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July 18, 2003

Something out of Nothing

Romans 4:16-18
17 God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (NKJV)

Abraham was first named father and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do.
(The Message)

There are a couple of television preachers that Jayme and I like to listen to (Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes are examples). These teachers/pastors would generally be catagorized in the "word of faith" camp. Having been exposed to many leaders in this segment of the church over a number of years, one of the verses that is often referenced as an encouragment for every believer to hold on to God's Word/promises in faith is found here in Romans 4:17. It affirms the power of God that can bring something from death to life, to make something our of nothing.

I believe in this. I have to or I wouldn't be a "believer." I have passed from death to life as a new creation. He has made me "light" when I was once "darkensss." Everyone shares these same basic beliefs. But how does this apply to my circumstances? More specifically, as someone who believes I have recieved a promise about God's "destiny" for my life (like Abraham), what do you do in the times when I doesn't seem like anything is happening?

I want to "dare to trust God to do what only God could do." I have a daily choice to make - "deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do." I didn't become a pastor because I thought it would be a good career move. I didn't plant New Horizons because I wanted to live in Irvine and the city needed another church anyway. Like Abraham, I believe in what God had spoken to me about my life and the future of our church body. I believe in the promise of his provision. I believe in the reality of fruitfulness. More importantly, I am "fully convinced that what He had promised He was (and is) also able to perform. (4: 21)

There are times that I look at this season as being filled with nothing. In my heart I know this not to be true. But there are people who question why we are sticking this out. I struggle with my own doubts and frustrations. But more than what I see, I believe in God's Word, and His promise to me.

November 19, 2003

Complete Faith

James 2:22
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

His faith was made complete ("perfect"). You know, that's an interesting thought, that our faith is completed by our works or actions. The circle of faith, what begins with belief is completed with action. To only say you believe, but not to take any actions makes for an imcomplete faith.

I know it sems like I'm repeating myself, but I'm mulling this over...It is impossible to please God without faith (Heb.11:6)...God is then honored by our works...Once again faith and obedience are inextrecable linked. You can not believe and not "be" because fait is then "dead" (v. 17) But "doing" outside of the motivation for faith is empty.

Lord, help me to be a man of complete faith.

May 20, 2004

Belief System

Matthew 11:37
And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"

There are a lot of truths to be found in the story of Lazarus. The one I'm processing today is how we always want God to be preventative. As humans, we never want to go through anything hard. And we think anything God could prevent, he should - hunger, war, and on a less global but as personalltraumaticic scale, bankruptcymiscarriagege, sickness. This thinking even trickles down to inatimate objects - "why God did you let my car break down?" (which happened late last night to Shawn as we were driving home from a meeting in Long Beach). Why do I think that because God could keep something from happening, that He should? I'm not bashing myself in with some warped "predestination" thinking, neither am I portraying God as disinterested in our trouble and sorrow. I'm just wondering why I live with this entitlement that God should spare me of every inconveinience, no matter how big or small.

There is one word that keeps appearing throughout his story: believe (v. 15, 27, 40, 45). At some point in the process, I've got to wrestle with my belief system. Will I believe in my "rights" and believe in God's grace? Will I believe in His mercy and love, or my own righteousness that causes me to feel that God is indebted to me in some way? I'm wanting to learn that just because He can doesn't mean He should, and often it's for my good - to adjust what I actually believe in.

Lord, help me to believe less in my own entitlement and more in You.

September 6, 2007

Kind of Cool: A Conversation on Faith
Between a Theist and a Non-Theist

For the last 6 years, I've played basketball with the same core group of guys almost every Saturday. One of my favorite guys (and the de-facto ringleader of this motley crew) is a professor in the Logic and Philosophy of Science Department at UCI (and has a Lex Luther type-endearing quality about him). We get to have some great conversations between banging each other around on the court. I thought I'd share a recent email exchange...it was cool:

KS:

From today's NY Times Editorial on the new book of Mother Theresa's letters (last two paragraphs):

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, the Roman Catholic author whose stories traverse the landscape of 20th-century unbelief. “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”

O’Connor suffered from isolation and debilitating illness, Mother Teresa from decades of spiritual emptiness. But — and here is the exemplary part, inspiring even by the standards of a secular age — they both shut up about it and got on with their work. Mother Teresa, sick with longing for a sense of the divine, kept faith with the sick of Calcutta. And now, dead for 10 years, she is poised to reach those who can at last recognize, in her, something of their own doubting, conflicted selves.

My Reply:

Wow.

You and I both know Kyle that many people use "religion" as a crutch; a modified behavioralism (I'm not sure that's even a word, but you know what I mean) by which they earn points with "god" and obligate him to change their life's circumstances. Faith is quite different. If I can paraphrase a verse from the New Testament, Faith is the choice that makes the promise of what we believe to be true, real (maybe not the best paraphrase, but works for me). That choice comes with a cost that O'Connor correctly identifies.

Faith and doubt are the two sides of a coin. That tension creates a conflict that most "religious" people are uncomfortable with, but it is the reality of authentically spiritual people. Self-sacrificial service gives substance to one's faith, even as it is occasionally exercised in the vacuum of doubt.

K, your thoughts? Jeff

KS reply:

This sounds right to me, Jeff. What I liked most about O'Connor's remark is that it counters the tendency among non-theists to think of theists as just kind of uncritical in their thinking. Serious theists feel the same reasons for doubt that non-theists do, and are affected by them--this is part of what makes faith ennobling, rather than a willfully blind or cowardly response to existential crisis. Self-sacrificial service isn't paying the admission price to heaven for sophisticated theists, but a manifestation of faith itself.
Best,
KS

I love this kind of discussion. What are your thoughts?

March 3, 2011

Creating a Legacy

Numbers 13:6,8 (NIV)
6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;
8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun

OBSERVATION
In the list of the leaders who we chosen to spy out the promised land, their tribal linage is noted. I focused on the two who not only got to go in to possess the land, but lead the people into the promise.

Caleb is from the tribe of Judah. In Genesis 49:8-12 is the blessing that Jacob pronounced on his son Judah:
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Now more than 400 years later, Caleb is a freed slave wondering in the dessert. But God's plan is at work. Caleb will become admired for courage, his legacy one of faith and tenacity. And as a "general" who leads God's people into the promise he sees his enemies defeated. To me, Caleb initiates the legacy of significance carried by the tribe of Judah as promised by the Lord (the tribal lineage of the Messiah)

Joshua is of the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim is the second son of Joseph. The dream that God gave Joseph of his brothers (and eventually the world) bowing to him was not only fulfilled as the Lord raised Joseph us as a leader in Egypt, but all these centuries later as Joshua leads God's people into the land. Just as God used Joseph to preserve His people, so would He use Joshua to fulfill the promise given to the Patriarchs.

APPLICATION
On the day when they were nearly killed for giving their report, I doubt Joshua and Caleb we thinking about the word God had given to their forefathers centuries before. While wandering in the wilderness for an additional 40 years, it probably didn't feel like they were contributing to a God-ordained legacy. As they waged was to possess a land, I doubt they did so with the intent of making a name for themselves. What was at work was not only for their own benefit, but the fulfillment of God's promise generations before that would have an effect generations beyond thier own.

I think of Shealyn Hamilton, an itinerant Baptist pastor and my great-great grandfather. I think of my son, and his son one day. I must keep in mind that it is my responsibility to the generations before me and the ones that follow, to live my life in faith and obedience. God has given a promise to my "tribe" and through my family line that has an eternal impact.

PRAYER
Lord, let me be known as a man who has the same heart and faith as Joshua and Caleb.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in the Faith category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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