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JUST ASK – by Beth Moore, excerpt from James: Mercy Triumphs

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The King of the universe wants a real, live relationship with us. He’s not interested in just being a mind reader. He’s not even interested in just being a provider. He’s both of those things, but the role He relishes most is Father. He wants us – frail moral creatures – to connect with Him and communicate with Him as the dearest relationship in human existence.

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From Zen to Jesus: My Story of Doubt and Faith

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“God!” I cried aloud in my anguish and frustration. “I don’t even know if You exist. But if You do exist and what my parents told me is true, that Jesus died for my sins and that—if there is a heaven and a hell—You are the way to heaven, I want to know the truth. I don’t want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven! After all, if You’re God and You’re all powerful, can’t You reveal Yourself to me?”

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Jesus Loves Doubters

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Jesus Loves Doubters

By Skip Heitzig – Senior Pastor of Calvary Church in Albuquerque, NM

Dennis was a doubter. He grew up in a family that went to church and believed in God. But as Dennis came of age, he found himself doubting many of the things he had been taught. By the time he hit college, his struggles were pronounced. He became a major in science, and eventually his doubts solidified into deep convictions. He was very secure in his unbelief. Dennis went on to become a college-level instructor of biology and a medical doctor.

By the time I met Dennis, however, he admitted to me that he knew something was missing in his life, and we had great conversations. And I remember Dennis beginning to doubt his own doubts. He revisited all the things he was doubting and what he had once believed. And I watched a man who at one time had gone from belief to doubt to unbelief, move from that unbelief back to doubt and then eventually strong, vibrant belief in Jesus Christ.

Dennis’ story is not the only one of its kind. For generations, people have grappled with issues of faith. I’ve discovered that some of the strongest believers I’ve ever met or read were at one time struggling unbelievers: C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Dr. Francis Collins. Many, many people have struggled through doubts and come to a living faith.

Even people who lived during the time of Jesus struggled (see Mark 9:24). The men who were closest to Jesus had their doubts (see Luke 24:9-11). But the classic doubter, Scripture’s most well-known skeptic, was the apostle Thomas. In John 20, we read:

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”   And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.   Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (vv. 24-29)

Thomas was the apostle from Missouri—the “show me” state. “Hey, Tom, Jesus is alive!” “Show me.” “No, really, the tomb is empty.” “Show me.” He was the classic doubter. In fact, even today we call someone who’s a doubter a doubting Thomas, as if Thomas is the patron saint of all skeptics. In the New Testament, we usually find Thomas singing in the minor key. He always saw the dark side of things. If he were a Winnie the Pooh character, he would be Eeyore.

But did you know that Thomas was loyal? There was a time when Jesus said, “Let’s go back up to Judea,” and all of the apostles said, “Now, wait a minute, the Jews wanted to stone you in Judea. Why would you go there?” It was Thomas who spoke up and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16). Now, that might be an Eeyore statement, but it’s a loyal statement.

Thomas was also honest. He was real. When Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room after the Passover supper, “I go to prepare a place for you…. And where I go you know, and the way you know,” Thomas piped up and said, “We don’t know where you’re going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:2, 4-5). In other words, “I don’t understand a word You just said.” Pretty honest, isn’t it? But I’m so glad Thomas said that. You know why? Because in response, Jesus said what I consider pure gold in Scripture: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (v. 6).

Thomas was not the kind of guy who would put on a spiritual mask, who would say, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!” if he didn’t truly mean it. He just said, “Don’t know where You’re going. Couldn’t figure out the way.” With statements like that, he couldn’t possibility be faking. So his honesty is to be commended—but he was also a doubter.  What doubts did Thomas have? What did he struggle with? He doubted the activity of Jesus — specifically, that He had risen from the dead. This doubt was based on a personal presupposition: that dead people don’t get up again. When people die, that’s it. Thomas had seen Jesus raise people from the dead, but that guy Himself was now dead, and Thomas was not expecting Him to ever die. If He’s really the Messiah, He’s going to set up the kingdom. But now He’s dead. And because Thomas wasn’t expecting Jesus’ death, he certainly was not expecting His resurrection. He wasn’t open to the idea at all.

