Journal Entries
Every weekday you will find a journal entry here from someone different in our church family. 
 
Click the scripture title and scroll down to see a comments section where you can ask questions, share insights and post your own SOUL Journal entry for the day!
 

January 16 – The Pilgrimage of Faith

 

Scripture

  • Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Observation

It was not Abraham’s plan to leave Ur and then Haran, and eventually settle in the land of Canaan. In fact, when he left Ur he had no idea where he was going. He was called by God, and only God knew what was in store for him.

In the Greek, he was called is a present participle, and the translation could be, “when he was being called.” In other words, as soon as he understood what God was saying, he started packing. It was instant obedience. It may have taken several days, or even weeks or months, to make final preparation for the trip, but in his mind he was already on the way. From then on, everything he did revolved around obeying God’s call.

The life of faith begins with the willingness to leave one’s Ur, one’s own place of sin and unbelief—to leave the system of the world. Giving up the old life is one of the greatest obstacles to coming to Christ, and is also one of the greatest obstacles to faithful living once we are in Christ. The force that makes us want to hold on to the old life is sometimes called worldliness. Worldliness may be an act, but primarily it is an attitude. It is wanting to do things that are sinful or selfish or worthless, whether we actually do them or not. It is wanting men’s praise whether we ever receive it or not. It is outwardly holding to high standards of conduct, but inwardly longing to live like the rest of the world. The worst sort of worldliness is religious worldliness, because it pretends to be godly. It holds to God’s standards outwardly (usually adding a few of its own), but it is motivated by selfish, worldly desires. It is pretentious and hypocritical.

Worldliness is not so much what we do as what we want to do. It is not determined so much by what our actions are as by where our heart is Some people do not commit certain sins only because they are afraid of the consequences, others because of what people will think, others from a sense of self-righteous satisfaction in resisting—all the while having a strong desire for these sins. It is the desire for sin that is the root of worldliness, and from which the believer is to be separated. The root meaning of holiness is separation, being set apart for God.

One of the surest marks of the demise of worldliness is a change in desires, in loves. As we grow in Christ and in love for Him, our love for the things of the world diminishes. They will simply lose their attraction. We will not want to do them like we used to. The pilgrimage of faith begins by separating ourselves from the world, and as we concentrate on Jesus and fellowship with Him, soon we do not care about the things we once loved so much.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

And this is the glory of faith, namely, not to know where you are going, what you are doing, what you are suffering, and, after taking everything captive—perception and understanding, strength and will—to follow the bare voice of God and to be led and driven rather than to drive. Martin Luther

You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are. Everyone who follows Jesus leaves something.

Abraham left his homeland; Peter and Andrew left their boats and nets; Matthew left his tax collector booth.

Everyone who follows Jesus leaves something. We leave the old life behind. We leave our sin, our old habits and addictions. We may even leave some relationships behind.

And you can’t go if you don’t leave.

God often asks us to take the next step without knowing where it leads.

And we often don’t want to go without having the whole map in front of us!

If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith.

It takes faith—high-risk faith—to obey and go, to take the next step when you can’t see where it leads.

Life Application

What will I do about it?

The answer is the same again – I will obey and take the next step.We are not to worry about the end result we just need to take the next step.

What is the next step that you need to take to obey God in faith?
 
-Pastor Gary
 
To join the conversation click the link at the top of the page of click here.
 
Supplemental Reading – Psalm 34


January 14 – Noah Rebuked the World

 

Scripture

  • Hebrews 11:7b By faith Noah… condemned the world.

Observation

Noah’s obedience included his passing on to the rest of the world God’s message of coming judgment. God called Noah to preach while he built. The preaching was probably more difficult than the building. Hard jobs are always easier to deal with than hard people.

The times in which Noah grew up were among the most evil and corrupt in history.

  • “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

If any man had reason to regret the time in which he lived it was Noah. But he did not complain about when he was born, his lot in life, or his calling. He obeyed as he was and where he was.

Noah’s job was to warn the people of his time that God would soon judge them because of their wickedness and unbelief. They had had the same opportunity to know God and His will as had Noah. The difference between Noah and everyone around him was not a difference in the amount of light but a difference in response to it.

