Category Archives: Alphabet of Faith

Alphabet of Faith — “O” Is for OBEDIENCE

In our Alphabet of Faith series we’re up to the letter “O” as we make our way through the letters of the English language.  The choice of which word to choose was not difficult for me.

“O” stands for Obedience!

We can’t succeed at life without exhibiting obedience toward one authority or another.  We have to obey traffic laws unless we want to get into an accident or get a ticket.  We have to obey the rules and guidelines at work if we want to keep our job.  We have to obey any contract we sign or suffer the consequences.  The law of gravity must be respected and obeyed or we get hurt or die.

It should not be surprising, then, that a healthy relationship with God is going to involve obedience on our part.  He’s God, we’re not.  He’s all knowing, we’re not.  He’s always right and moral, we’re not.  Hence, we’re to yield to His will and ways.

The religiously-minded person is going to live from a different perspective than does the secular-minded person (secular meaning making no room for God).  The secular person is going to operate from the perspective of what he or she thinks is right.  The religiously-minded person is gong to function from the perspective of what he or she thinks God wants.  The psalmist wrote, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:60)

If the truth be told, I don’t always want to obey the Lord, and sometimes don’t.  If I try to pat myself on the back and tell myself that I obey Him at least 90% of the time that isn’t really anything  to brag about.  What it probably means is that 90% of the time what I want matches up with what God wants and so my self-will is disguised as obedience.

But there always come those moments when we have clarity and know it’s a battle between what we want and what we know God wants.  This is a good time to pray Jesus’ prayer to the Heavenly Father when He struggled with temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane.  “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”  (Luke 22:42)  Thankfully, God helps us to be obedient, so we’re not totally on our own here.  Plus there can be the incentive of love, that if we love God we’re going to want to please Him by our obedience.  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

We encounter God in many ways: through reading His Word, by interacting with other believers, in prayerful meditation, and in nature.  But another way we experience His reality in our lives is by our obedience.  Living distinctively different because of Him is what makes Him real to us!

Alphabet of Faith “N” is for “New”

As we continue making our way through the alphabet with our Alphabet of Faith series we come to the letter “N” this week. Interestingly, when I went to a Bible Dictionary and looked under “N” to see what were my choices there weren’t very many words of a serious theological/Biblical nature. But I quickly saw one word frequently associated with others words, primarily as an adjective, and that’s my choice!

 

“N” stands for New!

 

I found the phrases new birth, new covenant, new life, new command, new creation, new Jerusalem, new man, new order, and new song. God may be older than the hills (and the cosmos, for that matter) but He sure is into new! God is recorded as having said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelations 21:5)

 

As the part of speech called an adjective the word new modifies a lot of nouns in the Bible, as you can see in the above list. Let’s bring this home for our own use: In what way do you need to be modified by God’s ability to make new? What is old, worn, tired out, or in some way far from newness in your life?

 

We’ve just about come all the way through spring, a time of nature being made new. I’m always amazed at how a dead-looking nature comes alive with an abundance of green, and other colors too. There’s a multitude of miracles of newness in God’s creation! How about thinking of that area where you need some newness and praying something to the effect, “Lord, make this new!” or “Lord, give me a new perspective!” or “Lord, help me to have a new attitude.”

 

Then too, God can use us to bring some element of newness into the lives of others. This often makes us feel renewed too, doesn’t it!

 

I want to re-quote the verse I shared earlier. Though it was spoken by God in reference to making things new in a most astonishing way sometime in the future, God is doing a lot of renewing now too! Let’s take His words to heart! “Behold, I make all things new.”

Alphabet of Faith — “M” Is for “Mercy”

The Alphabet of Faith is what I’m calling this series where we focus on a word associated with our relationship with God for each letter of the alphabet. We’re up to “M” this week.

 

“M” stands for Mercy!

 

“How do you spell relief?” an old commercial asked. I don’t remember how they spelled relief in the commercial but I’d spell relief m-e-r-c-y! When someone extends me mercy I feel relief, for I know I’m being treated far better than I deserve. There are other words with close to the same meaning and we looked at one of them when on the letter “G” with the word grace. Grace may be described as undeserved favor being extended when we’ve been bad or are in a bad situation. Mercy, though similar, seems to focus more on the relief from being miserable at being bad or in a bad situation. Mercy is the antidote for being miserable!

