Fear ‘and’ Faith

Fear. It’s an interesting thing when it comes to leadership. My last post made a few people think I was afraid to step out in faith – afraid to do what God has called me to do. It’s true! I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of walking away from a regular paycheck one day to follow this dream. I’m afraid of not being able to provide for my wife and child. I’m afraid I am misinterpreting God. I’m afraid of a whole bunch of things.

But (and maybe I should make that a great BIG “BUT”)

I’m even more afraid of just living from one day to the next – just existing. I’m more afraid of not being faithful in the little things and therefore forfeiting the amazing dreams God has for me. I’m more afraid of disappointing Him and of not being all that He has called me to be. I’m afraid of not drinking in the whole of God’s plan for me – of missing out on something. This is the kind of fear I can live with. And you know what I call that kind of fear?? I call it faith.

Anne Lamott talks about how fear and faith live together. Some people say that those two can’t be in the same room, but for me (and for her too) I’ve never stepped out on faith and not had fear lurking somewhere. Isn’t that what faith is? Stepping out in spite of the fear? Or even stepping into the fear?

This quote is appropriate to me. It’s my prayer that my life can reflect the ideas represented here.

It’s a famous quote which is sometimes wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am afraid that God has made me “powerful beyond measure” and that I won’t live into it. I do not plan on “playing small” or “shrinking” but I plan to at least attempt to “make manifest the glory of God that is within me.” I hope that as I do it, others including my own son Kasen, will be “liberated from his fears” too. I hope to instill a sense of calling, adventure, and courage in him. And even if I fail in regards to chasing this church plant lion, it will still accomplish this: Kasen will have known a father who eagerly and persistently pressed on to God’s call.  And I believe that will be enough to inspire and encourage him to chase his dreams and lions.

I will live my life in fear – fear of not being all God wants me to be. And because of this fear, I will live by faith – faith in the one who is calling me, Jesus Christ.

 

Spiritual Gifts Assessment

Gift Over the years, I’ve done quite a few different spiritual gifts assessments. The one we did tonight in class was a “blind” test. (One where you don’t know what gifts you’re answering about) It also included a large list of gifts and defined them a bit differently than the one I normally wok with. Here are the scores I got tonight:

Leadership – 24
Teaching – 23
Faith – 23
Pastoring – 21
Hospitality – 19
Exhortation – 17
Wisdom – 17
Administration – 16
Prophecy – 12
Evangelism – 12
Mercy – 10
Giving – 6
Service – 5

The test I normally use only checks for what they describe as the “motivational gifts,” which includes only 7 gifts: Teaching, Perceiving, Exhortation, Administration, Giving, Serving, and Compassion. Each time I’ve taken that one I end up with Exhortation and Teaching as my highest scores. Interestingly enough they define exhortation a little differently – in this test, it is a combination of encouraging and pastoring. The test I took tonight pretty well matches what I’ve seen before if you take that into account.

Certainly interesting results considering the kinds of things God has been placing on my heart lately. Hmm????

Adventurous Faith

Scuba07editI have always been drawn to an adventure. There are so many things I want to experience in life – all of which seem like adventures to me – I wanna bungy jump, skydive, scuba dive the great barrier reef, go spelunking, maybe even heli-skiing. I want to see lions, elephants, and kangaroos in their natural habitat. I’d love to travel to see all the wonders of the world. I want to write a book someday, and drive over 150 miles/hour on the autobahn. I want to run with the bulls, and go on a cattle drive like on City Slickers. I want to fight Darth Vader off with my light saber. (OK – maybe that one’s a stretch) I would love to be able to risk everything I have in order to be a part of something God called me to. Something like planting a church. I want to do it all. I want to get to the end of this life and feel like I had done all there was to do.

Here’s the good news for me!

J. Oswald Sanders says, “Vision leads to venture, and history is on the side of venturesome faith.” (Chapter 8, pg 57, Spiritual Leadership)

Inapit
Mark Batterson writes about this kind of risk-taking faith in His book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” He talks about how the Biblical definition of faith and the worlds definition seem at odds. Usually when you hear  the word “faith” being used, it’s in terms like: “He is so faithful to the Word.” “She stood her ground against those guys and stayed faithful to our traditions.” It’s usually used in some sort of defensive stance, but the Bible talks about faith in very different terms. Batterson calls our attention to the parable of the talents. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” is spoken to the guys who took a risk. Faith is offensive rather than defensive. The play-it-safe guy was called wicked and lazy. Faith is actually defined as risky!! Now that makes me happy. That means the life that I’ve always dreamed of is actually what God is calling me to. I hope I get to the end of life and God says, “Well done, good and faithful (risk-taking – hyper-hopeful – crazy – what-were-you-thinking? – Jesus-believing – go-after-it-all – offensive – gutsy) servant.”

