Being and Doing

When Howard Hendricks was a student at Wheaton College, his mentor, Dr. H.C. Theissen told him, “Hendricks, master the Master’s life!” on that basis, Hendricks devoted himself to the lifelong study of the four gospels.

One of the advantages of reading and re-reading the gospels, is to show us how we may “learn from” Christ (Matthew 11;29). The apostle Peter reminds us of the importance of following “in his steps” ( 1 Peter 2:21). This is discipleship.

There is a phrase in Mark 3:14 that illustrates this. When Jesus called his twelve disciples, it was so that “they might be with him and that he might send them out. . . .” I cannot help but notice how being with Jesus precedes doing things for Jesus. Before the Lord sent them out he wanted them to spend time with him.

He chose Philip, Nathaniel, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the zealot, Andrew, John and James, the sons of Zebedee, and Simon, whom he nicknamed Peter. He chose them to be his apostles and to learn from him. (Judas Iscariot heard and saw, but he did not listen and learn.)

What did the Lord want these men to learn from him? He modeled perfect holiness and taught compassion, servanthood, prayerful dependency upon the Father in heaven. He was the embodiment of sacrificial love. He cared for the weak, the poor, the marginalized. Their being with Jesus was for the purpose of their learning from him the principles of God’s kingdom.

Many people seem to think that the first requirement the Lord puts upon us is to do something for him. But the first requirement in discipleship is not doing but being. Jesus is primarily concerned with what we are becoming. He wants to remake us in his image. This is a process called sanctification. He wants us to be like himself (Romans 8:29).

Are you spending time with Jesus? Is there a part of your day when you have uninterrupted fellowship with him? A time when he speaks to you through his word and you respond to him in prayer? Some call it private worship, some call it daily devotions, some call it a quiet time.

It doesn’t really matter what you call it. What matters is that there is the cultivation of a growing relationship with Jesus. Out of that “being” relationship flows the “doing” of effective ministry.

E. M. Bounds, in his classic book Power Through Prayer wrote, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men.”

Just as certainly as the Lord invited ordinary men to be with him, so he invites you and me to spend time with him. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, God “has called you into fellowship with his Son. . . .”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

 

 

 

His Presence is Enough

Nature is predictable. It operates on the basis of fixed laws. Release a stone from your hand and it always drops to the ground. Put a kettle of water on a hot stove and the water will boil. A commercial aircraft weighing over 450 tons can supersede gravity and fly because it operates in accordance with laws of aerodynamics. Nature operates in a predictable manner.

This very predictability gives rise to science. Men and women investigate, develop theories, conduct experiments, then form conclusions based on evidence that nature behaves in a certain way under certain conditions.

The Bible teaches that there is a Mind controlling nature. Natural laws are a  way of describing God’s activity in nature. God created nature. God sustains nature.

If an all-powerful God can do that, he can, if he chooses, suspend, or interrupt the natural processes he himself created. He can break into the ordinary course of things in a way that is not natural, but supernatural.

This is what Jesus did. Sometimes he acted in extraordinary ways to meet the needs of people and to demonstrate his authority as the Son of God. These extraordinary acts of God are what we call miracles.

It is not unscientific to believe in miracles. Science has nothing to say about whether miracles may or may not occur. If people object to the possibility of miracles, they do so on religious, not scientific grounds. Science can verify or disprove natural, not supernatural phenomena.

Christianity is a faith which is based upon miracles. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. Many events in the ministry of Jesus were miraculous signs of his deity. Jesus died on a cross and arose from the dead. He ascended to heaven. He promised to return to earth in power and glory.

For example, there is an event that took place in his early ministry which is a vivid demonstration of Jesus’ miracle-working power. Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Lake of Galilee in a fishing boat. Jesus was asleep in the stern of the vessel. An unusually powerful storm arose. The waves were so high that the disciples feared that the boat would be swamped.

“The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?'” (Mark 4:38). The Bible doesn’t tell us what they expected the Lord to do about the situation. They had seen him perform miracles before. Probably they were hoping for one now.

The next verse says Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves saying, “Quiet! Be still!” Then we are told that everything became perfectly calm on the lake. What is this but a supernatural intervention?

The disciples were awestruck. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).