 

No one is more merciful than God! In the Old Testament God’s presence was centered on an object about the size of grandma’s cedar chest with two angels on top of the lid. That spot, between the two angels, was called the Mercy Seat. That’s right. Where God was “seated” was called the Mercy Seat! In the New Testament the apostle Paul said God is “rich in mercy.” (Ephesians 2:4)

 

No wonder the psalmist felt confident to pray (as we can), “Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.” (Psalm 69:16) God’s heart goes out to us when we’re miserable. Mercy is His response to our miserableness! So, though life may not be going as well as we’d like, or even lousy, we can always cling to the fact that God is merciful. He is the one “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies…” (Psalm 103:4 KJV)

 

Of course, we’re to be conduits of this mercy of God to us by spreading it around to those to whom we can show some mercy. “Mercy” is what is called a “communicable” attribute of God’s. That means we can communicate it to others just as God communicates it to us. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” is how Jesus put it. (Luke 6:36)

 

Sometimes people exclaim, “Mercy me!” Yes, it’s for me, and for you, and for everyone with whom you and I come in contact too! Misery can be addressed by His mercy!

Alphabet of Faith — “L” is for LORD

In our Alphabet of Faith we’re selecting a word each week beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. “L” is our letter for this week.

 

“L” stands for Lord!

 

Wherever people work together or have to relate with each other in an organized way someone has to be in charge. Sometimes it seems no one is in charge and chaos results. Sometimes more than one person tries to run things, and conflict, and probably chaos too, results. There has to be a boss. So it is with our own personal lives; someone has to be in charge.

 

During Biblical times the word “lord” was used for boss, for the one in charge. It was a term of respect for a teacher or leader, but it also could refer to a king and often to God Himself. This is how we often use it, to refer to God, or Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote, “Jesus is Lord.” (Romans 10:9)

 

Every day we deal with people with various titles: boss, Dr., officer, chairman, manager, shift supervisor. Each title implies some authority and some kind of compliance on the part of others.

 

What does it mean to declare God as Lord, to affirm Jesus as Lord? How should this way of referencing God influence our daily lives? If you were sitting across from me here at Starbucks right now we could have a good conversation on that topic. But we can’t so I’m not going to try and put words in your mouth, but in general terms it most certainly means living His way and not our own way.

 

Once we determine to call God “Lord” we move from believing in Him to yielding obedience to Him, quite a transition. The decision to make Him Lord is the biggest decision we’ll ever make; after that all other decisions are small by comparison.

 

How about if we determine today to live with a continual awareness of God as the Boss? How might that impact how we handle the day? Just wondering.

The Alphabet of Faith — “K” is for Kingdom

The Alphabet of Faith is what we’re calling this series in which we’re identifying a key word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. “K” is our letter for this week.

 

“K” stands for Kingdom!

 

If you look at our world from space you don’t see different countries, just one world. Look at a globe and you’re likely to see the countries clearly outlined. There’s 193 countries in the United Nations and a few that aren’t, bringing the total to somewhere around 200 countries in all.

 

I have an old map that hung in the country school in Iowa I attended back in the 1950s. That map looks a lot different than a map today. Countries and kingdoms come and go. There’s one kingdom however that’s going to be around forever, long after all current countries and kingdoms are gone. That kingdom is the Kingdom of God, sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. Those two terms appear 136 times in the Bible.

 

The Kingdom of God is unique in that it is a kingdom with no borders, a kingdom that spans two realities, the earthly and the heavenly, and a kingdom where God Himself is king. We’re invited to a dual citizenship, to be part of the Kingdom of God as well as the earthbound country of which we’re a citizen.

 

You could say that the headquarters, the capital, of the Kingdom of God is in heaven; it’s sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. The apostle Paul even wrote that, “…our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3:20) But Jesus taught us, His followers, to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) We’re to wish and to work that God’s sphere of influence will expand upon this earth as it already exists in heaven.

 

A kingdom presupposes a king. What does it mean for God to be king and to rule and reign in our lives? We could spend a lot of time reflecting on that, but suffice it to say that it means we yield leadership of our lives over to Him.

 

Each of us has places to go, people to see, and things to do. It is in this going, seeing, and doing in our own unique sphere of influence that we can expand God’s influence. Let’s make it our prayer today and every day, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” Let’s bring a little of heaven down to earth, infiltrating the kingdom of this world for God through what we think, say, do, and pray!

Alphabet of Faith — “J” Is for JOY

We’re in our Alphabet of Faith series and “J” is our letter for this week. I didn’t debate long on this. It was, frankly, between Jesus and joy. There was no way I was going to try and reflect on Jesus in a few short paragraphs so that left me with…

 

J” stands for Joy!

