World of Faith

Changing Our Thinking – Part Two: Renewing Our Minds

March 29, 2007
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This week I am continuing my series on “Changing Our Thinking,” and I am going to discuss renewing the mind. But before I get into that, I want to encourage everyone reading this to check out http://www.faithchurchok.com/ Last week, I discussed my pastor and my church, and this is the website for where I belong, Faith Church in Edmond, OK. I will also include a link to it in the list off to the side.

Let’s begin in Romans 12:1-2 (NAS), which is they key Scripture passage that discusses renewing the mind, the first key to changing our thinking, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The first thing this passage (in verse 2) states about renewing the mind is that we cannot “be conformed” to this world. We cannot be carnal Christians, going about doing their own thing. Peter also writes about this in 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NAS), “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts, which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be Holy, for I am Holy.’” WOW — that is a lot to swallow. This passage also is about renewing the mind, or as Peter says, “preparing” the mind. And what are we to be “prepared” for? Action — because faith without works is dead. Peter emphasizes here that we cannot be conformed or go back to the “former lusts,” or whatever ensnared us before we were saved. We are to live holy, godly lives as children of God. We are, in fact, according to 2 Cor. 5:17, a “new creature,” or in some translations, a “new creation” in Christ. We are a “new man.” So, we cannot live carnal lives, we must live holy, godly lives.

Now, going back to Romans 12:2, what is the purpose of renewing our minds? According to verse 2, it is to “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” As Christians, we can KNOW the will and plan for God in our lives. Some will disagree with this, but the Scriptures speak to the contrary. Eph. 5:17 states, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We can discern the Lord’s will. Paul also exhorts in Col. 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Now, the Scripture states that some things are the will of God for every Christian believer. For example, 1 Thess. 4:3 expressly states that sanctification and abstention from sexual immorality is clearly the will of God for the Christian believer. Likewise, we can also pray and discern God’s specific will for our lives in other areas not covered directly by the Scriptures (e.g. career, who we marry, other family decisions specific to our needs, etc.) However, such must be in accord with the Scriptures, because that is how the will of God becomes good and acceptable and perfect. And that is the reason why we must renew our minds. We must be in the Word of God, and in prayer, daily, meditating on the Word of God, so that we can attain “the mind of Christ,” and that will be the subject for next week’s entry.


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Changing Our Thinking – Part One: An Introduction

March 22, 2007
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This week I am beginning a brand new series, “Changing Our Thinking,” that is going to challenge us all to change our old mindsets and renew our minds in unique and different ways. This week I am going to introduce this topic — next week I will discuss renewing the mind, and then the following week I will discuss having the mind of Christ. Then, after that, we’ll see where the Holy Spirit leads us in this series.

A few weeks ago, I shared as a preview a dream that I heard about. Some of you know that I am a member of a non-denominational, charismatic church in Edmond known as Faith Church. My pastor recently shared with us as a congregation a dream that his pastor, Tom Arnold, who lives in La Salle, Illinois, had concerning my pastor and our church. In this dream, Pastor Tom Arnold, along with his wife Phyllis, were visiting with my pastor and his wife in my pastor’s house right here in Edmond. My pastor had just asked Pastor Tom Arnold whether he could preach at church the next day, and Pastor Tom then asked my pastor what time our service starts. My pastor replied in the dream, “Oh, around 9:30, we have two services now.” Pastor Tom then asked in the dream, “Oh, that’s somewhat different than what has been done in the past. How many people are you running in attendance?” And my pastor responded, “About 1500 people.” That was the dream — right now we have about 120 people who are members at Faith Church, and we start our service at 10am each Sunday morning. But we must change our thinking and think beyond that, for there will come a day where we WILL have TWO services, and reach 1500 in attendance. Thus, we MUST change our thinking, and think outside of our current box. This is what my pastor has been emphasizing for several weeks, and exactly what I’ll be emphasizing during this series. We must learn to renew our minds, get the mind of Christ, and change our thinking, to move into what God has for us in 2007. So, next week, we’ll begin in Romans 12 and move forward from there.


