Just ask Him! (Life as a vapor)

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There’s a lot of controversy between if following Jesus is something we do or something the Father does. Well, which is it!? We have to recognize that countless times in Scripture, when God wants to give us something, all He wants us to do is ask!

Asking is a humble thing to do, it’s realizing we are inadequate on our own and need God desperately. That’s what it takes to ask God for something, because if we aren’t humble, that is, realize that we are, in fact, a vapor compared to God, we probably won’t ask Him for something wholeheartedly. Jesus knocks at our door and when we accept Him into our lives, He then lets us knock on His Father’s door through Him and the Spirit (Revelation 3:20-21, Romans 8:26-27). Let’s consider all the ways God wants us to ask for something.

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1. Ask in line with God’s will

(Matthew 6:9-13):

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.Your kingdom come.Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

This is how Jesus taught the disciples to pray, so it could be said that asking in line with God’s will is top priority (see also 1 John 5:14). But how do we figure out what God’s will is? Read through the 4 Gospels and the Book of Acts to get an excellent idea of how to ask in line with God’s will. It is interesting and important to note that Jesus doesn’t tell us to spend all our time figuring out God’s will, just ask for it to be done. Some of the first churches certainly knew how to do this and saw God work in pretty amazing ways (see Acts 12:3-11).

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       2. Ask humbly

(James 4:13-15):

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Realizing what we’re like in comparison to God is important lest we take up the philosophy “ignorance is bliss”. If we think we are more than a vapor, all we’re doing is fooling ourselves into pride, when actually, we are more significant when we put on Christ. The only way to clothe ourselves with Christ is to realize we need Him (Romans 13:14). We are so vapor-like that we don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow, when God sees the whole scheme of things for eternity. Therefore, we should ask in line with God’s will since He knows all.

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3. Ask persistently

(Luke 11:5-12):

“And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”

There can be differing viewpoints on this passage, but if you pray for something consistently that is apart from God’s will, will His will not be done? Of course it will be done! It’s that we get the privilege of being a part of God’s will when we ask in line with it. It’s not like we are predestined to do everything God wants us to do (although He certainly knows what we’re going to choose to do); but wouldn’t you rather do what God wants you to do than what you want to do?

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4. Ask in secret

(Matthew 6:1-8):

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Asking in secret is all about the heart. If someone goes to church and prays in the sanctuary with many people around before or after service, usually it is so that they can convince the other people around that they are a ‘good Christian’; though the Christians following Christ realize they are bad and realize they are even more bad throughout their lifetime because they discover more sin in their life. This is an advantage! In Luke 7, we learn that he who is forgiven much loves much, so the more sin we learn that Jesus has taken for us, the more we’ll love Him. Although our Father knows the things we have need of before we ask Him, often times, He chooses to wait for us to ask Him, so prayer really does make a difference! In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah conceives a son when she prays. God’s will still could have been done if she didn’t pray, but He chose to act when she prayed. We see this in Matthew 13 when Jesus chooses not to do many mighty works in His hometown because of their unbelief. Of course He could have healed if they didn’t believe, but He chose not to. We see that many times, it’s the same with prayer, because God will do everything He can to use our efforts for His glory.

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The Cold Old Life to the Hot New One

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Whenever I take a shower in my house, the water heater is extremely hot so I don’t need a lot of hot water. It ends up being about 20% hot, 80% cold on the knobs. (Now stay with me..) Then, as the shower goes on, the water becomes less hot. To get the water hot again, I have to turn the cold water down so that the water can be as hot as it was. This is a gradual process until the water ends up being 100% on the hot knob turned in order for it to be hot, and it stays hot because there’s no cold water interference.

This is like our relationship with Jesus. It’s gradual, and we are entering a life of sanctification, in which we are gradually being transformed into the newness and renewing of our minds in Jesus Christ, giving more up to Him while He increases and we decrease (Romans 12:1-2, John 3:30).