 

Joy can be described as gladness, delight, happiness, contentment, rapture, and bliss. Joy may borrow a little bit of its meaning from each of these words (and some others too) but it has its own unique defining reality. After all, happiness often depends on what’s happening but joy isn’t necessarily limited to what’s going on. Joy can be rapturous, but it also can be more subdued than that.

 

I know what joy looks like. It looks like a toddler chasing bubbles. It looks like a bride and groom getting rained on by rice. It looks like the cartoon character Snoopy doing a toe dance with his nose up in the air.

 

In the Bible joy seems to be almost always tied to God, to God’s blessings, and to being in God’s will. “Joy in Jesus” is one way of putting it. But we who have determined to be followers of Jesus, seeking to live fully committed lives to Him, don’t always feel joyful.

 

On the one hand, joy for followers of Jesus should come naturally. Joy is part of the gift fruit basket given us when God’s Spirit lives within us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” Galatians 5:22) It’s to be a natural by-product of living a God-focused life. I know, this makes me uncomfortable too! I don’t always feel I have this joy. After all, there’s a lot going on in life, even in this very day, that seems to be a major joy-inhibitor.

 

My discomfort, however, finds some comfort in something the apostle Paul wrote while he was incarcerated for his faith (not a natural environment for joy). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) He’s actually commanding his fellow Christians to have joy. He’s saying we can choose to have joy, that we can be intentional about cultivating joy. After all, if Paul could write of joy from a jail then there’s hope for me, and you too, right?

 

The more I think about it, maybe Snoopy exhibits the right position for experiencing joy – nose and eyes pointed upward with feet only dancing lightly on the ordinary earth. This world we walk on is a fallen world but we can choose to look up, look up to God. Our joy is from heaven, not from earth.

 

So, in the midst of the challenges, disappointments, hurts, confusion, and the trudging away at things, we are invited to focus on our great God. We’re invited to focus on His love for us, on His care for us, on His sure and certain plan for us that unfolds even when things don’t seem to be going according to our plans. When we embrace God we embrace His joy for us! Choose to embrace Him today! Choose to embrace His joy!

The Alphabet of Faith — “I” Is for “Inspiration”

We’ve come to the letter “I” in our Alphabet of Faith series. Drum roll please!

“I” is for Inspiration.

I hope this piece of writing is inspiring to you. What do I mean by that? I want it to lift you up, to have you be moved in a positive way.

We’re attracted to that which is inspiring. We want to walk away from something and be able to say, “That was inspiring!” Yes, we like to be inspired. We also like to be inspiring.

To be inspired is to be taken out of the ordinary. Perhaps more accurately it means to have the extraordinary put inside of us, for to be inspired can mean to breathe in, just as to expire can mean to breathe out. Another way to put it is to say that to inspire means to breathe life into something.

The fact that to inspire and to breathe have the same basic meaning is why the King James version of 2 Timothy 3:16 reads, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” while the New International Version reads “All Scripture is God-breathed.” It’s the same idea. The Bible, God’s Word, is from Him, God breathed, God inspired.

When we’re open to God’s presence and influence in our lives we open ourselves up to being inspired by Him. A good prayer for inspiration would be to pray, “Lord, give me your thoughts to think, your words to say, and your actions for me to carry out. Lord, inspire me today, this is what I pray.”

The Alphabet of Faith — “H” is for “Holy”

We’re doing an Alphabet of Faith series and “H” is our next letter. So, here’s my choice…

 

“H” is for Holy!

 

The word “holy” seems to clash with the ordinary living we find ourselves trudging through. Look around you and within you; what’s a nice word like “holy” doing in a time and place like this? I’m writing this at Starbucks and though it provides a nice ambiance for my writing efforts I doubt if many in here would use the word “holy” as their first descriptive word for their experience here – and that’s probably also true of the place where you find yourself reading this.

 

Let me approach it from this direction: we all like to experience a special day, meet a special person, and (let’s admit it) feel special ourselves. The good news is that there’s an overwhelmingly special Reality that exists in all places and in all circumstances and with all people. This Reality is better known as God and He is special, special, special! The Bible’s word for this kind of “special” is “holy.”

 

One time some angels from heaven burst into human existence in front of a prophet named Isaiah and exclaimed to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) Yep! That’s right! It’s straight from the mouth of angels. God is holy, holy, holy and the whole earth is filled with His glorious holy presence. That includes where you and I are present right now! By the way, God’s holiness is the only attribute of His that is ever repeated three times in a row like this (nowhere do we read of God’s love, love, love).

 

The word “holy” isn’t easy to wrap our thoughts around, but it at least means to be totally separate, to exceed the highest specifications of all good qualities to the umpteenth degree. To be holy is to be special in an infinite way.

