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The Life of Faith

I asked God to speak to me this morning in my quiet time (novel idea, I know) and he was faithful. I so much appreciate what was said that I want to pass it on, so enjoy…

The passage was Hebrews 11:8-10 and focused on the faith of Abraham. I am working my way through William Barclay’s commentary on the book (if you are not aware of this, I am a big fan of Barclay’s works and highly recommend them for study). Some observations and quotes from this passage based on Barclay’s commentary.

1. Abraham’s faith was a faith of adventure.

“Most of us live a cautious life on the principle of safety first; but, to live the Christian life, it is necessary to have a certain reckless willingness to be adventurous. If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith. It is sometimes necessary for Christians to take the way to which the voice of God is calling them without knowing what the consequences will be.”

2. Abraham’s faith was a faith of patience.

“At the moment of decision, there is the excitement of and the thrill; at the moment of achievement, there is the glow and glory of satisfaction; but, in the intervening time, it is necessary to have the ability to wait and work and watch when nothing seems to be happening. It is then that we are most liable to give up our hopes and lower our ideals and sink into an apathy whose dreams are dead.”

3. Abraham’s faith was a faith looking beyond this world.

“No one ever did anything great without a vision which made it possible to face the difficulties and discouragements of the way…God cannot give us the vision unless we allow him to; but, if we are patient and look to him, even in earth’s desert places he will send us the vision, and with it the toil and trouble of the way all become worth while.”

To me there is no greater force on earth than people who live on purpose and most importantly, God’s purpose. I find myself in that “intervening time” when I need to persevere and stay connected to that vision which God has called me. I even have a sound track for this time:

Where do you find yourself today? Need a vision? Need patience? Need to reconnect with what God has shown you?

Some encouraging news…

I could use some, how about you? So here you go:

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:14 (NLT)

I’ve been working through William Barclay’s exposition on the Letter to the Romans and his insight to this verse is very uplifting. Without editing or summarizing I want to give to you his words:

     (i) There is hope. It is easy in the light of experience to despair of oneself. It is easy in the light of events to despair of the world. Someone tells of a meeting in a certain church at a time of emergency. The meeting was constituted with prayer by the chairman. He addressed God as “Almighty and eternal God, whose grace is sufficient for all things.” When the prayer was finished, the business part of the meeting began; and the chairman introduced the business by saying: “Gentlemen, the situation in this church is completely hopeless, and nothing can be done.” Either his prayer was composed of empty and meaningless words, or his statement was untrue.
     It has long ago been said that there are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them. It is told that there was a cabinet meeting in the darkest days of the last war, just after France had capitulated. Mr. Churchill outlined the situation in its starkest colors. Britian stood alone. There was silence when he had finished speaking, and on some faces was written despair, and some would have given up the struggle. Mr. Churchill looked round that dispirited company. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I find it rather inspiring.”
    There is something in Christian hope that not all the shadows can quench–and that something is the conviction that God is alive. No man is hopeless so long as there is the grace of Jesus Christ; and no situation is hopeless so long as there is the power of God.
     (ii) There is joy. There is all the difference in this world between pleasure and joy. The Cynic philosophers declared that pleasure was unmitigated evil. Anthisthenes made the strange statement that he would “rather be mad than pleased.” Their argument was that “pleasure is only the pause between two pains.” You have longing for something, that is the pain; you get it, the longing is satisfied and there is a pause in the pain; you enjoy it and the moment is gone; and the pain comes back. In truth, that is the way pleasure works. But Christian joy is not dependent on things outside a man; its source is in our consciousness of the presence of the living Lord, the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in him.
     (iii) There is peace. The ancient philosophers sought for what they called ataraxia, the untroubled life. They wanted all that serenity which is proof alike against the shattering blows and the petty pinpricks of this life. One would almost say that today serenity is a lost possession. There are two things which make it impossible.
     (a) There is inner tension. Men live a distracted life, for the word distract literally means to pull apart. So long as a man is a walking civil war and a split personality, there can obviously be for him no such thing as serenity. There is only one way out of this, and that is for self to abdicate to Christ. When Christ controls, the tension is gone.
     (b) There is worry about external things. Many are haunted by the chances and the changes of life. H.G. Wells tells how in New York harbour he was once on a liner. It was foggy, and suddenly out of the fog loomed another liner, and the two ships slip past each other with only yards to spare. He was suddenly face to face with what he called the general large dangerousness of life. It is hard not to worry, for man is characteristically a creature who looks forward to guess and fear. The only end to that worry is the utter conviction that, whatever happens, God’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear. Things will happen that we cannot understand, but if we are sure enough of God’s love, we can accept with serenity even those things which wound the heart and baffle the mind.
     (iv) There is power. Here is the supreme need of men. It is not that we do not know the right thing; the trouble is the doing it. The trouble is to cope with and to conquer things, to make what Wells called “the secret splendor of our intentions” into actual facts. That we can never do alone. Only when the surge of Christ’s power fills our weakness can we master life as we ought. By ourselves we can do nothing; but with God all things are possible.
 
William Barclay
The Letter to the Romans, revised edition
pp. 198-200
 

It’s a really long post, I get it. But if you made it this far you understand why.

What speaks the most encouragement to you today?

Oh Crap!

