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Faith Imagined: December 2009

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

December 27, 2009

The Acts Get Up!

Peter and Paul both healed a crippled man in Acts. I heard Peter's performance of healing while driving in the car. I just happened to flip to my audio Bible in my 5 CD changer and listened as Peter pulled a crippled man to his feet.

That same night when I was reading my one year Bible before bed, I read about Paul's performance of healing. Paul yelled across a crowd of people for the crippled man to stand up, and he did.

Read both accounts quickly and see if you can notice the difference.


"When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he [the crippled man] asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, 'Look here.' He looked up, expecting to get something from them. Peter said, 'I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!' He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked. (Acts 3.5-8 The Message).


"There was a man in Lystra who couldn't walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God's work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Up on your feet!" The man was up in a flash—jumped up and walked around as if he'd been walking all his life" (Acts 14.8-10 The Message).

The day that I happened to read these two healings, I was struggling. I was smack in the middle of a "crippling" season, and I wanted to claim defeat. Several so-called negative things happened in my life, and I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. I didn't want to get up. I wanted to get out!

After I read the second healing, God asked me a simple question: "Which one are you?"

During the tough times, was I going to be the man who was looking for a hand-out and had to be yanked up out of his crippleness? Or was I going to be the man "ripe for God's work" and by faithful determination jumped out of his crippleness?

God accomplishes His will either way. He can either pull us up when we've been knocked down or we can jump up claiming God's promised victory (Psalm 118.15)

I have made a vow to God. I want to be the second man. When I mess up or when bad things happen, I want to jump up and keep running the race. I trust that God uses all things (good and bad) to accomplish His perfect plan (Romans 8.28)

Are you in a crippling season right now? Will you claim God's victory with me and get up?

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December 18, 2009

Imagination Quote Collection

I'm collecting Christian quotes about the imagination! Read to the finish and find out how you can participate!

I love this song because Lanae Hale uses her IMAGINATION! She is Peter running on water in the darkness trying to reach Jesus. Have you ever looked down into water from a bridge at night? It looks like an abyss of nothingness (Yes, I did go bridge jumping with my youth group in high school one cold February night. Shhhhhh . . .don't tell anyone ;-).

So Lanae is running on water in the middle of the night and the waves are crashing against her. The roar of the wind is all around her; but she knows that if she could just reach Jesus, she'll be safe from the storm! Can you just imagine that and relate it to your life today?! The imagination is an awesome thing! It helps us to meditate on God and His Word. It helps us to get our faith from our heads to our hearts!

Just today I read in John Piper's book "Life as a Vapor" that "One of the great duties of the Christian mind is imagination." This is so affirming to me because Piper is one of those intellectual Christians (I mean this in the best sense). I'm currently reading four of his books -- I started them over two years ago -- and they are like lean meat: you can only take a few bites then it takes about a month to chew and digest them.

The fact that Piper places so much emphasis on the imagination is very cool because the imagination has such a bad reputation. Many of us think the imagination is for creative, yet ditsy people or for new-age people who seem to make up the purpose of life as they go. Yet, here is a Ph.D. college professor turned pastor who firmly believes that the imagination is necessary for Christians! Wahoo!!! The imagination is awesome!

Though there are many uses for the imagination in all sorts of fields (science, sports, therapy, etc.), I want to highlight its use in meditation. Meditation is extremely Biblical. Just go to Bible Gateway or Blue Letter Bible and type in "meditate." You will get a ginormous list of verses! Meditation is used to fill our minds with God and His Word; It is not used to empty our minds into some sort of empty, blissful state.

When we meditate, we can ponder scripture, which means we mull it over in our minds until the Holy Spirit can get understanding through our dense and cluttered brains. We can memorize scripture, which works best when a verse jumps up and hits you! Or -- my favorite -- we can use our imaginations to understand the stories in the Bible better and God's character better.

We can imagine Jesus is sitting there next to us while we pray (which He is). We can imagine that the world around us disintegrates and we are at the foot of God's throne (which we are). We can draw or paint a picture of truths that we have discovered in the Bible (I did this with the Tree of Life -- I'll have to show you sometime). We can take a story from the Bible and play it out in today's time (e.g. Instead of Jesus dying on a cross, we can imagine Him dying in an electric chair or by lethal injection). Or we can imagine that we are there in the story, which is what Lanae does in her song.

