Tag Archives: faith

2 Adams, 2 Gardens, 2 Examples…

The Lord seems to love patterns, and order, and what I call “bookends.”  Bookends are ideas, teachings, people, places, etc… that are set up in such a way to show God’s plan, and to communicate important ideas to us.  Certain things just “seem to work out” in order to convey to us important truths and also, as always, to point us to God.  The bookends I’m interested in today are the two Adams; Adam and Jesus, the first Adam, and the Last Adam, and also the two gardens; the Garden of Eden, and the Garden of Gethsemane.

In the beginning we have Adam.  Adam was given charge over the earth, and placed in the Garden of Eden.  The Garden of Eden is where we witness the first act of putting our own wills, the human will, over the will of God, and we witness the outcome of committing that sin.  The first Adam, in the Garden, had a chance to follow God’s will, he had the chance to faithe in God and to trust that when God tells us His will on a matter, we’d better listen.

Adam was told not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  He did it anyway.  The world was affected by his lack of faith in God.

In the beginning we have The Word.  The Word became flesh and came and dwelt with us; Jesus is His name.  We have a variety of scripture recording Jesus’ faith, and His following of the will of His Father.  However, the clearest picture we have, the clearest model we have for the Faith of Jesus, is what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus is talking with His Father, and asks that if there is any other way of completing His mission of saving us and restoring the universe to it’s proper state, that His Father would take away the cup of what was to come.  And then He gave us the clearest picture of what Adam should have said, but didn’t, “not My will, but Thine.”

Jesus came here to give all for us; to fix our mess that started in Eden.  In the Gethsemane we witness a decision to follow the will of The Father, no matter what, the world was also affected by that decision.  Perfect faith in God.

2 Adams, 2 Gardens, 2 choices.  We can choose to be as Adam in Eden and have a lack of faith in God.  Or, we can choose to be as Jesus in Gethsemane and put our faith in God.  The choice is ours, and the outcomes are serious depending on which role model we choose.  As for me, Gethsemane is not an easy place to be, faith isn’t easy…but it’s worth it.

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The just shall live by _____ ?

One of the fundamental aspects of the Gospel of Christ is that we are saved by faith.  I’ve written a previous article on faith, pistis in the Greek, which you can find here; What is Faith? The point of this new article is to underscore how believers are to live.

Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Doc Scott, my old pastor, used to point out that when scripture repeats itself; when God finds a concept so important that He says the same thing over again, it is time to pay attention.  The fact that the just shall live by faith is reiterated in scripture, it is repeated, it is important.  There is nothing else that fits in the blank the way that faith does.

It does not say the just are to live by works, by love, by grace, by money, by physical might, etc… Once we are saved, we are to live by faith, and faith is trusting.  As we live our lives and go along, we’ll make mistakes and stumble and fall…and climb.  No matter what, we should trust all along the way.  God is out for trust; us placing our trust in Him.  In this life we WILL have tribulation, and the proper response is to trust in God.  Exercising trust builds it like a muscle that we use, we don’t technically gain more muscle, but the muscle we have grows stronger.  I would also note that Paul would not have felt the need to exhort believers to a life of faith if our walk as believers was paved with thorn-free roses, puppies, and rainbows.

Many act like living by faith is easy…that it is a simple matter to trust God.  The heroes of faith would surely disagree.  Ever read through the Psalms?  David shows the ups and downs of walking in faith, and he is a man after God’s own heart.  Believers are never promised a life free of trials, those trials give us an opportunity to flex our faith and keep turning to God, to keep trusting Him, even if it is only with “fingernail faith.”  That faith, that trust that latches on and refuses to let go, even if it but a fingernail hold we keep on Christ’s robe…because of course, in the end, He is the One that has a hold on us.  Live your life day-by-day trusting in God; you won’t be disappointed.

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Doctor Who; Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

Okay, spoilers everywhere, so if you haven’t seen it don’ t read any of this.  I talked a bit before about Time of Angels…it did indeed contain bits that were very interesting to me pertaining to matters of faith/religion.  I have to say that Flesh & Stone took it up a notch…and I was pleasantly surprised.

Some of the themes brought up were faith and fear…how they are related and the limits of both.  The discussions back and forth betwixt The Doctor and Angel Bob were very interesting.  Bob did have some good points about the fact that the Doctor keeps making promises that he might not be able to keep; he gets people to put their trust in him, then does indeed let some of them down.  Sometimes being afraid is the most intelligent position,as Bob kind of alludes to…and of course, one can’t truly be brave without fear.

