Faith & Prayer

“We must be willing to have faith even when God does not give us the sign we are looking for.”

Have you ever heard the of  term “Fleece Praying?”

It usually involves asking God for some sort of sign to either confirm or deny God’s will or direction for an individual. This type of praying goes beyond just simply praying for clarity. Fleece praying usually involves an attitude that says, “I need to see it to believe it.”

This thinking comes from an account found in Judges 6:36-40. For context, God had just called Gideon to become a judge, a military and spiritual leader, of Israel. God promises to use Gideon to deliver Israel out of the hands of its enemies. Gideon, however, is unconvinced. He asks God for multiple signs, specifically a wet and then a dry fleece that he laid out at night. God endures Gideon’s requests and provides the signs that Gideon felt as though he needed.

When looking at the account of Gideon and the wet fleece the question that is almost always raised is, “should we pray like that in the church age?” The answer is no, not even Gideon should have prayed like that.

The Bible records the story for us so that we can:

1) know what happened

2) see Gideon’s lack of faith

3) see God’s extended patience with Gideon

4) see God’s willingness to work and use mankind in spite of their continued lack of faith.

Gideon’s actions of demanding a sign from God are hardly the kind of actions that we should be replicating. God is God, who are we to demand anything from Him.

You might say, “but that’s not fair, he needed to be completely sure before he committed fully!” While we certainly can understand this thinking it is not quite in line with how we should approach following God’s will and direction. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we are to walk by faith and not by sight, additionally Isaiah 55:8-9 says that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts.

The point is this; we cannot always understand God’s reasons, but we must trust Him. And we should trust Him, He has an excellent track record! We must have faith in God when He instructs us to do something through His Word or through the prodding of the Holy Spirit. We must remember and trust His promises.

We must be willing to have faith even when God does not give us the sign we are looking for.

Fleece praying should not be taught.What should be taught is that we should always seek God’s will in our prayers and for Him to guide and direct us in our praying. (James 4:3) There are many people that want to ask God to show them specific signs and symbols so that they can know what to do, or not do. However, we must remember that God has already given us “signs and symbols” He has given us His Word.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that God can’t or won’t answer prayer in this way. However, we must remember that God has already given us “signs and symbols,” He has given us His Word. We should remember what Jesus said to Thomas, a guy who demanded a sign. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

His Word is all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and that, my friends, is far better than a wet fleece.

Till next time,

Josh

Why Theology Matters

“God wants people to know exactly who He is.”

Sitting in the lounge of a dorm floor a few years ago I heard a stressed out student preparing for a theology final exclaim, “Ugh why do we have to discuss all these details? It’s not that big of a deal anyway.”

No. Theology is important.

Theology is the study of God. We study God so that we can know Him. Theology is not some big and scary subject that only the academic elite can afford to tackle. Rather it is something so fundamental to life that anyone and everyone should participate. The “study of God” is something that is open to everyone.

God Himself encourages this study in His word. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of passages explaining the benefits of knowing God. John 17:3 talks about the eternal life that is found in knowing God. Similarly, Jeremiah talks about how God is available to those who seek Him. The list could go on and on. God wants people to know exactly who He is.

God delights when we study Him.

“But why? Can’t we just love Him?” Well, no. It is impossible to truly love someone without having some understanding of who they are. Someone once said to me, “I don’t read the Bible, and I stopped praying long ago, but I still very much love God.” I tried my best to respond graciously, but the only thing I could think to say is, “how do you love someone who you never communicate with?”

It is easy enough to say we “love” things. I love coffee. I love donuts. I love the Chicago Bears. It is easy to say we love those things because they are just that…things. But God is not a thing. He is not an idea or a construction of our minds. God is a real being who loves us dearly and desires a real relationship with us. In order to love Him back, we must know who He is. We wouldn’t stay in a long-term relationship with someone whom we never talked to, would we? Why would we try to get away with that with God?

Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him they would keep His commandments. (John 14:15) The only way the disciples (or we for that matter) can keep His commandments is by knowing what they are.

The two most frequent Greek words used for “to know” in the New Testament are the words oida and ginosko. There are several differences between the two words, but for simplicity sake, we will just say that oida generally refers to an intellectual knowledge, while ginosko speaks more of an experiential knowledge. It is one thing to know and study God on an intellectual level, it is another thing to know Him because of experiences had through prayer and reading of His Word.

So let’s do that. Let’s know God experientially. Let’s seek Him, study Him, spend time with Him, talk to Him, and talk about Him. Let’s know Him so that we can love Him.

Till next time,

Josh

Are you a disciple?

“Being a disciple of Jesus is about so much more than just simply living morally.”

Are you a disciple of Jesus?

A true disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who knows God, loves God, obeys God, and equips others to know, love, and obey God as well. Knowledge of God leads a person to love God, a love for God will spur on a believer to obey God, and obedience to God includes sharing the truth of the Gospel. A true disciple is one who becomes (talks, acts, and thinks) more like Jesus each and every day, (Romans 12:2 & 1 John 2:6) brings glory to God in all that is done and understood, (1 Corinthians 10:31 & Colossians 3:23) and makes other disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20) It is of the utmost importance that believers today keep Jesus Christ central in their understanding of discipleship.

A discipleship without the centrality of Christ is no discipleship at all, instead, it becomes nothing more than a list of how to live morally. Being a disciple of Jesus is about so much more than just simply living morally.

There is an old hymn called “Trust and Obey” and it tells of the benefits of trusting and obeying the Lord. It is interesting that the song is not just called “Trust” but rather “Trust and Obey” emphasizing the idea that true disciples need to not only have faith but also display that faith in action by obedience. Followers of Jesus need to understand that a core part of being a disciple of Jesus is obedience to Him.

Jesus Himself says in John 14:15, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience is not optional for those who love Jesus. Saying, “I love and follow Jesus, but I just choose not to obey Him” might seem like a funny and strange thing to say. However, that is exactly what we say without actions every time that we choose to sin. The unfortunate truth is that many who claim to be followers of Jesus never fully submit to Him (obey Him) in every area of their life, the results are anemic “Christians” who are ineffective for the kingdom.

I pray that is not me. I pray that is not you. I pray that we are, and are becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ who trust Him and obey Him in every area of our lives. When we do that we will impact this world in ways we never imagined were possible.

Till next time,

Josh