Tag Archives: faith

Plant faith and do things to make it grow!

Mark 4:40

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?” NIV

This is the story of a furious storm that comes up when Jesus and the disciples are all in a boat.  According to verse 38, Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.  The boat, meanwhile, was taking on water.  Verse 37 says that it was almost swamped.

I love what the disciples say when they wake him up in verse 38, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I totally understand why they are so snippy.

Presumably, the disciples have been working to solve the problem on their own.  They’ve likely tried to steer the boat appropriately, they’ve done all the textbook things to the mast, and, now, have probably begun to bail water, and to see the situation as hopeless.  It is at that point that they finally get to the place where they think they might ask Jesus for help.  When they do, their attitude appears to be that they feel slighted … as if Jesus should have been helping them all along instead of sleeping.

The disciples have it backwards.

They shift to faith only after their efforts have failed.

For us to live a truly victorious, worry-free life, our efforts must stem from our faith.  I don’t think that the placement of this story in the book of Mark is coincidental.  It immediately follows Jesus’s description of the Kingdom of God.  Verses 31 and 32 say, “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” NIV

Others of the gospels record Jesus comparing a little faith to a mustard seed.

If the seed of faith is planted in my life, through the Holy Spirit, and if I will fertilize it with study and with prayer and with practice, it will grow so large that it will overshadow everything else about my life.

That’s the kind of believer that I want to be.  I don’t want to be a worrier, or to find myself the recipient of Jesus’s words in verse 40, “Why are you such a coward?  Don’t you have any faith at all?” MSG

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Don’t worry — hope!

Psalm 119: 147

I rise before dawn and cry for help;  I have put my hope in your word. NIV

I’m still in Psalm 119.  A friend told me that there is one section here for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

As a result, it is very, very long, but full of wisdom, and also of reminders not to worry.

This verse again says, “hope in your word.”  This is a theme that I’m seeing repetitively, so, I went to Bible Gateway.com and plugged in that phrase.

Six times.  That’s how many times the author of Psalm 119 says it: “my hope is in your word.”

My hope is also in the Word of God, Jesus Christ.  With my hope and my future firmly planted on that rock, there are no worries.

That’s what I’ll think about that today.

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God has redeemed us

Isaiah 41:14

“Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. NIV

When I first read this verse a couple of days ago, I didn’t want to tackle it.  So, I worked my way through this chapter for the last two days, right up to the point of this verse.  But now, here I am … God calls Israel a worm.

This morning, I thought, “maybe I’m not reading it right … maybe there are other things that ‘worm'” could mean beyond fish bait.”  So, I went to the Hebrew dictionary in my concordance.  Turns out, this word can mean worm, or even worse, maggot, or scarlet thread.

So, then I went to The Message, honestly, in hopes that the translator had chosen “scarlet thread.”  But, that’s not the case.  However, the translation was much more encouraging and easier to assimilate.  “Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob?  Don’t be afraid.  Feel like a fragile insect, Israel?  I’ll help you.  I, God, want to reassure you.  The God who buys you back, The Holy One of Israel.” MSG

Now, the question is, why am I feeling the way I am feeling about being called a worm?

The answer is pride.

I don’t want to think of myself as a worm, and I don’t want God to see me that way, but, if I am completely honest with myself, I can see that I am just as helpless as a worm apart from God.  I cannot save myself, I have no control over my own destiny, and I am at the mercy of my surroundings.  Granted, there is little chance that some ghastly oversized robin will swoop down and carry me back to his nest for dinner, but, in abstract terms, there are many other things that could have just that devastating effect on my life here.

When I adopt this perspective, I can see the incredible encouragement that this verse holds.  God cares for me, He redeemed me, He has plans for me … what a miracle that is!

For the last several days, we’ve had gorgeous weather and I’ve been working in a part of my yard that has been a bit overgrown.  As I was weeding, I noticed a real dearth of earthworms, and that the soil had become compacted.  I’ve been planning a trip to the bait shop to buy a box of earthworms.  I did this before in another bed, and it worked beautifully.  I brought the box of worms home, dumped them in a shady spot under an azalea, and released them to a seemingly happy future of digging and eating and eliminating waste — which will improve my garden — and making other little worms to do the same.

But for my buying them, that box of worms would have ended up being threaded, one by one, onto fish hooks (which I have to believe is a painful experience) and being lowered into a lake or a river only to be eaten by a fish.

Now that they and their family live in my garden, bad things might still befall them … one or two of them get carried off every day by a bird … sometimes when I’m putting in a new plant I slice one with my shovel, but, their existence is worlds better than it would have been without my intervention.

It strikes me that, as a Christian, I am exactly like one of the worms in that box.  God redeemed me, at a price much higher than the $6.44 I paid for the 15 worms I bought.  And, as a result, my future is infinitely brighter than the underside of that azalea.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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His center holds

Isaiah 33: 6

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. NIV

I love that.  I love the way that’s written.  “He will be the sure foundation for your times.”

