Believe Enough

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

I vacillate on Peter’s faith in the account of the great catch of fish. Sometimes, I think Peter is demonstrating great faith in Jesus. Other times, I think it is just barely any faith. After all, he does what Jesus says, but not without first having to make sure Jesus knows he thinks it is pointless. But, he did what Jesus said. That is the key I always end up getting back to. Whether he had great faith or small faith, he had enough faith. He had enough faith to do what Jesus said. That is how much faith I need to have. I may struggle with my faith. I may not understand why Jesus has asked what He has. I may even complain about it and think it is pointless. In the end, I need to believe enough to do what Jesus says. Today, my goal is to believe enough.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 5.

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Fear! No Fear!

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Mary praises God saying, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Zechariah, on the other hand, says, “We, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74). Which is it? Does He have mercy on those who fear or can we serve Him without fear? Yes! I admit, it is possible Zechariah is referring to a fear of the enemies. That is, he might be saying that because we are delivered from our enemies, we can serve God without fearing them. That is a lot like the prayer we hear so often in worship assemblies today saying, “Thank you for letting us gather here without fear of persecution.” My struggle with that is when Christianity started, that is exactly what all Christians faced. Perhaps we can read this as we have no reason to fear our ultimate enemy, Satan. There is definitely truth to that. I can worship God without fear that Satan is going to win. However, I think this struggle we have between scriptural commands to fear God and scriptural promises that we don’t need to fear God comes down to a very simple principle. It was one I was taught back in my college days when I was trained as a trim carpenter. A table saw is a powerful thing. One wrong move, and a finger is gone or an artery cut, and you’re bleeding out on the wood (my boss was always more concerned about blood getting on the wood than leaving my body). However, when you recognize the power and fear it–not a paralyzing terror, but a healthy fear–then you take the proper precautions. When you take the proper precautions, you don’t have to fear the saw. Another illustration comes to mind. When driving, if I fear getting a speeding ticket, I drive the speed limit. When I drive the speed limit, I don’t have to fear a speeding ticket. As odd as it sounds, my fear removes the need for my fear. God has mercy on those who fear Him. Because of that, we have no need to fear Him. Today, because you fear God, go forth without fear.

Next week’s reading is Luke 2.

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Believe the Word

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Why was Zechariah rebuked and disciplined for not believing, while Mary who also questioned the angel was ultimately praised for believing? Good question. Notice there is a subtle difference between the questions asked. Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Zechariah asks, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Do you see the difference? Obviously, I cannot see into the mind of Mary. Was there doubt in her question about whether God could perform this? I don’t know. However, her question actually only asks the mechanics. It is not necessarily a question of doubt, but rather one about a lack of understanding. Zechariah’s questions, on the other hand, is essentially, “How do I know you are actually going to fulfill this promise?” Interestingly, there is one other place in Scripture where this kind of question gets asked. In Genesis 15:8, Abraham asks for this very kind of proof when God gives him a promise. Zechariah may have thought he was on good ground asking this question since he was mirroring Father Abraham. The angel demonstrates that this was not a time for mirroring Abraham, but for learning from Abraham. God gave Abraham a son even in his old age. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Abraham was the first and perhaps his doubts and questions can be understood. But Zechariah should learn from Abraham that God need not be doubted. God will keep His Word. And that is the lesson for us. We may sometimes wonder how God will accomplish His promises. We may even ask. However, let us know God always will fulfill His promises. God always keeps His Word. May we never doubt that.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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Disbelieve and Disobey

Today’s reading is Hebrews 3.

We often get into arguments about salvation, wanting to know which matters more: belief or obedience. Today’s reading gives some insight. But it answers a different question. Which matters more: disbelief or disobedience? The answer is…both. God told those who were disobedient that they wouldn’t enter His rest. But they were disobedient because they disbelieved. In other words, you can’t really separate the two. Disobedience stems from and follows on the heals of disbelief. If you have one, you automatically have the other. I can tell someone doesn’t believe because they refuse to obey. This answers our other question. People obey when they believe. They disobey when they don’t. If they don’t believe, they won’t obey. If they believe, they won’t disobey. The point is, biblically, you really can’t separate faith and obedience. They go together. They are heads and tails of the same coin. And so, the author of Hebrews tells us we need to believe and obey Jesus better than the Israelites did Moses, because Jesus is better. Believe Him, obey Him, and enter His rest.

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 4.

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Unbelief

Today’s reading is Mark 6.

(Many apologies. Apparently, over the weekend, I accidentally skipped a chapter and got a day ahead. Getting back on track today. Here is a second look at Mark 6)

Unbelief is not more powerful than Jesus. That is, Jesus didn’t lay His hands on many people, attempting to heal them, but find Himself thwarted by their powerful unbelief. Rather, He was only able to lay His hands on a few people. That is, only a few people came to Him to be healed. Unbelief doesn’t defeat the power of Jesus. It simply doesn’t seek the power of Jesus. By contrast, faith saves, not because faith itself has saving power. Rather, it saves because it seeks out the One, the only One, who has the saving power. So, don’t be surprised if you ignore everything or even just some of what Jesus says and it doesn’t work for you. Believe, seek Him, listen to Him. That is what works.

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 7 (For real this time).

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The Real Strength

Today’s reading is Romans 4.

Can I correct what I believe is a common misunderstanding. To some, this may just seem like being worried about words, but I think the way we say things sometimes misleads us and has negative consequences. I have said and heard many others say, “If God commanded it, you can do it. God won’t command anything you can’t do.” I’d like to modify that. “If God commanded it, He will strengthen you to do it. God won’t command anything and leave you helpless to accomplish it.” Consider Abraham. God promised a descendant. But Abraham knew his body and Sarah’s womb were dead. Yet, he was fully convinced God was able to do what He promised. Abraham’s faith was not in his own ability to obey God’s precepts, but in God’s ability to keep His promises. Therefore, he kept stepping out in faith. He knew that with God, he could mount up on wings like eagles, he could run and not be weary, walk and not faint. So, he jumped off the cliff, he started running, he put one foot in front of the other, not because he believed he could do those things, but because He believed God would do those things through Him. Then when he was done, he gave the glory to God because he knew God was the strength. Don’t obey God today thinking, “I can obviously do this because God tells me to.” Instead, obey God today, take those footsteps of faith, thinking, “God will do this through me because He tells me to.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 5.

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Obedient to the Faith?

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

“A great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” The priests were teachers of the Law, but they became obedient to the Faith (Perhaps we should capitalize this as we do the Law). They were not becoming obedient to their subjective faith but becoming obedient to an objective system known as The Faith. For many years I have used the verbiage I learned in my late teens, referring to the Old Covenant as the Old Law and to the New Covenant as the New Law. The Bible however never uses these terms. The Bible terms are the Law and the Faith. No doubt, the Law contained faith and the Faith contains law (after all, if it didn’t contain law, there would be nothing to obey). I wonder, however, what impact our non-scriptural terminology (which I’m sure was made up with the best of intentions) has on how we view the two covenants? Clearly, God sees a fundamental difference in these two systems. After all, if the New Covenant was merely a better system of laws, He would have called it the New Law. But what good would that be to us? Law, represented by The Law, cannot justify. That is why we need something different. That is why we need The Faith. We will not be justified by The Faith while disregarding and rebelling against the law it contains; we must be obedient to it. But neither are we justified by The Faith because of how well we keep its laws. Praise God, The Faith is not just another legal system we must  measure up to in order to justify ourselves. It is not a modified version of The Law. It is something different. It is something that does justify. Let’s obey it. Let’s proclaim it.

Monday’s reading is Acts 7.

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