Philosophy

Is Tradition Bad?

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Are church traditions inherently bad? Does a traditional worship service indicate that a church is Spiritually dead? Does a contemporary service indicate Spiritual life?

Or is it the opposite? Does a traditional service demonstrate a commitment to the Word, while a contemporary service indicates a willingness to compromise truth?

To pose these questions is to ignore the one thing that God actually assesses, the condition of the human heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” In all we do, God examines our heart.

We can be the most religious, most progressive, most forward thinking, or most moral people in the world, but if our heart is not right toward God, none of it matters. If our heart is far removed from God, we are at odds with Him regardless of our actions.

No place is this better illustrated than in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus is confronted over the fact that His disciples do not participate in ritual hand-washing before eating.

In His rebuttal to their criticisms, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for disregarding the commandment of God in favor of the traditions of men (Luke 7:8). This verse, combined with the restlessness of Christians anxious to see change in their churches, has led to many using Mark 7 to attack ALL traditions in church.

Those who see tradition as the problem use Mark 7 to criticize the use of hymnals in church, the presence of pews and not chairs in the sanctuary, the lack of audio/visual aids to the sermon, and even the way others dress themselves. Such criticisms, however, miss the basis for the Lord’s contempt for the traditions of the Pharisees.

In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

The issue was not that the Pharisees had traditions. The issue ran deeper than the fact that the Pharisees elevated their traditions to the same level as scripture. The real issue was that the Pharisees’ hearts were far from God, yet they portrayed an aura of righteousness by hiding behind their traditions.

In learning from the mistakes of the Pharisees, we see that we must evaluate the condition of our hearts. To do this, we’ll apply three tests:

  1. If we are more focused on our own traditions than the Word of God, we have a heart problem.
  2. If our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God, we have a heart problem.
  3. If we express anger, bitterness, illicit lust, or other forms of darkness, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if we are more focused on our traditions than what the Bible teaches. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had the entire Old Testament, with its numerous passages teaching God’s love, grace and redemption. Yet, if you attended a Bible class taught by a Pharisee, you would be more likely to hear a lecture on proper hand-washing technique than you would about repentance and faith.

If our churches are spending more time teaching their viewpoints on Bible translations, politics, financial management or social justice, rather than the Gospel as revealed in scripture, then we are more focused on tradition than God’s word. If that’s the case, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God. That brings up the question, “What is the commandment of God?”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God are to love God, and to love your neighbor. Basically, the commandment of God is love.

The Pharisees abandoned the idea of loving one another when they challenged who was actually one’s neighbor, and when their tradition of Corban allowed them to neglect their aging parents. The Pharisees failed to follow God’s commandment to love, and this was expressed in how they observed their traditions. But make no mistake, their heart was the problem.

If our traditions hinder our love toward God, or our love to others, we have a heart problem. If we see people as the problem, different groups as opponents, or disdain those who don’t meet our expectations, we have a heart problem.

Finally, if we express darkness in our lives, it’s an indication that we have darkness in our hearts. Jesus explained that our problems have more to do with what’s going on inside us, rather than what happens around us. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we find ourselves focused on evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications (sexual immorality), then we have darkness in our hearts. If we hate someone to the point that we’d like to kill them, if we desire to steal, or if we desire others’ possessions, we have darkness in our hearts. If we rebel against God, we have darkness in our hearts.

That darkness within our heart is the problem. That’s what separates us from God. How we treat our traditions are merely the symptom.

Once we learn to examine our hearts, we can correct our thinking to return us to where God wants us. God wants us to learn from His Word, love others, and express the righteousness He has placed within our hearts. When we follow this plan, we’ll be too busy glorifying Him and reaching others to be concerned with what color the carpet in the sanctuary is. That will be a beautiful day.

Love Means Endurance

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One of the most profound statements made in the Bible is found in 1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

In essence, this verse teaches us everything we need to know in relation to Christ, and in our relationships with each other.

