What is Faith?

I chose a word for 2022...better yet, a word actually chose me. After seeing it, hearing it, and randomly thinking on it at different times prior to the New Year, "faith" was no doubt the word for me.

Hmmm....my first thought was, "Well, now that's a big, broad word to grasp?"

And then these questions:

"What does God want me to learn about faith?"

"How does one really 'walk by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7)."

With listening to the bible chronologically so far this year, and then combining it with my word for 2022, I've discovered some things about faith from the biblical characters I've encountered thus far:

Faith is...knowing that you are created and that you have a purpose on this earth (Adam and Eve).

Faith is...offering a gift to God with reverence (Abel) rather than with "rote-ness" (Cain).

Faith is...walking with God, day in, day out (Enoch).

Faith is...obeying God even when it seems crazy (Noah).

Faith is...believing God even in the depths of despair (Job).

Oh wow, I'm only 2 weeks into listening to the bible, and I've been given so much to think about already! What are the next 351 days going to bring?

What is faith?

Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen. For by it the people of old gained approval. Hebrews 11:1-2

I believe God was personally and powerfully present in the lives of these "people of old."  I believe he molded Adam and Eve, he smiled on Abel, he disciplined Cain, he walked with Enoch, he directed Noah, and he had compassion on Job. Likewise, he is present in my faith-walk and yours.

I want to mimic all the faith-qualities of these biblical heroes. With God's spirit in me, grooming me and growing me, I can.

Let's choose to walk with God this year. We may not be able to see him, but through the pages of his living book, we can certainly know him.

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Thursday, January 13, 2022
By Chris Baxter

Who are you going to Listen to?

On January 1st, I started listening to Genesis chapter 1 with the goal being to follow along the storyline of the whole bible throughout 2022. In doing so, I'm also trying to have a "take-away" each day.

When I got to the encounter between the serpent and Eve (with Adam too) in Genesis 3, I asked this question to myself:

"Who are you going to listen to?"

Just like Adam and Eve, we have one of two options.

One, we can listen to our Maker, who is the God that created everything good and perfect and beautiful. He is in all and through all. He is the author of light and life and love. He is all wise and knows the inner workings of each one of us. He is holy. He is glorious. And amazingly, he offers his glory to us!

Or two, we can listen to the enemy of our Maker. In Genesis 3, he is the serpent in the garden who is more crafty than any other beast of the field. Elsewhere in the bible he is referred to as the deceiver, the accuser, and the father of lies. He lied to Adam and Eve back then and he lies to us every day. He twists God's truth. He tempts us with lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

Sadly, Adam and Eve pushed away God's clear direction and gave into the serpent's deceiving words, and therefore, we have this ongoing wrestle today.

But the good news is this, our Savior Jesus has come! We have his living word and we have his abiding Spirit!

With the Helper, we can wisely discern and powerfully overcome the tactics of our enemy.

In 2022, how about we choose to be in the word of God?

His word will guide and direct us. His word will help decipher truth from lies. His word is our greatest weapon as we walk in this fallen world.

Who am I going to listen to this year? Who are you going to listen to?

Each one of us has one of two options.

Maker of heaven and earth, God of glory, Holy One, Author of Love, Giver of Life, help us to listen to YOU!

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Wednesday, January 5, 2022
By Chris Baxter

An Opportunity to Give to the Next Generation

Over this final week of 2021, a thought has come to my mind more than once. I've asked myself, (or maybe the Lord has asked me):

"Chris, what are you going to do to help push back the darkness in 2022?"

This is a good question for all who claim Christ as Lord and Savior; for he has called each of us to be his Light bearers.

Here is one place that I am excited to share the Good News:

A wonderful ministry called Girls Living for God wants to use a bible study I wrote called Picture Scripture. This seven-week study uncovers seven biblical images in order to teach and encourage its readers in God's word. In this case, the participants will be teenage girls. The word of God is the beacon of light in their culture's darkness and my prayer is that these young ladies would learn it, trust it, and cling to it not only in their younger years, but all their lives.

Will you join me in this endeavor?