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What is Real Faith? – Part Five: The Rewards of Real Faith – The Blessing of Abraham

March 16, 2007
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This week I am going to probably conclude this series on real faith in “World of Faith.” Next week I will likely begin my new series, “Changing Our Thinking,” where I will discuss the need for us to renew our minds. As I said last week, real faith demands that we live in the future, and see ourselves where God would have us down the road, rather in the present time. I’ll be starting in Romans 12, and also using real-life examples to supplement the Scriptures, in exploring this topic. I am not sure yet how long this series will last, but I imagine by May we’ll be in another series after that, most likely on the subject of leadership, but maybe something else.

Onto this week’s entry. Last week I discussed how to exercise our faith, which is required if we desire God to reward our faith. I went to the Master Teacher Himself, Jesus Christ, to explain this subject of exercising our faith. The Lord Jesus Christ said in Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV), “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” This passage shows that real faith is a declaration of one’s belief, and demands that we are bold and speak out what God shows us. That’s why Jesus says we must speak to the mountain. In fact, Jesus teaches us here by example we are to COMMAND the mountain to be removed. We also cannot doubt. Jesus exhorts us here that whatever we declare, believe it will be done for us, and thus we will “receive” it, and we in fact possess it. This is the same concept presented in 1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV), “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Real faith produces an inner knowing, which is a confidence, or an assurance deep inside us that God will perform His Word. That’s how we know what His will is — by looking into the Word of God. Further, in 2 Cor. 18-20 (NKJV) says, “But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For ALL the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” God only hears us when we pray according to His will. Many people teach that God answers prayer with “No,” sometimes. But there is no negative in God. He cannot answer a prayer according to His will with a “No.” He simply does not hear a prayer that is outside His will.

Then, last week, I spoke about how to increase our faith. Real faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to be increased. Again, Jesus is the Master Teacher, and in response to the disciples asking Him how they can increase their faith, He said in Luke 17:6 (NKJV), “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Jesus compared our faith to a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are VERY small. However, only having such little faith, we can have a huge impact. That is how we increase our faith.

So, what should be the result of living a faith-filled life, as I have described, articulated, and characterized it the past four weeks? Well, the Scriptures are very clear that God rewards our faith. Hebrews 11:6 (NJKV) states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Thus, real faith will believe that God exists, and that God rewards those who diligently seek after His ways. Psalm 103:1-2 exhorts us, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits.” So, this week, as we conclude our series, we will go back to what we started with — Abraham, the biblical role model for our faith as believers. The Bible discusses the “blessing of Abraham,” and I believe this is the reward for our faith. Paul writes about the blessing of Abraham in Gal. 3:13-14, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The first thing this passage teaches us is that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law. But what is that, exactly? The curse of the Law is set forth in Deut. 28:15-68. For the sake of time and space, I am not going to go through that passage, but I encourage you to read it on your own. However, Christ has redeemed each and every believer from all of that, because Christ became a curse on our behalf at the crucifixion, and procured for us the blessing of Abraham in the atonement. So what exactly IS the “blessing of Abraham” – ? Well, Deut. 28:1-14 lists the basic concepts of the blessing. Again, I encourage you to read that passage on your own. However, the blessing is also mentioned in Psalm 103:3-5, where the “benefits” of God are listed. This passage says, “Who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with loving-kindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” God is the One who works all these things, and each of these benefits are effectuated by our faith in what Christ did for us on the cross at Calvary. The first thing Christ did for us is that he pardoned all our iniquities — our sins, and so forth. I think most Christians understand this concept, because it is so essential to our salvation.

But some of my readers may have difficulty with some of what I am about to discuss. The next thing this passage teaches us is that Christ died to “heal all our diseases.” I believe, with all my heart, that healing is provided for in the atonement, along with salvation. If you look carefully in Deut. 28, you will see that sickness, disease, and infirmity are basically considered aspects of the curse of the Law. Further, several New Testament passages indicate that Christ died to bring healing to sickness, disease, and infirmity. The first passage that suggests concerns the life of Jesus, and is found in Matthew 8:16-17, which states, “When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’” This last quotation is taken directly from Isaiah 53:4, which states, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” If you look up in the original Hebrew the terms for “griefs” and “sorrows,” as they are used in Isaiah 53:4, these words actually mean “infirmities” and “sicknesses,” respectively. But the Gospel account in Matthew is not the only New Testament passage that teaches Christ died to bring healing to sickness, disease, and infirmity. Acts 10:38 says, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Even James, who spoke much of faith, wrote in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed; the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.” So, these passages show that not only did Christ die for our sins, but for our sicknesses and infirmities as well.