Christ suffered for us. He was arrested, mocked, beaten, flogged, scourged, rejected, then nailed to the cross, where He suffered the wrath of God for our sin, clearing us from a debt owed to God that we could never be able to pay, thus purchasing our eternal salvation and giving us the confident expectation that one day we will enter His Kingdom.

For that reason, we live with hope, we gather as a church, we teach our children and we minister to our communities. “For hereunto were we called,” for this purpose, and as a result of this.

It is in that context that Peter gives us marital advice in 1 Peter 3. 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

That verse starts with “likewise,” which refers back to 1 Peter 2:21, “that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

Basically, like Christ suffered for us, we should be willing to suffer, or better yet, endure for each other. Peter’s call for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3 differs from Paul in that Peter acknowledges that this can be rather difficult, especially if the wife is married to a non-believer or an idiot.

He is saying, “I know it’s difficult, but Christ suffered and endured for you. You can in turn glorify Him by enduring with your husband.”

Furthermore, Peter writes that by enduring with (suffering) your husband, you can actually win him to the Lord, just as Christ redeemed us through His suffering.

*NOTE: This is assuming that this is a safe marriage. This verse neither justifies abuse, not encourages a woman to remain in an unsafe situation.*

You see, when we love, suffer for, and endure with each other the way Jesus suffered for and endured for us, then good things happen. In 1 Peter 3:5-6, Peter points out how Sarah did the same thing, when she obeyed Abraham, calling him, Lord. As a result, she gave birth to Isaac, who fathered Jacob, who fathered the nation of Israel, from which Christ was born. God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled because Sarah obeyed him, even when Abraham acted like a fool.

When we trust the Lord, good things happen. When we trust the Lord enough to love one another as Christ loves us, really good things happen.

After addressing the wives, Peter addresses the husbands, saying in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Again, that word, “Likewise.” Husbands get a double-helping of “likewise.” Peter was saying, “Like Christ suffered for you, and like your wife continues to suffer with and endure with you, dwell with her!”

When Peter said to “dwell with our wives according to knowledge,” he meant more than sharing the same address and roof. To dwell with our wives according to knowledge means to live with, do life together, get to know, become more intimate with, understand, and fully love our wives. This is something a husband should want to do, if he loves his wife as Jesus does.

However, our flesh does not love as Jesus loves. Therefore, men find it just as hard to “dwell” with their wives as wives find it to “be in subjection” to their foolish husbands. Wives would rather handle business than watch their husbands bungle it, and husbands would rather talk to solve a problem rather than communicate to connect. Therefore, scripture must teach us to go against the flesh and do that which takes a little more effort. Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, and husbands, dwell with your wives.

“Giving honor unto the wife as the weaker vessel” simply means to cherish her as you would a fragile, priceless antique. We should want to love, cherish, protect and spoil our wives.

Yes, it can get exhausting, which is why Peter gives us the suffering of Christ and the patience of wives as examples.

Finally, Peter discusses Christians at large. In 1 Peter 3:8, we are commanded to “be all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”

This verse teaches us to be unified, gathering together around our common belief of Jesus Christ as our savior, and our faith in the redemption He purchased for us on the cross. Doing this, we should be compassionate and sympathetic to one another, and love one another.

This may seem like a tall order, but Christ loved us before any of us were lovable. So should we love one another.

All of these concepts are premised upon us loving each other as Christ loved us. Such glorifies the Lord. Are we willing to learn to love each other, endure with each other, and work to help and edify each other. May God bless you.

Through It All…

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Life had been no bed of roses for the Apostle Peter. He had witnessed firsthand the arrest of Jesus, was stopped when he tried to defend Him, saw Jesus carried away to trial, and ultimately watched from a distance as Jesus was crucified.

Earlier, Peter had proclaimed his love and commitment to Jesus, saying that he would fight and die for the Lord, (and to his credit, he tried). Jesus replied by telling Peter that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. It happened.

