Echoes of Eden | 11.14.16

Have you ever had the sense of something so much bigger than yourself, maybe catching a glimpse of something so beautiful, something strange or exciting, and yet peaceful? Like, that overwhelming feeling of awe at the birth of your child, or the lump that comes into your throat at a poignant moment in a movie; a piece of music that taps into something deep inside, a warm sense of “rightness” when you give of yourself sacrificially, or that sense of deep mystery and beauty watching a sunset over the ocean. NT Wright describes this as “echoes of a voice that points beyond itself.”

So what are these echoes pointing to?

For years, I didn’t really get how the Bible stories from centuries ago had anything to do with my life now, or what the long litany of the people of Israel had to do with Jesus. But, slowly I’ve begun to understand that the Bible is telling an on-going epic story that isn’t over yet – a drama that we are now experiencing. This story is full of adventure, romance, danger, and betrayal, with a hero/lover and a evil villain. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that we have eternity written in our hearts, planted there by God – a Story (with a capital “S”) that we just can’t escape; somehow we just know there has to be more to our existence.

The Bible stories of the people of Israel are not just random stories, but are pieces of the saga that tell of God’s long-term plan to rescue and redeem the hearts of people and restore things back to the way they were meant to be – before evil entered the Story. The circumstances of your life are not just random events, but are interactive scenes in which you have an important role to play – one full of adventure, intrigue, sacrifice, danger, love, regret, and hope.

I believe the echoes are whispers from the One who loves us and will do whatever it takes to win our hearts back to Him. The voice is calling to us of a world set right again, a foretaste of what living life with God at the center will be like, pointing to the ending of the Story – which has already been written. Like all great stories, the villain is disposed of, the hero rescues the heroine, and they all live happily ever after – the kind of ending our hearts long for.

“There is far more going on around us than meets the eye. We live in a world with two halves, one part that we can see and another part that we cannot. We must live as though the unseen world (the rest of reality) is more weighty and more real and more dangerous than the part of reality we can see.” ~John Eldredge, Epic

How would you live differently if you believed this Story to be true?

Got Doubt?| 10.3.16

Does having a strong faith mean you don’t have doubts and uncertainties about God, or get angry at Him and question what He is doing, or not doing?

I’m thinking about the biblical story in Exodus of how the Israelite were miserably enslaved under Pharaoh. Just imagine when they heard the great news that God was going to rescue them. Most likely they would have expected that God’s promise meant that deliverance would come quickly and easily. They probably would have celebrated, “Yay! We’re gonna pack up and walk outta here! God is so good!” But things went badly right away, and that was just the beginning.

The people blamed Moses for setting Pharaoh against them and making things worse. Moses then blamed God for this bad turn of events: “What’s up? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, things have gotten much worse, and You have not rescued Your people at all!” Oh, and he complained again about his poor speaking skills. Just couldn’t let that one go. I just love Moses’ honest give-and-take relationship with God.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t been confused or disappointed by God’s action or inaction. Sometimes we think that if we struggle with uncertainty and doubt, or question God’s actions, we don’t have enough faith. Like, it’s not okay to yell at God, right? Better keep your mouth shut. But, watching Moses’ relationship with God unfold we get a great picture of authentic Biblical faith. This is faith that trusts in God’s character in the face of uncertainty and hope that comes from knowing who God is and trusting His heart—hope in the middle of pain. This kind of faith doesn’t suppress doubts and emotional outbursts at God, isn’t passive aggressive, or pretend to have all the right answers.

I’m quite sure Moses didn’t anticipate the long, painful, drawn-out ordeal that followed. He lost his temper occasionally, and argued with God multiple times. But he never lost sight of whom he trusted – the I AM, Lord God Almighty. Moses hung in there with God, mistakes and all – and God hung in there with him, eventually doing what He had promised. Moses even made the list of those commended for their faith in Hebrews 11:27. “It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.”

What happens to your faith and trust in God when life gets sticky and the easy answers don’t fit? Is He still faithful and good when He doesn’t seem to be rescuing you from pain and suffering?

“Faith is not about striving for certainty. It’s about striving to remain faithful in the midst of uncertainty.” ~ Greg Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt

Not Me! | 9.26.16

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt completely like a ‘poser’ and always a little fearful about getting found out for who you really are? When I was hired to fill the position of a worship leader, it took me a long time to feel comfortable with that job title. I was sure people could see right through it to the real me: I didn’t have all the answers, and wasn’t at all perfect – not what I thought a real worship leader was, or should be – an introvert who happened to have musical talent, but would rather be in the background, uncomfortable performing and being in the spotlight – especially speaking, What WERE you thinking??? Poser!

Out of all the characters in the Bible, I identify most with Moses. When God asked him to do his part in rescuing the people of Israel, that guy balked and came up with more excuses than even I could have! In the story of their dialogue in Exodus Ch. 3-4, five times Moses talks back to God – protesting, pleading to be let off the hook. “Who am I to do this? What if they don’t believe me? I don’t speak very well, etc, etc.”

Reading this story, I am amazed at this God of ours. He listened and answered Moses respectfully with kindness and patience, not brushing his fears and feelings aside, but instead giving him reassurance, advice and tools for each objection. Amazingly enough, even the fifth time when Moses said, “Not me! Pick someone else to do this,” God didn’t give up on him and kick him to the curb, although He was frustrated to the point of anger! He flexed and worked with Moses’ insecurity and lack of trust by giving him Aaron to do the actual speaking.

I wonder if the reason God was angry was because Moses had focused on himself and his own flaws rather than trusting in God and His promise to come alongside him and give him everything he needed to do the job. After all, as M. Basil Pennington says:

The fact is that there is nothing that we are doing that God could not raise up a stone in the field to do for him.

But He wants us to be a part of what He is doing. God completely understands our issues and fears, and always gracious, won’t override or control our choices. He has promised to be with us and give us whatever we need to bring about His good purposes, for His glory – not ours. Contrary to what we may think, His power is often seen through His ability to work through our weaknesses and failures.