The next “benefit” listed in Psalm 103 is that God “redeems our life from the pit.” This means that God delivers us from all oppression of the devil, and every bondage that we may face. This means that because of atonement, there is hope for the alcoholic and the drug addict that they can be delivered from their destruction. Then, the last benefit listed in Psalm 103 is that God “satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Again, some of you are going to take issue with me for what I am about to say concerning this. However, I believe, again with all my heart, that here, the psalmist is speaking of financial and material blessing, i.e., prosperity. What IS a “good thing,” with which we can be satisfied with, according to the Scriptures? It is anything that brings blessing and prosperity to us. Should this be our motivation? No, it most definitely should not be our motivation, and I can cite Scriptures to explain that point. But, I do believe God desires to bless His children with “every good and perfect gift” that He has for us, and there are Scriptures that explain that point, as well. So, what about a financial or material blessing… could that be in the “blessing of Abraham,” which is the title of this week’s entry. Let’s look at a few Scriptures to consider this last point. First, 3 John 2 states, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” This is not a mere greeting, but is a promise that we can stand on in the Word of God. Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Deut. 33:15-16 further describes the blessing, “With the best things of the ancient mountains, with the precious things of the everlasting hills, with the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come ‘on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.” Joseph was a type of Christ, and as we are Christ’s body, that blessing and inheritance is provided to us, materially and financially. Finally, Deut. 28:8 and 11-12 describes the blessing of Abraham, in terms of material blessing, as follows, “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand… The Lord will grant you plenty of GOODS, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground… the Lord will open to you His good TREASURE, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.” Thus, all these Scriptures show that the blessing of Abraham includes a financial/material element, in addition to providing for our salvation, healing, and deliverance, as well. Such is the benefit of living a life full of real faith, so that God can accomplish His purposes and be glorified.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on real faith. Barring further questions, next week I will begin the next series, “Changing Our Thinking.” See you then.


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What is Real Faith? – Part Four: Exercising Our Faith

March 7, 2007
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Before I get into this week’s blog entry, I want to share a quick preview of what will be our next series, which will begin later this month. A common and current theme that has been appearing in my own spiritual journey is that as Christians, we need to change our thinking, especially if we wish God to use us in the day and hour in which we live. In fact, real faith, the subject of this series, demands that we live in the future, and see ourselves where God would have us down the road, rather in the present time. In a few weeks, when I introduce the new series, I’ll give an important example in the life of my own church that explains this concept of living in the future and changing our thinking. But the series will focus on how we exactly do change our thinking, so I’ll likely begin with Romans 12 and discuss the renewing of the mind, and then take it from there.

Now, onto this week’s entry. As a review, last week I gave the beginning, I hope, of a biblical definition of faith. I began by discussing the origin of our faith, which is found by hearing the Word of God. However, I also emphasized that the blessings of God are only for those who DO the Word of God, and not just hear it. I examined up-close the first and second chapters of the Book of James, where we saw that our faith must be tested in order for it to be matured and perfected. And by perfected, I don’t mean flawless, but complete and whole. James clearly teaches that doubt and unbelief are the opposites of faith. Further, James also taught that when our faith is mixed with doubt, then we are in presumption, which is also an opposite of faith. This idea of presumption is implied in James 1:7-8, which discusses a man who doubts in his heart, and says, “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Thus supposing that you will receive something from the Lord, when such faith is mixed with doubt or unbelief, is really presumption, and is not real faith. Then I looked at the second chapter of James, where he continues to define faith by explaining how faith must be mixed with works, not so that we can be saved, but so that we can prove our faith by our works, as a demonstration of what we believe. This is an important concept to grasp, because I will build on it in this very blog entry. In fact, as I stated in last week’s entry, this concept is so important, that both Paul and James taught that it is only the doers of the Word of God that are blessed, and not the hearers only. James also makes reference to the life of Abraham in developing this issue. The example from the life of Abraham clearly exhorts us as believers to mix our faith with our works. As I said last week, mere believing will not suffice, but we must demonstrate our faith by corresponding action. So, that sums up last week’s blog entry.

