Devotion by Ryan Feed

Did you feel that?!


Everything is shakable, except one—the Kingdom of God, the one and only unshakeable Kingdom. — E. Stanley Jones

Our family had recently moved from our comfortable home in Idaho to an unfamiliar and populous city in South Korea. It was the beginning of a grand adventure for us, as well as a season of stretching, growth and learning to trust the Lord more. On a lazy evening during our first month in that new place, things got exciting. I was gazing out the window taking pictures of the urban skyline, Dina was reading a book, and my daughters were putting together a puzzle in the tiny living room of our 1000 square foot 14th floor apartment, when suddenly, the building began to shake. 

Wide-eyed, Dina and I both looked at each other and said, “Did you feel that?!”

The shaking didn’t last long, but it was enough to rattle us. Our minds and emotions raced. “What do we do?!” “Where do we go?!” “What are we doing here?!” 

Thankfully, within minutes we got a call from some friends informing us that according to the local news station there had been a small earthquake many miles off the Eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. They assured us, “There is no reason to worry, all is fine.”


But I still remember the feelings: the panic, the questions, the sense of helplessness, the fear and . . . the shaking. 

Things are shaking today. Globally, nationally, politically, economically, socially, morally and personally—nothing in and of this world is stable, nothing is unmoved. Capitalism is shakable, the economy is shakable, democracy is shakable, governments are shakable, our jobs are shakable, our pensions (if we have one) are shakable, even our health is shakable. It’s all trembling, shuddering, shaking and quaking just like it has for the past two thousand years. But there is one thing that stands solid—the Kingdom of God. 

To all who follow Christ in this shaken and shaking world, the author of Hebrews writes, 

“We are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28, NLT)

The Kingdom of God is the only “unshakable” thing in existence. Its constitution is the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and its King is Jesus who died upon the cross for our sins, rose again defeating death and the grave, and who resides at the right hand of the Father as our advocate. His Spirit abides in our hearts, ever saving us, helping us and securing us on “solid ground” as we walk with Him. 

And yet, the shaking continues and so do we. All it takes is a news report on the TV, a notification on our phone, a call from the doctor, an email from our bank, or a knock on the door and we are a mess. Our minds race, our hearts stir and we are all shook up. 

When this happens, don’t fret. Instead, call out to Jesus. Ask Him, “Did you feel that?!” 

And hear Him say:

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:33, NLT)

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NLT)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3, NLT)

Or, as our friends told us, “There is no reason to worry, all is fine.” 

“We are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28, NLT)




How’s your faith today? Faith is hard, even on the best days. I just read my daily dose of the news and I don’t know about you, but I need a faith boost. Faith doesn’t come through gritted teeth or positive thinking, it comes through God’s Word. It is alive and life-giving, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We must look to God’s Word.

“. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV)

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat gets some concerning news and his faith is lagging (like mine). It says in verse 3 that he was “alarmed.” So what did he do? He prayed (see vs. 6-12).

I am hanging onto vs. 12, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

That is prayer. Prayer happens when we call upon the Name of the Lord.

God help me to put my eyes upon You today.

“. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

Are you alarmed today? Pray! Look to Jesus! Call upon His Name!

peering into the fog



I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us.

     ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


These are difficult days. Life as we have known it has changed. Plans, dreams, financial portfolios, and aspirations have all been replaced by disappointment and concern. Stores, restaurants, coffee shops, cinemas, churches and schools are empty, the roadways deserted, hope abandoned.

It seems like time has stopped. But it hasn’t.

The clock still ticks, the calendar pages still turn, and life happens. These are not the moments we planned on. This isn’t what we hoped for.  There is no clear picture of when or how this will end. We see through a glass darkly.

What are we to do?

Today, I'm looking to Jesus and taking my cues from a couple of my spiritual heroes, Elisabeth Elliot and Billy Graham.

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now. Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart



All I know . . . (morning devotions)

IMG_6304I have no idea what kind of man he is. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life! (John 9:25, TPT)

This morning in my Bible study and devotional time I saw a picture of myself—and my former self.

