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A journey in Faith

Thinking much about Faith these days.  My own journey.  The journey of others.  Sin.  Works.  Fear. Desperation.  Confusion and Clarity.

My 11 year old made a public declaration of faith recently and was obedient in baptism.  Red letter day for sure.

For some years he has wanted to make this decision.

A few years ago he, being naturally disposed with a strong ability to lead and be out front,  wanted the attention of all of it, but there was little to no faith.

Then he began to be aware of the affiliation he had with a family of followers and those who we run with.  He wanted to express his commitment to the shared affiliation, but again there was little to no faith.

Later he began to realize the reality of God and had a bit of James 2:19 head knowledge, but there was no faith as I understand it.

He moved into a fearful need for "fire insurance" as it is commonly referred to, meaning he wanted to practice whatever religious ritual that might be employed to spare him the fires of hell.

Over the last year he has in small ways begun checking his actions, attitudes and behaviors and surrendering to the foot of the cross.  In my mind this is where faith first blossoms.

A moment, a period or season in your life, when you say no longer my will, but yours Lord.  I surrender to you.  Of course who does this well or consistently?  None of us, but in the macro we are moving up and to the right.

Always humbled when I remember the many religious friends and family that I have buried, who had some intellectual ascent and some level of religious practice  but who had little love, obedience or transformation - 1 John 4 comes strongly into mind.  Perhaps I will enjoy eternity with them.  The faith of a mustard seed is enough and that is plenty.

Love - The Fruit of the Spirit - the transformation when viewed from the rear view mirror of our lives (1 John 3:1-3, Romans 8:29) is the evidence of our faith.  I like to say, I'm not much, but I'm not who I was.  The evidence of my faith, is the reality of Christ's transformative work in my life.  I am on the road to transformation.  It is still rough, weedy, ragged and erratic, but I'm no longer completely swimming in the cess pool.

A favorite quote:
Forgotten God – Francis Chan (Theology of the Holy Spirit 101)
I think it’s needless for us to debate about when the Holy Spirit becomes a part of someone’s life.  In my own life, was it when I first prayed as a little kid and believed I was speaking to Someone?  Was it in junior high; when I raised my hand after hearing an evangelist who literally scared the hell out of me?  Was it when I got baptized?  Was it in high school, when I actually had a personal relationship with Jesus?  Could it have been in college, when I came forward at a charismatic Bible study to “receive the Spirit”?  Or was it later in life, when I chose to surrender my life fully to Jesus?
Thinking also about just how much fear is in the world and specifically in the body of Christ - the church - and how much works-based salvation tries to sneak in.

Had coffee with a friend last night.  He was upset by some false accusations. They weren't leveled at him personally, but still he deeply desired to be validated and affirmed.  To be right.  To be safe.  To be regarded is his idol.  It is allusive and he is haunted.  His thoughts are rarely on the now, or on his children, wife, co-workers or the mission, but his words are about a deep need for validation.  I suppose I'm slowly getting old enough to see his anger for what it is - fear, hurt and the need for acceptance.  Perhaps in small halting ways I begin to see why Christ is not angry with us.  He just wants us to see reality clearly and not be afraid. His sufficiency.  His love.  His imparted righteousness.  He's got us.

Of course I think we all deeply desire for the world to be right.  For justice to reign.  Insanity, confusion, lies, anger, attacks, brokenness and divisiveness bother each of us deeply and they should, as we all have eternity in our hearts.  Ecclesiastes 3:11.  Yet are we unaware that we are living in a war zone, deep behind enemy lines and insanity is the order of the day?  In this world we will have trouble.

Much focus and energy is on trying to stop the trouble.

I'm all for participation in the political process, but regardless of one's faith or lack of faith, it seems the focus is not on the mission, but on our collective ability to self-govern and improve the experience. 

Had lunch yesterday with a friend.  Very smart man.  Invalidated as a child by mom.  He loves to talk politics and while we do not reach the same conclusion, he wants validation of his position.  It seems every lunch we have, whether just the two of us or with others, the conversation runs back to this topic (out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks).  Stunning that he had such urgency to make this an important topic and that it is worthy of consideration, so that we together can cast our votes correctly.  I live in Texas for crying out loud.  You know where the vote is going, before we start.  So let's move on - let's pray for those we are trying to disciple and let us be about the Father's business.  Conversations return again and again to those whose thinking is not as it should be, who are not making correct choices - as if the goal was to unite everyone in correct knowledge and behavior.  This is certainly a worthy endeavor, but is far from the first priority.

We're not saved by our knowledge, theology, wise living or superior behavior.

My great uncle - atheist, lifeless old man, told me recently: I shave, keep a good haircut and I keep my grass mowed - as if that is the goal.  That won't get you two cents in the reality that soon awaits him.

I hear another friend who also loves to talk politics.  He desperately wants to share the gospel of conservative worldview governance, as if this can save us.  Have we not lived long enough to know there is no hope in D.C. or the political process?  There is hope in only ONE.  NONE OTHER.

Here at Unsealed, we receive a fair number of messages that take issue with some theological position.  Often you can hear a deep need for theological correctness.  Many believe their salvation is more assured, because of their special insight into one topic or another.  Our differing view does not validate theirs and this exposes their insecurity.  As if in some Tower of Babel collective mutual shared understanding, there was security.  I assure you there is not.  The need to be right is strong.