Faced with accusations and pressure from those around him, Peter told the crowd that he didn’t know Jesus. The rooster crowed. Peter’s heart broke, and he went out and wept bitterly. He failed. He failed the Lord. He failed himself.

Peter would go on to be imprisoned, sentenced to death, and ultimately executed for the Lord. Yet, through it all, Peter praised the Lord, and proclaimed His goodness. In the midst of so much suffering, how could Peter say that the Lord is good?

Because through it all, Peter saw the blessings that the Lord showered on him.

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, Peter wrote:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Focus on that last part, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In other words, “If you have experienced the graciousness and goodness of the Lord, do this!”

Peter told his readers that if they tasted (experienced) that the Lord is gracious, lay aside all malice, deceit and hypocrisy, and desire the sincere milk of the Word. The sincere milk is the Gospel, God’s love expressed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the scriptures.

If we have tasted that the Lord is good, if we have experienced His salvation and His love, then we should desire the teaching of the Gospel from the scriptures. We yearn to be comforted by reminders of God’s love toward us, and the redemption we have through Jesus Christ.

You see, the central theme of the Bible is the Gospel, Christ dying for us to redeem us, and giving us eternal life through His resurrection. The deeper you dig into scripture, the more you find the Gospel, the deeper understanding you have of the Gospel, and the Gospel becomes sufficient for your happiness.

But how can Peter, who saw so much suffering in his life, say “The Lord is gracious?”

If all I told you about Peter was how he saw Christ die, how he denied the Lord, how he was beaten and imprisoned for the Lord, then I would have only told you half of the story.

You see, after Peter denied Christ, and after Christ rose again, Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples on the shores of Galilee. In an exchange recorded in John 21, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Christ, and Peter did all three times. Jesus then reaffirmed Peter’s call to the ministry, telling him to “feed His sheep.”

As time moved forward, Peter learned to see the Lord’s blessing through all the suffering. He wrote in 1 Peter 1 that the trials of faith refine us like gold is refined by fire. In 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote how the Lord is building us all up together into a Spiritual house, implying that the fellowship that we enjoy as Christians is a gift from the Lord to give us comfort, encouragement, and a purpose. That purpose being to share the good news of the Gospel with the world, and by so doing to see lives changed by the Lord.

Peter concludes 1 Peter 2 by reminding us that the Lord suffered for us in order to save us, therefore we should be willing to suffer for Him to glorify Him and further His Kingdom.

In this life, we have a multitude of troubles. Sometimes, trouble converges upon us from all sides. But peace and Spiritual security come from us learning to see God’s blessing in the midst of the pain. Through it all, God is good.

To learn more about how to see God’s blessings in hard times, and to be inspired to live your purpose, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Relax, Jesus Loves You

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If the only gift God gave us was salvation, He went above in beyond in demonstrating His love toward us. But God loves us beyond salvation.

God’s love for us did not end when Jesus went to the cross, it was just beginning. Christ went to the cross to purchase our salvation, then He rose again to give us eternal life in His Kingdom.

This act of salvation was not a momentary act of mercy where God merely offered an escape hatch from His wrath. It was an act of redemption, whereby Christ saved us and began an eternal relationship with us.

The love of Christ goes beyond the cross. His compassion toward us extends in all of life. Scripture says in Hebrews 4 that He was in all points tempted like as we are, meaning Christ has experienced every human trial and temptation that we do. He empathizes and understands.

That being the case, He works in our lives to alleviate our struggles and provide for our needs.

In the message posted below, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how the compassion of Christ prompted Him to give His disciples rest, and likewise He gives us rest.

Where’s the Love? (Mark 6:1-13)

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In Mark 5, multitudes of people are following Jesus. They come to Him for healing and deliverance. A crowd had met Jesus in Capernaum when Jairus came to beg Him to heal His daughter. A woman with an issue of blood came to Him to be healed. Crowds listened to Jesus teach and preach as the One who authored the scriptures they had spent their lives learning.