In John 9 (TPT) there is an account of Jesus healing a blind man and it really messed people up! The man was healed and he immediately ran off in joy to tell his friends, family, and the world, his good news.

The onlookers, the Pharisees, the doubters, and the skeptics were buzzing with questions. Who did it? What happened? Was the man really blind? Is this for real?

The people that witnessed the healing say, “Yep, I’ve seen that blind beggar here every day for years and now he can see.”

His parents say, “Yes, that is our son. No, he doesn’t have an identical twin. He was born blind and has been blind his whole life. But don’t ask us, ask him, he’s an adult.”

The (former) blind man said, “A man anointed by eyes with clay, then I washed, and now I can see for the first time in my life!”

The Pharisees, doubters and skeptics asked, “Who did this? Who was this man that opened your blind eyes?”

The (former) blind man replied, “For all I know, he’s a prophet of God!”

Round and round, the grilling continued . . . Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Finally, the man who was blind, who lived his entire life in darkness, in isolation, in constant need, who had no hope, no future, and a life of unanswerable questions, spoke up.

He said, “Listen, I’ve already told you multiple times, I don’t know who the man was that healed me. I don’t know what kind of person he is. All I know is this—I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life!”

Later, Jesus went and found the healed man and they talked. Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

The man whose blind eyes were healed answered, “Who is he, Master? Tell me so that I can place all my faith in him.”

Jesus replied, “You’re looking right at him. He’s speaking with you. It’s me, the one in front of you now.”

Then the man threw himself at his feet and worshiped Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe in you!”

And that’s when I saw a picture of myself—and my former self.

I once was blind, my life was full of darkness, isolation, constant need. I had no hope, no future, and a life of unanswerable questions. And then Jesus came into my heart and life.

You can ask me all kinds of questions about morality, suffering, politics, theology, the economy, the coronavirus and even death. And all I can say for sure is that once I was blind, but now I can see.

How's your vision this morning? Do you see yourself in the John 9 account? 

In John 9: 39 & 41, TPT Jesus says, "I have come to judge those who think they see and make them blind. And for those who are blind, I have come to make them see. ... If you would acknowledge your blindness, then your sin would be removed."

Today I live by faith in the One who loved me and gave His life for me. He is light in the darkness, He gives sight to the blind and he is Faithful, always and ever Faithful. Sometimes in my morning devotional time I sing. Here’s a little song by Sara Groves about God's faithfulness.



growing faith in the midst of "shelter in place"

IMG_7649How’s your faith these days? Mine needs some work.

But what does that look like in these days of “shelter in place?” I don’t know about you, but my faith isn’t growing much in the midst of my questions, grieving, stir-craziness, depression, Netflix binges and my endless scrolling through the barrage of “helpful” posts, quips and quotes on social media (. . . like this one).

I need God’s help, and the best way to grow in faith is through God’s Word.

“. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17, NKJV)

Deep reading and Bible study may not be your thing, and even if they are, you may find that type of focus difficult in these days of confining chaos.

Recently, I came across an idea from the life of Billy Graham that is helping me during these trying times. It is strengthening me in my faith by getting me into the Word of God.

The idea comes from an article by Jerry Jenkins titled, “Precious Memories: Billy Graham.” In the article, Jenkins tells about a time when he was meeting with Billy Graham to gather information for the biography that he was writing about Dr. Graham. At one point he asks Graham about how he maintains his own spiritual disciplines (how he grows in his faith) and therein is the gold.

Below is the portion of the article that I found helpful. I pray you find it helpful too.

For our last session, we sat knee to knee across from each other in his modest office. My goal was to see what readers could glean not from all the experiences he had enjoyed as a worldwide Christian leader, but rather from his own personal devotional life.

But, as usual, I broached the subject the wrong way. I began, “People look to you as a spiritual leader, a model, almost like the Protestant pope—”

“Oh, no, they shouldn’t do that…”

“But they do. Many see you as the Christian leader of our time—”

Mr. Graham said, “They really mustn’t do that. When I think of the number of times I’ve failed the Lord, I feel this low,” and he reached and placed his hand flat on the floor.