Noah must have been tempted to make excuses about his qualifications for preaching and boat building. Surely Satan suggested to him more than once that he had plenty of time to build the ark “later.” One hundred and twenty years gives a great deal of opportunity for procrastination. But Noah did not make excuses or procrastinate; he simply preached and built, just as he was called to do. Amidst ridicule, wickedness, long years with little evidence of success, and many unanswered questions, Noah obeyed and obeyed and continued to obey.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

Noah’s response to God in building the Ark had no grounds for obedience except trust in God. He believed God when He said that there would be rain and a flood even though there was no prior evidence to support that. And in building the Ark Noah preached. The Ark was his pulpit. People probably came from miles around to see this monstrosity that Noah was building in his backyard and it most likely led to Noah being able to tell them of God’s impending judgement. But that all laughed. It is as MacArthur says…the difference between Noah and everyone around him was not a difference in the amount of light but a difference in response to it. Because of Noah the people who came to see the Ark knew as much about what was going to happen as Noah did – they chose not to respond.

In building the ark, Noah condemned the world. It was not his intention to do so but by acting on the knowledge that he had (and which everyone else had) Noah condemned them for their sin and disobedience.

My actions of faith is a proclamation to others about God as well as a condemnation. I must be obedient to God, because that step of faith in every aspect of my walk with God, proclaims God’s truth to the world around me. When I proclaim it and continue to do it it, it forces the people around me to make a decision, they too must respond in faith or not.

Our actions regarding God’s ways are both a proclamation and a condemnation to the world around us.
Are we preachers of righteousness?

Are you making excuses and rationalizations for why you cannot walk in faith and obedience?

Are you waiting for the perfect time to begin “building the Ark?”

Life Application

What will I do about it?

Live in obedience to God so that my life is a testimony of the reality and power of God.

No complaining about what I am going through because these moments of trials and disappointments are simply opportunities for God’s power and glory to be demonstrated in me and through me.

Lord I choose to put on my tool belt and get on with the task of building the Ark that you have asked me to build because it is a opportunity to declare you to the nations even if they are non-responsive. My job is obedience.
 
-Pastor Gary
 
Join the discussion by clicking the title link at the top or click here
 
Supplemental Reading:  Psalm 32


January 13 – Noah Obeying In Faith

 

Scripture

  • Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Observation

“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). True faith always has actions to support its claim. Earlier in the second chapter of his letter, James condemns the man who says he has faith but who does nothing to help a fellow Christian in need. In order for faith to be valid, it must visibly radiate itself in good deeds. If you really believe in God, there will be evidence of it in the way you live, in the things you say, and in the things you do.

Abel illustrates the worship of faith, and Enoch the walk of faith. Noah, perhaps more than any other person in history, illustrates the work of faith—obedience.

Noah was a man of faith, and his life continually showed his faith by his utter obedience to God. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). He worshiped God faithfully, as Abel had, and he walked with God faithfully, as Enoch had. He also worked for God faithfully.

Noah’s faith was amazing. It was amazing because of his absolute trust in God and because of his unhesitating and persistent obedience for 120 years in an undertaking that, from the human perspective, looked totally absurd and absolutely impossible.

Noah Responded to God’s Word

When God told Noah that He was getting ready to destroy the world because of its wickedness and instructed him to build an ark (Gen. 6:13-14), Noah dropped everything and started building.

Noah probably lived in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a long way from any ocean or sizable lake. It is difficult to imagine how God’s message must have sounded to Noah. To most of us it would have been so strange, so demanding, so embarrassing, so absolutely overwhelming, that we would have done anything to get out of it. We would have thought up a thousand excuses for not doing it. We would have done our best to talk God out of the whole idea, or at least convince Him to get someone else for the job.

But Noah, did not argue, quibble, make excuses, complain, or procrastinate. He did not question God, but simply began obeying Him. He spent over one hundred years fulfilling this single command. True faith does not question, and Noah did not question.

