Stop Doubting and Believe

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Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe!” – John 20:27

From this verse comes so many cliches we’ve heard over the centuries. We read about “Doubting Thomas”, someone who refuses to believe without direct personal experience. Thomas seemed to be the ultimate pessimist amongst the disciples. After the crucifixion and resurrection, he isn’t with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appears to them. The rest of the disciples go off in search of him and when they tell him of the encounter, he doesn’t believe;

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” – John 20:25

Unless he has a personal and physical experience he is not believing it. This despite having followed with Jesus and seen his many miracles, he still will not believe a second-hand account, even from his closest of friends.

Don’t we over and over again, act just like Him. I know I do. I see God’s work in my life over and over again, from the small seemingly minor “God Moments” that seem to happen almost daily, to the miracles we see Him work in lives throughout the world. I know sometimes it takes a physical reminder of God’s presence to help us to believe, but the more you open yourself to God and his working in your life, the more times you can trust that He is there, because of the repeated experiences of Him in the past.

Doubt often slows us down, takes us away from God and doesn’t allow us to move past it to continue to do what God has set before us. We will often miss great opportunities because doubt clouds our mind with fear of what “may” happen. But once you move past the doubt and realize that God is with us, either from a direct encounter or from remembering those past encounters we can be like Thomas and utter probably the greatest confession of faith in the entire Bible,

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:28

To acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord and your God, is the high point of faith. If only we can do that without the season of doubt that we more than often go through.

Because Thomas had seen Jesus, he believed. Jesus says though, and I think this was more directed at future believers than anyone in that historical event;

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

A lot of believers, if not all, back in that day, especially only a week after the resurrection would have seen Jesus physically either before or after his crucifixion. They would have been a spectator to his miracles and his teachings. It would have been easy to believe. Today, we don’t have the luxury of Jesus walking physically amongst us, but I contend that His teachings and his workings are very much evident all around us. We just need to have the faith to believe and see them and according to his promise we will be blessed.

Just Do it!

I’ve been trying to do everything other than write this post. Why? It’s not a great revealing post nor one that I will reveal a great sin. This post is nothing more than a statement of what I feel God is calling me to do. And by putting it down on virtual paper, it feels more real, more ‘official’ if you will. Something that know that it’s down on paper and out of my head, I have nothing left but to take action on it.

Why do I struggle even putting this out there? I’ve been looking for this for a long time. I’ve written many posts here about seeking God’s will and purpose for my life. I’ve spent a few years now seeking and waiting. I don’t want this to be just another one of those posts of “This is what I will or should do” and then never take action and a year from now I’m back looking for my purpose.

So that’s why I struggle. If I write it down, I will need to take action upon it. Two things happened recently that triggered this post (despite me writing different posts first in a unconscious attempt to avoid this one).

First, I’m just browsing around Facebook and stumble upon a person with whom I not even friends with on there. He is on a long journey across America seeking out the homeless, the down-trodden and helping where he can. That could be as simple as buying a meal, paying for a hotel room, or simply just a good conversation. Despite his own sinful nature, he is making an impact on people’s lives and planting the seed of Christ in many. Some of the stories I read, touched me in the few minutes I spent. I felt God asking very clearly, “How have you helped people lately?”

As I went to bed last night, still thinking about those stories I read and trying to contemplate what God is telling me, I do what I do most nights, I lay down to do a little reading before turning out the lights. Currently I’m reading a book (restarting it actually) by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. As I’m reading through the first chapter , called “The Law of Intentionality” it strikes me how I still can’t take my mind off the stories I had just read on Facebook.

This chapter is sub-titled “Growth Doesn’t Just Happen.” It talks about how you have to be intentional about personal growth. You can’t just sit back and wait for growth to happen. You can’t just say “I’ll do it tomorrow.” You know how easy it is to put off things. I’m a natural procrastinator…if I can wait to do something until later, I probably will.

As I read through to the end of the chapter, one thing stood out to me…the call to “Just do it now!” Start now. Schedule time in your day if you have to. Put it on your calendar. Whatever you have to do, just do it and do it now! Maxwell pulled this quote by Jennifer Reed in the April 19, 2011 issue of SUCCESS magazine;

Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in “I’ll do it later.” Or, “Later, I’ll have time to write that book that’s been on my mind for the past five years.” Or, “I know I need to straighten out my finances…I’ll do it later.”

“Later” is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our changes of success. The diet that starts “tomorrow,” the job hunt that happens “eventually,” the pursuit of the life dream that begins “someday” combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.

What a statement of my life. I seem to be waiting for stuff to happen. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning, lives go on and opportunities that God has put before me pass me by.

Dose of real life

Then not too long after, I received news that a young man of just 20 years old was killed in a motorcycle accident. This young man, whom I had coached in baseball and was friends with my daughter, in fact they even went on a date or two a few years back, had everything headed in the right direction for him. He was a good kid. He was studying to be a nurse and was on the path to graduating, being married soon and making a difference in many people’s lives.