This story shows us who Jesus is. He is the God-man. In his humanity, he slept, exhausted after a long day of ministry. In his deity, he demonstrated his miracle-working power over his creation.

The story also contains a hint as to how we might respond to the dangers that erupt in our lives. Jesus had already told his disciples that they would get to the other side of the lake (Mark4:35). Even though he was sleeping, he was with them in the storm. His presence was their guarantee that they would make it to the other side. This was a test of their faith.

There will be times in our lives when we may be tempted to feel that he is unconcerned. We may be tempted to panic when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances. We may be tempted to forget that he is nearby and has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

As a boy I was taught little song in Sunday school: “With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm.” As a pastor, I observed this in the lives of many people of faith and courage who were counting on the Lord to be with them in the storms of life, whether or not he performed a miracle.

They had learned to trust him. I remember one godly lady who had terminal cancer. When I visited her I asked her what the Lord had been saying to her in her illness. Her response taught me a lot about the life of faith. She said the Lord had been saying to her, “Just trust me.”

For her, his presence was enough.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

 

 

The Resurrection is No Joke

At this time of the year our thoughts turn to our Lord’s death and resurrection. Eternal life is offered to us because Jesus died for our sins and rose again in victory over death. This is what we celebrate on resurrection Sunday.

Yet there have always been those who deny the resurrection. The gospel of Mark describes an encounter Jesus had with some of his religious detractors. They did not believe in an afterlife or bodily resurrection. The way our Lord responded to them provides us with a reassuring basis for our own hope of life with God after death.

Jesus’ enemies wanted to do all they could to discredit him in the eyes of his followers. They tried to use the scriptures to disprove the resurrection. So they referred to part of the law of Moses which made provision for the care of widows in ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

They treated the subject as a riddle, stretching the law to a ridiculous extreme. “Suppose,” they said, “a man died, leaving his widow with no children to care for her. So, in accordance with the law of Moses, the man’s brother married her to continue the family line in his brother’s name. He also died, leaving no children. So she married a second brother who died, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth. The woman had had seven husbands, all of whom died” (Mark 12:20-23 my paraphrase).

Then they asked their big question. “If there is to be a resurrection, whose wife would she be in the hereafter?”  They thought they had outmaneuvered Jesus. We can almost hear them snickering at the ludicrous joke they made out of the resurrection.

Jesus’ answered that the resurrection is a certainty. It is not a joking matter. He said that they did not really understand the scriptures they claimed to believe. And in denying the resurrection they were denying the power of God (Mark 12:24). After all, the God who created the universe is perfectly capable of raising the dead.

He clinched his argument by reminding them that the God they claimed to believe in, the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark12:27). The three patriarchs, long dead, were still alive in God’s presence. In heaven they continued to be who they were on earth, but without the limitations of earth.

Jesus also addressed the strange riddle posed by his adversaries. In the resurrection there will be an entirely new order of existence. “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage,” he said. “They will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark12:25). Now our Lord was not saying we will become angels. He was saying that in the resurrection God’s people will be like the angels. beautiful, powerful, created beings, engaged in the happy service and worship of God.

Marriage here on earth, as wonderful as it can be, will pale in comparison to the perfection of our relationships in heaven. Our relationships there will be unspoiled by misunderstandings, slights, frustrations and disappointments. There will be no jealousy, selfishness, offenses, or sin in heaven. In heaven we will know and love each other with a perfect love.

John Newton said, “When I get to heaven I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many people whom I did not expect to see. The second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see. The third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.”

Jesus answered his critics who challenged his teaching on life after death. In his brilliant response he linked the resurrection to the existence of an all-powerful God and the authority of his written word.

In stating that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, Jesus is teaching us that those who die in faith will live with him forever. Is your faith in Jesus? In John 11:25 he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

More Alive Than Ever

C. S. Lewis had a profound influence on the life of Sheldon Vanauken. Vanauken became a Christian when he studied under Lewis at Oxford University. In his book A Severe Mercy he described their last meeting.

Over lunch at a pub in Oxford they had spent time pondering the nature of life after death. When they had finished eating, they stood outside for a few moments and just before parting ways, Lewis said to Vanauken, “I shan’t say goodbye. We’ll meet again.” Then the great scholar plunged into the traffic to cross the street while Vanauken watched his friend walk away.

