Archive for the ‘Faith’ category

The Tester

April 11, 2018

FaithSo does God ever test us? We talk about the devil tempting us, but does God ever test us, and how do we know the difference?

Soon after I came to BRC I preached a sermon where I suggested that the same event can be a trial, a temptation and a test. It’s like looking at the same event from three different angles. From our end we mainly experience the situation as something difficult to deal with, i.e. a trial. But with that trial often comes a temptation – for example, the devil tempts us to doubt, to be afraid, to give up or to give in. And at the very same time God may be testing us – especially our faith, faithfulness and obedience, which are the fundamental building blocks of a life with God.

Today’s Old Testament reading (Exodus 15:22-16:10) talks a couple of times about God testing the Israelites. They got thirsty, and then later they got hungry. God was supposed to be their provider (i.e. “Give us today our daily bread”). God seemed to purposely drag his feet in order to test them. Both times they murmured, grumbled, complained. Each time he met their needs anyway.

So why did God test them? At one point God says, “For I, the Lord, am your healer.” This is what I’m wondering this morning: I’m wondering if the first thing God wants to heal is our faith. Faith is as critical for our spiritual lives as food and drink are for our physical lives. So God “tests” our faith to see what condition it’s in, as well as to strengthen and heal it.

This coming Sunday we’ll look at what Peter has to say about faith (1 Peter 2:1-10 for those who want to dig in ahead of time). He compares its value to gold. Both gold and faith have to be refined by fire. But gold (and all that it buys) perishes, while faith opens up a whole new world now and prepares us for the world to come.

How is your faith being tested right now? Could God be testing your faith in order to heal it?

Holy Saturday

April 19, 2014

Holy SaturdayDoes Holy Saturday have a role of any importance in Holy Week, or in our spiritual lives?

I think it does, especially if you’re a person like me who has tended to struggle with faith. Holy Saturday is for holy doubters.

Jesus’ disciples had every reason to doubt. Just when it looked like he was going to take control (e.g. on Palm Sunday), he gets himself killed. There went their dreams. There went the future. On this darkest of days (maybe even darker than Good Friday), they had lots of good reasons to doubt God’s wisdom, love and power.

Or maybe they were the problem. Maybe what they doubted was themselves. What if they had stayed with Jesus to the end? Were they the reason God had abandoned Jesus to his fate? If Jesus’ hand-picked, personally-tutored followers couldn’t remain faithful to the Messiah, how would anyone else? Had they just blown it (like Adam and Eve had) for the rest of the human race? (more…)

A Death Allowed

December 30, 2011

The following poem is based on today’s gospel (John 4:43-54), and is a follow-up to yesterday’s post as well as a blade to till the soil for this coming Sunday’s sermon.

A second wonder in Cana.
A second word to give one pause.

Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.

Miracles – signs that bolster our faith,
a faith that ultimately rests on a death allowed –
the death of the Most Royal Official’s Son.
His death revealing how beyond self-saving we are;
how wretched our sin,
how whelming the flood of our suffering,
now engulfing the Son of the Most High.
Such love, such love.
(almost enough to make one believe)

Such power!
To alleviate and liberate,
to heal the sin-sick soul,
to transform all creation.

Resurrection! The fruit of dying.

Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies….
A mustard seed faith that grows out of a death allowed,
our own.

Mary’s Righteousness

December 22, 2011

In Sunday’s sermon (“Think Big, but Think Small”) I suggested that the Son of God became a nothing to a nobody. In Philippians 2 the apostle Paul tells that Jesus “made himself nothing.” Mary, given what little we know about her, was virtually a nobody. I may have unintentionally offended when I spoke of Mary in this way. I’m not suggesting that Mary was a nobody, anymore than I’m suggesting that Jesus was a nothing. The main point is that Jesus emptied himself and became an embryo, a zygote, and eventually a servant. Likewise Mary, whoever she was at the time (and we know less about her religious or spiritual background than even that of the parents of John the Baptist), emptied herself and made her womb and her future available to the Son of God. (more…)

Big Problem, Bigger God

September 14, 2010

Our Job lectionary reading for today begins: “Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook…?” Some scholars suggest that leviathan refers to a whale, while most think that the rest of the passage points more to a crocodile. Either way, the illustration points to how much that exists and happens in this world is beyond our control. Given that, we can live in a constant state of anxiety, or we can resign as CEO and President of our lives (like we talked about on Sunday) and place our trust in the One who made all this and holds all of it together.

What is your crocodile? (more…)


June 14, 2010

We must never minimize Jesus, or what it means to follow him. Jesus’ own words won’t let us. He is forever prodding and poking and jolting. In the gospel reading for today, the poor disciples have been trying to cast out a demon and to heal a boy who suffers with seizures. When Jesus shows up, the boy’s father complains about Jesus’ disciples’ ineptitude. Undoubtedly the disciples feel frustrated and embarrassed, having nothing to show for their efforts. Instead of comforting and encouraging the disciples, Jesus says, “O unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” So much for his being cuddly. (more…)

Faith That Rocks

February 4, 2010

Today’s Hebrews reading contains verses I memorized many years ago: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1-2). These are great verses for describing the Christian life.

The “therefore” that begins this passage refers to the previous chapter which was all about faith. It lists many of those Old Testament figures who exercised faith in what often seemed like impossible circumstances. Because faith is so important for following Jesus, let me suggest some things to keep in mind when we think about faith, and especially when we practice it:

~ Faith doesn’t just believe in spiritual reality but emphasizes it, constantly leaning and living into it. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….” (more…)