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Faith Imagined: January 2011

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

January 30, 2011

I'm Recruiting

Recruiting Time

When I imagine heaven, I see myself flying in some kind of exploration-cruiser, traveling through more of God's amazing creations. Even on this earth, scientists are discovering new creations all the time; and I believe this earth (as magnificent and beautiful as it is) is only a small portion of what our God can create. Heaven is not going to be a boring space of emptiness with nothing but a harp and a cloud. Heaven is going to be an adventure with amazing exploits and discoveries to be made!

I get excited thinking about my team of explorers traveling with me in heaven. I have no idea what we will be doing, but I do know it will be important and adventurous. God's eternal plan is beyond my comprehension; but if it's anything like it is on earth, it is bound to be exciting (Matthew 6.10).

As I considered all of this, I felt God tell my spirit, "Well, you better start recruiting your team."

Recruiting my team....?

That's when it hit me. There are millions of people who don't see heaven as I do. They long for something more than this physical life, their souls want to live forever, but they have no idea that there is a spiritual world. If I want people to join me in heaven, I better recruit them on earth (Matthew 16.19).

Humans are half-breeds. We are half flesh and half spirit. We have become very good at strengthening our physical lives, but our spiritual lives are starving. The sad truth is that our physical selves die. We walk over the graves of our ancestors just has our children will walk over ours. This life is just a brief vapor (James 4.14), which is kind of depressing if that's all we're clinging to and hoping in.

So if our physical bodies die, why aren't people embracing the other half of their existence? The answer is they don't understand Jesus.

Earth's Mission

God is a Creator (Genesis 1). He created us to give us life, love and a purpose. God created a perfect world and placed His beautiful half flesh/half spirit people in it (Genesis 2.7). However, instead of forcing our obedience, He gave us free-will.* We have the ability to choose God, which is our ultimate show of devotion. The ability to choose automatically corrupts God's perfect creation because many times we don't align ourselves with our perfect God.

Because God exists, the absence of God exists. Everything is defined by its absence. The absence of heat is cold. The absence of light is dark (Genesis 1.3-5). God dwells in heaven and the absence of God is hell. God is 100% perfect and His creations are perfect. However, because we are given a choice, His perfect creation becomes imperfect. God knew this would happen.

Since we are no longer perfect, we can no longer dwell with our perfect God in heaven. We are now separated from our Creator because our choices are flawed -- we all make mistakes. If God allows us to be a part of Him, He too will become corrupt. One hundred percent perfection cannot mix with anything less than perfect or else it too will become corrupt. This is no surprise to God, and He already had the answer -- Jesus.

Jesus lived the perfect life in our corrupted world and took our sin, so that we could wear His righteousness and stand before our perfect God (Romans 5.19). Jesus is the answer to the consequence of our bad choices with free-will. If we want to be a part of all the awesome exploits that God has planned for us in heaven, we better be wearing the righteousness of Jesus. God is all love, all knowing, all power, all glory, all good; and I don't want to exist away from Him. I don't know exactly what hell will be like, but the absence of God sounds lame to me.

The Answer

Language is our gift from the Creator, and our words are eternal. They might be formed in the physical world, but they make their way to the everlasting spiritual world. Words are tools that create. There is power in what we say. Jesus said that all we have to do is confess that He is Lord and we will be saved (Acts 2.21). All we have to do is admit our sin, and ask Jesus to take our separation from God, and His righteousness can be ours. Our faith in Jesus creates a bridge to God that joins the void of our separation caused by sin due to our bad choices we committed with our free-will.

Once we have Jesus' righteousness, we can now be in heaven and fulfill the amazing eternal plans of God because we are now supernaturally clothed in the 100% perfection of Jesus (Galatians 2.16). Jesus is our answer to everlasting life with a perfect God. In one hand, we are given free-will through the Tree of Knowledge; but in the other hand, we are given the Tree of Life through Jesus (Revelation 22.14).

Once we use our words and claim Jesus' righteousness (perfection), the Spirit of God dwells in us (Mark 1.8 & John 20.22). This is the coolest part of being a Born Again Christian, and it's kind of weird at first. All of a sudden, we have God's perfect Spirit inside of us, guiding us (John 14.26); but it takes time to get to know Him. We have to commune with Him like Jesus did. Jesus took time to pray often during His time on earth (Mark 1.35). It's like any relationship: We must cultivate it so we can get to know God and benefit from His love. But we have to have Jesus' redemptive covering for our perfect Creator to dwell in us.

