faith

Faith (Mark 5:21-6:6)

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pistĕuō (Greek): to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), to entrust, to believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Faith is believing God.  Faith is to put one’s trust in God regarding something when one has yet to still see the outcome.  Faith is believing and acting according to that belief.  Faith is always rooted in SOMEONE or something.

Jarius the Synagogue ruler had a need, his daughter was desperately ill.  Jarius has seen or heard of myriads of people being healed by Jesus and on that basis Jarius believes that Jesus is worth approaching and reveals his faith when He says to Jesus (Mark 5:21-23); “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”.

Coming to Jesus revealed his belief that Jesus was worth coming to, imploring Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter puts his belief about what was possible with Jesus on display.

Similarly, the woman who has seemingly unsolvable long-term medical issues believes, has faith.  Scripture clearly explains that the reason for her action was;

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)

Her thinking was, Jesus is the answer to my unsolvable problem – that’s faith!  And faith is what God loves.  Jesus commends the woman for her faith (vs34) and Jesus urges Jarius to keep believing (vs36) when he hears the news that his daughter has passed away.

Why does God love faith?  

Is it because of the relational component that there is to faith?  

I remember teaching my children to swim in the pool and in the ocean.  I remember so clearly just wanting those little freaked out kids to trust their dad, to believe that he would not let them get hurt or worse, to believe that he knew what they could handle.  I know what it feels like now teaching my 18yr old how to drive, when she is panicking that she can’t do something I know she can do, or drive somewhere where I know she can drive, I know what it feels like to just want her to trust me, to trust that I’ll help, I’ll direct and counsel and together we will achieve things she will be proud of and delighted with in the end…  Faith has a relational component to it.

God loves it when we trust Him, when we choose to believe He is good, He is loving and all powerful and that He knows what’s best for our lives.  Will you trust Him, will you have faith like this woman, faith like Jarius?  They saw their unsolvable problems solved because they believed!

In closing, Mark 6:1-6 is set in stark contrast to this.  Jesus goes to his hometown and He encounters the exact opposite of faith, people don’t believe they disbelieve He is anything special and so it says;

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

Jesus still did some miracles, but it was not much, He was astounded at their unbelief and as a result of their unbelief, His hometown lost out on what might have been if only they had believed like the woman, like Jarius.

Will you believe?

Do you trust Jesus in everything?

Are you living today, filled with the faith that God loves?

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We need reminding… (Joshua 23)

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After a long time had passed, as Joshua is close to the end of his life he gathers all of Israel and speaks to the leadership of the nation in a way that is very reminiscent of Moses’s Deuteronomy sermon in the last moments of his leadership (see the whole book of Deuteronomy but especially chapters 29-33.

Joshua re-iterates very similar words to those of Moses, as their leader he calls them to remember three things;

  1. To remember what God has done for them (vs3,9-10, especially vs14)
  2. To remember what God requires of them (vs6-8, 11-13) to do and not do
  3. To remember the warning of God’s jealous wrath should they turn away from God in compromise and idolatry (vs15-16)

The call to remember is a repeated refrain in the Old Testament, passage after passage points back to the covenant with Abraham, the actions of God for His people to deliver them from Egypt, the covenant and commandments given to Moses, the sin and unbelief in the wilderness, God’s punishment on that generation, God’s faithfulness to ‘every word’ of His promises to His people in giving them the Promised Land and fighting for them…… As you read on in the OT, the refrain goes on and on, through the prophets and God’s various mouthpieces and even into the NT with books like Hebrews having a definite call to remember in them.

Why?

Well we so easily forget. More than this, remembering God’s faithfulness to us in the past (past faith) is the foundation we need to have faith in the present with all its challenges and its the foundation we need to have faith for the future we can not yet see.

Remembering, recounting, telling and re-telling the ‘God-stories’ of our lives, reading the ‘God-stories’ of Scripture are so vital to our faith.

I want to urge you to remember how God has worked in your life (starting with what Jesus did on the cross for you) and spend time thanking God again.

Remember things you can and have thanked God for and let the memory of those God-stories fuel your faith again for the present and the future.

Lastly, remember that warnings are no good to us unless we are warned by them. God promises to deal with the compromise and sin of Israel, the breaking of covenant (vs15-16). We live under a new covenant of grace but sin is still an offence to our Holy Father. We will never be punished for our sin because Jesus was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-6) but we can miss the life and the nearness and blessing of God that He wanted us to experience.

