Monday, January 27, 2014

Stepping Out

Dead Faith
To me… nothing is as unnatural or unpleasant to look at than a lifeless body. No disrespect intended to anyone who has suffered that kind of loss, but if you have attended an open casket funeral of a loved one, you know exactly what I mean. No matter how much you try to make a lifeless body look like it was when it was alive, it simply cannot be done.

I remember, just minutes after our little 14 year old daughter passed out of my arms and into the arms of her Heavenly Father, it was difficult for my wife and I to look at her body. Why is that, some may ask? Because all that was really her, all that made her so beautiful and wonderful to be with, had left that little body. Even so, praise the Living God, we know where she lives and one day we shall join her there.

The scriptures state that faith in God without resulting works is dead. We believe in the same manner 
physical bodies without life are unpleasant to us… so our faith void of action is repulsive to God.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Jas 2:24-26)

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can (that kind of) faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.             (James 2:14-17)

If we desire to have our Father’s strong support in our churches and ministries this New Year, we must not only; … examine ourselves in His lightdevelop courage by seeing what God sees we must also step out and act (obey). In other words our hearts must be completely loyal to Him.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him… "  (2Ch 16:9)
                               Peter’s Experience
These three principals can be seen in Peter’s experience of walking on the water.

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer (have courage)! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  (Mat 14:25-29)

Notice they were all afraid (Peter included) they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.” A real disciple’s walk after the Spirit sometimes will include becoming afraid. Yet fear can sometimes become the environment where over-comers are created. Now watch the order of things in Peter’s experience.                                                                                   
First; Peter questioned his natural senses and beliefs… He was examining himself. So He asked Christ to examine what he thought he had seen and heard. "Lord, if it is You …”
Like Peter; for us to accomplish God’s extraordinary will… the first thing we should do is develop humility and a healthy kind of questioning of ourselves and what we think we know. This means questioning what we have always assumed to be true about ourselves, about others, our circumstances and even what we think we know. Our unreality about what we think we know will stop God’s support as quick as our sin. Ask for His illumination. The scriptures say … ‘In Your light … we see light.’ (Psalm 36:9)

Developing Courage
Secondly… Peter began asking to believe (or see) what Christ believed (or saw), and that was that Peter could walk where Christ walked! ‘Be of good cheer literally means’… have courage! Seeing what Christ sees is where our courage will come from.  This seeing through the eyes of Christ produced for Peter startling new possibilities and created courage in Peter that made him bold. command me to come to You on the water." We must learn not to trust what we think we see, hear or feel through our natural senses and develop the courage that comes through beholding what Christ sees.

Stepping Out
Thirdly… Peter then united that courage with his knowledge of God’s will (what he knew God wanted) and acted on it. Then and only then did he hear Christ say… “Come!” … and immediately Peter acted on it.
“And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. “

We miss so many possibilities for ministry. So many believers never examine themselves to see if their walk is still pleasing to God, even though Christ demands us to do so (2 Corinthians 13:5). So they remain deceived about themselves and their circumstances. (Proverbs 26:12, Galatians 6:3) Fewer still ever deny their own natural opinions, feelings, fears while asking Christ what He sees or hears in fearful circumstances. So they remain without the courage to act. Remaining cowardly can have serious consequences. (Revelations 21:8)
Yet sadly, even among those who do both; many, many disciples fail to act and never step out from the safety of the boat, so they remain… unfruitful.

Stepping Out
This third principal… Stepping Out… is paramount to us having Christ strongly support what we want to do as a church in 2014.  Once we know where we stand with Christ, and He infuses us with His Courage… we then must immediately act on what we know. Faith is not completed until we move on what we believe.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect (completely loyal)?  (Jas 2:21-22)

Do not wait to understand… act. The understanding we seek will come after we act.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding has all those who do … (the words His commandments are not in the original… it’s just do!) His commandments. His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)

The boat Peter and the other disciples were in represents… safety. It represents the comfortable way of doing things. It stands for the spirit of …‘none of the other disciples are doing it’… are they? ‘Let someone else do it.’ ‘This is the way we have always done it’; ‘We could lose everything if we tried that.’ ‘We’re too afraid, too poor, too old, too young, or too busy’.

Get out of the boat! Better to drown in the raging sea than to miss an opportunity to walk where He walks. Yet even so, we know He won’t let us drown.

When my wife and I decided to come to Kenya, some said … you’re too old, too unprepared, you have no secured support, etc. ... and they were right. The moment we ‘stepped out of the safety of the boat’ and decided to move to Kenya, the storms of hell broke out and the waves and winds were threatened to swallow us up. We became afraid and wondered if it was really Christ’s will that we move to Kenya. Yet… Christ had said, ‘come!’ Since the moment we decided to step out … we have lived a life of walking with Him on the water and Him taking our hands when we became afraid. (Mat. 14:31)

There is a time to examine ourselves. There is a time to pray for courage… and then… there is a time to move.  There is so much work to be done. We need ask ourselves… are there no more lost or lonely people in this world? Are there no more poor or distraught? Is there no one in need of wisdom, comfort, reassurance, food, clothes, or shelter?

All global ministries began with a single act of kindness. All churches begin with someone sharing the love of Christ with someone else. All sorts of extraordinary things can and will happen… if we will just ‘step out’ of the boat. Let’s get out of the boat and make 2014 an extraordinary year. The tree of life and the gates to our home are just ahead!

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Rev 22:14)

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