Noah doubtlessly had a lot of things of his own to do. To surrender all his time and effort to building a boat took a special kind of commitment. He probably had little idea about what an ocean-going ship was like. Certainly he had never seen, or even heard of, a giant ship such as the ark was to be. He had no experience in shipbuilding, no easy access to building supplies, and no help except that of his sons. Even they were not able to help for many years after the ark was begun, because they were not born until after Noah was 500 years old (Gen. 5:32). One of the greatest practical acts of faith in all history was Noah’s cutting down the first gopher tree for wood to make the ark.

Noah was warned by God about things not yet seen.

He had never seen rain, because it probably did not exist before the Flood. He had never seen a flood, since floods could not have occurred without rain. Noah responded to God’s message by faith, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

By faith Noah… prepared an ark.

He had nothing to go on but God’s word, which for him was more than sufficient.

That Noah’s faith was genuine is proved by his obedience to God’s word. In God’s economy, trust and obedience are inseparable. Just as Noah trusted and obeyed, God wants all who belong to Him to do the same. He wants us to trust Him in the trial we are going through, the temptation we are facing, the decision we are making. He wants us to worship Him rightly, as Abel did, and to walk with Him, as Enoch did. He also wants us to obey him, as Noah did. The Lord has arks for every believer to build. It is just as important for us to build the ark He gives us as it was for Noah to build the one God assigned him. Ours may not be as big or as awesome or as time-consuming as Noah’s, but it is the only one we can build that will please God. And, like Noah’s, when we build it in faith, according to God’s plan and by His power, it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish. Also like Noah’s, our work for the Lord may look foolish and purposeless in the world’s eyes. But if it is His work, it will please Him, the only one a believer needs to be concerned about pleasing.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

The phrase “in reverence” struck me as I was reading today. Noah, having heard from God (as He was walking with and worshipping God) IN REVERENCE obeyed.

Some translations say, in holy fear, but I don’t think that Noah’s action was out of cowering or servile fear. He was intimate with God so He did not have to fear Him but there was a reverent respect because of who God is. So because Noah knew God and spoke with Him, God told Him that a catastrophic event was going to take place and God gave Noah a way to save himself and his family. Noah, took what God had said as the absolute truth (in reverent respect for who God is) and acted on it even though the action would require a lot of work and change of lifestyle.

Life Application

What will I do about it?
God reveals to us what we must do to be saved – Accept His love, Believe in His Son and Confess our sins and by faith (in reverence) we must obey.

But even after we have become children of God, as we walk with God and worship Him, He will reveal what He is going to do and gives us a way to protect ourselves (to work out our faith) but so often we are not willing to take that step of faith because it will be difficult. Sometimes He requires that we leave a friendship, or say no to a “better” job opportunity. He asks us to surrender a habit, to surrender our time, TV watching habits or finances…all because He knows that doing so (although very difficult) will save us from some impending catastrophe.

Father, I don’t just want to walk with you and worship you I want to hear your words of warning and respond in obedience regardless of how difficult the response is. Give me the strength to do so and help me to be around people who will encourage me to be obedient. Thank you that unlike Noah I have a church family that will encourage me and help me if I let them.
 
-Pastor Gary
 
To join the discussion click on the link at the top (January 13_ Noah…) or click here

Supplemental Reading: Psalm 31



January 12 – Enoch Preached for God

Scripture

  • Jude 14-15 And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Observation

That Enoch preached for God we learn only from the book of Jude. We have no hint as to how effective it was, but Enoch’s purpose was to be faithful, not effective. He did what God required of him and left the results to Him. One thing is certain: because of his faithful preaching and faithful living, no one who heard Enoch or lived around him had any excuse for not believing in God.