 

If we were to really see God in even a small measure of His holiness right now, like Isaiah and Moses and others in the Bible did, we’d have to take off our shoes and go horizontal with our faces to the floor. Because God decides not to reveal Himself this way very often we can keep our shoes on and remain vertical. Still, this fresh reminder of His ever constant holy presence should help us to see that the most ordinary of our days and experiences are holy because He is with us.

 

Because of His holy presence our own thoughts, attitudes, and behavior should be affected too! “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16) We’re not going to do this perfectly (only He is holy, holy, holy) but we can at least make a start at it. (Concerned about the ramifications of falling short? Refer to last week’s “G” word, “Grace!”)

 

So, look around you, and within you too! There’s more going on here than the five senses can pick up on. This is a holy day! Where you are is a holy place! And you have holy work and living to do! All because your holy God is here! Have a special, special, special day!

Alphabet of Faith — “G” Is for “Grace”

We come to the letter “G” in our Alphabet of Faith series. Someone suggested that “G” stand for grace. I couldn’t agree more! You would be hard pressed to find a word that better expresses how God relates to us.

 

“G” is for Grace!

 

The word “grace” must be one of God’s favorite words, appearing about 120 times in the Bible. It’s a popular word among people too, that’s why Amazing Grace is one of the most beloved hymns of all time.

 

To offer someone grace is to extend undeserved favor. That’s what God does for us all the time. Because God is full of grace He gives us what we don’t deserve and He doesn’t give us what we do deserve!

 

Because of His grace He can forgive us. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” (Romans 5:20)

 

Because of His grace He can use our weakness in powerful ways. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Yes, because of His grace He can use us to accomplish His good in spite of our best efforts.

 

I find that I need to continually bask in God’s grace. It’s like rain on parched ground.

 

Grace not only comes down from God to us but it’s to go sideways from us to others. We’re most gracious toward others when we’re most open to God’s grace toward us. God’s rain of grace on us becomes refreshing streams of graciousness toward others.

 

Practice receiving God’s grace today. Practice being gracious, giving God’s grace away today.

 

Alphabet of Faith — “F” Is for “FAITH”

We come to the letter “F” in our Alphabet of Faith. We’re going to have it stand for faith.

 

“F” is for Faith!

 

We need faith in almost everything. We sit down for a bowl of cereal in the morning having faith the chair we sit in will hold us up. There’s the rush out the door to drive to our destination with just enough time to get there on time; we have faith our car will start. We grab a cup of coffee at work or at a local coffee shop and have faith it’s not tainted with arsenic. Once at work we punch the power button on the computer with faith that it will boot up.

 

True, sometimes our faith is not rewarded and we’re disappointed that our expectations aren’t met. An occasional disappointment doesn’t deter us, however. We simply can’t function by doubting at every turn, it would immobilize and debilitate. We always need faith.

 

When Disney World was completed someone made the comment that it was too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live long enough to see it. Someone else, who knew Walt well, said, “But he did see it. That’s why it’s here.”

 

The best of all definitions of faith is found in the book of Hebrews in the Bible. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) What separates faith from fact is the unseen that is seen!

 

God seems to be into faith in a big way. He could make Himself far more obvious than He does – big and booming voice, a large image of Jesus molded out of cumulus clouds, and an instant and appropriate answer to a test prayer we might send up to Him. Instead, God seems to be, as some have put it, shy. Why? It appears that a relationship with Him has to have faith as a main ingredient.

 

Even at His resurrection Jesus first appeared to some women who then told the apostles about His being alive. Jesus could have appeared to the apostles first, seniority, you could argue. Instead, the apostles were required to grapple with having faith in what they had not themselves seen, before they were allowed to see for themselves. I suspect it gave them a greater appreciation for the faith that would be required in order for future listeners of their sermons to believe.

 

The great devotional writer Oswald Chambers said that “the call of God… presents us with sealed orders… Faith never knows where it is being led, it knows and loves the One who is leading.” (Daily Thoughts for Disciples p. 23) In seeking to be God’s person we usually have little idea of what He’s up to. As much as we might bow our head in prayer for guidance He doesn’t give us much of a “heads up” as to what He’s going to do. If you listen close enough you can almost hear Him whisper, “Trust me.”

 

Facts tend to find their home in the head. Faith, on the other hand, finds it home in the heart. God wants more than a head knowledge of His existence from us. He wants our heart, and that requires faith in Him!

 

Any ideas for “G” for next week in our Alphabet of Faith? Let me know.