If you would like to make a year end donation to help fund this project please do so at this link: http://GL4G.com/partner

Once on the donation site, check these boxes: "Dedicate this gift" and then "Picture Scripture"

Thank you in advance and with sincere gratefulness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. Psalm 145:4

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021
By Chris Baxter

A Cornucopia of Thankful Hearts

Today, in this festive time of the year, the cornucopia is often the choice item that makes its way onto the center of our kitchen or dining room tables. This decorative piece symbolizes both "abundance" as well as a "bountiful harvest", which then leads to much gratitude as we count our many blessings.

With this visual in mind, I couldn't help but compare it to an on-line devotional series that I am currently reading, (see www.soulsistersministry.com). Over the past month, many women have willingly shared why they have been "Thankful in All Circumstances" this year. To say this series has been powerful is an understatement. Just like the differing harvest fruits and vegetables that are attractively placed in a cornucopia, these unique posts have become a beautiful collection of living testimonies bound together in the love of Christ.

Here are some of the fruits on display:

Acknowledging that age brings wisdom

Recognizing the little things, the daily things

Believing that God keeps his promises

Experiencing the love of Jesus in extreme sadness

Receiving forgiveness in a relationship

Recognizing we are made in God's image

Choosing to embrace all of life's moments

Choosing life and birthing redemption

Rejoicing in a God-given relationship

Giving thanks for answered prayers, both small and big

Choosing a thankful heart no matter the trial

Celebrating healing of body and soul

Choosing to grow in difficult times

Resting in God's plan, past, present, and future.

These Soul Sisters of mine have made my intangible Thanksgiving centerpiece become very real and alive in my heart. What a bountiful display of blessing upon blessing! (And the series is not over yet!)  If I were to add to this cornucopia of thankful hearts, I would have to say my fruit would be entitled:

Embracing life-change.

What about you? What are you thankful for this year? What has God done for you in even a difficult circumstance? Take a moment before the Lord and ask him to reveal one thing to you and then thank him for it. Allow this blessing to be the seed of gratitude that has the potential to bear much fruit; may each one of us be full to overflowing with an array of colorful praise.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving... For the Lord is a great God... Psalm 95:2-3

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Friday, November 19, 2021
By Chris Baxter

How to Detect a False Teacher

I'll be the first to let you know that the subject of "false teaching" scares me to the point of silence.

However, in my on-line Bible study, we just "happen to be" going through 2 Peter, and I just "happen to" get assigned a passage to unpack and write for my Soul Sisters. Guess what ALL of chapter 2 is about? Yep, false teachers. Yikes.

So, I'm jumping the fear hurdle yet one more time, and sharing God's word concerning this topic. False teaching is in our midst, so let's gain wisdom together: 

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!

2 Peter 2:10-14

I bet you would all agree with me that these above verses will never show up on the inside of an encouraging Hallmark card. Wow, Peter holds nothing back, right? But let's remember, this is God's word through Peter; we are hearing from the Lord's heart concerning his true feelings about false teachers. 

Why is judgment on these deceivers so severe? Because God loves his children. Think about it on a human level. If someone with questionable intentions were trying to lure your toddler away from you, wouldn't you stop at nothing to prevent this from happening? Likewise with our Father. His righteous anger is fueled by his protective love.

 These verses give us some discerning "tips" on detecting a false prophet:

  1. They despise authority
  2. They are bold and arrogant
  3. They lack understanding of the things they talk about
  4. They are creatures of instinct (follow their flesh)
  5. They carouse in broad daylight (unashamedly lure)
  6. They enter in the church and feast with its members
  7. They don't stop sinning (for selfish gain)
  8. They seduce the unstable

These descriptions seem so obvious that one would think that false teachers would be easily spotted, but yet these men in Peter's day were gaining followers from within the church! Sadly, this happens all too often today too. In his book Be Alert, Warren Wiersbe says it well: "Outwardly they appeared to serve God and minister to the people, while inwardly they fed their own egos and feathered their own nests."

So, how can we prevent being lured away from our faith in Christ?

 Know theTruth. 

