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Posts Tagged ‘belief’

The crowd was disappointed in Jesus. He did not turn out to be the Messiah they wanted. He did behave as a warrior king.

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. [Luke 23:20-23, NIV]

disappointmentI had an unpleasant confrontation with my daughter about this very point, but in somewhat different terms. Relatively new to the contemporary and casual worship (having been exposed to Russian Orthodox practices most of her life), over the last couple of years, she was coming into a place of understanding and personal commitment. She was getting direction from the messages and found solace for her many losses as an teen adoptee. And then her father, my husband, died this past December. Her world crumbled and her faith faltered. After all, how many losses can a person take? I knew it was hard for her. But I thought she would bounce back. Today, I discovered otherwise. I could hear in her voice and her attitude that she felt betrayed by God. This God who supposedly “saved” her from her circumstances and yet plunge her into grief.

Jesus had stopped being the kind savior who had intended the best for her. Her seeds of faith had dried in the heat of sorrow.

How can I help her? Although my many years in my faith in God and Christ has sustained me through these months, she has not had the same foundation. She is disappointed like the crowds that day on the streets of Jerusalem. They wanted something else, not what God was offering, not what this Jesus was offering.

I grieve twice over now for my daughter. Nothing is the same and nothing will ever be same. I am sure the disciples were not much better. They scattered at the arrest of Jesus. Only a few came to his execution (John, Jesus’s mother, and Mary Magdalene, who believed). She believed he would survive the cross and live again. So much so, that even in the face of his death, she returned to the grave on Sunday morning, just in case, just in case. When the body was gone, she wavered (and for this reason perhaps, she did not recognized Him).

I believeDisappointment feeds upon our thoughts. We must consciously choose to believe in the face of the “evidence.”

I am reminded of the little girl from Miracle on 34th Street, who rides in the car in the last scene, repeating over and over again, “I believe, I believe, I believe.” Sometimes it simply takes that much.

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follower of ChristBecoming a follower of Christ was a choice. I did not choose under a haze of emotion or outside pressures or a well-meaning but overly enthusiastic “witness,” but upon completing my first cover to cover reading of the New Testament. The question that came to my mind was simple: Is Jesus the truth or a lie? And despite all my arguments, this one belief found root. Jesus is and was and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end [Revelation 22:13]. And when the chapter (and the book) ends with these words, “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” I accepted this Way. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord. [Joshua 24:14b-15, CEB] I cannot convince anyone of anything. I cannot “make” you or anyone believe what I believe. I can only speak of this core of Spirit that was born that day and has blossomed into an integral part of myself. Are there things I don’t understand? Of course. Do I ask for clarification? I do. And one day, I believe, though I “see through a glass darkly” still, I will have the fullness of wisdom. But for now, I will hold fast to my God, my Jesus. One of my beloved and venerated church mystics is Julian of Norwich. Some of her sayings capture my meaning today:

Julian of Norwich and her cat

Julian of Norwich and her cat

See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?” and

“Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.” [from Revelations of Divine Love]
and most well known of all,
 “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”
So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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askgodIn the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy. In that day, you won’t ask me anything. I assure you that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete. [John 16:22-24, CEB]

Won’t ask, ask, not asked, ask. What a strange passage with its combination of not asking and asking. Here’s my simple take on this: in the day of Christ’s return, we will not need to ask (we will get it), but until then, we can, not only ask, but ask with the name of Jesus as our co-requestor. Before Jesus, humans could not invoke His name or His consciousness, but now, we can.

I have had an additional bit of a revelation through the writings of Oswald Chambers on this matter.

We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. . . . To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. –Oswald Chambers [My Utmost for His Highest, Aug 28 entry]

In the days of “blab it and grab it” teachings, this selected verse in John was often used to encourage people to pray, in faith, for anything, including a new car, a job, a mate, etc. All was possible, as long as we believed and prayed this scripture. But now I see, most clearly, what is offered–a life within, one completely surrounded by the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus through the Holy Spirit (for it was the Spirit that given to us at His resurrection). How different the ask becomes then. What would God withhold? Nothing.

  • Create in me a clean heart, O God. [Psalm 51:10]
  • Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. [Psalm 4:1]
  • Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. [Psalm 86:11]
  • Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. [Psalm 119:34]
  • Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. [Psalm 30:2]

All for the asking.

