Pleasing Faith

We don’t know much about the man. All we know is written in just a few verses in the Bible. But those few verses tell us that this man had a close relationship with God. Enoch walked in close fellowship with his Maker. And one day he disappeared off the face of the earth. He didn’t die. God just removed him from the earth.

It would be interesting to be his wife or children and try to figure out what happened to him. How would they have explained his disappearance to their neighbors and extended family? Did anyone see him disappear? Did they call out a search party? How did they know it was God who took him? Was he surrounded by his family when the moment came?

But that is all beside the point.

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:5-6

Imagine the stir it would cause if you never died. Imagine God took you straight to heaven. What would people say? How would they know you were in heaven? Did anyone see the hand of God reach down and pluck you off the earth? Would you be surrounded by your loved ones when it happened?

And why you? Why would God choose you for this? 

This is exactly what happened to Enoch. He was a man who was faithful to God. He walked with God and lived a life of faith in obedience to God. This means that he followed the will of God. He stood for truth and he spoke it. He obeyed when God led him. He had studied and knew the Jewish law. He was faithful.


And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6


But we can’t get all hung up on the fact that Enoch just disappeared from the face of the earth. Let’s think about why God chose him.

He was faithful. He pleased God.

Do I have the qualities that God is looking for? Do I please God? Does God call me faithful?

Christians are sometimes criticized for having faith. After all, isn’t that what being a Christian is all about? But when you think of it, everyone has faith in some way or another. Even atheists have faith. They have faith that there is no God.

But the faith of a Christian can’t be stagnant. It must be fed and watered. Pruned and shaped. Molded into a faithful follower of Christ. God requires it of us. Otherwise, it isn’t faith. Is it? We must believe that God exists. That’s the essence of our faith. We must put forth an effort to live as Christ commands. We must follow his teachings. We must walk worthy of our calling in obedience and submission to God’s will. We can only do these things by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. According to Hebrews 13:21, God equips his saints with everything we need to do his will.

When we walk with God. When we listen. And obey. When we continually seek out truth from God’s word. When we seek to be in his presence. We will find Him. We will meet him in prayer. And in the Word. As we sift the wheat from the chaff in our lives, we will find truth and faithfulness. We will toss the lies of deceit and fear from our hearts. We will feast on His goodness.

Enoch walked with God. He listened to God. And he obeyed. We, too, can be as Enoch. We can walk with God and obey. We can be called faithful. Oh. God may not reach down and take us to heaven without us having first tasted death. No. That isn’t what will happen. But he will be with us. As God is faithful to us, so we must be faithful to him. He rewards those who sincerely seek him.

As Matthew Henry says, we cannot come to God, unless we believe that he is what he has revealed himself to be in the Scripture. Those who would find God, must seek him with all their heart.

The Excellent Gift

Cain and Abel were brothers. They were the first brothers in the first family that God created. Adam and Even were their parents. Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd. Competition may have been fierce between them. Brothers will be brothers. As many will say. Or perhaps. Their personalities and demeanor were completely opposite. Nevertheless, things didn’t end well in their relationship.

They both presented gifts to God according to the custom of the times. Cain presented some of his crops. Abel offered the best portion of his firstborn lambs. God accepted Abel’s offering, but he rejected Cain’s. Scripture isn’t clear why Abel’s offering pleased God, but Cain’s didn’t. Many speculate on the reasons. But we can’t read into Scripture what isn’t there. And I’m no biblical expert or theologian. What I know is that Abel’s gift pleased God.

But that pleasing gift cost Abel, because Cain was angry that God didn’t accept his offering. So he took matters into his own hands. He killed Abel in a moment of rage. Was it jealousy? Did the brothers always provoke each other? Did Cain have an evil intent and Abel’s was pure?

Abel’s faith cost him his life. He gave his best offering to God. He wasn’t competing with his brother. He was offering the best of his livestock. His heart was pure. His motives were pure. He didn’t hesitate to give the best to God.  And God saw that and was pleased.

