Tag Archives: faith

“Risen”: A Fresh and Moving Perspective on the Resurrection

I just came back from seeing the new movie, “Risen”.  I recommend it highly.

I have seen a lot of Bible-themed and faith-based movies over the years. Risen is something encouragingly different. You see, the problem with most bible-themed and faith-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category. Either the writing is transparent, the acting weak, the directing is misguided or the production is cheap. Risen is a clear difference, hitting on all four cylinders.

Joseph Fiennes solid portrayal in the lead is moving and draws viewers into a well-told story. The story is summed up with one statement. When asked, “What frightens you?” Clavius (Fiennes) responds, “Being wrong. Wagering eternity on it.” Yes, Clavius is a non-biblical/fictional figure, but he becomes the personification of each and every person who has faced the truth of the resurrection and said, it can’t be true. As he proceeds on behalf of the Roman empire in an attempt to prove the false claims, we are reminded of the words of Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This is where Clavius finds himself.

For those who are familiar with the account of Jesus resurrection, “Risen” provides a fresh perspective. For those who are not, they will find a compelling investigation as they see events through the eyes of a skeptic who must reconcile what he believes to be true with all the evidence that is laid before him.

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Standing on The Promises of God

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Words & Music by R. Kelso Carter, 1886

 


let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22 – 23

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians10:13

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Mark 16:16

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5


 

“But you promised!” Parents have all probably heard these words at some point from their children. Why is this the case? Because sometimes parents, just like all adults, say things without thinking them fully through. Sometimes a parent may absent mindedly make a promise to a child when they are not really paying attention. Sometime it is because the child has pestered them so long they have become worn down. Other times they may have made the promise with the best of intentions, but then circumstances changed and they could not follow through.  Another words, there are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for from breaking a promise.  But to a small a child, they are all illegitimate. To them, a promise is a promise. Thankfully, we have been given promises that we can trust. Promises that were not given without thought. This is the message of R. Kelso Carter’s “Standing On The Promises Of God.”

The second verse begins with the words “Standing on the promises that cannot fail.” This seems something that is unimaginable.  After all, our life experience is that of the child from earlier.  Promises are capable of failing.  But we are not talking about the promise of a fallible human being. We are speaking of the promises made by God himself. Surely the one who created and sustains the universe, is capable of keeping his promises. This is what we are told in Hebrews 10:23 where we read, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

God’s promises can be trusted. But what are these promises. They are too many to count, and I do not have the time to try and list them all. I have, however, chosen five promises to look at. These are promises that we can have confidence in. Promises on which we can stand.

  1. God has promised that He will meet our needs.  Philippians 4:19 tells us “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” If this is the case, then why do we worry? Because we forget that He is faithful and His promises can be trusted. Yes, God can and will meet all of our needs. This is not to say that He will give us everything we want, but we can know that in His wisdom, He knows what we need.
  2. God has promised that His grace is sufficient to see us through, even when we find ourselves unable in our own strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Yes, sometimes we will stumble, but when we face our trials and find ourselves ready to give up, we can rest in the strength that comes from the His grace.
  3. God has promised that He will always provide us a way to withstand temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Temptations will come our way.  There is nothing we can do to avoid them. When they come we can either stand up to them or lie down and give up.  It is our choice. And when we put our trust in God, we can stand up to temptations
  4. God has promised that if we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will know salvation. Mark 16:16 declares, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved . . .” We all look for salvation in different places, but salvation comes from one place, belief in Jesus. When we put our faith Him, we will be saved.
  5. God has promised that He will not abandon us. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that “. . . God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” We need not fear being alone.  We can have confidence in the fact that God is always there with us.  We need only turn to Him and remember that He will never leave.

Yes, God has made promises. But they are not the empty, absentminded promises we have to often experienced in our lives. The are promises in which we can trust.  God’s promises are true and stand the test of time. For this reason I say with confidence, “I’m standing on the promises of God.”