When Lewis got to the other side of the street, he turned around, anticipating that his friend would still be standing there. With a grin on his face, Lewis shouted over the din of the passing cars, “Besides — Christians never say goodbye!”

During this season as we anticipate the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, it is important to remember that the hope of eternal life is not based upon wishful thinking. Our assurance of life after death is based upon the promise of Christ.

When Jesus was accosted by some of his detractors who denied that there would be a resurrection, he told them they were in error, badly mistaken (Mark 12:24). His opponents were religious skeptics who believed that this life is all there is. They believed the soul perished with the body. There would be no rewards or punishments after death.

This materialistic philosophy exists today. Doubts about life after death are widespread, especially now as our nation moves further away from biblical values. People seem to be pursuing pleasure and prosperity for the here and now, with little thought for a life hereafter.

The Lord Jesus answered his critics in Mark 12:25-27 by directing their attention to God. He is alive. He is the giver of life. Eternal life resides in God. Jesus quoted the Bible where God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:5-6).

Then Jesus said something that is a key to our understanding of life after death. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive! If they are alive with God, then my parents are alive with God. My brother’s baby who died is alive with God. My friend Stanley who was killed in Vietnam is alive with God. They will be resurrected when Jesus comes again.

That is why C.S. Lewis said what he did to Sheldon Vanauken, For a believer in Christ, to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The American evangelist Dwight L. Moody famously said, “Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal — a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto his glorious body.”

“He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This brief statement of Jesus is proof that faith in him includes the certainty of overcoming death. It is a promise of eternal life.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

 

The Lessons of History

I read an article on the teaching of history in American schools. The author bemoaned the fact that students are being encouraged to overlook the failings of other cultures while being hypercritical of the USA. For example the ancient Aztec civilization is renowned for architecture and agriculture, but teachers fail to mention their practice of human sacrifice. Historians may discuss the Great Wall of China without saying that it was built with slave labor in which thousands died.

In the teaching of US history the National History Standards are quick to call attention to the KKK, the Great Depression, and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese cities, while paying scant attention to the achievements of America’s founding fathers, scientists, inventors and adventurers.

In a USA Today op-ed, John Zmirak wrote that it is now possible to earn a degree from an elite US university without taking a single course in American history or classical literature. He wrote, “If we expect the next generation to preserve the constitution of a free society, we cannot send students out after a Lexus-priced education knowing less about America than the graduate of a Slovakian high school. But that’s what we’re doing.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews wants his readers to learn from biblical history. The eleventh chapter summarizes highlights of Israel’s past to teach readers of the New Testament to live by faith in God today. It reads like a list of heroes, a hall of fame of the Bible.

The people listed were not perfect people, but they are singled out because of their faith. John Calvin wrote: “There was none of them whose faith did not falter. . . . Nevertheless, although faith may be imperfect and incomplete, it does not cease to be approved by God.”

Regular readers of this blog have noticed that I have been surveying Hebrews 11. We have now arrived at verse 32 where king David and the prophet Samuel are mentioned. What do these men teach us about faith?

David, one of the great men of the Old Testament, trusted in the Lord when he was a mere lad, tending his father’s sheep. He faced the giant Philistine warrior Goliath with complete confidence that the Lord would give him the ability to defeat him. His psalms are a testimony of his faith. His kingship and the dynasty that followed are based upon his faith in the unconditional promise of God.

Samuel represents all the prophets of God.  He was a man of prayer. He was a man of courage who was willing to confront king Saul when he was wrong. He was a preacher of the truth during the time of the Judges when people wanted to do what was right in their own eyes.

The rest of the chapter describes the fate of many in Israel who were not named but they had a faith worth dying for. They were “tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison, They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. . . . These were all commended for their faith” (Hebrews 11:35-39).

These verses remind me of our Lord’s words in Luke 9:23-25, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

Living by faith can be dangerous. It involves the possibility of suffering and dying for the Lord. Hebrews 11 refutes the preposterous claims of some preachers that if we have enough faith (as they define faith), God has obligated himself to give us lives that are prosperous and pain free. As a matter of fact, this chapter proves that living by faith does just the opposite.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Most of us know nothing of suffering. The church in America is protected and almost pampered, but it may not always be so. The pampered church may one day become the persecuted church.”

