Why Our Faith Doesn’t Work

My youngest daughter and son-in-law moved to South Korea a couple weeks ago. He serves as an Air Force officer and she will serve with Young Life on the base.

While on a temporary assignment, their vehicle had been in storage for six months before being shipped to Korea. They picked it up a few days ago and immediately discovered problems. It was smoking and squealing and getting bad gas mileage.

What they discovered was that for it to be shipped, the brakes needed to be tightened. Apparently, they were tightened a little too much. They were essentially driving with the brakes on.

Many of us, myself included, are trying to live by faith with the brakes on. That happens when we focus on what we see rather than on what God says. When we do that, our walk with God starts smoking and squealing and getting bad gas mileage. Then we get frustrated, angry and discouraged. We’re tempted to give up. And some of us do.

But what if the answer isn’t to give up, but to get our foot off the brake and press hard on the accelerator?

Living by faith means we believe God, not our circumstances, not our feelings and not the opinions of others. It means believing something is true even though we can’t yet see it. It means choosing to see things from God’s perspective, where nothing is impossible.

In Mark 3, Jesus has begun His ministry and already has a large crowed following Him. Verse 14 says, Jesus “appointed twelve that they might be with Him…” Jesus hand picks the guys He wants to stay close to Him, so they can learn to do life like He does.

Later, Jesus enters a house and there are so many people around that His disciples can’t even get a meal. Verse 21 says, “When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’”

In other words, Jesus’ family thinks He’s crazy. He’s gone too far. Things have gotten out of hand. It’s time to bring Him home and talk some sense into Him. But Jesus has His foot off the brake and is pressing down on the accelerator. He is living right in the center of the Father’s will, doing and saying what pleases Him.

Jesus then goes down to the lake. He is followed by a large crowd and in Mark 4 tells the parable about the four types of soils. We’ll just look at the seed that falls on the rocky places and among the thorns.

The seed that falls on rocky places is when people receive God’s word, but “when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”

Don’t miss two very key words there: “because of.” Choosing to walk by faith will bring trouble. Our enemy and the world system do not want us to walk by faith, to fully trust God and experience the life He has for us. So we will experience trouble that we would not have experienced were we not trying to walk by faith.

I don’t know what trouble will look like for you. It could be car trouble, conflict in a relationship, a health issue, a problem at work, a leaky roof or any number of things. Once you decide to truly walk by faith, trouble will come. Don’t be surprised by it.

Then we have the seed that falls among the thorns. This is when the word takes root in us and begins to grow, but our hearts are more concerned with other things. “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” When other things consume our thoughts and desires, we have our foot on the brake.

After Jesus has finished teaching, He says to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Mark 4:36 says, “Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.”

Now Jesus is the one who called the twelve disciples. And it’s His idea to go to the other side of the lake. But it says, “they took Him along.” Some of the disciples were experienced fishermen. They knew their way around a boat. They made their living on that lake. So maybe they thought they were taking Jesus along with them. But that’s not how it works.

We don’t take Jesus along. He’s not an add-on to our activities. He’s not interested in being just a part of our life. He’s taking us with Him. Just like He called the twelve to “be with Him,” He calls us to be with Him to learn how to do life His way. Walking by faith is a radically different way of living. To learn it, it requires being with Jesus.

Once they get out on the lake, “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” The disciples freak out and have to wake Jesus up from a nap. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus calms the storm, then says, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples had the brakes on. Their faith was smoking and squealing. Trouble had come and they weren’t ready, because their eyes were fixed on what they could see, not on Jesus. The truth was that they were never in any danger, because Jesus had said, “Let us go over to the other side.” When Jesus says it, we can believe it. That’s what it means to walk by faith.

What might Jesus be saying to you?

Is there somewhere He wants to take you?

How might He want to use you? Or bless you?

Are you spending enough time with Him to find out?

If you have other priorities or your eyes on your troubles and circumstances, then your faith is smoking and squealing. You might even be ready to give up. It’s time to take your foot off the brake and stomp on the gas. Go all in. Spend time with Jesus to find out what He wants to do in your life, then choose to believe Him, not the impossibility of your circumstances.

Maybe it’s time for us to start believing God so completely that people would think we’re crazy. We’d be in pretty good company if they did.

A Recipe for a Boring Marriage

On Thursday nights, I help lead a Young Life small group of college guys. Last week, we talked about marriage and I gave them the opportunity to ask questions. “Does marriage get boring?” was one of them. When I asked them what they thought, most of them seemed to think that it did.

How would you answer?

As I write this, Robyn and I are a little over 24 hours from hitting our one-billionth second of marriage. It’s fun that it just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. (A billion seconds is about four months shy of 32 years for those keeping score.) So here’s what I can say about marriage becoming boring…if there’s some set period of time after which it happens, we’re not there yet.

Fortunately, our marriage is more fun and exciting and purposeful than it’s ever been. But can marriage get boring?

Absolutely. Here’s a recipe for growing a boring one…

Stop growing. Don’t read. Don’t listen to podcasts. Don’t expose yourself to new ideas.

Have no goals and pursue no desires.

Put yourself first and only meet your spouse’s needs if yours are met first.

Keep your focus on how bad your circumstances are and all the things that are wrong in your life and your marriage.

Constantly compare your spouse to others.

Go to any lengths to make your spouse understand you, but don’t try to first understand.

Live for small things like money, not great things like the Kingdom of God.

Let your appearance go.

Don’t seek help for the same negative emotions you’ve battled all your life.

If you must have sex, let it be infrequent and in the same way every time.

Let romance die after the newlywed phase.

Be serious all the time.