What we see in the story is that Abel offered the best of his livestock. Cain, on the other hand, offered some of his harvest. Perhaps he didn’t offer his best to God. Perhaps he offered second best. The leftovers, as an afterthought? Or perhaps an act of defiance. We don’t know what we don’t know.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord . Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Genesis 4:2-8

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Hebrews 11:3


Cain and Abel had been taught to love and obey God from an early age. Because oh. Their parents, Adam and Eve, had learned a very hard lesson on obeying and respecting God’s commands. Oh how the disobedient fall.

God respected Abel’s offering of faith. Perhaps God had given specific instructions on the types of offerings he would accept. Perhaps Abel obeyed completely and without hesitation. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. He sees the intent of our hearts when we give.

When we give our best in service to God, not everyone will be pleased. Some will be jealous. Some will ridicule. Others will try to discredit us. And others may want to harm us. We must still be faithful and serve God wholeheartedly, without fear of the actions of others. God is on our side.

I think of Stephen. He was defending his faith in front of the council. The crowd was angered by his testimony and charged at him. They rushed him out of the city and stoned him to death. And in those unbearable moments as stones were beating down on his body, Stephen asked God to forgive them. Stephen held no contempt for his killers. Stephen lived his faith in front of those who hated him. His faith stood strong to the end. Just as Abel’s.

There will be times in our lives, as we’re living in obedience to Christ, that our faith will be tested. There will be those who pursue us with the intent to destroy our witness. Perhaps there is the intent to destroy our lives. Our faith must stand strong in the midst of evil. We must remain steadfast in our faith, knowing that faith is the reality of what we hope for, the evidence of what we can’t see.

We know that living a holy life is an act of choice. Abel obeyed God’s commands. He chose to live under God’s authority. So must we. Regardless of the cost. Abel’s faith pleased God. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves if our faith is pleasing to God.

When God Ordains Hard Things

We know that bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to bad people. And good things happen to good people. All these happenings are fore-ordained. They’re known ahead of time by God Almighty. He allows all things. All circumstances. All the time.

Matthew 5:45 tells us that our Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means that everyone on this earth can plan to have some good days and some bad days. There’s no way around it.

What does it mean that God ordains all things? You ask. What does it mean that he ordains our days?

Ordain: To order or decree by virtue of superior authority. To issue an order. To order or command.

He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts of the Apostles 17:24-28

If you’ve read the story of Job, you know that he lived through one very difficult time. According to the Bible, he had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Read Job 1:2-3. The Bible doesn’t say specifically how long his troubles lasted, but in the course of one day he lost everything. Literally. His donkeys and oxen were stolen and some of his farmhands were killed. Only one escaped to tell the story. All of his sheep and shepherds were burned in a fire. Only one shepherd escaped to share the news. All of his camels were stolen by raiders, who killed the servants. Only one servant escaped to give a report. Then a powerful storm blew down the house where his children were partying, where they and all the servants died. Only one servant survived to give an account to their parents.

And just when Job was wallowing in grief, he was hit with boils all over his body. He was miserable. He wanted to die. He asked God why he had even been allowed to be born. And his wife suggested that he curse God and die. But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. Job 2:10


His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27


How do parents respond when they lose a young child? Because we know that it’s not in the course of natural events for a parent to outlive their child. The heartbreak and disappointment can be crushing. The grief and pain of loss is devastating.

These past two years have brought many deaths and disabilities from a new virus. The pain and suffering have been immense. No population on the earth has been left untouched. How are we to process this event? What does normal even look like anymore? Can we adjust to a new normal that is full of roadblocks?

There are Christians in other lands who are hunted, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. They’re living for God, but they’re in the minority in their land. And those hunting them are determined to rid their world of anything godly.

Consider the police officer who accidentally killed someone when she pulled her gun instead of her taser. And then there’s the cop who killed a child when his bullet ricocheted off a wall. These are hard times for these two individuals and their families. And also for the families who lost loved ones. No one is a winner here. The lives of all of these people are changed forever.

