Faith

In Scripture, the facts of the Gospel are obvious. What we have in Christ is very clear. “For ye are dead to sin” is Christianity 101. Yet in our (my) life, there is a contrast. “Why am I not what the Bible says I am in Christ?” What is the kink in the system, the jam in the gears, or the clog in the pipes?

The first and greatest commandment is to love God. Then, “of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love.” Yet, although the foundation of a relationship is love, how can the relationship function without faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Therefore! Without faith there is no substance and there is no evidence!

Many of us moan and grown about the lack of substance and evidence the Bible says we have in Christ, yet we neglect the lack of faith in God’s Word. We will never know the substance of what we have in Christ until we first accept it by faith.

The Bible is always talking about doing things through Christ. How does that work? It’s like an oven-mitten. We can’t grab a red-hot pan out of an oven with our bare hands, so we need to grab the red-hot pain through an oven-mitten! Here is the big question: how do we put the oven-mitten on?! Faith! You don’t have joy? Laugh it off and thank the risen Lord for the joy that you have in Him! You don’t have peace? Laugh it off and thank the risen Lord for the peace that you have in Him!

We are always told in Scripture to pray with thanksgiving! Why? Because you can only be thankful for what you already have, and to do so is nothing less than exercising faith.

Praise the Lord for the simplicity of the person of Jesus Christ.

It’s already there. Be thankful.

Of Superheroes and Saints

On May 4th, I saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the second Avengers movie.

Without spoiling anything, it will suffice to say the obvious: it was epic. And although I could write a fascinating post about Biblical parallels with certain superheroes and plot-lines, I will focus all my attention on a certain aspect that I find within every single superhero movie that I watch.

So to bring out this aspect, I will paint a picture which is of some vague resemblance to one of the battle scenes that I remember watching:

The small band of nine-ish superheroes stands back to back, facing their present foe with his massive army behind him. It appears as though that these few superheroes are outnumbered a thousand to one, but as their foe gives his signal to attack, this band charges into the fray with one accord! The magnificent soundtrack music in the background begins, adding to the glory of the scene as each superhero aids the other in kill, after kill, after kill. From every direction, the enemy is leaping and bounding, but each offensive attempt is met with an equal, yet greater force by the superheroes. Right! Left! Up! Down! Out! In! Around! Up-side down! Inside out! Ten birds with one stone, as the (skewed) saying goes. Every blow with full strength. Every leap with full agility. The one with the bow never seems to run out of arrows (I’ll leave that issue to the critics)! The blonde one chucks his hammer through five bad dudes in one throw. The patriotic one deflects an enemy’s blow with his shield, does a back-flip, kicking his foe from under his shield, lands on his back, blocking an enemy that lands on top of him, pushes his enemy upwards with his shield, then kicks him forwards, proceeding to get up and ram his shield through his enemy’s throat. The iron one continues to not run out of electricity or bullets. The mean and green one continues to do the brunt of all the kills, smashing bad dudes like a hyped-up child in day care, thinking he’s at Toys-R-Us. The spider lady continues to wrestle bad dudes to the ground and somehow win, even though she’s still a woman. And in the midst of such chaos, the leader of the superheroes goes after the main bad guy as his fellow comrades fend off the plethora of littler bad guys..

But pause, take a deep breath, and let me ask you this:

Are not God’s battles even grander?

If the battles of the spiritual realm were visible to the naked eye, would not every knee crumble to the ground, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all? Of course! But we Christians are not called to fight by sight; we are called to fight by faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Why? Faith is the only lens through which we are able to see the enemy forces charging at us, the only weapon through which we are able to deal blows to the enemy, and the only armor which is able to withstand the pressures of darkness.

However, without faith, we seem to confuse Saving Private Ryan for High School Musical. We prance through the (knock-off song) halls of life, thinking everything is sparkles and glitter when we’re really hopping over dead corpses and calling them our lively friends. We laugh about the subtly of sin in our lives, thinking it’s “tolerance” and “living under grace” when in reality, Christ’s face is dripping with the spit of His own children.

Such being the case (and despite popular thought), God is not looking for positive thinking! He’s looking for faith! His army is built upon nothing but faith in who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s going to do. But not to worry, He doesn’t expect us to walk up to a mountain right away and say, “Move!” But He does expect us to walk up to a pebble and say, “Move!” And although a pebble might sound really pathetic, if we can’t look at a small pebble and say, “My God cannot lie!” what could possibly make us think that we can look at a mountain and say, “My God cannot lie!”

