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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Reasonable Faith? A Faith Discovered Through Love

            Have you ever thought about your life as being an intricately woven tapestry?  The longer we live, the more experiences we have, the more people we encounter and each of those experiences and relationships are a colored thread woven together making up the story of our life.
            I recently read the story of a father and son who were out snowmobiling in the Sierra mountains.  Dad wrecked his snowmobile into a tree and badly broke his femur.  His son had to leave his Dad, drive numerous miles to get help and then lead the rescue party back to his Dad.  When I read the story all I could think about was what a defining moment for that young boy.  There is an experience and story that will never be forgotten!  There is a significant thread in his life that will shape his future.
            Think about your life.  What are the major threads – the experiences and relationships – that have been woven together to make your story?  Who are the important people that are the threads holding everything together?  What are the colors of the threads?  The dark threads represent the hard things and painful relationships.  The bright threads represent the joys of life.  Each is necessary to weave the picture God is making.

            The Apostle John tells us there is another weaving taking place in our lives.  It is a weaving of divine love for you and your response to that love. 
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  (John 14:21)
One of the threads is you.  You become part of the weave has you pay attention to the commands of God and follow them.  This is how you weave your life to the life of Christ.  Another thread is God the Father.  His thread is woven into our thread when we love what he loves – Jesus.  The final thread is Jesus.  He weaves his thread back into our lives as we love him. 
God will not force himself into any tapestry.  Jesus will not force his thread to be woven with ours.  He stands waiting, willing, longing to be woven into our lives but he must be invited.  That is the first act of faith, to simply say “Yes” to Jesus’ thread.  As we keep his commandments we show the evidence of our love for Jesus.
Where is Jesus waiting to be invited into your tapestry?  Is there a fear you are facing?  A stronghold you seek to overcome?  Are there wonderful things taking place in your life?  Jesus wants to be woven in.  He only waits for your invitation.

Peace and grace,

A Prayer of Invitation:  Dear Jesus, I invite you to be part of all that is happening in my life.  I pray your thread and the Father’s thread of divine love will be woven into all I do, all I am.  I don’t always understand this but open my eyes to see you and the Father’s love in my life.  Amen

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Reasonable Faith? A Faith Shaped By Grace

             Over the past eight weeks I have been trying to help us wrestle with some of the challenging and pressing questions that people have about the Christian faith.  Increasing numbers of people in our world are questioning whether following Jesus is a reasonable thing.  We’ve looked at questions of science and faith, understanding the Bible, how the Christian faith is different than other faiths, the problem of hell and the problem of evil.  In all of these things I have sought to show that, although there may still be mystery with some things, the Christian faith makes sense.  I have challenged us to consider believing in Jesus and following Jesus does not require us to check our intellect at the door and unthinkingly plunge into belief.  I have argued that indeed, Christianity is a reasonable faith.  Until now.
            There is one, distinct, foundational belief of Christianity that sets it apart from every other faith system, religion and life philosophy.  It is found only in Christianity and it can’t be defended as reasonable.
            When you look at the definition of “reasonable” in a dictionary it says things like “fair and sensible; based on good sense; able to think, understand, or form judgments by a logical process.”  What is central to Christianity that is unreasonable – not guided or based on good sense, beyond the limits of acceptability – you ask?  It is grace.

            Here are some ways to try and understand grace.  Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.  Grace is receiving unmerited favor.  Grace is receiving kindness when you are a complete, total jerk, idiot, nincompoop.  It is kindness on your worst hair day, bad attitude day, fit-throwing day, rebellion day.  Grace does not make sense.  Grace is not fair.  Grace is not logical.  Grace is acceptability in the face of unacceptability.
            Grace just isn’t reasonable.  If you are running from God, ignoring God or rebelling against God you don’t believe you need grace.  No matter what, you reason that you’re not really that bad.  Because you’re really not that bad there really is no need for grace.  At some level you believe you are “good enough.”  Grace is unreasonable to you.
            If you are following Jesus and growing in a heart that is sensitive to the convictions and leadings of the Holy Spirit you become regularly amazed God would be gracious toward you.  As you understand the depth of your sinfulness from which Jesus saved you, a sense of unworthiness can wash over you.  You are not worthless – otherwise Christ would not have died for you – but you are unworthy of the love, mercy and grace poured out upon you that has brought salvation, healing, hope and blessings.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” wrote John Newton as his heart grappled with God’s undeserved kindness toward him.  Grace is unreasonable.  Grace does not make sense.
            If you are looking for a completely rational, reasonable faith then you must reject Jesus.  What he offers you does not make sense because you don’t deserve his unfailing love, his complete forgiveness, his amazing blessings.  And that is exactly the point.  You don’t deserve it.  You can’t do anything to deserve.  You never have.  You never will.  It is grace.  It is unmerited.  It is un-earnable.  It is unreasonable.
            You are either in God’s grace through Jesus or you are not in God’s grace.  Saying “Yes” to Jesus is the difference.  Have you said yes to unreasonableness yet?

Grace and peace,

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”” (Titus 3:4–7, NLT)