Pray that my wife can live with me.

Jedi Theology

This is a paper I had to write for my class. It’s a bit more interesting than some of my other posts lately.

Starwars
It was 1977. I was eight years old and my dad was taking my younger brother and I to the movies. Just going to the movies at all was a rare treat, but this was a special day. I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to a young boy, for this day to arrive. I had heard about the hype and commotion over this film, and there was something in me that just longed for adventure. Maybe it’s something God placed within me – maybe it’s just my sinful self wanting for something more – but either way, that day would not be a disappointment. I remember leaving the theater that day with such excitement – feeling like something had changed – like nothing would ever be the same. What I felt was a sense of something larger, like the world wasn’t just about me anymore. There was more to it. My little corner of the universe was just that. . . little. What I was feeling – what I had experienced was just a microcosm of what the world was celebrating. Star Wars mania hit with resounding blows. Every friend I had was collecting Star Wars cards and action figures and quoting lines from the films to each other – and it wasn’t just the little kids like me either, it was universal. It was huge. It was larger than life. It was Star Wars! Today the Star Wars kingdom has exploded into so much more. There are on-line communities who explore the “expanded universe” (including books, video games, etc. which were not a part of the films) together and even argue over the finer details of the films. There are an ever-increasing number of action figures and Star Wars merchandise on the shelves at stores and even television shows that parody the films.

As I look back on those days, I ask myself, “What was it about Star Wars that resonated in such deep ways with people all over the world?” I believe that the answer to that question can be found in how the themes of the films line up with the longings of the human heart which God placed within each of us. Although the writer, George Lucas was simply trying to tell a good story, these films actually point to God. (Maybe that speaks of the longings of Lucas’ heart too.) Speaking of his intentions with Star Wars in an interview, Lucas said, “I wanted it to be a traditional moral study, to have some sort of palpable precepts in it that children could understand.” He continued, “There is always a lesson to be learned. . .Traditionally, we get them from church, family, art and in the modern world, we get them from the media – – from movies.” Later on in his career, Lucas said, “The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. . . . . I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as ‘thou shalt not kill.’ I don’t want to hurt other people. ‘Do unto others…’ is the philosophy that permeates my work.”

It becomes evident that Lucas wasn’t specifically writing about the God of the Bible, but I intend to point out many of the places where his Methodist upbringing reveals itself. Although there are many illustrations from each of the six films, I will limit myself to Episode IV, “A New Hope” which was the first film to be made.

In the beginning of Episode IV, we meet Luke Skywalker. He is a young man who feels trapped by his circumstances. He senses that there is more to life than the crops and equipment repairs that he has learned under his uncle Owen. Luke, like every Christian, has a calling on his life. He’s not sure what it is, but feels an unrest and restlessness, until he finds rest in seeking the ways of the Jedi. This longing, this calling is described by C.S. Lewis, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. [So] I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This longing is also described by Blaise Pascal as a “God-shaped vacuum” or in Ecclesiastes 3:11, God says that He has “set eternity in their hearts.” God is calling each of us into relationship with Himself even in the way He created us. Like us, Luke would not find rest until he found it in his calling.

It’s also interesting to note that Luke was tired of the normal life he had been leading. John Eldridge says, “In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” I believe that this is true – little boys play and imagine their future as warrior heroes, firemen, and athletes who’s lives are filled with one adventure after another. How many little boys dream of being office desk jockeys? If this is true, then Luke was given an opportunity to chase those desires in ways that every man longs for. Eldridge continues, “If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that ‘the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name'(Ex. 15:3).”

In one scene, Luke, with light saber in hand, is concentrating on a silver sphere which hovers in the air. Without warning, the sphere lunges forward and emits a small electric bolt hitting Luke in the hip. Han Solo laughs saying that no light saber can compare to a good blaster. Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi and new friend of Luke’s just smiles on as Han rants about his doubts concerning the “Force.” Obi-Wan places a helmet on Luke’s head with the blast shield down and encourages him to try again. Luke complains that he can’t see anything, but Obi-Wan continues to encourage him saying, “This time let go of your conscience self and act on instinct.” He continues, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” Luke gets hit again, but then settles in and concentrates. He moves quickly without hesitation, and blocks the sphere three times in a row. “You see,” said Obi-Wan, “You can do it.”