The military nature of the church wasn’t explored much further than in the first part.  In Time of Angels it is said that the church has “moved on,” whatever that might mean (kind of an odd comment seeing as how the church did have a military nature in the past (rightly or wrongly)).  The Bishop, Father Octavian (BTW, the real St. Octavian was martyred by the Vandals) was one of the most interesting characters Who has had on it in a long time.  A solid military man of moral character with strong faith in God, and a willingness to help the side of good even unto death.  No bones were made about his belief, it was pretty straightforward in the phrases he used.

I have to admit I was caught off guard by the way Moffat handled Octavian and The Doctor’s relationship.  When Octavian was caught by an Angel, he faced death with extreme courage, saying that The Doctor was seeing him at his best, “For that I thank God, and bless the path that takes you to safety.”  Eleven had actual tears in his eyes, with no witty comebacks.

It’s always interesting to speculate how many things I can spot in plots that line up with scripture are there intentionally or just by coincidence.  Two examples; the first is Octavian reply about giving up his life, he said he was content…when we look at what Paul tells us in scripture: Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

The second was the idea that the angels needed Eleven to sacrifice himself to save them…and he didn’t do it.  Again, perhaps a messiah-like allusion that actually matches the biblical idea pretty closely.  Christ, the true Messiah, did not die to redeem the fallen angels; His sacrifice was not for them, nor efficacious for them, but rather His sacrifice was for humanity.

A difference that I noted between the Doctor and Christ; a big deal was made out of the fact that the Doctor doesn’t always tell the truth, yet he expects to be trusted despite that.  God’s nature is such that He does indeed always tell the truth, and that is one of the reasons why we know He can be trusted.  It is an interesting juxtaposition.

I really enjoyed these episodes…as far as plot, Blink was better, but as far as characters, I preferred these (that is, if I leave Dr. Song out of the equation, I despise her character, not the actor, but the character).  Who else out there doesn’t believe that Song is the Doctor’s future wife?  Maybe that’s just me hoping…

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Christian witness…

There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about being a good Christian witness.  This is based upon the idea that the world (made up of non-believers) is watching us, and we should outwardly show, in some way, shape, or form, what being a Christian is about.  Now, it is clear that scripture teaches us something similar, and that we are to be a people set apart in some ways; I would argue in spiritual ways and understanding.  Many times this idea gets twisted into a form of legalism, which is never good.

Apart from that, I was just recently ruminating on the fact that it isn’t just important that we present ourselves to the world in certain ways, but I honestly believe it is just as important, or perhaps more important, that we present ourselves to our fellow Christians as…well, fellow Christians.  When we present a life of faith and trust in God to our brothers and sisters in Christ, it strengthens our own walk, and it also heartens others.

I’ve been in different circumstances lately where a fellow Christian modeled this to me, and that in turn allows me to respond in kind.  Christians are indeed supposed to be a community, a fellowship of believers.  That does not always imply going to a church…but in a way it does, since every meeting of Christians, two or more, is indeed “church.”  I guess the point of this post is to say this; lets really let the Holy Spirit guide us in our dealings with fellow Christians, let’s yield to Him (for it is from Him that any truly good act comes, not ourselves) in our responses to each other, and not just in our responses to the world.  And yielding to the Spirit ensures that our response isn’t the fake “oh, look at me, aren’t I a good Christian” type of act.

Many are going through rough times right now, and I do believe that if we took the time to ponder the fact that we are now a part of an extended family with the same Father, and the same Brother, we may be a lot more inclined to respond the way scripture tells us too.  Weep when our siblings weep, rejoice when they rejoice, pray for them, listen to them.  Sometimes it isn’t the fun thing to do, or the easy thing, but with the guidance of the Spirit, it can bolster faith all around.  I also urge people to notice the “weep when they weep” command; we believers know that not everything is always sunshine and light, the rain does fall on the just and the unjust alike.  Laying guilt trips on people going through rough times isn’t the answer in the least, neither is bashing a believer who slips and sins.  It’s all about grace and  faith, folks, and helping to uphold that faith in us, and in our fellow believers, and sharing God’s grace with each other, not just the world.

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Feedback; Faith vs. Works

I recently had a reader ask about faith vs. works, and this is a very common question.  Often, the perceived conflict can come in another “vs.” form; Paul vs. James.  There is indeed a reason why many people have this question, it can indeed be confusing.

We have Paul on one hand who makes it absolutely clear that faith is a main component of salvation (Grace being the other), and works are not.  We cannot work our way to Heaven, nor can we work our way into God’s good graces.  It doesn’t function that way.  God’s grace is just that; it is unmerited favour; it is unearned favour.  Unearned is a clear word to use, as God gives His grace as a gift.  So if all of this is so clear, what’s the issue?

