New Glasses, Anyone?

Many might consider tedious what I spend untold hours doing, but I find it therapeutic to transcribe my handwritten journals, giving thought to the words as I type them into the computer. Each entry revisits life moments, and the Lord’s part in them I tend to forget otherwise. Sometimes, I need more than just to remember.

I hoped to find at least a thread during this undertaking, at least a hint of a theme, to make sense of what I’d experienced. There had been so many hard things, so many hard times. Perhaps the wrong choices I had made (must have been many) and the point at which I turned away from the Lord’s joy and peace would become obvious in the multitude of keystrokes.

i-can-see-1426645Entry by entry, the threads came together, but the emerging picture wasn’t what I expected. You see, I was looking through the wrong glasses. The difficult circumstances did, indeed, take place, as did my struggle with them. But my perception of them was way off. I needed new glasses to help clear things up!

Maybe telling you how I read Hebrews 11 when wearing the wrong prescription will help. I plunge into the highlights of the lives of those often referred to as the heroes of faith. I agree these are great people worthy of Bible mention, until I remember the rest of their stories. You know, the parts including adultery, murder, drunkenness, self-indulgence, etc. My old lenses quickly cause what’s not written in this chapter to supersede what is. In other words, I become a harsh judge.

When I read with God’s glasses, however, my attention is drawn from the very first verse to the reason for recalling this part of their lives:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

This chapter is all about faith, real faith. Faith in the perfect Jesus Christ. And about people who somehow believed even before He came to earth in human form. It isn’t about humans living perfectly, but about what happens by faith in the One Who is perfect.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Our Father sees them through lens of the perfect Christ.

When I began to transcribe, I steeled myself for a heavy hand of correction from Holy Spirit. What a completely skewed perception – to think this of my wonderful Lord! Instead, as letter after letter and word after word made their way from the pages to my eyes, into my brain and through my fingers, He gently exchanged His glasses for mine, and I began to see myself as He sees me.

Now as I viewed the journal, I saw the reality of ongoing physical challenges and unconnected emotional hardships not being caused by my bad choices, but resulting from life in a fallen world. Had I re-read entries during those tough times, I’d have been reminded of Daddy’s gracious words of encouragement and the ever-unfolding and expanding revelation of Christ and His unconditional love. His tone was only gentle, and His responses to my rants contained only amazing grace and tender mercy, no hint of judgment. That’s Who He is! That’s Who He was at the time I lived through it! And that’s Who He will always be!

cross-fabric-1-1145687-1279x1657By the time I completed these journals, the threads had woven a simple picture, correcting my vision for the future, difficulties or not. It reveals what God always sees when He looks at me . . . and you. He sees us seated with Him in Christ Jesus. Christ, the perfect One Who received at the cross the heavy hand of correction we so deserved.

Thank You, Lord, for the new glasses! Thank You, Lord, for the cross!

What She Said!

For those of you who aren’t on Facebook, or who didn’t get to read one of the blog posts I shared on my page last week, this is your opportunity.

Having recently come out of the Word of Faith non-denomination, where I was never quite able to embrace everything proclaimed as faith, I’ve been questioning even those things I did embrace. Questioning is not a bad thing, because it helps sort man’s opinions and traditions from truth. Too much of it, though, was taking me into heaviness.

Just at the right time, Michele Perry published a new post on her blog, Bravely You. Just reading it once caused the clouds to scatter from my mind. Though not all my questions were answered, the reality of the impossibly greater God, Who created me and now lives in me by His Spirit, was restored.

I wish I could direct you to this blog, but it no longer exists, and I can’t find the article anywhere else. May Holy Spirit take the few words of this blog and set you free in ways you  cannot imagine! (6/1/21)

It’s Just Impossible!

Hebrews 11:6 NIV  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

We know this verse.  It was probably one of the earlier ones memorized as we began our journey in Christian life.  We were probably taught that we must work hard to have the faith with which God will be pleased.  So, much of our Christian life has been spent trying to do just that.  Sadly, what we never heard about was the freedom in this verse – but that’s all changing right here, right now.