Once we have the Holy Spirit, we can now fully understand God's creation through the Bible. Many people read the Bible and only see historical documents. But the living, breathing part of the Bible is closed to them. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Bible and applies it to our lives and situations (Acts 4.31). If we don't have Jesus and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual aspect of the Bible is dead (Hebrews 4.12). So when we talk to non-Christians about spiritual and eternal things, we need to first explain Jesus. Otherwise, we might be wasting their time and our energy.

So I'm recruiting. I might not have a lot to say or give, but I have the only thing that counts: I have the answer to the world's separation from their creator. I have Jesus. I want people to join me on my exploration-cruiser and go on many exploits in heaven with me. I want people to be united back to their Creator. I want people to finally fill that emptiness that they have grown accustomed to. There is so much more to this life than the material aspects of this world. We have eternity to live. My eyes are set on heaven. Will you join me?

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20 NIV).

* Free-will is illustrated in Genesis 2 when God allowed Adam and Eve to be confronted with the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. They had a choice even though the Creator told them that eating from the Tree of knowledge would cause their separation from Him (death).

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January 24, 2011

Internet Cafe: My Mauve God

In 2010, I read a ton of books written by Christian leaders. I felt like God opened my mind, and the insights from these amazing men and women poured into my soul. However, something began to irritate me – I became a little jealous of God’s glory in these people’s lives. His Spirit shone in brilliant colors that seemed to overshadow my seemingly lackluster life.

For example, one leader saw the physical manifestation of Jesus during a very difficult time in his life. Another leader witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which came down on his audience like fire. And another leader performed a miraculous healing with the power of Jesus’ name. I began to feel inadequate because I had never experienced any of these things, and I desired so much to see God’s glory in my life.

I contemplated all of this while I was helping my kids color at the kitchen table. I had just bought a jumbo box of crayons, and I was intrigued by all the shades of the same color. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to pick a color. I chose pink. Then He told me to gather all the shades of pink I could find. He had me write the name of each crayon in its color on a piece of paper. By the time I was done writing all the shades of pink, I had a list of over 20 colors. I folded the paper and stuck it into the pocket of my jeans. I knew God was going to teach me something.

Once I put my kids to sleep for naptime, I went into my closet to pray and read my Bible. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to take the list out and look at it. I unfolded it and looked from one color to the next, analyzing how each color name fit its shade. Some pinks were bright with a hint of orange. Others were bold with a lot of red. While others were so pale that they were almost transparent.

God asked me, “Which color do you like best?”

I scanned the list and chose mauve.

“Why do you like mauve,” He asked.

“It’s subtle, earthy and not overly showy,” I said. Though I appreciated the brighter and richer shades of pink, I liked the easy-going, down-to-earth shade of mauve. It had a lot of purple in it, which is my favorite color.

“Mauve is my shade of love for you. It is how My glory appears in your life,” God said. “I show Myself in the daily activities of your day—nothing out of the ordinary, but always very special.”

I thought about it for a moment, and I understood what God was saying. I see God in everything around me: I see Him in a bird flying, I see Him in my kids, I see Him in a song on the radio, I see Him in my memories and my daily activities. I see Him in the small nuisances of my life, and His glory in me is just as powerful and amazing as His glory in the prophet, the preacher and the healer. I see God face to face, and His presence lives in and through me. He is my Mauve God.

You can also read this devotional at the Internet Cafe!

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January 17, 2011

Iso Manifestation

I like sci-fi moves. Many of them are not biblically based, but I can't help but notice that they are unable to rid themselves of the imprint of the Creator. We are created in God's image, and we are a product of His design. We may twist and warp His purpose, but His intent is written in our DNA -- we can't get away from it (John 1.3-4 NIV).

So when I saw the new Tron movie, I noticed the Creation themes right away. I've read blog posts about the religious symbolism, and I got a sense of how the writers perceive God in their words. I'm not going to discuss those themes here because I want to focus on the Isomorphic Algorithms (Isos).

