God’s Absolute Faith

Learning to simply rest in the stern of the boat amidst a storm, I believe is all part of the risk that God is willing to take with us. Perhaps the challenges we confront both great and small provide us with opportunities to  discipline our hearts to the spirit of faith that God has given us. If we accept the gifts of God (Isa. 11:2-3′ 1 Cor. 12:1-11) without respect to its power and authority that we may discipline our lives in faith, we diminish our own fulfillment and restrict the fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) that it bears. Thus, we risk becoming like a loose canon crashing the sides of our own boat given to self-destruction. Storms may come suddenly, they may make us lose direction, they may even paralyze us with fear, but they are never insurmountable. Through Christ, God has already defeated the storms and in faith we have only to rest in God’s peace believing that absolute faith always protects absolutely.

Mark 4: 35-41 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace Be Still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid?”

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain…There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return… open wide your hearts also.

Psalm 9:10 Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, for you never forsake those who seek you O Lord.

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Saving Acts In Faith

A story called “Ninety-Three” written by Victor Hugo tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this new noise came from a cannon, part of the ship’s cargo, that had broken loose. It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink, two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from a loose cannon was greater than the fury of the storm. Storms of life may blow about us, but it is not the exterior storms such as the one that rose upon the disciples while Christ was sleeping in the stern that pose the gravest danger. It is our faith, which has loosened and ultimately broken away from the gift of the spirit within us that leaves us vulnerable.  Instead we become attached to doubt, fear, distraction and disillusionment which seem to engulf our lives in Christ. Although furious storms outside may be raging, what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our lives. Much like the sailors, at times we must be willing to take the risk of saving acts in faith continually in this journey because our hope lies in regaining and holding fast to that which keeps us reconciled in God’s peace as we wait out the storm.

The Other Side: Claiming God’s Peace

Jesus, the Word made flesh, the one in whom we believe, said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side” and the disciples agree to go (Mark 4:35-41). At this point the disciples had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t make it until a storm arose. After waking Jesus from sleeping in the stern of the boat they immediately questioned him “ Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus responds; “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Are these not the same two questions we must ask over in our hearts today as we face unexpected storms in our own life? We know that submitting in fear to an overwhelming situation isn’t the answer, and yet we forget that simply submitting the situation to God is. Thus, when our comfort level in life becomes distracted, falling back into unproductive behavior is often a form of fear; keeping us from moving forward in this journey. We know that God never promised us a storm-free life. In fact he assures us that we will encounter many storms (Matt 5:1-12). However, I believe in some ways his sleeping in the stern is a form of command to stop trying to fight battles we most assuredly can not win on our own, claim God’s peace and confess that God is with us! Blessedly assured that when the storm is over we will find our selves on the other side, not only as survivors but victors as well.

Worth Waiting For

In spite of it all, our history, traditions and reasoning, God seems confident that we, his creation are worth waiting for. Yet we make him wait for our affection, compassion, commitment and ultimately our love. Perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a risk at all, at least not on God’s part but rather a challenge. Dare we open our hearts as children, that we may receive it fully and completely so as not to allow the obstacles of the storms, fears and doubts, overwhelm our desire to travel this Christian journey in peace? The alternative of course is to do what many of us have done and receive it conditionally and with restriction in our lives, in that as long as we experience the good without disturbance we are all too eager to acknowledge it’s power and authority. Soon afterward mistakenly believing that it doesn’t matter what we do or whether we do anything at all the spirit is favorably guiding us. Subsequently, when the storms come (especially the the sudden ones) we tend to feel as if they are a personal attack specifically against us resulting in the all too well-known disparaging thoughts; “Why me? and Where is God in all of this?” While the Holy Spirit has no respect of person, the reality is that neither do the storms. Whether we walk into the storms willingly or whether they come upon us without warning, we are the ones who happen to be in its way. Either way the challenge is to hold fast to the power and authority of the Holy Spirit while in the midst of the storm, which historically and traditionally submits to that over which it ultimately has no authority or power.

