Interacting with Faith

This morning as I prayed, I read Genesis 12:2.  It is the blessing that God gives Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

    and you will be a blessing.”

This is a powerful blessing of honor and empowerment. God promises to multiply Abraham into a great nation.  He will be blessed - in other words, he will have what is good.  The promise includes honor too – “I will make your name great”.  All of those are great promises, multiplied, blessed, honored, but there is still more.  God says, “and you will be a blessing”.  Not only is he going to have what is good, but he is going to bring what is good to people everywhere he goes.  It seems like this is more than just about possessions, but even more about identity.  He would be the blessing.  It was part of who he was and part of what he carried with him everywhere he went.

Abraham is celebrated for his faith.  His claim to fame is the way he trusted this promise of God. But, the story in Genesis seems to describe a faith the ebbed and flowed. And still Abraham’s faith is held up as a model in Galatians and Hebrews.  It seems that the aspect of Abraham’s faith which is celebrated is not the perfection or the lack of wavering, but the way he interacted with God and the way that Abraham allowed God’s promises to impact his actual life.

Dallas Willard gave a talk at a Renovaré conference at Asbury College once on the prayer of faith.  He said that faith is interacting with something as if it were so.  Willard used the analogy of a lightbulb to explain faith. We have faith that when we flip the switch, the light bulb will turn on. And our faith in the switch that leads us to walk over to the spot on the wall where the switch is and flip it acts with other forces, namely electricity, and lights turn on.  Another example Willard gave was how the faith of a college student that she will get her bachelor’s degree, leads her to a particular course of action: showing up for class and writing papers that result in her actually getting the degree.  If she didn’t think she was going to get the degree, would she pay the money and go to classes and write the papers? Probably not. 

I don’t think the promises God gave to Abraham were for Abraham alone.  Those of us who are children of Abraham are heirs of his legacy and of those promises.  I wonder how God might be calling us to interact with those promises as though they were so.  What would it mean to live as though who I am, or who you are is going to be multiplied? Or to live as though we are blessed or that our names will be honored?  Considering how a college student organizes her life around the belief that she will get her degree, what patterns of behavior would we adopt if we believed we were honored?  Or if faith is like knowing that the light will come on when we flip the switch, what are we going to walk across the room to do today, knowing that we will be a blessing? 

It’s true you know.  We will.

Eternal Hope for the Outdoorsman

Birds are nesting, lawn mowers have been taken out of storage, and community pools have opened; it is officially summer! For the outdoorsman, that means it’s time for fishing, hiking, and camping!

I grew up in a family that loved the great outdoors. As a kid, I spent hours and hours traipsing around the woods and fields behind our house.  My family took regular hiking and camping trips, the binoculars and bird book always within reach. From an early age I learned to love God’s creation. The sound of wind rustling through the leaves, the bubbling creek cascading down a hill, and the call of a loon singing hauntingly from across the lake, all fill me with peace, joy, and delight!

When I am in nature, every fiber of my being says, “This is good”. I feel at home when I’m in the woods, on a lake, or climbing a mountain. In the past, this has made it difficult for me to fully look forward to heaven. I often heard it said, when talking about the world, that “This is not our home”. This has conflicted with my deep sense that earth is where I belong. The idea of heaven has always seemed so lofty, spiritual, and honestly…boring!! I don’t want to spend eternity in a church service singing hymns and playing harps! I don’t want to walk on streets of gold or live in a mansion if I can walk barefoot on the sand and sleep in a tent! If you are an outdoorsman like me, or if you’ve had a difficult time getting excited about “going to heaven” I have some good news for you today!

The eternal hope we have as Christians, isn’t that we get to go to heaven when we die (although we do), but that heaven will someday come down here to Earth! Yes, that’s right, heaven isn’t our ultimate destination; Earth is heaven’s ultimate destination. Our eternity will not be spent floating on clouds in some spiritual existence, but will be spent here on a renewed Earth, fully being what God intended it to be!

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Don’t panic ocean lovers, this doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be large bodies of water on the new earth. For the people in biblical times, the ocean represented chaos, danger, and the unknown. Many scholars believe this is a metaphorical statement, not a literal one. In the new earth there will be no chaos and no danger. That sounds like a sweet deal to me.

The foundation of our Christian faith is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. In his resurrection, he defeated death, and now we too will participate in His resurrection! We look forward to new physical bodies, in a new physical world. That is the hope of the Gospel, and that is what we look forward to.

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

This is the good news, the eternal hope, for the outdoorsman. Our love for God’s creation is not in vain, but is there because God loves His creation too. So get out there and fish, hike, swim, and camp. The glory of God we see now in creation will pale in comparison to the new Earth we get to enjoy for all of eternity! We’ll get to be in relationship with the one who first looked on this world and said, “it is good”.

“And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

Time for Spring Cleaning

I don't know about you, but this radical change in weather has brought a smile to my face.  Spring is always an optimistic season for me.  The plants and trees are starting to bloom and the feeling of something "new" is in the air.  That's the "good news"….

This is also the season of spring cleaning.  That annual tradition of ripping apart the home and garage and cleaning away all the dust, dirt, and grime that has accumulated from the winter season.  While the end result of all of this work is amazing, the process of cleaning up is hard to start and even harder to complete.  I know that each time I look at this project, I get easily distracted by the desire to move quickly and get on with my day.  There are all sorts of other things that "need" my attention.   You know, really important things like checking my social feeds to make sure I haven't missed anything or maybe streaming an entire season of my latest new favorite series.  But with all that said, there's nothing more satisfying than looking at the results of the clean-up that has been completed.  What was once old and dirty now looks new.

Occasionally, as followers of Jesus, we too can enter into a season where we fall away and let the dust and dirt of the world enter into our lives.  Maybe we have become so busy with activities and work that we do not spend time reading the Bible or praying.  Or maybe there have been events that have taken place that have caused us to turn away.

The good news is that we have the opportunity to perform some "spring cleaning" in our lives as well.  The invitation from Jesus is clear.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  You see, something new is inside of us that makes us new.  All we have to do is turn back to Jesus and re-engage with him to take away the dust and dirt to uncover the new you!  1 John 1:9 says - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

My prayer for you today is that you will take time this spring and do a little spring cleaning on yourself.  Establish a regular routine of engaging Jesus in prayer and study his word in the Bible and you too can have the opportunity to rediscover that "new" feeling that is so obvious this time of year.