Friday, April 29, 2016

“Pass It On”

Submitted by Jim Garner

With aging parents our family has had the opportunity to go through lots of closets, cabinets, and crannies over the past few years. We have discovered everything from lost items and collectibles we haven’t seen in years to the best of junk that any packrat would love.  Some things we have wanted and some things…well…you know.
At some point in time, many of these “pass it on” items have meant something special to the owner. It might be a thing they made, earned, or were even recognized for a special achievement. It might have been an heirloom that their family members had passed down through the decades and now it was their turn to host. It might not necessarily be worth a lot of money on the open market, but to that family it is special and brings back warm memories.
When it comes to passing things down or giving things away we do it because it meant something valuable to us and we want someone else to have the joy or blessing of owning or using it. What a privilege it was to enjoy it but now it is even a greater joy to share it with a family member or friend.
The truth be told, there are many things we hold in high esteem like this in our families. And it is good to enjoy, appreciate, and share. But in reality, these things are only earthly material items and will not last or make a difference for eternity.
However, we do have something eternally valuable and significant to pass along to others. What is it?  It’s our faith, a gift that we enjoy here on earth and will for eternity. But it is not just ours to hold on to and never share with others. It is a gift that keeps giving. It has changed our personal lives and countless others around us – family, friend, and even enemy.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
Paul, in his letter to Timothy, reminds him of the importance and personal side of faith. It was real and life changing. He used the word “sincere”. It mattered to Paul and you can see how he wanted Timothy to know just how special it was and should not be taken for granted.  This faith was evident not only in Timothy but in his grandmother and mother. They all had impacted his life spiritually. They didn’t hide their faith from Timothy but lived it out in front of him and others. This spiritual heritage would not end with them or Timothy. Paul goes on to encourage Timothy in this passage to “fan into flame the gift of God” (v.6), “not be ashamed of the testimony” (v.8), and “guard the good deposit” (v.14). (2 Timothy 1) As we can clearly see, our faith is to be given away to impact others.
So as we think about our faith and what we have received as a gift from God and others, let’s consider the following:
·      Who passed on to you their spiritual heritage (faith) that led to your becoming a follower of Christ?
·      Since becoming a “follower”, what person has impacted your spiritual journey the most or how have you been impacted most spiritually?
·      Who are you intentionally passing on your faith?
I’ve received some nice, memorable things from family that I will always hold special to me. It reminds me of good times we had together, special relationships we had, and purpose I’m supposed to have in life. I will never take it for granted.

But most importantly, I’ll never forget the spiritual heritage my mother, Mary Ruth Garner, passed on to me. She raised me going to church where I had solid biblical preaching and teaching, opportunities to grow and serve, and positive male mentors in my life. But at the start of it and heart of it was my mother’s love for Jesus and me that she made sure I knew and would never forget. It’s been 25 years since my mom passed away, but I’m forever grateful for the heritage she has left me and still lives on today in me and my family.
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
One of our favorite songs we used to sing back in youth group in the 80’s was “Pass It On”. What a classic song in music and meaning. The words of this great hymn echo still today in meaning especially when it comes to sharing our faith and spiritual heritage. Check out the first verse below and “pass it on”.

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going, And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing; That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it: you spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Losing Faith

