Sunday, May 01, 2005

FAITH - Living or simple!

BEWARE TWO OF A KIND! [Matthew 7:14-27; Believers, Nonbelievers]

Driving down the street one night I saw a peculiar optical illusion: two identical cats were sitting on the sill in a lighted front window. At first, I thought they were statues; they were both coal black (the absence of light compromises color at night) and indistinguishable in size and shape … except they were facing each other.
Then the cat on the left turned to look at my truck as it drove past. That slight motion quickly told me the cat on the left was sitting on the outside sill while the other cat was sitting on the inside sill. Until there was movement by one or the other, I was incapable of distinguishing between the two; the glass separated the one from the other; preventing them from doing whatever cats desire to do together at night.
The crux of this tale is that in it we see the importance of a Christian’s public witness. Until there is movement by one or the other, believers are virtually indistinguishable from nonbelievers. The Bible clearly teaches that believers are known by their actions and not their words [James 1 & 2].
Some might say both must move in order to know one from the other. However, by default, we know both could be nonbelievers … for we are all sinners and have fallen far from the grace of God [Romans 3:23]. Only when one of God’s fallen accepts Jesus as Lord, does he become a new creation; then and only then, do we see his actions as those of a believer. The second party must be supposed a nonbeliever until some action on his part provides evidence of his faith in the God of our fathers.
At one of his crusades Billy Graham said, “I assume everyone is lost until they confirm to me otherwise.” (my paraphrase) We should never believe anyone is a believer solely on the basis or his or her personal assurance.
“Whatever [a believer does] in word or deed, [he should do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus” [Colossians 3:17]; thus, his words and deeds are recognizable as a believer’s words and deeds.

Jesus clarified the importance of words over deeds in Matthew 7:14-27 when He specifically said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” He added, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?”
Care must certainly be taken not to prejudge everything sitting in a window as a statue, but greater care must be taken before we judge everything sitting in a pew a believer. Like the glass in the window, Jesus Christ separates believers from nonbelievers … a believer’s actions will distinguish him from his counterpart.

One night when a diplomat and his valet were required to sleep in the same railcar, the valet noticed his boss having trouble sleeping. “Whazzzzup?” He asked (things have changed). “Oh, I have so many things on my mind; the responsibilities I have to bear.”

“Look, I want to get some sleep, so let me ask you: do you think God was governing the world okay before you were born and don’t you think He'll manage after you're dead and gone?” “Absolutely!” “Okay then, let’s get some sleep, cause He’s gonna do just fine while your alive … right?"

[Adapted from e-Sword Ministries - 2000+ Illustrations, "Faith"]

I SEE YOU! [Matthew 8:5-13]; other topics - omniscience, sight, trust]
A dad stood in the cellar looking up at his son standing at the edge of a trap door. He called up, “I’m right here son, go ahead jump down to me."

The boy hesitated, in uncertain fear. "I can't, dad; I can't see you." Up came the answer, "I know you can't, but I see you!”

We may not see our Father but He sees us!

SINKING IN A SEA OF SIN! [1 Timothy 2:5; Deliverance, Grace, Salvation]
The movie Titanic was a big hit in the last decade. One can almost see and hear the people struggle in the deadly waters of the frigid Atlantic.

Faith links man, who is sinking in a sea of sin, to God, who is our Anchor and our Hope. God uses this link to provide man a way of salvation (Grace); once the link is established, a relationship exists.

The drowning man doesn’t reject a rescue ship’s lifeline in order to grab a pallet which happens to float by ... why? Because the pallet offers only temporary deliverance, whereas the line connects the man to the ship offering deliverance from the jaws of certain death!

God offers the lifeline of faith (in His Son); promising to credit His Son’s righteous to us if we will but trust Him. Abraham did and was reckoned righteous in just this way.

Though faith seems a thin thread to many, in reality it’s an unbreakable cable held by the hands of Almighty God, whose infinite power slowly and surely draws all men to His heavenly shore. [a loose paraphrase of Spurgeon]

There must, of necessity, be a relationship between the drowning man and the rescue ship … the lifeline … or there is no hope of deliverance. Notice, however, it can’t just be a drowning man, a ship, and a lifeline; someone must be on board to pull the man from the water.

THE WINNER’S CIRCLE [1 Kings 3:15; Involvement, Love (of the Father), Parenting]
Gilbert was eight years old and a Cub Scouts for only a short time. Handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood, and four black plastic tires, he return home and gave it to “dad”.

Not an easy task, dad wasn’t real receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper and chuckled at the idea of making a pine wood car with his son. Gilbert’s “stuff” remained untouched for weeks.

Then mom stepped in and the project got underway. Mom had no carpentry skills so she simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. He did! Within days the block of wood was becoming a pinewood car; a little lopsided, but looking fine.

Gilbert was feeling quite proud of his “Blue Lightning”; a pride that came from doing something himself. Then came the big night. With his hand full of blue pinewood car hand and his heart filled with pride, he and mom headed to the big race.

Once there, mom saw her son’s was most likely the only car made entirely by a child. All the other cars had cool paint jobs and sleek body styles, perfect for speed. Some children giggled when they saw Gilbert’s wobbly, homely vehicle.

Adding insult to injury, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple of boys from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side.

The race was by elimination. You kept racing as long as you didn’t lose. As you might guess, in the end it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car. As the final race was about to start, mom’s proud but shy eight year-old asked if they could hold the race for him to pray. They smiled at the request but held up the race. Gilbert kneeled in front of all, clutching his funny looking block of wood, and prayed. He prayed for a minute and then stood, smile and said, ‘Okay, I’m ready.”

The crowd cheered. The sleek car roared down the ramp while Gilbert’s wobbled but with surprising speed, reaching the finish line a fraction of a second ahead of the other car. Gilbert leaped in the air and shouted, “Thank you.”

In the “Winner’s Circle,” the Scout Master said, “So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?” The small lad answered loudly, “Oh, no sir! That wouldn’t be fair! I just asked God to make it so I don’t cry when I lose.”

Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all”? [Luke 18:16-17] And wasn’t it Solomon who asked God for wisdom to rule His people when he could have asked for riches or power? [1 Kings 3:5-15] And wasn’t it James who said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures”? [James 4:3]

Perhaps we have something to learn from our children; maybe even how to be better fathers and role models ... at a minimum, better prayer warriors?

[James 2:17; Other topics - Good News, Gospel]
An old preacher was fond of saying, “There are two parts to the Good News; the first is believing and the second is behaving.” The one who hears but does not do is the one James describes as having dead faith.

WITHOUT EXCUSE! [Romans 1:19-25; Common sense; Experience]
During WWII an American bomber, night flying over North Africa, was chased by an unusually strong tailwind. They weren’t buffeted or threatened, they were simply blown along much faster than they realized.

Unfortunately, the crew calculated distance traveled using fuel consumption and time in the air, ignoring their experience and common sense. This resulted in irrevocably overshooting a course change, which caused them to miss their landing site.

Eventually, they exhausted their fuel and crashed; years later the wreckage was discovered in the Sahara Desert. The crew died because they refused to trust what they had all been trained to trust … their professional discipline founded on experience and common sense.

We too are blown along by a blast, the tailwind of scientific and secular reasoning. Man calculates his position in this world by the things of this world [1 John 2:15,16], ignoring history and his own God-given common sense. This decision can result in an irrevocable journey. However, unlike the crew of the bomber we are terribly buffeted and threatened!

The Bible says, all men must make a course change in their lives [John 3:3] it also says “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” [Romans 1:19] and continues:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
We must trust what God has given us, living by faith [Habakkuk 2:4] and not by sight!

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