Faith Is Putting Words Into Action

Leave a comment

What Is Faith – Part 6

This will be the last article on this miniseries about “Faith”. We have learned about a lot of important truths in this miniseries that I have based off of a series of sermons preached by Leon Fontaine. He reminds us that faith comes from hearing God’s word, every Christian possesses faith, which is a matter of the heart, and that God really wants the very best for you and me, His children. (You can click here to go to the site where you can download past sermons as podcasts.)

In this article, I want to expand what I wrote about in Part 2 entitled, “The Facts About Faith.” There is great truth in the idea that words carry power. It is well known in Modern Psychology and in Counseling that words can be used to build up people or to cut people down. There is a positive effect upon people when they are complimented and encouraged, and there is a negative effect on people when they are criticized or ridiculed.

But there is a lot more that goes on in our use of words than just making people or ourselves feel good or bad. We should not analyze the power of words and simply on the psychological or emotional level. We need to realize that there is a spiritual level, or a spiritual reality, that can be tapped into when we speak. Again, let me state emphatically that I am not referring to the magical or ritualistic use of words.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Listening to Leon’s sermon, he says that words literally function in three realms. The first is the physical realm and can be seen in something as simple as a person saying something embarrassing and then turning beet red. At a deeper level, when a person continually speaks negatively, that person is dumping chemicals throughout their body which will affect their mood and can lead to depression.

Words function secondly on the mental realm which is also at the emotional level. Loving words can build a person up and they both think and feel good about themselves. But as we know, too often, words are used spitefully and in a hurtful way which can destroy a person’s self-worth and identity. Even though the words that are spoken are often not true, when they are accepted as true by the person, then they become true.

And that leads us to the third level, namely that words function within the spiritual realm. It is at this level that a person sees himself or herself as God created them to be. It is at this level that we see God, life, and reality from God’s perspective as presented to us in Scripture and not as others around us might suggest, or what we may have been taught to believe within ourselves.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What I am suggesting is that the words that we speak are a reflection of what we think and truly believe. And, as is well known within both secular counseling as well as in Christian counseling, you will ultimately experience what you believe. Therefore, if you are a negative minded person and speak negative words, then you will undoubtedly experience negative things within your life.

The opposite of this is just as true. If you are a positive minded person and speak positive words, then you will experience positive things within your life. In James 3:3-5 it says:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

A truth that can be surfaced from these verses is that we can determine the direction and the future of our lives simply by the words that we speak. For some, that could be a scary thought. I would like to suggest instead that this is an opportunity presented before each of us. With God’s help, and a positive attitude and beliefs on our part, we can in many ways control the outcome of our lives.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Here is an interesting fact to consider: we can talk out loud at a top rate of about 150 words per minute, but our minds which are constantly thinking are “talking to us” at a rate of about 1300 words per minute. It is in this latter group that we get what they call “self talk”. So the question is, what is it that we are telling ourselves about God, life, and ourselves.

Let’s get real practical now then as we conclude this series on faith. The things that we put in our heart feed our minds, and our minds are constantly speaking to us. So have we accepted negativity and disbelief into our hearts? Then that is what we will feed our minds and what we will speak into our lives. We must not allow ourselves to do this.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The solution then is to fill our hearts, even saturate them, with the truths about God such as His love and mercy and grace, all of which is found within the pages of Scripture. And that is where we started this series, namely that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Then as we discover the wonderful promises in Scripture meant for us, we must speak those promises into our hearts and into our minds and so by faith see them become realities in our lives.

In the 30+ years that I have been a missionary and minister of the gospel I have found the spiritual truths that I have presented above to be very real. My prayer is that you too would be able to walk this walk of faith and see God work in your life the same ways that I’ve seen him work in mine.

Advertisements

Thanking God Through The Pain

1 Comment

Praising The Lord

Life can be difficult. Life can be painful. How should we respond? How do you respond when life just wears you down? There are lots of ways that we can respond, but let me suggest that the best way is to praise and thank the Lord. And for those of us who are musically inclined, carrying around a song in our mind, in our hearts and even on our lips can be a very good thing. Here is a chorus that came to my mind:

I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
Learn to seek your face, and the glory of your grace,
I want to praise you.

.

