Tested Faith

Tested Faith

The Building Block that will Produce a Hope-Filled Generation

How do you respond when something in your life happens that either causes you to suffer or tests your faith? Bad things happen all the time and believers were warned by Jesus that there would be persecution. It is in these moments that we have to stand on what we believe, rather than how we feel. The letter that James wrote to the Jewish believers says that we should consider it pure joy when we experience trials of many kinds. He stated that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Likewise, the letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Though these two authors were writing to very different audiences, they both agree on the fact that suffering produces perseverance. What does it look like when your faith is being tested?  How do you react to those situations?  While it may not be an enjoyable time facing the trials of life, we can take the advice of both James and Paul to embrace the process of trial and know that God will produce something good on the other end of the trial if we just persevere.

The World Needs Hope

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said that it was by perseverance that the two snails made it onto the ark. Perseverance is having your mind set on something. It is defined as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It is having a never-quit attitude and always looking to The Lord for guidance until you see the desired result. If you give up at the first sign of difficulty, or when your prayers are not answered the way that you think they should have been, you are exercising zero faith. Hang in there and wait on God to provide for you. He is a good Father who knows exactly what you need. The good news is that you don’t need to have great faith in order to see a miracle in your life, you only need faith the size of a mustard seed. So continue to press in by believing God for great things in your life. Never give up. Never lose hope.

Our Christian walk is not a sprint, but more like a marathon and we should mature as we grow through it. God is always speaking and using real life lessons to mold us into more mature believers. We need to be able to look at and evaluate the things that we are walking through, because the Teacher is always instructing. While the testing of our faith produces perseverance, the result of developing the will-not-quit attitude develops character. The type of person that we are when no one else is around to see us is a good way to describe our character. When we have good character we can be trusted by others and trusted by God. Trials in our lives just give us more opportunities to persevere.

A solid character plus an attitude of perseverance allows us to have hope. Hope is similar to faith, which is believing for things even before we see them. Hope adds an element that the thing that we are believing for is good. Hope is something that Christians have, and that the entire world needs. The fields are ripe for harvest as the world is without the very hope that believers have found in Jesus Christ. When the world is met with trials and their faith is tested, they are often quick to give up on God. This is because they do not have hope and the character to persevere.  When a believer has their faith tested, they should make a mental decision to believe that God will prevail in their situation. This is hope.

In conclusion, the almost too-good-to-be-true news is that our Father in Heaven longs for us to develop into mature believers who walk with character and hold on to hope. We are to become more like Jesus every day as we grow and mature. While God is not the one who tests our faith (He does not test us and cannot be tested, James 1:13), He does use all things for the good of those who He has called to His purposes (Romans 8:28). So no matter what life throws at us, and regardless of where we are spiritually today, there is always opportunity to persevere and grow. It is a tool that builds character and establishes hope within us. The perspective of mature believers in Christ will see tested faith as an opportunity to respond in a manner that will help them grow. Go forth and persevere as we embrace the testing of our faith. It will only make us stronger.

Are You a Christian or Disciple?

Are You a Christian or Disciple?

What type of fruit are you producing?

The term Christian means “little Christ”. Part of being identified as a Christian should involve an association with being like Jesus. Jesus was a reflection of the Father, and we are to be a reflection of Jesus. So, what does it look like to “be like Jesus”?

Salvation and Multiplication

Romans 10:9 states that If you declare with you mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is easy to become a Christian because there is really no effort needed on our part. Salvation comes with verbalization of Christ’s Lordship, and belief that He lives today. It cannot be earned, but is freely given to all who accept this eternal truth. However, if we are truly obeying the command of Jesus, we would be making disciples, not just converts to Christianity. Some of the last words of Jesus before he went back to the Father in Heaven are found in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that I have commanded you”.

To make disciples, we must first be a disciple. A disciple is a follower or student of Jesus. We have been commissioned by Him to go and make other disciples, who (if obedient to the teachings of Jesus) in turn should be making more disciples. This principle of multiplication to cover the Earth was not a new concept at the time Christ spoke this command. Adam and Eve were told to multiply and fill the Earth in Genesis 1, and Noah’s family were told to multiply and fill the Earth in Genesis 9. The Great Commission was Jesus restoring a Heavenly mandate from the beginning to increase and cover the land with those who represent His kingdom. There are far too many people who make the decision to become a Christian without responding to the mandate that we Christians were given to reproduce. When Jesus talked about how to see a true or false prophet, He said that we would know them by their fruit. He also spoke about recognizing true or false disciples: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name, drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23). The words of Jesus in this scripture should motivate us in our walk with Him to know Him and do the will of the Father. A disciple knows their teacher and studies to learn all that they can from them. Jesus came to Earth to model for mankind what the Father looks like. Jesus said that when you look at Him you see the Father because they are one and the same. As disciples of Christ we should not only be a reflection of who Jesus is, but we should be teaching others how to be a reflection of Jesus as well. We will produce fruit after our own kind, just as would any seed-bearing plant. A disciple’s desire is to know and follow in their teacher’s footsteps. Don’t just know of Him, but really learn to know His ways. As we interact with others, we want to represent who Jesus is to them through our actions. Teach others what you have learned and model for them what it looks like to be a disciple. My prayer is for all who come to the knowledge of Christ to reproduce after the one who they are reflecting. This is the will of the Father, that the world may know His great love for them. Go and make disciples who will be fruitful and multiply.