He was right. The experience of persecuted and martyred Christians around the world resembles the closing verses of Hebrews 11. We’d do well to pay attention to the lessons of history.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Imperfect People

We live in distressing times. Every day there are news reports that cause anxiety and uncertainty. Pick your issue: wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the immigration crisis, political divisions, random mass murders, the national debt, the rise of autocratic extremists, and moral ambiguity. Many Americans testify to a sense of foreboding, feeling that democracy itself is being threatened.

Hebrews 11:32 refers to such a time in Israel’s history, the distressing days of the Judges. It was a turbulent time. The obscure Old Testament book of Judges is full of stories of strange events and strange characters that are hard to understand and even harder to explain.

It describes a time (about 400 years) between the Exodus and the beginning of Israel’s monarchy. It is an historical bridge from the occupation of the Promised Land under Joshua to the anointing of Israel’s first kings. The book tells the stories of twelve civil and military leaders who led the tribes of Israel into battle against  powerful nations that threatened their survival.

During the time of the Judges, Israel was a loose confederation of tribes. They had not completed the task of conquering Canaan. The religion of the Canaanites was a persistent threat to their devotion to the Lord (Judges 2:10-19). Their spiritual compromise is expressed in the key verse of Judges. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6). This theme is repeated later in the book (Judges 21:25).

The New Testament teaches us that we are learn from the experiences of God’s people in the Old Testament. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

A few of the lessons we learn from reading the strange book of Judges are: (1) The Lord wants his people to worship him as ruler. (2) When his people neglect  to acknowledge him, trouble follows. (3) Enemy nations are tools God uses to discipline his people and drive them back to dependency on him (Judges 2:14). (4) The Lord is gracious and merciful. When his people return to him, he is ready to forgive them. In the book of Judges we can see a four-fold cycle repeated: rebellion against God, retribution by God, repentance toward God, and rescue from God (under the leadership of one of his Judges).

We find the names of four of the judges in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. They apparently represent the other eight. They were not priests or kings, but warriors who were called by God to deliver his people in times of trouble. In spite of some obvious moral and spiritual  flaws, they are held up before us as examples of faith. They are Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah (Hebrews 11:32).

Gideon (Judges 6-8) is distinguished for his unlikely victory over the vast Midianite army with an underwhelming 300 fighting men. All the credit for this victory went to the Lord. Other notable acts of faith were his tearing down of images of Baal, construction of an altar to the Lord, and his refusal to accept kingship, declaring that “the Lord will rule” over Israel (Judges 8:23).

Barak was called to be a leader in Israel by the prophetess Deborah who spoke for God. She summoned Barak from the tribe of Naphtali to fight against the Canaanite army (Judges 4:7). He agreed to lead the armies of the tribes of Naphtali, Zebulon, and Issachar on the condition that Deborah join him and share in the leadership (Judges 4:8). The eighth chapter of Judges is Deborah’s song of praise to God celebrating the victory of the Lord ever his enemies.

Samson may be the most familiar of the Judges. Every child in Sunday School has heard of this strong man’s exploits, as well as his moral failures. He may have displayed more faith in God at the time of his death than he did during his career as an unlikely hero (Judges 13-15).

Jephthah was a born leader of men, a warrior, who lived on the fringes of Israelite society, estranged from his family (Judges 11:1-3). When his neighbors called on him to lead them into battle against the forces of Ammon (Judges 11:4-11), “the Spirit of the Lord” confirmed his call (Judges 11:29). The Bible says that when the Israelite army under Jephthah fought the Ammonites, “the Lord gave them into his hands” (Judges 11:32).

His story is complicated by a dreadful vow he made to God before he went into battle (Judges 11:31). Did he really carry out his pledge to God to offer his daughter as a human sacrifice in return for victory? And if he did, how could the New Testament regard him as a hero of faith? He should have known that the law of God repeatedly prohibited human sacrifice. He should have known that obedience to the law of God overruled any rash vow that would have come from his mouth.

Bible students are divided in their opinions. Some say Jephthah’s daughter was given to Israel’s central sanctuary and dedicated to a life of perpetual virginity in the service of God. Others say that Jephthah was a son of his times and was influenced too much by the pagan practices of Israel’s neighbors and “he did to her as he had vowed” (Judges 11:39).