It’s not some deep, hidden secret that only the most intelligent can find.  Instead, what I found as I continued my recent Hebrews feast, savoring the words like tasty morsels, were verses that have been skipped, ignored, or at least mishandled – those leading up to and following verse six..

Hebrews 10:39-11:1 NIV 2012  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

The faith we need is to believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Period.  (Read more in Faith Gone Wrong.)  To help even more, Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that this faith is not of our own efforts, our own working it up.  This gift from God comes by His grace.  In other words, God graces us (gifts us) with the faith to believe in Christ (also a Gift), apart from our effortsHint: Gifts are only gifts if they are freely given without cost to the receiver.  Because we have received the Gift of Jesus Christ, we belong to those who have faith and are saved.

Skip a few verses (I promise to include them in a future post), and read verses 5 and 6 together, because it is the only way to understand the possibility of the impossible in verse 6 already working in us.

Hebrews 11:5-6 NIV  (2012) By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Isn’t it mind-boggling that Enoch – so soon after the creation of the world, and so long before Jesus came as Messiah – already knew about Him and His future coming . . . and believed?  For that alone, Enoch pleased God.  With something God gave him in the first place, Enoch pleased God.  Because of his faith, Enoch was promoted to heaven!

Wait a minute!  The Bible tells very little about Enoch.  Besides this mention in Hebrews, he’s listed in the begats, where we find he lived 365 years and had children.  That means he also had a wife – at least one.  It also means he had to work to support them.  And that he interacted with people day in and day out, with good days and not-so-good days.  He was not continually alone with God.  He was a living human being, just like us, involved in the stuff of life.  He was no more perfect in his flesh than we are.  He needed a Savior, just like we do.  By grace, he had faith in the promised Messiah1,and that’s why God was pleased.  Period.  By that same grace, we also have faith in the promised Messiah, and God is also pleased with us.  Period.

For all these years, we have focused on what seemed impossible, and maybe it was.  When we focused on trying to have faith – or have enough faith, or the right kind of faith, or great faith – with which God would be pleased, we missed the simple truth that what He requires to please Him, He provides in the first place.  Ours is simply to receive.  It was possible for Enoch, and it’s possible for us today. In fact, in Christ, we have already received this glorious impossibility.  And, even now, God is pleased!

1 Jude 14 states that Enoch prophesied about Christ’s coming.

Photo credit to Mark J. Lehman, http://misusingecards.blogspot.com/

Faith Gone Wrong

I can’t get away from the book of Hebrews.  To be honest, I haven’t tried.  I read through it a couple of months ago, but found myself not ready to move on once I got to the end.  It continues to be a wonderful journey with Holy Spirit highlighting various verses, phrases, even individual words, and then helping me really see them.  One particular verse, and the insight He has revealed in it, is radically affecting my understanding of the rest of the book of Hebrews, the Bible, and my everyday life.  Please read on to join us in this part of the journey.

Hebrews 11:1 NIV (2012)  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. . .

This is such a familiar verse, one we frequently quote in our preferred translation.  Perhaps it helped that I was reading it this time in an updated NIV, so a couple of different words jarred me out of rote recitation, forcing me to stop and consider it again.  As I did, the simplicity of faith became clearer than ever before.

Haven’t we used this verse primarily for things – even good things and promised-by-God things – and in so doing, made this thing called faith a hard work?  Think about it in some of the following familiar statements: “I’m believing God for _________  (fill in the blank), and ________ and ________.”  “I don’t have enough faith for _________,   only enough for _____________.”  “She only had enough faith for this part, not for the whole ________.”  “I must not even have a mustard seed of faith.”

We don’t find statements like these in the Bible, though we certainly hear and use them today. What’s the common denominator in all these modern-day so-called faith statements?  It’s an “I” focus.  Faith has become all about us, about our efforts to believe enough for whatever end result we seek.  What an endless and wearisome cycle!

But the Bible is good news!  The faith, confidence, and hope of Hebrews 11:1 are to be in Jesus Christ alone, not in our ability to believe for the desired change in situations or circumstances for ourselves or others.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the previous verse.

