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The Work of the Faith

Discussing faith and works together has become a difficult, anxiety-inducing exercise for most of the Body of Christ. This is not so much due to an identifiable point of disagreement as to the subconscious suspicion that what the other believes may be different and/or challenging to something we have been told. This again is a ploy of our carnal minds – to protect closely held convictions and opinions; to maintain control and comfort.

Rigid mindsets are generally dangerous things, built on arrogance and fear. There is nothing wrong with strong convictions – as long as those convictions are constructed on the diligent and humble study of God’s word.

Sadly, most of us lack the time required for diligent study, having given said time over to worldly pursuits. Consequently, we are left with someone else’s word as the final word for the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2John 1:9). This is particularly troublesome in regards to the foundational subjects of grace, faith and works.

At a minimum, every disciple of Jesus Christ should recognize and accept that there is more truth than they have yet learned. At the same time, they should be prepared to humbly offer what they have come to understand. And so, with a desire to learn more, I offer here my humble understanding of the work of faith – taken mostly from Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and other noted NKJV passages).

Grace, faith and works cannot be understood apart from each other. Our faith – which is a gift of God – appropriates the grace of God. The grace of God manifests itself in His good works. His good works perfect (i.e., complete) our faith, as we walk in them. Faith without these works is dead (i.e., without effect). Because these works are His, we have no claim of credit for them. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t know who first said, “The Bible is the LORD’s manual for life,” but it is surely as true now as it was then. The LORD has a way for everything. We ignore His ways at our peril.

Most would readily agree that the Bible contains prescribed ways for salvation, sanctification, and all the other big Kingdom processes. Some have recognized His prescription for building the church (Ephesians 4:11-16) and evangelizing the world (John 17:21-23). When we follow the LORD’s ways, He gets involved – sometimes just to show that His ways are the best ways.

The Process

As important as success is to the LORD and man, it should not surprise us to discover that the LORD has prescribed a way of finding and securing success. He has revealed it in Psalm 37. Let’s take a look at it.

1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Step 1: Taking our eyes off the world and focusing them on Jesus. Beholding His glory, we will be transformed into the same likeness, by the Holy Spirit (2Corinthians 3:18). Furthermore, knowing the fate of the worldly, we should fear the desire to become like them (James 4:4).

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Step 2: The LORD desires and has commanded us to trust Him. To trust in anything or anyone else is idolatry.

Step 3: The LORD has created us to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10). It is there that we find Him. Those works are determined by Him, and He is glorified in them (Matthew 5:16).

Step 4: The LORD promised “the land” to the Israelites. He has promised something much greater to the followers of Jesus Christ. He has promised us abundant life in His kingdom. We must dwell in Christ and learn to live in the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” It is important to recognize this kingdom is here now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Business Man with TabletAssessing risk and return is an unavoidable practice in the workplace; indeed, in every part of life. From corporate executives to fathers and mothers, it is hard to imagine any leader making any decision without first determining the potential consequences.

Almost every decision has some measure of risk and return. The objective is to minimize the former, and maximize the latter. As with most things, some are better at this than others. These tend to be the most successful in their field.

Risk management has become an industry unto itself – primarily aimed at the business and government sectors. However, people take risks everyday in every area of life; and it would be helpful for every leader, in every sphere, to regularly consider the risks of their decisions on their spheres of influence.

In one way or another, we will be held accountable for the risk we introduce into the lives of others.

The Workplace Leader, who is also a follower of Jesus Christ, has an advantage in this area – if they are willing to pursue it. That advantage is the word and wisdom of God. Read the rest of this entry »

runner-stretchingA couple of weeks ago, I posted a poem – Sprint, Sprint, Sprint. Since then, I have had some additional thoughts about running the race to win; and I have received some great feedback. What follows is a mixture of those.

Most misunderstood the meaning of “sprint”. They thought it referred to the work of ministry – doing more of the good works we have been called to walk in. There is some of that in the meaning, but it is secondary. The primary meaning is “running after God”. This does not necessarily require additional work, but our being more intentional about the work we have been given.

It has also occurred to me that God may not be calling us to sprint all the time.  There are seasons for every purpose. Waiting on God and following after Him with intensity are both necessary for the one racing to win.

In any event, the question is still a good one: When did Paul start sprinting? Most of us (me included) have a mindset to run the race as if we are waiting for God to ring the bell for the last lap.  Our default intensity is jogging. It seems to me that Paul ran the race in a sprint; only easing up when instructed to do so.

Speaking of the bell for the last lap: How many of us have already heard the bell, only to dismiss it as coming from our TV or cell phone? Seriously, we are very distracted people. We would certainly be better racers if we removed a few distractions from our lives.

Finally, I wonder how many times Paul thought he just couldn’t sprint another second, only to find strength in his weakness. For what it’s worth, that is where I want to be; and God seems to be giving me the opportunity for it. I trust that He is working in me to will and do to His good pleasure.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Psalms 37:5-6

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowJesus certainly realized that His sayings would be a challenge to His followers – even to those with the strongest faith. He knew it would be hard for us to see beyond this world and this life; that our paradigms are insidiously constrained by our current realities. Knowing our frailties, He encourages us to think beyond even the best we have to offer.

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:9-11

I am convinced that the Sermon on the Mount has been given to us early in the Gospels to help us realize that we cannot live the normal Christian life. Only one person can. His name is Jesus Christ. Only the Son of God, who became the Son of Man, can live this “more than” life.

And so, as He comes near to the end of His sermon, Jesus reminds us that the benefits of His life are beyond what we ourselves can measure by the physical limitations of evil man (yes, He calls us evil). It is interesting that Jesus does not define “how much more will your Father…”. He seems to leave the answer to our imagination; but, even our imagination is incapable of measuring the goodness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think… Ephesians 3:20

The goodness of God is beyond all that we can ask or think. It is beyond our imagination. It is truly limitless… and surprising. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowOne of the easiest ways to search out the matters of truth that God has hidden in the Scriptures is to harmonize multiple accounts of the sayings of Jesus. We discover such an example in the accounts of “The Model Prayer”. In Luke’s gospel, we find:

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Notice that the disciple did not ask Jesus “how to pray”. As you might expect, “how” is a very common word in the Bible. In fact, it appears 550 times in the New King James Version. So why is it absent here?

I am convinced, and I hope you will consider, that the disciple was asking for more than instruction in prayer. I believe he recognized that Jesus’ way of prayer was so far removed from their own that what they had been calling prayer might as well have been called “apple”.

Jesus’ way of prayer was about life and relationship. It availed much. It was full of humility and trust. Matthew records His thoughts on the contrasting prayers of men.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8

The prayers of men are about men, and what men want. The prayers of Jesus were (and are) about the Father, and what the Father wants. In this saying, Jesus reveals that learning to pray, at its core, is more about finding the right position before the Father than about what we have to say.

“The Model Prayer” is a model of prayer for our positioning. It is through this model that we come into the Father’s presence. Without this positioning, all that we have to say are the vain repetitions of man. Read the rest of this entry »

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