothing prevents us except our own sinful desires, since God has promised to give us all things needed to live a holy and Spirit filled life.
May God’s Spirit fill us to follow Him fully and joyfully.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:36–39

Day 20:

The joy of having a relationship with God use to be solely for the Jews, but now God calls all nations and peoples to Himself through His Son – what joy we have that WE too can now enter into God’s family.

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Acts 13:46–48

Day 21:

In the middle of persecution and trial, they chose to sing and worship God.

And, when heaven literally opened up a way of escape… they didn’t take it, and it was for the better. Sometimes we shouldn’t take the “open door” (even if God opens it) because sometimes He has something even more important planned, but to see it, we must have our eyes on Him.

So, let us worship in trials, keep our eyes on Him and see where He is moving and what He would have us do.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.
When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.

Acts 16:25–29

Day 22:

Salvation is as simple as repenting and believing in Jesus. We don’t need to add to it and we should not take away from it. Nothing else can save us and nothing more is needed.

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Acts 16:30–34
Joy Writing Challenge (Week 2, Days 9-15)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 2, Days 9-15)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

Below is my reflection on the verses from week 2. Here’s a link for week 1 if you want to check it out.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.

Day 9: CATCH UP DAY


Day 10:

Seeing Jesus in the flesh must have been a crazy experience. Witnessing His public ministry and life would be life altering. It makes sense people laid their cloaks on the ground He rode on… do we have this much excitement and joy over Him and all He has done? They had Jesus in the flesh, but we have a risen King Who has already gone to the cross to die for our sins and risen again to give us new life. How much more joy and excitement can we have in our everyday lives?

“And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:36–40

Day 11:

They had so much joy over finding where Jesus was born. Do you remember the joy you had when you first accepted Jesus, when you first found Him to be your Savior? Our lives were once taken from darkness into light, from death into life, and it’s easy to lose that initial joy. Let’s remember that goodness today and return to that joy He gives.

“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:9–11

Day 12:

When we seek God with everything we are, He promises that we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and when we come to Him, burdened and heavy laden, He promises to give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.
They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns.
And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.”

2 Chronicles 15:12–15

Day 13:

The root of our joy is revealed when problems come in life. When our joy is founded solely in God, it cannot be taken away, because He cannot be taken away.

“Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”

Psalm 119:161–162

Day 14:


This passages is one of many that are pulled from when Mary says her prayer of thanksgiving at the news of her pregnancy. Not only does it encourage me to continue to look to God in thankfulness and hope, but it’s also a good reminder of the influence we might have on others to do the same (as Hannah’s prayer influenced Mary’s).

“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

1 Samuel 2:1–3

Day 15:

The culmination of Jesus’ birth and work to do on earth. Whenever pride may creep into our lives, we can remember how much God has done for us and in spite of everything about us.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:8–11
Joy Writing Challenge (Week 1, Days 1-8)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 1, Days 1-8)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below I’ve put my thoughts on the first week of verses. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.

Day 1:

Our inheritance is sure and worth it.

It’s a free gift from His great mercy
It’s “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”
And it’s guarded by God’s power so we can be sure it’s safe

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

1 Peter 1:3-5

Day 2:

If we believe in Jesus that every trial we experience will be used to mold us more into His image and for His glory. We can have joy through all circumstances knowing that nothing is wasted.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6–7

Day 3:

Our faith in Jesus today will result in salvation and joy for eternity. Live today knowing that eternity is worth it.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:8–9

Day 4:

“…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Want to be blessed?
Believe what is spoken by God.

You may not be “blessed” how you see fit, but God promises to bless those who put their trust and faith in Him. (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:7-8, Matthew 7:24-27, John 20:29)

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1:41–45

Day 5:

Today’s was a great reminder to give thanks to God and glorify Him when we celebrate His blessings. It’s easy to simply be grateful without directly giving Him thanks. Giving thanks also helps remind us that it’s by God’s mercy and grace (not our own doing) that has blessed us. How great that Mary’s testimony of “all generations will call me blessed” is one that is used to point to God’s love and grace instead of herself.

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46–49

Day 6:

Humility and the fear of God is something we cannot value enough. Such a clear example of our need to rely on Him and to stay humble before Him.

