Category Archives: faith

Got Your Back

Exodus 14:14, 19-20 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

Oof. What if, when God seems to have abandoned us, he is merely moving to guard our backs against dangers unseen?  Oh, Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

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>Buyers, Sellers, and Givers

>I was studying Romans 3-4 this morning and was struck by the theme of transaction. We are conditioned (and perhaps naturally inclined) to use a transactional paradigm in life: trading, buying, selling, earning. But God upends the entire system…our lack of faith leads to His gain in righteousness, even though He is not unrighteous…therefore, He must be infinitely righteous (Romans 3:3-4). We are finite, though, so to some extent we have to stay within the confines of transaction. We cannot generate evil (which I like to think of as insufficiency) in order to achieve good (Romans 3:8). I sometimes fall into the psychologically comforting habit of justifying a bad situation by saying God will redeem it. He may do so, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t avoid sin in the first place. (In the words of Mufasa, “Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble!”)

We do this a lot as Christians, I think. In church this morning, we discussed how the American economy is based on manufactured need, and don’t we often try to convince others they “need” God by making them feel bad about themselves? Then they might be more willing to buy what we are selling. But I wonder if we do that because we feel insecure about whether we ourselves have something worth buying, worth all that we have invested in earning it…maybe the time and energy we spend evangelizing?
In Romans, though, Paul reminds us that righteousness is credited to us not as a wage but as a gift (4:4). There is God, again throwing out the entire system of transaction in favor of sheer, reckless, and unrivaled generosity. If we could treat life less like eBay (which is not to say that eBay is bad!) and more like your best friend’s birthday party, maybe the world would be a better place.

>Needs and Shoulds

>I have a persistent habit of turning my needs into shoulds, which has caused me no small amount of unnecessary angst. This week it felt like I had to go from 0 to 724 instantly, which resulted in some major whiplash. God reminded me about the need to distinguish between my…

need for balanced food and meals vs. rules for what and how much to eat
need to stay connected with God vs. rituals and obligations of spiritual discipline
need to work hard in school and do my best for my students vs. unrealistic expectations for my performance and the urge to compete or strive
need to maintain an orderly physical environment vs. obsession with tidying up at the expense of rest
need for social and spiritual community vs. half-hearted, half-minded interactions
Then in church today we discussed the idea of creation without a cause, in which God is concerned with creating and enjoying, not using or manipulating. As much as I want to learn from the process of making mistakes and trying new things, maybe the process itself has intrinsic value apart from any lessons learned. It’s like taking a walk through the forest to enjoy the trees and the animals and the fresh air, rather than to get somewhere, exercise the body, whatever. There’s a fine line between them, to be sure. It’s not wrong to have a destination or to derive benefits from the journey, but maybe it doesn’t always have to be about what I can get out of it. That sounds like true worship to me.

>Believing, Seeing, Thinking

>Apparently God will not let me get away with not posting for another month, because in the space of about an hour I read not only what I’m going to write about below, but also this from My Utmost For His Highest: “If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of his life. Struggle to reexpress some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else.” Well, that’s clear enough for me!

In Habits of the Mind, James Sire quotes Miguel de Unamuno:

“…if there exists in a man faith in God joined to a life of purity and moral elevation, it is not so much the believing in God that makes him good, as the being good, thanks to God, that makes him believe in Him. Goodness is the best source of spiritual clear-sightedness.” (emphasis mine)

I love this! After all, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8) This is not advocating a legalistic, self-driven view of salvation, but a simple and powerful reminder that God’s holiness simply cannot be seen by unholy eyes! I have heard before that believing is seeing, but now I understand that doesn’t mean we have to delude ourselves through faith into seeing what isn’t there, but rather that faith is the only way we can see what is there.

The goodness Unamuno speaks of is not mere action, but also thought and emotion. All of these have to be turned in a good direction if I am to see clearly. I can usually (though not always) keep my actions under control, but I struggle a lot to discipline my mind for Christ. How many times have my sinful thoughts and attitudes forced God to turn away, and yet I blame Him for being distant! And of course it’s not my goodness that summons God to me, but enables me to see more of His glory than I would otherwise.

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is Philippians 4:6-7, but I see now that verse 8 needs to be my focus for the next however-long-it-takes-for-me-to-get-this:

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

I don’t know if that made any sense whatsoever. But I thought it was cool and worth sharing (unlike most of my thoughts), and it’s certainly nice to be intellectually excited again.

>Street Smarts

>I lived an object lesson on Wednesday while I was driving to visit my fall placement school. The road I was driving was under heavy construction and it was hard to see the street signs. I saw a sign reading Clime Rd Detour, and I knew Clime was past Briggs, which was the road I was looking for, so I turned around before the stoplight. The next road I came to was Eakin, which I knew was before Briggs, so I was extremely confused. I stopped at a Kroger store to ask directions, and the clerk told me that the next stoplight–the one I had turned around at–was, in fact, Briggs. The sign meant Briggs was the detour for Clime. If I hadn’t turned back too soon, I would have saved myself about ten minutes of going in circles.

Right away I realized God was reminding me not to give up right before I get where I’m going. I’m conflict-avoidant, so I usually just run away. You’d be hard-pressed to accuse me of being stubborn because I grew up with a parent whose M.O. often seemed to be, “My way, or the high way.” But I guess I just need to trust my Directions to get me where I need to go. I know this is a general lesson, but there is also a specific situation currently that this might apply to, but I haven’t gotten directions for that yet except to wait…

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