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Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God's People

(Paperback - Mar 2003)
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Overview

Pastor Jim Cymbala calls us back to a fiery, passionate preoccupation with God that will restore what the enemy has stolen from us: our first love for Jesus, our zeal, our troubled children, our wounded marriages, our broken and divided churches. Born out of the heart and soul of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, the message of Fresh Faith is illustrated by true stories of men and women whose lives have been changed through the power of faith. Cymbala writes, Real faith is produced when our hearts draw near to God himself and receive his promises deep within. That kind of faith can transform your life starting today, if you choose. Jim Cymbala is an exciting reminder of God s desire to bless and use any faithful and trusting follower of our Lord in supernatural ways. Dr. Bill Bright, Founder and President, Campus Crusade for Christ International"

Details

  • SKU: 9780310251552
  • UPC: 025986251550
  • SKU10: 0310251559
  • Title: Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God's People
  • Qty Remaining Online: 7
  • Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company
  • Date Published: Mar 2003
  • Pages: 256
  • Weight lbs: 0.60
  • Dimensions: 7.96" L x 5.34" W x 0.66" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: CHRISTIAN LIVING
  • Subject: Christian Life - General

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Stolen Property

I live in a city where things get stolen all the time. Along Flatbush Avenue, where our church is, car thefts are an everyday occurrence. So are muggings, purse snatchings, and apartment break-ins.

Once in a Sunday night sermon I made the mistake of asking our congregation to raise their hands if they had personally experienced some kind of rip-off. The place broke into laughter as 98 percent of the hands went up. What a silly question to pose to a crowd of New Yorkers!

My wife, Carol, and I live in the borough of Queens, east of LaGuardia Airport and Shea Stadium, where the Mets play. I came out to my car parked in front of our house one morning a few years ago and noticed it had been vandalized. As soon as I opened the door and got inside, I saw a huge, gaping hole in the center of the steering wheel where the air bag had been.

Crack cocaine addicts love air bags because they are a quick-sale item. Within minutes they can walk into a "chop shop"-an illicit garage that deals in used auto parts-and trade an air bag for up to $200 cash. It is just one of the ways that crack has devastated New York and other major cities in America. Heroin was one thing, snorting cocaine another-but crack has brought massive destruction.

I moaned to myself about the loss. When I called my insurance agent, he took it in stride. "Well, that's the Big Apple for you," he said. "Happens all the time." We filled out the claims paperwork and ordered the part from the dealer. I didn't ask what this would do to my rates next time around; I didn't really want to know.

A few months passed before I finally got around to taking the car in for the replacement. At last the damage was repaired.

And wouldn't you know-within three weeks I got ripped off again! Same parking place in front of my house, same window forced open. I'm almost sure it was the same thief.

This time I didn't even bother to file an insurance claim. I just paid the $800 for replacement out of my pocket rather than risk my rates going through the roof.

I even found a way to joke about it with someone: "You know, maybe I should leave coffee and cake for this guy on the front seat . with a note that says, `Hey, let's be friends! If I'd just supply you with other stuff to sell, at least you wouldn't have to break into my car every few months.'"

More Than Merchandise

Fortunately, air bags can be replaced. As much as you hate the loss and inconvenience, you gradually go on with your life. A year later, you won't even remember that it happened.

But in the spiritual realm, a kind of stealing is going on in many lives that is much more serious. Satan is in the business of ripping off things far more important than an air bag. That is his nature. As Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."

Satan obviously doesn't want car parts. Nor does he want your house; he doesn't live in a house. He doesn't need your vehicle, for he has other modes of transportation. He has no interest in your clothes; he's a spirit being. He doesn't care about your investments; what would money mean to him?

In the spiritual realm, a kind of stealing is going on in many lives. Satan is in the business of ripping us off.

But he is very interested in stealing spiritual treasures-things that have value with God and are of eternal significance. Take, for example, our very purpose for living. Satan loves snatching men and women on the streets of my city and your city-people who have potential-and turning them into glassy-eyed wanderers through life, with no goal from day to day. They lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling, saying, "What's the point? Just to make money? Just to have kids? Why?"