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

That is the verse that throws a lot of people off.  There is a short answer to this question and a long answer.  Let’s do the long answer first.  The long answer starts with a few important facts.  First, James was the head of the church in Jerusalem, and was writing to Christians who were indeed Jewish.  James also came to faith after Christ resurrected.  If you read his story in scripture, James did not believe Jesus was the Son of God whilst He lived, but only after He was resurrected.  This means James would have been learning about the new covenant probably through the other apostles.  Scripture definitely reads as though James was more “clingy” to the old covenant system.

Paul, on the other hand, was specifically designated to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  His teaching, his letters were also labeled as scripture by the other apostles; this is a great honour and shows his teachings were held to the same level as the old testament.  He was taught his message by Jesus Himself after the resurrection.  We know Paul’s position on these issues to be airtight.  What does that mean for us as we read the scriptures in James that can seem a bit contradictory.  This means we need to interpret James through Paul, and not Paul through James.  This does not mean that James is completely wrong, it just means James needs to be put into context.

Paul taught about the New Covenant, and made himself abundantly clear about the role of faith, especially in books like Galatians, and Romans.  One of the things that James was apparently trying to get at was that if you are saved, if you have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit inside you, it will come out of you in such a way that others can tell.  We have a list of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is apparent that James isn’t wrong on this idea, but we must be very very careful in how we approach the idea lest we leave any room at all for legalism.

In James’ examples he’s careful to always include faith; why?  Because he knows, even if it seems he’s hedging a bit, that faith is where right action starts, and that is if faith where the righteousness comes in.  Any work that is really good is not of us, but of God; it is the Holy Spirit inside of us that pulls us toward righteousness.  In the examples that James gives, like Abraham, and Rahab, they started with faith; and it was their faith that God responded to, and that He considered righteousness.  James’ point is that they did not stop at that faith point, but continued on in action.  That has nothing to do with salvation.  Notice that James, rightly or wrongly, is discussing how we appear before other humans.  I can have true faith all day long, and God will know it regardless of physical action; but other humans can’t see “faith,” they can only see works.

One is saved by Christ, by grace and faith.  Our proper response to God’s grace is a faith response; to come to trust Christ utterly and completely for our salvation.  That brings me to the short answer to this question of faith vs. works.  James says to look at works, ok.  So, what does Jesus Himself tell us?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The word there for “believe” is Pisteuo in the Greek; that ye faithe on Him whom He hath sent.  Christ leaves no room for a legalistic interpretation of James; the work of God is to faithe on Christ.  Period.

Now, if one has the Holy Spirit, and lives long enough, will the Holy Spirit work on him/her?  Absolutely.  It doesn’t always happen over night, but it does happen over time…sometimes a long time.  That process of sanctification should not be confused with salvation.  Once we place our faith in Christ by God’s grace, that is what saves us.  Walking and living our lives in faith with the help of the Holy Spirit is a part of the process too, but it is a different issue than salvation.

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Christian life…

I recently recalled a conversation that I had on a forum with an atheist/agnostic about Christians and how we live.  The subject came up in an odd context, but the resulting conversation surprised me.  It revolved around the idea of how Christians live life.  I was amused at the mental image this individual had of how I, as a Christian, would live my life and enjoy it, or rather, not enjoy it, according to them.

I have a feeling that there are misunderstandings out there because of specific teachings of certain denominations that tend towards legalism.  Yes, there are some denominations that preach that you can’t watch television, or movies rated over PG…that you can’t read a copy of Harry Potter, can’t wear makeup, can’t smoke, can’t drink, etc… etc…  However, that is a list that someone has decided on their own is proper, nowhere in the Bible does it prohibit such things.

My belief, which I feel is backed by scripture, is that a Christian is free in the Lord, as I’ve said before; freedom with responsibility, and that we should live by faith.  My partner in the conversation was quite surprised when I said that I felt my Christian faith enhanced my life, and that I did not feel I had a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” to live by.  I watch what I want on TV, some rated R movies are my favs, I read what I want to read, listen to whatever kind of music I like, play what kind of music I like on my guitars…I’m a woman, and wear makeup, pants, jeans usually, and converse sneakers when I’m not teaching.  I drink alcohol, but don’t get drunk, I write fiction, and used to enjoy a game of Magic: The Gathering back in the day, but prefer the XBox 360 now.