For the second and third verse of this chorus, you substitute the word “love” and then “serve” so that we sing “I want to praise you Lord… I want to love you Lord… I want to serve you Lord”. This is a very simple chorus, but it certainly can affect your attitude and your outlook on life. Now let me give you the background of what happened in these past few days so that you can see why this song would be such a powerful song for me.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Two Sundays ago, I had what I call a “fatigue episode”. Many of you may already know that I deal with a muscle disease on a daily basis. If not, you could go back and read my article from last July entitled “God and My Muscle Disease,” but make sure that you read the next article entitled, “Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary.” From these articles, you will be able to appreciate the challenges that I face, but also how God has become more real and more special to me.

Anyways, let me tell you about Sunday. In the previous week, the muscles in my legs had become more and more tightly knotted up. This would make it difficult to sleep and so it was getting harder to recharge my internal battery. I was able to take a long afternoon rest on Sunday, but when I woke up, I found that I had great difficulty in getting my arms and legs to move. I had literally “fatigued out”.

So there I was lying in bed and mentally saying, “Okay body, wake up!” First came my left hand, and it was kind of fascinating to watch it wave around. Then I would look at my right hand, and it just lay there. Next came my legs, then both hands, and finally my full arms. It took me over 45 minutes to fully get out of bed. I took it really easy that night and the next day, as it was clear that I had done too much in the previous week and needed to recharge my battery.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Two days after this, I was able to get my regular massage therapy done on my legs and this has helped tremendously to allow me to rest and sleep better so that my internal battery would not be so run down on the following day. But I must say that the massage sessions are extremely painful as the therapist has to slowly work deep down and muscle by muscle to work out those tight knotted areas.

What I think is really worth sharing though, is the discussion that I had with a colleague of mine on the day after my “fatigue episode” and also with the massage therapist. Both of them wanted to know what I had thought and what I had felt during that time period. I will admit that part of me got worried, but I also had a very interesting conversation with God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When I realized that most of my body would not move after I woke up, part of me wondered about the idea of how I would respond if in fact I was paralyzed. And the answer that came immediately to my mind was this: “Well, at least I’m alive.” Then my hand moved, and I thought, “Thank you Lord. At least I have one hand now that works.” And it continued like this until I was finally able to get out of bed.

And so I shared this experience and my thoughts with my colleague and with my therapist. Even now, with all the restrictions and the barriers that this muscle disease has imposed upon my life, I am finding more and more each day that I am thanking and praising the Lord for what I can do, and not focusing in on what I cannot do.

There I was then, three days after having this fatigue episode, and as I was thinking about the Lord the chorus that I included above came to my mind. As Scripture says, our days are numbered and there is nothing that we can do to add to the number of our days. But we can choose what we do with our days. What I think is important is that we realize that we are just passing through this life. In fact, this life is the training ground for how we will spend our lives in eternity.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I think that it all comes back to the attitude, and it reminds me of the simple poem that says:

Two men stuck behind prison bars;
One saw mud, the other saw stars.

As for me, I choose to be like the second man. How about you?

Worshiping God Is Good For You

Leave a comment

Worship On The Way – Part 1

Do you remember when you were young and you were told, “Okay, it’s time for church.” Did you ever respond with, “I don’t want to go today.” Or perhaps you just thought these words. For those of you who are reading this and are parents, perhaps you hear these words from your children today. If we are honest though, I think that all of us have had many Sunday mornings we just don’t feel like going to church.

But is that bad? Is that wrong? Can’t we worship God by ourselves at home? Actually, we may be on the wrong track of thinking altogether. Let me back up and ask the question, “What is worship?” Answering that question could take pages and pages to answer. And it is true that we can and should worship God individually, but I want to talk in this article about the importance of our corporate worship of God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We are starting chapter 10 of our book study of “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted To Travel” by Mark Atterberry. Mark has been a preacher for many years, and so it would seem quite natural for him to advise people that it is important to come to church and worship corporately with other believers. After all, isn’t that the “normal practice” of Christians?

To think like that is to misunderstand the purpose of corporate worship. Going to church is not about attendance and ritual, but is about experiencing God. There is something powerful in the gathering together of believers to jointly lift up the name of God in praise, and there is something very humbling to bow together as a corporate body in prayer, recognizing Christ’s Lordship over all of our lives.

Now back to where we started, the idea that sometimes we do not “feel” like going to church to worship God, have you considered that it is in these exact moments when we feel the worst and life is difficult that we should make the extra effort to get out to our local church? Even with all its warts and wrinkles and problems, the church is the place where we can receive the help that we need. Atterberry gives us some good points in his book why we should continue to gather for corporate worship.