Jude’s report of Enoch’s preaching contradicts any notion that Enoch lived in an easy time for believing. He was surrounded by false teachers and false teaching. He could not possibly have preached as strongly as he did without considerable opposition. He battled against his own generation in the same way that Noah would later battle against his. He let them know they were ungodly, and he let them know God was going to judge them. I believe God was pleased with Enoch because his faith was not just something he felt in his heart. It was heard on his lips and seen in his life. His faith was active and dynamic, vocal and fearless.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

It is easy to get discouraged when you are preaching and sharing the Good News with people and there seems to be no response. And not just from unbelievers either, it is discouraging when people who profess to be believers will not listen or respond to what God has asked you to say to them. The excuses and rationalizations and the lack of response gets to be so discouraging. But I am not the first to experience this and I will not be the last and God requirement for me is obedience – I must simply do what He tells me and leave the results up to Him.

Life Application

What will I do about it?

The more I dig in to faith the more I realize that faith requires a dogged determination that I will not give up in my obedience to God even when everything seems like it is going sideways.Faith is not just something felt in our hearts – it is heard on our lips and seen in our lives.

So here goes…
God has called us to be a Great Commission Movement.The nature of the word movement is something that affects not just Santa Clarita but to the ends of the earth.God has called us to reach lost people by building bridges of relationships with them and by meeting their needs in caring relationships so that we can recruit them into the family of God by sharing the gospel with them and inviting them to come into relationship with God and His family.A great commission movement is fueled when we disciple people (teaching them to obey everything that God has commanded) and then we release them to fulfill God’s mission.You and I are to multiply Christ-followers everywhere.Think your neighborhood, your workplace, your families.Think planting more churches in Santa Clarita, in Los Angeles county, in California, across America and in other lands.This is the great call God has placed on Desert Streams and it starts with you and me and our willingness to embrace it by faith (though we many not see it right now) and to act as though it is the reality.From the giving of your time to the giving of your finances, let us be people who please God because we live in faith regarding being a Great Commission Movement.
 
Let our lives be the sermon on faith!
 
-Pastor Gary
 
To join the discussion you can click on the title link at the top of the page (January 12-Enoch preached for God) or click here
 
Supplemental Bible reading: Psalm 27


January 11 – Enoch: A Surrendered Will

Join us this evening @ 7 for a time of worship and prayer at the church.

Scripture

  • Hebrews 11:5-6  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Observation

Walked with God

Believing that God exists is the first step toward faith. Believing that he rewards those who trust in Him is the first step of faith. Trusting fully in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is only the beginning of the faithful life in God. To continue pleasing God, we must fellowship with Him, commune with, “walk” with Him—just as Enoch did. In the four verses in Genesis 5:21-24 describing Enoch, he is twice spoken of as “walking with God.” In the Greek Old Testament this phrase is translated “pleased God.” Walking with God is pleasing God.

Like Enoch, every believer should walk with God every day he is on earth.

A Surrendered Will

Walking with God implies a surrendered will. God does not force His company on anyone. He only offers Himself. God must first will that a person come to Him, but that person must also will to come to God. Faith is impossible without willingness to believe. Just as walking with God presupposes faith it also presupposes willingness—a surrendered will.

A surrendered will is a surrender in love. Willing surrender is not abject submissiveness, a determined resignation to the Lord’s way and will. It is what might be called a willful willingness, a glad and free surrender.

The New Testament refers to this sort of living as walking in the Spirit. We are to live continually in the atmosphere of the Spirit’s presence, power, direction, and teaching. The fruit of this walk in the Spirit are:

  • “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
    (Gal. 5:22-23).

Walking in the Spirit is allowing Him to pervade your thoughts. It is saying, when you get up in the morning, “Holy Spirit, it is Your day, not mine. Use it as You see fit.” It is saying throughout the day, “Holy Spirit, continue to keep me from sin, direct my choices and my decisions, use me to glorify Jesus Christ.” It is putting each decision, each opportunity, each temptation, each desire before Him, and asking for His direction and His power. Walking in the Spirit is dynamic and practical. It is not passive resignation but active obedience.

Continuing Faith

Finally, a person cannot walk with God unless he has first come to God by faith. Just so, he cannot continue to walk without continuing to have faith.