Yet, in His hometown of Nazareth, the people were unimpressed. In Mark 6:1-13, Jesus returned to His hometown synagogue, and began to teach. His ministry and teaching had stirred up controversy, and the people began to question His authority.

They said things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Aren’t all His brothers and sisters here? Where did He get this wisdom, and how is He doing these great works?”

Basically, their reaction was, “Who does Jesus think He is? He ain’t no better than the rest of us!”

The people of Nazareth had a front row seat to the arrival of Christ. They watched Him grow. They were told of His virgin birth. They were among the first to hear Him preach, and to see Him work miracles.

Yet, their advantage in seeing Jesus grow up was also their stumbling block. Having seen Him grow up among them, and being home to His carpentry shop, Jesus had become too familiar to them. As a result, they took Him for granted and overlooked His divinity. So, they reacted to His ministry with incredulity.

Jesus was familiar to them. Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt breeds rejection.

This is a real danger to us today. It is possible for us to become too caught up in the day to day activities of life, and the weekly activities of church, that we forget Who our Lord is.

We can fall into a routine of religious habits, begin living by our works rather than the grace of God, and start thinking that we have somehow elevated ourselves to a place where we have earned God’s favor.

We can get caught up in trying to build a church, expand a ministry, and improve our lot in life that we forget about our Lord, who should be the center of it all.

We can continue this trend until our Lord finds Himself on the outside of the church, and on the outside of our lives, knocking on the door in hopes that we’ll open up, and let Him in. We can forget our first love. (Incidentally, this was the same sin committed by the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, and the Lord threatened to take their candlestick.)

When we do that, we commit the same sin as the synagogue in Nazareth.

We must never forget God’s love, and we must never discount the effect His love has had upon us. We most never forget how His love redeemed us and transformed us, and we must never forget that His love is our primary motivation in life.

In Mark 6, Jesus goes on to send the apostles out two-by-two. They went through the villages, preaching the Gospel, calling the people to repentance, and ministering to their needs by healing them and casting out devils. Likewise, we understand that the Lord has sent us into this world to spread the Gospel of His death, burial and resurrection for our redemption from sin.

It’s a mighty calling, and one God has blessed us with. Our primary purpose as Christians, and as a church, is to publish and preach that Gospel wherever we have opportunity, as the Lord commanded us to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we are not motivated by God’s love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others, our preaching will be in vain. Furthermore, if love is not our motivation, then our message will stray.

All too often, church social media pages, Web sites and blogs will contain more information about why the church is different, or better, than other churches. Many churches have replaced the message of the Gospel with the message of themselves. In this regard, many church Web pages, social media accounts and blogs don’t differ that much from the local car dealership, furniture store and insurance office. It becomes about branding, and not carrying forth God’s message.

The same holds true for Christian Web sites which debate issues within Christianity (pews vs. chairs, powerpoint vs. hymnals, to politic or not, etc). We spend so much time talking among ourselves and promoting ourselves that we fail to do what God told us to do… to preach the Gospel to every creature. This happens when we forget our first love, Christ becomes a mere theological concept, and we become like the synagogue in Nazareth.

As we wrap up our exploration through Mark 6:1-13, we see the apostles anoint the sick with oil. This is how they applied medicine. The olive oil they used had medicinal qualities, and proper medicine was all but non-existent. The people who came to the apostles were in agony, and the apostles did what they could to alleviate that pain as they preached the Gospel.

These actions reflected the love of Christ. You see, Christ is not only concerned with our Spiritual well-being, He is interested in our physical well-being also. Christ does not merely sympathize with our pain, He empathizes with us.

You see, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are. This means that as He lived the human experience on earth, He experienced all the same problems we do. Financial problems. Family problems (His brothers initially rejected the idea that He was Messiah). Social problems (many rejected Him). Rejection. Betrayal. Persecution. Hunger. You name it.