And I thought, Billy Graham has failed the Lord?

I kept trying to ask the question, basing it on how he was so revered. He would have none of it.

I said, “Well, just tell me how you maintain your own spiritual disciplines.”

Finally, I had hit on something he was eager to talk about. He leaned forward, boring in on me with those piercing blue eyes. “The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and to search the Scriptures. And I do that.”

I was stunned. “You pray without ceasing?”

“I do,” he said, “and I have every waking moment since I received Christ at age 16. I’m praying right now as I’m talking to you that everything I say will glorify Christ.”

I could barely speak, yet still I wondered if there was takeaway value here. Had he set the bar so high no one could emulate him? When I found my voice, I said, “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

Mr. Graham said, “Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day. Every time I see it, I stop and read a verse or two, or a chapter or two, or for an hour or two. And this is not for sermon preparation; it’s just for my own spiritual nourishment.”

Now we were getting somewhere. Everyone wants a daily devotional life, even if they can’t pray without ceasing. I said, “How do you get back into it if you miss a day or two?”

He cocked his head and squinted. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

“You never miss?”

“No, I said it’s nourishment for my spiritual life, and I don’t want to miss a meal.”

Over his shoulder, on the corner of his desk, lay his open Bible, just as he said.

Did you catch that?

“Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day."

Wherever we are, even in the midst of "shelter in place," there is a way to grow in faith 

by inches and minutes




There is no greater blunder than that of ignoring or despising little things. —Philip S. Moxom

The little things—inches, minutes, moments and decisions—matter. This is evident in Proverbs 6:6-11, where King Solomon contrasts the life of an ant with the life of a sluggard. The ant lives well; the sluggard doesn’t. In both cases, the results are realized in the little things.

In Proverbs 6 we find that little old ant to be a self-starter and a diligent worker that makes a big difference for good. It moves the sand grain by grain, builds a home, gathers food, stores-up supplies and makes a life. The ant is the epitome of discipline and responsibility, and the writer of Proverbs implores us to, “consider its ways and be wise.”

The sluggard’s story is just the opposite—it is a sad tale—a life where nothing gets done. His home is covered with weeds, overgrown with thistles and surrounded by broken down walls (Prov. 24:30-31). It is interesting to note that the sluggard doesn’t decide in one grandiose moment to be lazy, sleep-in, procrastinate, and slug around. It happens gradually, a little bit at a time (or in the case of Netflix—episode by episode).

In Prov. 6:10 (NIV) it says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” . . . and the result is tragic! Left unaddressed, little things morph into big problems. The choice to do nothing (which is a choice) leaves the sluggard dirt poor and in dire want and need. And the reality of it all sneaks up on him like a burglary—robbing him of home, health and ultimately his life. That’s the way of the enemy. 

The subtlety of the sluggard’s demise is unnerving. He didn’t want to end up where he did. He didn’t say, “I’m done, I quit, I’m going to take it easy and let the chips fall where they may.” He didn’t choose a life of ruin, loss and regret, but in the midst of a little sleep, slumber and rest, it happened.

Derek Kidner tells us how:

“He [the sluggard] does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.” (Proverbs, p. 39)

Did you catch that? The sluggard, “deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders.” The problem with small surrenders is that they seem harmless, but in reality they are deadly. It’s the little things:  the tap of the snooze button, an extra scoop of ice cream, just one more episode, a bit more on the credit card, the careless word, that peek, lapse, laze, loiter, and suddenly—you’re lost—on a path, and in a place, that you never wanted to be.

Small surrenders make you vulnerable. They leave the windows and doors of your home and life wide open, and that gives the thief access to your heart and mind—and consequently, the opportunity of life, real life, slips away.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (The words of Jesus in John 10:10, NIV)

Jesus makes quite a contrast between the thief (enemy) and Himself in John 10:10—much like the difference between the sluggard and the ant—one represents death and the other life.

We need not fall victim to the smallness of our surrenders. There is another gradual, “little by little” process of “becoming,” and it is in our journey with Jesus—it is called holiness. Holiness is immense. It characterizes God and it is what God wants to bring about in our hearts and lives. God offers it, we choose it.