Luke replies, “You know I did feel something. I could almost see the remote!”

“That’s good.” Obi-Wan smiles, “You have taken your first step into a larger world.”

A larger world. Isn’t that exactly what Luke had been looking for? Are we any different? It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, young people want to be somewhere else – somewhere unknown – someplace new – someplace different. We all long for more – for adventure. I can’t help but notice that what it took for him to take his first step into this new world was a little faith. Faith that he could hit the sphere without his eyes. Just as Obi-Wan led Luke into this kind of life-changing faith, Jesus came to lead us there too. What is faith? Well, according to Star Wars, it’s trust in yourself, your “instinct.” As Christians we can’t ascribe to that, but at least they got the trust part right. For us, it’s trust in Jesus. Luke had to trust Obi-Wan’s leadership and he had to “let go of his conscience self.”
This part we can agree with. Letting go of ourselves, we must trust Jesus. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Another place that we see clear spiritual implications in Star Wars is with the systems of the Jedi Council. According to Genesis, man was created in the image of God, and as such, we are not loners – we need each other. In the same way, God Himself is a community – Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The structures of the Jedi reflect this. According to Timothy Paul Jones, “Every Jedi needs guidance and no Jedi stands alone. Every youngling has a teacher, every Padawan has a guide. Not only do the Jedi draw wisdom from living mentors, but they also absorb the teachings of past masters.” This echoes the rabbinical educational systems of the Bible. Ancient Jews knew community in ways that we have lost over the years. A young man who sought to be educated would go to a Rabbi and begin to live under his “yoke” (teaching). In a very real sense, it was the rabbi’s job to train this young man in the way of the masters. Not unlike the Jedi, the rabbis themselves had been trained by learned men and continued to seek and “absorb the teachings of past masters by studying the Scriptures. I personally believe that this helps to explain the popularity Star Wars. We all long for this kind of community and the Jedi council seems to be a form of family that is healthy. Jones continues saying, “Every part of a Jedi’s existence is inherently communal, a matter of doing life together.” I wonder how the Christian community would be different if we truly sought this kind of existence. If we each were involved in small groups who were honest about their lives, encouraged one another, gave advise to one another, held each
other accountable to the Scriptural guidelines we claim to hold so high? What kind of group would it take for us to find a true community that we respected enough to actually seek their counsel? At one point in Episode 6, (I know. . . I am limiting my argument to Episode 4, but please allow me this indulgence.) Emperor Palpatine tells Luke that his weakness is his “faith in your friends.” I long to be accused of being that kind of friend. It’s no wonder we all relate to Luke so well – he’s the kind of guy we all wish to be and to have as a friend.

Another scene in “A New Hope” also stands out for me for its’ spiritual implications. Han Solo, Chewy, Luke, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are in the Millennium Falcon and chasing a small fighter when they come across a “small moon.” As they approach they realize, “That’s no moon,” but it’s a space station. We know it now as the “Death Star.” As they approach they get caught in its’ “tractor beam” (also called a grappling ray) and cannot fight against it. The only way to escape is for Obi-Wan to make his way to the main reactor (where the tractor beam drew its power) and shut down one of its’ seven links. The “Death Star” is without a doubt a clear representation of the power of evil. As Christians, it always amazes me at how Satan seeks us out to “steal, kill, and destroy us.” Much like the tractor beam, when we’ve come too close, he draws us in and seeks to turn us to the “dark side.” Without the aid of Jesus (a spiritual Master similar to Obi-Wan) we could never get out of Satan’s clenches. There are many other comparisons between Obi-Wan and Jesus, but I’ll stick with just two: (1) Luke Skywalker’s life is completely changed when he meets Obi-Wan and begins his Jedi training. In the same way, Jesus transforms us and trains us in the proper ways to live. (2) It’s also interesting to note that Obi-Wan dies in Episode IV and is actually stronger in death than even in life. Much like the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent after His death/resurrection, Obi-Wan appears as a spirit to Luke and speaks to him to give him strength and guidance during the rebel’s trench attack on the Death Star.