 

 

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‘Tis So Sweet, To Trust In Jesus

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

Words by Louisa M. R. Stead, 1882
Music by William J. Kirkpatrick

 


Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
John 14:1

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:11 – 14

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20


 

Why? This is a favorite question of little children. They want to learn. They want to understand things. But, there is something else that goes right along with their question, why. Little children seem willing to accept what they are told without further question. It does not cross their mind that the person giving them the answer may not be telling the truth. They simply trust.

Somewhere along the line, we loose this ability. Our default is no longer to trust, but to question. We view trust as something that is earned, not simply given. This is exemplified in the Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify.” It is commonly tied to President Ronald Reagan in association with his dealings with the Soviet Union. Simply put, it means that we want to trust what somebody tells us, but we need to have proof before we do.

The question is then, do we really trust? When we truly trust, there is a peace that comes from knowing we do not have to worry if we are being told the truth. This is the theme of Louisa Stead’s hymn, “ ‘Tis So Sweet, To Trust In Jesus.”

Stead writes, “just to take Him at His word..” Think about, what peace there really is when you do not have the need to question. I am not talking about questions of understanding, but of truth. The simple reality that you do not need to doubt that what you are being told is the truth.

For this reason Stead goes on the right, “And in simple faith.” That’s what trust boils down to, simple faith. But do we have faith because we trust, or do we trust because we have faith? If we do not have faith in the person, then we can not trust them, but how can we trust someone, if we do not have faith in them. These things seem to go hand in hand. Faith and trust are two sides of the same coin. This is why John 14:1 read, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” in some translations and “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” in others.

So trust and faith (or belief) walk hand in hand. It is this trust that allows us to place faith in Jesus sacrifice for us. Because of this trust, I can turn my life over to Christ. I can rest in Him “Just from sin and self to cease.” So that I can get from Jesus, “Life and rest, and joy and peace.”

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:13 – 14, “ When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”

We can trust in Jesus. So we are able to sing the final verse of this hymn.

“I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.”

 

 

Read more about, ” ‘Tis So Sweet, To Trust In Jesus.”

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

 


he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:7 – 8

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also,as to one abnormally born.
1 Corinthians 15:3 – 8

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:28 – 30


 

“I believe in the future of (farming) agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.”

I learned these words thirty years ago when I joined the Future Farmers of America.  I can still quote them, partially due to my participation in the FFA creed speaking contest. These words were written to summarize what the FFA sought to instill in its members.  The beliefs it was built on.

In the same vein of thought, Getty and Townend present a  creed of the Christian faith with their hymn “In Christ Alone.”  They begin with the words, “In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song; This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” The very cornerstone of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ himself.  In Acts 4:11 Peters tells the leaders of Israel, “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’”  

From here we are presented in verses 2 and 3 with a clear summary of the foundation of the Christian faith.  They write that Christ took on flesh, born as a baby, died on the cross, was laid in the grave and rose again. This reflects Philippians 2:8 where we read, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death. Additionally it reflects  1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4 where we read, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The beauty of this hymn is found in its simple message.  The declaration that Christ alone is the foundation of our faith.  The birth, death and resurrection of Christ is all that matters.  When we place our faith in the knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done we can rest secure in the knowledge that we are His. In John 10:28 – 30 Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

When we realize this, we can declare in strength and power, “No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Till He returns or calls me home— Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

 

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Justified Fully

O what a wonderful, wonderful day –
day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend –
He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, With joy I am telling,
He made all the darkness depart.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Born of the Spirit with life from above
into God’s fam’ly divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary’s love,
O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made
when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer of grace He did proffer –
He saved me, O praise His dear name!
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure,
there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day
when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
from His precious hand I received.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Words and Music by John W. Peterson, 1961

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

. . . For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
Romans 3:21 – 26, 28 – 30

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Romans 5:1

 

“Oh what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget.”  This hymn written by John Peterson is definitely a fun song to sing.  The rolling melody is filled with joy and energy to the point that the music itself portrays the same feeling that is given with the words.  And the chorus is readily recognizable to people.

But as I sing this hymn, it is the second verse that strikes me with such important and profound truths.  Peterson writes, “Justified fully thru Calvary’s love.”  This is the great gift of salvation.  We have been justified, that is, we have been made right in our standing before God.  But how has that happened.  Romans 3:24 tells us that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  We are justified, made right, because God has shown us His grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He alone is our source of redemption.