Be your spouse’s biggest critic. Most of your communication should be about what your spouse does wrong.

Hold grudges. Offer forgiveness sparingly.

Actually, this recipe is better for creating a marriage that ends in divorce. If, on the other hand, you’d like to create the marriage you’ve always wanted, download my complimentary eBook, “Friend and Lover.” You can get it here:

Friend and Lover eBook

 

Do You Understand…Yourself?

Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.

As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”

So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.

One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.

After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.

Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”

“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.

The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.

Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.

But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.

Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.

Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.

Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.

So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.

What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?

Some of these questions might be helpful for them:

  • What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
  • What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
  • Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
  • Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
  • What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
  • The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?

By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.


 

 

Marriage Breakthrough

Do you ever feel stuck? Like you’re not sure how you got into your current circumstances? Or how to get out?

Have you ever wondered if what you have now is as good as it will ever get? And what you have now isn’t so hot?

Have you ever lost hope?

Have you hoped or prayed for a breakthrough?

On Friday, June 12th, my friend, Jeff Caliguire, and I will be doing a live session online:

The Top 5 Breakthroughs Wives Believe Their Husbands Need to Win at Work and at Home

You’re invited to join us to hear what wives had to say about their husbands, the state of their marriages and what they believe their husbands need most to breakthrough in life. We’ll be covering some good stuff!

Click here for more information on the time in your area and to register.

Freak Out or Faith?

Crisis Wordle

How do you respond in a crisis? I don’t mean your first reaction. No one does well when the phone rings at 2:00 a.m. I’m talking about your second reaction. After you’ve had a little time to process.

Do you panic? Feel overwhelmed? Worry? Get anxious? Are you filled with fear? Or dread?

Or maybe you respond well. You pray, assess the situation and take action. Instead of fear, you respond with faith. You might feel powerless, but that drives you to pray.

How do you respond?

In Luke 8:22-56, there are a number of people who are facing a crisis of one kind or another. Some are in fear of their lives. Some are facing serious health issues. And it’s fascinating to see how they respond and then how Jesus responds to them. Click here to read the passage.

The first group of people we see are the disciples. They’re out on the lake in a boat when a fierce storm hits. The boat was filling with water and they were in real danger. How do they respond to the crisis?

They freak out by waking Jesus up and shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

Jesus calms the storm and then asks, “Where is your faith?”

When they arrive at the other side of the lake, a demon-possessed man approaches Jesus just as He’s getting out of the boat. This guy was homeless, naked and had lived alone in the cemetery for a long time. The demons have a crisis on their hands. The Son of the Most High God has just shown up. How do they respond?

They freak out, too. They beg Jesus not to send them to the bottomless pit, but to instead allow them to go into a herd of pigs. Jesus gives them permission and they enter the pigs. The herd then rushes over a steep cliff into the lake and drowns.

The people of that region hear what has happened and rush out to Jesus. When they see the man who’d been demon-possessed sitting there, fully clothed and in his right mind, they face a crisis. Something powerful and mysterious has just occurred and they don’t understand it. How do they respond?

They freak out, of course. They’re afraid of Jesus and beg Him to leave. The one person who isn’t freaked out is the guy who’s been made well. He begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go home to his family and tell them all God has done for him.

Jesus gets back in the boat and heads to the other side of the lake again. When He arrives crowds press around Him, including a guy named Jairus who’s 12-year-old daughter is dying. How does he respond to his crisis?

He believes Jesus can heal her begs Him to come with him. Jesus agrees to go with him, but then gets sidetracked by a woman in crisis. She’s been bleeding for twelve years without relief. Nothing she has tried has cured her. How does she respond?

She believes that if she can just touch the cloak Jesus is wearing, she’ll be healed. And she is. Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

While Jesus is speaking with her, word comes to Jairus that his daughter has died. But Jesus says to him, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”

When Jesus arrives at his home, He tells the mourners to stop weeping because the little girl is only asleep. They all know she’s really dead and so they respond by laughing at Jesus. Of course, Jesus gets the last laugh when He brings her back to life.

Let’s recap…

The disciples face a crisis and freak out. Jesus asks them where there faith is.

The demons face a crisis and freak out because they know who Jesus really is. He exercises His authority over them and drives them out of the man, who is then healed and sane again.

The people of that region face a crisis and freak out in fear and beg Jesus to leave, which He does.

The man who was now free of the demons demonstrates faith by begging to go with Jesus.

The woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years faces a crisis and exercises her faith and experiences healing. She goes in peace.

Jairus faces a crisis when he realizes his daughter is dying. He has faith in Jesus and begs Him to come heal her, which He does.

The mourners face a crisis by laughing at Jesus. The gospel of Mark tells us Jesus made them leave the house before he raised the little girl to life. Could they have witnessed the miracle themselves if only they’d had faith like Jairus?

What’s your crisis today?

Is it financial? Health-related? A troubled marriage or relationship with a child? An issue at work? Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the state of the world.

You and I really have two choices. We can focus on the circumstances we’re in and freak out OR we can focus on Jesus, exercise faith in Him and experience His joy and peace.

I don’t know what Jesus will do in response to your faith. I wish I could tell you the crisis will be immediately resolved. That probably won’t happen. And I wish I could tell you it will be easy to focus on Jesus and trust Him. It won’t be.

Keeping your eyes on Jesus and trusting Him will require diligence. Your circumstances will cry out for your undivided attention. Whatever situation you’re in will feel more real than Jesus does.

But don’t give up. Make the choice to see your circumstances through the eyes of Jesus. Know beyond any doubt there’s nothing too hard for Him. Bring Jesus into the midst of your fears, worries and weaknesses. He sees. He understands. And He’s at work right now.