Choose holiness. In the hundreds of little decisions each day, choose holiness.  —John Eldredge

Jesus is our model and our resource for holiness. He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Growth is never complete in this life—we don’t just “arrive." It starts with just a little bit of faith, time in His Word, and prayer, and it continues and grows as we trust in Jesus and seek Him first. And as we do this, God is faithful. He is always making, conforming and transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

Much like the ant, we are to do the “little by little” that ultimately leads to a life well-lived and thankfully, we don’t do it alone. Jesus bought our salvation with His blood upon the cross and He calls us to life to the full in Him. He never forces, but He beckons, helps, empowers and woos us unto Himself—by inches and minutes—all the way Home.

The little things matter.

it really is that simple

IMG_7502Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8, NKJV)

This morning I rushed out the door to meet a friend for coffee, but was stopped because I couldn’t get into my car. I put the key in the handle to unlock the door and I tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge. The lock was frozen. I had no way to get into my car. Needless to say, I was late for my coffee appointment.

I have a key fob that opens all four car doors at once with a push of a button, but it had stopped working a couple of years ago, so I went “old school” and resorted to using the key. I didn’t look into the fact that the fob was not working because I thought it was too complex to fix and surely too expensive. I assumed I needed an entirely new key fob, and who knows what else. So, I just got by and used the key to unlock the car.

However, the frozen lock and my nearly missed appointment motivated me to take action. I was ready to pay the price, put in the time and deal with the hassle. Later in the day I called the dealership, told them my story and asked if they had any new key fobs available. The person on the phone said yes, but then he asked, “Did you check the battery?”

Huh? Is it really that simple?

Sure enough, five dollars and five minutes later, my key fob was working again.

This experience reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. We unexpectedly ran into each other at a social function and had about five minutes to chat. We briefly talked of work, life, sports . . . and eventually the topic of faith in God came up. My friend said that his faith and relationship with God had become a bit cold and distant of late. He seemed forlorn and disheartened.

I’ve been there. That is a tough, discouraging and lonely place to be. You feel like a failure, and the way back to God seems too complex and too costly.

I wanted to help my friend and my mind immediately went to James 4:8,

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

I shared the verse with him and he paused a moment and asked, “Is it really that simple?”

Our five minutes were up. I could have shared with him about the loving Father that is standing on the road waiting and watching for the prodigal’s return (Luke 15). I longed to tell him that Jesus doesn’t give up on us; He is ever knocking at our heart’s door (Rev. 3:20). I yearned to remind him that God is faithful, even when we aren’t (2 Tim. 2:13). And I wanted to talk with my friend about God’s mercy and grace, which is ours for free because of the extravagant price paid for us by Jesus on the cross.

But I didn’t. That is all for another time, . . . maybe over coffee.

In response to my friend’s question I said,

“Yep, start there. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

It really is that simple.

turned to Him is the best place for us to be

IMG_6146Tears hollow out places in the heart where joy can grow.—Khalil Gibran

In his book, Living Prayer, Robert Benson, talks about confession and repentance as a key to accessing the place of worship—wholly praising and adoring God. We can’t come into worship and truly look to the Lord in praise and adoration if our hearts are clouded with sin, past screw ups, regret and shame. Repentance is not a popular nor a favorite topic. It is uncomfortable. Nobody likes to face the music, admit to the sludge, be vulnerable . . . but it oh so necessary.

The Word of God—the Story of God’s people—is replete with calls to repentance and people repenting. God delights in our repentance and contrition, as it results in our turning to Him. For He knows that turned to Him is the best place for us to be.

When it comes to things that are uncomfortable it’s easy to proclaim, “No Pain No Gain,” in the gym, or to glibly toss out to a fellow struggler Nietzsche’s pithy maxim, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” but when it comes to God, we impose an altogether different standard.

