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Faith Imagined: June 2010

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

June 27, 2010

Do Nothing

Today, I began reading the story of Jesus sleeping through the storm. The storm was bad enough to scare seasoned fishermen. These men have probably seen pretty bad storms, yet this one could have killed them. Though the situation was dire, Jesus did nothing to save their lives. The disciples had to wake Jesus and beg Him to intervene, and Jesus was none to happy about it: "He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'" (Mark 4.40 NIV).

I also read about the first Easter, and realized the two stories are very similar. Jesus allowed the world to kill him, yet He did nothing stop them. There was a spiritual storm going on, but Jesus would not intervene. Jesus knew that His Crucifixion was a part of God's purpose. He had to have faith and relent to God's will.

After I read both stories, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, "Sometimes I want you to do nothing."

I've experienced storms in my life in which I fought, begged and struggled. I realize in retrospect that I should have done nothing. I fought against situations, I begged God to help me and I struggled with people; but I should have just taken a cat-nap and let God deal with it. I needed to be still and meditate on God's greatness (Psalm 46.10).

God has battles He has anointed us to fight, and He promises us that He will go before us and claim our victory (Deuteronomy 20:4). However, there are battles that He will fight for us. There are situations, people and storms that God will take care of on our behalf, and He doesn't want us to lift a finger (Psalm 35.1). But we need to trust Him.

Sitting on our hands and trusting God is sometimes more painful than battling against everyone who persecutes us. We need to follow Jesus' example: Sometimes He confronted and other times He relented. Jesus trusted God's divine will.

All we have to do is stay in tuned with the Holy Spirit's leading. Is He telling us to prepare for battle or to prepare for bed? If we can pick and choose our battles based on God's ultimate design, we will not become wearing with defending ourselves all the time. God promises us that He will redeem us; we just need to have faith in His Word (Psalm 31.5).

Jesus did so many amazing things, and He was busy much of the time. However, He knew when He needed to work and when He needed to rest. If we could find that balance, we would reserve energy for the times God calls us to action. God does us a favor when He tells us to rest during the conflicts He knows we can do nothing about.

God allows certain storms to arise because they are a part of His master plan. If we fight against everything that attacks us, we might be accidentally resisting God: "But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God" (Acts 5.39 NIV).

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June 20, 2010

Writers' Grace

Many times after I write a post based on an insight that the Holy Spirit has given me, people will mention another aspect of the insight that I didn't explore. Or I read posts that describe beautiful, God-given insights, and I will discover a different angle based on their research. It seems that no matter what I read or write, there is always more to it.

People who write about godly insights offer up their efforts only to realize that they've come up short. We will never be able to describe the fullness of every God-given insight. There will always be a different angle, a different aspect, a different interpretation, a different application and a different relevancy. This realization can cause writers to shirk back or give up. Why would we continue writing on matters that we will never be able to fully explain? Why do we willingly risk getting attacked, condemned, criticized and humiliated?

I've come to a few conclusions that help me claim Writers' Grace.

First, the Word of God is living: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4.12 NIV).

God's Word doesn't change, but I believe that it is organic like a beautiful tree. Its roots run deep, its branches stretch wide, its limbs reach high, each leaf is unique and each fruit tastes different! Therefore, when I describe a God-given insight, I'm only able to write about what I could capture. The tree is too much, too powerful, too awe-inspiring for me to do it justice, but I can explain the little bit that the Holy Spirit has given me.

I love the book of Job, especially in chapters 40 & 41 when God finally speaks up after remaining silent for so long. God gives Job a glimpse of His magnitude, and Job is overwhelmed. Job replies, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42.3b NIV). Even Job who was "blameless and upright," felt inadequate to understand the works of God (Job 1.1 NIV). So I've decided not to worry about having the fullness of God's knowledge because it's not possible. I just want to make sure that I get all the insights that God has prepared for me.

Second, if we knew everything we wouldn't need God. God gives us tidbits of His yummy insights as we draw near to Him. The more we eat of God's Tree of Life, the more we crave it. Yet, we will never be able to consume the entire Tree. So every Christian writer needs to wave a white flag and admit that she doesn't know everything and she never will. Also, we need to give each other some "plate room." We look at another Christian's plate and complain that he is consuming different leaves than we are, so somehow his spiritual food is wrong. However, many times the leaves on his plate were plucked from the same branch that we got our leaves from.

Third, our lack of understanding keeps us reliant on others. It's easy to feel super-spiritual when we are by ourselves; though, once we are around people for a while, it becomes painfully obvious that we still have a lot of growing to do. God wants us to learn from each other; otherwise, He would have ended the commandment at "Love the Lord your God" and not have added "'Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22.37-39 NIV).

I imagine Christians who seek godly insights as collectors of the Tree of Life. They each have their arms loaded with different leaves, fruits, bark and soil. When I learn from them, I acquire all the treasures that they have found. I enlarge my image of the Tree. As long as their treasures come from the Source, who am I to judge if their leaves come from a different part of the tree than mine? In fact, the broader my collection spans, the better understanding I will have of the Tree's greatness.