Hebrews 10:39 NIV (2012) But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Since Hebrews is written to believers in Christ, we belong to those who have faith and are saved.  What faith is required to be saved?  Simply, faith in Christ Jesus alone – in what He fulfilled and finished completely in our place because we never could.  In Him all our needs are met.  Like the believing-while-in-unbelief man of Mark1, our focus (and our faith) is to be Jesus, not what He does or will do.  In Christ, all work (healing, too) is already complete and all provision is already made, though our natural eyes may not yet see.  He, Jesus Christ, is our answer.

No longer is our question, “What am I in faith for?”  Rather, it becomes, “In Whom is my faith, my confidence in what I hope for, and assurance about what I do not see?”  And the answer comes via two questions.  Is Jesus Who He says He is?  Does He always point to our Father?  Absolutely.  He can be fully trusted.  He cannot lie.  Whatever He has promised is for all time.  That’s where we fix our eyes, regardless of current circumstances.  Our faith is not even in what He has promised, though we can bank on it.  Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the totality of Who He is, the very Promise Himself.  Therein is His peace.  Therein is His rest.  Therein is our confidence and our assurance about what we do not see.

This major, radical, mind shift is causing a major “tilt” in my brain multiple times a day as the adjustment – the refocus – takes hold, forcing the old-and-gone-wrong to leave forever.  What a wonderful journey, though, this faith in Christ Jesus alone!

1 Mark 9:24 – “help my unbelief” – Jesus helped the man focus only on Who He was, no longer mixed with what his natural eyes saw – it was faith in Jesus alone

The World Was Not Worthy

Hebrews 11:38 AMP  [Men] of whom the world was not worthy . . .

As I read the chapter of Hebrews this morning commonly referred to as the “hall of fame of faith,” the above phrase arrested my attention in a way it never has before.  Immediately previous to this verse was the brief mention of various men and women who lived before Christ came, yet they believed.  For their faith in what never manifested during their lifetime, some were mighty and strong in this life – in the power of His Spirit.  Others, refusing to deny the One in Whom they believed, were tortured in many ways, and died gruesome deaths at the hands of those who didn’t believe.

Yet, what does this verse say?  The world was not worthy of them.  They lived as though Christ had already come.  They lived so others would see Him, simply because they believed that God’s Word and His promises were true.  And then they died without seeing those promises fulfilled.  Still, they went from this earthly life into eternity without wavering in their faith.  How?

I don’t think this chapter is at all about the faith of the ones mentioned in it.  Rather, it’s about the faithfulness of the One Who promised them what they never saw in the natural.  The people who are mentioned were so focused on Him that the extreme difficulties in this life were unable to divert their attention to their temporary troubles.  They simply believed God was True.

How much better for us as believers today, for Christ has come, fulfilling the promise!  We can know with certainty the faithfulness of our God, where those mentioned in Hebrews 11 could only hope.  We have the written Word and the ability to read it for ourselves, with Holy Spirit as the Teacher Jesus promised would come – not having to rely solely on the teaching of others.  The world is not to be worthy of us, either.

It has everything to do with our focus, not with our perfect words and actions.  The more aware we become of Jesus Christ and His righteousness, and that we are (not will be) God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus1, the less consumed we are with our human failings and weaknesses.  This is when we find the strength to endure the struggles of our own lives.  Jesus becomes our indivertible focus.  Just as the world was not worthy of Him, the world is no longer worthy of us, either.

Oh, Lord, my prayer is selfish, even while including the entire body of Christ.  I’m asking You to help us so see Christ that our self-focus dims.  May the totality of our desire be that the world sees Jesus when they see us, not because we try so much harder to be Christ-like, but because we are so full of Him alone.  Help us to quit negating what You have already said about us – that we are Your righteousness in Christ, and that as He is so are we in this world2 – by reminding You of our every wrong thought, word, and deed.  Instead, help us to stay firmly entrenched in the complete, forever, nothing-left-out, finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross!  May You, alone, receive all glory and honor and praise, even as we stand firmly in the Truth that the world is not worthy of us, just as it was not worthy of our Christ.  Thank You for what You have already done, precious Lord Jesus!  Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 1 John 4:17