However, in just an instance, his life ended. A senseless tragedy to be sure. But what was remarkable was how our small mid-western community gathered around the family and each other to comfort each other on the loss of this fine young man. God used this tragedy for good. It doesn’t necessarily take the sting from the loss, but we know that God can use a bad situation for His glory.

So what came out of this tragedy? Well to start, we know now that a community can rally around a family in the midst of their suffering. But also, on a more tangible note, a scholarship has been setup for graduating students at our local high school for students entering into nursing.

The world keeps turning, lives will go on, but this opportunity to take a tragedy and create something helpful out of it was not missed by the community. He will forever be remembered through this scholarship and the good that it does for others.

How do I start?

So how do I begin? Well I still don’t really have that answer. But what did I just learn? Just do it and do it now! My inclination is to wait until God has showed it all to me. But by then, it could be too late. I feel God calling me to step out in faith, even a small step, but step nonetheless into faith that God will guide my path. My Facebook friend may have had only a vague sense of direction and places he wanted to travel. But, he let’s the road take him where it takes him and be on the lookout for the God appointed opportunities that cross his path.

This post is putting me on notice. God I feel calls us to be more than just ‘good’ people. God calls us to so much more;

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

God is calling us to take action, to just do it. I will find ways, even small ones, to step out in faith each day. I will pay attention to the life that God presents to me every moment, the opportunities to help someone in need, to smile at someone or just to listen to a broken heart. I will resist the temptation to ignore those that I may percieve as more “troubled” as me. I will resist the urge to strike out at those that ridicule me, try to deter me or tear me down. I will make a point each day to do one more thing towards the growth of God’s kingdom. God doesn’t need me, but he wants to use me so why wouldn’t I want to be part of his work.

Call Me Guilty

We live in a world where we sometimes feel hesitant to share what we believe, to share the reason why we have such joy in our life.  No more, I say.

When did it become break a rule
To say your name out loud in school
When you names the only one that sets us free.

When did it become incorrect
To speak the truth about life and death
When your life gave us all eternity.

Ask me….ask me why I have joy in my life.  I won’t fear speaking the name of Jesus.  God has been good to me over the years, great parents and siblings.  Met an awesome and had 4 incredible children.  I found Jesus when I was young, but didn’t get to know him until I was in my 30s.  Lots of wasted time, lots of shyness and not sharing my faith.  Ask me what I believe and I’ll tell you.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

I will share my faith with gentleness and respect, never forcing my opinions on you.  God seeks you out with a heart of love.  But never doubt, I will share my hope despite the consequences it may bring.

Even if it gets me convicted
I’ll still be on  my knees with my hands lifted.

If I’m guilty by association with Jesus Christ, so be it.  If I’m guilty of being a voice proclaiming your ways, so be it.  As the song says, I’ll pay the price to be your light!

Confessing in Christ

My wife and I sat down last night and watched the movie God’s Not Dead.  The theme of the movie really comes from the scripture in Matthew 10:32,33.  When that was revealed early in the movie, I couldn’t get it out of my head the rest of the evening.

If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will openly acknowledge that person before my Father in heaven.  But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before my Father in heaven.  -Matthew 10:32,33

I often feel that way as I’m writing my blog posts.  “This will be my confession to the world,” I think to myself.  But I’m doing it from a safe place.  Hidden behind a computer, essentially anonymously to the masses out there.  No-one really sees the person behind these words.  It’s easy for me to make these posts.  But do I have an answer ready if you would stop me on the street?  Can you even tell when you are with me in person that I’m a Christ follower?

I believe these posts have value, for myself and hopefully for others.  I will continue to write here as it’s a great way to focus my thoughts, guide my studies, and in face keep me motivated to dive deeper.   But I need to focus on my personal confession.  I need to let the world know, not digitally, but in person.  People I talk to everyday should know that I believe in Christ and trust in him for salvation.

It’s interesting to think how I may go about that.  I don’t think it’s shouting it from the rooftops, or handing out tracts or going door-to-door.  No I think I need to show my faith through love.  To truly confess Christ, I must have Christ truly abiding in me.  I can not communicate effectively, that which I’ve not received.  I could speak on Christian doctrine, repeat the words of the gospels and of Jesus himself, but unless I possess the Christlike meekness and love, then I’m not sure I’m truly confessing him.

How could I deny Christ?  Well of course, I can deny him through evil doing, by words that are untruthful and unkind.  I can deny him by the pursuit of sinful pleasures.  I could deny him by conforming to this world, by behavior that is less that courteous, by doubting, by living in fear, by living in darkness.  All these ways I could declare that Christ is not really in me.

Other References

Lots of verses throughout the Bible about confessing Christ.  I think if we read these and let them soak in, we can see the importance of confessing Christ, so I will leave you with these.  Live in Christ and confess Him and he will confess you before the Father.