I love the story found in Mark about the disciples who ran to Jesus to tattle tale on an unknown man driving out demons in Jesus' name. Jesus' reply was interesting: "'Do not stop him,' Jesus said. 'No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us'" (Mark 9.39-40 NIV).

This story is where I found my Writers' Grace. If we, as writers, are driving out the Enemy in people's lives and bringing them closer to Jesus, we are on the right track. If we are sitting with God and gaining His insights, it doesn't matter what side of the tree they come from. No single person can know the breath and depth of God's knowledge. No single person will have the end-all to one insight. What a relief!

So before we go criticizing others who are willing to expose themselves as fools for God, we need to ask ourselves this: "Is this insight rooted in the Tree of Life? Does this insight point to Jesus? Are people being drawn to Jesus because of this insight?" We can apply this same standard to individuals, churches, ministries, etc. They might not be a part of our little circle of influence, but they could be a part of God's unending circle of influence.

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June 10, 2010

Internet Cafe: Taste God’s Good

My daughter is now 15 months old, and it seems that the third child grows way too quickly. She now says several words. One of her favorite words to say is “food.” Whatever I give her – oatmeal, a sandwich, chicken or a cookie – she calls it food.

I wanted to start distinguishing each food item, but I could tell that the advancement in communication would be too much for her. She just caught onto what “food” means, and I wouldn’t want to confuse her. Food is the stuff that she puts in her mouth when her tummy rumbles. That’s all she needs to know right now.

While watching my daughter eat, I thought of verse, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34.8a NIV).There are so many goodnesses of God, and many times I never bother to distinguish them. I just call every aspect of His awesome character “good.” However, I do want to start recognizing the many qualities of His divine nature. I want to understand the taste of each blessing.

If God forgives me for a wrong that I continually commit, I want to claim His mercy. If God reveals something beautiful through me, I want to claim His glory. If God does the impossible in my life, I want to claim His grace. And if God redeems a wrong that has been forced on me, I want to claim His justice.

God does so many good things for me and through me every day, and I want to passionately point out each one and name it. I think if I can start recognizing the many flavors of His goodness, I will learn more about how amazing our God is. I want to taste each blessing and savor each flavor.

I desire to become a spiritual food connoisseur for God. How about you? What has God tasted like lately? Can you distinguish the many flavors of His goodness?

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2.2-3 NIV).

You can also read this devotional at Internet Cafe!

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June 5, 2010

My Broken Alabaster Jar

In Mark 14.1-11, Jesus was dining at a Pharisee's house when a sinful woman came and broke a alabaster jar over his body that covered him with a very expensive perfume. The religious leaders were indignant. They shamed her by saying that the money could have been spent on other good works.

I imagine the woman kneeling there. God put a passion in her heart, and she obeyed Him even though she was humiliated in the process. She didn't know that she was anointing the Son of God before his death and resurrection. She just knew that she was being obedient.

She held two broken pieces of alabaster jar in each hand and endured the shame and judgement thrown on her by the religious leaders. They had their agenda of what good works were important, and hers didn't follow suit of what they expected.

Recently, I experienced a time when I began to question the fruit of what God is doing in my life. I wasn't breaking my alabaster jar over a certain good work passion, and I lost confidence in my God-design and purpose. Were the good-work fruits that I was producing a harvest from God? Was I being obedient to His will?

I knelt in my closet holding my pieces of alabaster up to God and begged Him to show me what I was doing wrong. For the past several years, God has completely turned my life upside down. I have been obedient (though, not perfect) to the Holy Spirit's leading. I know that I have changed, but I wasn't directly achieving a specific good-work fruit, and my trust in God and my obedience to Him faltered. Was I really hearing from God?

After I humbled myself before the Lord, God beautifully brought me to a verse about good works. The crowd was searching for Jesus because He just performed many miracles. And they asked Him, "What must we do to do the works that God requires?"

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (John 6.28-29 NIV).

As I knelt down in my closet, God asked me, "Will you believe Me?"

This belief that God requires of me is not just simply a belief that He exists. Many people believe in God and Jesus. This belief He requires of me is a belief that He is creating amazing fruits in my life, and I daily must believe that His promises will come to pass. Good works come in all forms, and they should be an outward expression of my inward relationship with Christ. He doesn't judge my works (my good works will never measure up to God's perfection). He judges my heart. Do I believe that my simple acts of obedience are valuable to Him even if the world claims them as unimportant? Am I being obedient to His will even though I can't gage or measure the harvest to the world's standard of success?

There are a lot of Christians out there with many passions. This is an awesome thing. We are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and our fruits will all look differently. If you read through Jesus' life in the Gospels, you will see that He harvested many fruits in a vast range of areas. I believe that we can appreciate every faith-filled good work, but God will give us specific passions for the "holes" that He wants us to fill. We are all uniquely designed with a purpose to help with certain needs. We can't all be passionate about the same thing.

My wish is that Christians stop criticizing other Christians for being passionate about different good-works. God put that passion in each of us. We are simply breaking the alabaster jar over our own personal relationship with Christ, and He is directing the flow of perfume, anointing our Kingdom Purposes along the way. The Enemy loves it when we fight against each other. A house divided falls.

"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand'" (Matthew 12.25 NIV).

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