1.  Worship Nourishes Your Relationship with God

Think for a minute what it would be like if we never gathered with other Christians and worshiped God together. Do you think that we would be strong enough to be able to resist the temptations that are in the world around us? Would we get in the practice of setting aside some time every week to put our full attention and focus upon God?

My guess is that it would not take very long before God became less and less a part of our lives. Atteberry cautions us on this very point as he shares from his experiences over the years by saying this:

I’ve heard all the arguments from the I-can-be-a-Christian-without-going-to-church crowd, but I’ve never seen any evidence that their claims are true in my experience, every time a Christian drops out of church and abandons corporate worship, he starts sinking spiritually. Maybe not the first day or the first week, but eventually. I can’t recall a single exception.  (pg. 130)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The best analogy that I can think of that points to the truth of what Atteberry talks about is that of a small cooking fire, such as they use in the villages of Papua New Guinea. They take little twigs and sticks and work up a fire, but they only put the tips of each stick into the center of the fire. Slowly they push the burning sticks into the center to keep the flame on the tips of each stick at a constant height and temperature.

But as soon as they pull out one stick from the fire, the small flame at the tip of the stick almost immediately goes out. Now they can swing the stick to keep the red ember at the tip still hot, and if they just laid the stick to the side even the ember would burn out. But as soon as they put the stick back into the fire, a flame will again immediately burst forth at the tip of the stick.

The church can and should be our place to keep the flame of our spiritual lives alive. When we go back out into the world from our place of corporate worship it is up to us to keep our spiritual embers alive throughout the week. Then when we come back to worship together with our fellow believers we infuse some more spiritual vitality in our “fire” for the Lord.

2.  Worship Guarantees Your Protection

Consider Ezra 8:22 which says, “Our God protects all those who worship Him, but His fierce anger rages against those who abandon Him.” This was spoken by Ezra to the king of Persia just before Ezra and many other of the exiled Jews began their five-month journey through dangerous territories on their way back to Jerusalem. And we know from Scripture that they in fact did make it safely there.

In a similar way, when we worship God corporately there is a spiritual reality to the idea that we are drawn in under His over arching protective care. Some would suggest that we simply gain psychological and emotional strength from our gathering together with others. But it is my belief, that when we gather together in worship we do not just add to one another’s spiritual strength and vitality, but we multiply our spiritual strength through the bonds of our Christian unity.

I think I will tie off this article at this point and pick this up in two weeks with part 2 where Atteberry gives us two more good reasons to worship God.  This article has meant to be an encouragement to you in your Christian walk, and I hope that I have been able to do that.

God Wants The Best For Us

3 Comments

What Is Faith – Part 5

In our study of “Faith” so far, we have looked at some important foundational truths such as that faith comes from hearing, specifically hearing the Word of God, that faith is a matter of the heart not of the head, and that all Christians possess faith. The issue with many Christians I think, is whether they exercise their faith and what they believe they can do by faith.

Let me say this in another way. On the one hand, there are some Christians who after they have accepted Christ by faith, live their lives by the strength of their own hands and the power of their own intellect rather than calling upon God in faith to deal with the issues of this life. On the other hand, there are some Christians who “use” their faith to deal with everything in life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is my opinion that the former group of Christians have not really understood the words of Romans 1:17 which state, “The righteous will live by faith”. That is, we are to exercise our faith on a regular basis involving the daily activities of our lives. But the latter group of Christians I believe, will many times inappropriately apply the promise given by Jesus when he says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Surely there must be a middle ground between these two positions. And after listening to the next sermon about faith delivered by Leon Fontaine, I have found some very helpful points that I would like to pass on to all my readers. My hope is that we could all share the belief that is expressed in the title of this article, namely that “God wants the very best for us.” What amazes me and even distresses me is that there are still many people who believe God is a vindictive God or an uncaring God. But I will have to wait to address this in a future article.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So let’s begin with this premise that God is a loving God and in fact does want the very best for us. Does Scripture support this idea? Two verses that immediately come to mind are Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” and John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” We must be careful though, in how we interpret these two verses.

The promise given in Psalms is not to be taken as a blank check to allow us to wish for and get anything that our heart desires. We must put the stress on the first half of this verse and realize that our primary activity is to “take delight in the Lord”. When we do this, we will find that our heart aligns itself with the heart of God and the mind of God. And so we will find that the things that we will desire will be the same things that God desires. So the emphasis in this verse should not be on our physical or material well-being, but must be spiritually oriented in its application.

