Everyday Miracles: Faith

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photo credit: Hugo Nidáguila viendo el mar via photopin (license)

 

After last week’s call for the everyday, ordinary miracles you have experienced in your life, I got a nice letter from Lance Price who blogs at: Lance-Price.com He reminds us of one of the greatest, most overlooked miracles we can experience: faith itself.

He writes:

While my testimony didn’t take place in one day, it certainly has been quite the picture of a transformed life. I was raised Catholic, but I never believed in anything I was taught. My parents divorced when I was 11, and that brought my agnostic doubts to downright declared atheism by the time I was 13. When I reached the very bottom-most area
of existence and begged for death and tried committing suicide, I finally surrendered to the questions, “Why am I alive? What’s the purpose of existing?” Over a long journey which took me from my original birth state of Michigan to Florida, and then from Florida to California, God met me where I was and opened my eyes to the purpose He has for me. Now, I write on Lance Price Blog 2017, sharing not only
my testimony, but also writing about purpose, pain, how we can find our most fulfilling, gratifying life by asking Jesus to meet us where it matters most.

To give you a more extensive view of this story, anyone can look at my article, “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

I believe testimonies are empirical evidence of not only God’s existence, but of His love and the way He transforms us in ways only He could do. We all need a miracle of God, and many times that comes in the form of testimony. I’m grateful that God opened my eyes, and I do believe there’s no turning back once we’ve seen the love of Christ in action. Truly, there’s no one like our God!

Lance

Thank you for sharing, Lance. I agree, testimonies can be powerful forces and we can make more of a difference in sharing our stories than we realize sometimes.

Anyone who wants to can read the long verison of his testimony in his article “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

So what about the rest of you? What’s your story?

[tweetthis]Everyday #Miracles: #Faith #callforsubmissions #guestblogging[/tweetthis]

Subtle Evangelists v. Explicit Christ-Followers

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As a Christian writer, I want to make a positive spiritual impact on my readers. Some insist the best way to do this is to hide my beliefs while trying to subtly influence the reader’s beliefs. As I understand the Bible, a faith that is hidden can’t touch anyone in a way that will draw them closer to God. What can touch people is a plain-spoken, humble faith that is neither fake nor forced but lived out naturally. When we do that in any setting, the only non-Christians we’ll offend are folks too hardened for the Holy Spirit to draw them by any means. In my experience, aside from those guys, it’s Christians you most have to worry about offending.

That said, the Bible does present one potentially subtle form of Christian story telling known as the parable, which is an allegory with a religious symbolic meaning. My Web Surfer books have at their core a modern version of Christ’s parable, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” which were familiar and common place to a first century audience.

In modern times, computer networking and blood-borne retroviruses are handy models to show what God is like in an entertaining fashion. I went beyond what is available now to co-opt the Singularity, an artificial intelligence that humanists expect to build and place messianic hopes in. In the Web Surfer universe, this entity is an AI-Human, fully AI and fully Human, who rejects being worshiped to follow Christ. Sander is a flawed model of the Trinity who struggles to be faithful to his calling to reign over cyberspace as Christ’s ambassador, since he knows the price: persecution and tragedy. These are touched on in Users of Web Surfer, a collection of ten shorter works, and fully played out in the novels.

Parables aren’t necessarily always subtle. The God that Sander serves is explicitly a real presence in the Web Surfer books, one I’ve sought to represent as faithfully as possible.

Further, even when they are subtle, parables are for people with ears to hear. Before a parable can touch an unbeliever, they have to be able to figure out what it means. The atheists I’ve heard from feel like Christians who write subtle are trying to trick them. No one likes to be tricked. If we don’t want to rudely cross that boundary, it’s best to be direct, respectful, and to wait until they indicate interest in hearing our logical, rational case for Christ’s existence with an open mind.

In fact, most humans prefer it to be made clear up front what philosophical, political, or religious perspective a media item takes. This lets us make an informed decision whether we’re interested in being “reached,” persuaded to switch to an opposing viewpoint. If we’re not interested, with a few vocal exceptions, the question becomes whether the story is good enough to merit overlooking that. If it is, we will read to the end, then we will go on with their lives with what we’ve read having made little or no impact on our beliefs.

Christians know this when we’re evaluating materials advocating non-Christian beliefs, but we seem to forget it when we’re producing materials advocating Christian beliefs. I suspect this is because it pokes holes in our “evangelism” excuse for writing to please a market where we’ll make more money.

If God has called someone to write fiction for evangelism purposes, that fiction’s target audience is open-minded unbelievers. It’s only a bonus if anyone else tolerates or enjoys the religious content. This is most effective if it organically arises due to the POV characters being “seekers of Truth” who find Christ near the end of their full story lines and convert for believable reasons in a non-canned way. It’s also wise to have an external conflict that can be enjoyed by anyone who reads the book’s genre. This audience seeks Truth from non-fiction and reads fiction for sheer pleasure. However, everyone appreciates a hero we can personally relate to who is doing cool stuff.