The only description in the verses above that is given to potentially-lured-people is that they are "unstable." The more you know the truth of God's word, the less unstable you become, and the easier it will be to pick up on some of these false teachers' sometimes subtle character flaws.

As I looked at the list above one more time, I was struck at how opposite these things are from the attributes of Jesus. Christian leaders (and all of us) are called to be like Christ! These false teachers, who claimed Christ but twisted his truth, were nothing like him at all. 

 As Jesus walked the earth:

he submitted to the authority of his Father,

he was humble and gentle, 

he was full of wisdom,

he listened to and followed the Spirit,

he was sinless even when tempted,

he brought truth into the church,

he emptied himself, serving others,

and he lured the lost with his truth and love.

This is the Leader I want to follow, don't you?

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your protective love. Give us a desire to know the truth so that we will not be deceived by anyone who does not stand fully for you. We ask for your Spirit of wisdom and discernment as we open your word. Then help us to walk forward, unswayed by anything false. Amen.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021
By Chris Baxter

Look Up, Not Down

For those who are following along with the Moses devotional, thank you for walking with me! For those of you who are not, please join us on the journey by following my facebook page: @respitefortheweary. These posts are stand-alone devotionals that you can glean from day to day, so it's easy to jump right in!

Here is a sampling:

Pursuit and Passageway

 

The Egyptians—all Pharoah’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them They were terrified and cried out to the Lord…Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:9-13

 

Suggested reading: Exodus 14

 

Exodus 14 has to be one of the most action-packed chapters in the whole Bible. The Egyptians changed their minds and chased theIsraelites, who were terrified. They blamed Moses for dragging them out to the desert to die. God told Moses to rally the people to trust him, yet one more time. They were at the edge of the sea and then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side, so neither went near the other all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left (v.19-22).

 

And we know the rest of the dramatic story: the Egyptians followed the Israelites into the sea. God threw them into confusion, causing the chariot wheels to fall off. And then God told Moses to once again lift his staff. In doing so, the water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh…not one of them survived (v. 28).

 

Thoughts:

Oh my, so many thoughts! The powerful movement of God. The faith of Moses in lifting his staff. The Israelites crossing on dry ground. The defeat of the Egyptians.

 

I marvel at it all the BIG miracle of the waters being pulled back, but for some reason, whenever I read this story, I am amazed at the subtle, yet repeated, mentioning of the “dry ground” phenomena. I mean think about it, this was the bottom of a very wet, deep blue sea (well, actually it was the Red Sea, ha ha). The dryness to me is a miracle within a miracle. Not only were the Israelites walking between walls of water, they were not having to march through thick muddy sludge to get to the other side. I personally have an aversion to thick muddy sludge, so maybe that’s why this miracle makes me so happy. I know if it was wet and slimy, I would be looking down at my feet, trying to figure out which way to step. But God took care of that for them. He wanted them to look up…

 

to wonder at his power,

to feel the gentle spray of water as they maybe even skipped along this remarkable carved out path,

to potentially catch glimpses of the colorful rays in the midst of the sun-lit waters,

to make a memory that would last a lifetime…

to tell their children and their children’s children about their awesome God who delivered them from their enemy.

 

I want to live like I’m walking on dry ground with magnificent walls of water on my right and my left. I’m not sure what that means, but I want it…to know and experience all of God. I don’t want to miss anything!

 

He is for us, not against us.

 

It is for freedom that he set us free.

 

Let’s look up, not down, and marvel right now on our paved-out pathway from death to life.

 

Going deeper and sweeter: John 10:10; Romans 8:31; Galatians5:1

 

Dear Lord,

We praise you for creating a way to cross from darkness to light! May we learn how to live in the freedom that your Son died to give us.We want your abundant life TODAY! Amen.

 

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Monday, September 20, 2021
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

Ascribing Greatness

For I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all his ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is he.  Deuteronomy 32:3-4

Dear Lord,

We do not praise you enough for who you are! Today, may we meditate on your greatness...in your creation, in your perfect work, in your just ways, and in your righteousness. We worship you in awe; we humble ourselves in reverence. To think, you, O Holy God, pursue us with your steadfast love. Amen.