He knows what you’re going through, and He knows by experience.

After experiencing the worst that society had to offer, He gave Himself over to the Pharisees, who gave Him to the Romans, who crucified Him. As He hung on that cross, He endured the wrath of God for the sins of the world so that we can all be spared, if you repent and believe.

The Lord loves you immensely. Not only that, but He is concerned for your well-being also. When the apostles ministered to the physical needs of the people as they preached their Spiritual needs, they reflected the love of Christ.

Jesus loves us. He told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He also told us to love each other as He loved us. May we never lose sight of His love.

Ashamed

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In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” That statement not only framed the rest of the book of Romans, but also much of the New Testament.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is how Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. Romans 5:8 tells us that the Gospel was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love toward us, because God loved us enough to send Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners. John 3:16 openly declares that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love for us is both unmerited and inexplicable. There was nothing we did, no inherent value within us that would warrant God giving His only begotten Son for us. Disagree? Romans 5:6-7 points out that none of us would die for a righteous man, or even a good ole boy. We don’t even see each other as worthy to die for. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present God see that value in us? It’s inexplicable!

That’s what the Bible calls, “grace.” God loves us. God loves you. That love is so strong and so deep that He gave everything He had to redeem you from sin, condemnation, death and degradation.

Once you understand the love that God has for you, that He openly demonstrated in the Gospel, you will never be ashamed of that Gospel.

That word, “ashamed” is an interesting word. In modern times, we understand “ashamed” to mean “embarrassed” or “humiliated.” However, the scriptural use of the word “ashamed” really means “disappointed.” In other words, you put your faith into something that didn’t pan out. You were left with the short end of the stick. You were left holding the bag.

Think of the man who has worked 10 years for one company, loyally paying his dues in hopes of being promoted to partner, only to be passed over for the promotion in favor of the boss’s friend. That man feels that the past 10 years of his life has been wasted. He has to go home and tell his family he didn’t get the promotion. His friends will all know he came up short. He is “ashamed.”

However, the Apostle Paul says that he “is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” He is not left disappointed in the Gospel. He has not come up with the short end of the stick. He has not been left holding the bag, and he hasn’t been passed over or forgotten. He is not ashamed.

Paul said “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” because he understood the love God had toward him. The Apostle Paul understood that no matter what happened to him in this life, God loved him, and God’s hand was upon His life.

Therefore, Paul understood how to “abound and be abased,” how to be full and hungry (Philippians 4:12). When times were good, Paul celebrated and praised God for His abundance. When times were bad, Paul praised God for leading him through the challenges. Even in the worst of times, Paul knew God was with him, so he was at peace. He understood God’s love for Him. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Therefore, Paul was able to write in Romans 8:35-37:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Regardless of how bad things got, Paul knew that He could not be separated from God’s love. Therefore, he felt peace, and he felt victorious, no matter the circumstance. Because after all, the Christian life has less to do with our current circumstances, and more to do with our eternal destination. Paul also understood that, and he knew that eternity in God’s kingdom would more than outweigh any suffering he endured in this life.

Hence, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

Therefore, no matter what happened, Paul was not left high and dry, he was not left destitute or hopeless, because he knew God’s love, and trusted the promises God had made.

Paul was not ashamed.

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, remember that God is with you through the good times and bad. Remember that He will care for you and meet your needs. Most of all, remember that your eternal destination in His Kingdom will be far greater than anything you can imagine here.

If you are not a Christian, know that God loves you, and gave His only begotten Son to redeem you. Rejecting Christ will bring God’s wrath and judgment. However, turning from sin and trusting the Lord to save you will bring you the same blessing and peace Paul had. You will not be left high and dry. You will not be ashamed of the Gospel. Will you consider repenting and trusting the Lord for salvation?

To share your story of salvation, or to ask for more information, contact us below. Pastor Leland Acker will follow up with a response.

God Is Good To You, And That’s All That Matters

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God loves you.

It may  not seem like it, but He does.

Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once discussed how he once discounted God’s love because God loves everyone. If God loves everyone, what’s so special about me?

The flaw in this way of thinking is that it takes the focus away from how good God is to you, and it compares God’s goodness to you to how good He is to everyone else. When we think this way, there is nothing God can do to please us.

If God loves us and blesses us the same as everyone else, then we are unhappy because we are not special to God. If God blesses others more than us, God is not being fair to us. If God loves and blesses us more than everyone else, then we wonder why? We either accuse God of being partial and unfair, or we believe we deserved the blessing and harbor resentment for others who didn’t earn God’s blessing.

Lost in all this is how good God is to us. We forget how much He loves us. We forget how He blessed us. As Mullins mentioned in the above-linked video, the issue is not how our blessings stack up to others’. The issue is what God has actually done in our lives.

God loves us, even though we’re unlovable. God gave His only begotten Son for us, sent Jesus to die to pay our debt, so that we could be redeemed and live eternally in His presence. God took the refuse and brokenness of our lives, transformed us, and has healed us. He did all of this, knowing that we can never repay Him.

The issue is not what God has done for others. The issue is what God has done for me. And as long as I continue to compare myself to others, and as long as I continue to compare God’s goodness to me to His goodness to others, I will never fully realize the blessings He has poured out on me.

In Genesis 29:31-35, we see the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Leah’s story is a sad story. She wasn’t considered attractive in her day, no one wanted to marry her, and the only way she was married to Jacob was because her father tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Soon after her marriage to Jacob, he married her sister, and favored her sister. Her sister, Rachel, was considered very beautiful and desirable. All of her life, Leah lived in Rachel’s shadow, despite the fact that Rachel was the younger sister. Now, her sister had stolen her husband.

Jacob disregarded Leah. He favored Rachel. There was no worse form of betrayal than what Leah felt. Yet, Jacob still had relations with Leah, because in Genesis 29, Leah began having children.

Her first son was named Reuben, meaning “See, a son!” Her reasoning was that God had seen her affliction, and now that she had given Jacob a son, he would love her. He didn’t.

She named her second son Simeon, meaning “heard.” Her reasoning was that God had heard she was hated, and gave her another son.

Her third son was named Levi, meaning “joined,” because after three sons, surely her husband would be joined to her now. Wrong.

Her fourth son was named Judah (celebrated), because now she will praise the Lord.

Notice the progression. She transitions from being preoccupied with how Jacob feels about her, and ultimately comes to a place where she can just praise God for how good He is being to her. She stays in that place of blessing and praise until she notices that Jacob is having children with Rachel’s handmaid. So, Leah provides her handmaid, and you can tell by the naming that her praise to the Lord has waned.

The point is, the more Leah was focused on what God was doing for her, the happier she was, regardless of how Jacob treated her. The more she focused on what Jacob was doing, the less happy she was.

So, the lesson we learn from this is this: Yes, life is unfair. Yes, things happen that shouldn’t. Yes, your pain is legit and real. Nonetheless, God still loves us and blesses us in our despair. Don’t discard that love, and don’t miss those blessings because you are focused on what God is doing elsewhere. Don’t miss God’s grace because you are focused on what is wrong. Look to the Lord, trust Him, recognize those blessings, enjoy them, and praise Him for it.

Yes, God loves you. Yes, God loves everyone else, too. That’s not the point. God loves you, and that’s all that matters.

What is Faith?

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In Mark 5:21-43, we are introduced to two different people: Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, and a woman who had an “issue of blood.” Both desperately needed the help of Jesus Christ, and both begged for His help by falling at His feet. Jairus came and fell at the feet of Jesus as He stepped off the boat, while the woman fell at His feet after being confronted for touching the hem of the garment of Christ. Both demonstrated by their actions what true faith is.

Faith is defined as having a deep-rooted trust, and a conviction of the truth. Basically, to have faith in God is to trust God. But what does that look like?

