Another devotional: By Faith Alone

Yesterday I told you that I have started volunteering as a devotional writer at my church. Each week, one of us writers will be assigned to that week’s message and we’ll write five days worth of devotions that correlate. These are to help people continue engaging in that week’s topic. We just recently added a resource panel to this piece, for an additional step if readers want something more. Here is the last devotion I wrote during our “Sola” series. Sola means “only” and these messages were based on the five pillars of faith that we cling to. The latin phrases were coined around the time of the Reformation. Here is my devotional on Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.

Sola Fide: By Faith Alone

Last week we studied about grace, one of our essential pillars of faith. We were also reminded of Ephesians 2:9 – that it is grace that saves us (Eph. 2:9). If you continue to read through Ephesians 2:9, you’ll notice that there is another part of that equation – faith. This week we’ll take a look at what faith means, and how it plays out in our everyday lives.

Memory Verse: And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:19

 

Believing without seeing

Monday, March 25, 2013

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1

Reflect: When I was in high school, I went on a youth group retreat where we did a low-ropes course activity call the “trust fall.” Perhaps you’ve done something like this yourself. I teamed up with a friend and when it was my turn to fall, I would turn my back towards my friend so I couldn’t see her, cross my arms and slowly fall back towards her and let my friend catch me. Each time I “fell” towards her, she would move further back, while I nervously trusted that she would catch me. I couldn’t see her, I didn’t know how far away she would go, all I could do was simply believe she would be there. Faith is like a “trust fall.” We can’t physically see Jesus, and we can’t tangibly calculate his grace, but we must have faith that it is the truth. The greek word for faith is pistis, which means to trust or to believe. When we are saved by grace, through faith, it’s as if we are saying, “Okay, Jesus, if You say Your grace will save me, then I’m abandoning my efforts to save myself, I’m falling into your grace and I’m absolutely trusting that You will catch me.”

Respond: Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing a “trust fall” activity with Jesus. Do you trust Him? I mean, do you really trust Him? Do you trust Him with that health situation or that rebellious child? Do you trust Him with that addiction? Do you trust that His grace can catch you even after that deep, hidden sin? Spend some time talking to God about those areas.

 

Good isn’t good enough

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Read: Romans 4

Reflect: Yesterday I told you about my first experience with the “trust fall.” What I didn’t share yesterday was the amount of times I stopped myself from falling before I actually got the hang of it. I would start leaning backwards, and at the very last second, I’d throw back my leg to stop the fall. I thought I could help the catcher. Essentially, I was trying to “catch myself.” How many times do we try to do that in our spiritual lives? We know that grace alone will save us, but instead of having faith that grace is enough, we try our hardest to be the best person we can be and hope that it will be additional help. Hear me out on this: working towards holiness brings glory to God, so we shouldn’t give up on that (2 Cor. 5:9-10), but those works cannot save us. Just like you can’t catch yourself in a “trust fall,” you can’t possibly do enough good to even come close to saving yourself from sin and death. Romans 4:5 (NLT) says that “people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” Again, faith means to trust and believe. It is trusting that Jesus can handle your salvation, your healing, your struggle…without your help. It is falling into his grace fully, without restraint or hesitation.

Respond: Part of letting go and putting total faith in God is admitting where you’ve tried to be “additional help.” Today, write out the areas where you’ve been trying to “earn” your salvation or even more subtly, earn God’s favor, and ask God to help you trust Him.

 

Knowing Him, Trusting Him

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read: Matthew 8

Reflect: When I went to Sierra Leone (Africa) last May, some of the most popular stories we told came directly out of Matthew chapter 8. The main reason those stories are so compelling in the African culture is because they believe so strongly in power – the power of spirits that can possess your mind, health, weather. It’s fascinating for them to hear that Jesus is more powerful than any spirit or storm or sickness. It’s too bad the disciples didn’t catch on to this concept when they saw Jesus healing person after person in the first part of Matthew chapter 8. By the time they were caught in a storm (v. 23-27), they should have known about Jesus’ all-controlling power. That’s probably what He thought, too, when He asked them “where is your faith?” Rather than reflecting on the miracles they had seen Jesus do previously, they were struck with fear. One of the best faith-building practices we can do is to get to know God better. The more we know about Him and His attributes, the more we understand what He can handle (which is everything, by the way!) and the more confidence we have to put our trust in Him. The next time you’re in a stormy part of life, remind yourself of who God is – what He has done and what He can do.

