​4 Truths About God’s Wisdom

When I was younger, I got in trouble for taking apart my parents’ cable box. I’m still not exactly sure how I broke it, but I know that somewhere between my taking it apart and putting it back together the cable box was no longer working. It sat lopsided on top of the TV, the clock was blinking zeroes and I still had about eight screws leftover. See, I was in the third grade, and we had just learned about electricity. Amidst my typical afternoon of a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a Captain Planet cartoon, my curiosity took me captive, and I had to know how the electricity in that cable box worked. 

I learned that afternoon that it only takes a certain amount of knowledge to take things apart. But putting them back together, fixing them when they’re broken, building them up from nothing? That requires skill, it requires discipline, and it requires wisdom.

The Letter of James says that our wisdom, like our faith, will be put to the test (James 3:13-18). James tests our wisdom with a question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Raise your hand, James says, if you believe you are wise and understanding. If you truly are, you know we’re going to put that claim to the test. And if you’re not? The test will definitely show it.

If we’re truly honest with ourselves, though, none of us are as wise as we would like to be. We can all grow in wisdom and understanding, even the 75 percent of us who would rank ourselves as “above average.” Many in the church are above average when it comes to biblical knowledge. Some Christians can quote Scripture extensively, and that’s good and important. But many who have a great deal of biblical knowledge are lacking in God’s wisdom. In other words, we know how to take things apart but are unable to put them back together, to fix them when they’re broken, to build them up. Knowledge of scripture can take apart someone’s argument, but the wisdom of God knows when it’s kinder to understand where they’re coming from when you disagree.

James says that when we mistake the wisdom of the world, the flesh and the devil for God’s wisdom, the result is “bitter envy and selfish ambition.” So as we examine our words and actions, we have to consider whether they reveal or conceal the love of God. The problem with the world’s wisdom is that we don’t know what we don’t know. We’re limited, but we don’t know our limits. Biblical wisdom takes into account its own ignorance. Biblical wisdom is not so concerned with memorizing scripture as it is speaking a loving word from God in every situation. 

Below are 4 truths for discerning God’s wisdom:

  1.  God’s wisdom is never the source or the cause of confusion, of wrong living, of trouble or of chaos. Remember that God spoke into chaos and brought forth light and life. God spoke a word into darkness and created the heavens and the earth. God is still speaking into the darkness and the chaos of our lives and remaking us into something beautiful.
  2. God’s wisdom is available through prayer. James says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” We need to ask for God’s wisdom, because we can’t reason our way to God. Wisdom for the Christian is like water for the plant. We can’t produce it for ourselves, but we need it in order to thrive and grow.
  3. God’s wisdom is fruitful. Here is the ultimate difference between man-made results and God-given fruit. Fruit has seeds that produce more fruit. The life that we live enables the Lord to bring righteousness and peace into the lives of others. So the work that you do as a student of God’s wisdom doesn’t just improve your life but the lives of others. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a world full of people who need God’s wisdom like they need air in their lungs. And many of them don’t even know they need it! Our task is to speak and act wisely and well, so that all would know our Savior in our lives. When our words and actions reflect God’s wisdom and understanding, they’re as welcome as a breath of fresh air on a stifling summer day.
  4. Finally, God’s wisdom is centered on knowing Christ. Receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the key to unlocking biblical wisdom. Because our knowledge of scripture cannot produce fruit if we are not firmly rooted in God’s love. Knowing Christ doesn’t require the right words, just the prayer of a willing spirit.

Perhaps you feel like you’ve got all the answers. Perhaps you’ve been searching for a teacher and find yourself curious. Perhaps you feel lost and confused, barely treading water. Wherever you find yourself at this moment, Jesus will meet you there, and he is the very wisdom of God. Falling apart? Jesus can put you back together. Feeling broken? Jesus can heal you. Lost? Jesus can find you, build you up from nothing and fill you with a wisdom and faith that can pass any test.

Pastor Matt Potter

Why Did God Not Answer My Prayer?

A couple of years ago I came across a televised “healing crusade” featuring a man who claimed to have the power of faith healing.  After preaching to a packed stadium full of people, he began to call out certain illnesses and ailments, declaring that people in attendance were being healed of these various health issues.  Then he invited those who had been healed to come forward.  Large numbers of people began streaming to the front of the platform, declaring that they had been healed through the ministry of this faith healer.