For some, having faith means doing great things for God, or holding to a disciplined religious regiment. While faith will express itself in action, those two understandings of faith can easily lead one into the hopeless despair of a works-for-religion system.

Instead, Hebrews 11:6 gives us a better picture of what it means to have faith:

But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

In following that description of faith, all one must do is (a) Believe that God is there, and (b) trust His response to your petition, whether it be for salvation, or for a certain prayer request.

So, in expressing this faith, all you are really doing is trusting that God hears your prayers, and trusting His response to your prayer, whether it was the response you were looking for, or not.

When we examine the saga of Jairus in Mark 5, we see a father desperate to help his 12 year old daughter who is dying. He can’t help her, and no one else can. His only hope is to go to the Lord.

Jesus was a controversial figure among the rabbis of His day, and as a rabbi, Jairus was risking a lot to come and fall before the feet of Jesus in full view of a crowd that had gathered. (Even Nicodemus, whom the Bible speaks well of, only met with Jesus at night). That didn’t matter. Jairus’ daughter needed help, and Jesus could help her. Jairus knew it. So he came, and fell at the feet of Jesus, placing himself at the mercy of the Lord, trusting the Lord to respond to his dire situation. He knew who the Lord is, and he trusted the Lord’s answer. Therefore, he placed himself at the mercy of the Lord.

Then, there’s the saga of the woman suffering from the issue of blood. She had been in that state for years, was miserable, lonely, and had spent all of her money on doctors, who put her through horrible treatments, none of which worked.

She believed that if she could only touch the garment that Christ was wearing, she would be healed. Jesus was walking through a crowd of people. Hundreds were pressing against Him. She reached out, touched his clothes, and was instantly healed. What happens next is profound.

Jesus, feeling that virtue had gone out of Him (meaning He knew He healed a woman by the touch of His garment), He turned around and asked “Who touched me?”

His disciples answered, “You see the multitudes pressed against you, and you ask, ‘Who touched Me?!'” That was their way of saying, “Everyone.”

The woman, realizing that it was she whom the Lord sought, came forward, fell at His feet, and told Him everything. It was at this point that Jesus said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”

Many times, I have heard preachers preach that the woman expressed faith by persistently pursuing the Lord to touch His garment. That showed her faith in Who He is. Her true faith came in trusting Him as she came forward to confess everything. She fell at His feet, and told all the truth. That showed her faith in His being a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

In order to have faith, you have to have both components, trusting who the Lord is, and trusting Him to receive you. This woman expressed both. She placed herself at the mercy of the Lord, and trusted His response.

You see, faith moves beyond trusting that the Lord exists. Scripture says even devils fear and tremble. Faith also moves beyond a trust that God will give you the desires of your heart.

True faith knows God for Who He is, and trusts in the answer that God will provide.

In 2010, my grandmother who raised me suffered a debilitating stroke. Partially paralyzed, and unable to fully communicate as a result of that stroke, she lay in a bed in a rehab center, desperately wanting to recover, and I couldn’t help her.

From February 2010 to May 2010, I prayed that God would heal her. I trusted that He would. I couldn’t imagine any other alternative. But one night in May, I received the call that, not only would my grandmother never recover from her stroke, but also that I would never see her again. She had passed away as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

I went on a Spiritual journey in the months that followed. I wasn’t angry at God, nor did I question why she passed. At some point, we will all pass away. I understood that. Still, I wanted to bring my faith into alignment with Who God really is, so that I will not be disillusioned by my own misconceptions.

Since then, I have learned that faith means more than trusting that God can, but it doesn’t mean trusting that God will. Faith means trusting God’s answer, even when it breaks your heart.

Liberated (Mark 5:1-20)

In Mark 5, Jesus travels to the land of the Gadarenes, where He meets a man that was possessed, not by one, not by two, but by a legion of demons.

This man was in as bad a shape as anyone can get. Scripture tells us that he cried out night and day, that he cut himself with the rocks, and he lived among the tombs. Safe to say, the man was in total agony.