Then there are women and girls being trafficked for sex by ungodly people. They’re sold for their bodies to be used against their will. They have no say in the matter. They can’t escape the abuse on their own. They’re held prisoner by unlawful people.

We may wonder why God allows such evil to happen. After all, he is a loving God. Why do bad things happen? We can question God, but he doesn’t always provide the answers we long to hear. We don’t always learn the reason of the whys that we ask. We may never know.

We’ve been given the ability to choose how we live our lives. We can decide to do good or evil. We can chose to treat others with respect or not. We can choose to hurt others and ourselves. We can choose to deny that God exists. We also can choose to walk in step with Him.

If we choose to walk our own path, then our life will reflect those choices and consequences. And we live that life on our own. We live that life without the comfort or strength that only God can give.

If we choose to walk with God, He walks with us through the valleys and mountaintop experiences. He never leaves us. He will give us strength to face each new day, whether that day brings rejoicing or sorrow. Even when days are hard, and there will be hard days, God is with us.

For some, the suffering and struggles may be lifelong. Even if we are Christ followers, we may live hard lives. We aren’t promised an easy, rose colored life.

Oh. We can grovel and complain and moan and groan. We can question God and curse him. We can cry and destroy ourselves. All in the name of suffering. But suppose we stopped and quieted ourselves. Suppose we listened for the still small voice of God. Suppose we reached out to Him at the darkest moments of our lives. And just suppose He brought peace in the midst of suffering. Because it is possible.

Some of the things that you’ve lost in your life, God is not going to bring them back in the exact same way.

Havilah Cunnington

To experience joy in our struggles and difficulties, we must first acknowledge who God is. Everything but God is secondary in our lives. Everything else is secondary. Yes. That’s right. It’s tough to hear, but God must be the priority. Even during times of intense suffering and grief. If we focus on God, we will see that He is supreme. His love is never ending. His compassion knows no boundaries. His mercy is new every morning. His grace is all sufficient. His power is all encompassing. He is the alpha. The omega. The beginning and the end.

So when the thing we have always feared happens to us, we can have peace and quiet and perfect rest in God our Maker and Redeemer.

Temptation Thwarted

What do you do when you’re tempted? How do you fight off temptation? Do you just give in, or do you resist? Temptation is a wily sidekick, you know. Not one you want hanging around. It appears at all hours of the day. Satan comes around in the form of temptation at times when you least expect to see him. And there may be times when you’re not aware that he’s the one doing the enticing. He wants you. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get you on his side.

Oh. Jesus was tempted. He was led into the wilderness, where he was tempted for forty days. Imagine. Forty days of temptation. And never giving in. Jesus did it. He had the ingredient that was essential for refusing to submit to sin. Sure. You can say that he was God and he couldn’t sin. But when he came to earth, he came as a human who suffered every temptation the rest of us have ever faced. And he refused to bow to temptation. Every single time.

It won’t be a red devil with horns looking you in the eye, because he masquerades as an angel of light. So he may appear as a tantalizing new opportunity that promises the world but ends in tragedy. He will make evil look good and good look evil.

Read the story for yourself.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ ” Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4:1-11

When he was in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture back to Satan each time his enemy tempted him. And the enemy even quoted Scripture to Jesus. Yes, he did. He quoted Scripture as a method of deception. And Jesus charged right back with the perfect response. Jesus wasn’t afraid of his enemy. He stood up to the one trying to ruin him and said “No.” Jesus didn’t let Satan steal his holiness.


Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. Psalm 44:5


Satan also used Scripture when he was tempting Jesus, so beware. If he tempted Jesus with Scripture, what are the methods he uses today? His advances may seem innocent. But his plans are to destroy us. We must make sure we know Scripture. How else can we fight against Satan’s advances. When tempted, can you quote the Scripture that you need to resist his advances? If you can’t charge back at Satan with Scripture, what do you use to stand up to him? Just know that when Satan tempts you, he is attempting to deceive you. His temptations may be pretty or fun. But giving in to temptation, which means that you’re giving in to sin, always has consequences.

