Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

James 2:20-22 (NIV) You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Moving through the brush excited and full of expectation. At the base of the mountain full of energy and exuberance – beginning the ascent to the top while taking in the natural beauty all around. Body, mind and spirit fully engaged. As the steps continue it gets a little steeper, naturally so, you are moving higher therefore it will require climbing to reach the highest peak. Maybe at this point, your body aches but your mind is determined to reach your destination. Minutes turn to hours and yes, you’re still steadily moving up but at this point losing sight of the surrounding beauty our mind gives way to focus on breathing and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. You are tired. You begin to contemplate giving up. This was a stupid idea. A complete waste of time. You have better things to do. Maybe I should just turn around and go back. I am not getting anywhere. This journey will never end. Pushing through the trees, they finally give way to the peak of the mountain and the limitless is right before your eyes. Breathing in deeply you cannot fully contemplate the vast beauty surrounding you. You didn’t give up. You pressed in. You made it to the top and now you can see from a new perspective.

Have you ever climbed a spiritual mountain? The feelings and emotions are really the same. You start out full of excitement and expectation at the promise of God set before you. You believe it is for you. Beginning the daunting task of walking it out seems so easy until the first obstacle rises up. This may be harder than first considered. Pressing on – more obstacles and even some opposition and now your own body works against you. The place of decision and crossroads of thought to consider rather to give up or continue to preserve. Relief sounds wonderful. Rest is appealing. An escape from the challenge seems like the most viable option. What will you do? Will you continue the climb or run back down the mountain to live a comfortable, complacent, and convenient life?

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

The last couple of days, I have studied the mountain looking closely at its structure and evaluated it by design. We can all draw a triangle and fill it with what comprises our latest challenge and become the mountain in our life. But as discovered yesterday, the mountain is not what it seems. The mountain is nothing more than doubt ready to be overcome by faith. You have to climb the mountain to overtake it. A daily commitment to overcome doubt is the only way to have the Promise of God for those who live in His Righteousness. But how do I get there from here?

Faith and our actions must work together. Faith is made complete by the two becoming one. How is that possible? Faith in the Promise of God must become our motivation. Doubt is the obstacle. The mountain in our life may be comprised of a number of challenges, difficulties and even impossibilities. We overcome them all by believing God over our situation, circumstances, trials and trouble. God’s Word refutes the enemies lie and is the truth concerning us. Those who believe the Word of God claiming each promise personally must engage in overcoming doubt including fear, stress, anxiety and worry which keep the mountain in place. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” (Matthew 21:21 – Jesus)

Romans 4:16-17 (NIV)  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

The God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. This is the God we serve. He is a miracle working God who can take an ordinary life and make it extraordinary. He has a plan and purpose that will lead you directly to fulfillment but you have to work His Plan not make up your own variation. There is an amusement park about an hour and a half from our home. It is not as far away as Orlando or the Magic Kingdom. Living on a tight budget with a large family, it would be a weekend getaway. Even though many great memories were made there, it did not compare to the wonder and excitement when we took the kids to Walt Disney World. I remember our youngest watching the parade and whispering, “A real princess, mommy” in breathless awe of the fairytale unfolding before her eyes. Compromise is evidence of doubt complicating our life and deteriorating faith.

Abraham had nothing to lose. When the messengers came to deliver the news that his promise was about to arrive, he continued in his expectation just as he did the day before. For years, he and Sarah struggled with heartbreaking infertility. Abraham did not sit idly by. He did do try to compromise. He did try to do it himself. Advanced in age, it was now impossible humanly and then God showed up. The promise of God comes by faith. The ultimate promise is eternal life. It is only achieved by faith. Faith is evident in our everyday life…or at least should be to be effective.

Romans 4:18-20 (NIV) Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God…”

Here are some important truths to remember to overcome doubt today:

The promise comes by faith. If you can do it, see it, or make it happen – it is your plan – not God’s Perfect Plan. If you decide to change course, and stop pushing, pressing and planting seeds of faith in the mountain called doubt it will stay right where it is.