People turn to drugs and alcohol because they don't have a clue as to why they're alive. Others turn to career achievement, or pleasure, or materialism . something, anything to fill the void. But it doesn't work. God created them to worship and enjoy him forever, but this awareness has been stolen from their consciousness.

Notice the progression in John 10:10. Satan's first move is just petty larceny. Once he manages that, he can move on to actual killing, and from there to mass destruction. "Steal . kill . destroy." But it all starts with stealing.

What Happened to "First Love"?

Even among those who are Christians, the devil has a strategy of theft. For example, as a pastor I have seen over and over the tragic loss of our "first love" for Jesus. There was a time in our lives when we loved Jesus so much more than we do today. Our appetite for God's Word was voracious. Our love for God's house was enthusiastic. Our eagerness for spreading the gospel was so strong Now, how is it? Yes, we still love the Lord. We still come to church. But what happened to all that energy and passion?

That is the problem Jesus addressed with the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:2-5: "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place."

Where does "first love" go? Our zeal and our intensity don't evaporate. Satan steals the hot embers of devotion and consecration. We get ripped off.

The Bible has no retirement plan. God can keep his people on fire for him, keep them sharp and intense.

Someone might say, "Well, you have to understand that back when I met Christ, I was an energetic teenager. A lot has happened since then. You know, we all mellow out with time." Does anyone really believe that? The Bible says God's plan for us is that we be "transformed into his likeness withever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is no end to the power he wants to exhibit in our lives. The Bible has no retirement plan. God can keep his people on fire for him, can keep them sharp and intense. We need to be honest and admit what has really happened. There is no point in conning ourselves. We've been ripped off by the master thief.

Faded Calling

Or how about that unique calling that rests on every Christian's life-the gifting to serve others in the name of the Lord? Ten years ago there was a stirring inside of you; he gave you a dream about what he wanted to do in your life. Maybe he wanted you to teach children. Maybe he wanted you to sing. Maybe he wanted you to be a prayer warrior, standing in the gap for other people in need. Maybe there was even a pull toward the mission field that was birthed by the Holy Spirit himself.

But then . you got discouraged. Somebody let you down. Something went sour at your church. You tried once or twice, but somebody criticized you. Soon the dream was gone, and the calling wasn't so real. All the inspiration you had felt was missing.

Sometimes I meet pastors in this condition-a hollow shell of their former selves. All the energy is gone; they're just going through the ministerial motions now.

You would tend to imagine this happening mainly through the many discouragements that ministers face and their overburdened schedules leading to burnout. Actually, those are only two of Satan's strategies for going after the shepherds who work among God's flock. He has many others as well.

Years ago I met a man who really seemed sincere as he labored tirelessly to build up a congregation of believers in a major city. God's blessing upon his preaching was evident. The church began to flourish.

A few years later, I happened to visit one of his services. Something had obviously changed. The pastor had somehow come to believe that he was special. The spotlight was now more on him than on Jesus Christ. The messenger had tragically become bigger than the message.

We chatted afterward, and he pointedly asked me what I sensed about the direction of his church. I encouraged him as best I could, but then added, "Remember, my friend-don't take yourself too seriously. This is about God's Spirit working in the lives of people to draw them nearer to Jesus. We're just called to serve them. Preach the Word faithfully, and then disappear into the background so God will get all the praise."

He didn't seem very excited about my last remarks.

His limited fame seemed to go quickly to his head, and soon the simple sincerity and childlike faith that had characterized his earlier efforts for God were replaced by a slick, affected flamboyance, which is very destructive to the cause of Christ. The man's effective preaching and spiritual fruit quickly disappeared.

Where do you think they all went? Something very precious was stolen along the way.

The devil is always trying to rob us of something God blessed us with. When he succeeds, the spiritual gifts seem to fade, and the material things occupy our attention twenty-four hours a day.