Clearly, God uses imperfect people. Gideon was fearful. Barak was hesitant and timid. Samson was egocentric and flippant. Jephthah was impulsive. But then, we are all imperfect people, aren’t we?.

God uses imperfect people who depend on him in faith.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

Faith’s Battle Plan

This year, 2024, will mark the 80th anniversary of what has become known as the Battle of the Bulge. This was a last gasp German offensive against Allied forces in Belgium, an attempt to prevent the invasion of Germany. The term “bulge” refers to the wedge the German army drove into Allied lines. Because of Allied resistance and reinforcements, the German army’s offensive was unsuccessful and costly. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the battle.

My father-in-law was in the American army in World war II. He was involved in this battle. He told me stories of the extreme cold, the harsh conditions, and the anguish of seeing comrades wounded or killed. He also told me about being a part of the victorious army that entered Berlin and occupied Germany at the end of the war in Europe.

Hebrews 11 was written to stimulate faith in God. The first readers of the letter to the Hebrews were tempted to retreat in the face of spiritual battles. The author of this letter reviews the stories of some heroes of faith from Israel’s history to encourage his readers not to lose their confidence in God’s presence or his promises.

Two people pf faith are highlighted in Hebrews 11:30-31. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell. . . . By faith the prostitute Rahab . . . was not killed with those who were disobedient.”

Joshua is not named, but his victory at Jericho is an example of faith in action. Rahab is named and honored for her role in helping the Israelite army achieve victory. These two people could not have been more different. Joshua was a national leader, Rahab was living on the outskirts (city wall) of her society. Joshua was a Hebrew, she was a Gentile. He was a man, she was a woman. Joshua was brought up to believe in the living God. Rahab was brought up amid the false worship of Canaanite idols.

But they both experienced profound changes in their lives to bring them each to their God-ordained destiny, the battle of Jericho.

The changes in Joshua’s life were stages in the growth of his faith. He was personally trained by Moses and prepared to be his successor. As he led the army into battle against the Amalekites  he learned that victory for God’s chosen people would come from God alone (Exodus 17:9, 16). When he went with Moses to the top of Mount Sinai, he experienced the overwhelming presence of God (Exodus 24:13,17).

By being at Moses’ side, he saw how God reveals his will and guides his people (Exodus 33:9,11). When he was appointed to go into Canaan as one of the twelve spies, he came back with a positive report. That experience taught him that the majority opinion is not always correct and that the nation’s disobedience would cost them dearly. Joshua learned that preparation comes before responsibility. It takes time to grow a faith leader (Numbers 27:12-23).

Rahab’s story is different, but it reveals her faith. She had been a prostitute. By this we may assume she was street smart, worldly-wise, and hardened by her former life. When we meet her in Joshua chapter 2, she was changed. God had given her a conscience and a hunger for the truth.

This flawed woman, stigmatized as “the prostitute,” was a changed person. She had a changed attitude toward the living God. She declared, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you. . . . The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:8,11). This was her profession of faith.

Rahab had a changed attitude toward God’s people. She harbored the Israelite spies who came to Jericho (Hebrews 11:31). She had a changed attitude toward God’s word. She had a changed attitude toward her own nation. She believed that God’s judgment was about to fall. She wanted her family to be rescued when that happened (Joshua 2:12-14,18). By faith she was identifying herself with God’s chosen people and rejecting her former life.

As promised by God, a great victory ensued. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). The battle plan made no sense militarily. Joshua had no elaborate strategy to take the city by force. Instead he led the army to follow God’s instructions precisely. They were to trust the Lord who had promised success.

The plan gave all the credit for victory to God alone. The plan required patience: thirteen circuits around the city wall, once a day for six days, and seven times around on the seventh day. When the priests of the Lord blew the ram’s horn trumpets, the walls of the city fell down leaving the inhabitants of Jericho exposed and vulnerable to the attack of the invading Israelites.

We may conclude from this that God uses all kinds of people. Rahab is an unlikely example of faith, but we find her in Hebrews 11, God’s hall of fame. Joshua’s faith is an example to us of complete obedience, even when God’s plan seems illogical.

The city of Jericho stood as an example of Canaanite invincibility. When God’s people obey him, as they did on this occasion, he displays his strength on their behalf. “Faith is the victory” (1 John 5:4).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

Faith in a Crisis

“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land” (Hebrews 11:29).