Risking the Holy Spirit

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the gift of the spirit was specifically anointed on certain people. Not until the New Testament is the gift of the spirit poured out on the world both Jewish and Gentile. In retrospect, from a human point of view, making the gift of the Holy Spirit available for anyone seems to me a huge risk on God’s part. For those who believe in its power and authority, such a gift in the wrong hands can prove devastating to the one who possesses it, if not properly used. Certainly in biblical times there were many who did just that, using trickery, and false witness to convince others of their authority thus causing people to turn away from God’s truth. (And) Even now when storms, distractions or disillusionment happens we become vulnerable to the trickery, and false witness of this day as well, and we turn away from what God has promised. But what about God’s point of view?  Though we can’t presume to know God’s thoughts, the fact that Pentecost occurred and given the gift of the Holy Spirit through his son; who does such a magnanimous, and some would say awesome, philanthropic act as to make available a free gift with such power and authority? I have to ask of myself, how is it that a gift so generously given, when received is either selectively used or used with severe abuse? Surely God already knew at least by that point that the risks were at best 50/50, some believing, while others just shrug it off. As time moves on, of course the risks become greater as some, believers and non-believers, now claim to possess the spirit without evidence of really having it. Surely today with all of the distractions and disillusionment of what we see and what really is; the thought of the Holy Spirit reconciling our hearts to the mind of God in the midst of struggle (storm, distractions, doubt, fear etc.) seems like an overwhelming task, yet clinging to the hope of this ultimate goal continues to live on today. As the world turns and we become more attached to tangible things, our journey toward reaching the intangible seems harder and longer to reach. Perhaps however, in God’s way of thinking, abandoning this hope even if only for a few was never an option and it seems that Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit) perhaps, is not God’s ultimate act towards his creation. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of taking the risk?

 

Faith: A Spiritual Place

Today perhaps we are the seed, but rest assured eventually, like Christ, Moses, David, the Disciples, Paul and the rest, God also intends us to be the sower. As the child who comes full circle in her relationship with a parent, our reconciliation with God is a process of challenges, questioning and growth, and graciously the seed that is sown is our faith in God. Eventually that faith becomes like home; a familiar place that we, and others will come back to time and again. Faith is the key that encourages us to knock and opens the doors that we by our selves would not have otherwise confronted. Faith is the confidence in knowing that in spite of our selves we will move forward because even through us, surely our God can do anything.

Mark 4: 26-34 The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 

Living Out The Parable

When Christ wanted us to heed what he had to say he told a story. Jesus called it a parable. Although all parables have meaning, they don’t always have benefit to the hearer. One must be able to understand its meaning. Jesus said, (Mark 4:26-29) “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” The harder we try in this journey to take the fate of our own lives into our own hands, when fall, the greater the redemption in our own eyes seems to be. (But) our redemption, becomes our testimony; our own story about the seed that was planted and the growth through our experiences in the world that needed to take place. God’s presence of that seed, allows us to see that our fate has always been in God’s hands and that our fate is destined for something larger and more valuable than even we could imagine. It is then that the parables of the Kingdom are no longer riddled with metaphors to be deciphered. When we realize that the parables have taken on different meanings for us at various times in our lives, no longer are we prodigal but instead reconciled in our understanding of who God is and has always been. As we examine our selves in this journey and our own “perfect” imperfectness with the world, sometimes it is difficult to see what God sees in us. But when we consider the earthly relationship and its ultimate cycle of realization, which brings us back to the knowledge that indeed our Father can do anything, the Kingdom becomes clearer as we are able to see our selves in the parables for the benefit our own learning and ultimate growth.