Enoch believed God, and he continued to believe God. He could not have walked with God for three hundred years without trusting in God for three hundred years. Enoch never saw God. He walked with Him, but he did not see Him. He just believed He was there. That is how He pleased God.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

To walk with God is to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  It means that regardless of what the circumstances say I choose to believe God and respond in obedience to Him.  This walk comes back to the understanding that faith has a propositional aspect and a relational aspect.  I must believe God and that He is good and desires the best for me and I must trust in Him and surrender my will to His.  As MacArthur says, “it is a glad and free surrender.”  Hmmm – is my surrender glad and free or is simply a chore that must be done because that is what Christians do?

Life Application

What will I do about it?

God I will choose to live a surrendered life by “walking in the Spirit.” 

Each day I will choose to surrender to your Spirit’s guidance to keep me from sin, to guid my decisions and actions.

God I choose to put each decision, opportunity and temptation before you and ask for your direction and power in my life.  I want to please you and I want to walk with you all the days of my life by believing so fully in you that obedience to you is the only option.
 
Are you walking in the Spirit?  How are you doing in allowing the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, gentleness) in your life? 
 
-Pastor Gary
 
To check out the discussion or to join click here
 
Supplemental Bible reading:  Psalm 25


January 10: Enoch Sought God’s Reward

Scripture

Hebrews 11:6b
  He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 

Observation

It is not enough simply to believe that God exists. In order to please Him it is also necessary to believe that He is moral and just, that He will reward faith in Him. We must recognize God as a personal, loving, gracious God to those who seek Him. Enoch did not believe God was merely a great impersonal cosmic force. He believed in and knew God in a personal, loving way. For three hundred years Enoch had fellowship with the true God, a God whom he knew to be just, merciful, forgiving, caring, and very personal.

The Bible tells us that God not only can be found but that it is His great desire to be found. David said to his son Solomon,

  •  “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9).
  • Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!” (Ps. 58:11).
  • “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me” (Prov. 8:17).
  • “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

Jesus was very explicit:

  • “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened” (Luke 11:10).

It is not enough just to believe that He is. We must also believe that He rewards those who seek Him.

The reward that God gives for faith is salvation.

  • “Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

In other words, every good thing that God has, including eternal life, constitutes the reward for belief. For faith we receive forgiveness, a new heart, eternal life, joy, peace, love, heaven—everything! When we trust in Jesus Christ, we become mutual heirs with Him. All that God’s own Son has is ours as well.

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

If you seek Him, He will let you find Him! God does not hide from us! He wants us to find Him, he desires to be known by us. How often I think that God does not want to have relationship with me because of something I did or did not do, but that is not the case – He is longing for us to seek Him so that we can find Him.

AND…

When we find Him we discover that He is not just waiting to be with us but He has a bag of presents waiting to give us. He wants to give us eternal life, salvation, peace, joy, unconditional love and forgiveness, heaven, and the list goes on. He wants to reward those who earnestly seek Him.

Life Application

What will I do about it?

That word earnestly is the key. It means to intensely search for. To prioritize my time so that I will find what I am looking for. To be diligent in my attempts to search God.

God I want to be earnest in pursuit of you. You are not a calendar item for me to fit in – you are my priority! You first and then everything else fits in. By faith I will chase hard after you because I believe that you care enough to respond to all who will pursue you with sincerity and diligence.

How will I pursue you?
By fasting and setting aside priority to pray and commune with you.
By prioritizing my time so that I gather together with your family regularly for worship and fellowship.
By PBand J-ing so that I can learn of you and allow you to speak to me.

How will you earnestly seek God?
 
-Pastor Gary
 
To check out the discussion or to join click here


January 9: Enoch – Walking in Faith

Scripture

Hebrews 11:6a
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is.
 

Observation

Absolutely nothing from men can please God apart from faith.  The first step of faith is simply to believe that He is. This Enoch did. God is pleased with those who believe in Him, even with the first step of believing that He exists. This belief alone is certainly not enough to save a person, but if it is a sincere conviction and is followed up, it will lead to full faith.  Mere recognition of a deity of some sort—the “ground of being,” the “man upstairs,” IS not the object of belief in mind here. Only belief in the existence of the true God, the God of Scripture, counts.

We cannot know God by sight.

  • “No man has seen God at any time,” Jesus said (John 1:18).