Against all hope – you must believe. Believing God at His Word and deciding it belongs to you is the beginning of fruitful expectation. A broken heart is a fertile heart. Humility softens our heart and it receives seeds of faith more readily. Sometimes it takes the impossible for us to finally give God all the pieces of our broken heart and allow Him to make the beautiful masterpiece that He promised in Ephesians 2:10.

Without weakening in faith – you must continue to believe. Faith is not logical because it is not based on anything we can see. Thomas encountered Jesus after the resurrection. He had followed Jesus throughout His Ministry. He was there when Jesus performed miracles. He was witness to signs and wonders. He heard the Word right from the Living Word. He saw Jesus crucified. He was at the empty tomb. Minutes before the Risen Lord walked through the walls and filled the room with His Presence. What more would anyone need to believe? Thomas had to see and touch the Lord to finally believe. What will it take for you to finally believe that Jesus is Who He said He is and will do exactly what He has promised to do? “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29 – Jesus)

Do not waver in unbelief. When did you stop trying to overtake doubt and give in to it? We all find ourselves at the crossroads of decision – continue in faith or abandon the effort. How do I know when I waver in unbelief? Fear, anxiety, stress, worry, and retreat are all characteristic of doubt. Doubt cannot coexist with belief. It is the polar opposite. If you believe, you will continue. If you believe, you will wait. If you believe, you will not go back. If you believe, you will accept no substitution. If you believe, you will obtain God’s Promise in the land of the living and forevermore.

Genesis 22:9-14 (NIV) When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Abraham finally had a son. Years and years resulting a single precious boy that would make him the “father of many nations” per the promise of God to him. Now Abraham did not see the real meaning of his promise for his eyes were on the natural. God instructed Abraham to take his “promise” to the mountain. I just want to stop here and interject – would any parent reading this do anything to intentionally harm their own child. I didn’t think so. Me either. Well, God instructed his servant to take his son to the mountain and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. How important is your promise to you? Does it have a face? Is it a person? Can you see, hear or touch it? It may be required of you. It is all too easy to decide what is best for us or to lay hold to the identity of what we need, want or desire and lose sight of the Source. The Source of Hope beyond today, tomorrow and stepping into eternity. Abraham went to the mountain but now the face of it had changed. He offered his son, his only son, Isaac to the Lord. The Lord provided the sacrifice so now we can live with the promise. Abraham called that place, “The Lord Will Provide” and to this very day it is said, “on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” What will be provided? Faith.

Your mountain must be overtaken. We overtake doubt with the Truth of His Love and faith in His Word. Jesus overcame the enemy in the wilderness and even on the mountain simply repeating the Word of God. We must remind ourselves that God love us. He is Good to us. He fights for us. He desires us. He has a promise for us. It is all received by faith that does not doubt. The mountain cannot be cast into the sea unless we believe. Faith and confident hope begin to break down pride, fear, anxiety, worry and stress. As faith grows, it breaks up any foundation of doubt so when the time is right the mountain will be cast in the sea. What is on the other side of the mountain? Well, why don’t you just go and see!

James 2:23-24 (NIV) And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

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Changing My Profession

changing-my-profession

James 2:19-20 (MSG)  Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

When I asked Jesus to be my Savior, I was just eleven years old. My grandmother told me that after doing so that I should make a public profession of faith and go before the church to declare Jesus as my Savior and Lord so I did. After service and a wonderful lunch, she sat with me at her secretary desk with a paper and pen. She told me to write down my profession in my own words. What did I think it meant to make Jesus my Savior and Lord? So I did. Many years later, she shared the tattered piece of notebook paper with me. How precious it is? I have no idea what happened to it after she moved from her home after grandpa passed away and went to live with my aunt. I had no idea what my life would turn out to be. I was just trying to make it through my childhood with a bit of rough start. I remember the feeling inside me when I asked Jesus into my heart, and the unrealistic expectations that went along with it. Jesus was going to fix everything.

Today after almost 40 years of getting to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, trying to piece together the Godhead three-in-one, I have decided that most of the time our profession never becomes a declaration. To profess something is different than declaring it. To profess it and do nothing about it is the failure of most faith fights. The word profess is to lay claim to something. But if you read the full definition, it acknowledges that most professions are insincere. People pretending but never following through to have what they insist belongs to them. The affirmation of faith is evidenced in our ability to live our faith in belief. Our words must become our actions. Faith compromises our “control” giving way to God’s Plan which moves us out of comfort. Complacency is the idea that if I just sit and wait here long enough that the Lord will come like Santa Claus and dump out blessings in my life. It doesn’t work like that. Faith is free but it is not without a price.

To believe means a desire for change. To change mere conversation into faithful motivation to believe beyond what we see, feel or can do. Jesus told Thomas after allowing him to examine His Wounds now healed, “Now will you finally believe?!” Faith is acting on what we hope for. The impossibilities of life that exist just beyond our reach and ability to grasp. It is the final lunge out of comfort and control to allow God to fully have His Way. It doesn’t always mean that fear is gone but that one chooses to fight their way out of fear’s grasp to take grab hold of faith that will pull them closer to confident hope. My profession must become my declaration sealed by my actions in everyday life.

James 2:21-24 (MSG) Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

I am challenged today to evaluate my life on the context of faith. Am I merely saying I have faith or am I acting on faith as the belief system in which I fully operate? I have an IPhone and an IPad. There are certain applications on my phone that are not on my tablet. Why? I asked myself that question preparing for a trip recently. I am carrying both with me, as well as, a laptop. Technology overkill for sure. The purpose of my life is to become one with the Lord. Too often – we diversify faith in our life. We reserve it for certain things and then withhold it from others. I believe that Abraham gave us a very explicit example when he made his way to the mountain of sacrifice with his son, his promise, Isaac and no other means of offering. He came willing to give God everything. Everything he dreamed of, hoped for, held on to. He took it all to the mountain that day and somehow as only God can do came back with so much more. Back to my technology burden, I must sync my life. All of my devices can be synced together which alleviates the burden of carrying them all with me so that I can have everything in one. We must sync our life with Jesus Christ, His Calling, His Purpose and His Plan is all-inclusive, comprehensive and in every detail of our life. Abraham laid his whole life and purpose on the Altar of Sacrifice fully believing and trusting the Lord. Have I? Are there parts of my life where I profess faith but do not fully declare it by the way I live my life?

Romans 4:17-18 (MSG) We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Abraham’s profession to be the “Father” of many nations. Was true? It was real. God told him that, but if when he tried to make his own family – he failed. His wife was barren struggling with infertility because clearly he could make children hence Ismael. Yet Abraham honored his commitment to the Lord and his wife, he just kept trusting the Lord and living like it. Once he held Isaac in his arms, Abraham felt natural fulfillment. This is where the real choice comes. We have been given the Gift of Salvation. It is easily within our grasp, but will I take hold of it and make Jesus Christ my Lord. Will I choose to keep going on this journey called faith that leads to confident hope? Will I “sync” my life now and futuristically to achieve the impossible? It is not up to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or even Father Abraham…it is up to me. Will I give up some of the things I hold most dear and precious to the Altar of Sacrifice? Total trust in God means that when the impossible comes I do not settle for possible but continue to give my all to the One who says that He will do more than I can think, ask or imagine. Comfort holds us back. Complacency is its cushion. Those who desire a life of not just professing our faith but make it a declaration must move from the place of comfort to uncomfortable giving up this life for forever.

Romans 4:19-25 (MSG) Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

Abraham was a righteous man. He was not a saint. His title “friend of God” was given not because of his religious values or ability to uphold such traditions. His friendship with God was based on absolute trust and total faith in the Lord evidenced by his willingness to sacrifice his life, his future and all that was precious simply because God asked Him to. Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God. Faith must be planted in trust to give way to confident hope that solidifies our relationship with God the Father. We demonstrate faith in God by giving up our life to take hold of faith and confident hope completely. This is done by doing not by just saying. My declaration is a formal announcement of allegiance to Jesus Christ not in words or even useless works but to commit every deed, dream, desire and declaration to faith in action. Trust is faith in action. It can’t see beyond the natural yet chooses to take hold of the supernatural. It is not a one-time act but daily occurrence called life. Jesus honors such a life and gives us access to His Presence to live in close proximity and friendship with God. A life worth living. Lord, change every profession in my life that is not actively defined by faith and trust into a public declaration from the inside out in Jesus Name.

Hebrews 11:5-6 (MSG) By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.