“And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Luke 1:50–53

Day 7:

God helped them, not out of their goodness, or even their petitions or sacrifices… but out of His mercy. And, this same mercy is passed down to all spiritual offspring of Abraham. If you believe in Jesus, then you receive the same mercy and grace from God.

“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:54–55

Day 8:

Abraham, and all of those in the Old Testament desired to see God’s ultimate redemption plan unfold, but we get to actually experience it! Jesus, Emmanuel has already come, proven His love and ability to rescue us from sin. We get to live daily under this new covenant and life that He gives us!

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 8:56–58

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? What Is The Result Of Stepping Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 3)

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? What Is The Result Of Stepping Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 3)

As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:

  1. What Is Faith? (click here to read)
  2. What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
  3. What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (this post)

And so, we continue…

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith?

Similar to, “It’s about the journey, not the destination” stepping out in faith isn’t about the results you get.

Instead, stepping out in faith towards God is about the relationship with God, not the results.

This is very important for us to remember.

All throughout Scripture and history, we see a mixed bag of “results” when it comes to stepping out in faith.

Because it’s not about the result, it’s about nearness to God, and transforming you more into His likeness.

Warning: Difficulties Ahead

Rather than expecting an easy path ahead, it’s necessary to recognize that putting your faith in God pretty much guarantees a difficult life ahead.

Here’s why:

  1. We’re told to expect difficult situations and trials that God will use to help make us more like Him (Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:28, James 1:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12–13)
  2. Realize that Satan (and even your own sinful self) does not want you to put your life in active obedience and faith towards God and will do anything he can to make that more difficult and undesirable. (Luke 22:31, Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 2:11, Galatians 5:16–18, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 2:10)
  3. If we are to ever experience miracles and God working in our lives in supernatural ways and in ways that we couldn’t have done on our own… that means we first have to be put in difficult and even heartbreaking situations that require us to rely on God and be at the end of our rope.

Mixed Results, And That’s Ok

I hope I’ve been clear that putting faith in God will not always result in an easy life.

Furthermore, God promises a good END, but does not promise specific results here on earth.

The examples at the end of this post from Hebrews 11 show an extremely mixed bag of God “coming through” in a dramatic way, while others suffered great difficulty, some even to the very end of their life.

But that is NOT the end.

The “end” is eternity.

And God promises a good final end for those who put their faith in Him.

He doesn’t promise good things on earth
But He does promise to work all things out for our ultimate good.

Not Everyone Gets A Miracle

I recently read a book on Miracles by Lee Strobel; and in the mist of telling stories and defending the reality of miracles, he dedicates a chapter to what happens if a miracle doesn’t come.

And in that section, he quotes from two other authors who I feel nail this issue.

Here’s what they said:

“Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubt that He will do it.  But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want; it is measured by our willingness to submit to what He wants.”

Nancy Guthrie

“There’s no formula we can count on for when Jesus says yes and when He says no. That’s the catch with sovereignty: He gets to decide yes, no, if, when, and how. We can’t figure out what He’ll decide, and we can’t base our own confidence on His favor. We can, however, base our confidence on His faithfulness. Miracles are temporary, but the Word of Jesus, His teachings – they bring eternal life. Real life. Your faith in Him, your belief that He is real, even when the miracle isn’t yours, even when He doesn’t say yes to you – this is what brings eternal life.”

Tricia Williford

Part of what allows our faith to truly be faith is the fact we’re willing to continue to trust, even if it doesn’t work out.

As I mentioned in my last post, [“What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?”][https://travissinks.com/what-does-it-look-like-to-step-out-in-faith-hebrews-11-part-2/], faith is not a vending machine to get what we want. Faith is a relationship building experience with God.

Trusting God In The Results

Hebrews 12 begins with a call for us to stay strong in our own faith. The examples we’ve been reading in the other two posts, and the examples you’ll see below are real people who really experienced God and put their faith in Him to the very end. And if they were alive today, they would tell you to do the same. Active and daily faith in God is worth it.

Here’s how it reads:

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” 

Hebrews 12:1

Since we have so many examples of people who put their faith in Jesus
Since they would all agree and tell us it’s worth it
Let us also set everything else aside
Anything that is keeping us from following God in faith
And run with endurance
Live life fully devoted
And follow God
Wholly and completely
In faith in Him.