We don’t know how the man came to be possessed with a legion of demons. Demonic possession is not something you catch like a virus. You can randomly catch a cold, or pink-eye. However, you don’t randomly catch a demon.

Demonic possession is something that happens when you give Satan space to work in your life, and we have at least one example in scripture where a man was specifically possessed by Satan. It was Judas Iscariot in John 13:27, who had Satan enter into him after he decided to betray Jesus for a payoff. Multiple demonic possession often comes by trying to battle demons without the Lord’s power.

The lesson we learn is the dangers of sin and rejecting Christ. Sin promises endless pleasure and freedom. What it actually delivers is agony and bondage.

So, here we are in Mark 5, and this man is completely degraded and destroyed by the demons in his life. Perhaps you understand what that’s like. Perhaps you don’t.

Either way, we know that this man was powerless to help himself, and he was powerless to deliver himself from the demons. In fact, when Christ showed up, all he could do was throw himself to the feet of Jesus in hopes of receiving the mercy of Christ.

Likewise, when we are beset by sin, all we can really do is throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord and trust His mercy and grace.

At that point, Christ commanded the demon to come out of him. This man could only trust in the grace and mercy of Christ, and Christ rewarded that by liberating him from the demons.

You see, when we come to Christ, He does not demand that we do certain things to obtain His grace. He simply rewards that faith by giving His grace.

Once this man was liberated from his demons, he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He went. He wished to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus and serve Jesus. This should be the response of every redeemed child of God.

Instead of welcoming him to the team, Jesus commanded the man to go and tell everyone back home what the Lord did for him. Likewise, Christ wants us to lead others to faith by sharing our testimony.

The message of liberation in Mark 5:1-20 is one of blessing and encouragement. Take a listen, and then share Christ with others.

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Why read about the creation in Genesis?

Familiarity with passages of scripture can often rob us of the blessings of God’s truth. All too often, we breeze past familiar verses, thinking that it is pretty basic, and that we already know what they say. The truth is that deeper meaning and Spiritual nourishment can be found in those familiar passages.

One good example of this is in the Genesis account of creation. One might be tempted to skim through that passage thinking, “Yeah, God created the heaven and the earth,” and completely miss the implication of it. So in the interest of maximizing our blessings from scripture, let’s take a closer look at Genesis 1-3.

Genesis 1:1 famously tells us, “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.” I cannot read that verse without thinking of a dear Christian friend of mine who emphasized the first four words, “In the beginning, God!”

God was there in the beginning, and He is the beginning. He pre-existed everything. This means He created everything. This means, having created everything, He is more powerful than everything, which means He is more than capable of overcoming that which overwhelms me.

Another observation from the Genesis account of creation is that it demonstrates God’s character and attributes to us. Romans 1:20 tells us that “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

In examining the attributes of God from the creation of the world, we readily see three attributes in Genesis 1.

God creates order from chaos in Gen 1:2. The Earth was without form and void, but the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. The resulting creation is demonstrated throughout the rest of Genesis 1, and can still be observed in person today.

God creates abundance where there is emptiness. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Earth was “void,” or empty. By the end of Genesis 1, we see a world created with abundant resources.

In the beginning, the world was dark. God’s first creation was light. So, we see that God shines light into darkness. Furthermore, He separates the light from the darkness, giving a picture of our future deliverance.

Then, in Genesis 2, we read about how God created man, and placed him in the garden of Eden, giving him abundant food and a great living space. This demonstrates the loving care God gives us.

However, in Genesis 3, man rebels. Believing that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would elevate them to God’s status, thus freeing them from His authority, Adam and Eve ate, and thus rebelled against God.

God responded by offering them redemption (Genesis 3:15) and covering their nakedness.

If you want an idea of Who God is, read about Him in the creation. What you will learn is that He is good, loving and merciful, even when we don’t love Him back.