Too Much Doubt

Is it possible to have 100% trust in the Almighty God? Absolutely! It’s not always easy. We humans are “show me” types. We like to see it before we believe it. That’s why the believer will always deal with some doubt.What’s amazing, though, is how much we create doubt. That’s not necessary! We have enough doubt as it is. We don’t need more!

There have always been situations where people create doubt, especially among the religious. This has been going on throughout history. As long as there have been people, there have been sorcerers, magicians, psychics, and even mediums that call upon the dead. These have all created doubt, because they make it hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.

Sometimes preachers create doubt, too. Look at the TV evangelists in the 80’s that stole money from people. They created doubts about all preachers. Now when we see preachers on television we wonder, do they even believe in what they’re preaching? Or are they just doing it for the money? Talk about creating doubt!

And then there’s the most common scenario of all, the one that occurs during those times when everything’s going really well for you. When things are going well it’s easy to feel good and confident, relaxed about life. We say something like, “God loves me. I’m so blessed!” Or we say, “God is so proud of me,” or, “You know what? God is shining on me today.” We feel great!

Then things change, and that’s when the doubt comes in. Things aren’t going all that well, and now we say, “Maybe there is no God. Because why would God allow this to happen?”

We tend to have this mentality about God, and it creates doubt. We believe in God when things are good, and then we doubt God when things are tough. We actually create our own doubt!

I think God looks at this and asks, “You’re not really looking at me as sovereign, are you? You’re just trying to make me what you want me to be. You’re trying to contain me in a box. And do you know what that is? That’s making idols, and you can’t do that.”

I think this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1. He’s saying that because we did that, God gave us over to the lusts of our flesh. God said, “There’s going to be chaos, because you’re looking at me, but you don’t see me as sovereign of all creation. Instead, you’re saying, ‘Well, God is only real if things are going good, because God wouldn’t let bad things happen.'”

We’re creating doubt with our own mistaken thoughts. God doesn’t “let” bad things happen. If that surprises you, then good! Next week, we’ll take a look at Biblical history. The Bible has a lot to say about doubt. But first, we’ll take a look at the connection between faith and doubt. See you Friday.

Confess and Find Grace

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

There is no condemnation! We can go before the throne of God without fear, and receive grace and mercy. We can trust in God’s love and salvation, which frees us to recognize our sins, accept them, and let them go.

But why do we ask God for forgiveness? We don’t do it for Him. We don’t need to ask for forgiveness to be right with God because we are already righteous and holy. When we go to God to ask for forgiveness, we are recognizing and accepting what we have done. It’s a way of admitting, “Okay, that was not the best way to behave.” And it’s a way to tell God, “You know what? That was stupid. I get that.”

Going to God with confession in our hearts is not a way of telling God, “I need forgiveness.” He already gives us grace. So going to God with confession in our hearts is how we say, “Thank you for forgiving me for that.” For example, we might say, “Hey God, you know what? I lived in the flesh right there when that guy cut me off. I yelled at him and I cussed him out. Thank you for forgiving me! And thank you for giving me the grace to move on. Help me to use more wisdom next time so that I won’t act like that. I acted from my flesh, and I would rather act in your Spirit, because that’s what I’m destined to do.”

The Bible also tells us to confess our sins to one another. Why does God want us to do that? He wants us to confess to one another because it is a liberating thing to do. What if you could sit in grace among fellow believers? Try to imagine it. You would sit with people and say, “I’m going to confess my sin to you. I can do this because you will not shame me. And this will free me.”

The Bible says that this is what believers do. We confess our sins to one another because it’s the confession that lets the sin out. But we have to do this in grace. As followers of Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to look at the person making his confession and say, “I just want to let you know that I love you. I’ve been in your situation. I’ve messed up like that. Or maybe I haven’t messed up like that, but here’s how I messed up the other day. Here’s my confession.”

This is how we know and love each other as human beings. When we confess to one another, we look at each other and accept that we all live in the flesh. At the same time, we understand that we live in the Spirit as well.  We choose to live in the flesh sometimes, but that is not who we are. So embrace each other in grace. You are holy, and you are free.

Freedom from Shame

Do you find yourself trying to do enough good, or to be good enough, in order to get people to like you? Do you try to free yourself from sin so that God will like you? What if you didn’t have to do that? What if you could receive grace?

