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Faith Imagined: April 2011

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

April 25, 2011

The Harvest

I struggle with judging people and ministries trying to reach the world for Christ. I remembered hearing a Christian techno song once. I liked the song, but I imagined it being played at some Rave party, while the under aged kids danced with ecstasy streaming through their veins. I thought to myself, "How could this song possibly lead someone to Christ?"

I envisioned the seeds of the Gospel being scattered all over the party, sowing God's truth in fruitless efforts. "All those seeds go to waste," I told God.

"Not all of them," He replied.

Then I saw a girl in my mind's eye. She woke up depressed and hung over. She remembered dancing to a song about Jesus the night before. She thought it was weird at the time, but now she wanted to know more. She searched her mother's room for a Bible and while reading it, the Holy Spirit brought her to the cross. Saved by a techno Christian song!

Another time I judged was when I saw a man drag a cross up and down the beach. "There are so many more productive ways to reach people for Christ," I thought. "At most, He might reach a few in one day." Then I heard an amazing pastor talk at a conference. He was saved by a man who dragged a cross up and down the local street where his parents owned a beach rental store. The pastor now reaches thousands for Christ. Saved by a man dragging a cross!

I'm realizing that God reaches into the desert with His grace to touch the lives of His lost children. If every person has his or her own desert, then there are billions of deserts in this world that God wants to bring His mercy to. Each of us have deserts within walking distance of our individual lives. We can't focus with jealousy or judgement on what other people and ministries are doing. We need to look around and see who is in arm's reach of us. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few because they are all distracted by what every one else is doing!

So whether a ministry is small or large, cutting edge or traditional, local or oversees, individual or cooperate, we should pray for them but keep our eyes focused on the fields that God has planted us. We will do no good trying to analyze the steps of others and their ministries. And quite frankly it's exhausting and time consuming worrying about what everyone else is doing. We need to soberly ask God what desert He wants us to reach, and then plow that desert like we only have a vapor of time left to finish it.

"Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9.37-38 NIV).

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April 21, 2011


For Good Friday, I'm doing a repost of last year's Easter meditation. This article means a lot to me because the Holy Spirit is teaching me how Jesus is pivitol to my life as a child of God. May we all go boldly to the throne in awareness of how much that privledge cost.

I've seen movies and heard descriptions of Jesus' crucifixion. The physical torture that Jesus experienced is explained in detail, and we see each lash ripping His flesh, the excruciating walk to Golgotha, and the nails hammered into His hands and feet. Many times the pain is our sole focus, and we assume that the fear of this pain explains why Jesus petitioned God at Gethsemane to "take this cup from me." However, the physical sacrifice is only one aspect of Jesus' death on the cross. There is so much more that we many times forget to examine and meditate on.

The crucifixion is made up of three components, and physical pain is only one of them. Yes, Jesus is human, so the pain was a big part of why He said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mark 14.34 NIV). But I do not believe that it was fear of pain that made Jesus sweat drops of blood (Luke 22.44 NIV). I know that Jesus loves me more than I can comprehend, and He would boldly confront physical persecution for my sake. I think He had a greater reason to feel anguish -- a reason that our culture has trouble even understanding.

The second aspect of the crucifixion that would cause Jesus to be overwhelmed with sorrow is that He became sin for us: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5.21 NIV). Please note that Jesus became sin. He was sin for us. What is sin? Sin is the absence of God. Sin is the absence of light, love, beauty, glory, etc. The best way I can illustrate this concept is to take the innocence of a newborn baby and force that innocence to experience every disgusting, revolting, hideous sin you can think of. Try to imagine the innocence of those you love (especially your own children) and your mind will shut down. Your heart can not process the anguish.

The third aspect of the crucifixion ties directly into the second. This was the "more" that I was looking for. It took a while for me to comprehend, which demonstrates just how much I do not know about love. Several months ago, I was reading through the New Testament, and I was struck by the relationship between God and Jesus. They are so deeply rooted together, and I wanted to know how it felt. I prayed and asked God, "Show me how much Jesus loves You."

After I prayed that prayer, I read about Jesus praying to God in Gethsemane. His soul was in anguish, and God sent Jesus an angel to comfort Him. As I read about Jesus just minutes before He would be betrayed, I remembered how I had always been dissatisfied with explanations of the crucifixion. Yes, the physical pain Jesus endured was incomprehensible, but I know that there was another pain that I wasn't understanding. Finally, it hit me. If Jesus became sin, and God can have no part of sin, then God would have to disconnect from Jesus for a time.