This places Thomas’ doubt in a category I would even label “unbelief.” Doubt and unbelief are different. Doubt looks for answers; unbelief doesn’t really care about the answers. Doubt says, “I can’t believe”; unbelief says, “I won’t believe.” Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt will work through the difficulties and find a faith that is reasonable and satisfying. Unbelief is different; it decides against faith and pushes it away at all costs.

Thomas was one of the apostles who did not go to the tomb to see if it was empty. We have no record of him ever going. In fact, the first time Jesus showed up to the apostles after His resurrection, Thomas wasn’t even with them. They had to tell Thomas about it later on, because he had isolated himself from them.

So how did Jesus handle this doubting apostle? He appealed to personal discovery. I smile when I read how Jesus once again visited the disciples, Thomas among them this time, and after appearing out of thin air, said, “Peace to you!” (v. 26). Now, if I was Thomas, I would be thinking at that point, Oh no. I’m in for it. Sure enough, Jesus turned to Thomas and said, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27).

People are funny, aren’t they? You can tell someone that there are 735,688,000,000 stars in the sky, and they’ll say, “I believe that.” Show them a sign, however, that says “Wet Paint,” and they have to touch it to find out if it’s true. But notice how gracious Jesus was with Thomas. He condescended to his request, putting out His hands and basically saying, “You want evidence? Check it out.”

I challenge you to do the same. If you want evidence for the historic Christian faith, it abounds. The credentials of Jesus Christ include His impact on history, fulfilled prophecy, the claims He made about Himself, and His resurrection. If you just go with those things, you’ll find that there’s plenty of evidence. In fact, there are more details about the events surrounding the death of Jesus Christ than any other single human being in the ancient world. Check it out for yourself.

After Jesus offered Thomas His hands and His side, He said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” In other words, “Stop being faithless, Thomas. Now’s the time for you to rise up and become a believer.” So Thomas quickly ascended from the lowest depths to the highest heights and said, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). And Jesus affirmed that statement of faith.

What a journey Thomas went on from doubt to faith. Perhaps you’re not a doubter, but you want to love a doubter in your life the way Jesus loves them. Let me give you a few tips on how to approach them, whether it’s a child, parent, friend, coworker, or even spouse:

  1. Be available. Don’t say, “I don’t want to talk about that. I can’t give you answers to that.” Be there to dialogue with them about their doubts, just as Jesus met the doubts of Thomas head- on. We all want rational faith. There’s something within us that says, “My heart cannot delight in what my minds rejects as false.” That’s where evidence is so beneficial.
  2. Be patient. More than that, be unshockingly patient. Someone’s doubts are more than likely not going to be fully addressed in just one conversation.
  3. Be prepared. Why not read up a little on the different evidences for the Christian faith? It’s not hard to do. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you become even minimally adept at apologetics. Instead of saying, “I hate when people ask me those questions,” how about being able to say, “I’m ready for those questions”? Even though you won’t be able to know all the answers, know where to find the answers. Perhaps keep a book at home, in your car, or at the office that you can give to someone who’s dealing with issues of faith. Show them that God isn’t asking them to take a blind leap into the dark, but a balanced leap into the light.I actually think it’s fun to dialogue with people who have doubts. They’ll say, “Well, I’m just a clear thinker—it’s hard for me to have faith.” And I’ll say, “You know what? You’re wrong. You have faith every day. When you go to a restaurant, you have faith that they’re going to give you a meal that won’t kill you, right?” Now, some restaurants require more faith than others, but the point is that everybody lives with faith, even the atheist and the doubter.
  1. Be nice. There is no excuse for an arrogant believer getting down on someone for their doubts. Did you notice how compassionate Jesus was to Thomas? When Thomas wasn’t with the disciples the first time Jesus appeared to them, Jesus didn’t say, “Wow, guys, we need to pray for that Thomas. He’s really a doubter.” And when He finally came face to face with Thomas, He didn’t rebuke him for his failure. He offered him proof of His activity.