That is exactly why there are so many tiny pebbles in our Christian walk. If we can confidently tell a pebble to move, God will place a rock in our path. If we can confidently tell a rock to move, God will place a boulder in our path. If we can confidently tell a boulder to move, God will place a tree in our path. If we can confidently tell a tree to move, God will place a hill in our path. If we can confidently tell a hill to move, God will place a mountain in our path and listen for us to say, “Easy!”

Here is the problem: contentment. Too many are content to tip-toe around the pebbles. All hell is waging war against heaven and so many of God’s children are whining because of bruises and paper cuts! The travesty is that these children act as though there isn’t even a war at all. “It’s not so important anyways..” “God wants me to be happy, and I’m happy where I’m at!” “Well, I’m glad you have such strong convictions, but as for me..” No! Time and time again the Apostle Paul tells the Church to grow in grace and strength in Jesus Christ! Embrace the fact that there is a tiny pebble in front of you and believe that God can and will move it! Then, don’t be content with the fact that God moved the pebble! Charge into the rock, the boulder, the tree, and the hill!

Because when I see the climax battle of an epic superhero movie, I see God’s will. I see a small band of superheroes counting themselves as nothing, sacrificing life and limb for a greater cause, and I get a glimpse of God’s Holy Giborum behind the scenes. But as I watch the tiny group of nine-ish superheroes fend off an entire army, I realize that God’s army is very much the same way. Only a handful of people will ever lay everything down on the line and start charging down the narrow way. And though few may ever truly take up their cross and fight the good fight of the faith, what a privilege it is to stand among the few, only to stand side by side with Jesus Christ!

Man can make an epic movie, but a movie is still a movie. It is nothing but a fantasy filled with special effects, mere actors, and a multi-million dollar budget. God, on the other hand, is interested in nothing but reality and eternal life. He longs for faith, and the amount of faith that each of His children has, He intends to grow. And even though it may not seem like we’re these awesome superheroes hopping around and winning these mind blowing battles, who’s to say that God doesn’t have even greater exploits for His children who pursue the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

For through man’s eyes, the life of faith is ultimate stupidity,
But through God’s eyes, the life of faith is ultimate victory.

And that.. is epic!

1st Corinthians 13:3-8b – A Reminder

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never fails. – 1st Corinthians 13:3-8b

Juxtaposition (A Comparison of Realities)

Dear Mr. Murray,

You long for the world’s greatest FTP MMORPG (Free to Play Massive Multiplayer Online Roll Playing Game) with the following features:

  • It must be compatible with both PC and Mac.
  • It must be a mix of machinery and magic, set in the future, yet with some old-school styles.
  • The graphics have to be insanely real and/or cool, making you feel worthy of such an awesome look.
    • It must run at the utmost of smoothness, making the game run at ease.
    • It must be 3D, and the kind where you click and your character goes/attacks, including WASD keyboard movement.
  • At the beginning of such a game, the character creation process has to be like a creative mind explosion containing, races, classes, customization galore, and stat combinations making your character very unique.
    • The race selection process must be a sense of teamwork spirit which will never end.
    • The classes must go farther than the simple warrior, mage, ranger, and mechanic.
  • Your username must be epic, short, simple, and above all else, not taken.
  • The tutorial must make you like the game and not get bored right away.
  • The weapon, armor, and upgrade variety must expand beyond anything else, including personal customization of armor and weapons.
  • The maps must go on and on, containing 1000’s upon 1000’s of different monsters and bosses.
  • There must be a strong sense of community, not big enough too make you feel like an ant, but not small enough to make you feel like a giant at level 30.
    • There must be a simple leveling up system, making the max level around 65 or so.
  • The PvP (player versus player) and PvE (player versus environment) must have many different parts to it.
    • When not in towns/outposts, one race is able to fight against the other.
    • There must be a part of the game when all races may come together to fight for a certain goal benefiting that race.
    • If you’re super awesome and OP (over powered), you get recognized in some way by rankings.
    • When playing against monsters, the environment must be interactive.
  • The battles must be fast paced and epic like none else.
  • May Americans play it and none else. Inter-communication is just the worst when it comes to MMO’s.
  • The stats and skills must be vast and upgradable in creative ways, making PvE and PvP an extremely strategic yet fulfilling process.
  • There must be an endless list of quests which get harder and more exciting as you play on and on.
  • A good guild system must be in place.
  • A good party system (forming groups with others in situations) must be in place.
  • Obviously, some places must be restricted until a certain level.
  • There must be a pet system.
  • There must be a cool travel system.
  • And may everything else not be said, but merely implied by the self view of perfection.

