Tag Archives: Faith

The Red Thread – Victims of Familiarity

Mark 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The hometown boy has returned with his disciples, acting like a Rabbi and ready to speak and teach in the synagogue. “Many who heard him were amazed.” Doesn’t that sound like a positive thing? It wasn’t. They were victims of familiarity. They’d watched Jesus grow up. They knew his history and they were certain of what they knew about him. They were so certain about what they imagined Jesus to be that he was unable to show them the reality of who he was.

That reminded me of a not-quite-fictional novel, The Imaginary Jesus, written by Matt Mikalatos. It’s a similar story to this one Mark writes about. Both are meant to challenge us to consider our own preconceived notions of who Jesus is, how much we know about him, how he’s supposed to act and whether we put our faith in the real Jesus or what we imagine him to be. Like those hometown people we can be so familiar with Jesus that we put our faith in what we already know about him and he is no longer able to build our faith on the reality of who he wants to be in our lives, a friend and our Savior

The Integrity of Faith

I Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a foreigner or exile? I doubt I’m the only one who needs to think about that question. We are foreigners and exiles, but from what? I’ve been in social situations where I felt completely out of place. I didn’t like that feeling or my response. In that uncomfortable place I realized how much I wanted to fit in rather than be a foreigner or exile. Fitting in is the “war against your soul.”

That uncomfortable place is where the battle lines become clear. There are two sets of values; one for fitting in and another for spiritual things. There’s only one defense that will save us – the integrity of faith.

In·teg·ri·ty: the state of being whole and undivided.

Whole and undivided faith is the winning strategy that makes it possible to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Note to Self: You may be a foreigner and exile but people see the integrity of your faith and will remember it’s purpose even if they don’t agree with it…yet.

Whatever

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.

My idea of “whatever” has changed in these four chapters. What began as more or less an acceptance of a negative circumstance has become a new idea.

“Whatever” happens in life, Jesus is the core of the faith God has given each of us. He is the “faith OF the gospel.” He IS the Word [Logos] that builds truth from a trusted book into a structure of personal faith, divine reason and creative order for daily life.

Philippians 4:8 is all I need to remind me to think about “whatever ” in a new and much bigger way.

The Secret

NCV Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

We read the Scripture because we believe they were “written to teach us.” Learning from them is a very good reason but I don’t think that alone would keep us coming back day after day or account for the impact the Bible has had for such a long time on so many lives. There’s something far more personal happening “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

We read because we believe our faith is a gift from God that we want to learn about. We read because we believe our relationship to Jesus has brought us grace and forgiveness. We come back and read some more because we discover within those pages there’s something that gives those ancient words new life for today. We read because the secret of endurance and encouragement lies within us, the Holy Spirit – hope, that has promised to reveal the mystery of our personal connection to God and help us navigate in this foreign land we call life.

Custom Fit

Romans 14:6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other. MSG

I had to smile when I read this version of Romans 14 because of thanking God for broccoli. It’s a lighthearted paraphrase and a very good reminder “it’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—.”

It’s the mystery of faith. On one hand it’s completely personal, custom tailored for you…not by you…but it grows and matures in the midst of our very public relationships as believers.

If the way you live is consistent with what you believe you can trust that God will make the necessary alterations to that custom fit as you grow so your faith and your relationships always make you look your best.

The Gap in Between

NIV Romans 10:6 & 7 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

MSG Romans 10:6 & 7 But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.

There are two points of Romans 10 for me; seeking righteousness … and finding faith. Verses 6 & 7 fill the gap in-between these two important points. I’ve read them before but apparently only as a convenient bridge from one big idea to the other without giving much thought to them in particular. That’s my alert to re-read them in another version like the Message. I want it all to be important.

Seeking righteouseness … and finding faith are big commitments. Commitments take work, and work involves time and effort. It’s pretty easy to forget in the midst of trying to live those big commitments, you can’t cross that gap without that bridge in place. It’s important to pay tribute with my words to what I see as the big ideas but I don’t want to miss the “main” point.

I want righteousness that comes from God √. I want faith that comes from God √. No matter how much time and effort I commit to those two big ideas can bridge the gap between them. No words I write can give life to a Messiah that can save me or anyone else. Not even my best success at seeking righteousness … and finding faith could rescue Jesus from the death he endured on my behalf to fill that gap.. It just can’t happen without the bridge. Thanks God!

One Last Time…

NASB Romans 8:Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The whole chapter of Romans 8 and especially these verses are part of the treasure of my life of faith. They are the reality of a very special dream I had. I don’t know how much credence you give to dreams but this one changed my life as a relatively new believer more than half a lifetime ago.

Jesus had come to take me to see something with him. I felt secure. I was with him and he held my hand as we looked together at a grotesque museum-like head and shoulders statue on a pedestal sitting alone in the room. It wasn’t until we were leaving and I turned to look again at that ugly thing…one last time…that I saw it was me.

I awakened from the dream with an actual physical feeling of love for Jesus. He loved me enough to hold my hand until I understood that ugly statue was no longer me. That dream became My Love Song for him. There are more lyrics and I hope I still have them written down…somewhere…but this verse and chorus are the response of a full heart I will always remember.

My Love Song
You came to me in a dream and showed me what I could be
You taught me that I could love myself because of your love for me
And now I’m ready to share what I’ve learned
Of how filling your love can be
Through the miracle of love set to music
Flowing from you through me.

This is my love song for you Lord.
I sing it for the joy of loving you.
The words and the music you have placed in my heart
Are the gift that I give now to you.
You are the beat and the rhythm.
You are the lyric and tune.
You are the music singing in my heart
You are the song.