Home Burglaries

Consider the subject of marriage. The latest surveys by researcher George Barna show that the divorce rate among churchgoers is just about equal with the population at large. If I were an atheist or an agnostic, I'd say, "Look-how come Jesus can't keep you two together? I thought you said he was so wonderful"

Why are Christian couples breaking up? Is it because they shouldn't have gotten married in the first place? Or because they came from dysfunctional homes and had bad role models? There is more to it than that. The thief comes to steal

The divorce rate among churchgoers is just about equal with the population at large. If I were an atheist, I'd say, "How come Jesus can't keep you two together?"

In fact, Satan fully intends to destroy my marriage to Carol, even though we have served side by side in the ministry for more than twenty-five years. These are the realities of spiritual warfare. Only the power of Christ can keep the two of us together as God has planned and can give us victory over Satan's destructive power. No honest minister of the gospel will deny the fact that the devil has made major assaults on his or her marriage. It's usually not talked about in public, but many tears are shed and prayers offered up to God as sincere servants of the Lord do battle against the demonic forces set on stealing their marriages, credibility, and effectiveness.

What about our children and our grandchildren? They were dedicated to God at an altar once upon a time. We stood before a minister and said with all sincerity, "O God, this baby belongs to you." But something has happened in the years since then. Now the young man or young woman is not living for God-there's no use pretending that they are.

Let's not close our eyes and make-believe otherwise. Before we can see God do what only he can do, we must spiritually diagnose exactly what is going on around us. Denying reality is not part of true Christian living.

Most of All: Where Did the Faith Go?

At the core of all these losses I have mentioned is the silent theft of the most crucial element in our spiritual walk: our faith. What is faith? It is total dependence upon God that becomes supernatural in its working. People with faith develop a second kind of sight. They see more than just the circumstances; they see God, right beside them. Can they prove it? No. But by faith they know he's there nonetheless.

Without faith, says Hebrews 11:6, it is impossible to please God. Nothing else counts if faith is missing. There is no other foundation for Christian living, no matter the amount of self-effort or energy spent. Nothing else touches the Father's heart as much as when his children simply trust him wholeheartedly.

I meet people who at one time would pray over anything and everything! Even if they lost their glasses, they would pray to find them-and amazingly, the glasses would show up. Now the same people seem not to believe that God can do much of anything.

Oh, they will still give you the standard confession of faith: "Yes, I have faith in the God who answers prayer." But that vibrant trust and expectation are no more. They aren't saying, "Come on-let's go after this problem in the name of the Lord." They've been robbed.

There is an obscure story at the end of 1 Samuel that speaks to this matter in vivid detail. It is one of the low points on the roller coaster of David's life. The young conqueror of the giant Goliath is now on the run from King Saul. So many threats, so many close calls . he actually goes to live among the Philistines for a year, for he has run out of places to hide in Israel.

David has his own little militia of six hundred men, plus wives and children. They set up at a place called Ziklag. When the Philistines decide to go to war against Israel, it puts David in a real crunch. He's a fighter, of course, a warrior, so he lines up with King Achish. But the Philistine generals spot him and say to their king, "What does David think he's doing?"

"Why? What do you mean?"

"The famous son-in-law of King Saul, right? No way is he going on this campaign with us!"

Achish tries to defend David's loyalty but gets nowhere. The generals say, "Look, don't you know that song they sang all over Israel? `Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands'-and some of those tens of thousands were us! He is definitely not going into battle with us."

So David and his militia get sent back home.

When they come close to Ziklag, they start to see smoke on the horizon. They begin a fast trot-and soon discover something dreadful: Every wife, every son, every daughter, every cow and lamb is gone. Someone has made a secret raid, burning down the city and stealing everything.

These husbands and fathers are stunned by the desolation. They are heartbroken . imagine them thinking of their wives and daughters being captured by some roving band of marauders. My lovely wife is missing! What is happening to my fourteen-year-old daughter right now? They can only imagine the unrestrained brutality and heartlessness that have surely occurred. They begin to cry so hard that they run out of tears. They are devastated.

David's family is gone, too. Everything is lost.

At such a moment of human sorrow, other emotions come into play. Anger and resentment boil up. When people cannot deal with the agony of the moment, they often turn on those in authority. They can't bear the pain, so they lash out.

Continues.

Continues.

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