To participate in an ongoing 2015 Lenten devotional, download the PDF here.

 

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Waiting is hard enough; now I understand I must wait with an attitude . . . a good one.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. [Psalm 27:13-14, NIV]

I’m thinking it’s really not about the waiting at all. I’m thinking the message is about faith, and once I am secure in the goodness and Presence of God, waiting becomes a by-product. I don’t need to be concerned about time or results then.

Confidence is built on a foundation of belief. This reality is not just in the spiritual realm but in anything I tackle. Of course, misplaced beliefs can morph into obsessions. Not good. In fact, the more I think about it, the only safe place for faith is in God alone. Despite their best efforts (including my own), people will disappoint, things will break, circumstances will change, colors will fade.

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

One other requirement: I must look (really look) to see the goodness of God in this world. My eyes are too often blinded; my brain so much in high gear, that I miss the moment. I miss the “yes” of life.

“But as for me, I enjoy shooting a picture. Being present. It’s a way of saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It’s like the last three words of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is one of the most tremendous works which have ever been written. It’s “Yes, yes, yes.” And photography is like that. It’s yes, yes, yes. And there are no maybes. All the maybes should go to the trash, because it’s an instant, it’s a moment, it’s there! And it’s respect of it and tremendous enjoyment to say, “Yes!” Even if it’s something you hate. Yes! It’s an affirmation.” [Henri Cartier-Bresson]

 

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Jesus and the crossWhen he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him,God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:31-35]

Surely they were all thinking that, “Where are you going, Jesus, that I can’t go? Haven’t we gone everywhere with you?” Well, except for all those times he went to pray alone or that time he walked on the water or that time he brought Lazarus from the dead or the time he overturned the tables of the moneychangers?

I think the real question they asked in those times may have been more like, “What are you doing?”

Isn’t that the natural response to someone (particularly a child/teen) who is participating some activity that is outside one’s personal “norm?” Or worse, illegal? Or worse, stupid! “What are you doing!?” It’s as though we actually believe, that perpetrator will turn around, look at us, and see the light! “Oh, of course, I shouldn’t be doing this.”

But that’s not how it works. Rarely does the observer, the other person get what is going on, whether it’s using a beer pong in your parents’ basement or predicting one’s death at the hand of the authorities. Or maybe it’s even less clear, like a toddler artistically decorating the hallway walls or a dog marking the new furniture or a kid experimenting with a raw egg in the microwave.

In that moment of discovery, it’s chaos in the head. How could, why would, when did, where did, who’s idea was this anyway?

As much as Jesus tried to explain how it would all work, the understanding of the acts, the miracles, the symbols, the sacrifices, the lectures, the parables, all of it… came later. There was too much to process. They’d be contemplating that event from the morning and then something else would happen at Noon. How do you respond to a miracle? How do you respond to a man who claims blood line with God? How do you believe that the same guy who raised people from the dead would die himself? Brain freeze.

When any pair of friends or now, children of friends, tell me they are planning to get married, I have one piece of advice: really look and remember. It will pass by you like a whirlwind and the next thing you know, the ceremony is over, the reception is over, and you’re sitting in at the pool or beach and wondering what just happened. It’s hard to pay attention when it’s happening to us!

The disciples and writers of Jesus’s life did the best they could. They tried to capture what it felt like not to understand, what it meant in the moment without projecting out to the end.

Today, I want to imagine the moment, the feeling of the first time, the loss of Jesus without the expectation of third day. But I also want to cherish human contact today, the touch of a hand, the look in the eye, the corporateness of faith.

I want to love God and love others.

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miraclesA man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child ” . . . Even while the boy was coming [toward Jesus], the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. [Luke 9:38; 42-43]

Oh, I know. It’s uncomfortable to talk about demons, the devil, miracles, and all that stuff outside our normal understanding of how stuff works. Some people can’t even stand the word “evil” as though excluding it from one’s vocabulary will make it non-existent.

And yet, I contend, if we have accepted any part of the Christ story, we must be willing to consider the reality of the other parts. In other words, there are ways that our lives can and are impacted outside of a three-dimensional world. There is a spirit world and within it, forces move in a way that we may not understand, but that does not mean they don’t exist.