  1. Once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we experience the living water that He provides us and are comfortable (John 4). With Jesus alone is “The Hot Water Life.”
  2. We realize that to be fulfilled by Jesus, we have to follow Him and gradually give more up to Him from “The Cold Water Life”, which is lived based on our own desires, because it is what He calls us to do: Deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Matthew 19:21, Luke 9:23-25).
  3. Our goal is to be “Hot” Christians instead of lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3:15-16). We must pray fervently for the desire to know Jesus more each day, the desire that only He, through the Holy Spirit, can provide. Yes, and you could even think of “hot” from the attractive sense because someone with the eyes of Jesus sees the heart (John 7:24).

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You might say, “Wait, your analogy is fraud because the new believer is ‘hotter’ than the believer who isn’t giving up more of his life to Christ!”

If you’re not getting closer to God, you’re getting farther. It is better to assume that any day we aren’t spending with God or in Jesus’ name, we are falling away from Him. God expects His followers to seek to give up more to Him and to know Him and love Him more today than yesterday. (Matthew 6:33, John 3:30)

It reminds me of this song by Spiral Starecase, this is how excited we should feel about our relationship with Jesus! :

“Every day’s a new day of loving You,” and

“If all my dreams come true, I’ll be spending time with You,” and

“I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.” and

“I love you more today than yesterday, but only half as much as tomorrow.”

If this singer can sing about a girl this way, much more should we be able to sing about Jesus this way since He fulfills us and can give us a passion for Him that is far greater than that for a human when we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him with our whole heart. I’m reminded of when Jesus chose the disciples, they left everything. (Matthew 4:19)

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Verses:

Romans 12:1-2:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

John 3:30: He must increase, I must decrease.

Matthew 19:21: Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Luke 9:23-25:  Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

How does God Work Through us More?

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1. Holding back

I went on a run the other day for the first time since Fall. I realized something: my heart could keep going, but my legs were holding me back. Sadly, I had to run back much sooner than I thought. I realized I’d have to work on building my muscles up so that they don’t hold me back.

The same thing happens in our lives with Jesus. He wants to work through us, but we hinder his ability to work in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We do this by eating unhealthily, not exercising, over/undersleeping, and making excuses that we need something worldly to fill us up rather than having faith that Christ alone can do this (Matt 4:4, John 4:14, John 4:31-34).

This can also be done by giving God an agenda for our lives; ie “I’ll follow you, but only if I can still get this car/house/wife/kid/grandkid/etc” He wants to work through us, but we limit His work through us by not giving it all up to Him and grasping hold of our worldly desires as if we live off of them.

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2. Why should He?

Why should He bless your food to your body if you haven’t taken up your cross and chosen something healthy? Why should He bless your job if you are doing nothing for Him through it? Why should He bless your friendships if they are drawing you away from God and/or you are making that person an idol? (Matthew 4:8-10) Why should He bless your marriage if you haven’t put Him at the center of it? (Matthew 6:33)

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3. Be of good cheer!

But this shouldn’t discourage us at all; rather, it should encourage us to become even greater vessels for God to work in us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)! It should become addicting as we see God work through us more and more the more we give up to Him in our lives.

So be of good courage, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33) and blessed those who accept Him as Lord of their life and their Savior with the Holy Spirit to work through us to become more like Him each day (John 3:30). The best way for Him to work through us is to give up more to Him in repentance and not limit what God wants to do for His kingdom through us. This desire to know God more, pray to Him, and get into His Word and follow His plan can only can be given from God alone (John 6:44). We must therefore pray for the desire to know Him more.

For more about this aspect in regards to nutrition: https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/god-and-nutrition/

Verses:

Matthew 4:4: “…Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:10 “…Him only you shall serve.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

From the Car to the Restaurant

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I pulled up to the restaurant, starved. The lights weren’t on so it took us awhile to find it. I walked out of the car. It was freezing, so I threw on a nice warm jacket. I could see the warmth at the end of the cold and knew it was coming, soon. I reached the restaurant glad to be out of the car and in a larger community of people. We usually are fine not being uncomfortable for a short amount of time, knowing that we will reach warmth very soon.

The very same thing is happening to we who are following Jesus right now, making Him Lord of our lives. We are to deny our own flesh, which makes us uncomfortable, cold.