Darth Vader is still another clear representation of evil or Satan. Throughout the film, he recognizes the potential in Skywalker, and seeks to turn him to the “dark side.” Satan works in similar ways trying to position himself in such a way that we would respond to him favorably. Douglas LeBlanc says, “This is realistic filmmaking, for few of us merely stumble into doing evil. Often because of fear, pain or a sense of helplessness we lash out.” Dick Staub adds another dimension saying, “Darth Vader was persistent in his pursuit of Luke Skywalker, desiring to turn him from a potentially powerful foe to a deceived ally, a relationship that parallels the dark side’s hounding of the Jedi Christian. . . There is Hope. Julian of Norwich warned, ‘Jesus said not: thou shalt not be troubled, thou shalt not be tempted, nor thou shalt not be mistreated. But he said: thou shalt not be overcome.’

One of the enjoyable aspects of Star Wars is the clear distinction between good and evil. It’s not difficult to realize that Darth Vader and all of the Empire are the “bad guys” and that Luke, the rebel alliance, and the Jedi are the “good guys.” This also aids in the appeal of these films. It’s easy to imagine yourself in the struggle when the battle lines are drawn so clearly. Unfortunately, the world we live in has a difficult time with making these distinctions because Satan has attempted to redraw those lines. Through our daily news, we witness parents who abuse their children, preachers who cheat on their wives, and all sorts of other contradictions. It’s not as hard as Satan wants us to think though. Like Star Wars, Paul spells it out pretty clearly saying, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” With the battle lines drawn so clearly, I find myself wanting to join the rebel alliance against the evil forces of sin in this world. Would you join me in my struggle?

There are so many more examples of Christian theology in the Star Wars films, but I will not tackle any more for now. Notice the implications of some of these quotes from the other films:

Luke: “I don’t. . .I don’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.” (Episode V)

Luke: “I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda: “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (Episode V)

Qui-Gon Jinn: “Our meeting was not a coincidence. Nothing happens by
accident.” (Episode I)

Qui-Gon Jinn: “Nothing happens by accident. . .Finding [Anakin] was the will of
the Force.” (Episode I)

Anakin Skywalker: “I’ve become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed
of.” (Episode III)

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You have made a commitment to the Jedi Order, Anakin. A
commitment not easily broken.” (Episode II)

Yoda: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” (Episode
III)

Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to
hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Episode I)

Luke: “Father, please. Help me.” (Episode VI)

Luke: “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

Yoda: “You will know. When you are calm, at peace.” (Episode V)

To summarize, let’s do a quick overview. It seems that “Star Wars” resonated with people because of the deep desires that God has placed within us as humans. George Lucas himself has those longings and therefore, Star Wars reflects them. Those longings are personified in Luke Skywalker who dreams of a life of adventure and purpose. As he learns to trust Obi-Wan Kenobi, he steps into a larger world and begins his journey to becoming a Jedi. Christians must also take these steps into a new life by trusting in Jesus and beginning their journey to becoming a disciple. Like God Himself, the Jedi Council and educational structures are practiced in community. We Christians must also find community for encouragement, accountability, and strength. Satan’s pursuit and power are personified in Darth Vader and the Death Star, but we find hope in overcoming them in Christ. As Obi-Wan made the way for our heroes to escape, Jesus has made our escape from sin possible by his work on the cross. As Obi-Wan’s death led to greater strength in a spiritual form, so Christ’s death and resurrection have brought about the gift of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live as Christian Jedi Masters.

“Star Wars” was an epic film which inspired people all over the world to imagine and dream! As they watched, they believed in the heroes and rooted them on. The battle between good and evil is an epic battle! Will you join the forces with me in the struggle? Will you believe in the hero (Jesus) and root Him on? It’s an adventure that we all live. My prayer is that you’ll live it on my side of the battle line, ’cause in the end. . . . . . JESUS WINS!!!!!

New Series of Posts

Alright – so for my next class at school (Theology 3331) I’m supposed to make 20 journal entries covering 20 different theological concepts. I’m also supposed to answer the question “How will I change my life in view of this concept?” (I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to do that part on some of these questions ’cause I don’t believe in some of them. (You’ll understand what I mean later when you see the topics.) I’m guessing that’s what my next 20 posts will be. It amazes me how often this school stuff (which I really love) gets in the way of other things I enjoy. I really don’t read much anymore just for fun ’cause I have to read so much for class and now I’m not even gonna be blogging too much for fun. Oh well, I’ll be done with this class in 5 weeks, so there’s still time.

Prideful Paul

I always thought it was a bit prideful of Paul to write things like – “follow my example” (1 Cor 11:1) and “join with others in following my example” (Php 3:17). Anyway, he says things like this throughout Scripture and it always bothered me a little, but last night in our small group it came up again and I think I finally understood it. One of the guys explained that in those days they didn’t have the Bible (well, not as we know it) – most people couldn’t read the letters that they did have either. Jesus had already resurrected too, so there really was no way for someone to know how to live out their faith except in watching someone else do it. Paul was trying to live his life in such a way that others could look at him and know how to live as a Christian.