Of course, there is another option: pre-evangelism fiction.

Effective pre-evangelism fiction would feature a non-Christian POV character with a problem they solve with the help of a Christian who is quietly living his or her faith in front of them. Alternately, the Christian could be the POV character’s adversary. Either way, due to the Christian character showing the POV character love and respect while living out his/her faith, the POV character changes from being indifferent or hostile to Christians to respecting them without changing his or her own beliefs. Christianity isn’t even on the POV character’s radar as a possibility until the end. Fiction may be more suited for pre-evangelism than evangelism, but if God has called anyone to that, do it.

Andrea  Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since age six, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. She’s signed a contract for her Web Surfer books with Helping Hands Press and has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. She encourages readers at christsglory.com and offers assistance to writers at povbootcamp.com. Andrea  and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.

Find me on:

facebook.com/alightchild           pinterest.com/alightchild/

twitter.com/povbootcamp         amazon.com/author/andreajoygraham

Can Faith and Doubt Coexist?

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Whether Faith and Doubt are in mortal combat depends on what definitions of both words we have in mind. Faith, according to M-W.com, means:

1
a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty(1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2
(1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
3
: something that is believed especially with strong conviction;especially: a system of religious beliefs <the Protestantfaith>
Doubt, according to m-w.com, means:
a : uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision-makingb : a deliberate suspension of judgment
2
: a state of affairs giving rise to uncertainty, hesitation, or suspense <the outcome is still in doubt>
3
a : a lack of confidence : distrust <has doubts about his abilities>b : an inclination not to believe or accept <a claim met with doubt>

Certainly, we can find ourselves uncertain of what opinion or belief is right, but refuse to allow it to interfere with our decision-making and loyally remain faithful to God’s word.  This is a “test and see that the Lord is good” mode of  taking a gamble or going out on a limb in a hope that maybe God will deliver and nothing to be ashamed of if one is young in the faith. Tentative baby steps would be inappropriate for the mature, but through the process of taking them, we learn by experience that God is indeed good.

For some, taking God at his word may indeed require they make a “deliberate suspension of judgment” on any points where they’d reach a different conclusion than God did if they leaned on their own understanding.  Really, though, this is doubting in ourselves  in the process of choosing to trust God. It is highly countercultural, but hardly contradicts the idea that doubt is poisonous to sprinkle the poison on our own flesh/sin nature.

Naturally, it is logically impossible to have a strong conviction about a belief we are uncertain of. So in that regards, it would be an oxymoron to doubt the truth of our firm convictions. We can have an “unshakable” faith on some things, and doubts about other things, but we can’t be both quavering and standing firm on the same belief at the same time.

To move on to the next definition of doubt, however, we definitely can be in a “state of affairs” that is suspenseful or otherwise has an uncertain outcome and have any definition of  faith. In fact, it is in such circumstances that we most need to have faith and that our loyalty to and trust in God is most tested.

One can lack confidence in God or distrust him, but choose to still remain loyal and faithful to him anyway. This is bruised and battered, struggling faith is a spiritual wound as real as, and quite similar to, having a broken bone.  Unless the break heals properly, depending on the severity of the spiritual wound and where it is, the patient will either die or remain crippled in their faith, that is they will be spiritually unable to move and grow properly in the area of impact.

Those who do make a full recovery, however, bear testimony that their faith is not only fully restored, their trust and loyalty to the shepherd is much stronger than it was before. Good shepherds have been known to break a leg bone of a sheep prone to wander, to teach it to stay close. God likewise has a tendency to try our faith by putting us into circumstances that he well knows will inflict (or reveal) doubts and make it as painful to walk in faith as it is to walk on a broken leg. We may call this “failing a test.” God sees it more like a toxin being used as a prescription medicine.  He well knew what side effects we’d experience when he gave it and decided the spiritual benefits made it worth putting us through the suffering.  He promised he won’t ever give us a stronger dosage of this painful, potentially deadly treatment than we can bear, but that itself can of course be difficult to keep believing in our darkest hours.

An inclination to not believe or accept God is the doubt that is the sworn enemy of , or at least contradictory to, every definition of faith. If you have this kind of doubt on a grand scale, you are not even a Christian and you probably well know it. If you have a habitual, unrepentant sin in your life, that also by nature rooted in not believing or accepting God’s word. Most of us are works in progress here, though, as God is in the process of transforming us from cancerous, dead, defeated “sinners”  into healthy, living, victorious “saints.”

This is a good spot to note that a proposed alternate supreme opponent of faith, fear, is simply an emotional response preparing you to either avoid or defend yourself against an anticipated real or imagined future danger and can also be triggered by awareness of a danger already present.  This god-given emergency response system can be helpful if wisely utilized and if it isn’t a “false alarm.” However, the relevant point is that being afraid of something God’s word told us we don’t need to be afraid of does require doubt of the previously mentioned “enemy of faith” variety.