“The people” referred to were the Israelites who followed Moses out of Egypt. The Lord had rescued them from bondage and had promised them a homeland of their own. When we read their story in the book of Exodus, some of these people were not shining examples of faith. But here, at least, was one occasion when they got it right.

The New Testament writer of Hebrews draws our attention to the faith of the people that enabled them to obey God and pass through the parted waters. The writer treats this event as a true fact of history and not as a fictional pious legend. He wants his readers to remember that the God of the Bible is a God of miracles. The Lord is keeping his promise to his people to deliver them by means of a great miracle.

The first century and twenty-first century readers of the book of Hebrews are being reminded that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The Old Testament people of Israel are examples of faith. Moses led them in faith. When God told him to stretch out his staff over the waters of the Red Sea, he did so and the waters parted miraculously (Exodus 14:10-31).

The Israelites were in a desperate situation. In front of them was the sea. Behind them came the Egyptian army in pursuit. It was like being caught in a vise. They were trapped and helpless. The Lord was teaching them to trust him. He wanted them to learn that he is trustworthy and true to his promises.

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).

The Lord wanted the Hebrew people to trust him in every situation. He wanted them to know that he was determined to save them and make of them a great nation. Their part was to believe, to rest in him, and to stand still and see his glory at work on their behalf.

This is the lesson the Lord wants us to learn. Living by faith means that we put our full trust in the promises of God. It is trusting God when all we have to go on is his word. The people crossed over on dry land because they had faith that God would not forsake them or forget them. God will not forget us, either. He will be with us if our faith is in him, no matter what impossible situation we may be facing.

Zane Hodges told a story about an elderly gentleman known as Uncle Dudley. He had lived all his life in a small town in West Virginia. A friend who was an aviation enthusiast invited him to take an airplane ride over the town. They flew around, looking at the familiar sights below. When they landed, the pilot turned to Uncle Dudley and asked him if he was scared during the flight.

“No,” came the hesitant reply. Then Uncle Dudley added, “But I never did put my full weight down.”

That is what some Christians try to do. They have trusted in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, but they have not put their full weight on him to meet the struggles and difficulties of this life. They try to solve their problems in their own inadequate strength. They have never put their full weight down. They have not learned that the Christian life is to be lived by faith.

Hebrews 11 begins with a concise definition of faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is our response to what God has said in his word. It takes seriously God’s revealed truth. It anticipates the future with hope because of God’s infallible promises and his loving presence.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Moses’ Faith, and Yours

The main subject of Hebrews chapter 11 is faith. Verse 6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” As examples of faith, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews calls our attention to  some of the prominent personalities of the Bible. They show us what it is to live by faith.

One of those people was Moses. The Bible tells us he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). As the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter it is possible that he was trained in military science, agriculture, economics, architecture, law, and diplomacy, among other things. He doubtless had access to great wealth and influence.

“By faith he left Egypt” (Hebrews 11:27). He abandoned the power, prestige, pleasures, and possessions Egypt offered him. Actually Moses left Egypt twice. The first time he left was in fear for his life. He had killed an Egyptian taskmaster for beating a Hebrew slave. He left as a fugitive to live in the desert of Midian as a shepherd. For the whole story read Exodus 2:11-25.

The second time he left Egypt was after God had called him to lead the Hebrew people to freedom. Moses conquered his fear and failure to live by obedient faith in the true God. He went back to Egypt to confront the powerful Pharaoh with the Lord’s message: “Let my people go!”

Hebrews 11:27 says that this time he was unafraid of the king’s anger. Instead, “he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” This is a way of describing Moses’ close relationship to God. “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11). This close relationship began when the Lord called Moses from the famous burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22). It sustained Moses through many difficult days.

“By faith he kept the Passover” (Hebrews 11:28). Probably this means that he instituted, or established the Passover, following God’s instructions. Through Moses the Lord had given the king of Egypt repeated opportunities to relent and allow the Hebrews to leave. God had sent one plague after another against the Egyptians to display his power over their idols. Each time the Egyptian ruler became more resistant and rebellious.

The final plague was a terrible sentence of death against the firstborn in every Egyptian household. Only those dwellings were spared whose doorposts and lintel were sprinkled with the blood of an unblemished sacrificial lamb. God had said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:12-13).