What is more, Paul goes on to write, in verse 28, “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” You see, there are no actions, or good things we can do, which will justify us before God.  It is only by believing in Jesus Christ that we can be made right before God.  What is more, it is not a long and arduous process to receive this.  It is not something that happens over a long period of time.  No it happens the moment we choose to believe.  As Peterson writes it, “And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came, Took of the offer of grace He did proffer – He saved me, O praise His dear name!”

Paul goes on to write in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  All that has separated us from God had been removed.  We can now freely stand before Him.  So I sing with a renewed vigor and joy, the words of the third verse.

“Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure,
there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day
when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
from His precious hand I received.”

 

 

Read more about “Heaven Came Down.”

Trusting in God’s Will – An Act of Faith


I recently received a note of encouragement and sound advice from a friend. My friend served in ministry for 1 ½ years before the position came to an end. He began searching for a new position but eventually realized that nothing was forthcoming and so needed to find a job to support his family. He has since done so. I am glad to hear that he has a means to support his family and pray that God will continue to bless him in all that he does. In his message he said, “May I suggest you get a non-ministry job, anywhere, pronto just to feed your family while you are looking.” This is, of course, sound practical advice, and I am not one to ignore the practical. But I have been contemplating God’s call and my response. Most notably, how do faith based and practical decisions interact and/or conflict with one another.

I realize I have responsibilities to care for and provide for my family. This is, of course my first and greatest responsibility. What is further, I do not believe that God would ask me to follow him to the detriment of my family. Having said this, I also realize that my vision is limited by my experience and by what I see around me. What I mean by this is that what to me, may initially seem to be detrimental to my family, in the long run may, in fact, be the greater good and glorifying to God. For example, in the short run, God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was clearly detrimental to his family. But Abraham saw past this, for he knew God’s promise to him and in the long run, God’s request and Abraham’s faith proved to be glorifying to God.

But let’s be honest, the first thing through my mind is “I am not Abraham and Abraham was a special case.” Is it not self-serving for me to try to justify an impractical decision by claiming that God will use it to his glory? Here in lies the dilemma. When does making practical decisions equal a lack of faith and when does a leap of faith become a foolish venture?

I cannot speak for every person and every situation, but I can share my thoughts. God gave me a brain and expects me to use it. At the same time, God sometimes ask people to do things that seem foolish.

So how do we know which one to follow? How do we discern God’s will? Discerning God’s will has been a problem for all people from the very beginning. (Okay, not from the beginning, it was pretty clear for Adam and Eve, but even when they clearly knew it, they had trouble following it.)

For me, it has not been easy, as those whose advice I have sought will testify too. But that is one of the keys I have found in discerning God’s will. It is to seek the insight of those around you, those who can look at things objectively and those will be completely honest with you. It is from these people I have felt confirmation and support of my calling and the direction in my life.

Another important aspect of discerning God’s will is prayer. Prayer has been my opportunity to seek God’s guidance, to ask for His blessing on my life. It is, however, important to remember that prayer is not a onetime thing, but it is on going. I have prayed daily over this with the only result being a growing commitment to the call.

Another important part has been to take time away from distraction and other activities. This is a time when I can hear God’s voice, when I can cry out to Him and I can sit in silence before Him. I can describe the times of joy and the tear filled moments that have helped me to grow.

The answers are seldom 100% clear. Sometimes the act of faith may well be the practical route, but other times the act of faith may be what seems impractical to the world. In either case, the dependence must be placed on God and not in our own abilities.

I cannot say, what the answers are for others. Each of us must seek God’s will for our own lives. each of us must learn to listen as much with our heart as we do with our mind. In my case, I can say with confidence that I have placed my trust in God and I am seeking his guidance. I do not question any decision I have made to date in this matter and will continue to seek his guidance in seeking His direction.

I thank my friend for His advice and will take it under consideration, but either way, I will seek God’s guidance.

“Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.”
Exodus 34:10