The dictionary definitions of faith that God most values, and desires to grown in us, is complete trust in him and a firm belief in his word even when it cannot be independently verified, and a firm belief that he will keep his promises in Heaven, if not this life, without any guarantee he will come through for us at all beyond the subjective experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

God is notorious for using our struggles with doubt themselves to produce this kind of faith, but but we cannot have the final product while we’re still in the fires of these tests of our faith. We may fancy we have only passed the test when we maintain faith through difficult circumstances where we can’t scientifically know the outcome. Rest assured, my limping sibling, the Good Shepherd knew when he cracked his staff across your leg bone that the bone would break.  You may be flailing and limping, but you haven’t failed. The fiery pain shooting through your broken faith may feel like you’re in a furnace, but so long as you don’t give up and choose to forsake God, you will come through it with an even stronger, more loyal faith as he teaches you through this to stay close to, depend upon on, and more  fully trust in God.

The Lord of All Creation is Waiting to Take Your Call.

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“Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it— the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:2-3)

In verse one, we helpfully learn this prophecy came to Jeremiah when he was imprisoned/under arrest basically. This is the lead up to God announcing he’s fed up with the evil of the Chaldean oppressors and promises to destroy them (strike them down) and restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel (the kingdom being divided at this time.)

First let’s not read past what God asserts right off: he made, formed, and established, that is he’s responsible for the laws of physics and the physical properties and parameters of Earth, including its orbit and location in the universe, boundaries between the sea and the continents, everything is located right where he’s put it and moving according to the rules he established. The water cycle, the often delicate balance of ecosystems,  God designed all of it. None of it is a result of happenstance or a fluke. The fall introduced all of creation’s “groaning” and the “birth pangs” we’ve endured for two thousand years. The destructive forces of our fallen nature, which atheists and their dupes mistakenly credit with the creation, were introduced well after God set this place up and wrote all the natural laws science has and can actually test and prove.

This intelligent cosmic designer, this supreme king who reigns over the entire universe, declares his ears are always attuned to the cries of little old us. He is never too busy, too tired, or plain unconcerned.  No matter what major crisis is going on elsewhere in your world, God has time to answer your prayers and he will if we will stop and listen long enough to hear his voice in our hearts. God is pouring out his holy spirit on all believers today, not just the prophets.

What “great and hidden things” does he reveal? He shows us how to rightly divide his word, he reveals what our hearts hide from us, he reveals all we can be and become if we walk faithfully by his side, seeking to do his will. Even more than that, he will reveal himself to us and make us like him, rather than our flesh’s sinful tendency to remake God like us in our deceived minds.

Lord, open our eyes to the truth of your eyes–tear down the strongholds of our minds and false images of you and reveal your true self to us as your spirit opens up our eyes to the truths you revealed  to the saints gone before us in the never-changing message of scripture. Guard our hearts and minds from all lying spirits and false teachers who would appeal to the wicked inclinations of our flesh and turn us away from knowledge of you as you truly are. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Holding fast to good news

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“ Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4)

As Palm Sunday and Easter grow ever nearer, our study points us more and more to the good news we have long taken for granted. Yet it is the truth that Christ died for us by which we stand strong against the attacks of the evil one. The left out verse two reminds us the good news we have received and stand in by faith is what saves us, if we hold fast to it and cling to it. Let us not be so careless that we stray from grace and render our past belief in vain.

In disputations, let us keep first things first. The critical articles of faith are Christ’s atonement on the cross, that he himself was buried in his tomb, and that he actually rose bodily from dead back to life again on the third day. We must let no one steal these truths from us, or remove the reason he came and died by the denial of the reality of sin and death as the curse and penalty of it. Let us stand firm and be alert to all crafty attempts by the evil one to undermine the foundations of our faith and salvation, including those presented to us as “science,”  recognizing them for the godless myths they are.

Let us keep in mind the testimony of the apostles and all the great crowd of witnesses who have seen the risen lord with their own eyes. Our faith is not based on myths and the ideas of men, but historical eye witness testimony, and our own faith encounters with the risen Lord, the Holy Spirit present with us in our hearts and working in our lives today. We know whom we have believed and see his grace at work in us, remaking us into new creatures. By Grace, we are no longer what we were, though we have not yet obtained all that we will be in him, we have received the down payment.

Lord, we thank you for the testimony of the apostles and for those who first preached the word to us. We thank you for grace and the continual instruction of your holy spirit at work in our hearts today. We present ourselves to you, our souls and bodies, as living sacrifices, and pray we would be fully submitted to you and to your will today. Turn our hearts from evil and empower us by grace to walk in your spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.