The caution on the other side though, is that we may over spiritualize the promises of Scripture. And so some people will interpret John 10:10 as only referring to our spiritual life, and think that this verse is just talking about the wonderful life that we will share with God in heaven throughout all eternity. The truth is that in this verse Jesus is most certainly talking about the quality of life that we will experience here on earth.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What I especially liked in Leon’s third sermon about faith that I listened to was the idea that “every Christian gets a measure of faith to start with from God.” We then have a choice to either exercise this faith, which will cause it to be strengthened and to grow, or not to use this faith and allow it to lay dormant and possibly even to wither away. It would be like the parable of the Talents, where those who used well the resources given to them by their master would receive more, and the one who buried his Talent lost even the one that he had.

Let us tie this in to another important topic in Scripture. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the gifts that God has given to every believer. And then in Ephesians 2:10 he writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It would seem to me that whatever God has called us to do, and gifted us to do, God will have also granted us sufficient faith to be able to fulfill all that he has asked us to do. The example that Leon gives is that of young David. God had planted faith within him, and David had nurtured it and grown it to believe that his God could do great things through him. And when he encountered the giant Goliath, that faith within David rose up to meet the challenge, and as we know he was victorious.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so, what about you? Do you believe that God would want you to experience a better quantitative and qualitative life right here and now?  What helps me to believe that this is possible is to picture God’s nature and his resources for us are like a flowing river, always fresh and never depleted. This goes against the picture that some have that God’s nature and resources are like a pie which is cut up into small slices and carefully distributed to some individuals until it is gone.

I challenge you then  to read the New Testament and see whether or not my picture of God is contained there. And if God is truly a loving and generous God as I suggest, then align your thoughts with Him, rise up in faith, exercise your “faith muscles” and see what great and mighty things that he will do in you, for you, and through you.

A Hunger For God

Leave a comment

Everyone knows that the human body needs food and water to survive.  And the body has its own natural ways to signal us that it is in need of sustenance.  You know what I am referring to: the stomach growls, the throat is parched, and we feel weak and light-headed. And just like the physical body needs physical nourishment, so also our spirits need spiritual nourishment.

Actually, it is not quite as straightforward or simple as that. We do not stay healthy by simply eating any foods, but rather, we must have balanced or healthy meals for our bodies to be healthy. In the same way, we must be concerned about what we feed our souls, making good choices regarding what we say “yes” and what we say “no” to in our lives.

Consider what is written in this devotion which comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Relentless Pursuit

It is no accident that one of the great spiritual disciplines of the Church is to fast. When we fast, we become acutely aware of our physical hunger. That physical hunger can lead to a spiritual hunger as well. Christians today are returning to fasting and prayer as a means of waking us up to our great need for the presence of God. It may be that we will need to fast from other things than food in order to restore our spiritual hunger.

There may need to be a slowing of our hectic lifestyles that are crowding out our time with the Father. We may need to fast from some forms of entertainment to devote time to seeking the Lord. Those heavily involved in ministry may need to say “no” to that which is good, in order to seek that which is best. We may even need to reevaluate our family schedules.

Tommy Tenney, in his devotional, Experiencing His Presence; Devotions for God Chasers, prays a prayer that we all may need to use daily to build our hunger for God:

“Lord Jesus, my soul aches at the mere mention of Your name. My heart leaps for every rumor of Your coming, and each possibility that You will manifest Your presence. I’m not satisfied with mere spiritual dainties. I’m ravenously hungry for You in Your fullness. I’m desperate to feast on the bread of Your presence and quench my thirst with the wine of Your Spirit.”

May hungering and thirsting for God drive us to a passionate, relentless pursuit of Him.

–Taken from the article Hungering and Thirsting for God by Dave Butts.        Posted 21 Aug 2011

The idea of fasting from physical food in order to be able to concentrate one’s attention upon God is not a new idea. It is a very biblical idea. In fact, this practice of abstaining from food in order to commune with God goes back at least as far as to the time of Moses. While receiving the commandments from God on Mount Sinai, Moses very likely went without food or water for 40 days.

