Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

No Leap of Faith   1 comment

Image result for image of fog shrouded bridgeThere’s a place we hike to that has a rope bridge to cross a wild Alaska river. The first time we hiked there, it was shrouded in fog and we had to make a choice. Trust that the bridge was connected on the other side, even though we could not see it or wait for the fog to clear.

Brad cast me a beserker grin and said “hey, this feels a lot like faith.”

Faith is not a leap into the dark as the modern philosophers would have us believe. It’s a step onto a fog-shrouded bridge.

We are not given definitive proof that God exists, that Jesus is God, that if we trust Him He will save us. We’re given hints — small bits of evidence that we can either follow to the bridge or ignore.

The leap of faith comes to us from Soren Kierkegaard. Modernism had promised a unified explanation for all of reality through science (without God), but by the time Kierkegaard came around, people had begun to despair of ever reaching that answer. Unwilling to accept that there was no answer that didn’t include God and that without that foundation for Truth, you just end up with a bunch of half-truths, Kierkegaard conceived of a dichotomy between reality and faith. He concluded that mankind cannot achieve anything of true metaphysical importance without taking a “leap of faith”. In doing so, people have to separate the rational and logical from faith. We shouldn’t expect the world to make sense according to our metaphysical statements. It’s not necessary for our faith to have meaning in the world and if we think that it does, then we’re deluded. But it’s fine, because we can have faith so long as it is completely divorced from the physical and material world.

Hence the leap of faith.

But Christian faith is more like crossing a bridge that you can’t see the other end of rather than leaping off a cliff. In Hebrews 11 we find the roll call of faith, a listing of the men and women who trusted God without knowing how things would turn out. Noah, for example, built a huge boat in the middle of a desert because God told him to. Yeah, that made no sense to his neighbors … until it started raining. What was Noah’s evidence that building this boat was a good idea? Less than mine is for believing that Jesus will save my soul. God spoke to Noah. His neighbors thought he was crazy … until it started raining. I investigated what there is to know about Jesus and Christianity and I read the Bible while getting to know and coming to trust Christians. I followed the evidence to the bridge.

The bridge of faith is shrouded in fog and uncertainty because we need to cross it in faith. That crossing requires that we trust the bridge enough to hold us up even though we can’t see all of it. Crossing means letting go of the certainty we feel standing on solid ground or believing what Neil deGrasse Tyson puts forth on Cosmos. Crossing means leaving what we now put so much stock in to believe that what is waiting for us on the other side is far more valuable.

The prospect of crossing is scary. It’s potentially dangerous. And we can’t see the far side to assure that it is properly attached, that it will hold our weight and not dump us into the roaring river below where the rapids or hypothermia will kill us. But it is a whole lot less scary than leaping off a cliff into pea-soup fog with no idea of what is on the other side. That would be totally stupid! So we trusted our friend, who built the bridge, and crossed. There’s a beautiful cabin in a awesome forest on the other side Our friend gave us a key and it is worth the risk to cross the bridge. We’ve now done it dozens of times and we no longer feel nervous if we can’t see the other side.

Eternal life rests on the other side of faith’s bridge, Who is Jesus Christ the the Savior. God provided ample but not conclusive evidence for His existence in nature, history, archeology and the Bible. If we follow that evidence, we end up at the bridge. He invites us to cross that bridge to live the kind of life He wants for us because He loves us, but He doesn’t give us all of the evidence up front because He wants us to approach Him through faith, to trust Him as Adam and Eve refused to trust Him in the beginning of time. Why? Well, you find that out when you get to the other side of the bridge.

Source: No Leap of Faith

Posted November 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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Paul the Jail Bird Apostle   Leave a comment

The Bible is filled with passages I struggle with. Thus is the “plight” of the thinking Christians, that we cannot just walk lock-step with what others tell us the Bible says, that we must either ignore these passages, blindly obey them, or seek to understand them. Romans 13 is one of those passages. It’s God’s word, written down by the hand of Paul the apostle when he was in prison for ….

Hey, wait a minute! Paul was in prison for disobeying the governing authorities! What is going on here?

Take Bible passages out of context and you can get almost any meaning you want out of them, but when you seek to understand them, you have to look at  a wider view – the whole epistle, the whole Bible, the culture Paul was writing from and the city and church he was writing to.