Examples of Faith In Hebrews 11

Below are the results of faith we see in Hebrews 11. Some are incredible and encouraging, while others are difficult to even read and we all secretly hope isn’t what God has for us as well.

But rest assured that all of these people would agree on one thing:

It is worth it.


Abel’s sacrifice was accepted (Hebrews 11:4)

If you’re familiar with Abel’s story, he was shortly after murdered because from his brother’s jealousy, and so although his faith led towards a close relationship with God, it caused a rift in other relationships and even a horrible end to his life.

Enoch was taken up to be with God (Hebrews 11:5)

Such an encouraging and beautiful result of faith!

Noah and his family was saved (Hebrews 11:7)

Yet another incredible blessing of faith. Though, consider the many friends they lost and difficulty having to start completely over from scratch after the flood.

Abraham was given the land he was promised (Hebrews 11:8-9)

Again, his faith required much sacrifice, but he was blessed for it, even to be eventually be given the title “the father of faith.”

Sarah received a child (Hebrews 11:11)

After a life of difficulty and wondering how God would provide what was promised, she and Abraham received the promise by continuing to trust and follow God.

Abraham received his son “back” (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Again, after much testing of their faith, God continued to show Himself faithful to His promise.

Moses got to see the Children of Israel saved from Egypt (Hebrews 11:23-29)

It was a long road: 40 years in Egypt and then 40 years as an outcast, shepherd and in the wilderness… Moses got to see God rescue the children of Israel; and he was given the blessing of being used by God in such a miraculous way.

Rahab got to join the Children of Israel, and [even became part of Jesus’ family tree (read more on that at this link)][https://travissinks.com/jesus-family-tree/] (Hebrews 11:31)

What an incredible honor to be part of Jesus’ family tree!

Many others… Conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, received back those who had died  (Hebrews 11:32-35)

There are so many historical accounts of God rescuing and blessing those who put their faith in Him.

Many others… Were tortured, refused to accept release, suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment, were stoned, sawn in two, and killed with the sword. They were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. Wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35-38)

In comparison to the many people who saw blessings on earth when they stepped out in faith, there are arguably even more who suffered much because of their faith in God.

But as Jesus said, we ought to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19–20) and there is no better way to do that than to put daily and practical faith in God.

May we have the same mindset as Paul who wrote:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

May you put aside what keeps you from putting daily and practical faith in Jesus.

And may you receive the life and nearness to God that He created you for.

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 2)

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 2)

As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:

  1. What Is Faith? (click here to read)
  2. What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (this post)
  3. What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)

And so, we continue…

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?

If you remember last week’s “What Is Faith?” we summarized that faith is essentially living right now in light of what is promised but not yet.

The standard definition from the beginning of the chapter is that faith is the “Assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or “substance”) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

And, so the easy way to tell if something you’re doing isn’t faith is that…

It’s not faith if…
the only reason for what you’re doing
is based off what you can see and know right now.

Faith In… What?

This brings us to something important: what, or who is your faith in?

Because you can have faith in a person to fulfill a promise…
Or faith in a thing or system to fulfill it’s “vending machine” type promise (you do “X”, you get “Y”)…
Or faith that things will just work out because of karma or good vibes…
And so on…

But these “faiths” are imperfect because they either rely on things that aren’t true, or people/situations that are imperfect and will sometimes let us down.

God, on the other hand, tells us that we can have faith in Him

A perfect God Whose track record is completely perfect since the beginning of time.

Things don’t always work out the way we expect, want or hope, but He promises that He will work out all things for good according to His purposes.

What Does It Look Like To Have Faith In God?

So, you want to have live out faith in God.

The difficulty is that there’s no specific action step you can take to make that happen.

Having faith in God isn’t a specific process to follow or actions to take, otherwise we would begin to have faith in that system instead of God Himself.

You can, and should…

  • Pray for wisdom and grace in your decisions…
  • Do your best with what is in front of you…
  • Seek godly wisdom and counsel from other Christians…
  • Sometimes even fast before a big decision…

But the overall thing we have to do is simply stay connected to God.

