25 May, 2012

Doubting Doubt

I picked up a book the other at Barnes and Noble and discovered something that made my stomach turn and my skin crawl. As I sit here in my office the thought of it still irks me. I do not remember the title of the book, which is probably a good thing, because you do not need to know. It was written by one of my favorite Christian authors - and that, of course, makes it worse. While browsing the pages I discovered a chapter on doubt. To my astonishment, this writer claims that it is OK for Christians to doubt God.

Let that sink in for a moment. Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard Christian leaders say something along these lines. In the case of this author, the premise was that doubt is not a form of unbelief, but rather a temptation to think more than one way. By definition, doubt is being double-minded. It is having more than one thought about a situation or circumstance. To this writer, doubting God is an occasion to grow in one's faith. How that works in this person's mind is beyond me. Doubt is the exact opposite of faith. And it is not something to be condoned.

The Scripture tells us the same thing about doubt as this author did. However, unlike what I read at Barnes and Noble, the Bible is adamant that we refrain from all traces of doubt 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
~James 1:5-8

How do we condone doubt as Christians? For those of you immediately wanting to play "devil's advocate" (why do people advocate for the devil?! Find a better expression!), no, this author did not mean that doubt is not something wrong. They were laying claim to the idea that doubting God can and at times is a good thing. Clearly, from the Bible itself, that is not true. 

We have all had times where we have been tempted to doubt. It is not something to feel guilty over or to condemn one's self about. However, it is also not something to be tolerated, either. There is no stability in a doubtful person. Faith remains; doubt wavers. Doubt is a tool of the devil to break our confidence in God and His Word. When tempted to doubt, doubt the doubt. What? When you feel doubt in God and His Word rising within you, doubt it. Know that God is not the Author of doubt or confusion, so anything that falls into those categories are not from Him. When feeling doubt about health, healing, provision, direction or any other promises of God, doubt those doubts.

It is insulting to God when we do not trust Him. How much more does He have to do for us? Many will say, "I do so trust God!" Feelings of doubt prove otherwise. While those moments can, and often will, be turned around by God, it is always better that we acknowledge what they are and begin to resist them from here on out. Perhaps the reason many of us are not seeing manifestations of God's promises in our lives is because we have fallen pray to the idea that doubt in a tool in the Hand of God. One pastor says otherwise, "Doubt is a cancer growth in the spirit. It must be removed using the scalpel of faith."

14 May, 2012

Just Get Me to Jesus

[B]y the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established ~Deuteronomy 19:15b

[B]y the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established ~Matthew 18:16b

This is the Biblical standard for handling a situation. Be it a legal matter, a Church debate, or organizing an argument, the Scripture tells us to base our defenses on more than one proof. That is how God, Himself, operates. He doesn't lay down a standard or system for His people that He does not apply toward Himself. In fact, this standard of witnesses is repeated six times in the Bible (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:5; Matthew 18:16; 2Corinthians 13:1; 1Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28). God followed His own standard - times two. I think five should be enough...

Jerry Savelle, pastor of Heritage of Faith Christian Center, in Crowley, Texas, says "God never intended prayer to be guesswork." Whether we realize it or not, many of us are guilty of that very thing. 1John 5:14-15 says, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." When an issue is already covered in Scripture, we should not go to God with an attitude of "let's pray about it and see what happens." However, that is exactly what we do at times. Phrases like, "Lord, if it is Your will..." or "Whatever comes, Your will be done" prove the point. While it is essential that we center our lives on the will of God, He has already showed us great depths of that will in His Word. For us to continue to pray as if we didn't know what He wanted to do is to show a great lack of faith in that Word. The Bible tells us that there is a time to pray "if the Lord wills," and it is in regards to situations such as where to live or what job to take (James 4:13-17). However, according to 1John, there are circumstances when prayer should be based on the known will of God. Ephesians 5:17 commands us to find out that known will of God. You're still wondering about the "five," aren't you?

Let's look at five instances where people were not concerned about whether or not Jesus would or would not answer. These individuals had great confidence that, if they could get to Jesus, He would remedy their situation. No guesswork, but complete knowing.

Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13)
Here we see a Roman official approach Jesus on behalf of a sick servant. And what do we see him say to Jesus? "Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed." That is all this man needed. He knew that all he needed to do was ask Jesus to command it, and the healing would come. 

Hemorrhaging Woman (Mark 5:25-34
This woman didn't even ask! This woman knew that all she needed to do was get close enough to touch Jesus, and she would receive her healing. This woman, under Levitical law, should have been executed for being in that crowd. Yet, she knew that getting to Jesus was the key. She didn't say, 'maybe I will be healed if I can get to Jesus." She said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

 Jairus (Luke 8:41-56)
 While this situation with the woman was taking place, Jairus is standing by trying not to lose his cool. He approached Jesus the moment He stepped off a boat in Capernum and implored that Jesus come and heal his daughter. He was waiting by the shore for Jesus to arrive, because he knew that if he could get Jesus, his daughter would be made well. He didn't implore Jesus by saying, "Lord, if it be Your will." Mark 5:23 tells us that Jairus said, "come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live." He knew that if Jesus got involved, his situation would be fixed. 

Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
 This man would stop at nothing to get Jesus' attention. He sat on the ground, hollering out over the noise of the crowd, in hopes that Jesus would look His way. He didn't care what he looked like, he just knew that if he could get Jesus to look his way, he would receive the petition of his heart. 

The Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12)
 These men were so determined to get their friend to Jesus, that they tore up the roof of Jesus' house to do it! That is determination. They ripped up the house, and lowered the man in. At this point, they didn't need to ask - it is obvious what they wanted. Jesus just watched it unfold, and then forgave the man of his sins and healed him. There was no guesswork involved with Jesus; they knew that they had to get to Jesus, and that He would heal their friend if they did.

How do I know that all these people knew Jesus would respond they way they wanted? Jesus tells me. In the case of the Centurion, Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel... Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” To the woman who broke the law to touch Him (without asking), He declared, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” Jesus had to make sure Jairus didn't waver in the faith he had approached Jesus with in Mark 5:23, so He said “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” Jesus told Bartimaeus that, "your faith has made you well.” And it was "When Jesus saw their faith," that He moved on behalf of the paralytic man. 

I used five instances concerning healing, because that is without a doubt the most difficult thing for us as Christians to believe for. We have seen too many people suffer without relief, and it has weakened our ability to believe that it is the Lord's will to heal, every time. Yet, according to the Biblical standard, we have more than sufficient proof that it is the Lord's will to heal, and that it is our faith that is the determining factor in whether we receive it or not. 1John 5:14 shows us that the same holds true with all of our prayers. We are not to pray with an attitude of "Let's see what God thinks about it," unless the situation is not directly addressed in the Bible (again, James 4:13-17). If we have Biblical evidence, we are to stand on and pray according to it. Jesus told us to believe that we have received the answers to our prayers when we pray them (Mark 11:24). He told us that if we center our lives around Him, we will have whatever we ask of the Father in His name (John 15:16). All we have to do is go to Jesus on the authority of His Word, and He will remedy our situations. All of them.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God ~Romans 10:17

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] ~John 16:33, AMPLIFIED 

04 May, 2012

God Doesn't Wrestle

"Jacob wrestled with God." We all know the story. Jacob stays up all night wrestling with the Lord; unrelenting in his pursuit of a Blessing. He fought, and was Blessed. However, this was one story. It happened one time. And it became a doctrine...

For some reason or another, many of us have come under the assumption that we do not hear from the Lord becomes He wants us to "fight for it." It always comes back to Jacob wrestling with God. The teaching is that god wants to make sure that we want t hear from Him bad enough before He will relent and speak to us. This is blasphemy. Just because Jacob did it does not mean we have to do it. In fact, Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we wouldn't have to wrestle to receive The Blessing of God. Galatians 3:14 tells us that Jesus died so that The Blessing of God might come upon the Gentiles (us). Jesus paid the price for that Blessing so that we could freely access it. And it was God's idea. If God wanted us to fight for The Blessing, why send Jesus to make it easier for us to obtain?

The Holy Spirit has been given the assignment of speaking to us what is on the Father's heart. Jesus explains that to us in the Gospel of John,

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future]. He will honor and glorify Me, because He will take of (receive, draw upon) what is Mine and will reveal (declare, disclose, transmit) it to you. Everything that the Father has is Mine. That is what I meant when I said that He [the Spirit] will take the things that are Mine and will reveal (declare, disclose, transmit) it to you. ~John 16:13-15, Amplified.

That is the Holy Spirit's job description: to reveal the heart of the Father to His children. We preach in our churches that the Father is constantly pursuing us. However, when we struggle to hear His voice, we turn around and preach the exact opposite - that He is withholding Himself to make sure we really, really want to hear from Him. These two teachings contradict. They cannot both be right, or else God would be a hypocrite. God does not want us to wrestle with Him the way Jacob did. He sent us His Son and His Spirit to see to it that we have free access to all that He has. Our problem is not that God is withholding for a time, it is that we cannot hear Him when He calls.

We live in a noisy society. So many voices are vying for our attention. We have developed a "hearing problem." The Holy Spirit is always speaking to us; He is always disclosing the Father. However, we rarely take the time necessary to be still in His Presence and listen for His voice. That was what He showed with Elijah, when the prophet was hiding in the dessert. Elijah was wailing about God not having his back and leaving him to run and hide, when the Lord showed him something we all need to understand

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. ~1Kings 19:11-12, NKJV

God wrestled with Jacob once; He speaks in that still, small voice all of the time. We are not required to fight with God to hear Him. We need to learn to fight against all the things in this world designed to distract us from Him and His leading. He is not withholding anything from us. He is waiting for us to be still long enough or Him to speak. The manifestations of His Word may not appear immediately, because His Word is a seed (Mark 4), and seeds take time to grow. But His Blessing is upon us now. His voice is readily available. We don't wrestle with God; we wrestle against the world to be with God.