Jesus loved God so much, and His entire existence was solely dependent on God; therefore, Jesus' biggest fear was to be forsaken by God. I believe Jesus feared this more than the physical pain and more than becoming sin. When Jesus cried out on the cross with His only complaint, He did not cry out, "My God, My God, this pain hurts so bad" or "My God, My God this sin is so revolting." No, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Mark 15.34 NIV).

Nothing else mattered more to Jesus than the presence of God. That is how much Jesus loved God, and this showed me how much I do not. As I meditated on this, I became overwhelmed with anguish. God has been a side note, a ball I juggle in my busy schedule. Yes, He has also been a Father, a Friend, a Savior, a Healer, a Teacher, a Guide, an Encourager, yet He has never been my core. How do I know this? Because I constantly struggle with forsaking Him.

I forsake God for sleep, for my own desires, for my spouse, for my children, for my career, for the opinions of others, for security, for money, for prestige, for acclaim, for comfort, for pleasures, etc. I daily struggle with forsaking God, and I have no fear of it. Yes, I feel guilty and I repent when I know I've purposely walked away from His will, but do I fear? No.

I know that God loves me no matter what, and I'm happy to say that I have forgiveness of my sins through Jesus. However, I want God to be my core. I want Him to be my everything. I think that is why Jesus says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14.26 NIV).

Jesus does not actually want us hating people or ourselves. Research the Scriptures, and you'll see that Jesus tells us over and over again to love others. However, our love for God should be so immense and so deep that our love for anything else should be comparatively weak. Would we be willing to give up all that we have for God? Jesus did.

When Jesus asked God to "take this cup from me," I do not believe He was talking about the physical pain or even becoming sin. Jesus' prayer before His crucifixion is the only time I see that Jesus took a step of obedience that He did not willingly want to take. God asked Jesus to give up the one thing that Jesus loved the most so that humankind could have everlasting life with Him: Jesus gave up God. Jesus became sin, and God can not have any part of sin. If this weren't true, then our sins are not really forgiven. If Jesus did not take our sins upon Himself, they are still on us. If they are still on us, God can not allow us into His glory.

If I could just understand Jesus' step of obedience, His sacrifice for me, I think I could have a glimpse of how much Jesus loved God. I love Jesus so much because He took this step of faith for God, even if He didn't want to. I love God so much because He "so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3.16 NIV). That God chose to weave me into this Divine Romance between Father and Son boggles my mind. I want to love them both back with a love deserving of their love for me. I know that my love will pale in comparison, but God beautifully makes up the difference with His grace!

Jesus is my hero because of His complete obedience to God. Many times God asks me to do things that I don't want to do, but I do them out of obedience. However, I can trust that God will never ask me to do it alone -- God will never forsake me (Hebrews 13.5) and Jesus is always praying on my behalf (Romans 8.34). The words that Jesus whispered before becoming my Living Sacrifice have become my new life's prayer: "yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22.42 NIV).

"For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you" (Isaiah 54.7 NASB).

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April 17, 2011

Electricity and Predestination

"An electric field is created by a charged body in the space that surrounds it, and results in a force exerted on any other charges placed within the field. The electric field acts between two charges in a similar manner to the way that the gravitational field acts between two masses, and like it, extends towards infinity..." (Wikipedia).

God gave us life, and He gave us free-will. With our free-will we made choices of good (love, forgiveness, giving, etc.), but we also made choices of evil (hate, envy, selfishness, etc.). Our ungodly choices caused sin to enter the world, and God's perfect creation was corrupted. But along with free-will, God gave us Jesus Christ, thereby redeeming what He knew we would mess up. Free-will is our Keys to the Kingdom; we can use these Keys to add more corruption or more redemption to God's creation (Matthew 16.19).

The flow of the Holy Spirit is dependent on our movements. God has a purpose for our lives and He promises to be with us every inch of the way, but because of free-will, we have to make the first move. We take leaps of faith into God's divine plan, and the Holy Spirit guides our every step. The Holy Spirit cannot force God's children into submission, and that is why obedience to inspired promptings and trust in God's will are vital to living out God's best.