How do We show our Love for God?

How do We show our Love for God?

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). John the beloved was a man who loved Jesus, and he was desperate for Christians to walk in love.  He is known in scripture as the disciple whom Jesus loved.  The books in the Bible that were penned by his name have the common thread of love through them, and he did not mix words in his letters.  You are either for Christ or you are against Christ.  In 1 John 1:5 he says: “God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” How then do we walk in light, as God is light, and have fellowship with Him?  Jesus told his disciples that if they truly loved Him, then they would obey His commands.  John captured the story in John 14:15-31 where Jesus comforted His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion.  Jesus promised them that if they obeyed what He had taught them, then He would ask the Father to send them the Spirit of Truth.  He went on to describe how He is one with the Father, and the Father is one with Him.  Just as they are one with each other, they are one with Holy Spirit as well. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me’” (John 14:23-24). There are two sides to this proverbial coin.  As Christians who obey the teachings of Jesus, we are showing our love for Him.  In living this way, we open ourselves up for God to come and make His home in us as His temple!  Jesus went on to tell the disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that Jesus taught.   We can always rely on Holy Spirit to point us toward Jesus.  The other reality is that those who do not obey the teachings of Jesus are those who do not love Him.  This may seem like a harsh statement, but it is Biblically accurate.  In reality, they often love themselves more than they love Him.  Those who fall into this category are showing by their actions that they have aligned themselves with the world instead of with God.  They continue to walk in darkness, even if they claim to have fellowship with Him.

Reliance on Holy Spirit

Being obedient to the teachings of Jesus is not a hard thing to do when we are reliant on Holy Spirit’s power to guide us.  In fact, when we love someone, we are motivated to do what pleases them because of our love for them.  Those who are married would not do something to disappoint their spouse based on a set of rules that they live by or have been given.  Rather, they choose to do things that would be pleasing to their spouse because of the relationship that they have together.  They would not want to do anything that would harm their relationship and put distance between themselves and their spouse.  In the same way, it pleases the Father when we live in a manner where we allow Holy Spirit to guide us through life, and remind us of the things that Jesus taught.

Just as Jesus is one with the Father, we are to be one with Holy Spirit.  There is nothing that we cannot overcome if we are obedient to the commands of God, and this is because Holy Spirit empowers us to be obedient out of love for God. Where we might sometimes not choose correctly in our own strength, the Holy Spirit gives us power to make decisions that are in obedience to what Christ has taught us in the face of temptation to choose otherwise.  We see Jesus telling the disciples that the spirit of man is willing, but the flesh is weak when they could not stay awake to pray with him in Gethsemane, in Matthew 26:41.  We can see from this story that even when we want to do the right thing, our flesh will sometimes let us down.  Fortunately for us, Holy Spirit has come from Heaven to help empower us to overcome worldly desires of the flesh.  Not only does He remind us of what Jesus taught, but He strengthens us to make good life decisions in accordance with those teachings.  We have been set up for success with the tools needed to be obedient. “This is love for God: to obey His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:3-4). Be encouraged today to walk in the light and follow the commands of our Lord.  Don’t just know what the Bible says; do what it says.  In this you are showing your love for God and you are aligning yourself with Him.  Like the apostle John, be known for your love of Christ and His love for you.  Allow love to motivate your obedience.

Living Holy Lives

Living Holy Lives

When you begin to talk about living holy lives, many people have a common misconception that we could never achieve such a thing as to become holy.  Fortunately, we do not have to do it in our own strength, and through Jesus it is possible to achieve holiness.  Inevitably, we all will fall short in accomplishing the goal of living holy if we try to achieve this goal on our own.  We can agree without debate that God the Father, the Creator of the universe, is a Holy being.  In fact, it is His Spirit that was sent to be a helper to the Christian believers.  Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to remind us all of what Jesus taught while walking on this Earth (John 14:26).  However, when it comes to us being holy, we are not even in the same league as the Creator.  So, how do we live holy lives as we are told to in 1 Peter 1:15-16?  “But as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Peter was referencing Levitical scripture from the Torah that speaks to the Israelites about being clean and obeying God’s commandments.  Simply put, we are God’s children and He calls us to obey Him.  God does not expect us to live perfect lives, but He does expect us to listen to Him and obey what He tells us to do. How many parents out there see their child as perfect even though their child may be disobedient?  Parents see their children in a different light than others may see them because of the love that they have for their children.  Others may view the same child as difficult to put up with.  A disobedient child tests a parent and may irritate others. Proverbs 17.21 tells us “To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.” We do not want to be the foolish child that this proverb speaks of.  God has an expectation for us to be obedient to his commands.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey what He has taught us (John 14:15).  We do not want to bring grief to our Father in Heaven because of our disobedience.  We are to honor our Father and keep his commandments.