Just as a father tries to live as an example to his children, Paul was doing the same. The idea of following someone’s example was not a foreign concept for the Jews either – the whole rabbinical system was based upon “becoming” like the rabbi. Jesus Himself taught his followers to do as they had seen Him do. (John 13:15). Anyway, all this is to say that Paul wasn’t just a big headed guy, he was simply trying to teach others how to live out their faith, and he used the same technique as their culture had been accustomed to.

UM ARMY

Our UM ARMY camp this year is using 1 Timothy 4:12 as their theme. It says, ” Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believes in speech, life, love, faith and purity.” This is a classic “youth ministry” verse which has been used for camps for years and years. It lays out really well to focus on each of the five examples for a week long theme too. (Anyway, I thought it was funny ’cause we’re studying Paul’s epistles right now at school too.) The director of the programs for the week sent me an e-mail asking me to put together a banner for each day’s theme. I used a program called the “rasterbator” (weird name huh?) to take the work I did on the computer and blow up the images to about 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide. The youth helped me put all the printed pages together today to make the large pictures. They turned out pretty well. Here are the images that we used. (I’ll attach them here tomorrow when I have the files.) UmarmyspeechUmarmyactions

Umarmylove_2 Umarmyfaith Umarmypurity

Jesus – for the Jews or Gentiles?

Jesus Clearly the answer is that He came for both, but I still have some questions about Jesus which were raised by something I learned last night.

Matthew 10:5 – Jesus sends out the disciples to tell people that the Kingdom is near, but He tells them to only go to the Jews.

Matthew 28 – Jesus sends them out again, but this time to everyone. All nations, tribes, and tongues.

What changed?

Check Matthew 15:21-28:

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Remember that the Jews hated the Canaanites, and this was not only a Canaanite, but also a woman. She called Him “Lord, Son of David” before the Jews had recognized Him as the Messiah. You’d think Jesus would commend her for her faith and all, but instead He basically says, “I’m here for the Jews, not for you.” Then she worships Him and recognizes Him as God and Jesus calls her a dog. Did you catch that? Jesus called her a dog. That’s not the way I always pictured Jesus, but that’s exactly what He did. Her answer is something like: “But what if the Jews don’t want what you have? Can’t I just get a little of what’s left over?” At this point Jesus commends her faith and heals her daughter. By the way, remember that when Jesus speaks to the disciples (Jews) he says, “You of little faith. . .” but when He talks to her he says, “You have great faith!”

Now, clearly there has been some sort of change that we see played out in these verses. God’s plan for the Jews has now been extended to the Gentiles. Or maybe it’s a whole different plan. But here’s the deal: I don’t understand some things: Did Jesus change His mind because of this woman? For that matter, if God is sovreign, can He change His mind? If not, why did Jesus think that He was just for the Jews at first and then later realize (like He didn’t know) it was much larger than that? Did He really believe He was just for the Jews or did He know it was gonna get bigger? Was He just saying that at first even though He knew that His crucifixion was gonna be for the Gentiles too?

One thought I have to help answer this question is that in Chapter 10 when He first sends them out, Jesus is talking about the prophesied Jewish Kingdom. Maybe that’s why He didn’t want them to go to the Gentiles – I mean – you know – the Gentiles wouldn’t care about a Jewish Kingdom anyway. But what about this woman? This still doesn’t explain this change we see take place in Him in this incident. Clearly it’s still a “Jewish Kingdom” message that He is speaking to her about, but it is inferred by His words and actions (healing the daughter) that she has somehow entered into this kingdom like a dog under the table.

Another thought is that God’s agenda for the Gentiles and what would soon become the church began here in these verses. This means that God has a Kingdom agenda that He is working for the Jews and simultaneously, He has this church thing going for the Gentiles. But is this the beginning of that?

Throughout the Scriptures, we see that salvation comes by faith. Clearly, this woman has faith when the Jews hadn’t even come to that yet. Is this why Jesus says later, “Go and make disciples of all nations”? I dunno – it’s all a bit confusing for me. Maybe some of you can help me figure this one out.

Hans? You’re a big seminary student – what insight can you bring?

