Category: Faith (Page 1 of 22)

The Triumph of Hope

“We all must experience some darkness, otherwise how can we appreciate the light? We all must experience the nearness of despair, otherwise how can we know when to celebrate the triumph of hope? We all must at some time or another face forthrightly the tragedy of love and death, so that one day the pain of separation might be replaced by the joy of reunion with the beloved one.”

~ Vigen Guroian, from Tending the Heart of Virtue

The Triumph of Faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior!”

~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk’s Complaint

We’re studying Habakkuk together on Sunday mornings here at GCR and we’ve started at the very beginning — a very good place to start. Except that the first chapter of Habakkuk is tough reading. It’s the prophet’s prayer to the Lord and it’s not very nice. It questions God. It complains to God. The prayer argues with God and even accuses God of wrongdoing. Habakkuk details the violence and injustice in the land. How can you just stand there, God, and not do anything? The prophet explains to God that because of all the wickedness and strife, the law is paralyzed and justice is perverted. Get off your throne, Lord, and do something!

The Lord answers Habakkuk by telling him things are about to go from bad to worse. The Lord is about to raise up the worst, most evil people on the planet to ride in and punish the Israelites. He paints an awful picture.

Habakkuk’s complaint continues. But listen to the faith in his lament in 1:12.

“O, Lord. are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One…” You are the eternal God, Habakkuk says. You are my God and I have no other.

“We will not die.” Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite even what God himself is telling the prophet, Habakkuk is hanging on with a white-knuckle-death-grip to God’s promises that his people will never die.

“O, Rock.” I don’t understand any of this, Habakkuk prays. I don’t agree with what you’re doing. It seems unfair, it seems wrong. I can’t see it. I don’t get it. But, Lord, Rock, my trust is in you. My faith is in you.

God tells Habakkuk things are about to get really bad. But the prophet makes it clear he will go nowhere else for his answers. He will seek no one else to protect him or save him. This is a total and complete dependence on God and God alone to do what’s best. Total dependence. Complete faith. A faith that goes well beyond any evidence or proof for it. Facing exile, starvation, and slavery, Habakkuk continues to trust our God.

God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaints affirms that the Lord is still very much in control. All of it, no matter how evil and wrong and unfair and chaotic it seems, all of it is being controlled by our God.

1:5 – “I am going to do something.” God says, there’s a plan.

1:6 – “I am raising up the Babylonians.” This is going somewhere. And I’m the one doing it.

1:5 – “…in your days.” There is a time frame. God says, it’s all on my schedule.

2:3 – “The revelation awaits an appointed time.” It’s happening exactly when I want it to happen.

Everything that is happening in our world, everything that is happening in your world right now, is subject to and bound up with the Kingdom of God. Things happen for a reason — God’s reason. And we don’t always have to understand what God is doing. We don’t always see it. And we don’t need to.

Ask the questions. Wrestle with the Lord. Accuse him. Argue with him. Bring to him all your fears and uncertainties and pains. But never doubt his supreme love for you and his divine justice. He is trustworthy. And he is faithful.

Peace,

Allan

Gospel Adventure Expanded

Weather disasters and wildfires. Economic uncertainties. Divorce. Gay rights and abortion. Immigration and race. Division and war. Rumors of wars. These are not settled times in this country. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

Women’s roles. Leadership structures. Instrumental music. Shrinking attendance and nominal commitment. Ecumenical movements¬† and interdenominational partnerships. “Accepting” versus “Affirming.” These are not settled times in the Churches of Christ. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

I’ve decided I’m going to use that Hauerwas quote I posted yesterday in this Sunday’s sermon.

“God has not promised us safety, but participation in an adventure called the Kingdom. That seems to me to be great news in a world that is literally dying of boredom.”

And I’m thinking about saying something like this:

It’s all out there in front of us. Adventure. Thrills. Daring missions. Risky change. Challenging discussions. Exciting encounters. What are we waiting for? To get all our ducks in a row? To find and settle on all the answers first? To make sure everybody in our boat is on board with the exact same theology and uniform practices? No! What’s exciting about that?!?

What’s going to save more people? What’s going to redeem my part of the world for Christ? What’s going to make you and me more like Jesus?

Not worrying or complaining about national politics or this world’s culture. No, ma’am. And not arguing or debating church structures or faith culture.

Getting out there in the middle of it, with other Christians, sacrificing and serving, saving and learning, throwing our entire selves into the mission of God with full knowledge and trust that he is going to do something incredibly wonderful with it if we’ll just submit to him and his calling. That’s going to save people! That’s going to reconcile God’s world! That’s going to make us more like our Risen Lord!

But what about this post-modern, post-Christian society? Nobody wants to listen to anything about Jesus. No, stop it. Everybody you know at work and in your neighborhood and at the grocery store is desperately looking to belong to something that’s hugely significant and bigger than themselves.

But what about our Church of Christ identity? How is the world going to know we’re different from other churches? No, stop it. Jesus died on the cross so we would all be one in him, so I’m sure he’d be thrilled if we worked according to his plan for a change.

These are exciting and adventurous times in the Kingdom of God. Of course, as long as your faith is in yourself and your particular church brand or congregation instead of in the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, you won’t see them as anything but unsettling and dangerous. The Gospel tells us we’re surrounded by divine potential. Holy mystery. Heavenly adventure. Eternal excitement. It’s high time we abandon ourselves and jump in with everything we’ve got.

Peace,

Allan

Mustard Plant Faith

Jesus told us that the faith of a mustard seed could move mountains. Just faith, any kind of faith, any amount of faith, no matter how small, is all it takes to radically transform heaven and earth around us. It’s a captivating image that leads to a powerful question: Can we muster up any kind of faith at all?

What about the mustard plant faith of Jesus?

In Luke 13, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It’s planted, it grows, it turns into a tree, and all the birds of the air make homes in its branches. It’s an interesting image when you consider the mustard plant is actually a nuisance weed. It’s a terrible weed that only grows to two or three feet tall at the most. Farmers hate the mustard plant. It’s a pain.

Can you hear the disciples? “Um, Lord, that’s a nice story, but, um, I’m not sure how much we like being called a bad weed.”

I can imagine Jesus looking up and down at the guys and saying, “Be thankful. Be happy I didn’t call you something worse. Like a tumbleweed. And rejoice that what is unimpressive to you is very impressive to me.”

Jesus gives us this image of a mustard seed, a mustard weed, a tiny scraggly mustard plant growing as tall as a mighty tree with every species of bird living in its massive branches. A mustard tree providing shelter and shade and homes for all the birds of the air. Jesus is telling us, “I see things you don’t see. I know things you don’t know. I’m busy right now doing things you can’t even imagine.”

It’s a captivating image that leads to a powerful question: If Jesus is already moving mountains around us, can we just put our trust in him?

Peace,

Allan

Help and Hope

“Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord our God,
the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea, and everything in them –
the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”

~Psalm 146

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