Tag Archives: Scripture

Doubt isn’t fatal

I’ve been thinking about doubt. I’ve been thinking about the limitations of our faith and what does that mean. If I can’t imagine God’s ability to do something, to act in a particular way or change what appears to be unchangeable, does that mean I doubt?

I think it is interesting that one of the disciples doubted. He wasn’t there when the risen Lord showed up and so he spoke out his doubt. It wasn’t his words that made him a doubter, it was the gap between what he knew and what others were saying. The fact that the other disciples said they had seen the risen Jesus only caused Thomas to say I want to see it to believe it.

I suspect most of us have had our own version of such a saying.

When I was in my 20’s I was wondering if we were making the right decision and it was a big decision. I had my doubts and they flew in the face of what was a very strong “word from the Lord”. I had no reason to doubt but my fear meant I was faced with increasing my faith. So I was worried and I think worry can be seen by some as doubt.

Then one day I ended up meeting a man. I had never seen or met him before I never met or saw him again. But he knew what I was wrestling with and spoke to me in a way that, well I can’t explain, except to say he squashed my doubt and encouraged me to believe and then he was gone. Yup, gone.

He walked into a crowd of people and “disappeared”. I can’t even remember his name.

He challenged me to believe, though. In a sense, he challenged my worry, my doubt. I didn’t give him any details yet he knew them all.

Thomas was invited to put his finger in the very marks of Christ’s crucifixion and beliScreenshot_20170216-211731eve.Sometimes we preach on Thomas like he’s the one who doesn’t measure up to Peter, James, and John
Yet in many ways, we are more like Thomas than Peter, James or John. We hesitate to believe, we await the personal revelation rather than grab on to the testimony of others and we let our fears play with our hearts.

The Centurion who believed that Jesus healed his servant though he had not seen brought the reaction from Jesus – “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Let it be true of us.

Matthew 8:5-13

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west,and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

 

 

Preparing for Easter

Wendy and I are going to be in the Halifax area for Easter – guests of the city officers – so I have been pouring over the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John listening to the writers, noticing their context, trying to smell the aroma, sensing the emotions, attempting to detect the fear, the tension, the courage.

Here’s my challenge to you – can you read it afresh? Can you approach it like you have never heard it before? What do you notice?

Here’s a line I think I had not quite heard well before….

18 After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus the Nazarene,”they replied.
I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground…  (John 18:1-6)

I’ve read that dozens of times and I can’t ever remember noticing that they drew back and fell to the ground….imagine up to 200 Roman soldiers with the Jews coming with torches, lanterns and weapons falling down after Jesus declares that He is the I AM.

It is as if Jesus has to coax them in to following through on the arrest. What happened there? What force was at work that created a physical response?

I remember a few years ago I was sitting in a service….it was likely many other ones, the music was good, it was comfortable….I was sitting on the aisle when suddenly I felt a warm breeze pass us. It was so powerful I turned and asked Wendy if she had felt it? She said she had…within minutes people got out of their seats and went and kneeled at the mercy seat. Not a few – many. Dozens and dozens of people, many of whom had not done so for a long time. The service took on a life of it’s own, not directed by an order of service, but directed by The Holy Spirit.

A spiritual happening invoked a physical response.

Here the Spirit of God is visiting – perhaps to strengthen Jesus, perhaps a mere mention of the I AM. Whatever is at play, it is an act of God. Jesus submission to the will of His Father has power.

So too ours, when we submit we begin to understand “my strength is made perfect in weakness”.

Perhaps our preparing for Easter really only requires one thing. Submission.

A great ten questions

TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN
YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE IS DULL AND DRY

1. Are my expectations unrealistic? In the life of King David, as recorded in the Old Testament, we tend to overlook the times that he didn’t sense the presence of God. Yet the historical accounts of his life, as well as his songs, indicate that David experienced times of doubt and spiritual coldness. The touchstone of David’s life is not primarily that he always walked in the full enjoyment of God’s presence, but that even in dry times he trusted in God.

2. Is there any sin I need to confess to God and turn from? Half-burled sin does great harm. It tamps down the soil of our lives, making it hard and impenetrable as an ancient path, so that God’s words to us, His advances, and the prompting of His Spirit cannot pierce its surface. Hypocrisy devastates our spiritual lives, so periodically we need to examine our lives to see if they match our spiritual talk. (Ps. 139:23-24)

3. Am I engaged in practices that dull my spiritual sensitivity? Susanna Wesley told her children that anything that dulled their desire for God was sin for them. Hebrews 12:2, “Let us through off everything that hinders…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Luke 8:14 warns us that “life’s worries, riches, and pleasure’” choke God’s word in our lives. Stress, anxiety, preoccupation, time pressures, distorted values, and poor choices can strangle our life in Christ.

4. Am I consistent in spiritual disciplines? Spiritual discipline does not gain Christ’s love or favor. Rather, the benefit lies in helping us focus on the grace and nearness of God and on His love and commitment to us. This means making a deliberate choice to spend time with Him, because what is real, true, and supremely important is invisible and never pressing.

5. What conditions surrounded my best times with the Lord? Revelation 2:5 gives the prescription for regaining first love: “Remember the height from with you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Jeremiah 2:2 The purest expression of first love is being unmitigated with joy in being near Him, regardless of the circumstances in your life.

6. Have I fallen into a spiritual rut? George McDonald said, “Nothing is so deadening to the divine as a habitual dealing with the outsides of holy things.” Do you attend church? You should. But perhaps you need to rethink why you do. Do you read the Bible and pray? Maybe you need to examine your motivations to see if you’ve lost sight of the true goal of these activities.

7. Is poor health or fatigue a factor? Elijah was depressed. God didn’t chide Elijah for his despondency. Don’t assume that spiritual dryness is a spiritual problem. Fatigue, chemical imbalance, or illness can impair your judgment.

8. Am I praying for God’s blessing on my life and enlisting the prayers of others? Ask God to make His presence real to you. His Word is rich and alive, and His ways clear. Ask God to give you a responsive heart. Ask others to pray that God would sustain you and draw you into the warmth of His presence again.

9. What person or group might stimulate my life in Christ? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” The life of Christ must express itself in us both individually and corporately. Sometimes even a brief encounter with someone who is alive in Christ can fan a diminished flame.

10. Have I asked what God is trying to teach me? Have you considered that nothing may be wrong, but that everything may be right? God led Jesus into the desert for forty days of testing. Moses spent forty years in desert obscurity as part of God’s training program. Etc. When we find ourselves in the arid land, let us look to Him with confidence to show us if our need is to confess and forsake some sin, to rethink our motivations, to recover something of first love, or to merely relax in the assurance that even in this disconcerting dryness is part of His hand or training and blessing.