Respond: Spend time today writing out all of the ways you have seen God work in your life and in the lives of others. Keep that piece of paper with you and add to it as you remember things. To go even deeper, start a list of every describing word the Bible gives to God (ex: loving, faithful, good, all-powerful.) Add to the list each time you come across a new attribute.

 

Powerful Faith

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Read: Luke 7:1-10, Matthew 17:14-20, James 5:13-20

Reflect: In today’s readings, we learn a pretty amazing thing: faith is powerful. The Roman officer in Luke 7 understood it perfectly. As an officer, he had authority over his soldiers. In today’s terms, if he said “jump,” his soldiers would say “how high?” He knew it was the same with Jesus, who had authority over all creation. If Jesus chose to heal a person, they would be healed..no ifs, ands or buts! Sometimes we don’t ask God for something because we don’t want to bother Him. Sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t think he will do it. But I think there are probably times when we do ask God for something, but nothing happens because deep down we don’t really think he CAN do it. That’s where our faith is put to the test. Please understand that mustering up enough faith to manipulate God into doing something for you is not how it works. Faith is not a trump card. God is God and His ways are higher than ours. But, when we come to Him with even a small amount of authentic faith (Matt. 17:20), mighty things can happen!

Respond: Do a short study today on how many times Jesus calls a person faithless, says “you of little faith” or asks “where is your faith?” Read a few of those stories. Why do you think Jesus points out their lack of faith?

 

Persistent Faith

Friday, March 29, 2013

Read: Matthew 9:27-34; Luke 8:40-48

Reflect: On Wednesday we learned that when we know more about God, the more confident we are to have faith in Him. Yesterday we learned that authentic faith, no matter how small it is, can do mighty things. These two ideas come together in today’s readings. Both of these stories are about people who know who Jesus is and they have faith that He can heal them. In Matthew 9, two blind men were so desperate for healing that they persistently followed Jesus home and begged for his healing. They believed and they were healed with a single touch. In Luke 8, a woman plagued with an awful disease weaved her way through a thick, loud, sweaty mob of people just to catch a glimpse of the One she knew could heal her. As He passed by, she desperately stretched her arm out and just brushed the corner of his garment. In the blink of an eye, she was healed. There will be times in this life when we will find ourselves desperately reaching for God with every ounce of faith we have and persistently storming the gates of heaven. He will meet us there. His will may not be our will, but He promises not to leave us alone. In those times of persevering faith, let us not forget that Jesus is our end goal. Ultimately, it is not about the miracle we hope to see, but the One who makes miracles happen.

Respond: On this Good Friday, and as we approach Easter Sunday, spend some time reflecting on the end goal of our persistent faith: Jesus. Write a love letter to Him. Thank Him for the gravity of His sacrifice and praise Him for conquering death so that we may have life.

 

If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (781-5959) or talk to our pastors or counselors after weekend services.

This Time Alone was written by Angie Lomas, PV member.

 

Resources

Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as “the hall of faith.” In this chapter, the writer lists many well known characters of the Bible and credits them for having great faith. This chapter is a great resources for us to study in regards to our own faith.

Take some extended time this week to study the characters listed in Hebrews 11. The verses in chapter 11 may give you a brief story of their life of faith, but challenge yourself to dig deeper, find their extended stories in various parts of the Bible and read all about each character’s life and context in which they found themselves having to rely on great faith.

Ask yourself: What does this story tell me about God? What does this story tell me about mankind? What does this story tell me about myself? How can I apply this kind of faith to my own situation today?