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Cooped up in the Car

The car is our old lives, cooped up in our own fleshly desires, only comfortable in a little zone. We can only sit in the car so long before we get irritated and want things to change. There’s nowhere to go but to the backseat. We often get so cooped up in our ‘car’ (our lives) that we try and upgrade it: leather seats, a sunroof, more gadgets, a little bigger. But a car can only get so big before you feel limited by it. The hope people in the world have in their lives are in the upgrades that they will apply to it. After awhile though, you can only upgrade your car so much before it starts breaking and you have to repair it to have it back to where it was at its best. Additionally, you can only squeeze so many people in it. (Matthew 19:21)

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Putting on the Jacket to Face the Cold

When we accept Jesus into our lives, that’s when we step out of the car and leave our old desires behind. We clothe ourselves with Jesus: the jacket (Romans 13:13-14). He keeps us warm, it’s only Jesus who keeps us warm through the Holy Spirit, and it’s knowing, through the Spirit, that the restaurant is so close and being able to see it. The hardest thing to do is get our friends out of the car to walk with us, but when we do, it’s a very special thing. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

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Keeping the Restaurant in Sight

When we get out of the car fully, we see the restaurant, Heaven, in sight. Thus, we become kingdom oriented, focused on the things from above, not the things in the world (our little car). The warmth that is provided from seeing that is powerful. That hope is immense, and would hardly make combating the cold worth it if there wasn’t anything to look forward to. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

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Walking with Jesus

The path to Heaven is a narrow one (Matthew 7:13-14), not very many people have been blessed with the opportunity to see the restaurant (Matthew 13:14-17), and let alone, desire to deny everything they have built up in their car and tread the path set before them. Most people try and do it without a relationship with Jesus and thus, resort to going back into the car because it’s warm, or assuming they are good enough people on their own. I think of a bouncer at the restaurant door. When you get there, He says, “Where is your jacket?” You say, “I didn’t need it, I just beat the cold and made it through without one.” He says, “It’s too bad, we don’t accept people prideful, impractical people into our restaurant.” (Matthew 7:21-23 & 22:12-14) Your dad goes into the restaurant with the car keys and you are left in the cold, without a jacket, because you thought you could make it without your jacket (Jesus).

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Verses 

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message): 21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Matthew 19:21: 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The Value of Trash

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J:

Why do you cast away your trash but not your wallet? Is not your trash of more value than your wallet? Which when used often causes sin to fall upon you? Or to have previously fallen upon Him who died? 

C:

If Jesus said to cast a limb from ourselves if it keeps us from Heaven, much more should we take into account ‘casting away’ material things.(Matt 18:8-9)

J:

For the wallet is more than often used to distract from God and His will (Matt 7:21-23). It is an object that causes greed, which causes death (Proverbs 1:19).

Most assuredly, your wallet will not enter the kingdom of God, and since it will not enter, it will not want you to enter either lest its only companion is lost. (Matt 5:29-30)

C:

The solution? As a daily practice, we must use our wallet both cautiously and sparingly in order to glorify God and seek God’s will in how to use it. We must pray and seek God’s will, through His Word and Fellowship, upon how He wants us to use it, it is a difficult task, I can see why the group of disciples Jesus sent out were instructed to not carry a money bag. (Luke 10:4)

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Verses

2 Corinthians 4:18: “…we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10: He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.

Proverbs 1:19: So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.”

More on $ ( https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/if-i-had-a-million-dollars-i-wouldnt-be-satisfied/ )

Cheating Heaven

God says yes and no to our prayers. When He answers yes, it isn’t always the yes that we want.

Think about your stomach hurting, you say “God please heal me.” Immediately, your friend comes in the door and says you have to get your appendix out. “No!” you say.

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1. It’s gonna hurt

God always has the best for us in mind, but He never says it’s not going to hurt sometimes. When is the best time that you grew closer to God? Chances are, it’s probably when you realized you were a sinner and allowed God to fill up your life (through prayer, praise, fellowship, and God’s Word) rather than turning to what we as a culture usually use to make us happy (TV, food, shopping, etc)

Many of us think that if it hurts, then it must not be God’s will, but what about all the disciples? Most of them got killed in the name of Jesus, and they were devout followers of Him. Additionally, I think about the consequences of not following God’s will, like with Jonah. He was told to go one way to preach but went the complete opposite way. The consequence? Eaten by a whale. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eaten by a whale.

