Monday, April 14, 2008

The Life Worth Dying For, Part 2

What does a life that follows the will of God look like? The book of Hebrews tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith (11:6), so a life lived in the will of God must be a life of faith. Building on that great passage from Hebrews is the entire 11th chapter, sometimes known as the "hall of faith" because of its descriptions of many great lives of faith.

We have many of the usual suspects, guys like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and even "lesser" characters like Rahab, stories that are rich in faith.  The writer of Hebrews describes all of these men and women like this:

Hebrews 11:33-35 (NIV)  
who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Women received back their dead, raised to life again. 

Isn't that what faith is all about?  When we think about the work of God in the world and in the Bible, these are the stories that get told and retold.  When faith acts then death is defeated, people escape from danger, the fire is extinguished, the battle is won.

I wish this story was the only story of faith, but it isn't.  I don't ever want you to think that these things don't still happen because I believe they still do, but I also believe God works in areas that are often less spectacular and are therefore overlooked.

Hebrews 11:35-40 (NIV)  
Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 

Now this doesn't match our traditional images of faith does it?  This sounds......awful.  Torture, death, poverty, insults, jeering are all mentioned for these people who lived commendable lives of faith.  I find it interesting that we don't get the names of these heroes of faith.  Why do you think that is?

Call me crazy, but I think it is because there are many more of the faith giants represented in the second passage than in the first.  Despite what we might think, the stories in the Bible are not everyday is not normal for David to defeat Goliath, that is what makes it extraordinary.  Usually, diseases run their course, the dead remain dead, the obstacle remains unmoved, and we are then forced to live with the consequences of those events.  Does that mean God is absent?  Of course not, but it certainly means we need to adjust what we sometimes think living by faith is all about.

It isn't about taking the easiest path.  God may be calling you to be one of the unnamed in this passage, the one willing to follow Him into the darkest and most dangerous of places, regardless of the consequences.

Is a life of faith supposed to be easy?  I would say no.  God is calling us to something much different than the usual life.  Our life is a journey, an adventure, a race.  

The story continues soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Life Worth Dying For, Part 1

It is hard to watch any type of programming and not come across some type of tragedy. CNN, MSNBC, FOX, every local news station...they all lead off with the worst news. Another death, another fire, one more broken family, one more seemingly unexplainable selfish act.

We have to wonder....when does this get easier? Life starts out with a process known as "labor" and it ends with the cruel event of death and never seems to get easier along the way. Is it supposed to be easy?

If you listen to some of the God talk in our culture, it seems like it should be. Both high profile preachers and everyday believers seem to think the dominant message of the scriptures is one of God smoothing out the journey and removing obstacles from our path. Trouble is seen as proof of God wanting you to go in a different direction because God would not want us to struggle. If you do have issues, sickness, financial problems...well, then you just need more faith.

Is this the truth? I hear this message and it hurts my heart because I know far too many God fearing men and women who have experienced some pretty awful things. Is the problem a lack of faith? I don't believe so.

I think we are missing something that is essential to our journey. But what is it?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

You hear that saying often this time of year as baseball season starts as fans of all teams rejoice the beginning of a new year and the promise of a successful team. It is amazing to me how otherwise rational people can talk themselves into rooting for a team they believe has no just seems to me that people gravitate toward feeling this type of hope.

But do you have hope in more important areas of life? It is pretty easy to root for a team; even if they lose it doesn't truly affect those of us who watch.  We can have hope in small areas but we can live hopeless lives everywhere else.  Maybe you have given up on having hope in your life.  You have been hurt too deeply, or feel like you have fallen far too short of your own expectations.

Why do we think that hope is an auxiliary desire of the human heart?  Hope is essential!  It is what sustains us and motivates us.  Why should you have hope?  Here are three reasons:

1: God has forgiven my past.  The greatest need you ever had was satisfied because Jesus came and willfully gave his life for you.  This means you are treasured by God.  It also means you don't have to live in guilt or shame anymore.  Hope lives where despair used to thrive.

2:  God has a purpose for the present.  You don't have to wander through life anymore.  God has a mission for you, a task that only you can accomplish.  The path you take, the places you set your feet are for you and you alone.  Be hopeful because if you are alive God still has a purpose for you.

3.  God has prepared a home for me in heaven.  The greatest hope of them all is the hope for eternity.  One day we will be reunited with those we have lost and we will finally see Jesus.  Our faith will be fulfilled in that moment, and our hope realized.  Everything in your life should be preparing you for that moment.

Is it possible that you have given up on hope too soon?

Don't give up.  Hope springs eternal!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Back in Action

Spring break was fantastic, baseball was on TV every single day, and the weather has gotten consistently warmer.  All good things!  I am working on a post for this afternoon, and I will continue regular posting from here on out.  

Hopefully you will be here, too!