It is possible that the reason Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before he began his ministry was that it was meant to be a parallel to Moses. Both Moses and Jesus had been sent by God to declare the truths of God to the people and to form a new people for God. If that is the case, we must consider a 40 day fast to be the limit for these two very unique and specially called men of God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is not enough room in this short article to go into detail about the biblical practice of fasting. But let me just say this one thing that I feel does need to be mentioned. You may recall in the book of Matthew that Jesus does refer to fasting in his famous “Sermon on the Mount”. What is most interesting in Matthew 6:16 – 18, is that Jesus did not say “if you fast…” He said, “When you fast…”

Now I wish that I could say that I have been able to develop the spiritual discipline of fasting from food so that I could then devote more time to communing with God. And perhaps I may still be able to achieve that. One of the reasons that fasting has been very difficult for me to consider is that during my teen years and 20s, I struggled with hypoglycemia. God has cured me from that (and you can read about the story here) but I still have to watch my eating habits carefully.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But take a look again at what is suggested in the devotional reading above. There are many other things that we can “fast” from. There may be other areas of our lives that are controlling us too much, or at least are diverting our attention away from God more than they ought to. I would challenge all of us to examine our lives  to see where this would be true.

Pray to God about this, and you may be surprised at what God reveals about your life and what He might ask you to give up and give over to Him. I was very proud of my son who told me at one point that he felt his Xbox was controlling him too much, and he put it away for over a week. I’ve heard of others who will go on a “fasting” period from Facebook.

These are just a couple of examples to consider. So how about you? After praying, has God shown you one area perhaps that you may need to take a “break” from? You may think that this would be too difficult to do. But I believe that if God has shown you an area of your life to give over to Him, He will also give you the strength to be able to do so. May God bless you richly in your hunger and pursuit after God.

Living A Missionary Life

1 Comment

Who Am I?  Part 19

As you can see, this is the 19th article in this series called “Who Am I?” It has been an interesting exercise for me to summarize the most important events or moments in my life, and I hope that you have been enjoying this journey along with me. Many of these articles dealt with single moments or events that shaped or changed my life in a dramatic way.

This article will be quite different in that I want to try to summarize the five years that I spent as a Bible translator living in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. In some ways, this is almost an impossible task. There are so many interesting stories that I could tell you about these years that I will probably need to set up an entirely new series of articles to run throughout 2012.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What I will try to do then, is to give you a large overview of these years, as well as my general impressions of the time that we spent as a family in our home in the jungle. One of the first things that people would often ask us is “What was the climate like there? Do you have seasons over there like we do back home?”

And my answer would be, “Sure, we had seasons: there was Wet and Wetter!” Actually, it was not too bad in our area. It would receive about an average rainfall of 250 inches per year. There are some areas of PNG that can have 350 to 400 inches per year. The good news, is that we were not living within the “swampy” region. We lived at an elevation of about 200 feet, at around 7° south of the equator, in a low valley surrounded by distant mountain ranges.

The other good news was that there occasionally was a breeze to cool us off of the perpetual, year-round temperature of 90 to 100°F. The bad news was that the breeze was just the rushing front air that signaled the oncoming torrential downpour. If you were outside at the time, you had to decide if it was worth trying to run home to try to beat the rain. And if you were inside the house, your job was to run around to each room and unroll the plastic tarps and secure them tightly in an attempt to keep the torrential rains out of your house.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Another thing that people often asked us about, was what the food there was like. One of my favorite sayings was, “Kick any tree, and a fruit will fall out.” We were able to enjoy such things as papayas, mangos, bananas of at least seven varieties, pomegranates, coconuts, watermelons, cucumbers, as well as lemons and lemonade from the four lemon trees in front of our house. And of course, all of us had to at least try eating a grub worm once. But most of our food and supplies would be flown into us on the little Cessna plane that would come into our village every 2 to 3 weeks.

The people though, were subsistent farmers who grew gardens and literally lived off the land and ate anything that they could find that was edible. Each year, they would go to a new section of the jungle and they would have to chop down all the trees, burn them, and then clear the land before they could plant their new gardens. Jungle soil is actually not very fertile, so they would have to slash and burn a new garden area every year.

It would take about 4 to 6 months before the gardens would produce their green vegetables and staples such as yams, taro, sweet potatoes, etc. They would be able to eat food from the gardens for about half a year. After that, they would simply forage for anything they could find in the jungle, as well as eat the starchy substance that they could scrape and squeeze out of the center of a sago palm tree.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The final most obvious question that people would ask us was, “What did you do while you were there?” And the answer was, we did many things. We studied the culture, learned the language, built relationships with people, raised our elementary age children there, worshiped in the local church with the people, held singing and devotional evenings at our house, helped the people with some of their physical needs and medical needs as we were able to, and much, much more.