Crossroad

As we face this world, at some point we realize that what we know to be true within in us, the world has sown with doubt. The world has sown with fear and the those whose heart is in the world doesn’t know Our Father! Even the most righteous who face this world have moments of fear and doubt. Remember Samuel’s brief moment with fear of Saul and his subsequent assumption about who God’s chosen anointed would be? So too with us, before we realize it, the seed of the Father’s love can seem small in comparison to what we see and experience in the World. (But) Paul reminds us that what God gives us is always sufficient (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Even the little that we know of God from the very beginning is more powerful and has more authority than anything the world has to offer, which as you know has a lot to offer. It is no secret to God that we may sometimes become wasteful, extravagant, self-important or foolish. Yet we have to remember that the first true seed of love that God plants within us is powerful enough to bring us out of whatever situation that has seemingly overwhelmed our lives. (And) It doesn’t matter how long it takes us to come to our selves and take hold of this one true faith, because, not only is God anxious to forgive us, he is even more anxious to redeem us; to give back what we allowed our experience in the world to steal. Although the seed of our faith hasn’t been taken away, we ceased allowing its effectiveness to manifest in our lives. Where we go at this crossroad of understanding makes all the difference as to the journey that surely lies before us.

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 

Parenthood

Having recently celebrated Father’s Day, I find that parenthood itself is always a good metaphor for helping us to understand some of what God experiences with us. (And) As I was seeking for something to reflect on for this message to today I came across an article written by Anne Landers that is somewhat suspiciously disguised in the relationship of our own spiritual journey. It is a collection of personal thoughts as a child grows through life. I changed a few of the words to reflect a more contemporary voice. It goes something like this:

When I was

– 4 years old – My dad can do anything.

– 5 years old – My dad knows a whole lot.

– 6 years old – My dad is smarter than your dad.

– 8 years old – My dad doesn’t know exactly everything.

-10 years old – In the olden days when my dad grew up, things sure were different.

-12 years old – Oh, well, naturally, dad doesn’t know anything about that. He is too old to remember.

-14 years old – OMG Don’t pay any attention to my dad. He is so old-fashioned.

-21 years old – Him?  Oh God, he’s hopelessly out of   date.

-25 years old  – Dad knows a little bit about it, but then he should because he has been around so long.

-30 years old  – Maybe we should ask dad what he thinks. After all, he’s had a lot of   experience.

-35 years old  – I’m not doing a single thing until I talk to dad.

-40 years old  – I wonder how dad would have handled it. It seems the older I get the wiser my   dad becomes.

-50 years old: – My dad can do anything.

What happened in the years between birth and mature adulthood? Is it not enduring love now mixed with heartfelt understanding? In the same way that we endure the process of our children’s maturity, God endures our process of spiritual maturity. Regardless of how old we are when we come in to an understanding of this relationship with our heavenly Father we enter in as infants, new born babes; as Paul puts it, new creations in awe of God’s overwhelming love for us, an adoption of which we’ve never before experienced. The good news is that God is patient with us in that growth even when we aren’t.

The One True Seed Of Faith

How fortunate it is for us that God looks at the heart of humankind. In scripture, God makes it quite clear as to what really matters. It’s not about what you see, nor is it about size either in numbers or physical grandeur. Certainly in our biblical history we have so many examples, Moses the murderer against the Egyptians, David the stripling and future adulterer against the Philistines, Peter who blatantly denies the truth before the Jewish people, and let’s not forget Paul the powerful self-righteous condemner against the Christian faith. The fact remains today as it did over two thousand years ago; and God said it first. He takes what we may see as imperfect and makes it perfect. What is small and seemingly insignificant in our eyes he destines for great things, all of which is for his purpose and for his glory. This in my belief is part of the mystery of redemption and reconciliation. (Because) In this Christian journey what ordinarily begins as a reawakening; a rebirth of the spirit can quickly become insignificant as we become increasingly prodigal. It is here that the significance of sowing seed makes the difference. What is most wonderful is that we have only to begin with the belief in the first true seed that is sown in us, despite our selves, fears and our failures, and hold on to that belief; that one true seed of faith, even in the midst of what seems like an insurmountable struggle.

1 Samuel 16:7 “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”