It’s so freeing to get into relationships where you don’t have to perform to be liked. It’s so freeing to discover that you are liked, just because. Someone likes you and even loves you, just as you are. When that happens, it gets easier to accept your mistakes and your problems. When you live in grace, you understand that the flesh will always be the flesh. You will always make mistakes, and you will always have problems. And yet you are loved. Just like that! Just as you are.

Living in my flesh, I know that something is always going to go wrong. In my flesh, I might cuss somebody out. In my flesh, I might lie. In my flesh, I might lust. In my flesh, I might boil in anger. In my flesh, I might gossip. That is all part of the flesh. We all make mistakes.

So why do we shame each other? Why do we shame ourselves? Is there anyone who hasn’t lived in their flesh? Can you tell me that you have never acted out? Never cut someone off in traffic? Never flipped someone off? Never yelled at someone? Never gossiped? Never had a bad thought about anybody? I know you have! Everybody has.

We know this, and yet we still feel shame. We struggle to clean up the mess we’ve made. And we hide it all, because we fear our shame. Fear and shame cause us to put on a mask and pretend that we are perfect.

But that mask is a burden. We get hot and sweaty behind it. We don’t breathe well. When you wear a mask at Halloween, it’s not very comfortable, is it? Kids take their masks off their heads because they don’t want to wear them anymore. So why do we wear them all the time?

It’s not fun to wear a mask, but that’s what happens when you try to fix your own sin. You think, “I won’t be loved unless I’m good, so I have to pretend to be good while I figure this out. I can pretend by putting on this mask. No one will see my fear and shame while I figure out how to be good.” We do this all the time, but it’s exhausting.

The Bible says there’s no condemnation now. Grace abounds over sin, and you can live a righteous life in truth, not shame. Truth sets us free from shame! That’s what happens with the Spirit of God.

I’ll continue this next time. See you Monday.

Waiting for a Call

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. 1 Samuel 16:11-13

As a young shepherd in Bethlehem, David got his call – to be King of Israel! And what happened next? Nothing! He went back to his sheep! God anointed him king, but David had to wait 15 years to get there.

Eventually, he was chased and persecuted by King Saul. He ran, he hid out in caves, and he survived by his wits. He had been called to the throne! And he didn’t get there for 15 years!

I think we want our call in 15 minutes. So David’s story is instructive. He had to wait, man. He had to wait a long time to become king.

Waiting for a call can be tough, although hopefully not as tough as it was for David. Is there anything you can do while you wait? Yes! Just open your heart. Open your heart up to God, your Father, and say, “All right, what do you want me to do? Anything you want me to do, I’ll do it. I just want to serve you.”

Sometimes you need to ask Him. “I am a child of yours, and I would love to go out and be a part of something that’s just awesome. If now is not the time, okay! But I’d really like to go, if it would be okay with you. I would love it.” And then just see what He says. If He says no, then that’s okay. Keep doing what you’re doing. If He says yes, He’ll make it happen.

I think sometimes God wants you to ask. If you never ask, you’ll never know. That’s why the Bible says to keep asking. “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2) But don’t forget, if you’re going to ask, you better be ready for the answer! If the answer’s no, you need to be okay with that. You may be disappointed. That’s fine! But you’ll need to get over it.

And you may just need to find your joy. Joy is not necessarily always in doing. Sometimes joy is just being where you’re at. I think that’s important to God too. Sometimes He wants you to just be. Be content sometimes. Be content with the calling you already have. Be content for now. When He feels like you have matured enough and you can handle what’s in store for you, He’ll call you and send you out. But until then, just be content.

In the long run, you’re going to be happier because you waited. If you do something that you think is so great, but you do it outside of God, you’re going to be disappointed. If He lets you go before you’re ready, you’re going to be miserable. And then you’re not going to like what you’re doing. You won’t find your joy. God doesn’t want that for you. What would be the point? Wait until He calls, because then you’ll find joy. Remember, Kingdom work is joyful!

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.

Choosing Between Two Roads

After studying the contrast between living in the room of grace and living in the room of good intentions, my conversations with my sons have changed a lot. Here’s an example of one I had with my oldest the other day. He had been talking back to his mother, and I sat down with him and said, “Walker, buddy, I’m going to give you two roads to go down.” “Okay,” he said.