According to my chronological Bible, this verse was written in circa 700 B.C.  And, yet, in 2010, the words jump right off the page, as I am certain has been the case for centuries.   It doesn’t say “He was the foundation of my time” … it is an unequivocal statement for time and eternity … no matter who you are or when you read this, “He will be the sure foundation for your times.”

Now, that’s a reason not to worry.  God is here, he was there, and he will be wherever it is that I and the rest of the world are going next.

The Message translates this verse, “God is supremely esteemed.   His center holds.  Zion brims over with all that is just and right.  God keeps your days stable and secure — salvation, wisdom, and knowledge in surplus, and best of all Zion’s treasure, Fear-of-God.” MSG

There is quite a lot to that.  It’s one sentence, and yet, so powerful.

In this case, according to my Hebrew dictionary, the word “fear,” is translated “reverence.”  When I looked up “reverence” on Dictionary.com, it is “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.”

This verse certainly reminds me of the awesomeness of God.  He created all things, He keeps all things in order and yet, He cares for me.

I will think about all of these things today.

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Storms pass

Isaiah 25:4 & 5

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.  For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert.  You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. NIV

These verses, I think, are all about the relief and the perspective you get once a big worry has passed.  And, they are certainly an acknowledgement of God’s faithfulness and awesome power.  He is the refuge, He is the protection.

I love the perspective that the writer shares … he describes the sources of his worries as being, “like a storm driving against a wall,” and “like the heat of the desert.”  Both of these things have a seemingly infinite quality to them when you are experiencing them, but, once they have passed, you can see that at most times, no real harm was done.

When I was in college, a hurricane came through town.  We had plenty of warning that it was coming, and, hurricanes are not uncommon in my home state.  I lived in a large, concrete fortress that had been built in the 60s.  It had long, skinny floor to ceiling windows in each room which, I’m sure, the architect had found aesthetically pleasing, but they had long since ceased to be functional and, when I lived there, they had all been sealed shut.  They were not, however, impervious to the winds of the hurricane.  As the storm raged, those windows shook, and water poured through them at a pretty decent rate.  At one point, the water in my room covered the tops of my feet, and, I was on an upper floor.

But, my bed was nice and dry and the walls held.

In the morning, after the storm had passed, a glorious day dawned.  Trees had been uprooted, cars had been crushed, some people had lost their homes because trees fell through their roofs, but, no one had died. The town began busily putting itself back in order.

In most cases, my worries are just like that storm.  They might make a lot of noise to distract me, they might make my life a bit  uncomfortable or inconvenient, but, they don’t really affect me at the core of where I live.  I need to remember that the next time I face a big worry.  And, these verses paint a beautiful picture to remind me.  I no longer live in a concrete fortress, but, I live each day in the fortress that is Jesus Christ.

I am so thankful for that gift today.

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You’re not in this alone

Isaiah 19:20

It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt.  When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.  NIV

I almost skipped this reminder.  I don’t really understand the context of all of the verses around it, which is not unusual when I find myself in Isaiah.  This book is filled with prophecy, and I am in no way qualified to decipher it.

But, the second half of this verse stuck out for me, I know it is true, so, here I am.

And, this may be the most important of all of the reminders.  God is faithful.  He keeps His promises.

He promised to send a savior, and He did.  His son.

Because Christ lived, and died, and rose again, I have absolutely nothing to fear or to worry about.

One part of this verse that I find really interesting is, “When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors.”  This is something that I’ve seen over and over again in many of the verses that I have found.  God wants us to cry out to Him.  He doesn’t expect us to “buck up,” or to bear the trials of this life on our own.  He knows it is hard, He lived it himself through Jesus, and He wants to fulfill our needs.

But, there is something about crying out to God that is important.  I think it may be tied to glorifying Him.  If I go to Him with my problems, and He solves them, I give Him the glory for that.  But, I think that He wants everything about our lives here to glorify Him.  Crying out to Him is an acknowledgement that I cannot accomplish anything on my own.

I will think about that today.

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All bad things will come to an end

Isaiah 14: 3-4

On the day the Lord gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the King of Babylon:  How the oppressor has come to an end!  How his fury has ended! NIV

The biggest list of “fear not” verses is in my King James concordance.  Since, for the most part, I’m not working with a King James translation on this project, each day holds a little surprise when I get to the verse that is noted.  Here, the concordance said, “from thy sorrow, and from thy fear,” which looked interesting to me, so, here I am, still in Isaiah.

This is a very powerful reminder not to worry — all bad things will come to an end.

The rest of this chapter, which comprises the taunt against the King of Babylon,is, to me, the biblical equivalent of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

I absolutely love the Wizard of Oz.  When I was a kid, it came on TV just once a year, and, for the week before it was on, I was very excited.  I knew that I would be too scared to watch the house drop on the witch, and I would also chicken out when her feet curled up under the house  after the Good Witch took her shoes, but, I still wanted to watch it.