In recent weeks, I was instructed by a doctor to read a book about the importance of the mind in regards to pain in my body. It’s not that the pain isn’t real, it’s that the pain is camouflage of other things going on and the mind, can indeed, intercept it. But I must be aware of this possibility before anything can happen differently. And I’m thinking miracles fall within this category, we have to have knowledge and acceptance of the possibility. This is the groundwork for healing. This is the groundwork for transformation.

It’s not important to know the “how,” but simply to surrender to the power of God to do.

What is even more interesting is that Christ empowers believers to do the same for others. Whoa! Prior to Jesus meeting up with the father and the demon-possessed boy, a few of the disciples had been given a crack at it. Nada. There was still a disconnect. This story is actually told in three of the gospels (Mark 9:37-45 and Matthew 17:14-23) and Jesus explains that both faith and prayer are the cornerstones of miracles. Not faith in ourselves, but faith in the God who has the power to do (or not do).

Of course, there is another truth I’m seeing in this passage. I know that miracles are wonderful, particularly for the suffering human. But I don’t believe that miracles happen for the sake of the person. They have to be within God’s purposes, God’s scope, God’s plan. That may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, if it were otherwise, ALL would be healed. We are not all healed. Sometimes the human journey is full of heartache, illness, poverty, and sorrow. I don’t understand that any more than the next person.

So, what is my role? Do I ask for the miracle or not? Do I ask for the demon to be cast out or not? Do I ask for the healing or not?

One mistake in this asking process is to add the little insurance statement at the end, “if it be your will.” Well, that covers all the bases then, doesn’t it? I have a little back door when the healing doesn’t happen: must not have been God’s will. Yada, yada, yada. It doesn’t, however, do much for the faith angle though, does it?

So here’s the bottom line for me: “Don’t ask if I don’t believe it IS God’s will.” And if I don’t know, then don’t pray, because honestly, that’s perverse. That’s so maybe. It’s a disservice to my God who can heal and cast out demons in a moment. Silence is better. Prayer is better in private then, asking God for clarity and faith, courage and heart, vision and transparency. These then, would set the stage for God to work through me (or you).

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Photo by Bill Dickinson

Photo by Bill Dickinson

Joseph had the dream as a young man, his brothers and family bowing down to them. It was a true dream. But never did he imagine the journey that would bring him to the reality of that dream. Isn’t this so often the way? Betrayal and sorrow often bring the dream.

Genesis 42:8-9Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

If the brothers hadn’t sold Joseph into slavery, then he couldn’t be in Egypt when Pharaoh had his dream to interpret it. If Joseph hadn’t been there, Egypt would not have prepared for famine in the same way that they did. And not only Jacob’s family would have been lost to famine, but scores and scores of people would have died.

Some will say God turned a bad thing into a good thing. And surely, that does happen. But on the grander scale, the big big picture that God sees, it appears, in hindsight, that achieving some goals (or dreams) have an arduous path. Peter Rollins wrote a book, “The Fidelity of Betrayal” which examines and expands on this concept of loss/death/betrayal preceding joy/renewal/transformation.

Some of us are lose the dream when the going gets tough: that would be me. I see myself so clearly now in this loss of confidence and direction. I look around and there is absolutely nothing that appears valuable in my quest for the dream. I am broke or caught up in a band of busyness. How could any of this end up at the dream? And the longer it goes on, the more doubt I have in the dream at all.

Oh sorrow.

I gave so many dreams because they didn’t come to fruition soon enough. I judged the time and found it lacking. So I’d build another dream and another dream and yet another. Looking for hints that one or the other dream was coming true. I was getting there. I was reaching it.

But no, the dream (the picture in my head of what the dream would look like) kept moving further away.

I am sorry now. I ask forgiveness of God for my lack of faith and fortitude. I didn’t trust the Way. I didn’t want to be a Joseph who had to be sold into slavery, wrongly accused, thrown into jail, and languish there until the moment was right. I wanted to create those moments. I wanted to control the timing. I wanted the dream my way or no way.

And so, I got my way after all. I got none of those dreams.

That’s sad except for one truth. There is another dream before me. I am, at the least, that resilient. I am not dreamless. But now, even at this age, after so many years, I can understand the importance of keeping on toward the dream, of trusting God no matter my circumstances, of believing in a future that holds the moments God creates.

I will believe.

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