I will admit I was skeptical.  But I want to believe that God can and does perform miracles and sometimes even heal people through prayers prayed in faith.  This is what James tells us (James 5:13-16).  I have heard stories of miraculous healings that have taken place through prayers of faith and I believe that God answers prayers for healing.  But I have also experienced other occasions where, in spite of faithful prayers, an individual did not experience a miracle.  People die every day of various diseases and ailments. Many of them prayed for healing and believed that God could and would heal them. 

Here are 3 ways to reconcile the frequent promises of the Bible that God answers prayers for healing, with our recollection of times when healing did not seem to occur:

  1. We must accept the fact that not every prayer for healing is answered the way we would like.  This was true of ancient saints like the Apostle Paul, it is also true of modern saints as well.  For reasons we cannot understand in this life, God doesn’t always choose to grant every prayer for healing.
  2. We can come to appreciate the fact that physical death is a form of healing.  For the Christian, death is the ultimate healing.  When someone who has been very sick and is suffering from terminal illness is released from their body of sickness, this is an eternal form of healing.  We should not pursue suicide, we should not engage in euthanasia, but we can appreciate that when God receives someone into eternal glory, it is a form of healing and prayers for healing were actually answered.
  3. We should appreciate how God works through modern medicine to help heal people.  It is not a sign that we lack faith when we seek medical care for our illnesses, it is a way of trusting that God works in and through medical care to bring about healing.  Some would try to claim that if we really have faith, we won’t seek medical care, we should just pray and have faith that God will heal.  Let the “Great Physician” be your only physician.  But that is a false dichotomy. It should not be God versus modern medicine.  It should be “God working through modern medicine.” 

I must confess that the entire subject of healing prayer is a bit of a mystery for me.  But I pray for people to be healed, I have faith in a God who still does miracles, and I encourage people to seek medical care when they are struggling with illness.  And I trust that through it all, God is at work and I leave the outcome to His wisdom and goodness.   That probably won’t pack a stadium with people, but it helps me trust where I don’t fully understand.

Pastor Mark Miller

Avoid Slacktivism

Avoid Slacktivism HOPE Missions Ethiopia water filters avoid slacktivism

“Slacktivism” is a slang word created by combining two other words, “slacker” and “activism.”   It is a word used to describe the growing trend of using social media to declare an opinion about a political issue or a social justice cause without really doing much to advance that issue or cause.  By “tweeting” my opinion or “liking” someone else’s opinion on Facebook, we can create a sense of satisfaction that we have done something significant to support a cause, when in reality we haven’t done very much at all.  Listen to the June 10 sermon, “The Action Test.”

There is nothing wrong with using social media to raise awareness about issues that matter to us, but we must not stop there.  There is a difference between tweeting an opinion and investing your life.  In the Epistle of James, we are told that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  The idea James is communicating is that to say we “believe” in Jesus or to say we have “faith” in God means very little if we do not back it up with action.

There is a difference between having an opinion and being captivated by a conviction.  An opinion is something you hold, but a conviction is something that holds you.  A conviction leads to action.  How are you doing in living out your convictions these days?  Do your deeds match your creeds?  Put your beliefs into action, and you’ll experience the true power of faith.

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Keys to Defeating Temptation

Everyone has experienced temptation.  Living as imperfect people with high standards, we sometimes find ourselves tempted to make choices and decisions that might satisfy a desire in the moment but would not be wise or good in the long term.  The epistle of James reminds us that temptations will come our way in life.  As James puts it, we are “dragged away and enticed” until we finally give in to temptation.  Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “I think I’ll ruin my life today.  I think I’ll do something that destroys my reputation, brings pain to the people I love and fills me with shame and regret.” Nobody does that, but plenty of people wake up one morning in that exact situation.  How did they end up there?  One small, gradual step at a time.  Listen to the June 3 sermon, “The Temptation Test.”

Tim Norris lives in a house that backs up to the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club in Sussex England.  Tim Norris also has a Labrador retriever named Wilson.  One morning Wilson managed to get free from the backyard.  When Tim found him, Wilson was chomping down on a golf ball.  He swallowed it whole.  Fearing that the ball would cause a bowel obstruction, Veterinarian Karen Belcher took X-rays.  And what she found was quite a surprise.  It turns out that Wilson had not swallowed one golf ball, he had swallowed seven golf balls.   Surgery was performed, the golf balls were removed, and apparently Wilson is slowly recovering.  I hear he’s still feeling a little under par(hahaha), but otherwise he is going to be okay.

Tim has made the decision to move to a different house, further away from the golf course.  Apparently, Wilson’s appetite for golf balls is too strong and there’s just too much temptation with the golf course being right next door.  Moving away seems like the best option.