One year, on the big day, our TV broke.  My sweet father went to the 7-11, and rented a TV so that we would not miss the movie.  Turned out, it was a color TV.  Ours was black-and-white.  Nothing seemed different when the movie started, but, once the witch died, I was amazed at all of the gorgeous colors!  I saw the movie in a whole new light … everything in the Emerald City was, well GREEN, and I was amazed by all of it.

But, my absolute favorite part of the whole movie has always been the musical number “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  Over my life, when trials have come to an end, and they always do, I have found myself singing it.  Sometimes, really loudly.  I love the feeling of absolute relief that prompts me to want to sing that song.

And here, in Isaiah, the people are being directed to do just that sort of celebrating, “When God has given you time to recover from the abuse and trouble and harsh servitude that you had to endure, your can amuse yourselves by taking up this satire, a taunt against the King of Babylon.” MSG

Everything in life is a sine wave.  There will always be ups and there will always be downs, but, neither will last forever.

Today, I will embrace that feeling of relief.  I will sing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” just for good measure.  And, I will delight in the wonders that this day is sure to hold.

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Don’t fear what they fear

Isaiah 8:12

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy;  do not fear what they fear and do not dread it.” NIV

In this, the next verse on the “fear not” list, God is speaking to Isaiah, and it appears to be an urgent message.  When I go back to the preceding verse, it says, “God spoke strongly to me, grabbed me with both hands and warned me not to go along with this people.” MSG

I can’t imagine what that would be like.  In 2010, you don’t hear people referring to God this way very often.  I wonder why that is.  God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  So, if it is not God who has changed, how have we changed that these personal encounters are either less frequent, less powerful or less documented?

I felt like God spoke to me, once.  I was very worried about a situation.  This woman was making a speech, and she was trying to worry her audience.  Having done some public speaking myself, I can imagine what she was seeing.  With each frightening sentence, as she was describing what in her words seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle, I am certain that she could see in the eyes of her listeners a panoply of reactions ranging from surprise to fear to hopelessness.  I know that is what she saw in mine.

In the years since, I have often wondered about her motivation.  Everyone in that class needed to climb that hill successfully.  What did she gain by making it seem so hard to do?

So, as I sat there, in the midst of her speech, I said to myself, “This cannot be done.”  And, immediately, out of nowhere, a very confident voice spoke in my head and in my heart.  It said, “This is my plan.”  That’s it.  No more.  No less.  Just four words.  But, so powerful!

I knew those words didn’t come from me.  I believed the woman.  The hill could not be climbed.  But, God had a plan.

This morning, as I read this verse, the phrase, “don’t fear what they fear, don’t take on their worries,” (MSG) is the one that sticks out for me.

Perhaps, that woman herself had feared the obstacle.  Perhaps she wanted the class to fear what she feared, and to take on her worries.  But for God’s intervention, she would have succeeded in at least one case.

I wonder how many other times in my life, I have feared what others told me was frightening, or taken on the worries of others.

I don’t want to do that.

This chapter goes on to talk about the fear of the Lord … and, I think, keeping things in perspective.

I’m really going to think about that today.

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I AM here

Matthew 14:27

But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” NIV

In the New Living Translation this verse reads, “But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![a]”  That footnote then says, “Or The ‘I Am’ is here; Greek reads I am. See Exod 3:14.”

Last night, a dear friend taught a beautiful lesson on this passage.  This is the story of a great storm.  The disciples are in a boat, and Jesus is not with them, and they are all pretty worried, and then Jesus appears to them walking on the water.

In the midst of this discussion, the leader mentioned something that really got me thinking.  She was talking about the humanity of Jesus, and she asked the group, “Was He fully God?  Or, was He fully man?”  I believe, and the group also said, that He was both.

But then, she pointed out the phrase, “I am here!” and, she said, there is something special about “I am.”  It is, of course, one of the names of God, as noted in Exodus 3:14 — “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.”

So, when Jesus tells Peter, “I am here,” it is beyond powerful.

That’s what struck me.  God was right there.  Fully God, and fully man, and Peter had nothing to fear.

Those who knew Jesus had the privilege of having God RIGHT THERE.  I won’t know that joy until I cross over into heaven, but, I have the same assurance.

There is nothing to fear or worry about, I must only remember that God, the Great I AM, is here.

That’s what I’m thinking about today.

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Stand firm in your faith

Isaiah 7:4; 9b

“Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid.  Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood — because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah … If you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all.'” NIV

God is speaking here.  These are instructions that He is giving to Isaiah to pass on to Ahaz, the King of Judah.  The people of Jerusalem are very worried because two seemingly powerful groups have partnered with a third in an attempt to overpower them.

But God sends this message and then says, “It will not take place, it will not happen” (v. 7).

Now, how nice would that be?  What if, the next time I was worried about something, God sent a messenger straight to me to tell me that what I’m worrying over will not happen?  I don’t expect that will be the case, but, it would be a very powerful gift.

I especially like the end of God’s message in verse 9, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

There is a lot in that sentence for me to ponder.

That’s what I will think about today.

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Filed under Faith, Fear, Isaiah, Old Testament, Worry