The imaginations adds emotion and depth to the Bible and God and gives us a viewpoint that we would never have if we just read it. There are a lot of Christians with a head full of knowledge, but we want to be Christians with hearts changed for God. Try it out. I think you'll enjoy it. I wish more Christians were wearing their yoga style pants, smelling their rooms up with incense, carrying their grass mats into their closets and meditating on Scripture and God. We would shock the free world!

In order to show my love of God's gift of the imagination, I will be compiling a list of imagination quotes from the published writings of Christ followers. And I need your help! When you are reading your Christian books, articles, journals, lyrics, etc. and you run across a quote about the imagination, send it my way. Make sure the writer is a Christian and not just a pretty sounding false prophet. I don't care how spectacular a false prophet's writing is. If I don't see JESUS, I ain't (and I say "AIN'T") reading it!

If you find a gem or write a gem, send it to me and I'll give you credit! I would liked Faith Imagined to be the leading web site with the MOST imagination quotes written by Christians!

To visit the collection click here.

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December 14, 2009

What! No Santa Claus?!

My twin sister and I were about seven years old when we found out there was no Santa Claus. My older sister, Shay, decided one day that she needed to enlighten us. My twin, Christina, took it pretty well. She was happy to be "in-the-know" and that she had a little secret of understanding about the grown-up world.

I, on the other hand, was devestated! My imagination was pretty much streamlined with my reality. The entire adult world tantalized me with images of Santa Claus, reindeer, elves and the North Pole; and my heart couldn't understand why I had been lied to all my life.

To say I was heartbroken would be a severe understatement. My mom knew me and my flair for the fanciful, so she sat me down and told me a story about a man named Nick who gave toys to little boys and girls who didn't have much.

What?! My little mind shouted. That doesn't even compare!

Needless to say, her story didn't help. It was like accepting a candy cane in exchange for a virtual candy land. I cried.

I tell this story not to dig up hurt feelings from the past (although, astonishingly, I still harbor a little resentment -- which I should probably let go). I tell this story to illustrate how differently God created each of us.

My twin and I have the same DNA and we were raised in the same home, yet we had completely different outtakes on the Santa unveiling. We feel life in our own personal ways, and the Holy Spirit interacts with us accordingly, which brings me to my holiday point. . . .

People are asked to obey a core set of commandments set in place by God. God created these laws because without them, the world would be absolute chaos. However, these commandments are for any Joe Schmoe. The Holy Spirit also convicts each Christian with tailor made commandments. The Holy Spirit knows our design, our past, our environment, our season and our purpose, and constructs a law-perimeter for our lives that will help rocket us towards our goals. Laws are meant to push us towards blessings and Christ-likeness; they are not just a frustrating set of rules to make our lives miserable!

Christians make two big mistakes when it comes to how the Holy Spirit convicts them (or establishes their tailor made law-perimeter): 1) We push our convictions on others 2) We feel guilty when we compare our convictions with others.

God has given each of us a set of laws that He wants us to abide by. We have to make an exerted effort not to take His expectations for us and place them on other people. We are not the Holy Spirit and our viewpoints are very limited. We have not walked in anyone else's shoes but our own. If God wants to use us to convict others, so be it. If people get mad, they should take it up with Him. . . . I'm sure He'll be more than happy to offer grace, provide comfort and pour on the peace!

Moreover, we must not look at others and their convictions and feel guilty that we are not doing the same thing. Comparisons can be devastating, and we would be better off if we just compared ourselves to how God sees us. God has a unique plan for each of us, and that plan comes with varying law-perimeters.

So during this holiday season, ask the Holy Spirit what are your tailor made commandments. Make a list, and try to follow them. Don't push them on others and don't feel guilty if yours are different than others. And when you get your list (which will change, so keep adjusting), be happy! Whatever you give up for God, He promises to bless you more than you can possibly imagine!

Don't forfeit God's blessings by seeking what the world has to offer -- it would be like giving up the virtual candy land for a petty candy cane.

Read the below verses out loud and proclaim them! You can stand firm on all of God's promises. Just imagine the possibilities!!!

If you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, and heartily obey all his commandments that I command you today, God, your God, will place you on high, high above all the nations of the world. All these blessings will come down on you and spread out beyond you because you have responded to the Voice of God, your God:
God's blessing inside the city,
God's blessing in the country;
God's blessing on your children,
the crops of your land,
the young of your livestock,
the calves of your herds,
the lambs of your flocks.
God's blessing on your basket and bread bowl;
God's blessing in your coming in,
God's blessing in your going out.
7 God will defeat your enemies who attack you. They'll come at you on one road and run away on seven roads.
8 God will order a blessing on your barns and workplaces; he'll bless you in the land that God, your God, is giving you.
9 God will form you as a people holy to him, just as he promised you, if you keep the commandments of God, your God, and live the way he has shown you.

