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

Two Extremes

From our forth floor balcony at Panama City Beach, my husband, my daughter, and I watched the waves roll in and the waves roll out. We could have gotten mesmerized by the rhythmic sight and sound, but it was a different kind of evening on the white sandy beach beneath us. Several boats with blue swirling lights were driving back and forth in search of a young 20 year old who had gotten pulled away from his friends by a riptide. His panicked friends and accumulating spectators lined the shore in hope.

At 11 pm, the search was over, the young man was found. A thriving life ended, and inexplicable grief began.

Only 24 hours later, same balcony, same white sand, same rolling waves. Yet, what we witnessed on this perfect sunset-evening was a young man, dressed in khaki and blue who had set up a twinkling "marry me" sign in the sand. He waited for his sweetheart, and sure enough, she came. He bent to one knee and asked the question that young girls dream of. When they embraced, the condo balconies erupted in applause.

At 7pm, the search was over, the boy got his girl. His anxious thoughts stopped. Uncontainable joy began.

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the two extremes, the high and the low of it. I'm still processing the waves of emotion on both ends.

My only consolation with the young man who was swept away so suddenly is to think that Jesus himself was with him, saying, "Come with Me to a better place." There is a better place, I hope you know...maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you there is a better place than this life, and Jesus will take each of us there if we believe in him as our Savior. Yes, He saves us...from messes, from chaos, from riptides.

My genuine hope for this young, engaged, very happy couple is that they will walk with Jesus in the land of the living. Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that you don't have to walk this life alone, and that Jesus will help you in each moment and in every relationship. Yes, He helps...in the happy and in the hard.

We will always have the extremes...the high waves of over-the-top-joy as well as the low undercurrents of knee-buckling sadness.

Life and death and everything in between. The hope is this: Jesus is in the midst of it all.

Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that Jesus is in your midst...and to tell you to hold His hand in your extreme.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

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Thursday, July 15, 2021
By Chris Baxter

Living Out of the Tomb

On Easter Sunday morning, we as believers celebrated THE monumental day of our Christian faith. We woke up with joy, we sang songs of praise, we ate great food, we fellowshipped, we acknowledged our Savior to each other, and we felt hope in our unified proclamation.

And then... we went back to sleep.

On Monday morning as I rolled sleepily out of bed to start another week, I had this quiet thought concerning our day-before-festivities, "What does it mean to live 'out of the tomb'?"

For one, it means we can walk (and even run!) freely in Christ because of His amazing grace.

Let's recall the simplicity of the gospel: Jesus died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. He took our sins on his body, was buried with these sins, and then wonder-fully left these sins behind. He himself said, "it is finished!"

Why then do we keep some of sin's grave clothes wrapped around us as we "exit the tomb" with our Savior? Some entangling strips come to mind: unfounded fear, unnecessary worry, stiff-necked pride, wavering doubt, tight-fisted control, spit-fire words, bitter jealousy, unloving spirit, insatiable lust, meddlesome gossip. Yuck. Are any of these attitudes still wrapped around your shoulders like a stinky burial cloth? These things were meant to be left behind. The gift of freedom is for all; however, it's a one-time choice (salvation), but also a daily practice (sanctification) to believe and receive his offer.

Today, ask yourself, "What do I need to leave 'in the tomb'?''

Take the stench off. Fold it up and put it away forever. Of course, we cannot be sinless, and of course we will always struggle, but it's time to grow more aware and be more desirous of the glory-filled person Jesus longs for us to be.

He lives!

He lives... in you!

He lives in you... out of the tomb!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021
By Chris Baxter

Two Words can Change Everything

I was talking to a young friend of mine about our common struggle; it's called the "fear factor." Sometimes this unchecked emotion can be immobilizing, or it can even make you run in the opposite direction from where you know you are supposed to be headed. As we were discussing some of life's overwhelming decisions that certainly do come down our paths, I told her that I've learned, especially in difficult, doubting, or daunting times, to live by these two words: in Christ. The simple whisper to my soul of the words "in Christ" motivates me to take the next step, to say the next word, to write the next post, to move the next mountain.

As believers, we all struggle with something, but we don't have to be overcome by it, losing our true selves in the fight. Let's remember just who it is that abides in us! When we do, everything can change:

In Christ, fear changes to confidence.

In Christ, confusion changes to peace.

In Christ, doubt changes to faith.

In Christ, no self worth changes to full purpose.

In Christ, weakness changes to strength.

In Christ, selfish living changes to selfless giving.

In Christ, discouragement changes to hope.

I could go on and on. When each of these fleshly tendencies mentioned above are invaded by the life of Christ, his powerful glory fills our weak flesh. Your drab mindset and gray heartbeat change to a radiance that doesn't belong to you, yet is graciously given to you... in abundance.

In Christ we become fully alive!

What about you? What unchecked emotion needs to be swallowed up in Christ? Let his Spirit overcome your fear, your dismay, your confusion, your self worth...

Faith first; your feelings will follow. Keep stepping forward in Christ.

The truth is, when you live by these two words, not only will you benefit from this choice-change, others will want what you have; they will desire ...Christ in them.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7

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Thursday, March 11, 2021
By Chris Baxter

5 Benefits of the Christian Life

I'm not sure why, but early this morning as I was sipping my coffee quietly, an out-of-the-blue question came to my mind: "What's the benefit of being a Christian?" Within 10 seconds, I came up with 5 reasons why I have chosen, by grace, to walk this daily path.

Read and rest in these truths with me:

Benefit 1: I have a place to "put my junk." So much of the time, the things I think, say, or do are just plain wrong, and I know it. The cross of Christ is the place I can pour out my mess, and then walk away clean. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

Benefit 2: I have a Wise Counselor. And, boy, do I need Him! The wonderful thing about Jesus is: He's always available, He's always right, and He's always free. Truly, His Word is flawless. With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding. Job 12:13

Benefit 3: I have a bigger purpose than myself. God wants more for me than this culture's unending, life-draining rat race. Instead, He desires to fill me with His incomprehensible love, and then in turn, He asks me to pour it out all over others. THIS is the true, adventurous, fulfilling life! Get yourself up on a high mountain... bearer of good news. Lift your voice mightily… bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to (the people), "Here is your God!" Isaiah 40:9

Benefit 4: I have hope. When, not if, but when, life doesn't make sense, I can trust that God knows what He is doing. If I allow Him to work, then my trials can become the fertile soil of His blossoming glory so those around me will marvel and wonder why I have inexplicable strength, peace, and even joy. Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Benefit 5: I am going to live forever. This life is a passing vapor compared to what is ahead for those who call Jesus Savior and Lord. For those who doubt eternal life, let me ask you this: If even man desires to end most of our entertainment with a "happily ever after" closure, why would God, creator of man, end life with disease, death, and decay? No, He is a much more redemptive Author than that! Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. I Peter 1:3-4

Believer or non-believer, ponder these God-breathed blessings and then consider agreeing with each one with a praising shout, "Amen!" Yes, today and tomorrow and forever, let us all rejoice in His rich benefits.

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Monday, October 7, 2019
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.