I was intrigued by the Isos, and I knew that the Holy Spirit was trying to teach me something. Kevin Flynn desires to create a perfect world, but he realizes that he is not perfect. Thus, a perfect world could not be created. In spite of his imperfections, however, a "miracle" occurs! The pure and perfect Isos "manifest."

Like Kevin Flynn, I realize that I am imperfect. I will always be in need of a Savior (Jesus), and everything I create will always be flawed. This has been a thorn in my side. I fear creating because I know my creations will always be inadequate. The more I get to know the character of our Creator, the more I understand my corrupted humanity. How can I produce something knowing that I will fall short of God's perfection?

But God calls us to create. God gives us gifts and abilities, and He expects us to use them and not bury them out of fear (Matthew 25.14-28) We are created in God's image, and God is a Creator. He gives us all the elements to work with, and He expects us to use our free will to design "deeds" that glorify Him (James 2.26). In glorifying Him, we find our sense of peace, joy and meaning.

Since I'm called to create, I continued doing it, but I kept holding onto fear. I'd produce something knowing that I was corrupting God's perfect design with my flawed creation. Amazingly, though, I realized that something awesome was occurring when I created for God. I finally idetnified this occurence after I watched Tron. When I create, I see special pieces of His perfection in the midst of my imperfection -- "miracles" are planted in the center of my defective design. I put forth energy and do the best with my abilities, and the Holy Spirit intervenes and plants a pure and perfect Iso.

For example, I will struggle with a certain insight that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me. I will try to explain it in an imperfectly written post. But in the middle of my blemished writing, the Holy Spirit places a beautifully prepared truth. Within my imperfect design, a perfect Iso manifests! I push back from my computer, amazed by God's grace, and thank the Holy Spirit for blessing me with a perfectly tailored insight. I know I didn't create it. It was gift from my Creator, placed in the center of my mess -- an Iso!

God plants Isos when I talk with friends, care for my children and adore my husband. (Or He can place them in ministries, businesses, art, daily tasks, speeches, projects, families and any other deed we produce.) However, I am flawed and unable to produce anything perfect. But God knows my heart is His, and He enjoys my trust in His love. He is gentle with me and cares about my desires. He knows my limits and understands my hang-ups, and He freely gives me His favor and His full attention. I create for Him because I find my highest calling and greatest joy when I do.

God knows I'm imperfect. He knew it when He gave me the free will that corrupted His design. However, He loves my imagination and my creativity, and He wants me to create for His glory. He fills in my imperfections with His grace, and together we create Isos -- perfect pieces of creation designed to illuminate God. God weaves me into His creation, and He weaves Himself into mine. Because Jesus is my Intercessor, God is able to grow His perfection in the soil of my imperfections. So go ahead and produce your flawed deeds for the world, and God will shine His glory through them!

"In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5.16 NLT).

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" ( 2 Corinthians 12.9 NIV).

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January 9, 2011

Empty Spirituality

Research shows that many people do not know how to read their body cues. We confuse hunger for thirst, so we eat though we're really thirsty. Since our thirst never gets satisfied, we continue eating, hoping to quiet our need.

When we finally do recognize our thirst, we go for sugar and caffeine loaded beverages that actually dehydrate us even more. We down our coffee and sodas, which seem to help for the moment, but an hour later our bodies start sending us more need-signals.

We live out these crazy lives filled with unending needs and desires, but we never recognize the answer to our cravings -- we need WATER!

Our need for water is spiritual, as well. We are born with an innate desire for our God. He designed us with a craving for His Spirit. However, instead of filling our cups with Him, we fill our plates piled high with food of the world. We eat of pleasures, worries, money, relationships, materialism; and we are never satisfied. We have become fat, indulged, ever-hungry people, and our Spirits are whithering away to nothing.

However, the Enemy knows that many people will catch on to the fact that they are spiritually thirsty, so he cleverly creates Empty Spirituality. There are many beautiful tasting forms of spirituality that have always existed in this world. People drink them down hoping to quench their spiritual needs, but they only become more spiritually dehydrated.

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (John 4.10 NIV). (emphasis added)

I've come across a lot of "enlightened" spiritual leaders, books and schools of thought, but they are completely void of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. The Enemy sews many seeds of tantalizing insights that twist and change the Word of God. Then he strategically glosses over Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins -- humanity's only true hope. And the sad truth is that droves of people are getting a big dose of spiritually, but it's coming from the wrong side of eternity.

