Faith in the Foxholes

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. Psalm 66:13-14

While I never served in the military, I have often heard it said, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Often people who have demonstrated little interest in faith and eternity are suddenly moved to pray while being fired upon by the enemy. Many have also been known to experience amazing conversions under the threat of the death penalty for crimes they have committed.

In many instances, the promises made to God in the foxholes have been kept after the guns fell silent. However, this is not always the case. There have also been cases in prison for those on death row when someone is removed from those circumstances, because their sentence changed, the offenders have forgotten the commitments they made to the Lord.

The truth of the matter is, all of us will attempt to bargain with God if the circumstances are difficult enough. The psalmist, thinking of the circumstances through which the Israelites had passed, writes he has remembered to bring the offerings and will perform the vows he promised when he was in trouble. 

The Lord has always known people will be quick to forget who He is when circumstances are going well. In fact, He instructed Moses to warn the people as they entered the land of great abundance, it was a time for them to be careful. He wanted to remind them in their time of plenty they should not forget the Lord and disobey His commands. (Deut 8)

The psalmist is able to testify, “I will come to your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you…”. He then says it was the promises he made while in his time of trouble. He is demonstrating a deep appreciation for the mercy extended and grace received. 

While some might bring animals which were crippled or diseased, the psalmist brought the best of the best. There is nothing being done grudgingly or half heartedly. He brought the best he had and demonstrated his desire to share his experience of God’s goodness with others. What better response can a person have to the Lord’s unfailing love than to show unfailing gratitude to the one who is always faithful. 

Have you been faithful to keep the promises you have made to the Lord. If you are a believer one promise you have made is to follow Him. Are you being faithful in following, or will you have to find yourself in a foxhole to renew the vows you have made.

Blessings,

Chappy

Stand Still and Get Moving

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:13-15)

It’s amazing how quickly our minds forget. Only a few days after begging the Israelites to leave, following the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, Pharaoh and his men regretted their decision. So the Egyptians got their army together and took off in pursuit of the recently freed slaves.

During the same time, the Israelites realized the Egyptian army was in pursuit so they turned on Moses and accused him of leading them out into the wilderness to die. Their rationale was it would have been better to die as slaves in Egypt than to be pursued and killed in the wilderness. How quickly they forgot how God had worked many miracles on their behalf.

With remarkable faith and confidence, Moses told the panicking people, not to be afraid. Instead he told them to stand and watch what the Lord was about to do once again on their behalf. While Moses did not know exactly how God was going to intervene, he knew God was going to take care of them. Paralyzed with fear, the people observed what it was the Lord was going to do. 

In telling the people to stand still, Moses wanted them to understand God was going to fight their battle and they would not have to lift a finger. As things turned out, Moses was exactly right! But at the same time, in order for them to see what God would do, it was necessary for them to go through the parted waters of he Red Sea. So Moses having told the people to stand still…now had to tell them to get moving.

There are things which come up in our lives that only God can handle. There are also situations and daily experiences we face in which none of us have the answers. But our hope and peace comes from the fact God has the answers. Recognition of this at times leads a person to “stand still” and see what God will do. It is a matter of trust and faith.

On the flip side, while people cannot always solve their problems, God may tell us to get moving so He can solve them. This is now a matter of obedience. In fact, all spiritual experience is about faith and obedience, The two are not incompatible. The power to obey becomes available as we trust in God to act.

Without faith, there will be no obedience, and without obedience there is evidently no faith. So as the old hymn says, trust and obey…or as we read here…stand still and get moving.

Are you demonstrating your faith by being obedient?

Blessings,

Chappy

Undercover Disciples

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. — John 19:38-39

It’s amazing how different people will react to the same situation in totally different ways. For instance, take two men to jail for the same crime. One may be deeply remorseful and serve his sentence as a perfect prisoner and after his release lives a model life.

The other man may become hardened and bitter spending his time in jail making connections and working on his criminal skills. When he is released, he then becomes a criminal who continues to break the law with more severe crimes.

In the story from the passage above, we remember as soon as it became clear their leader was being crucified, Peter and some of the other high profile apostles went into hiding. As we mentioned yesterday, Peter even denied knowing Jesus. Fear and despair gripped them to the point self preservation and survival were all that mattered. They had been a part of Jesus’ ministry for over three years but now were afraid to even be associated with him.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of men who moved in different directions. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee had previously been hiding their commitment to Jesus. Nicodemus is carefully identified as the man who had come to Jesus at night. Apparently when he came to Jesus he was intrigued and desired to know more about His teaching. It would appear from all indications at some point he accepted the things Jesus taught and became one of His disciples.

Jospeh of Arimathea, also a member of the ruling Council, had been wanting the Kingdom of God to come…in fact, he had been an undercover disciple of Jesus for some time. Yet he too, as we read from our passage, was wiling to take a stand along with Nicodemus in retrieving the body of Jesus to give Him a proper burial.