It is difficult for many of us to entertain the idea that hard things, like repentance, trials, and tests are in anyway related to God. I used to be blind in this area—flat out resistant to the idea that God was anything but sunshine and lollipops in our lives (this is hyperbole, but you get the idea). Mine was a warped conception of what the “good Father” looks like and is, but lately, I am growing in my understanding.

Months ago, at the beginning of a very challenging health struggle and medical crucible, I had a Godly person, whom I highly respect, say to me,

“I am praying for you. God is going to help you. This is just a test. Through it God wants to draw you closer to Him and show you His love.”


That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I just wanted the struggle to be gone! I wanted the challenge to be over! But it wasn’t. In fact, it went on for many months.

Through this, the concept of “test” began to germinate in my mind. I have been a teacher, educator and professor for most of my life. I have administered hundreds of “tests” to my students. Why would I do this? Is it a sadistic bent? Did I want to stress them out, inflict pain, see them struggle? No! I wanted to help them and grow them.

In the education field the best and most useful type of test used in the context of learning is called a, “formative assessment.” This type of test can be as small as a question in the midst of lesson, as common as a daily assignment, or as big as a research paper. The key is that all of these “tests” are used to form the student—to help them to learn and grow—not to grade them, to rate them or evaluate them. Formative tests are for the student. They show the student what they know, how they are progressing and they give the student insight into what needs to be worked on. These “tests” are challenging, but not stifling. They are not always comfortable, but they are beneficial.

Hmmm . . . As if repentance wasn’t bad enough, now I add to the list of unpopular words the term, test. But I am learning to trust God with the test. Because surely if I, a sinful teacher know how to test my students for good, how much more will the Heavenly Father take the hard things of repentance, trials and tests in my life and use them for good? (i.e., Matthew 7:11)

That brings me to the scriptures that I have been living in of late:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4, MSG)

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT)

. . . thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress. (Psalm 4:1, KJV)

My most recent “test” involved many months of sickness, physical struggle, multiple doctor visits, blood draws, failed attempts to fix things, disappointments, IVs, frustrations, questions, anger, shouts of “why?” and ultimately, surgery.  But I must say that God’s presence was with me and He gave me a deep sense of His peace through it all. Don’t get me wrong, there were tears, lots of them. But now there is joy.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. (Psalm 126:5, NIV)

Through the test, the tears and the struggle, Jesus was so very faithful and good to me. My heart was formed into something fresh, hopeful and alive. The old has gone, the new has come! I have grown in His immense love, I have felt the peace and the presence of God sustaining me, and I have seen the beauty of the Body of Christ through their love and in their prayers lifted to the Lord on my behalf. Truly, in my distress [test] He has enlarged me (Ps. 4;1, KJV).

God is ever working for our good. In Him is love, life and freedom. As Paul says in 2 Cor. 3:17 NLT, Where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom. God wants us to have that freedom, which is found wholly in Him. Challenges come, via trials and tests, and God uses them for good to grow us and to form us in Him. Sin plagues us, but through the hope and glory of the cross of Christ, God delights to call us to uncomfortable confession and repentance for it results in our turning to Him . . . and He knows that turned to Him is the best place for us to be.

all the applause goes to Jesus

IMG_7455 2

I am a public school teacher and recently I was away (on sick leave) from my class of fifth grade students for two weeks. I sure missed them. It was my delight to return to my classroom last Monday to find a large poster hanging on the wall that read,

“Mr. Roberts, We Missed You.”

During the two weeks that I was away from my classroom I was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I had surgery to remove a tumor from my pancreas. God helped me, and I am thankful to say that the surgery was successful. I am healed from the extreme hypoglycemic conditions that were caused by the tumor. It was a miracle—an absolute miracle.

I like the way Eugene Peterson defines the term “miracle” in the Biblical context— it is not some unexplainable act of magic, but rather,

“It’s what God does for us, or does for us through other people, that we can’t do ourselves.”

I, along with many others, were praying for a “miracle” of healing in my life in Jesus’ name, and God did it. God used the doctors and the medical staff to heal me. To God be the glory!

