Unbelief Due to Giants in the Land

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people we saw are men of great size, there also we saw the Nephillim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sign, and so we were in their sight.  Numbers 13:33 (NASB)

Her panic attacks keep her from being able to function sometimes, in fact, some employers won’t hire her because of her panic issues. Yet, she needs a job and lives on assistance from the government, aid organizations and even gifts from ours and other churches. She has just been diagnosed with two brain aneurysms. Her mother died from one 25 years ago and she is worried about that history. She has children, some adult and some younger. She will have surgery on the larger aneurysm before the end of the month. She is struggling with understanding God’s will here.

I think I can understand why she has fear. Her situation has some pretty big obstacles. There are giants in the land.

What are your giants? For Israel that day, it was literally giant people, like Goliath. 9, 10, maybe 12 feet tall. Archaeologists have found the bones of ancient giants in many parts of the world. They were real, and the ones that Israel saw were powerful and aggressive militarily. They’re 10 feet tall and the Israelite men were just over 5 foot. They’re twice as big, we don’t have a chance, what can we do?

Of course instead of believing God like Caleb did, the people failed to believe God. Their unbelief kept them from God’s blessings and provisions. They failed again and again in their belief. They suffered again and again because of unbelief.

We are concerned with the direction our country is taking. Yesterday there were 5 police killed in Dallas as it appears some people abused a peaceful protest to exercise their hate for the police. This week, a presidential candidate appears to be above the law although her activity in the past has been criminal. There is a wave of fear because of ISIS and a level of persecution coming against Christians and the Church, and Lord save you if you stand for the Biblical truth about LGBT.

What about your health? Or your financial circumstances? What about your temptations to sin? Are there obstacles to peace in your family, broken relationships, unfairness at work, or hate from your neighbor? What is your giant?

If you exercise unbelief, like Israel did in Numbers 13, than you are in for more difficulty and the giant may grow bigger and may become giants.

It isn’t always easy to let go and trust God, but David did. Why did David trust God against Goliath? He knew God’s track record. He knew God’s word. He chose to trust God because God has historically been proven true and when David was in situations where belief was absolutely necessary, God proved himself to David.

That is why Caleb (and Joshua) were considered the good spies. They believed and were ready to follow God into the fray. The giants are puny compared to God. They chose to trust the one who is the biggest and the greatest.

Christians are fretting about many circumstances and uncertainties today. Believe God and the way faith grows is to know the Word that shows us God’s activity, the Bible. For it reveals to us that faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord.

Let’s believe!

He’s Important to Me

I volunteer at a teen residential facility, leading spiritual initiatives as a sort of a chaplain. Earlier this week I visited the thisismyprayerforyouedited-640x360students hoping to encourage them and inspire a walk with Christ in them. A father of one of the young ladies was visiting that day. She brought him to me and introduced us and told her dad that I was the spiritual guy. I explained to him what that meant so her father would understand the role of our Sunday Spiritual times. Then the young lady told her father that I was important to her and explained why. She self-harms and I encourage her not too. I basically told her I don’t like it when she it hurt, even if she is the one hurting herself and asked about how long she had gone since the last time without harming herself. She told me and added it had been four days this time. I encouraged her to go for the goal of one more day than the last time and then we set the goal of one more day each after.

I am important to her because I don’t want her to hurt herself. honestly, it hurts my heart to know that she would purposely  hurt herself. She wants to have a relationship that builds and holds her up. One that she can trust and rely on for support and help. Knowing her background, she has the love and support she needs, but a couple of things have blocked her understanding (besides the confusing messages our world, media and her friends give). One is her understanding about herself which got sidetracked at some point and another is her parents, though they love her, haven’t learned how best to make that understood in her life.

I am not casting blame here, I am citing reality.

One of the things that provided an open dialog between this young lady and myself is that I told here I have prayed for her. She had been struggling one day when I was visiting about 6 months ago and it took her back. She asked in surprise, “You pray prayfor me?” She was shocked. I told her that I do. I told her I prayed for every one of the students there and especially when I know she is struggling, I pray for her more. Apparently, that touched her. She responded, “No one ever prayed for except my mom.”

What she doesn’t realize is that there are others who pray for her besides her mother (and father) and me. There are coaches, who are saints (i.e. Christians) who pray for her as well. I’ll bet there is other family and maybe family friends praying for her.

What she is realizing and God seems to be using me to help bring this realization into her life, is that she is important, even extraordinary (thank you Aaron Chambers*). God loves her and cares for her. People love her and care about her. She is learning that when she feels safe, it is with people who are people of God. She understands that this God-thing is real and it is reaching deep into her life and bringing here hope and even joy, when she remains in her understanding of God’s love. She is realizing, “For God so loved the world,” that God loves her.

Due to confidentiality, I cannot tell you anymore, but I ask that you pray for her. God will know who you are praying for even if you do not know her name or where she is. He knows because he cares, because he loves her too.

bloggingthechurch

*Remember Who You Are, Unleashing the Power of an Identity Driven Life, by Aaron Chambers, Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007, citing chapter 9; http://www.standardpub.com/Products/24324/remember-who-you-are.aspx

My Testimony

I was privileged to be born to parents that are Christian, good and faithful Christians.  A man and woman who put Christ first and instilled in me the sense that God loved me, wanted me, and that I needed that.  The church that we were a part of was a Bible believing church.  The preacher, the elders, the deacons and the women who were Sunday school teachers taught the Bible and at whatever level of understanding I was capable of.