We must do as Jesus did when Satan tempted him? He quoted Scripture and threw it in the face of his tempter. And that’s exactly what we must do. We must stand up to our enemy. Throw the Book at him. Oh. He’ll try and do the same. He did it to Jesus. Satan can quote the Bible. But he also twists the truth.

How else can we fight the enemy of our souls? If we’re tempted and we don’t know Scripture, what other tools of resistance do we have to demand that Satan stand down? If not Scripture, then what?

It is combat we’re facing. Hand to hand combat. Do we bring the most effective weapons? Or do we just hope for the best? Are we prepared? Or do we get caught off guard with a sucker punch to the gut?
We don’t have to lose when we’re up against Satan. We don’t have to bow to his advances. We must be prepared and know how to fight him. It takes advance preparation and sure-fire tactics to beat him.  If Jesus can resist Satan’s attacks, then we can do the same if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God’s Word.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Intentions

There will come a day when we will be judged. Oh. We don’t like to think of it. But regardless of what we think, it will happen. The Bible says so. And I have chosen to believe the Bible. It is the standard by which I choose to live. I’m not perfect. But I’m using every ounce of breath to be like Christ. Like I said. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I sometimes have unsavory motives. I sometimes use unkind words. But my goal. My true intention is to please God. When I stand in front of Him on judgment day, I want to be welcomed into heaven with a nice eternal reward.

But here’s the thing. I can do all the good that is possible on this earth. I can say only kind words, even to those I despise. I can smile when I am angry. I can be pleasant to my enemies. I can give all my money to the poor and needy. I can attend church every Sunday. But if my words and actions don’t match my intentions, then all the good I do in the world is meaningless. It’s just that simple.

I can be as good as can be. I can do the right thing at all times. I can act appropriately even in the worst of times. I can try to say the right words in every conversation. But it’s my intentions that are the concern. Because intentions are usually hidden. People can’t see our intentions. Oh. They can assume. But they may just be guessing. But we know whether we plan to do good or evil.

And God always knows our intentions. He sees our heart. He knows our heartbeat. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly of our desires. At the end of our days, we’ll be judged on our entire life. Not just our first day. Or our last. Not just our best day. Or our worst. Every day will be accounted for. Every day will be judged. Some days will stand out like shining stars. Others will fall far short. We will be judged on the nature of our intentions and actions. What was the purpose of those words that were said? What was the intent of the gift that was given? Everything will be taken into account on judgment day.


Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21


Some people create resolutions in the new year in hopes that they can be better, do better, or live better lives. These resolutions are easily broken and disappointment sets in. But a resolution isn’t enough. Resolutions don’t require or assume obedience. But God requires obedience. Whether our plans are written on our heart or in a notebook, we need God’s help to keep our attitudes and intentions pure. And he will do that. We must listen for his guidance and allow him to lead us. We must allow him to check our intentions and convict us when those motives aren’t pure.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

We’re not perfect. No one ever said we should be. Or have they? Sometimes, our inner voice shouts those words. You’re not good enough. You should have done better. You’re not skinny enough. You’re doing it all wrong. But God does speak correction to us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He created us in his image, but not as gods. And he created us from dirt. Dirt is well, dirty. It’s unclean but it serves a useful purpose. He knows if we are sincerely trying to honor him, or if we’re deliberately ignoring or dishonoring him. He knows. So his correction and his judgment will take our intentions into account as we stand before him.

God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. After all, He made man to be a little lower than the angels. And there were angels who fell from his grace. So God already had a remedy for our sins woven into his plan for all of mankind. He knew we wouldn’t be able to be perfect, so he offered his only Son as a sacrifice. Jesus died in our place for our sins. Now we can be redeemed and our sins washed clean.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12