The Lord is not some cosmic killjoy.  Yes, I know that there are groups of Christians that cling to legalism that would have you believe that, but it isn’t true.  He came so that we “might have life, and might have it more abundantly.”  Now, are there certain things I stay away from because of my faith?  Absolutely.  There are also certain things I avoid because I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit.  There are also secular reasons to avoid certain things; some things, like certain kinds of music just annoy me, so I change stations when they come on.  There are psychological reasons for limitations on our viewing/listening habits as well, and health reasons to alter our behaviors.

The point is, is that coming to faith in Christ, and giving yourself and your life completely to Him isn’t going to “end your fun.”  By no means…in fact, the joy that one feels in everyday life is enhanced by faith such as that.  There are some Christians that feel called by the Holy Spirit to avoid any and all alcohol, and that means they should avoid it.  Some I’ve talked to have felt convicted to give up secular music, well, then they should.  You see, the Holy Spirit knows exactly what each of us needs and what we don’t need in our lives; what will make our lives more “happy.”  For some, they might not be able to handle limiting their alcohol intake, or perhaps their children might have a problem with it, so they should indeed avoid alcohol if called to.  That’s living by faith, not legalism; letting God guide us in our relationship with Him.

Now, the other aspect to this is to remember not to offend your brother/sister in Christ.  So, no matter who gets into my car (except my hubby), regardless of their religious beliefs, I turn my blaring radio down because I like to listen to bands such as Breaking Benjamin at high volume.  Ben likes to drop the occasional F-bomb, amongst other things, and I realize that might offend some people, so I shut the radio off or tune to a neutral station.

Christians are individuals who live individual lives; we are not all the same, and we certainly don’t all live the same way.  Will there be similar beliefs?  Yup.  Will we all hold to certain fundamental ideals of right and wrong, you know, the big ones, such as “thou shalt not murder,” sexual morality, not stealing etc…  Yup.  But that in no way detracts from out lives, unless someone contends that we have to go out and murder, pillage, and plunder in order to have fun… We also will slip and fall, and sin quite spectacularly, Christians are humans too.

Remember the two greatest commandments are to love God, and love our neighbors…yeah, the Lord is out to rain on our parade for sure…

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Don’t forget in the dark…

Doc Scott used to teach on this idea quite regularly, and it is a fundamental idea that is so important to grasp and to hold on to.  “Don’t forget in the dark what you learned in the light.”  It seems to be a simple phrase, and it is, but it is also very profound.

At some point in most people’s lives, usually early on, we are, on occasion, afraid of the dark.  What’s usually the remedy?  At first, it is to add light.  We can be setting in bed as children with the light on, perhaps reading a story before going to sleep and our rooms are completely safe to us.  We have our bed and our curtains, our toys are just where we left them.  We feel safe and comfortable with everything there and clearly visible.

Now, when the light is shut out and it’s time to go to sleep, we shift our perception of the room.  Nothing actually changes.  Nothing.  It is all still exactly the same; our bed is there, our toys, our curtains, etc…  but, we panic because we don’t remember what it was like with the light on, all we are experiencing is that darkness and the shadows that are now in the room.

Applying this to theology is easy.  We learn all of these great lessons and reassurances in our walk of faith.  We know how wonderful God is, we learn about grace, faith, peace, forgiveness…  While things are going good for us, we are indeed content and even happy with this knowledge; we feel safe and secure.  When the “light” gets switched off, we often forget these lessons.  When things start going down hill we start to feel uneasy.  When things hit rock bottom and we are setting in the proverbial dark, that’s when we need to remember those things we learned in the light.

God is wonderful, grace exists, faith is the answer, we are loved and not alone, etc…  Nothing about these fundamental facts have changed because of our rough times. Nothing.  Yes, it’s hard, it’s a struggle.  Life is a series of bright patches, and patches of darkness.  One of the tricks to getting through the dark patches is to hold on to those things that you know to be a fact “in the light.”

As we grow older, we begin to understand that just because our nightlight is shut off, doesn’t mean that our rocking horse suddenly becomes this horrible shadowy creature…it’s still just our friendly little rocking horse.  God does lead us through life from faith to faith, and He is maturing us as we go.  If it is utterly true that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, and we know this in good times, it is also as utterly true when we are going through horrible times as well.

What I really like about the phrase, “don’t forget in the dark what you learned in the light,” is that is it so easy to recall that you can usually bring it to mind when faced with awful situations, when you find yourself in that dark tunnel.  Now, again, it’s not an easy slogan to live by, it’s very hard, and I forget some of the stuff I learned in the light when I go through a tunnel, especially when it is a long one.  That’s one of the reasons I’m blogging about it today, and also to help remind everyone else out there going through one of these tunnels right now.

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