We know throughout the Gospels, the ruling Council’s hostility against Jesus was fierce and unrelenting. Anyone who publicly identified with Jesus was in danger of being excommunicated from the Synagogue and thus the jewish social life. Nicodemus and Joseph stood even more to lose as they both were men who held influence as they served on the Council. They also faced the very real possibility of being put to death.

Exactly when the character and conviction of these two men came to the point of committing themselves to Jesus is not clear. There is evidence Nicodemus and Joseph gradually came to recognize their own covert belief needed to be openly expressed in some form or fashion. So after the dreadful events of Jesus’ execution took place and they realized there was an opportunity to do the right thing…they took it!

There comes a time in each of our lives as true followers of Jesus, when fear must be overcome by love and anxiousness along with anxiety overcome by conviction. Nicodemus and Joseph demonstrated how to step out of the shadows and relinquish their role as “undercover disciples” and become men willing to take the risk for doing the right thing. 

Are you at the forefront of the battle identifying with Jesus or would you be considered an undercover disciple?

Blessings,

Chappy

Unsinkable?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Titanic, the largest and most luxurious ship of its time, was a shipbuilder’s dream. The ship was designed with a double hull, which included sixteen watertight compartments. Because of this unique design, the Titanic’s builder deemed the ship to be unsinkable. In fact, he made the following prideful statement, “not even God could sink this ship.” 

We all know the story, about midnight on April 14th, 1912, the great ship with 2,224 passengers on board, slammed into a huge iceberg at a speed of twenty-two knots and some 180 minutes later found its way to the floor of the Atlantic. The unthinkable had happened — the unsinkable had sunk. While the builders of the Titanic had good reason to admire their design and craftsmanship, they had no grounds for boasting. While the Titanic was indeed majestic, it was certainly not wise to challenge God’s capabilities in their arrogant claims.

So it is with humans. There is a certain majesty about man, the pinnacle of God’s creation, a uniqueness which is undeniable, when compared to the rest of creation. We as humans recognize the fact and there is absolutely no reason for us to not rejoice. However, when we begin to boast about abilities we do not possess and take credit for things God has done, we begin to find ourselves in trouble. Just like the Titanic, we are far from unsinkable.

When we realize just how incredible God is and how holy His standards are, we begin to take on water and sink under the weight of His righteousness. There is no amount of effort we can put forth to bail us out. Regardless of our claims of superiority, invincibility and belief in our own abilities, we cannot work our way from the dilemma. 

This is where God’s grace comes in. God is willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Salvation does not come through man’s efforts but instead through God’s provision. This is the point Paul is trying to explain to those in the church at Ephesus in the verses above.

For most it is difficult to admit we cannot do all we need to do on our own. Proud statements flow way too easily from our lips as we puff out our chest to the world, when we should actually be seeking God’s grace and favor.

Going back to the tragedy of the Titanic, there was a ship within twenty miles of the collision with the iceberg. However, the radio operator on the nearby ship was not listening so the calls for help were never heard.

ARE YOU SINKING? Thankfully God is always listening and never misses our cries for help! 

Blessings,

Chappy

Staying the Course

“Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” 

(Genesis 13:9)

When things run off course, catastrophic results can occur. For instance, when a train leaves its tracks or a plane veers off the runway, bad things happen. The same is true for our lives…when we lose our vision and focus we can run off course, lose direction and make big mistakes.

Reputations are easily tarnished and hard earned positions of influence can be quickly forfeited. When these things happen to believers the cause of the Lord suffers a setback, as we become easy targets of ridicule and abuse.

After Abram arrived in Canaan, a severe famine required his moving from where he was living. There is no indication that Abram should have gone to Egypt, but common sense dictated he should (Gen. 12:10). But once there, Abram got off course. He lost sight of the Lord’s care, and his faith was conquered by fear.

Fear can cause us to do many things we might not typically do under normal circumstances. Fear led Abram to tell half truths, which amounted to lies embarrassing Pharaoh and ultimately leading to Abrams expulsion from Egypt. Sad and more wise, Abram and his groups traveled to the Negev…then continued by stages toward Bethel, where Abram built an altar, and once again worshipped the Lord.

Once Abram again worshipped the Lord, he was faced with a decision, which may have been a test of faith, concerning the land in which they were staying. It became obvious the land was not capable of sustaining his herd as well as Lot’s herd. This led to both sides arguing and so Abram stepped forward with a solution. Abram told Lot to select whichever direction he wanted and he would take the other. 

As Lot surveyed the land, he saw the Jordan Valley was well watered so he chose to take this prime valley for himself and travelled east. As a result Abram settled for the less appealing property. Abram could have once again taken matters into his own hands and reminded Lot which of them was the chosen one and which of them was along for the ride. But he didn’t. Abram realized even though the Promised Land didn’t look very promising, the Lord would be faithful in all He had said.

Abram’s fear in Egypt had brought him to the brink of disaster and he had learned a bitter lesson as a result. Even being driven away from Egypt, as terrifying as it might have been, was proving to be a blessing because it had propelled him back to worshipping God. 