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2. The eternal perspective

We are limiting God’s plan for our lives if we force God to work in an environment that keeps us safe and without pain. Jesus even tells us we will go through pain as disciples of Him(John 16:33). We who are in Christ Jesus are not of this world, but we can’t try and cheat heaven while we’re on earth (John 17:14). We are to bring heaven to earth, not pretend that we’re in heaven on earth (Matthew 6:10). We are to work for Jesus Christ up until death; and if we really believe we’ll be in paradise for eternity, why wouldn’t we do so? (Romans 12:1-2)

I have learned to appreciate moments of pain and sorrow, finding my joy heavenward, in Jesus, and knowing that after this life, I will never experience those feelings again for the rest of eternity; also knowing that God is using these moments to bring me closer to Him. (James 1:2-3)(Hebrews 12:6-11)

This is not to say we can’t have joy in this life. We can! It’s in doing God’s will and growing closer to Him, not longing for the past, because we are growing closer to Jesus more and more each day becoming even greater vessels for His Spirit to work through us. (For more on this aspect, see https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/god-and-nutrition/ )

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3. Scriptural reference

John 16:33: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 17:14: 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

James 1:2-3: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

Hebrews 12:6-11: For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.” Ifyou endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Life as a brick wall

Often in the Christian walk, we are told ‘Don’t do this’ but rarely are we told what to do in its place.

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1. Sand vs Concrete

I like to think about it like a brick wall. When you decide to not do something, you’re taking out a brick from your wall, or life. Without replacing that brick with something better, you will undoubtedly fall back into that sin; if you don’t, you will not feel complete.

These bricks that we use on our own are weak ones, made of sand; they’re just filler and don’t have any strength to uphold us. They look good on the outside, but they often get crushed under the weight of other bricks and the sand falls when the wall is nudged. Then we have to replace them.

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2. A brick for a brick

We must seek out the power of Jesus to replace these bricks that we put in our lives with concrete ones that are unshakable.

-Instead of hungering for bacon, we are to hunger for more of God’s Word (John 4:31-34).

-Instead of lusting after women, we are to lust after knowing Jesus more (Matthew 5:28).

-Instead of thirsting for ‘strong drink’ (Proverbs 31:6), we are made to thirst for the living water that Jesus gives (John 4:14).

-Instead of seeking happiness, which is based on happenings, we are to seek the joy that only Christ can give in all circumstances, resting in the fact that while we endure tribulation, Christ has overcome the world (James 1:2-3, John 16:33).

-Instead of longing to hear words of the world, we must long to hear words from the Spirit through others.

-Instead of being caught up in the fantasy of video games, we must get caught up in the fantasy the God has laid out for us in the Bible and in our lives when we’ve dedicated out lives to Him (after all, there’s some crazy stuff that’s gonna happen and that already is happening!).

-Instead of praising idols, like our sports teams, we are to shift our praise to God for what He’s done for us through Jesus (John 4:23)(way better than what our sports teams have done for us!).

-Instead of serving mammon, we are called to serve God (Matthew 6:24, 4:10).

-Instead of seeking our will, we are called to seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

-Instead of idolizing our family, we are to idolize Jesus (Matthew 10:37).

These are only a fraction of the bricks Jesus can provide for us when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and let Him take control of our lives.

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3. Where do I start?!

Whenever we think about not doing something, we must first seek Jesus; rather than thinking about what not to do, let us think about what we can do through Jesus Christ alone. When we learn to replace the longings in our lives that are in the flesh with Jesus, there’s nothing He can’t do through us (Matthew 17:20-21).*

As we learn about God’s character and what He can do for us, our faith is strengthened as we believe He can be our refuge, comfort, strength, energy, provider, rock, and so much more. I invite you to read through God’s Word, including, but not limited to, many of the Psalms and a Gospel, to learn about all the things God promises He can do/be for us for we who have faith He is able.