The tumor was really wreaking havoc with my health. The tumor, called an insulinoma, caused my pancreas to produce excessive amounts of insulin, thus driving my blood sugar to extremely low levels. Every day while I was teaching school, I would battle the extreme and rapid ups and downs of my blood sugar levels. I could not manage it. My blood sugar would rapidly drop to a very low level and in response I would eat a handful of candy and it would go up for a few minutes and then rapidly drop again to a low and dangerous level. Again and again, throughout each day, I battled with this rare and dangerous condition.

Every day I was sick, weak, shaky, had a headache, had difficulty thinking and flat out felt horrible. I am sure my students could see the effects and felt the brunt of my poor health, plus they got used to me gulping down a handful of Mike and Ike candies multiple times each day. I am so thankful to be free of that illness!

For the past six months I have been wearing a blood glucose monitor that allows me to be aware of my blood sugar level at any given moment. It was a great help to me as I navigated, and tried to manage, the extreme and rapid changes in my blood sugar levels. I still had it on when I returned to my classroom on Monday. I told the students the story of my surgery and I shared with them that the tumor was gone and that I was healed. One of my students raised their hand and said, “So does that mean you won’t feel sick every afternoon?” I replied, “Yep, that is exactly what it means. I am healed!”

I told my students that a normal, healthy blood sugar level is right around 100. I told them that at 2:00 p.m. that day I would check my blood sugar and show them the results. (Over the months, 2:00 p.m. was a time that I was regularly hit very hard with the effects of hypoglycemia.)

At 2:00 p.m. one of my students raised their hand and reminded me that it was time to check my blood sugar level. All eyes were on me. I pulled out the blood glucose monitor, held it over the sensor on my arm and the numeric reading flashed on the screen. It was 103! I showed my classroom of 24 students the screen reading 103 and with smiles all around they spontaneously broke into applause.

I so appreciate their joy for me and their celebration of my healing. They are happy for me and I am exceedingly happy too. As they were clapping, I couldn’t help but think that it truly is a miracle and all the applause goes to Jesus.

I am thankful.

Faith in God is the only thing that makes sense

IMG_7451I recently journeyed through a time of serious physical illness. The malady had plagued me for years and had worsened over time. Once the illness was medically diagnosed, it took six months of appointments, poking, prodding, failed procedures and ultimately surgery to address the problem. When it first came up many months ago, I “dealt” with it in a practical, common sense sort of way.  But then, through a series of events I realized that I was leaving my faith in God out of this great need in my life. I thought the acceptable, sound, practical, common sense way was good enough and therein was my anemic faith. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, God had become a condiment on the shelf of my life, adding some nuance and flavor at times, but in this situation, that wasn’t enough. I needed all of Jesus and that called for faith. I am thankful to say that with God's help I was healed of my illness, but now I realize that the growth of my faith and trust in God was my greatest need, and the greatest blessing I received. Along with the psalmist I can testify, “In my distress, He has enlarged me,” (Ps. 4:1, KJV). I thank God for His mercy and faithfulness.

Needless to say, faith in God has my attention these days and this morning, with the help of John Henry Jowett (via The Best of John Henry Jowett) and others, I share these thoughts on faith.  

Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, . . . (Romans 4:20, NIV)

The “promise of God,” in short, was that Abraham was going to have a child and would be the father of a new nation of people whose number would surpass the myriad of stars in the sky. Yet, common sense said otherwise. All the facts—his age, his wife’s age, their situation—didn’t add up for what God said was going to be realized in and through his life, but that didn’t deter Abraham. He believed, and God used him.