These instructions were unusual and unprecedented, but the people of Israel obeyed them by faith. There was nothing like this in Moses’ previous experience, either. He had nothing to go on but faith in the word of God. Because the blood of the Passover lamb was seen on the entrances to the houses of the Hebrews, they were spared the awful judgment imposed by God’s angel of death. The people of Israel were permitted to leave Egypt after that.

We may learn several practical lessons from the faith of Moses. First, we are reminded that faith pleases God and that unbelief displeases him. Pharaoh denied the Lord’s existence and power and it cost him  his life. Moses believed the word of the Lord and God was pleased to invite him into a special relationship.

Another thing we notice is that early mistakes (Moses was guilty of manslaughter) do not permanently disqualify one from serving the Lord. Moses’ brother Aaron led the people to worship a golden calf idol. Yet he was forgiven and eventually anointed as Israel’s high priest. Think of the early mistakes and sins of Jacob, Samson, David, Peter, and Paul.

Also, it is obvious from the story of Moses that nothing is wasted in the plan of God for a believer’s life. Without a doubt, Moses’ early training among the young aristocrats of Egypt helped prepare him for leadership among the people of God. Not only that, his years in the wilderness of Sinai made him familiar with the geography and topography of the region where the Israelites would travel on their long journey to Canaan.

Finally, the New Testament teaches us that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). It is through faith in his shed blood (Ephesians 1:7) that we may be saved from eternal destruction and given the gift of eternal life. When John the Baptist introduced Jesus he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Finding Purpose and Meaning

American author Richard Bach has been quoted as saying, “Here’s the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t!”

Recently I read about the celebrated potter Warren MacKenzie, who in his nineties continues to produce works of such beauty that they bring the art world to his door. In an interview, he said, “A good potter can make forty or fifty pots in a day.” Out of these, “some are good and some of them are mediocre and some of them are bad.” Only a few will be worth selling and fewer still “will continue to engage the senses after daily use.”

Early in his career as an artist, MacKenzie gave up drawing and painting, silk screening and textile design, and concentrated on ceramics. He had found his lifelong passion and purpose.

If you take time to think about your purpose in life, you may suspect that God created you to do something significant. Do you know what it is? George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you could have been.” If you want to discover your destiny, look to your Creator, the Author of life. He is the source of purpose and meaning.

God’s purpose for our lives starts right where we are. If we miss it, it may be because we are listening to the wrong voices or not going through the doors God has opened for us. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Other than the incarnation, I know of no more staggering truth than that a sovereign God has ordained my participation” (in doing his will).

Author Bill Peel said that the purpose of God for our lives is not a big secret. He is not hiding his will from us. He suggests three principles for discovering God’s purpose. (1) God desires that we know him in a personal way. (2) God desires that we submit to his authority and are conformed to the image of Christ. (3) God wants us to be involved in his mission on earth.

Moses discovered his purpose in life and he acted on it. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

These verses pass over the first forty years of Moses’ life. Reared with royalty and luxury, he was being groomed for high office in the kingdom of Egypt. As he grew up he noticed the difference between the lives of the Hebrew people who retained their faith in the true God and the Egyptians who worshiped false gods.

Moses made the mature, and costly, decision to exchange the visible for the invisible, the temporary for the eternal. He made the calculated choice  to align himself with the people of God. The Egyptians saw them as slaves. Moses saw them as people of destiny. God had a purpose for these people, and for him.

He chose “disgrace for the sake of Christ.” This is the writer’s way of saying that Moses’ identity with God’s people was also his identity with God’s Messiah. The Hebrews were the people through whom the Christ would come.

Visitors to Egypt today are awestruck by the splendor and opulence of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Their temples and tombs have yielded unspeakable treasures. This may indicate the fabulous wealth and luxury available to Moses as an adopted son in the royal family. He “left Egypt” “because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

He found his purpose. He was looking ahead. Like the son of missionaries who would introduce himself this way: “Hi. I’m Eric Crain. I was born in Germany, I go to school in France, I live in Portugal, but my home is in heaven!” That’s what Moses discovered. He had a heavenly destiny and a heavenly reward and a heavenly purpose.

This enabled him, by faith, to turn his back on the prestige, power and wealth of Egypt and to be identified with the people of God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner