Friday, September 5, 2008

Blazing Issues

“In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.” – Psalms 86:7

When I was a little girl, we lived in the country. We didn’t have trash pickup. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a trash truck. Instead, we had an old barrel that had holes in the sides at the top. It sat on the hill at the property line next to the neighbor’s fenced pasture. When the trash can would fill up, we would take the trash out, put it into the barrel, light a match and burn it.

It wasn’t easy to get it to burn at times. There would be water in the bottom of the barrel, or not enough paper in the trash to ignite and start the fire. Sometimes the wind would blow out the matches before you could touch the paper! I remember once my brother being impatient to get the fire started. It was in the fall, and the wind was blowing so hard the leaves were being blown off the trees and it just wasn’t catching fire. In his impatience, he decided to pour a little of my Dad’s lawnmower gas on it. And if a little would work, he thought, then a lot would do much more!

He doused the trash in gasoline, and threw in a match. Yes! It lit! And he started to walk away when he saw small pieces of trash started floating out of the trash can and the wind started carrying them into the field. He saw the grass near the trash barrel starting to catch fire. He quickly he ran into the house, past my mom, and got the straw broom. He started hitting the burning grass with the broom to suffocate the fire. Some went out, and it looked like he was winning the battle, until the broom caught fire.

He decided then to go for the water hose. He was unwinding it, and trying to get it to the top of the hill where the fire was now blazing around the barrel. But after spending precious time trying to get the hose unwound, he discovered it was too short.

Finally he did what he should have done to begin with, and came running into the house to my mother. She and I both went outside and began beating out the fire with shovels, and buckets of water. Luckily, a young man who lived near us came by and stopped to help.

The neighbor’s pasture nearly burned up that day. Why? Because my brother didn’t want to ask for help when he couldn’t start the fire. Instead, he relied on his own wisdom to take care of his problem. And the more he relied on himself, the worse it got.

Friends, we are often like my brother. We take our problems and work them over the best we know how. We try everything we know to do. Sometimes we are successful. But other times we carry those problems down a path of destruction.

God’s word tells us in Proverbs 3 to “lean not on your own understanding”. God has all the answers to our problems – big and small. We know that He is only a prayer away. We know that God has all wisdom and knowledge. We know that he hears our prayers. We know He has the answers. Yet, we allow our relationship with Him to be weakened by neglecting the power He could have in our lives. We are an independent bunch – wanting to put out our fires without asking for help. Don’t wait and allow your fire to become a blazing issue, consuming you and those around you. Give it to the God who has conquered even the fires of Hell!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Faith and Fear

“And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:22-24

One thing I admire about my kids is that they’re both great swimmers. My son is a certified lifeguard and on the swim team. My daughter would rather be in the water than anywhere else on earth! Me? The deep end of the pool is still off limits. I can’t go there. Oh, I can swim…as long as I can stand up when I’m done! I never caught on to the “doggie paddle” thing that you do when you’re finished moving around to keep you afloat.

Every summer I tell myself that I’m going to take lessons or I’m going to just get into the pool and do it. But as this summer passes, the goal again goes unachieved.

As much as I’d love to learn to swim better, when I think about the deep end, I think of going slowly to the bottom, water filling my mouth, and having to walk my way across to the ladder, struggling with the weight of the water, to get out. Even now as I think about it I’m only one more thought from a full-blown cold chill! Why? I fear the water.

Three hundred and sixty-five times in the Bible, it says “Do Not Fear”. 365! That’s one for each day of the year. God knew that fear would prevent us from achieving our goals, and that’s why he warns against it.

Some would say that the opposite of faith is unbelief. I believe it’s fear. Ultimately, whatever causes you not to belief has roots in fear. I don’t dare venture into the deep water because I don’t have faith in my swimming abilities, and I fear drowning.

I think a lot of us are stuck in the shallow end of life because we’ve let our fears hold us captive there. Instead of faith that we can achieve our goals, we hold on to the fear of failure and it’s consequences.

Mark 9 tells the story of a young man who was held captive by a mute spirit. It would come upon him and try to destroy him. It would throw him onto the ground or sometimes into the fire or the water to try to kill him. The disciples tried to free the young man from the spirit and failed. One look into the eyes of such an evil spirit no doubt took their faith to the floor!

But Jesus says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

As Christians, can we believe that? It’s Bible. It’s God’s word. It was Jesus who spoke it. Sure, we can accept it with our minds, and state it as truth. But can we accept it into our hearts?

The father of the young man said something very profound to Jesus upon hearing these words. He said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Both belief and unbelief were in his heart. As much as he believed that God could save his son, his faith wavered when he was faced with his fear.

Perhaps the prayer of this father is one we should all adopt. If all things are indeed possible if we believe, and Jesus stated that they are, then is there anything we need more than unwavering faith?

Lord, help MY unbelief!