For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  -Romans 10:9,10

Fight the good fight for what we believe.  Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.  – 1 Timothy 6:12

So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.  And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Christ.  With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the proclamation of the Good News.  – 2 Timothy 1:8

All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of  God have God living in them, and they live in God.  – 1 John 4:15

All who are victorious will be clothed in white.  I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. – Revelations 3:5

Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father either.  But anyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. -1 John 2:23

If we endure hardship, we will reign in him.  If we deny him, he will deny us.  -2 Timothy 2:12

 

 

Strengthening my Faith through Code

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a discussion with a true atheist.  Plenty of agnostics, many that are just indifferent and some of different religions, but I can’t say ever a true atheist.  Many of you know I’m a software developer by trade, so I deal everyday with things that a large majority of people don’t understand.  I write lines of code, that the computer somehow magically interprets and makes the computer do crazy and wondrous things.  At least that is how my children view what I do.  When I step back and think about it, what we do is kind of magical.  I write some code, that is nothing more than a few lines of semi-english looking text.  The computer translates it into a bunch of numbers and ultimately into a bunch of 1’s and 0’s.  When you put enough of those together, they make the game you are playing or work application run or the browser that you are reading this post in….it’s really quite amazing.  But it all takes a little bit of faith.

I ran across the article this morning called, How Programming Has Strengthened my Faith in God, that got me thinking about all this.  I can play around with code to make it operate however I want.  The following code is from a game I started writing recently.  What it does is not important to our discussion, but to get the game to work properly, the code has precisely tell the computer what to do, but it essential controls the movement of the main player character.  With some very minor changes, I could make the character fly, appear frozen to the ground, run at twice the speed or half the speed.  I could make anything happen.

Code

 

This world, in a very simplistic view, is much the same.  I drop a ball from the roof and the routine of gravity kicks in and the ball falls to the ground.  If you know anything about gravity, you know the formulas, the constants, the calculations that need to happen to tell us how quickly the ball drops and with what velocity.  When it hits the ground does it bounce and how high?  And then how long does it take until the ball finally comes to rest.  All those calculations and if one little calculation was changed or one constant was tweaked even slightly, the ball could very well not drop to the ground but fly horizontally across the sky and out into space.

But we know it drops and we know before we release it, that it will drop.  How doe we know that?  Well it takes a bit of faith at first.  Then after much experience, we come to trust and believe that it is true, even though we don’t understand it or really can tell anyone exactly how it works.  But we know it does and that it always will.

Is our faith in God any different?  At first we may be skeptical and not be sure if there is a God or not.  Then something happens that gives us a little bit of evidence.  We ultimately step out in faith that God exists and works in our lives daily.  We may not know how, we may not know the reasoning behind things, but we have faith that God is there, even though that faith can be a little scary at times.   Then after we become more mature in our faith, we just “know” that God is there.  It is still faith, because we ultimately don’t know the inner workings, but we know from experience that He works in our lives.  After dropping the ball from the roof fifty times, we still may not have a better understanding of how gravity works, but we have faith that when we drop it the fifty-first time, it will work much the same as the previous tries.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  – Hebrews 11:1

I’ll finish this post with that one quote from Hebrews as it pretty much sums it all up.  We have faith in so many things every day that we don’t understand, yet so many find it hard to have faith that there is a God that works in our lives every day, despite the evidence that surrounds us.

What is faith?

Reading through Romans this morning (one of my favorite books) and in chapter 4, we read about the faith of Abraham.

For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous’  – Romans 4:3

But when we hear this, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone, we often think, “Is my faith strong enough to save me, do I have enough faith?”  But we are completely missing the point here.  It is Jesus Christ who saves us, not our feelings or actions or strength of faith.  If only those of us with great faith were saved, while those of us with little were condemned, then that would put the result of salvation back on our works and not on Christ.  Jesus Christ is strong enough to save us regardless of how weak our faith is.

What then is faith?  Faith is believing and trusting in Jesus Christ and reaching out to accept his wonderful gift of salvation.   Salvation is a gift that God freely offers us if we just have faith.  I’ve written previously about what Faith does for us, it really is a charter for freedom.  It gives us true freedom.  Freedom to live a life free of fear of condemnation so that we can serve our living God.

 

Always in His Prescence – Psalm 16:11

You will show me the way of life
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
-Psalm 16:11

In the Old Testament, God lived in the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain of the temple.  The penalty of entering without the prescribed preparation was death.  Aaron had to spend hours preparing to meet God.  (Read Leviticus 16).  Today the way to God has been opened to us through Christ.  When Jesus died, the curtain separating us from the Holy of Holies was turn and God no longer dwells there.  We can now approach him anywhere, anytime.   We should still be sure to prepare our hearts to meet with God, he is still Holy and we need to be aware of that.

Today we still often look for God to be there in those special places.   We enter a church service and feel God’s presence, because he is there.  We may feel Him present in other activities and be assured he is there.

But how often do we actively feel his presence in our every day lives?  Do you feel he is with us at work?  You should, he’s there.  Do you feel him when you’re out with your family for dinner?  He’s there.  Do you enjoy his company at a sporting event?  You can, because he’s there.

He’s with you always and is with you everywhere.  You don’t have to wait until you are at a “church” service or gathering of Christians to meet him.  You can do that anywhere at anytime, because Jesus Christ did the preparation for us and has made us able to come into the presence of God outside the steps prescribed in the Old Testament.

Do we really need to “seek” God’s presence out?  Perhaps all we need to do is acknowledge his constant presence with us.