I believe God has His best in mind for all His children. I do not believe that God predestined a rare few to be called to His best. That concept goes directly against free-will and our ability to choose. If there wasn't free-will, there wouldn't be sin in this world and the negative aspects that come along with it (pain, sorrow and death). I do believe, though, that God is timeless and eternal. He is past, present and future; and He is not limited to our understanding of time and space. He knows everything, but even with this knowledge, He still has given us the Keys.

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Romans 8.29-30 NIV).

I imagine that when God created life, His anointing went out like a Charged Body and extended into our world, the Electric Field, stopping at anyone who would receive it. He sent out a call for His children choose to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. Automatically when God sent out this call, He could see the end result of those who accepted the call because He is not limited to time. Those people were the Charges, allowing themselves to be filled with the electricity of the Holy Spirit.

Because God "foreknew" who would accept His call, He was able to "predestine" them, but that doesn't change the fact that all of us still have the opportunity to accept the anointing. God wants all His children to conform to the image of Christ. The fact that He knows the end result, doesn't negate the free-will we have to respond. In the Bible God gave His children many chances through the prophets to repent and accept His amazing plan, even when He knew they would repeatedly reject those invitations.

God's anointing is like electricity, flowing throughout this world. He is all around us, and His call to be "predestined" for His greatness is every where. He wants the best for US ALL, but we need to use our free-will to accept His call. If we accept it, we will be like Chargers, lighting the darkness with His presence and glory -- predestined for His greatness.

"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (2 Chronicles 16.9a NIV).

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April 16, 2011

A Father's Hidden Glory

Why were humans created clothed in flesh? The angels weren't. They were born directly into the glory and wonders of God. The flesh does force us to build and use our faith, but what is so important about faith? I believe faith gives us the Father. Let me explain.

Billy Graham in his book, Angels, writes that "God is not called 'Father' by the holy angels because, not having sinned, they need not be redeemed." I wondered, Why can't the angels call God Father? What about the flesh and our faith makes the difference?

The flesh covers the glory of God. Yes, we can see manifestations of it here on this earth; however, they are nothing compared to what the angels see. When I read the descriptions of God's glory that is experienced by the angels, I know that I have seen very little of it. I trust that His glory is amazing, but I must have faith. I have not seen heaven yet.

Why is it so important that we be shielded from God's glory? What about knowing this glory first as the angels did caused them to lose the ability to experience God as a Father?

Think of the most famous person you know. Now imagine meeting him/her. Would you be nervous? Would you be star-struck? Would you cry tears? Would you have dramatic emotional response even though you don't know him/her personally? Now imagine compounding that emotion and awe by infinity, and you might come close to the reaction you will have when you meet God and His glory.

No matter how your relationship evolves with that famous person, your initial reaction to his/her glory will always affect your intimacy. Your knowledge of that glory will be tightly woven into the conception of your relationship. Because God's glory is cloaked, we are able to see Him as Father first. Because He chose to hide our eyes in flesh and receive redemption through Christ, we can forge an intimate relationship with Him by faith. We get to know His love before we fully know His glory.

I've begged God to show me His glory. I've asked him time and again for Him to reveal His beauty to me. I knew He was shielding me, but I didn't know why. Now I do. He wants me to love Him as a Father, so He lovingly protects me from His glory. My faith is strengthened because I know one day my Father will reveal His glory to me, and I will rejoice from a daughter's heart who knows her Father intimately.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." - Jesus (John17.1-5 NIV).

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April 10, 2011

Free-Will in Source Code

As I've stated before, I like sci-fi movies. They make me think. The sci-fi film, Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones, a professed atheists (his film, Moon, has an atheistic angle) and son of David Bowie; resonated one universal truth deep into my spirit : FREE-WILL. I find it interesting that even people who deny their creator cannot rid themselves of His mark. I see God's fingerprint encrypted even in the creations running from the Maker.

I've been wrestling a lot lately with free-will. I know God created a perfect world with perfect people, but because He gave us free-will to choose a place with Him or without Him, sin entered the world and corrupted His perfect design. We consumed from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We had already tasted Good (God), but now we tasted Evil (the force which expresses the absence of God). Everything in existence has its absence, and we became aware of both.