Statists want to use Romans 13 to justify their tyranny and anti-statists either want to excise the words from the Bible because of the implied self-tyranny or twist the meaning into something Paul did not intend. Both sides in this discussion would be wrong. Truth lies in trying to understand what Paul meant in the larger context of the Bible and the culture in which he lived as well as in the culture in which we live.

Paul was in prison for disobeying the governing authorities when he wrote the letter to the Roman church. It wasn’t his first time in lock-up for the same crime and he wasn’t the first believer in God to face such punishment.

Did Paul act the hypocrite when he wrote Romans 13 or are we not understanding it as he meant it?

Forgiveness Is A Choice   Leave a comment

A speaker at church yesterday has me thinking about forgiveness.

Some things are impossible for humans to forgive. The speaker’s 17-year-old sister had been kidnapped and murdered. Sexual abuse of small children. The Nickel Mines Amish School shooting. Some people’s childhoods.

I don’t share a lot of personal information here because Fairbanks is a small town and I like a degree of anonymity. Suffice it to say that my family and my life have not been perfect. Struggle is part of the human existence and with struggle comes the need for forgiveness.

Even when forgiveness is impossible.

So, how do you do that?

You don’t. You let God do it. Forgiveness is a choice and for some things, it is a choice you must repeat every day or several times a day. Christians find it no easier to forgive as human beings than non-Christians do, it’s just that we have a capacity to transfer that forgiveness to God and let Him do what we cannot.

Why do it at all?

Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the one who hurt us. It’s for our benefit. By letting go of the anger that would continually arise, we free ourselves to enjoy other aspects of our lives, aspects that are robbed of joy when we hold onto anger in a vain attempt to exact justice.

In the book “Amish Grace” the writers tried to quantify the forgiveness the Amish community of Nickel Mines claimed. One interesting aspect of Amish forgiveness that I found useful was that they never bring up a forgiven sin after it’s been repented. Yes, I know, there are a whole lot of sinners out there who never really repent, but it’s also my experience that even people when do repent, we still want to bring it up, twist the knife a little deeper, make sure they still feel repentant and if they protest, if they become weary under our unforgiveness, we say they never repented.

What a vicious cycle and one that can never be won!

Forgiveness is a choice. It can be made in the absence of repentance or when repentance is not full. And it frees us from the shackles of hate and retribution, regardless of its effect on those who have hurt us. And when we reach deep down inside of ourselves and find that we are unable to forgive, we can still give it to God and keep giving it to God every time it comes to our minds so that, eventually, we can move on with our lives and leave the dead things of the past in the grave where they belong.

Posted February 3, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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Prayer Request   Leave a comment

Two ladies from my church asked for prayer request this morning. They are from the Ukraine. They both remember living under Soviet dominion and both are supportive of the current protest movement in the Ukraine. They asked for prayers that God will be present in the current turmoil.

I do not believe that God is necessarily on one side or another in political struggles. I’m not even sure if God had a side in the conflict between Hitler and the rest of the world or the colonies against the English. I believe that God sometimes allows Christians to live in crappy circumstances because it grows our faith in a way that liberty does not. He can use persecution for our good.

Nadia and Magdalena would like prayer that the Ukrainian government turn away from Russia and toward Europe. I understand their desire. Russia in its guise as the Soviet Union was very cruel to the Ukraine. Stalin instituted programs that caused the starvation deaths of 20 million in the bread basket of the USSR. Ukraine has suffered enough under Russian rule. Ukrainian Christians were especially hard-hit by the Soviet atheistic policies. I understand where these two ladies are coming from and it’s not a wrong place.

But ….

I’m not overly convinced that Europe is any more sympathetic to Christian faith and I am very much aware that European neglect of faith appears to be more faith-killing than Russia’s atheism ever was. Just look at the numbers if you don’t believe me.

So my prayer is that the individual Ukrainian who is a Christian will submit his or her own will to God’s will and choose the path that God would have him or her follow and that those who are right before God would stand in exactly the condition that God has deemed they should stand in, including the government they are meant to support, with an attitude of acceptance of God’s will.

While my personal choice would be to live in a nation that understands liberty, I’m willing to admit that may not be God’s choice for me or for anyone else. Ultimately, it must always be His will that is done and not mine … even if I don’t agree. While I might hope that what I write leads people toward joining the struggle for reestablishing liberty in the United States and elsewhere, I am also open to the leading of the Lord that this might not be what He has in mind for me or anyone else.