“Common sense” was overwhelmingly opposed to all that God said to Abraham. And yet he, “did not waver” or as the KJV says, “he staggered not.” In the Book of Hebrews it says the saints, Abraham included, were commended for their faith; not for their wisdom, practicality, realism, or common sense, but for their faith. I like George MacDonald’s take on faith,

“Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits . . .” (p. 135)

In other words, faith is a verb. It’s all about trust. Abraham had faith in God, he trusted in the Lord more than in the visible facts . . . and he went. Along these lines Jowett says,

For faith is a finer sense even than common sense. ... Believing is the only true seeing! (p. 135)

The world will quickly call out this behavior as foolishness—and justifiably so. Simple faith does look foolish and it may even feel foolish. But, where is your hope and your trust? Abraham’s trust was in God. The Apostle Paul, the writer of the Romans 4 account, trusted in Jesus too and when confronted with an appeal to common sense said,

We are fools for Christ, . . . (1 Cor. 4:10, NIV)

Facts, experience, knowledge and expertise are all real, important and in their goodness, used by God in our midst. But they don’t trump faith— which is trusting in God in the midst of the unlikely and the inconceivable, and then acting on it. God is more real and more reliable than the apparent. Paul tells us why,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:25, NIV)

Jowett wrote this a hundred years ago, but it still rings true:

Never was there greater need of deep-living men and women who will confront the proud and massed “unlikelies” with the spoken promise of our God. (p. 135)

“Deep-living men and women, . . .” God help me! How many times have I thought and even said, “It is unlikely”? In the face of sickness, challenge, financial need, broken relationships, extenuating circumstances, loss, disappointment, frustration, waiting, . . . even death, am I allowing for the goodness of God to shine through, or am I shrouding it with “common sense” and the reasonable response, “it is unlikely”?

The word “unlikely” is defined via Webster as “not promising.” Considering Abraham’s situation: going beyond safe boundaries, moving to a land where he knew no one, having a wife who was aged and barren, and the harsh fact that he was no spring chicken himself, all lead one to the conclusion that the ideas of starting over, creating a new nation and having a baby were all highly “unlikely” for Abraham. Or to put it another way, it was a nice thought but, “not promising.”

And then I read the entire context of Rom. 4:20,

Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22, NIV)

Wow, here I sit in 2020 with 4000 years of perspective and I see that God’s promise to Abraham panned out, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m not opposed to common sense. In fact, I engage it in my own life, pray for it in my children’s lives and wish for it in the lives of other drivers on the road. But my faith and trust reside in a reality that goes beyond common sense—they are centered on the promises of God. says there are 7487 promises of God in the Bible. Wow. Abraham stepped out in faith on one of them and it was, credited to him as righteousness. The beauty is that God made good on all His promises and they are certified by John 3:16-17 (NLT),

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

So, where is your trust? Where is my faith? Do I rely on common sense or in the promises of God? And where do I find God’s promises? Thanks to the Holy Spirit and the likes of Moses, King David, the Prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Apostle Paul, a good place to start is in the Word of God (remember? . . . 7,487).

The Bible is the primary way that “deep-living men and women” hear from and abide in God. The Word is living and active, saturated with the Spirit of God. It is light, truth, milk, a mirror, honey, water, food, the law, the way, and life. It is to be a part of us, like a belt of strength and stability around our waist. It stands as a sword for us in the midst of the battle and a lifeline for us in the midst of the storm. It is the standard by which we trust in Jesus and live for Him by faith.

And the result? . . . Jowett sums it up well,

These are the men and women who remain victors on the field at the end of the long and bloody day. At the beginning of the day theirs is the faith which give substance to things hoped for; at the end of the day the things hoped for have become their eternal possession. (p. 136)

Common sense is important, hopefully affording sound judgement in practical and mundane matters, but life is so much more than that. It is wild and alive, and you are precious, so much so that you were bought with a price. We were made by the Creator to love, serve, create, delight in His goodness, call upon His name in prayer and trust Him with all things—the common and the uncommon. Jesus is no condiment, He is our hope and help at all times.

Truly, faith is a finer sense even than common sense. Faith in God is the only thing that makes sense.

singing a little louder

IMG_3743A dear friend recently reminded me of the wonderful song, "Praise the Lord" sung by Russ Taff.  It is a song and message that I love.

Back in the day, I had the privilege of singing this song in scores of worship services. It was always amazing to see the song touch the lives of the listeners. The power of the song resides in its message and Truth. 

After 30+ years of living in and under the Truth of this song I am still singing it today, albeit a little louder and more fervently. 

We are flying home from Mayo Clinic today. I am thankful.