 

Devotions I’ve written…

Each week, our church puts out a devotional resource that ties along with that weekend’s message. All of these devotions are written by volunteers. Just recently, I started volunteering on this team and it has been a really fun, really challenging thing to be a part of. You think you know the Bible until suddenly you are supposed to write a week’s worth of devotions on a subject! Talk about intimidating!!

Since I’ve already written two different times, I thought I’d share them for you guys to read….

Ways of Worship [Feb. 25-29, 2013]

William Temple said, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. All this is gathered up in that emotion which most cleanses us from selfishness because it is the most selfless of all emotions – adoration.” As we break down this quote piece by piece this week, we’ll consider several different ways to worship God. If you find that you’ve never experienced some of these aspects of worship before, challenge yourself to worship God in a new way this week.
Memory Verse: Psalm 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Quicken the Conscience by the Holiness of God

Monday, February 25, 2013
Read: Isaiah 6:1-8
Reflect: What does it mean to have our conscience quickened by the holiness of God and how does that cause us to worship? Let’s consider the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was just as human as you and I — absolutely imperfect! Yet, God chose to let Isaiah experience just a glimpse of His presence through a vision (Is. 6:1). When encountering the holiness of the Almighty God, Isaiah knew that he, a sinful human, was nothing compared to the holiness of God. In fact, it caused Isaiah to say, “I am ruined!” (Is. 6:5) Perhaps in our words, we may say “I’m a lost cause!” He knew that, because of sin, he was utterly hopeless. But that’s not how the story ends. Isaiah also experienced the power of God’s forgiveness and commissioning (Is. 6:7-8). Isaiah could have said “thanks for the offer, God, but I’m just not good enough.” But he doesn’t. He says, “Send me!” We give God our worship not only when we recognize the depravity of our soul in comparison to His holiness, but when that realization leads us to accept his forgiveness and say “yes” to what He calls us to.
Respond: When you reflect on God’s holiness, do you find yourself getting stuck by feeling like “a lost cause?” Or, does experiencing God’s holiness cause you to worship God for choosing to offer you forgiveness and calling you to live for a greater purpose?

Feed the Mind with the Truth of God

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Read: Psalm 1; Psalm 119:104-106,160
Reflect: Psalm 119:160 says that the Word of God is truth. Jesus says the same thing as He is praying to the Father in John 17:17. So, if God’s Word is truth, how do we feed our mind with it and how does this cause us to worship? Think for a moment about your eating habits. (Yes, there is a reason I’m asking…just go with me here!) When you skip a meal or two, does your stomach start to growl? Our soul, just like our stomach, needs to be fed. The only way to truly satisfy our soul is to feed our mind with God’s truth. Sure, we can try to fill that hunger by watching mind-numbing TV or by working endless hours just to get a few extra accolades or by stuffing our face full of chocolate cake. But, if we really listen to our soul, we will realize that the only thing that will satisfy that craving is the truth of God. We worship Him and give Him praise when we choose to feed our minds with His truth, rather than an easy, temporary escape.
Respond: What do you try to feed your mind and spirit with? Is it something other than God’s truth? If so, confess that to God, and plan a time to spend with Him today.

Purge the Imagination with the Beauty of God

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Read: Psalm 27:4; Psalm 50:1-3; Psalm 96:6-9
Reflect: As an artist, I am often captivated by a stunning, visual masterpiece. Musicians are mesmerized by the perfect harmony of carefully crafted chords. Writers are intrigued by the steady, rhythmic flow of words on paper. These things cause our senses to be heightened, our emotions to be lifted and sometimes make the hairs on our heads stand on end. But you don’t have to read very far into the book of Psalms to realize that God is infinitely more beautiful, attractive and brilliant than art, music or writing combined. Purging the imagination with God’s beauty is to remove all false notions of who God may be and filling your mind with the truth of who Scripture says He is. He is beautiful. He is awesome. He is majestic. And when everything within us makes us want to stand and declare that He is glorious and worthy, that is worship in its purest form.
Respond: Take a moment to think about the most stunning image you have ever seen, most thrilling piece of music you have ever heard or most moving piece of literature you’ve ever read. Now try to picture yourself in God’s throne room, even more incredible than what you just imagined. Spend a moment there and worship God and His beauty.