For now, this is the right thing to do within the boundaries of my faith, but if He tells me otherwise, I’ll let you know.

Posted December 16, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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Remembering   2 comments

The Lord’s Supper, sometimes called communion by those who think communication with God has to fit into neat little packages, is a memorial ceremony honoring Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf.

That’s all. It’s an ordinance of the Christian churches, but it is merely a memory aid for what Christ did for us.

On the night that Jesus was taken, He took bread, broke it, and shared it out, saying “This is My body, which is broken for you. Eat it in remembrance of Me.”

Clearly, since Jesus was standing there playing waiter, the bread as body was metaphor and His disciples understood this. They may not have understood that He was going to die — they were incredibly dense — but they understood this was symbolic, because Jesus wasn’t cutting off pieces of his own flesh and giving it them.

Then He took the cup and said “This cup is the covenant in My blood. As oft as you drink it, remember Me.”

The Jewish feelings about blood were strong! There is no way His disciples — who were all Jews — would have participated in this ritual if they thought it really was Jesus’ blood — or if they thought it was magically going to become His blood. They understood it as a metaphor and the proof for that is they drank from the cup.

So the question is, why? For the sake of our memories. When I come to the Lord’s Supper, I’ve paused to think about my behavior over the last couple of months since I’ve taken “communion”. I think about the sins I’ve committed. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness. And if I can, I’ve asked the forgiveness of those I’ve harmed in small and large ways. But if someone springs to my mind as I see the cloth-draped table, I thank God for that reminder and I file it away for later, to call them or drop by and talk. I still take the Lord’s Supper, because this is what the Bible says I should do.

The Lord’s Supper doesn’t forgive my sins or bring me one step closer to God. Preparation for it reminds me of my sins and the repentance from those sins brings me closer to God.

Then, the Lord’s Supper reminds me of what Jesus did for me that I could not do for myself. While I was still a drowned sinner, helpless to save myself, Jesus died so that I could live.

Posted June 28, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Faith

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Sacred Space   Leave a comment

The other day I happened to be reading an article on urban planning, in which the author wrote at length about what is wrong with suburbia and, by extension, rural communities. He spent a considerable amount of space lamenting the lack of “sacred space”. I thought was strange since most urbanites I know are not all that into going to church while, conversely, rural and suburban dwellers go fairly regularly. Then I read his definition of “sacred space”. To him, it was not a place to worship God so much as it was a building with breathtaking architecture. Think St. John’s Episcopal in New York City or the Crystal Cathedral, which is now a Catholic church. He lamented that evangelical Christianity “infests” the suburbs and evangelicals just don’t know how to worship God. We inspire good works, but not great ones, he said.

Wow! Color me embarrassed in mediocrity.

First, we’re guilty on the architecture charge. Evangelical churches are rarely grand affairs and when they are, they’re usually big not beautiful. Are we just architecturally challenged or is there a reason for this austerity?

I can’t speak for megachurches because I’ve never been a member of a megachurch, but I’ve been a member of some small Great Commission (aka Southern) Baptist churches. They were simple affairs, rows of pews for sitting, hardwood or low pile carpet for floors, a low stage in the front with a simple pulpit for the preacher to put his notes on and a Lord’s Supper table before it. My husband was raised Catholic and his first question upon seeing my church was “Where are the statues?” Now he understands that we consider statues in God’s church building to be idolatry, but more we structure our chapels so as not to distract from the worship of God. He’s center-stage, not the building.

This is partially because evangelicals do not consider our church buildings to be “sacred space”. The heart of the believer is God’s holy temple. The building where we hold Sunday service and teach English and citizenship to the foreign born is … well, a building. It’s convenient that we own it, but its main purpose is to house the congregation in collective gathering. I don’t feel the loss of a glorious space to worship in because I don’t worship God in that building. I worship God where I am at the moment – in my home, at work, driving through traffic, and sometimes in the church building. Biblical Christianity started in people’s homes and in the streets of Jerusalem. It didn’t need a glorious cathedral then and it doesn’t need one now. So, if our church buildings are uninspiring it may be that we’re spending our collective money on more important things.