Is there any ongoing sin in your life that you know you need to repent of?
I urge you to repent & to turn from it, to seek out help if you need help.

 

Not one word… (Joshua 21:43-45)

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Caleb’s request to allow him to go and take possession of the land (Joshua 14) allotted to him sets off a succession whereby all of the tribes enter into their God-apportioned inheritance over an extended period of time (this is covered in Joshua 15-21).

The summary statement at the end of this section reads as follows;

Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)

God was faithful to every word, to every promise He had made, everyone of them came to pass.  These people entered into the land God promised, God did fight for them, protect them and now provided for them with this good land.  Scripture says, ‘God gave them rest on every side’ (vs44).

God’s word is clear, God is faithful, God can be trusted, God will do what God has promised to do.  When God utters promises/commands – the words God speaks will accomplish what God intended for them to do (see Isaiah 55:10-11).

What can you and I learn from this summary about how God treated Israel?

What significance can this have on your life?

Is there anything you know God has promised to you personally?  

Are you still trusting God?

God is worthy of our trust.

 

Faith & Patience Inherits Promises (Joshua 14)

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Caleb is one of the true heroes of the faith. His story is recorded mostly in Numbers 13-14, the moment in Israel’s history where God promised to give them the Promised Land and Moses sent 12 spies into the land to survey it and 10 came back with a bad report, a fear-filled report that made the ‘heart of the people melt’ in faith eroding fear. On that day two of the spies had a different spirit, they believed God at His word and were willing to follow God fully (Numbers 14:24 & 32:12). Their names were Joshua & Caleb.

Because of their faith, God promised that they would be the only two of that whole generation who would actually enter the Promised Land and that they would receive the inheritance God had always planned to bless them with. Here now in Joshua 14, Caleb approaches Joshua and asks that he be given his inheritance that God promised to him.

Caleb has waited patiently for 45yrs for this moment! Caleb, held on to to his faith, remained steadfast in his belief in God even when circumstances must have caused him to wonder and doubt. His whole generation passed away in the Wilderness – they never entered into all that God has planned to give them. But Caleb remained full of faith and he says to Joshua in this moment as an 85yr old man;

“And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

What an inspiring burst of faith and confidence in God. The book of Hebrews urges us to imitate people like Caleb;

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11)

Is there something God has promised to you which is seemingly not happening, seems delayed, you know God said it, but you don’t see any evidence of it on the horizon?

Friend, I assure you, if God truly said it to you, promised it in His word, you might have to wait half your life, but God is faithful, never doubt that. Psalm 22:4-5 in the NIV translation says this of David’s ancestors;

In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

God will not change, God cannot be unfaithful (2 Timothy 2:13), let’s be like Caleb, let’s patiently wait trusting in God because we believe that He is faithful to His promises.

Faith Handles (Joshua 3)

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Faith is believing God.  Implicitly, faith is believing when you can’t see or when you haven’t yet seen God’s answer or intervention.  For this reason, faith is not easy, it is totally rational if God is who the Scriptures say He is, but at times faith is a real challenge.

We know from Scripture that God wants us to believe, to trust Him, our Father loves it when we believe in all that He has revealed to us about Himself.  We should be able to believe because of what’s revealed to us in Scripture, we should be able to believe in the basis of the testimony of others in Scripture and in life because we know that God does not, can not change (Malachi

But in my experience sometimes I need to see God do something that I can experience and testify to to help me with my faith, as a handle for my faith…

Here in Joshua 3 I see God graciously giving His people a ‘faith handle’.  As they looked ahead at the Promised Land and all the challenges that were to face them, you could say they should have had faith because of all the things God had said and done leading up to this point.  God’s faithfulness in providing for 1million people in a desert, God’s words & miracles through Moses…

But God knows our fickleness.  And so God says through Joshua;

“Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you….when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” (Joshua 3:10-13)

God is so gracious to us, we should believe without seeing but God knows that sometimes we need handles as it were to grip onto for our faith.  God’s people needed to trust God going forward for all that lied ahead, God graciously gives them a visible tangible handle for the faith He wants them to have in Him.

How’s your faith right now?  Full or flagging?

Why don’t you ask God for something tangible even something small to help you trust Him for the BIG things like salvation…?

God is so gracious, so forbearing with us. Ask Him.

