Fill My Cup

The woman at the well said to Jesus “Sir, please give me a drink…” (John 4:15). She asked Jesus to fill her physical cup with physical water to meet a physical need. She admitted she needed something and she hoped Jesus would give it to her.

We must go to Jesus in the same way, recognizing and admitting our physical needs and asking Jesus to meet them.

But the importance of our spiritual needs is far greater than the importance of our physical needs. And for these needs we extend to him the empty cup of ourselves–a life that is empty because we are trying to meet these needs in our own power out of the resources of the world.

The woman at the well needed water. In the quiet honesty of Spirit-led introspection, what do we most need from Jesus? He has already offered us joy, peace, confidence, health, prosperity, protection and a person relationship with himself. We are invited to request as much of each of these as it takes to fill our lives.

So why are we still empty?

The answer may be slightly different for each of us, but basically we remain empty because we do not have enough faith in Jesus to fully believe two of his promises. Jesus said “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) And in Luke 12:29, 31 He said “Don’t keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.”

He has offered, but He will not fill our cup without our permission.

Faith

     Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you."
     Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!"



     Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith?



     The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him.



     I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice.



     Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable." 
  

Acting On Faith

The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)

The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.

Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.

To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.

Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.

Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.

Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.

Faith Is Obedience to the Unknown and Known

We put our faith into action when we take a step of obedience into the unknown, following His will even when we cannot foresee the results. We explain such faith by saying “We step out of the light into the darkness, not knowing what the darkness holds.”

Abraham exhibited such faith when he followed God’s orders to relocate his family and possessions without knowing his final destination. Such faith requires obedience, knowing God can make the results pleasant or unpleasant. Suffering may or may not follow.

Such faith-action is admirable. Surely it pleases God. But even greater faith is required when we are called to take a step of obedience knowing for sure the results will be unpleasant. This is when we step into the darkness, knowing the darkness holds suffering.

This faith assures us God will protect us during the suffering, rather than from the suffering. This is “fiery furnace” faith. (Daniel 3:17-18) It is the faith possessed by martyrs of our faith when they refused to forsake their beliefs, knowing that torture and death awaited them.

When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He knew exactly what suffering awaited his obedience But his faith in the Father allowed him to say “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

God expects us to also have faith that permits us to eagerly obey even when there is guaranteed suffering ahead.

Faith and Obedience

Faith and obedience are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.

God sometimes calls us to acts of obedience that have the possibility of undesirable consequences. We hesitate. We procrastinate. We rationalize. Then, finally, we call our weak faith into play and do the thing He has asked.

And because He is our Father He still supports and protects us. The possible unpleasant results do not happen. Our faith grows stronger. We are more willing to be obedient next time.

So each act of obedience results in increased faith. That increased faith, in turn, brings about a more instant, joyful and confident obedience the next time He calls. We become more mature Christians because of the upward spiraling interplay between these two spiritual aspects of our lives.

James was referring to this connection when he wrote “anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act”(James 2:18 LB) It was obedience that directed James’ actions. He was doing the things God selected for him to do, not the things he had chosen for himself.

If we are disobedient, we need to ask the Father for increased faith that will give us the courage to obey. If we lack strong faith we need to act in obedience anyway and our faith will be strengthened when we observe his protection and provision.

And our reward for increased faith and obedience? The greatest reward of all: “Well done” from our Father. (Matt 25:21 LB)

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 9

The Holy Spirit will work to cause Biblical information to become spiritual illumination that will lead to personal transformation, if I let Him.

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As a Christian I take great comfort in the fact that God always keeps His word. Can others take such comfort knowing that I, as a child of God, will always keep mine?

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if after my death my family had “He loved God by loving others” engraved on my headstone?

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When I was growing up my mother told me “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if Jesus was with you.” Now, as an adult, I need to add “Don’t express any opinion you wouldn’t express if Jesus was with you.”

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I did not do anything to achieve my salvation, but I must do everything in my power to clearly express it every day.

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John and Andrew asked Jesus “Where do you live?” Jesus answered “Come and see.” (John 1:38) The invitation was to come closer, spend time together, become friends. And that invitation is still open to you and me.

A Daughter’s Driver’s License

A man had a daughter whose driver’s license was just two weeks old. In three days she and some of her friend were going to take the car out at night for the first time.

He was concerned about her. No, he was frightened for her. She was sweet, kind, open, trusting and generous. She was all the things he had taught her and prayed she would be.

But these very traits that were the cause for his concern. She was going solo into a world that was cold, mean and and full of predators that consumed girls her age. She didn’t have the savvy and experience to even recognize danger, much less avoid it.