Deuteronomy 28.1-9 (The Message)

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December 7, 2009

The Shrewd Blogger

"We'll Blog until the whole world hears!"

There is an attitude among Christian bloggers that if we write as the Holy Spirit leads, we won’t have to market our blogs. We have an “If you build it, they will come” attitude and assume that God will miraculously expand our follower base. When other bloggers start gaining momentum by utilizing marketing techniques (e.g. blog awards, giveaways, ezine advertisements, guest posts, etc.), we are quick to label them as cheaters who are angling for an unfair advantage. I worried about this myself as a Christian blogger, until I read a parable that Jesus gives us in Luke 16:1-14.

A rich man is about to fire his manager, so the manager reduces the debts of everyone who owes the rich man money. The manager figures that if he helps the debtors, they will return the favor. The rich man finds out about the manager’s dealings and commends the manager on his shrewd tactics. Jesus closes the parable by saying, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

We as Christians need to understand that we are not living in a Field of Dreams. We are living in the real world: A world that is shrewd and that does not tolerate freeloaders. Christian bloggers can no longer blame their ineffectiveness on God. We must exhaust all natural means of growing our blogs before we can expect a supernatural hand-out.

In this parable, Jesus commands Christians to do three things: 1) be shrewd 2) use worldly wealth 3) gain friends. First, bloggers can be shrewd by building a good understanding of the blogging world and staying aware of the current blogging trends. Second, bloggers can use worldly wealth to help them market their blogs. This does not necessarily mean money. Wealth can include resources, services, favors, awards, shout-outs, etc. Third, bloggers must gain friends. Relationships are vital in the blogging world, so great efforts should be made to connect with others.

But what really is all this for? Why does Jesus tell us (His disciples) to use “worldly wealth to gain friends for ourselves”? The answer is “eternal dwellings.” Christians have been commissioned by Jesus to spread the salvation message. This should be our desire and our obsession. The blogging world is merely another backdrop in which we paint the image of Christ. The more connections we make, the more chances we have at spreading the Gospel.

Having an impressive blogroll, a large follower base, a dozen online publications, and a plethora of comments mean absolutely nothing when we die. The only things we take with us to heaven are the souls we win for Christ. However, in order to win those souls we need to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Christians must surpass the cleverness of the world while keeping our intentions pure – we blog for God’s glory alone. If we are shrewd about the way we blog, we will walk down the streets of heaven and all of the people we led to Christ will call to us from their “eternal dwellings” and welcome us in for lunch!

* I just wanted to add that the Holy Spirit will guide you in how He wants you to market your blog. Many times we are obedient to God's will, but not obedient to God's way. If you are not experiencing a "holy ease," trust God's guidance. It might not be what He has in mind for you at this time. God will give you peace in your purpose and season. I believe we all have the same level of influence in this world, whether we are writing to millions or writing to one. Our possible treasures in heaven are all equal!

blessings to ya!

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December 2, 2009

A Prophet's Fear

Christians today are blessed with a ton of resources. We have several translations of the Bible, many godly leaders that can guide us, our own Christian genre of music and fiction, and numerous web sites that encourage spiritual growth. All of these resources are awesome and can be used by God to build our character; however, if they are not divinely used, they can also distract us from God’s purpose.

The story of the man of God (a prophet) who told King Jeraboam (an evil king of Israel) to tear down all the idol shrines always reminds me of the importance of listening to God first. This prophet confronted a very powerful king with God’s message. He even performed several miracles in front of the king and the Israelites. King Jeraboam asked if the prophet would join him for dinner because the king wanted to give him a gift. But the prophet said, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD : 'You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came' " (1 Kings 13:8b-9 NIV).

The prophet left the king, but on the way back home, he was encountered by “an old prophet.” The old prophet told the younger one that an angel had told him that the young prophet was suppose to come home and eat with him. The young prophet allowed this other prophet’s words to usurp God’s command, and he ate with the older prophet. While they ate, the older prophet cried out, “You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers” (1 Kings 13:21b-22 NIV).