That’s because Jesus loves people—even those who doubt. And Ben Franklin was right when he said, “A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.” Just ask Thomas. Just ask my friend Dennis. I hope and pray that we as Jesus-followers would show that same radical love to the doubters in our life, no matter where they come from.

Skip Heitzig ministers to over 15,000 people as senior pastor of Calvary Church in Albuquerque. He reaches out to thousands across the nation and throughout the world through his multimedia ministry including a nationwide half-hour radio program, Connect with Skip Heitzig. He is the author of several books including Bloodline, You Can Understand the Book of Revelation, and The Bible from 30,000 Feet. He has also published over two dozen booklets in the Lifestyle series, covering aspects of Christian living. He serves on several boards, including Samaritan’s Purse and Harvest.

 

Should I be worried my Teen has doubts? – David Eaton

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David Eaton is the President of Axis which he cofounded in 2007. Every year Axis speaks to 10,000+ students face-to-face and every month Axis’ digital products equip 120,000+ parents, grandparents, pastors, and teachers. In 2018 Axis helped caring adults start 1,700,000 conversations, that they would not have started without Axis, with their 8- to 18-year-olds.

If your teen is struggling with questions or doubts, he/she is joining a great cloud of witnesses who’ve been on the same journey. From John the Baptist, “Doubting Thomas,” Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, and Mother Teresa, Christianity is filled with individuals who intellectually and spiritually struggled to believe, but through their authentic struggle they came to a place of deep trust and reliance upon God. “Doubt can very often coexist with faith. The fact that a person has doubts doesn’t mean they have no faith; it may mean that their faith is alive, that it is struggling, that it is growing.” However, in some (not all) circles of Christianity, this rich history of doubting well was recently replaced by a strict adherence to “blind faith,” ignoring evidence rather than following it, and fearing questions rather than using them to make one’s faith stronger. Young Christians were taught to do as they were told, rather than to think for themselves. The results have been disastrous, with many millennials and Gen Zers choosing to walk away from a belief system that seemed misogynistic, oppressive, illogical, and downright boring. But it absolutely doesn’t have to be that way! We believe, like so many generations of Christians before us, that we have nothing to fear from questions, doubts, and scrutiny because the evidence points solidly and firmly to Christ as Risen Savior. We also believe that following and becoming more like Him is the only path to true fulfillment, flourishing, and life. So rather than allowing our teens’ curiosity and/or skepticism to scare us, let’s breathe, relax, and view this as an opportunity to bring them into the rich history of skeptics who found that Christ was who they’d been looking for all along and to bring them into deep, lifelong flourishing. After all, if God is who He says He is, then no question, doubt, or other barrier to belief is too big for Him!

Trusting Through the Doubt – Jessie Seneca

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Jessie Seneca is a national speaker, author, leadership trainer and the founder of More of Him Ministries and SHE Leads leadership conference. She has a passion to help women experience God’s Word for themselves as she encourages you to move into a “wholehearted” lifestyle, one devoted fully to God.  She lives in Bethlehem, Pa with her husband, John. They have two daughters and two wonderful sons-in-law. And is enjoying being a Mimi. Most days you can find Jessie walking her two golden-doodles, Bella and Murphy. Visit Jessie at
www.moreofhimministries.org

Trust, even when. . . Many of us know in our minds God is trustworthy, but do we allow it to penetrate our hearts in order to walk it out through our days? Trust, even when. . . Trust is a choice! A choice we choose every day. Some days it is harder than others and we become discouraged and downtrodden. But in the end, we need to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Will you trust Him with your tomorrow? Will you trust Him even when. . .?

Our lack of trust can be where doubt rears its ugly head. In this place, you doubt God’s truths, you doubt His promises, and you doubt His plans. If we allow doubt to gain a grip on our attitude, it has the power to start a downward spiral of depression and skewed perspective. It’s normal to be unsure and experience doubt as long as you don’t allow those thoughts to paralyze and stop you from experiencing all God has for you. God is for you, not against you (Psalm 56:9).

