Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Heart Faithful to God

It’s Valentine’s Day and red hearts abound! So it is appropriate that, just a few days ago, God placed me in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 9. There we find a corporate praise to God, which includes a reference, in verse 8, to the patriarch Abram: “You found his heart faithful to you.” God found Abram’s heart faithful.

The meaning of this verse can be found in Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” In the footnotes to this verse in The MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur writes that this is an “illustration of faith over and against works.” And in Romans 4 we read how Abraham is justified by faith—belief in God—by God’s grace. Works has nothing to do with it. In fact, the term “credited” or “counted” is “used in both financial and legal settings,” according to MacArthur. He goes on to explain that the Greek word occurs nine times in Romans 4, and means “to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction—Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply credited it to him. God took his own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his. This God did because Abraham believed in him.”

Romans 4:18-22 says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

This is an amazingly clear delineation of faith. Abraham, in his very heart, believed God. It wasn’t superficial, and God knew that, as only God knows the heart (1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 139:23; 1 Corinthians 2:11; Acts 15:8; ). In fact, Abraham’s faith was strengthened by the promises of God (promises yet unfulfilled) and so he gave glory to God, fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He promises. That is faith: unwavering, strong, persuaded and trusting.

The minute we waver, weakening our faith by giving precedence to circumstances, experts or personal skills, we lessen our hope. MacArthur defines weak faith as occurring “when doubt erodes one’s confidence in God’s word.”

It follows then that if we struggle with weak faith, we need to build our confidence in God’s word. And the only way that can happen is if we’re consistently in God’s word and are watchful to see it play out in our lives and the world.

Certainly we can and must seek medical expertise (the writer of Luke himself was a physician). Of course we encourage Godly counsel. And we use the talents God gives us to actively serve Him. But experts, Godly counsel and our own capabilities do not replace our time and trust in God’s Word and our walking in faith with God.

Doctors make mistakes, no matter how much we trust them. Counsel from other Christians can be off the mark in some instances. And our capabilities can fail due to depression, physical infirmity and sin. Our faith must first and foremost be in God, against whom we test everything and everyone, including ourselves. MacArthur writes, “Believing God affirms his existence and character and thus gives him glory.” And what a glorious thing it is to experience God's existence through faith!

The minute we think our circumstances, darkness, trial, despair, disappointments, failures--and even our success and plans for the future--are too big or too small for God, or not needful of God, is the minute we stop affirming his existence and character. It’s the day our faith stops beating.

On this day of abounding hearts, do we find ours abiding in God? Does God find our hearts, like Abraham’s, faithful to Him?

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sudan and South Sudan

An important update from Samaritan's Purse on the crisis in Sudan/South Sudan:


"'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" Luke 10:36-37

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Warmth of Other Suns

Just finished reading “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, and can only say two words: “Read it.” The book is a culmination of 15 years of research and writing by Wilkerson, and tells the history of the migration of black citizens from the South to northern and western United States. Within the telling of that larger story, Wilkerson chronicles the lives of three individuals who made the journey. One of them is Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a woman of faith about whom Wilkerson writes, on page 532 of the book:

“Ida Mae Gladney had the humblest trappings but was the richest of them all. She had lived the hardest life, been given the least education, seen the worst the South could hurl at her people, and did not let it break her. She lived longer in the North than in the South but never forsook her origins, never changed the person she was deep inside, never changed her accent, speaking as thick a Mississippi drawl in her nineties as the day she caught the train out of Okolona sixty-odd years before. She was surrounded by the clipped speech of the North, the crime on the streets, the flight of the white people from her neighborhood, but it was as if she were immune to it all. She took the best of what she saw in the North and the South and interwove them in the way she saw fit. She followed every jump shot of the Chicago Bulls and knew how to make sweet potato pie like the best of them in the Delta. She lived in the moment, surrendered to whatever the day presented, and remained her true, original self. Her success was spiritual, perhaps the hardest of all to achieve. And because of that, she was the happiest and lived the longest of them all.” Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6