You can’t trust in Someone Who you don’t know. And you can’t know Someone Who you don’t spend time with.

And that reminds us of God’s ultimate goal for us: a relationship with Him.

He wants you to walk through life listening to Him, seeking His will, and desiring to follow Him in the decisions you make. To put your trust, your faith, in Him.

The Will Of God

Some things are clear. The Bible says things such as: do not sin, grow in holiness, stay sexually pure, etc, but there are many decisions in life that don’t fit in these easy categories.

And God wants you to seek His will for your life,
Accept wisdom and input from others
And to ultimately move forward in whatever way you feel glorifies Him the most,
In faith that He is with you.

What Faith Looks Like In Real Life

One of the interesting things about the times people had to step out in faith in the Bible is that there are so many different ways.

Some were simply offering the usual sacrifices to God, while others were great steps of faith against all odds and logic.

The important thing is that all of these people had an ongoing relationship with God and took these steps because they felt it was what God wanted them to do next, and it didn’t contradict something God had previously said not to do.

Below are the examples found in Hebrews 11 of people taking steps of faith to follow God. There are many more throughout scripture, but it’s interesting seeing the list that the writer has collected for us to reflect on.

Abel offered a sacrifice of his things (Hebrews 11:4)

Sometimes, simply obeying what God has told us to do is a simple act of faith. Faith in that what He has said is what we ought to do, even when it seems boring, unfruitful, or a waste of time.

Enoch walked with and pleased God (Hebrews 11:5)

Such a simple story. His relationship with God was one that God enjoyed so much that He considered it faith to live such a way.

Noah constructed an ark, in spite of never having seen or experienced rain (Hebrews 11:7)

In the face of opposition and ridicule, Noah had to have great faith, for multiple years, in order to continue the work that God had told him to do.

Abraham moved far away from family and into a new land because God told him to (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham didn’t know where he was going, but because He trusted in God, He obeyed Him and took the difficult road away from family, friends and the security of home.

Abraham offered Isaac up to God in spite of him being his only son (Hebrews 11:17-19)

After years of desiring a son, Abraham was finally given one in His old age. But then God told Him to sacrifice him, and he showed that was willing to, by obeying until God told him to stop and that He would make another way. Through it all, Abraham showed that he was willing to give up even his most precious son for God.

Isaac proclaimed prophetic blessing on his sons (Hebrews 11:20)

He trusted the words that God gave him to speak that would predict the future of the lives and descendants of his sons.

Jacob also proclaimed prophetic blessings on his sons (Hebrews 11:21)

Just like Isaac…

Joseph prophesied the exiting of Egypt (Hebrews 11:22)

Just like Isaac and Jacob…

Moses parents rejected the order to kill their son (Hebrews 11:23)

Moses parents went against the law of Egypt in order to keep the law of God and not murder. The 10 commandments were not written yet, but it was clear from Cain and Able that murder was not right.

Moses refused to remain as Pharaoh’s grandson in order to free the Children of Israel (Hebrews 11:24-28)

Instead of enjoying the wealth, power, influence and prestige as the Pharaoh’s grandson, Moses chose to do what was right and what God had called him to do.

Moses and the Children of Israel sprinkled blood over their doors during Passover (Hebrews 11:28)

As weird of an action as it was, they chose to trust God’s at His word and do what He said.

The Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Hebrews 11:29)

Although they had just witnessed a miracle, I bet it was a little difficult to walk across the Red Sea with walls of water on either side. They had to trust that God was going to keep the water from crashing down on them.

Marched around enemy walls for seven days with no intention of attacking (Hebrews 11:30)

One of the oddest battle plans ever. And yet, they took God at His word and sought to bring down the wall of a massive and fortified city without a single weapon. Just imagine what days 5, 6 and 7 must have felt like.

Rahab hid the Isrealite spies in her city (Hebrews 11:31)

Had she been caught, she could have been killed as a traitor. Instead, she got to become part of Israel and even part of the bloodline of Jesus.

Enforced justice (Hebrews 11:33)

Sometimes, having faith in God is being willing to stand and do what’s right.