 Submitted by Kerry Patton
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?  Matthew 14:28-31
Water Walking by Sight
I’ve never had a problem with the concept of Peter walking on the water with Jesus.  Not to sound silly, but anyone can walk on water if they choose…they just have to let the water get cold enough.  Right?  I had also witnessed little water bugs skating across the top of water when I was a kid.  The relatively low weight of the bug allowed it to effectively walk and run upon the water without breaking through the surface tension of the water.  So, in my mind, walking on the water was certainly miraculous in the biblical account, but completely within the realm of possibility. 
The miracle for me was in whatever it was that Jesus did by the power of God; either to the surface of the water, or the relative mass of Peter, enabling him to walk upon the surface of the water that day.  Key to this process however was the faith Peter had in his Savior.  “…tell me to come to you on the water” he said.  Jesus said “Come” and Peter got down out of the boat, walking on the water…until, that is…he took his eyes off of Jesus and became concerned by the wind acting upon the waves.  Peter saw the wind, as it were, and became afraid.  He began to sink and had to be rescued by the Lord.
I don’t want to over-play the concept, but it does seem very clear to me that had Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he would have in all likelihood, walked all the way to Jesus with no problems at all!  But he didn’t.  He did not keep his eyes on Jesus.  His focus instead fell to what was happening away from Jesus…the wind, and the waves.  He lost sight of Jesus, became distracted by the world, and the miracle that God was accomplishing in him came to an end.  I do find it interesting that there are no further accounts of Peter ever walking, or trying to walk…on water, ever again.  When I get to heaven, I do intend on asking Peter about this.
Barry’s Dilemma
While I was in college, I was blessed to have many dear friends.  One such friend was named Barry.  Barry was not in my freshman class, but upon his arrival two years later, he was immediately adopted by the circle of friends I ran with.  He was by all accounts a good guy.  Barry was highly intelligent and very charismatic as a personality.  He had been raised by Christian parents, and had been involved in his local church and youth group before deciding to attend a Christian college.  Barry was by all indications, a follower of Christ Jesus.
Following college, Barry and the rest of our group graduated and went in different directions in life.  I had my life path and they had theirs.  Through the medium of Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my college friends in recent years…Barry included, and recently, he made a startling confession.  He announced that he really hadn’t pursued his faith as a Christian in many years, and he had reached the point that he wasn’t sure he even believed in God anymore.  That confession shocked me.  My immediate thought was to quickly post to his page on Facebook and “convince him” that the Christian path was worth his attention and that God did indeed exist!
But I didn’t.  What happened instead, is an entire community of friends, many of whom I don’t even know came to him and began to encourage him.  Some of them were aware of the struggle that Barry had been through across the years.  They encouraged him to not become discouraged and to weather the storm of his doubt.  He thanked them for their gentle concern and encouraged them to pray for him, even if he wasn’t sure of what it would accomplish.  As I waited in the weeds, so to speak, for my opportunity to reach out to my friend, it occurred to me that over time, my friend Barry had taken his eyes off of Jesus and had become distracted by, if you will, the wind and the waves of all that had been going on in his life. 
It is not my belief that Barry has lost his salvation, nor that God has left him because of some sin or neglect.  Rather, that God is waiting for his child to cry out and renew that relationship of faith.  Barry has effectively taken his eyes off of Jesus, and as days have now become years, he has become unsure of the relationship that he once had.  His confidence in what he had years ago has eroded to the point that he is not sure that any of it was real.  As I consider how to communicate this to my friend, I’m reminded of that great hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel: “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which counsels:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.


Almighty God, When Peter doubted he fell in the waters, but he cried out and you saved him.  When Thomas doubted, you appeared and comforted, and restored his faith…and on both occasions, you did so by restoring the faith of those who had doubted.  Reach out to my friend Barry, and minister to these reader friends of mine as well.  When we suffer doubt, O Lord, catch our eyes and renew our faith in you once again.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jumbo Sized Faith

Submitted by Sam Nobles

That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25 ESV)

If you are a believer, your faith and salvation is based upon the Resurrection of Jesus. You didn’t see it visually. You haven’t touched Jesus physically. You haven’t heard His voice audibly—but somehow you believe. Even though our culture mocks it, science disputes it, and people doubt it—God has graced you with faith to believe what the world doesn’t understand.

Jumbo the Elephant was the largest elephant in the P.T. Barnum Circus. Jumbo was the strongest elephant in the world, but he was held in place by one 12 inch tent stake. Jumbo bought into the lie when he was a baby that he didn’t have the strength to pull out the stake.

We’re Jumbo! We’ve already accomplished the incredible. Yet we remain tied to a 12 inch tent stake of lies when we’ve already shown we are capable of uprooting trees with the faith we’ve already displayed in Jesus.

It is nothing to believe in victory over whatever looms before you, whatever pressure is upon you, compared to believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Nothing remaining will demand more faith than believing that Jesus is God, that He died for our sins, and that He rose again.

So, when you ask, “How will I make this payment?” “When will I get married?” “What will I do if I lose my job?” All of these are 12 inch tent stakes compared to the giant tree of unbelief we’ve already uprooted when we believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to use the faith that caused you to embrace the Resurrection to also believe God is going to take care of your present situation.

Scripture to Claim:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17 ESV)

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