Daily it seems that these words cross my mind. Something else, going wrong, unexpected, tragic, discouraging. In those moments hope seems to fade. My response is to create my own reality. I tell myself that it won’t last, or it isn’t really THAT bad. It’s not biblical…well not until now.

Romans 8:19 “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”

This verse is sandwiched in a passage where Paul laments the damnable position of all mankind. He points out that even creation is suffering because of everything gone wrong. But he does not draw a wholly negative picture. There is the anticipation of a future glory. A day when all is as it was intended and should be.

In his commentary on this passage, William Barclay summarizes the situation like this:

“The Christian is involved in the human situation. Within he must battle with his own evil human nature; without he must live in a world of death and decay. Nonetheless, the Christian does not live only in the world; he also lives in Christ. He does not see only the world; he looks beyond it to God. He does not see only the consequences of man’s sin; he sees the power of God’s mercy and love. Therefore, the keynote of the Christian life is always hope and never despair. The Christian waits, not for death, but for life.” (emphasis added)

As a Christian, by faith I accept that God has redeemed me through Christ Jesus. This redemption is not complete until I am able to enter into God’s presence. And so while the world all around me seems to fall apart, I take heart in a different reality.* A reality that will bring hope from despair. A reality that is only found in Christ.

(*Qualifiers: 1. My life is difficult, but not falling apart…it just seems like it sometimes. 2. Denial of reality can lead to unhealthy views of oneself and situation. Denial must be balanced carefully by an honest assessment of whatever your situation might be. Are you contributing to the downward spiral by not owning up to your part of the problem(s)? Overall our attitude and outlook should be positive and hopeful. We know how it all ends and who wins.)

FYI

Just a reminder that today is the National Day of Prayer. Would you join me in praying for our nation and specifically our President and elected and appointed officials?

Good Morning!

If you follow me on Twitter or have me as a friend on Facebook there’s a good chance that you have seen me post a sunrise photo with the title “Good Morning”. I get the joy of crossing the Arkansas River on Southwest Boulevard each morning as I come to work at the office. As the sun rises over the river casting a silhouette upon the sleepy city there is a reminder that today is a new day. A day of new opportunities. I am reminded of the verse:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
      His mercies never cease.
 Great is his faithfulness;
      his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

On a more technical side I really enjoy looking back at these photos and learning from them. Composition and lighting dramatically influence the final image (photography 101). What better demonstration of this than seeing a variety of shots from basically the same location but with varying light, exposure and composition. So for all you photo newbies like me out there–exercise: Take a series of photos from the same location and bring them all together and critique them based upon composition and lighting. What moods are differentiated by the changes? What composition and lighting combinations work and don’t work? 

Don’t you just love digital photography?

Don’t you love a new day? 

Obamacare

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover‑up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:16-17 (NIV)

I have to admit that reading the Bible is not always an easy task. Sometimes the teachings are difficult, not just to implement personally on a daily basis, but difficult to interpret or understand. BUT, most times Biblical teaching is straight forward and simple. So this morning as I read through the book of 1 Peter this passage spoke to me.

  1. Love the brotherhood of believers–this is first and foremost how can we not love the brotherhood of believers (Church) and claim to be Christians. A straight forward teaching that is not simple to live out daily.
  2. Fear God–interesting that this falls second and not first. Our devotion to God is evident in how we approach and relate to the Church.
  3. Honor the king–this exhortation is not out of a vacuum. Instead it comes in a time of persecution against the church. If this applies to first century Christians who are facing persecution what about Christians today?
For me there is a sincere conviction as I read that last part; “honor the king.” As President George Bush first came into office there was quite a movement among Christians to pray for the President everyday. My wife and I even signed up for  a daily email reminder to pray for specific things. Of course, now there is a President in office from the opposite party and I haven’t heard anything about a movement of Christians to pray for the President. In fact, most Christians speak pretty despairingly of President Obama, as if he is single handedly bringing down the entire country.
Next week is the National Day of Prayer (May 5th), traditionally a day set aside by the country to pray for our nation and our leaders. If you are like me and have been doing a really crummy job of praying for our President (and all the leaders of our country) I’d like to challenge us both to take this opportunity to begin again.
Would you recommit yourself, along with me, to honor our president by praying for him?

Bad Friday

I have a memory from childhood. At this point in my life I’m not sure just how truthful the memory is, but I’m pretty sure. It seems to me that for a couple of years on Good Friday we had horrendous storms. In fact, what I remember is that the tornado sirens went off on Good Friday for a couple of years in a row. I grew up in Enid, OK so springtime storms producing tornadoes is no big news and thus it would support in theory what I am trying to recollect. If you’ve never experience such a violent storm there is one characteristic that I have recognized as an indicator of very severe storms. That is a green tinted sky. (I am not a meteorologist, but grew up watching Gary England.)

So imagine a dark green tinted day with thunder, lightening, swirling winds and the sound of tornado sirens whaling.

This is my childhood memory of Good Friday and I remember taking a strange solace in the midst of it all. It just seemed right. Violent weather on a day that commemorates the single most violent act to have ever taken place on earth. Sinful men killing God’s innocent son because we couldn’t deal with just how perfect his love is. So for me Good Friday has a memory of darkness, uneasiness, violence, destruction, you name it; pretty much anything that is not good.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are your Good Friday recollections?