Refusing to accept release (by dropping their faith in God or by disobeying Him)  (Hebrews 11:35)

So often, we’re given the opportunity to be released from ridicule, contempt, or in some places, even jail or death, by simply renouncing our faith in God. But many in scripture and all around the world today have chosen to keep their faith in Him to the very end through extremely difficult circumstances.

Now What?

After reading those great steps of faith, consider what God might be calling you to do.

And be ready for next week when we cover what to expect when you step out in faith.

What Is Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 1)

What Is Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 1)

As I was reading through Hebrews recently, the faith chapter (Hebrews 11) really encouraged me and I wanted to pass on the encouragement to you. As I reflected on the passage, I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:

  1. What Is Faith? (this post)
  2. What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
  3. What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)

And so, first…

What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11 is commonly referred to as the chapter of faith, and rightfully so. It gives us one of the best and most simple definitions of faith you will find anywhere, and then it expands on it throughout the rest of the chapter pulling examples from throughout scripture.

Faith is the…

“Assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or “substance”) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Or put another way:

Faith is when you hope in,
and take action on,
something you look forward to
that isn’t here yet.

For the Christian, this thing we “hope for” and look forward to is an eternal relationship with God starting now and eventually continuing after death and on through eternity.

The many facets of faith

One of the things I find amazing about Hebrews 11 is that throughout the chapter, we see faith rephrased in different ways.

Kind of like how you can put a concept “in your own words” once you fully understand it.

I find these rephrases extremely helpful. Kind of like looking at a block from different angles, the different descriptions (rephrasings) of the definition of faith, helps you find a deeper appreciation and understanding of it as a whole.

I’ve put together a few that I found from the chapter, and I encourage you to read them and reflect on them.

“Believe that He [God] exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith in God requires us to not just believe in Him, but in His character that He has clearly revealed in scripture.

“Considered Him [God] faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)

Part of faith is putting your faith IN something (or someone).

A classic example: When you sit down, you’re putting faith in the chair you sit on.

God wants us to take strong consideration of WHO He is asking us to put our faith in, to consider His faithfulness.

One of my favorite quotes sums this up pretty well:

“God’s past faithfulness demands our present trust.”

As you reflect on God’s past faithfulness, it’s much easier to put your trust (and faith) in Him for today.

“Not having received the things promised, but having greeted them from afar.” (Hebrews 11:13)

This is a solid reminder that faith can only be in something that isn’t here… yet.

When we have faith, it is something “out there” and not here yet.

But I loved this phrasing: “having greeted them [promises they hadn’t seen fulfilled yet] from afar.”

Similar to trusting in the faithfulness of the One Who we put our faith in, we can be so certain in our faith in Him that we can “greet them from afar.” The fulfillment of God’s promises may not be here yet but they’re as good as here.

“Considered that God was able to even…” (Hebrews 11:19)

When we reflect on God’s past faithfulness, we are essentially saying this very thing.

“If God was able to even __ then surely He will fulfill His promise now.”

“Considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:26)

Having faith in God requires us to look at our alternatives and weight them out.

Is what God offers truly better than what the world offers?

The answer is of course YES, but it’s important to step back and make sure our heart understands what our mind does.

Do we consider the faith we have for something “not yet” more valuable than what is in front of us?

The decisions we make will reflect what we truly believe.

“Endured as seeing Him Who is invisible [God].” (Hebrews 11:27)

Similar to “greet them [coming promises] from afar”, this is a very cool and unique way to describe faith.

Enduring can be difficult even when the prize is in sight,
How much more difficult when you can’t see the prize yet?

The great examples of faith we see in Hebrews 11 are people who lived as if they had seen the prize. They had endured as if they had physically seen God and knew that He was worth it.

You may not get to physically see Jesus this side of heaven,
To physically look at the prize for following Him,
But I pray that you can have spiritual eyes to see the prize and know that He really is worth it.
And to live a life that has faith in Him to the very end.

Having Faith Today

As we are told in this chapter, let us live today in faith as many have before us.

May you… Believe that He [God] exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

May you… Consider Him [God] faithful who has promised

May you… Not have received the things promised, but as if you have greeted them from afar.

May you… Consider that God is able to even…

May you… Consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…

May you… Endure as seeing Him Who is invisible [God].

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