This week I am going to develop the theme of exercising our faith, now that I hope I’ve given a good biblical definition of faith the past three weeks in the blog. If you’re reading this, and you think I’ve missed something in defining faith, please let me know. Exercising our faith is very important, because that is the step before the last topic in this series, which is how God rewards our faith, i.e. the blessings of living a faith-filled life. In order to receive these blessings, we need to exercise our faith.

For the past three weeks, I have stuck mostly in the epistles discussing faith. However, we need to look to the Master Teacher Himself, Jesus Christ, in learning how to exercise our faith. Jesus really did say much about our faith. For starters, Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV), “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Talk about exercising our faith, this passage really gives a good descriptive example of how to exercise our faith. The first thing that Jesus says is we need to have faith in God. That’s rather basic. But then Jesus discusses speaking. Real faith is actually a declaration of our belief. Faith demands that we are bold and speak out what God is telling us. That’s why Jesus says we must speak to the mountain. In fact, from a grammar standpoint, Jesus teaches us here by example we are to COMMAND the mountain to be removed. Further, we cannot doubt. As I shared last week, James tells us that doubting produces double-mindedness and presumption. Jesus specifically exhorts us here that whatever we declare, believe that it will be done for us, and thus we will “receive” them, and we in fact will have them. This is the same concept presented in 1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV), “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” This passage shows us that real faith will produce an inner knowing, which is a confidence, or an assurance deep inside us that God will perform His Word. That’s how we know what His will is — by looking into the Word of God. In fact, the Word of God teaches us in 2 Cor. 18-20 (NKJV), “But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For ALL the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” The fact is that if we pray according to God’s will, by finding the promises in the Word of God, then God’s answer is yes and amen, and we can believe that we receive the petitions of what we ask of the Lord. But, if we pray something that’s NOT in God’s will, then it is NOT that God says “No to those things.” Instead, God simply does not hear us. God ONLY hears us when we pray according to His will. This is an important distinction in exercising our faith. Many people have taught that God answers prayer with “No,” sometimes. But there is no negative in God. He cannot answer a prayer according to His will with a “No.” He simply does not hear a prayer that is outside His will.

Jesus also taught these same concepts when the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5 how to “Increase our faith.” Real faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to be increased. While Mark 11 gives us the keys of how to exercise our faith, likewise Jesus’ words in Luke 17:6 (NKJV) also teaches us how to increase our faith: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. This verse brings me back to some childhood memories that I cherish that I will share in a moment. But first, notice that Jesus compared our faith to a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are VERY small. However, only having such little faith, we can have a huge impact. I grew up down the street from neighbors who had two huge mulberry trees on the edge of their yard. They did not spray them, and because the trees were so huge, the branches of these trees hung well over the fence of my neighbors’ yard. So every year, during the summer, I’d walk by, and when the mulberries were ripe, I’d take advantage and eat them. Those were the days. But these mulberry trees were huge. It would be quite a task to pull them up “by the roots.” However, Jesus teaches here that if I would just have the faith as a mustard seed, then I could command the tree to be rooted up and planted in the sea, and the tree would have no choice to obey me, so long as I believe God would be faithful to perform His Word.

Thus, that is how we exercise and increase our faith. We must speak and command from our faith, in a bold way, without doubting, and believe that what we command and say will be done for us, and believe that we receive them. In essence, this is exercising our faith. So, that’s all for this week. Next week I will take up our last topic for this series, which is how God rewards our faith, i.e. the blessings of living a faith-filled life. I’ll be looking principally at Hebrews 11 and Galatians 3, and then be discussing how the blessing of Abraham applies to our life as Christian believers today.


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