However, Mr. Murray, before you drool over your laptop, let us get things straight: even when you have found a game that has come close to such expectations, you still walked away unsatisfied. And when dissatisfaction had strangled countless hours out of you, you blamed your dissatisfaction on the fact that the game failed to meet your standards.

Now, on the other hand, here are the features of the alternative:

  • Compatibility? It is reality.
  • Awesome graphics? Well, you can’t see it.
    • But if you could, you would see that the dark forces are scarier than all human concoctions of scariness throughout history put together.
    • If you could, you would see the strength of the kind of armor and steel upon the finest of warriors carved throughout the fiercest of flames and forged in the darkest of storms.
    • If you could, you would see evil at its height, surrounding every area of all human existence.
    • But if you turned around, you would see the greatest Protagonist to ever walk the face of earth, heaven, and hell, holding out His hand for your servitude.
  • Customization? You lay your life upon the alter of sacrifice, and the Lord and lords and King of kings (creator of all creativity, therefore infinitely creative) will carve a masterpiece out of a rotting piece of wood.
  • PvP and PvE? There is none; only PvS (player versus sin).
    • The enemy of sin is infinitely more dangerous than an atomic bomb lit for all eternity.
    • It is everywhere, so warfare will never be in lacking.
  • Win-loss ratio? The only fight that has ever needed being fought was won by your King. To wield His victory in every battle is to secure a win that will go down upon the pages of eternity.
  • Guild-party system? You have the Church, a band of fellow soldiers that, if following heavenly orders, will be willing to aid you to the ends of the earth if able to.
  • Skill-stat system? It is called sanctification. The more you allow God to work in your life, the more faith that you will have. Faith is simply the coinage for purchasing the already purchased (by the cross) promises of God.
  • Level up system? It is called faith. The more of it that you have, the more impossibilities will be possible.
  • Quests? The Lord of hosts has an endless list of souls to save and battles to win by means of prayer and humility, bringing honor and glory to Himself which will never fade.
  • Battles? They are difficult like none else, yet the rewards that they reap can never rot or be forgotten in the heavenly realms.
  • Other players? All of humanity is involved and is consequentially at stake for how you go about it.
  • Fulfillment? To rely fully upon your God is to be fulfilled to the utmost. Show Him your faith, and He will show Himself faithful (which is not reliant upon your faith, for His name is Faithful and True, but His work in your life is reliant upon your faith).

Final clarification: the first one destroys you, and the second one not only saves you, but redeems you into the army of the Lord of hosts, fully committed to His glory and honor.

Free will is a gift, but any gift from God is always given with the intention of being given back to His will.

Count the cost.

Sincerely,

The Person of Grace

Simplicity

No matter how many books I read..
No matter how many hymns I sing..
No matter how many spiritual songs I hear..
No matter how many friends pat me on the back..
No matter how many accusations harass my thoughts..
No matter how many times I try to figure out life..
It all comes down to this:

Jesus Christ.

Simplicity: He died in my place with the final words, “It is finished!”

All I need do is believe.

The Helen Keller Within Us All

I went to the last play by CB Productions that I will ever see: The Miracle Worker.

It was a play about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.

I have literally spent hours trying to put my introspection to words, meanwhile deleting everything that I type because I find it impossible to articulate not just how incredible the play was, (Kyra Heaps became Helen Keller: enough said) but how deeply moved I am by the comparison of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, to Jesus Christ and the Christian.

All of that to say: I give up.

However, suffice it to say this:
If only every Christian could see how desperately Christ wants to communicate with us. He literally gave His life so that He could be our eyes, our ears, our hands, and our feet. He continuously woos us to Himself, willing to go to whatever length it may take to show us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. His disciplinary measures are capable of stripping away everything that we have in order to simply show us that we must be fully reliant upon Him to live according to God’s means and will. And even when He does go to such measures, it is all too easy for us to flail our arms and mistake His love for hate. However, even when He disciplines us in the harshest of ways, although we can’t visibly see Him, audibly hear Him, or physically touch Him, we must remember that He does what He does out of love and not out of hate (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6). When Helen Keller was learning to communicate, Annie Sullivan did whatever it took to teach her. Likewise, Christ died on a cross in order to become our only means to communicate with God, and communication with God is the only way for a Christian to successfully live according to the Word of God. Only when we realize our dependence upon Christ may we love Him with everything that we are, humbling submitting to everything that He and the Father would have us to do. All to say, we love Him because He first loved us (I John 1:19).

And even when we can’t see that, hear that, or sense that, we must never forget,

“We live by faith and not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).