We can chuckle a little bit at Wilson and his weakness for golf balls, but I wonder, what is your weakness?  Is there an area in your life, an appetite, a desire, a bad habit, that tempts you into trouble?  If so, you’re not alone. 

As we consider temptation, there are two truths to acknowledge and two tips to embrace. 

Two truths we need to acknowledge:

  1. Temptation is natural and normal.
  2. Temptation is often subtle and gradual.

Two truths we need to embrace:

  1.  Be aware of those areas in our lives where we are vulnerable and avoid temptation in those areas.  This is why I do not bring any Grandma Utz Handcooked Potato Chips into my house.  I’m weak and vulnerable there.  I’ll eat the whole darn bag in one sitting.  We all have areas where our ability to control ourselves is weak.  Like Superman, we all have our “kryptonite.”   Know what those areas might be and avoid them.
  2. Keep our focus on what is good and noble and pure.  What we focus on grows stronger.  Pursuing a life that is healthy, holy and honoring to God allows us to put our focus on the things that lead us away from temptation and toward that which is good.

Still we all stumble sometimes.  We all fall short of the goal.  The message of the Bible is not “you’re a terrible person, straighten up.”  The message of the Bible is, “we are all sinners who need a savior, and God has sent us a savior.”  Jesus offers us forgiveness through his death, and new life through his resurrection, and new power through the Holy Spirit.  We may not defeat temptation every time, but we can defeat temptation most of the time.  Stay focused on the goodness and love of God, and let the Lord lead you down the right paths.

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Tips to Develop Patience

Developing patience is hard work.  We all have to wait in life.  We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait in traffic, we wait at the dentist’s office, we wait for people.  But there is a difference between waiting and being patient while we wait.  Patience has to do with cultivating a certain attitude while we wait, and that is hard work.  The only way we get better at patience is by practicing, but we can only practice patience when we are in circumstances that test our patience (and those circumstances are usually frustrating and painful). Listen to the May 27 sermon, “The Patience Test.”

There are two types of waiting.  There is an irritated, agitated, anxious and frustrated kind of waiting, and then there is patient, calm and faithful waiting.  I had been standing there in line at Starbucks for ten minutes, and I had been doing the first type of waiting, not the second. The line was long, lots of people ordering complicated drinks with long names.  I just wanted a simple cup of coffee.  That’s all I ever want at Starbucks.  I waited and waited in this line. And now the only thing that stood between me and my simple cup of coffee was a Mom and her three little kids.   I tried deep breathing, I tried reciting the 23rd psalm, I even prayed the Lord’s prayer,  but I could feel this frustration building up inside of me.  I was tired of waiting.  Finally, the Mom and her children finished their order, got their breakfast and it was my turn.  The Starbucks employee at the cash register could see the irritation on my face.  “Sorry about that,” she said.  “Thanks for your patience. How can I help you?”  I smiled a fake smile and ordered my coffee. But the truth is, she should not have thanked me for my patience.  She could thank me for waiting, because I did wait.  But I was not patient. When I think back to that day at Starbucks, as I stood in line impatiently waiting to get my coffee, I think about how much better I could have done, how much better I should have done.  Instead of being irritated with that mom and her children, I could have been silently praying for them.  Or even praying for my children.  I could have been sending an encouraging text message to a friend.  I could have initiated a pleasant conversation with the person behind me in line.  I could have sung a praise song or a hymn, very softly of course.  Instead of being impatiently waiting, I could have been patiently waiting, actively waiting, and God could have done something good in me and through me.  It was the patience test, and I am sorry to say that didn’t do so well that time. 

Here are 2 quick tips to remember:

  1. Do good work while we wait.  Patience is not passive.  While we are waiting, we can look for good work to do.  Perhaps we can pray for someone, or enter into a conversation with someone, or text an encouraging word to someone.   Sometimes we can go to work on a problem while patiently waiting for the resolution to the problem.  Some financial problems, health problems and relationship problems require us to do good work while we wait, knowing that the good work we do helps solve the problem in the long run.
  2. Keep it all in perspective.  Ultimately, the problems and people that challenge our patience are only temporary.  English poet Edward FitzGerald once famously wrote, “this too shall pass.”  As a way of reminding himself and others that keeping a proper perspective helps us remain patient during challenging times.

In our fast-paced, instant-results culture, perhaps patience is becoming more and more difficult.  But if we do good work while we wait and keep the right perspective, we can become more patient, and demonstrate the love of God in the midst of life’s challenging tests.

Pastor Mark Miller