When I was 9 ½ years old, I began to wonder to myself what I needed to do to be saved.  I was sensing God’s call to me from what I had been taught and heard and saw from all those Christians and so I asked my Dad the night of December 31st, 1966, “What do I need to do to be saved?”  He was studying for his Sunday school lesson and he slid everything to the side of the table except his Bible and he turned it toward me and opened it to the passages that would answer my question.  Later, when I was in bed, I made a commitment to Christ and the next morning at church, I went forward confessed Christ and presented myself to be immersed for the forgiveness of my sins, to be saved.

My life has always involved the church.  I’ve assembled with believers nearly every Sunday of my life.  I have shared in classes and Bible studies of many kinds, heard and given loads of sermons, been involved in evangelistic efforts through the church and on a personal level as well as attended and helped with camps, conventions, and conferences.  I’m even a Bible college graduate and church minister/pastor.

My faith has been a simple faith.  I am not much of a deep thinker and never have been.  I accept truth at face value.  I believe there is a God and I believe in God.  I know Christ came to earth and was crucified on a cross to pay for my sins.  I am not just challenged by others to understand things at a deeper level, but I am challenged by them to be deeper in my faith and understanding.  It’s not about the answers and we don’t have the answers to some questions, it’s about the whole grasp of truth and reality.  I have a simple faith and my life has been deeply involved and entrenched in the church.

At a young age I knew I wanted to preach.  I liked the idea of being in the pulpit sharing God’s word and encouraging Christians with the challenges of life and faith.  That desire was God calling me to a life of service in which I could also fulfill the strongest spiritual gift God gave me, caring and compassion.  I have spent days in hospitals with people and their families, spoken for a couple of hundred funerals including several tragic deaths (accident and murder victims).  Being a preacher has opened more opportunities to show compassion than when I ran a Coca-Cola route, or managed McDonalds and a Bible college snack bar.

Even though my life has been deeply influenced by and involved with Christians my life hasn’t always been pure.  Let’s just say, selfishness has crept in more often than I’d like to admit.  Teen lust, a little dishonesty, and even some theft were a part of who I secretly was and there have been moments in my adult life when one or more these sins had control.  Maybe that’s why some of the Godly and great things that have happened in my life took so long to come about; my sin delaying God’s response and God’s work in my life.

Here’s why.  I have had a personal relationship with the church.  The church as people!  The church as institution!  The church as nearly the whole of what Christianity is!  My relationship with God and Christ has mostly been through church and because of church.  Though a relationship with church is essential, when it replaces my personal relationship with God and Christ then it becomes more than it should.

Many times, too many to count, I have started and restarted to develop my relationship with God and Christ, but the cares of the world, the cares of family, the cares of church, boredom, lack of knowing how or where to begin or continue, or for whatever reason, my starts at a deeper relationship have fizzled out.  Maybe the reasons are because I have a simple faith, without the depth of knowledge.  I trust and obey.  Is that enough?  I know and am faithful.  Am I growing?  I read and study.  Will I mature?

My journey has involved thousands of Sunday school lessons and Bible Studies to teach and learn; sermons and messages to convict and empower my thoughts and emotions; conferences, camps, and many other encounters to ignite and fan faith into flame.  My parents, my grandmother, my teachers and professors, preachers and speakers, Christian friends, my wife, my kids, and many more are involved in my journey of faith.

Yet the first factor that has driven me to develop a deeper faith has been the troubling events involved in a church that is losing members and having to exercise church discipline with one who is causing dissention in the church, undermining people’s confidence in what they might benefit from in the church.  Seeing these weaknesses in the church I serve is also opening my eyes to the weaknesses in my own faith and life.

I John, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 & 5 and other passages are key Biblical teaching for spiritual depth and growth, obedience and conviction, conversion and completeness in Christ Jesus!  They are stretching my faith.  They are putting me in a position to relate to God and Christ beyond saving faith and simple obedience.

Here is how it is being applied in my life.  Various aspects of my ministry are changing.  I have been involved in preaching ministry, youth ministry, youth conference ministry, camp ministry, hospital and nursing home and grief ministry, counseling ministry, and a handful of others ministry aspects over the past 30 years but there is one opportunity that God has opened to me, ministering to a teen residential facility.  It’s sort of like a volunteer chaplaincy; working with teens that have been diagnosed with attachment disorder, emotional trauma and affect regulation leading to attachment issues.

Being a bi-vocational minister provided me the chance to be involved with these teens.  I only worked as a residential coach there for eight months, but I’ve been able to volunteer for the past two and a half years, developing Sunday spiritual times as well as providing spiritual counseling.  In the process I have encountered teens from various church backgrounds, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptist.  There are teens that are Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and one that claimed his religion was paganism.  There are also atheists and agnostics too.

How has this challenged me?  Along with the problems the little fellowship of Christians I minister with which is pushing me to develop the depth of my relationship with God and Christ, ministering to these young people who are struggling with mental and emotional problems and spiritual issues and development has forced me to understand my faith more deeply, seeking answers for questions I have never considered personally.  How to help the ones that have doubts about God find the reasonable and rational answers that can lead to faith in God, and the ones who are Christian but have a contemporary cultural aspect to their beliefs which differs from the Bible’s teaching, helping teens that are gender-confused learn what God says about them and his plans for them has broadened my need to know my Heavenly Father and my Savior more relationally.

One of the actual goals I set for my life has been that people will see the presence of God in me.  As of late I am learning that people are seeing God’s presence through me, especially among these teens.  If I know God, if I know Christ, and my relationship with them continues to grow, these teens, my church, and all the people I minister too will see God even more in my life.

bloggingthechurch