There is something to working out your salvation with fear and trembling, yet can't we laugh in faith at the utter stupidity to think any of us has it all figured out?  And can't we laugh at the joy in our Savior who is beyond our ability?

My son and I talked tonight about an area church, where it seems to us there is great pride in their shared view.  I recall this attitude from the church I grew up in as well - young, vibrant, college town, up to date music, worship, prayer language and ministry.

The church I am a part of is another place where it is cool to hang out and people are coming in buckets.  While there are is a large host of strongly faithful and engaged disciples, there is also a growing contingent who come because it's the place to be.  Assurance comes because we are a part of the popular and engaging.  The more come to our place of corporate worship the more justified we feel.

Stunning how many churches there are here.  There's one on every corner.  It seems in America we need even our churches tailor made and we each need our own.  Our particular flavor of understanding can be validated.  Would that all these duplicated dollars were spent on the mission.  The John 17 prayer for unity...

Young Christian woman at work recently graduated with her sociology degree. She told us about the many dreams and plans she had, but wasn't doing anything as she didn't know where to start.  She wanted a 501(c)(3), a board, a building, computers, funding, programs and much more.  I suggested she meet my friend of 20 years, who has been running this race along time. Suddenly she couldn't be more engaged, because she is running with another.

Friend wants to argue every Biblical point of theology.  So proud that he is convinced he has found something unique in his learning and he has a leg up on the heretics at his church who do not share his enlightenment.  As if God will like us better if we can just be right - correct in our understanding. The God who spoke the universe into being will not be impressed with our reading and understanding.  Deep inside he is just afraid.  He wants to find some special connection to the Judge of the living and the dead.  He's worried.  While misdirected at the heart of it, he's saying God is HOLY and I am woefully inadequate.  To me that sounds great.

Over my life I have gone from affiliative faith, to a said faith, to a fire insurance faith, to a guilty faithless works-based despair, to a faith I could pretend to own, yet was really in utter terror and despair.

  1. For some years I knew about God and tried to follow the rules.
  2. I failed.  I hung out in church, but when it counted, I lived like the world.
  3. Later after major moral failings, my faith enjoyed some gratitude over liberation from consequences, guilt and numb obedience, in order not to hurt again.
  4. Later still I found pardon for sin and my guilt became gratitude.
  5. Still this excitement lasted for only a season and the reality that while I am no longer guilty, God is not the prosperity-based cracker jack box that is so commonly espoused in these last days.
  6. Fear ruled my life as I sought God's favor and protection.
  7. As I journeyed on I found joy in my works on behalf of the Kingdom - a security and a self-righteous delusion that God's approval was found there.
  8. Next up was a deep awareness of God's sovereignty.  This brought despair as I realized my prayers were always about self-protection/improvement and on this God was largely silent.
  9. My prayer life dried up as I realized God wasn't going to answer my never ending laundry list of needs, wants and desires.  His desire was for me to be about and to pray about His Word and His mission and to seek His face.
  10. I began praying about those in my life who I was trying disciple. As I moved near to God's heart, I heard Him.
  11. Of late God is showing me that faith is more than an affiliation, a preference, a confidence in a collective understanding, a guarantee of purpose/provision/limited affliction, an awareness/resignation to God's sovereignty, or a willingness to trust Him when I cannot see or hear.  Hardest of all for me is to believe that He delights in me, He really, genuinely, deeply loves me and He is not angry with me.
  12. To see Him is to be like Him (1 John 3:1-3, Romans 8:29).  God knows that if we could see clearly, we would be like Him.  It is because of the Fall that we cannot see him.  The Fall blocks the Son and truth.  I'm learning faith is seeing clearly, that which is unseen and walking accordingly. He is enough.  He is sufficient.  I am fully forgiven, fully respected, fully loved and I can fully come to the throne of grace any time.  Faith is fully believing it is true.

We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us--not because we have deserved His love and not in spite of our undeserving; not because we recognize the futility of our trying; but simply because He has chosen to love us. We are children because He is our father; and all our efforts, fruitful and fruitless, to do good, to speak truth, to understand, are the efforts of children who, for all their precocity, are children still in that before we loved Him, He loved us, as children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Frederick Beuchner, The Magnificent Defeat (from Abba's Child~Brennan Manning)

The hardest level of faith for me, is not that He exists - for to me that is child's play and any thought of the alternative is beyond reason, nor that I need Him, for my own lack of sufficiency has been the easiest to grasp and not that He will save me in the end from the outer darkness, nor that He is sovereign and I need to walk in obedience, but that His perfection is fully imputed to me and I am fully and completely, inside and out, clean, holy, righteous, justified, sanctified, redeemed, adopted, sealed, unshakable, delighted in and beloved with complete assurance of faith and access to the very presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords - this is the level of faith that often eludes me.

We don't need to be validated by anyone or anything.  We are fully and completely validated and it is finished.

How fun is it to share the gospel of grace with friends who are knotted up in fear, works and hopelessness.

Let us be about the mission.

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  1. Faith is a beautiful on-going journey, fuelled by hope and love, to a place of perfect peace.



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