Nor can we know God by reason. Two chapters of the book of Job (38-39) are devoted to God’s forceful and colorful illustrations of how man cannot even fathom the operations of nature. How much less can we understand God Himself by our own observations and reasonings.

God gives much evidence of His existence, but it is not the kind of evidence that men often are looking for. He cannot be proved by science, for example. Yet many things learned from science give evidence of His existence.

The law of cause and effect, for example, holds that for every cause there must be an effect. If you keep pushing further and further back for causes, eventually you will end up with an uncaused cause. The only uncaused cause is God. This is the argument used previously by the writer of Hebrews:

  • “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (3:4).
 According to the law of entropy, the universe is running down. If it is running down, then it is not self-sustaining. If it is not self-sustaining, then it had to have a beginning. If it had a beginning, someone had to begin it, and we are back to the uncaused cause. There must be a first cause, for which only God qualifies.
 
The law of design also indicates that God is. We learn from science that water has a high specific heat, which is absolutely essential to stabilize chemical reactions within the human body. If water had a low specific heat, we would boil over with the least activity. Without this property of water, human and most animal life would hardly be possible.
 
The ocean is the world’s thermostat. It takes a large loss of heat for water to go from liquid to ice, and a large intake of heat for water to become steam. The oceans are a cushion against the heat of the sun and the freezing blasts of winter. Unless the temperatures of the earth’s surface were modulated by the ocean and kept within certain limits, we would either be cooked to death or frozen to death. How could such intricate, exacting, and absolutely necessary design come about by accident? It demands a designer.

Even the size of the earth gives evidence of design. If it were much smaller, there would be no atmosphere to sustain life. Earth would then be like our moon or Mars. On the other hand, if it were much larger, the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, as do Jupiter and Saturn, which also prevents life. The earth’s distance from the sun is absolutely right. Even a small change would make it too hot or too cold. The tilt of the earth’s axis ensures the seasons. And so it goes.

Science cannot prove God, but it gives overwhelming evidence of a master designer and sustainer, which roles could only be filled by God.

Like science, reason cannot prove God. But also like science, it gives a great deal of evidence for Him. Man himself is personal, conscious, rational, creative, volitional. It is inconceivable that he could have become so by accident or that his Creator could be anything 
less
than personal, conscious, rational, creative, and volitional. To think that personal, thinking, decision-making man somehow could have developed from slime to amoeba and on up the evolutionary chain does not make sense.
 
By faith Enoch believed God is.
 

Understanding

What is God saying to me?

We all come to God in different ways…some people simply believe that God exists and that He is the Creator, the One without beginning or end.  Others must use the rationalization of science as given in the law of cause and effect, entropy or design.  But at the end of the day the first step into relationship and intimacy God requires faith – science cannot prove God exists, it just gives us evidence that there are some things that only God can do – but the truth is that you and I must come to the place where we must simply believe that God is.  He is the Beginning and the End, He is the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, He is the only True and Living God who is eternal – without beginning or end.

 Faith is propositional and relational – we must believe these propositions about God and then we must act in the reality of it and come into relationship with God who desires to have relationship with us.

Life Application

What will I do about it?

God today, I am not looking at promises that you gave me and deciding to have faith to walk them out, today I am simply living in the fact that God is!  
God is Creator and Ruler of all.  A God without beginning and end.  A God who desires a relationship with me and who makes a way for me to have that relationship with Him.  Today I celebrate that God is for me not against me.  God is my Father and my Friend.  God is a very present help in times of trouble.  God is my Redeemer and Savior.
 
You finish this statement.  God is…
 
– Pastor Gary
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


January 6: Abel: Worshiping in Faith

SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 11:4b
Through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous.

OBSERVATION

Abel Obtained Righteousness

The only thing that obtained righteousness for Abel was that, in faith, He did what God told him to do. That is the only thing that changes a man’s relationship to God. It is not how good we are, but whether or not we trust in Him, that counts with God. That trust is evidenced in obedience to His Word. 

  • ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine'” (John 8:31).