Open the Heart to the Love of God

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Read: Psalm 51:1; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 136; 1 John 3:1
Reflect: On her jewelry commercials, Jane Seymour always reminds us, “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.” While it may be a great saying for her product, it also holds a bit of wisdom for us as Christ followers. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get pretty stubborn and independent. I’ve been told that some of my first words were “do it own self.” To open up myself to be loved, guided or helped means I must make myself vulnerable. And being vulnerable is uncomfortable. But if I never fully open my heart, if I never allow others to see my weaknesses, how can they love me completely? They can’t. The same goes for God. We worship God when we are willing to surrender and to let Him into the weakest, most vulnerable corners of our heart. Only then will we be able to experience the vastness of His love. If we will open our heart to God, His love will pour in like a torrential flood. It is unfailing, it is abounding, it is great and it endures forever.
Respond: Have you closed your heart off to God, trying to handle everything on your own? Challenge yourself to take a risk and worship God by letting Him into the most vulnerable areas of your heart today. Take some time to journal a prayer to God about those closed-off places in your heart.

Devote the Will to the Purpose of God

Friday, March 1, 2013
Read: Philippians 1
Reflect: Jim Elliot was a famous missionary who was killed while trying to bring the Gospel to a native people group of Ecuador. Before he died, he once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Likewise, in Philippians, Paul writes from a prison cell about the trials he faces while trying to advance the Gospel. Both of these men are excellent examples of someone worshiping God by devoting their will to the purposes of God. While we may never find ourselves in such extreme situations, God often calls his people to take steps outside of their comfort zones in order to fulfill His purposes. When we listen and obey, we are worshiping Him. The call may look different for each of us, but the response of obedience is what matters for all of us.
Respond: What is God asking you to do in order to fulfill His purpose? Is it going on a mission trip? Is it inviting your coworker to church? Is it adopting an orphan? Is it helping at a homeless shelter? Whatever it is, it may be out of your comfort zone. How will you worship God through this calling?

If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (816-781-5959) or talk to pastor or prayer counselor after weekend services.

This Time Alone was written by Angie Lomas, PV member

Post Easter thoughts

Easter was such a day of celebration for me with ending the fast, but not in the sense that I thought it would be. During the first week or two of the fast, I could envision myself gorging on chocolate and meat and cheese and and everything my little mind could fathom. But that’s not what it was like at all. My first meal was breakfast with my family…ham, egg, cheese hashbrown cassarole. I started out slow. I wasn’t craving meat. Sugar didn’t sound remotely appetizing. That’s when I noticed the growth that had occurred during lent. These foods were not controlling me. I had control over what I said yes and no to.

For lunch we had turkey loaf and cheesy potatoes and tapioca jello. I ate what I wanted, but didn’t over indulge. On the way home to Kansas City, we stopped and got coffee. It was oddly not all that I had imagined it to be. That night we had pizza and soda. It was a day of celebration.

But what I found was that these things were not what controlled me anymore. After it was all said and done, my head felt clearer. I felt God’s presence all around me, something I hadn’t felt for a while. I felt joy and a peace, rather than guilt or shame. I felt free. That was the celebration.

Since then, I’ve done fairly good at eating what I need to eat. Sure, there are times when I probably over do it. And Starbucks…well, it’s a slippery slope. It’s easy to get caught up in bad habits. But the fast taught me some important truths..that Jesus can and will break those chains that we can so easily get caught up in. That those foods can’t ever satisfy…in fact, they can actually make you feel pretty crappy if you eat horribly.

I’ve still been working towards the 5k and that has been really healthy for me. I’ve been eating better and my body feels a lot more free than before. There are times of celebration and feasting, and other times of discipline and fasting. It’s a balance. It’s moderation.

And the fact that I’ve gotten to this point…stronger mind, healthier body, and nourished spirit…that indeed is a celebration.