Great works versus good works? What constitutes a “great” work? Evangelical Christianity was responsible for two “Great Awakenings”. The first one ended slavery in England and the second one was headed toward ending slavery in America when it got derailed by the Civil War, though some used it as an excuse for the Civil War. Evangelical Christianity sent missionaries throughout the known world to spread Christianity throughout Mediterranean Europe, Africa, the Middle East and as far as India while Christians were being persecuted by Rome. Modern Evangelical Christianity sent missionaries to the third world with the good news of Christ. Congregationalist evangelical Christianity’s church polity undergirds the American system of federalism. Evangelical Christianity drove German, Danish, and Dutch Gentiles to smuggle Jews out of Nazi controlled areas (google Corrie ten Boom). Evangelical Christianity smuggled Bibles into communist-bloc countries. Evangelical Christianity sends thousands of emergency workers to natural disaster sites with food, clothing, reconstruction experience (google Southern Baptist Disaster Relief). So,

I guess it depends on your definition of “great works”. It’s true that Evangelical Christians did not build the great cathedrals of Europe, but my spiritual ancestors were busy being the victims of the Inquisition and then, when they got to the United States (escaping religious persecution, by the way), we (in our loosely affiliated congregations) felt it best to concentrate on things we’d already excelled at – like, evangelism, prayer, Bible study, and convincing people that the wholesale slaughter and/or enslavement of your fellow human being is not a godly thing to do. We left the building of great edifices to denominations with more monetary resources and less important things to do.

I love great architecture. There’s not a lot of it in Alaska, so one of things I like about traveling to other places is poking around looking at aesthetically pleasing buildings – including churches. That is “glorious space”, but if you require awe-inspiring architecture to “get your God on”, there is something lacking from your relationship with the Divine. There is a portion of me – call it my heart, call it my spirit – that is “sacred space” that goes with me wherever I go, so that I am never out of touch with God unless I choose to be. That is worshipping Jesus in “spirit and in truth” and not creating “high places” where we bow down to the idols of God of our own design and hierarchal superstructure. In this way, we walk in the dusty footsteps of great past believers like Abraham, Moses, the prophets, Saul who would become Paul, Mary of Bethany, the church at Philippi, and Peter.

For a true believer in Jesus Christ, God is always right here with us and we need no more “sacred space” than our own heads.

First Step is a Wet One   12 comments

Christianity is really pretty simple. Admit that you’ve disobeyed God and cannot fix that on your own, believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, confess that belief where others can hear you, and you’re saved.

That simplicity can make salvation sound like a “get out of jail free” card. It costs the believer nothing to be saved because Christ did it all. Add to it that once you’re saved you’re always saved and cannot lose or even give away your salvation, and it sounds like a great deal.

And, it is! But make no mistake, Christianity will cost the believer something. That’s where the whole confessing part comes in. Undercover Christians aren’t risking a whole lot which is why Jesus said believers have to identify with Him and that they shouldn’t be surprised that their identification with Him was going to cost them something. “The world will hate you, because it hated Me first,” He warned in John’s Gospel

A friend of mine who spent a number of years in the Middle East tells me that the reaction to a Muslim attending a Christian church is actually underwhelming. At least in Turkey, it was. People didn’t get upset about it and the church-goer didn’t seem to think they were risking anything. Until … until they became a Christian in their hearts and then they faced a dilemma. They could continue to attend church and even talk about their newborn faith, but if they decided to be baptized, they faced being marked as an apostate by the local imams. Their families would disown them and sometimes attempt to kill them.

Why? Baptism in the United States is not seen as a big deal, but Muslims perhaps understand it better than we do. For the early Christians, baptism was identifying with Christ. The symbol of being immersed in water and being brought back up parallels Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. This is also, btw, why Bapists hold to full immersion baptism. If you read Acts, you quickly see a pattern emerge. A person accepts Christ and is baptized. It is rare not to see that pattern and that may just be that it wasn’t recorded, not that it didn’t happen. To the early Church baptism was very important. Why?

Baptism identifies us as partaking in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It is a public event. It is a first step of obedience in the Christian life. In America, it doesn’t cost us very much to do it, but I know people who haven’t and won’t even though they claim to be Christians. What I’ve learned is that it comes down to a question of control for them. They’ll couch it in all sorts of other terms, but really, they don’t like the idea that they’re showing humility before God and that someone else has to lower them into the water and pull them back up. Obedience is not their primary focus.

In most cases, those Christians remain immature and stagnant in their faith. Just my experience, but I’m pretty convinced of it. Why? Because they refuse to obey at the very first step of their walk with God and the Christian life starts and ends with obedience. All other areas of obedience cannot even get started until they’ve gotten that one out of the way.

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