I told him, “You can continue going down the road where you disrespect us. You know what? I’ll let you take that road. But you can also go down a different road. If you want to, you can go down the road where you honor your mother and father. That’s the road where you don’t talk to mommy or daddy that way. Now down that road, son, there are much better things in store for you.

tworoadstworooms“If you take the road of disrespect, okay. You have that prerogative. That’s why I will let you choose that road. But if that’s the choice you make, understand that there will be discipline. You might lose your iPad. Maybe you won’t get to watch TV. Getting disciplined is a part of the going down that road. But I promise you this, buddy. If you choose that road, I will still love you.

“Now think about this. You can also choose to go down the road where you honor mommy and daddy. The outcome of that road will be better.”

Walker looked at me, and then he said, “Okay, Daddy, I’m sorry. I don’t want to take that road. I don’t want to go down that road of disrespecting you.”

I said, “Buddy, I really appreciate that, and I thank you for choosing the right path. I just wanted you to know that I love you, no matter which road you choose. But now, we don’t have to worry about discipline. Thanks to your decision to respect us, now we can just live the life we should be living, and we can go on and have our fun day.”

Even for adults, there’s a choice of roads. The road of good intentions turns out to be a lot like the road my son chose not to take. As an adult, if you take the road of good intentions, you’ll have a lot of stuff coming back at you.

When you live in that room of good intentions, you never get the feeling of love that comes when God walks with you through your garbage. You wear your mask and pretend you’re perfect in the hopes of creating some distance between yourself and your garbage. That way, if your garbage is exposed you can pretend to be separate from it. But when you do that, you leave God on the other side of the room. He sees you with all your junk, but He can’t even come close to you.

In the room of grace it’s different. In that room, God actually walks with you in your garbage. And then you get to bask in His love. He says, “Oh, I know you’re going to mess up. I know it. If I thought you were going to be perfect, then sending Jesus to die is a waste of His time and mine, and the pain that we put Him through was not relevant.”

That’s the power of the cross. I have more to say about this next time. See you Thursday.

Confessing Our Sin to God and One Another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Last time we looked at what it’s like to live and walk in the Holy Spirit. We can go before the throne of God without fear and receive grace and mercy. We can trust in God’s love and salvation, which frees us to recognize our sins, accept them, and let them go.

So why do we ask God for forgiveness? That’s not for God. We don’t need to ask for forgiveness to be right with God because we are already righteous and holy. When we go to God to ask for forgiveness, we are recognizing and accepting what we have done. It’s a way of admitting, “Okay, that was not the best way to behave.” And it’s a way to tell God, “You know what? That was stupid. I get that.”

Going to God with confession in our hearts is not a way of telling God, “I need forgiveness.” The people who say “I need forgiveness” are the ones who are living in the room of good intentions. As we’ve discussed, good intentions, while obviously good, are bound to be thwarted. When our good intentions are thwarted, we go to God and we say, “I need forgiveness because I did not intend to do that, God. I totally had good intentions, and I fell short. So I need forgiveness.”

When we are living in the room of grace, however, we go to God and we say, “Thank you for forgiving me for that.” For example, we might say, “Hey God, you know what? I lived in the flesh right there when that guy cut me off. I yelled at him and I cussed him out. Thank you for forgiving me! And thank you for giving me the grace to move on. Help me to use more wisdom next time so that I won’t act like that. I acted from my flesh, and I would rather act in your Spirit, because that’s what I’m destined to do.”

That’s what we say to God, but the Bible also tells us to confess our sins to one another. Why does God want us to do that? He wants us to confess to one another because it is a liberating thing to do. What if you could sit among fellow believers in the room of grace? Try to imagine it. You would sit with people and say, “I’m going to confess my sin to you. I can do this because none of you will look at me with shame. And this will free me.”

The Bible says that this is what believers do. We confess our sins to one another because it’s the confession that lets the sin out. But we have to do this in the room of grace. Our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, is to look at the person making his confession and say, “I just want to let you know that I love you. I’ve been in your situation. I’ve messed up like that. Or maybe I haven’t messed up like that, but here’s how I messed up the other day. Here’s my confession.”

This is how we know and love each other as human beings. In an encounter like this one, you are looking at each other and accepting that you both live in the flesh, yet understanding that you live in the Spirit as well. You chose to live in the flesh at one point, but that is not who you are. So hang in the room of grace. You are holy, and you are free.