Obedience Over Sacrifice

We are called to live holy lives because God is holy.  We can see a picture of how God chooses obedience over sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13.  Saul had been anointed by Samuel, and was made the first king over Israel.  Samuel told Saul that he would visit in seven days and sent Saul on his way.  During Saul’s reign as king, Israel was in constant conflict with the Philistines. During this time, Saul’s son Jonathan had attacked an outpost of Philistines and instigated a conflict to arise between the two nations.  Saul understood that Israel was outnumbered and his soldiers were beginning to desert him.  The troops that stayed with Saul were very afraid of the Philistines.  Saul waited on Samuel to come, but he didn’t arrive within the seven days, as previously stated.  So, to prevent more of his troops from scattering, Saul offered a burnt offering to the Lord, instead of waiting on Samuel.

When Samuel arrived, he exclaimed “You have done a foolish thing.  You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure…” (v 13:13-14). We see a character flaw in Saul in this story.  Saul was more concerned with how the people of Israel looked at him as king than with what was right in God’s eyes.  God is more interested in those who obey His commands than those who go through religious activities.  Everything in the world already belongs to Him, so the only thing that we have to offer is our obedience and submission.  Saul’s kingdom could have been established over Israel forever if he had not taken matters into his own hands.  Sometimes we try to make things happen instead of waiting on God.  Just like Saul not waiting on Samuel to arrive to make an offering to the Lord, we too can try to live holy by our own strength.  When we do this, we will end up failing in some fashion every time.  We must rely on Holy Spirit inside of us to live holy lives.  It is only through God’s grace that we can live in obedience and submission to Christ.

Chosen To Live Holy

God has given us all grace for certain things.  It is by God’s grace that we are believers today and not living the life of sin that we used to live.  So, because God’s grace has restored us into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, we are now positioned to live holy because Christ is alive in us.  This doesn’t mean that we live perfect lives, not at all.  We still fall short on many occasions, but there is now something inside of us that wants to be holy as God is holy.  Holy Spirit lives in the believer who has accepted that Christ has paid a debt for us. In fact, we can see in scripture that we were chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4-5).  We were predestined to be positioned in Christ Jesus, before the creation of the world!  In turn, we are positioned to live holy lives, because God the Father sees His Son Jesus as Holy and blameless.  We are in Him just as He is in us.  It is Him living through us that make us capable of living holy lives.  Just as a parent sees their child through a different lens than others, God the Father sees you and me through a different lens because we are his children. All we can do to live holy lives is to know our position in Christ; He is in us and we are in Him.  We must understand that we cannot live holy lives in our own strength, but we can live holy lives as Christ lives through us.  He is our righteousness, because without Him we are nothing.  Apart from Him, we cannot accomplish anything but sin.  However, through Him we can overcome the world because He lives in us and He is greater than the spirit of this world.

They Make a Tool for that

They Make a Tool for that

Having the right tool for the job is essential in any trade.  From buttering your toast with a spoon to mowing the lawn with a pair of scissors, I could give you endless examples of how using the incorrect tool, would only make a job more difficult.  However, having the right tool can make all of the difference… when you put that tool to good use.

Tool Time

The purpose of this post is to engage the reader and encourage you to do something for The Lord.  This blog is a new tool that Spirit Empowered Ministries wishes to use to promote the mission of our congregation.  That is, to equip believers to cultivate relationships with those who do not know Christ.

You know those scissors that I had mentioned before?  It would seem kind of silly to use them to mow your lawn, especially if you also owned a riding lawn mower.  Well, that is what it is like in the Kingdom of God when we refuse to allow Holy Spirit to lead our actions.  Doing things the best we know how, using our own understanding to make decisions, is like using those scissors to cut the grass in your lawn.  Yes, you can cut the grass with them, but there is a much better way.  They make a tool for that!

Why would anyone not use the great gift of Holy Spirit when He is available for free application?  Jesus has imparted this gift to His followers and many of us are still using scissors to cut the lawn. The good news is that we can begin to utilize God’s tools and gifts at any time.  Just like this post, Tree of Life is beginning to use a tool that we have not utilized before.  Ask Jesus today about revealing Holy Spirit in a greater capacity to you.  Then, use the tools that God has given you to advance His Kingdom in everything that you do.