The Word became Flesh

The idea of Jesus becoming flesh is a pretty basic tenant of our faith. It’s sometimes called the incarnation, but I heard something the other day, that made me think of it a bit differently. What if the incarnation is God’s example to us? Duh. That’s probably what He meant all along, but I’m so stupid that this is a new thought for me. The Word became flesh – What about our words? Are they just words? or do they actually become flesh and get played out in our lives? Our my words incarnated into my life? What if all of them were? Some would not be good, but other. . . . wow! What if I could live the way I talk? Or even better – what if I lived to incarnate Jesus’ words? Could His words become fleshed out in my life? How would my life look differently? How cool would that be?

Prayer: Lord, help your “word” to become “flesh” in my life. Help me to flesh out Your Word and live it in an authentic way. May Your Word become flesh again as I live this life.

Abraham

Last night was a crazy night. We were getting all kinds of warnings about the weather and the news people were saying not to get out in it all. It was supposed to freeze, and schools were shutting down. But I had class. I really have enjoyed the classes I’ve been taking and so even with all the warnings and an hour and a half drive, I decided to go anyway. I called ahead to make sure we were going to have class before I left, and they said they were so I headed out.

As I drove, I listened to a couple of sermons by Rob Bell. (That has kinda become my habit on the way to school. I get Rob’s latest teaching every week that way.) The roads weren’t too bad. Certainly not as bad as I had expected after all the hype the news people were making – I didn’t see any ice at all. When I got to school, I heard that we were having class, but that Dr Loken wasn’t there and we’d be watching a movie. I was dramatically disappointed. (Wow that’s a nice alliteration – “dramatically disappointed” – Can you say A.D.D.? Sorry.)

Abraham We sat for two and a half hours and watched “Abraham” with Richard Harris. Every time he spoke I couldn’t help but hear Caesar from the movie “Gladiator.” It was a pretty good movie. There were lots of parts that they had to write in and guess about how things might have been, but it still followed the Biblical text for the most part. The scene at the end of the movie where Abraham is tested and is asked to sacrifice his son Issac was interesting – Issac is portrayed as understanding what Abraham is going to do and even tells him to tie him up tighter. I never imagined it quite like that. I always figured that Abraham had to wrestle his son to the ground to tie him up. Maybe the sense of honoring your parents that they instilled in their children was greater than what we see today – wait, I’m sure it was – but I’m just not sure about how much more ti was. Could Isaac have offered himself to his dad and ultimately to the Lord like that?

I did take special note of what Abraham said to his servants as I watched last night. They accurately portrayed him as saying that he and the boy would go up the mountain to worship and then they’d both return, but Abraham spoke these things with a fearful and trembling tone – it almost seemed as if He didn’t believe they’d both return. I’m sure it would be normal to be fearful about the whole situation, but this is the moment of faith that He is commended for in Hebrews, and He believed in God’s promise (that He’d make a great nation of him) so much that He thought Isaac would be raised from the dead.

Half It’s interesting to me that both faith and doubt were so clearly co-existing in this situation, but Abraham chose to act on the faith. In this moment, even though the Jewish faith doesn’t yet exist, Abraham is half Jewish (faithful) and half Gentile (doubtful) on the outside, but is still completely Jewish on the inside – in His heart, He remains faithful.

The truth is that, for me, faith and doubt co-exist more often than not. Even in my best, most faithful moments, when I put on my game face and act on faith, my insides are twisting and turning, trembling and fearful. It’s in those moments when I put fear aside and trust in God – it’s in those moments when my faith is stretched, and doubt is defeated. If I imagine myself like Abraham – everything in my life culminating to one moment of choosing faith or doubt. What would I do? Can I put fear aside? Would I act on faith? It’s one thing to act in faith in a normal everyday sort of situation, but what about when my whole life’s journey is at stake? Would I stake my life on Christ? Would I stake my son’s life on Christ?

Prayer: Lord, I don’t know much. I know that You are all that I need. I know that You have provided for me over and over in my life. I know that You love me. I know that without You, I would never have any faith at all. I know that doubt consumes me when I’m on my own. I know that there’s a battle within me between doubt and faith. I’m grateful for the battle, because I know that means You’re in me. I also know that sometimes I let the doubt to win out in my life. Sometimes I even encourage it. Lord, change that part of me. I mean, I know You’re gonna win – there’s no battle that isn’t Yours for the taking. Lord, win in me. I trust that in the momnts where I must choose, You will show me Your way of faith. Lord, nudge me – No, push me – push me hard – throw me to the ground if You must – but make me go Your way – Let me walk in faith no matter what the cost. In those testing moments, I want to honor You. In every moment, I want to honor You. I want to honor You.