God knew that we would make choices that were without Good, so He incorporated the Answer into His creation. Jesus Christ was there in the beginning (Tree of Life), and He is the world's remedy to free-will. Jesus is the simplest of all solutions. We ask by faith for His righteousness to cover us, and we can be transported instantly into the presence of God. God is 100% perfect, and only those covered in perfection can commune with Him. Free-will corrupted us, but Jesus redeems us. So awesome, yet so easy.

(The following will spoil the movie). Colter Stevens is pretty much dead. Some of his brain is still functional, so the military scientists use that portion to transport Colter back into the subconscious of another man who died on the train earlier that morning. Colter gets to go back several times for eight minutes to try and discover who bombed the train. Colter literally has nothing left but his free-will, and he desperately tries to figure out a way to keep it.

After leaving that movie, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for the free-will that God has given me. Yes, I know the world is corrupted by free-will; however, free-will is an amazing gift that can also produce much good. Without free-will, we would all be lifeless. I finally realized that the corruption caused by free-will was totally worth the life we've been given.

And we are all in Colter Stevens's shoes. We all have one foot in the grave with only a vapor of free-will left to know our Creator and to change the world for His good. Instead of saving people from a train wreck, we are saving people from living an eternity in the absence of God (aka. hell). I don't care how you describe hell -- eternity away from a God who is all perfect, all love and all good sounds horrible. But no matter how good we think we are, we can never fulfill His perfect law, and that is why we need a Savior.

I don't want to spend my short eight minutes on earth worrying about the trivialities that seek to distract me. There is a bomb (inevitable death) about to go off, and there is only one Man who knows how to defeat it. And this Man didn't defeat death for Himself; He defeated it for all of us. We are in Christ by faith, so we defeated death along with Him. We are new creations with the power of free-will in our hands. The question is, How will we use it?

"Being created with a free will, man is expectd to exercise his will for union with God's will in opposing the will of Satan [the force which expresses the absense of God]. This is the purpose of creation as well as the purpose of redemption. The entire life of the Lord Jesus demonstrates this principle." - Watchman Nee

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April 4, 2011

Internet Cafe: Sliding Home

The score was tied in the 9th inning, and we needed one more point to win the championship. My foot rested securely on second base, and I waited for our last hitter to bring me home. (Okay, I might be stretching the truth a little bit. This wasn’t the championship and our score wasn’t tied, but it does make the story sound better, right?)

I was playing softball for my church college league. I don’t really remember the score, but I was alone on second base. I stared at my coach, waiting for her signal. I never watched the batter because that would only slow me down. I watched only my coach; she would tell me what to do.

I heard the “smack” of the ball kissing the bat, and my coach yelled, “Run! Run!” So I pushed off second and sprinted toward third. Then my coach’s voice screamed, “Go! Go!” When I heard this, I just assumed she meant for me to continue running to home plate. I hadn’t made it to third base yet, but I knew I had it. Third base was in the bag. She must be trying to send me home for the score.

When my coach yelled, “Go,” I pointed my bull horns down and charged. I rounded third and kept my eyes on home plate, swinging every limb to propel me forward. Then I heard my coach screaming, “What is she doing? She’s going home!” Of course, I was going home. She told me to “Go!”

Over home plate hovered the other team’s catcher. She was squatting eye level to me with her glove out. I could tell from the focus in her eyes that she was watching the ball chase me from behind. In a split second, I knew that she was determined to tag me out, but she’d have to jump over my flying body. I was not about to walk off that field quietly.

I dove head first, sliding across home plate in what felt like slow motion. Dirt billowed around my head, and my body took out anything that was in my way. I heard cheering coming from my dugout, and I knew one of the voices was my coach. I had taken home plate and scored a point.

This is how we are to live as Christians. God is our coach, and when He tells us to “Go,” we need to point our bull horns down and charge. Yes, there will be people saying, “What is she doing?” or “She can’t do that!” And there will be people waiting at home plate ready to stop us from fulfilling our destiny. But we can’t listen to them. We must trust and obey our God.

God WILL find a way when there is no way. God WILL prove the world wrong. God WILL fulfill His promises to you. So you don’t worry about what others think; you just “GO!”

Question: What area in your life is God telling you to “GO”?

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10.27 NKJV).

You can also read this at the Internet Cafe!

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