All of these activities were important, and we enjoyed living our lives with and among the people in our village. But none of these were the primary reason for us leaving the comforts of North America life and coming to live in the tropical jungles of PNG. First and foremost, our desire was to bring God’s Word to the people living there. And the means by which we would do this would be through the process of doing Bible translation.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so, while still doing all of these other activities, my primary focus was to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people. Bible translation is a very slow and methodical process, and often takes many years to be able to produce final written copies of some portions of the Bible. It is with great joy then, that I can tell you that by the end of our five-year period, we had completed the translation of the Gospel of Mark and it is now published and available to the people among whom we lived.

So this should give you an overview and a taste of what living a missionary life was like for us. I have many, many more stories about our time in PNG, and these will provide the material for me to be able to write many interesting articles next year. So stay tuned, there are lots of good stories ahead.

Where Does Faith Come From

Leave a comment

What Is Faith – Part 4

Here is a short summary of what we have learned so far about Faith in our little miniseries of articles. First of all, we know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) As an individual is exposed to the truth of God’s Word, a seed of faith is planted within the heart of that individual and by the grace of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that faith will grow and ultimately bloom when that individual makes an act of their will to choose to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The second thing that we learned, which almost seems too obvious, is that all believers then possess faith within themselves. But in a previous article we talked about how faith is like a muscle and needs to be exercised to stay healthy and grow stronger. So it is not a question of whether believers have faith or God, but whether or not they are exercising that faith.

A third thing that we have talked about with regards to faith, is that when we are truly exercising our faith, according to Mark 11:23, when we encounter major obstacles (i.e. mountains) in our life, we can speak out against that and have assurance that God will provide the means or the way for that mountain to be removed. Read last week’s article to see how God answered a major prayer request in our son’s life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now I want to talk about where our faith actually resides. Pastor Leon Fontaine from Springs Church (Calgary) is right on when he says that “Faith is of the heart, and not the head.” To me, this is a crucial point since most of us in North America and Europe (and also now in some developing countries) have grown up in a highly technological age and exist in an evidence-based society. In other words, most people today would say, “Seeing is believing!” instead of “Believing is seeing!”

In our Western culture, it is very easy for us to try to deal with the many challenges and difficulties we face in life from a rational perspective. If it’s a financial issue we are dealing with, we try to work hard, spend wisely, and invest carefully. If it’s a medical or physical issue we are facing, we visit the doctor, take medications, and perhaps change our diet. Whatever the issue is we may be facing, more often than not, we try to deal with the situation first in our own strength.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But that is not the way of Faith. Romans 1:17 tells us that “the righteous shall live by faith.” And I believe that here, and in other places in Scripture, when it talks about “living”, it is not just referring to our future eternal life with God, but also includes the idea of a full life here on earth. In John 10:10, in the Amplified Bible, Jesus says, ” I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

I think what happens for many people when things continually seem to go poorly in their lives, is that they see the obstacles that are there and decide that 1) the obstacles are too difficult to be removed, or 2) they don’t deserve God’s help, or 3) God would not care enough about them to help. But all of these are just excuses to not “live by faith” and are results of people thinking from their heads rather than believing from the hearts.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

You see, from a biblical perspective, the “heart” is the central core and the place of true existence for us as humans. And that is why Scripture tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” And Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The picture that I get from these verses is that our hearts are like gardens, which when taken care of well will produce beautiful growing flowers and plants and allows a sparkling and bubbling stream to flow out of it. But if we do not tend to our gardens well, and allow thorns, thistles, and weeds to overgrow it, then nothing good can come out of it. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So what does this all have to do with faith and our minds and our hearts? Our true existence is in our heart, but the things that we process and hold within our minds will eventually sink down to take root inside our hearts. Therefore, if we allow negative thoughts and ideas to continually be in our minds, or if we hold on to negative attitudes like bitterness, anger, critical judgments, etc., then over time, we condition our hearts to be a seed bed of negativity and doubt and unbelief.

Now that we know that faith comes from the heart and that the head influences the heart, we need to do like what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, to renew our minds so that we are not conformed to the ways of this world. Then, we are free to allow our garden within our heart to grow faith. But as with most things in the Christian life, this is not meant to be a one time event. Rather, this is meant to be an ongoing way of life for us.

Older Entries