My biggest grip of doubt came when I didn’t know what my future looked like, or for that matter, if I would even see another day. When the detours of my life surfaced, that is where the rubber met the road. That is when my faith was challenged, my desires questioned, and my trust needed to be expanded.

As I look back along the road traveled, I am so thankful that God didn’t show me the full map of my life in one viewing. If He had, I am not sure I could have endured. Instead, He gives me portions of the journey as He reveals His ways through the ride of my life.

The ride of dealing with Cushings Syndrome. Cushings Syndrome is a rare endocrine or hormonal disorder. It occurs when the adrenal glands release too much of the hormone cortisol into your body. Most Cushing tumors are located on the pituitary gland, but can present themselves anywhere else in your body, most likely on your lung, adrenal gland, or bronchial tube. My tumor was on my lung.

Through many days spent in and out of hospitals and multiple surgeries which included a full left lung pneumonectomy, fear, doubt, and uncertainty became my traveling companions for nearly twenty plus years. The symptoms I experienced left me with less than a desire to live: a moon face, acne, facial hair growth, a hump at the top of my back, sugar diabetes, weight gain, and loss of memory. At times, it seemed like it was all too much to bear.

However, even through the doubt, I learned to trust Him with the next step. Believe me there were days I wanted to just stay curled up in a ball in the corner, but that’s when I needed to choose to rely on Him and not myself—push through the doubt and fix my eyes  back on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

It’s your choice to trust. Will you trust Him with the next step? Will you trust Him to teach you along the way?

A season of difficulty can bring growth.

A season of weeping can bring healing.

A season of loss can bring gratefulness.

A season of silence can bring depth.

A season of joy can bring blessings.

A season of love can bring respect.

A season of doubt can bring trust.

So may you trust God in the now and trust God with your then as you step out in faith.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

(Psalm 20:7)

Jessie SenecaMore of Him Ministries

Moving from Fear and Doubt to Peace and Praise

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Real Doubt – Real Faith

Personal Stories and Practical Insights from Faith Leaders on moving from Fear and Doubt to Peace and Praise

My name is Linda Mandrayar I am the producer of an upcoming major motion picture on the life of the apostle Thomas, “Faith Beyond Doubt, the Journey of Thomas“.

We all know him as “Doubting Thomas”. He was the disciple that needed proof before he would believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But do you know what he did after Jesus appeared to him? Not only did he believe but he fell to his knees and worshiped Jesus. He was the first person to openly acknowledge Jesus as God with his famous proclamation “My Lord and My God”.

You see Jesus was not angry with Thomas. He welcomed examination and appeared specifically to Thomas so that Thomas could overcome his doubt.

Jesus is the same way with us. He wants us to approach him with our fears, our doubts and even our disbelief. He is patient and kind and he knows our weaknesses.

Fortunately, Thomas didn’t live in fear and doubt, he went on to share the good news about Jesus with many people around the world, even as far away as India where he was ultimately martyred for his faith.  Ironically, the disciple that doubted the most, went the furthest.

In preparation for the film’s release, I felt it would be a good idea to openly talk about doubt and examine this important issue that often gets swept under the rug and ignored. We are reluctant to admit our doubts for fear of being rejected and ridiculed by other believers.

Doubt comes in many forms. Sometimes it is strong enough to make people renounce their faith, but most times it manifests itself daily in our lives.

Stress and anxiety are really just symptoms of doubt and a lack of faith on our part. We doubt that God has our best interests at heart. We doubt that he has a perfect plan for our lives. We doubt that he is in complete control of our lives and the circumstances surrounding our lives. We doubt that he is good and we doubt that he loves us.

I am inviting people in the faith community to weigh in on this topic, to openly admit and share their personal stories of times that they doubted. Times that their faith was challenged. Times that they wanted to give up and give in, but how God met them in their brokenness, how he restored them and lifted them up so that they could continue on with the calling that He had on their life. Just like He did for Thomas so long ago.

Follow us and join the conversation as we add weekly installments on Faith Beyond Doubt- the Journey of Thomas.