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2.13 NIV). (emphasis added)

We are unable to dwell with God in His realm, until we have our sins covered by the blood of Jesus. Jesus' sacrifice atones for our sins, and we take on His righteousness. God cannot connect with us otherwise because He is perfect, holy and pure. Jesus is the ONLY way to reach God. Why would God compete with "alternate" ways to His throne? Why would Jesus have to die on the cross if there was another way? Why would Jesus allow Himself to be disconnected from God for three days to take our sins on His back if a different plan of salvation could be achieved?

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, "Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’ (John 7.37-38 NLT). (emphasis added)

Jesus is God in the flesh who came down to this earth so that we could commune with a Holy God. People die for the cause of Jesus Christ because they know He is the world's answer for our spiritual need. Jesus is the Living Water. We must not accept spiritual substitutes, and we do God's children a horrible wrong when we skip over the cross. Spirituality will not get people to the presence of God -- only JESUS will.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ ” (Revelation 7.17 NIV). (emphasis added)

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters
(Genesis 1.2 NLT). (emphasis added)

Question: Have you seen the core of Christianity influenced by Jesus-less doctrine? What can you do to protect yourself and others from consuming Empty Spirituality? Why is imperative for the foundation of spirituality to be built on Jesus?

Let's feed our children Living Water. Give them Jesus!

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January 2, 2011

Face to Face

Moses is exhausted. He is the only person diligently seeking God in the entire, nomadic nation of Israel. He finally cries out to God, "I can't carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me the misery!" (Numbers 11.14-15 NLT).

I smile when I read this because Moses' humility is so apparent. Many times pride steals our willingness to seek help. But not Moses -- he was overwhelmed, and he let it be known. He was the single intercessor between God and the Chosen People, and he knew he had reached the end of his capability.

God does something amazing for Moses that demonstrates His divine grace. He takes some of His Spirit that He has placed on Moses and puts it on 70 Elders of Israel. It is obvious that these leaders didn't receive this Spirit by their own efforts. Two of the men who hadn't bother to show up to the anointing meeting received the Spirit as well. They disobeyed direct orders, yet God gave them His Spirit.

Moses' apprentice, Joshua, is at the anointing meeting, and he has never seen anybody but Moses prophesy (speak God's will) in the Spirit. He becomes very upset, and he pleads with his teacher, "Moses, my master, make them stop!" Joshua has been learning from Moses for a while, and I'm sure he feels jilted. How could these men receive for free what he has been working for all of his life? Joshua experiences first hand the beauty of grace: a gift not based on the receiver, but on the Giver.

Moses' humility is displayed yet again when he looks at his young assistant and says, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!" (Numbers 11.29 NLT) (emphasis added)

Moses is a shadow of Jesus. Jesus is our intercessor, and God gives us His Spirit because of His love for us and the sacrifice that Jesus made for our mistakes. Jesus wants His sacrifice to spill God's anointing on every person. I'm sure Jesus repeats Moses' words, "I wish all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!"

A prophet is a person who hears from God, who sits with God, who sees God face to face and who communicates God's will. Yes, the gifting of prophecy can manifests in other ways, but the visions, dreams and riddles are merely outward signs of an inward discipline -- seeking God. All Christians are called to sit with God, seek His will and tell others about His glory. At salvation we were gifted with spiritual ears that hear God's voice. But are we using them?

Are we filling our lives with the world or with Him? If we want the fullness of God's Spirit moving in our lives, we have to make room for Him. If we want to discern His voice, we have to listen to and recognize it. If we want to tell the world about Christ, we have to seek Him every day and read His Word. We are honored with the power to communicate with God at any time. He waiting for us. We just need to sit and talk with Him -- face to face!

Question: What can you sacrifice or submit to this year to make room for God? What have you heard from God today?

And the Lord said to them, “Now listen to what I say:
“If there were prophets among you,
I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions.
I would speak to them in dreams.
But not with my servant Moses.
Of all my house, he is the one I trust.
I speak to him face to face,
clearly, and not in riddles!
He sees the Lord as he is.
So why were you not afraid
to criticize my servant Moses?”

- Numbers 12.6-8 NLT (emphasis added)

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