We are all capable of running off course, especially in times of fear or anxiety…it happens to all of us. However, the wise person knows when to recognize they are off course and the fact they need to get back on track…then takes the steps to do so.

ARE YOU STAYING ON TRACK? Which track are you on? Are you running on the rail of faith or the rail of fear?

Blessings,

Chappy

What’s Your Thoughts?

And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…” Mark 7:20-21

Whether the world is getting better or worse is up for debt for some. However there is no doubt regardless of which side of the argument you want to stand, there are plenty of things wrong in the world today. People often ask the question, WHY? 

In Jesus’ day, the argument was also raging about what it is that makes a person bad. The religious people of that time period were adamant it was external things responsible for moral and spiritual corruption. They believed if proper care was taken to avoid the external things which were corrupt, it would bring about spiritual and moral purity.

Because of this way of thinking, they established elaborate codes of behavior, which brought about religious rituals designed to guarantee correct behavior leading to a sound society.

But then came Jesus and He challenged this long established viewpoint. He told the people they were not defiled by what they ate, but instead were defiled by what they say and do. This even confused His disciples, so they asked Him to privately explain further.

He explained food, which was an external source many believed defiled them, was taken in the mouth, passed through the stomach and then is expelled from the body. He told them it is not what goes in the body that defiles someone, but instead you are defiled by your thought life and what you say and do. 

Jesus taught the ills of society are born in the human heart. In Mark 7:20-23 He stated, 

What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

  • A modern way of saying this might include:
  • Watch your thoughts, they become words
  • Watch your words, they become actions
  • Watch your actions, they become habits
  • Watch your habits, they become character
  • Watch your character, it becomes your destiny

While many today blame various things in society for causing the problems we see in the world today, the truth of the matter is the heart is wicked and from there comes the evil in the world.

We can try to legislate morality, and we can try all the social programs, but it is only when humans are changed from the inside — out by the Spirit of God, we will see society change. 

The only hope for the world is continually pressed down and pushed away from society by those who oppose the Gospel. Is it any wonder things never seem to change? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Blessings,

Chappy

That’s It! I’ve Had Enough!

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4)

It would seem each of us has a breaking point. A place we all come to at some stage when we finally say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough!” At some point, under the right set circumstances, we all will either utter the words or say them in our mind. Sometimes depending on the severity and difficulty of the issues, we may give in to discouragement, depression and despair.

This was certainly the case with Elijah. Elijah had handled the powerful King Ahab without any trouble, he confronted 450 prophets of Baal easily and fearlessly challenged nation of people worshipping false gods in the name of the Lord. Facing all these circumstances and challenges, Elijah demonstrated no sign of breakdown nor any hint of emotional collapse. I am so glad the Lord allows us to see the good, the bad and the ugly concerning the heroes of faith, because while Elijah came through these circumstances unscathed an emotional collapse was just around the corner.

His breaking point came concerning a woman named Jezebel. She was an evil woman with far reaching influence. While she made no attempt to kill Elijah, it would have been within her power to do so. Instead, she simply told Elijah he had 24 hours to leave or else, which he did in a hurry.

We can only speculate as to why Elijah became so frightened. More than likely the years of tension and contention among pagan nations had taken their toll on him. The spiritual highs he felt from defeating the prophets of Baal, left him vulnerable to a spiritual low in the valley. The sheer output of energy battling spiritual warfare for an extended time had left him depleted. Perhaps what broke Elijah’s back was God offered no miracle to remove Jezebel, therefore Elijah knew she wasn’t going away…at least not that he was aware of yet. She was going to be his thorn in the flesh or pain in the neck, if you will.

Eventually Elijah disgruntled, depressed and full of despair announced he was through. He found a cave and went inside to lay down. He had totally given up, feeling as though he was completely alone in the battle. But the Lord cared for him and demonstrated an unforgettable object lesson. God instructed Elijah to stand at the edge of the cave and the Lord passed by…in doing so Elijah observed a mighty windstorm, a violent earthquake, and a raging fire but the Lord was in none of these. 

Finally, it was in a gentle breeze through which the Lord spoke. This was all demonstrating to Elijah God not only works through what is mighty and spectacular; He also equally and effectively works through things which may appear weak.

Through this gentle breeze, God told Elijah to get up, get going and get back on the job. He ensured Elijah he was not alone in his work…in fact there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed to Baal, which the Lord was leaving. Elijah did as he was instructed, now understanding the Lord can do mighty things through meager means and miserable servants.

It seems the times we struggle most with the idea of giving up is when we feel the loneliest. Those times when we feel we are in the battle alone. However, we must remember the Lord is always there with us, even if we only hear Him through a small and gentle breeze. 

The next time you feel down, discouraged and alone doing the Lord’s work, remember the Lord plus one will always be a majority in accomplishing HIs work.

Blessings,

Chappy