A new perspective

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Watching a documentary series on television, I became intrigued by the strength of the family bond.  In this series, the presenter and staff pull out all the stops in an impressive detective display, reuniting long lost family members – adopted children seeking biological parents, children raised by single mothers searching for their father, parents looking for children with whom they’ve lost contact due to broken relationships…

And each time the reunion confirms this one fact – there is a link between members of the same family that spans continents and cultures.  Parents never forget the children born to them, and children have an unidentifiable want that is only satisfied by either meeting their parents, or at least gaining a better perspective and more information on who they were.

So the story of Joseph intrigued me.  Here is a much loved son, who is betrayed by his brothers and becomes traumatically lost to his family.  He goes through a series of trails, pain and unfair situations.  But eventually God turns it all around and he becomes a super-powerful person in a super-powerful nation.

And after many years, he comes face to face again with his family.  The intricate storyline that follows may be a reflection of the deep emotional turmoil he experiences.  Surely that same strong family bond identified in the stories I mentioned above made him want to be reunited with his family? But he doesn’t know whether he can allow himself to trust them again. They were, after all, to blame for the trials he had experienced.

So, he tests them.  And he finds them changed men.

Genesis 45 paints a touching portrait of a powerful man exposing his vulnerability – weeping aloud “so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” (v 2).  Maybe all the years of pain also came to the surface.

Joseph shows tremendous spiritual maturity when he reveals his identity to his brothers.  He is able to forgive them.  But even more than that – he is able to look past the people who should carry the blame, and see the hand of God.

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God. (v 5-8 – my emphasis)

What a perspective!

With distance in space and time from all that happened, God had revealed to Joseph that His plan was at play here and ultimately it was not even limited to Joseph’s good, but would benefit a whole nation.

Of course, with hindsight one can more easily identify the hand of God in troublesome situations or relationships that cause your life to take a different direction.  It should give us hope and increase our faith in God for each subsequent trial.

Because blaming people cannot give our pain purpose. God, who knows the end from the beginning, uses every person and circumstance in our lives to bring His purpose to fulfillment.

Letting go of blame and the need for justice (or revenge), allows us to love again.

Blaming people obstructs our eternal perspective, obscures our view to God.  Forgiveness is an act of faith.  It expresses our trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God.  It acknowledges that God is omniscient, all-powerful, eternal and always fully in control.

by Lise Oosthuizen

So where has the romance gone?

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Reading the story of how Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for his beloved son, Isaac, it seems that finding a marriage partner was a very calculated activity.  But it is in fact the opposite!

God knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our personalities and habits.  Only He can perfectly suit two people to each other.  And His choice for Isaac was perfect, because the two of them loved each other dearly.  And what a wise servant, to stay close to God in this pursuit (Gen 24:21)

“The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”

I have experienced a very similar story recently when a dear friend of mine’s daughter got married.  And to illustrate how much God is involved in the choosing of a marriage partner even today (as much as, and even more than, He is involved in every part of our lives), let me briefly recap the story to you.

There was a young South African woman who dedicated her life to God and purposed to also trust Him to provide her with a husband.  She set out to get a clear picture in her own mind about the qualities a man should possess to make him a good husband.  She allowed herself to dream of her perfect man, and entrusted these dreams to her Father.

On the other side of the world was a young man who, amidst constant pressure to join the dating game, and constant ridicule for not doing so, trusted God to point out to him whom to marry.  He decided to keep himself pure until that day.

So the young woman went to the other side of the world for a short period of time, attending a course at the very insitution where this young man worked. And sure enough, God pointed out to him that this is the woman whom He has chosen for the young man.  And although the young woman recognised many of the attributes of a good husband in this young man, she had no idea of the conversation between him and God and in due course she returned to South Africa.

Almost despairing, the young man asked God for wisdom in ways to start courting the young woman.  Telling the story in detail astonishes everyone as to how God’s masterplan came together in ways no human being can conceive.

The two of them got to know each other through e-mail and a deep appreciation and love for each other grew in their hearts.  God opened the way for them to get engaged and then married, and they now have a beautiful little girl and another child on its way.

Their lives still speak of God’s miraculous dealings as they move forward in His plan for them.

Are they a unique couple?  Is God really interested in helping young men and women today, find their perfect life partner? YES!

It is not only the old, Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah, or the recent, modern story of my two young friends above – it can be your story too!

You have entrusted God with your life when you answered “yes” to His call.  Won’t you trust Him and WAIT until He shows you the one He has chosen for you?

by Lise Oosthuizen