He couldn’t be her constant chaperon and bodyguard. He couldn’t keep her locked in the house. What could he do to increase the chances that she would survive her planned trip?

He prayed for her. Every morning and evening and throughout the day he prayed for her. He offered fervent and sincere prayers for her protection.

He also continued to teach her all the things he had started teaching her years before. He emphasized  how to avoid the wrong crowd and refuse drugs. He warned her again to stay close to her friends and shun questionable entertainment.

He wanted her to make all the choices he would make if her were with her. He hoped she would benefit from his wisdom and experience.

God’s concern for us is very similar.

He knows the dangers and temptations ahead of us. He understands how helpless we are. He is fully aware of our tendency to wander into trouble without even knowing it.

For our protection, he wants us to fully and completely have his mind at all times. He hopes his values and priorities will guide each of our decisions. He knows that if we use his wisdom and experience we will avoid many of life’s serious problems.

The man loved his daughter. God loves his children.

The teenager partially recognized her immaturity and grudgingly admitted life might have taught her daddy some valuable lessons. But she still felt his fears were groundless. She was sure she could take care of herself.

Wasn’t that foolish of her?

God’s wisdom and knowledge are far beyond ours. His solutions and plans would have saved us from grief in the past. But we still resist his guidance.

Isn’t that foolish of us?

God’s Twitter

It seems that for many of God’s children Twitter has replaced prayer,  Facebook has taken the place of time in the prayer closet and cell phone contact is more to be desired than intimacy with Him.

The attraction of social networking comes from the fact that we all want to feel needed and need to feel wanted. We are comforted when we feel (accurately or not) that someone is interested in what we like, where we go and what we do.

We want to “reach out and touch” across the nation or around the world. Our sense of worth is enhanced if we have lots of “friends.” We value the fact that at any time from anywhere we can express our feelings, fears and victories to people who are significant to us.

As children of God we have access to an intimate relationship with Him that provides all this and more. We can contact Him across all space any time from anywhere.

Such privilege and power is called “prayer.” It is a 24-7, no limit, instantly received Tweet to the best friend we can ever have.

Our spiritual Facebook network includes the Friend who loves us like a brother. This love causes Him want to solve our problems and only He has the power and wisdom to do so.

If our need for earthly relationships is greater that our need for God, we will miss the joy, peace and power that Jesus died to provide us.

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No matter what I have or don’t have, no one can ever take away my most important possessions – my relationship with God and my membership in His family.

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I must never allow learning and thinking about God to replace talking and listening to Him.

Faith Tested

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and he would have done so if the angel had not stopped him. (Genesis 22:1-13)

Jesus told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give away all the money. He refused. (Matthew 19:16-22)

God did not want Isaac’s death and I am sure He did not want the young man to become a pauper. If he would have started the process of divestment God would have somehow stopped him. Both the sacrifice of life and the sale of goods were designed to determine the degree of faith held by each man. God was seeking a willingness to obey rather than poverty or death.

Abraham passed his test and during his trip back to his family he had the satisfaction of knowing he had pleased God. The young man failed his test and he walked away because his quest for eternal life was going to cost him more than he was willing to pay.

I was saved as a young child more than seventy years ago. My decision at that time cost me very little. The subsequent years of sanctification and discipleship have posed much more difficult questions. All too often I have joined the rich young man and walked away from what Jesus wanted of me. My daily prayer is that I will learn the lessons the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me and be instantly obedient.

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God’s love is practical. It finds specific, helpful things we as his children can do for others. I have discovered that sometimes those things need to be done for people I don’t even know. Sometimes they are designed to be done for people I don’t like. Other times they are intended for people who do not like me. But every time I ask God about them He tells me to “Quit asking and start doing.”

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 8

The blessings God has for me today may be delayed until I share the ones He gave me yesterday.

Jesus loves me so much that He became like me so I can become like Him.

Fear provides faith an opportunity to grow.

When God evaluates my behavior He is easy to please and impossible to satisfy.

Passionless people pray powerless prayers.

Stillness is a part of worship. If we will be quiet while we worship, God will hear us.

I must be aware of the needs of others before I can show them I care about those needs.

Faith should say to God “I will try to do the impossible and accept the uncomfortable.”

If I say “Jesus, I give you all my life to use as you want” I should also  say “Satan, you cannot use any of my life any time for any thing.”

Self-pity is a sin because it is based on the concept that God is not doing as good a job of taking care of me as He should be.

If there’s anyone in this world that I don’t love, I am disobeying Jesus… And disobedience is sin.

God came to us – Immanuel – so we will not be afraid to go to Him.