I do not think the old prophet was trying to be mean or deceitful; I think he just made a mistake. Since the young prophet listened to the older man and not God, a lion killed him. The older prophet gathered the young man’s body and buried it in his own tomb. The old prophet cried out in mourning, “Oh, my brother!” (1 Kings 13:30 NIV). The older man was clearly upset that the young man of God had died. He even told his sons that he wanted his body to be buried by the young prophet’s body.

I’m sure the old prophet was thinking, “I wish the young man had listened to God instead of me!”

This is the heart of any Christian who is in spiritual leadership. We obediently write, say and do what God asks us to do; but our readers, listeners and observers must always listen to the Holy Spirit first. Whenever I give advice (which I’m very cautious about giving), I make an effort to say, “Do not write my words with gold on your heart! Always, always, always pray about it first!”

John Piper writes in his book, Life as a Vapor, “I am vigilant, as far as it depends on me, to be less than Christ to others.” We are spiritual leaders for Christ, yet we are also spiritual disciples (learners) of Christ. We must be vigilant to make our words and our actions subservient to God’s Words and His Will. He is the authority. We are merely God’s tool to accomplish His divine purpose.

Therefore, the point of the story about the young and old prophet is twofold: First, Christian resources are merely additions to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can and does use others to accomplish His will; however, we need to be consistent about seeking His guidance first. A well-meaning bit of advice can be the exact opposite of what God wants to accomplish. Second, spiritual leaders have to make exerted efforts to become less than Christ. Most Christians would be devastated to find out that their advice led someone astray. That is why whenever someone seeks my advice, I always ask, “What does God have to say?”

The Spirit of God resides in each of us. It is an amazing gift! He wants to guide us, teach us and love us. He will hand pick outside resources to shed some light on issues, but He enjoys teaching us directly. My desire is that I do not put people’s words on a pedestal, and people do not put my words on a pedestal. In the scheme of things, we know nothing of the multi-faceted mysteries of God. I believe that if all Christians were desperately clinging to God, we wouldn’t have all the hurt feelings and disappointments we have today. Christians are human, and God can use our imperfections to achieve His divine plan; however, we need to always put Him first.

John the Baptist said it best when his disciples were worried when Jesus started gaining more acclaim. John said about Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV). That should be the heart’s desire for all Christians.

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December 1, 2009

Internet Cafe: What Shall I Wear?

Early one morning, I stared into my closet and wondered what I should wear? I was about to pull one of my nice shirts off of the hanger, but I thought better of it. I didn't want to waste a nice shirt on a day that was a "just-get-it-over-with" kind of day.

"Today is not special," I thought. "I should just wear jeans and a t-shirt."

I put on the jeans and t-shirt and inspected myself in the mirror. I realized that I pretty much wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. As I stared at my reflection, God nicely connected my outward attire to my attitude. I had a negative attitude towards this day. I wanted to hurry up and get it out of the way. I had already made up my mind that this day would be unimportant and absolutely no fun. And judging from my hamper overflowing with t-shirts and jeans, I harbored that attitude a lot.

Although there is nothing wrong with wearing jeans and a t-shirt, God revealed an expectation and attitude I had about my days that needed to be readjusted. Every morning, I roll up my sleeves and plow through my day like a tractor on autopilot. I trudge along and miss most of the enjoyment because my expectations are low and my attitude is wrong.

Have you ever done that?

Have you ever thought to yourself, "If only I could get through this day, life would be better"?

God is teaching me that I need to change my attitude and expect great things every day. God is the master weaver of our days, and He does not waste a single one. None of our days drop under His radar; He has a divine appointment for us each and every day!

Now, I’m not saying that every day is going to be filled with rainbows and lollipops, but each day does serve a purpose. I think if we put our trust in God, we can find joy even in the hard times. God doesn’t waste a single heartache, conflict or tragedy. He cares about us and our days, and He wants us to be blessed.

If you are a Christian, you have the ultimate portal to joy — Jesus Christ! People are looking at us, and they are wondering why we are here on this earth. They want to see if Jesus makes a difference in our lives. They need to see our joy, especially during the mundane and hard times.

If we start tapping into the joy that is within us, we would have joy every where we go, no matter the circumstance! Once we get good at opening that joy, we can start sharing it with those around us. We can pass out God’s joy like it’s going out of style, and people will praise God because of it!

I am learning to put on a new attitude every morning, even if I still put on my jeans and t-shirt! What about you? How can you give your attitude a new wardrobe?

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118.24).

“Lord, help me to have an new attitude today. I want to live like each day has a grand purpose. I know that You do not waste a single moment in this vapor of a life. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

You can also read this at the Internet Cafe.

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