The people Jesus was speaking to believed Him, but they had not yet trusted in Him, which Jesus said would be marked by obedience to His word. Obedience does not bring faith, but faith will always bring obedience and the desire to live righteously.

We cannot claim to have faith in God and then continually disregard His Word. James must have known some people who thought this way, for he wrote,

  • “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?…Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14, 17).

Nonworking faith, disobedient faith, is not saving faith. It is not valid faith at all. Cain believed that God exists. Even the demons believe this, James goes on to say.

  • “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (2:19-20).

James was not teaching salvation by works. He is saying that our faith is only real when it issues in works. We cannot work our way to God, but having come to Him, works will become evident—and prove that our faith is genuine.

 
UNDERSTANDING
What is God saying to me? 

Claims of being a Christian are empty if they aren’t accompanied by a life that is actually following Jesus.

I’m reminded of 1 John 2:6: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

 
LIFE APPLICATION
 
What will I do about it?

Evaluate my life in light of this truth. Am I truly living as Jesus did? Am I living to bring glory to God in all I say and do? Am I humbly spending my life on others or on myself? Am I obeying God’s word even when it’s extremely difficult?

God, it is my desire to not just profess faith in you, but to truly be like Jesus. Please reveal to us the areas of our lives that aren’t consistent with the faith we profess. Transform us into the image of your Son and may we grow in expressing our love for you and others. Amen.

 
-Levi Thompson
 
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January 5: Abel: Worshiping in Faith

SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

OBSERVATION

Dead men do tell tales.  James Moffatt wrote, “Death is never the last word in the life of a righteous man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.” Man leaves this world either a Paul or a Nero.

From many thousands of years ago, Abel speaks to us about faith. 

Abel Made a True Sacrifice

  • By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. (11:4a)
  • “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Gen. 4:3-5).

A Place to Worship

Cain and Abel had a place to worship. Because they brought offerings, some sort of altar must have been used on which to make the sacrifices. It seems perfectly consistent with God’s grace that, from the beginning, He would have provided for some means of worship. A place where man could come for forgiveness and atonement.

A Time for Worship

There seems also to have been a time for worship. “In the course of time,” means literally, “at the end of days,” that is, at the end of a certain period of time. It may be, therefore, that God had designated a special time for sacrificing. God is a God of order, and we know that in later centuries He did prescribe definite times and ways of worshiping. The fact that Cain and Abel came to sacrifice at the same time also suggests that God had specified a particular time.

A Way to Worship

I also believe that God had designated a way to worship. Cain and Abel would know nothing about the need for worship or sacrifice, much less the way, had they not been told by God—perhaps through their parents. It is inconceivable that Cain and Abel accidentally stumbled onto sacrifice as a way of worshiping God. The fact that God accepted only the one sacrificial offering also seems to indicate that He had established a pattern for worship.

There was nothing intrinsically wrong with a grain or fruit or vegetable offering. The Mosaic covenant included such offerings. But the blood offerings were always first, because only the blood offerings dealt with sin.

Here is where the life of faith begins, with a sacrifice for sin. It begins with believing God that we are sinners, that we are worthy of death, that we need His forgiveness, and that we accept His revealed plan for our deliverance. That is the beginning of the life of faith. It was in such faith that Abel presented his sacrifice to God. And it was because of such faith that his sacrifice was acceptable to God.

When Abel did what God said, he revealed his obedience and acknowledged his sinfulness. Cain, on the other hand, was disobedient and did not acknowledge his sin. Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain because God had prescribed a blood sacrifice. Somehow Abel, and Cain as well, knew what God wanted. The difference between the two was that Abel gave what God wanted, whereas Cain gave what he himself wanted. Abel was obedient and Cain was disobedient. Abel acknowledged his sin. Cain did not.
 
Abel approached God and said, in effect,“Lord, this is what You said You wanted. You promised that if I brought it, You would forgive my sin. I believe You, God. I acknowledge my sin and I acknowledge Your prescribed remedy. Here it is.” Cain had the same knowledge of God’s requirements, but decided to worship in his own way. In the tradition of his parents, he did his own thing. In effect, he was denying his sin.

God is not arbitrary or whimsical or impulsive. He was not playing a game with Cain and Abel. He did not hold them accountable for what they could not have known or could not have done. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he knew what God wanted and obeyed. Cain’s was rejected because he knew what God wanted, yet disobeyed.

Abel offered a better sacrifice because it represented the obedience of faith. He willingly brought God what He asked, and he brought the very best that he had.

 
UNDERSTANDING
What is God saying to me? 

The verse is simple and clear that there was one thing that made Abel’s sacrifice better: his faith. If we come to worship or seek God, we must truly believe that God exists, and that he will reward us for seeking him.

At times I lack faith. I come to worship or prayer and wonder if God is really hearing me, or if he is really pleased with my worship or if he will answer.  I feel convicted thinking about this because it was his lack of faith that caused Cain’s sacrifice to be rejected by God.

 
 
LIFE APPLICATION
 
What will I do about it?

I will continue asking God to increase my faith. And, I will meditate on this verse today.

God, I confess that I believe you exist. I believe you hear me when I pray. I believe that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I have complete access to you, I have your favor, and my worship is pleasing to you. I believe that as I type this now, you hear my heart and answer. Thank you for your great love. Please continue to increase my faith. Amen.

 
-Levi Thompson
 
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January 4: The Illustration of Faith

SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

OBSERVATION

God did not just create the world, but the worlds (aiōn), which designates the physical universe itself and also its operation, its administration. He created everything simply by His word (rhēma), His divine utterance. He created from nothing, at least not from anything physical, or visible. The writer makes an absolutely stupendous claim in this short verse. The greatest claim, and the one hardest for an unbeliever to accept, is that understanding of creation comes entirely by faith.

The origin of the universe has been a long-standing problem for philosophers and scientists. Centuries of investigation, speculation, and comparing of notes and theories have brought them no closer to a solution. Every time a consensus seems to be developing about a particular theory, someone comes up with evidence that disproves it or makes it less plausible.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. It is beyond the realm of scientific investigation, but it is not beyond knowing—if we are willing to be taught by the Word of God.

All truth is God’s truth. Some of it—the natural world—is discoverable with our eyes, ears, touch, and intellect. A great deal more of it, however, is not. It is understood only by faith. The very attempt to explain the universe, or our own being and nature, apart from God is a fool’s effort. These things we understand only by faith in the revealed Word of Scripture.

An evangelist of many years ago told the beautiful story of two little boys he once visited in a London hospital.

“The cots were side-by-side. One boy had a dangerous fever, the other had been struck by a truck and his body was badly mangled. The second one said to the first, “Say, Willie, I was down to the mission Sunday school and they told me about Jesus. I believe that if you ask Jesus, He will help you. They said that if we believe in Him and pray to God, then when we die He’ll come and take us with Him to heaven.” Willie replied, “But what if I’m asleep when He comes and I can’t ask Him?” His friend said, “Just hold up your hand; that’s what we did in Sunday school. I guess Jesus sees it.” Since Willie was too weak to hold up his arm, the other boy propped it up for him with a pillow. During that night, Willie died, but when the nurse found him the next morning, his arm was still propped up.”

 We can be sure that the Lord saw his arm, because the Lord sees faith and the Lord accepts faith. By faith Willie saw the way to heaven. By faith he saw what the learned will never discover on their own. God’s greatest truths are discovered by simple faith. It is not the world’s way to truth, but a thousand years from now the world will still be devising and rejecting its theories. The person of faith knows the truth now. Faith is the only way to God.

UNDERSTANDING

What is God saying to me? 
 
It’s interesting to me that the verse says “by faith we understand,” not “by faith we accept.” There is an understanding that comes only through exercising faith. And according to scripture, understanding should be pursued and greatly valued. 

Proverbs 4:7  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

If I want understanding; to understand God, to understand his specific will for my life, to understand his Word, it will not come without faith.

LIFE APPLICATION
 
What will I do about it?

Continue asking God to increase my faith.

God, please fill us with faith! We want to gain a greater understanding and to know you more! Amen.

 
-Levi Thompson
 
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