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Posts Tagged ‘Belief’

William M. Dyke was a young man who became blind at the young age of ten. Despite this handicap, he grew to be a very intelligent, witty and handsome young man. While attending graduate school in England, William met the daughter of an English admiral. The two fell in love and soon became engaged.

Though never having seen her, William loved his fiance very much. Shortly before the wedding, at the insistence of the admiral, William submitted to special treatment for his loss of sight. Hoping against hope, William decided to have the gauze from his eyes removed during the wedding ceremony. He wanted the first thing he saw to be his wife’s face.

As the bride came down the aisle, William’s father started unwinding the gauze from around his head and eyes – still not knowing if the operation would be a success. With the unwrapping of the last circumference, William looked into the face of his new bride for the first time. “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined,” he said.

Hoar Frost on Branch, Winter 2008, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Hoar Frost on Branch, Winter 2008, Grand Forks, North Dakota ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are those who believe in me, and yet have not seen me.”  Many have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and have grown to love him.  They have done this without ever seeing Jesus in a physical form. They have maintained their loving relationship with the Lord despite hardship, in trials, tests, and tribulation. They have remained faithful to him and long to one day see him face to face.

The Bible promises that there will one day be a time when we will see Jesus personally and up close.  Like the young groom, though we have never seen Jesus, it will be worth the years of darkness we have endured to “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

This sightless faith is not based upon only our imagination.  We have the words of the One who loves us written for to read and ruminate over.   We also have the testimony of friends and the saints who have gone before us who tell us how wonderful this loving relationship is for us.  We also have the Gospel testimony of those who actually have seen him, held him, and heard him.  We can trust their witness to his reality and goodness.

Right now, our eyesight is darkened. But someday, one day soon, our sight will be fully restored. The apostle Paul tells us that, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (2 Cor. 2:9).  When that day does come, like the young William given his sight, we too will exclaim, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!”

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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Rigged Religious Resumes

It is becoming more and more difficult these days to identify the difference between the real and the fake.  Our televisions broadcast “reality” TV programs that are not really reality but staged events made to look like they are living documentaries.  A number of recent authors, who wrote and published personal autobiographies, are found out to have fabricated their stories, fooling their readers, not to mention the red-faced editors, publishers and enthusiastic promoters.

Prominent businesses and universities have hired individuals because of their stellar résumés, only to find out later degrees and experiences were fabricated to bolster the candidate’s image. Professional athletes who broke national records are discovered afterwards to not have reached those hallmarks on their own terms but with the help of performance enhancement drugs that made them stronger and faster.

The television news from major news organizations is acceptable to the public even when it is “staged news” or even fabricated.  Political candidates stretch and fabricate their past experiences to appeal to the desires of voters who willingly go along with the charade just to defeat the other party.

Is it any wonder that the generation coming after us is so skeptical and cynical towards our world?  Is it any wonder that the number one thing they crave is “authentic relationships”?  Is it any wonder that the next generation is more comfortable in the virtual world than the real world?

Unfortunately, the Church in the United States has not faired much better.  It seems that we have turned out a “plastic” faith.  A new Pew Forum survey on religion revealed that most people in the United States identify themselves as Christians – 78% in fact!  Protestants (51%) are still the majority of those.  If these Pew Forum findings are true of our American culture, then one has to wonder why these “Christians” do not have a more significant impact upon their culture.

One has to wonder how Pew Forum identified those who were “Christian” versus those who were not.  Incidentally, 25% of young adults (18 – 29) identify with no religion.  On the other hand, could it be that identification with Christianity for most religious people is more of an idea than a lifestyle?  We like the idea of being a Christian; we just don’t want it to cramp how we live.  We like how it looks on our “résumé”.

The Lord knows the real from the fake, however.  We know that Jesus, when he returns, will identify those who belong to him and separate them from those who do not (see Matthew 7:18 – 23; 25:31 – 46; Luke 13:24 – 29).  Interestingly, there will be those who claim to identify with him, but he will not lay any claim that they are his.  He will deny knowing them.  Some are even Pentecostals who cast out demons and do many miracles in Jesus’ name!  Still, he says, “Depart from me.  I don’t know you.”

The troublesome problem is how to identify real followers of Christ.  The question for the Church should be, “How do we make genuine, authentic followers of the Lord Jesus Christ?”  Jesus seemed to make it pretty clear in the above parables just what he would be looking for in those he identifies as “true” or “real” disciples.

  • They do “the will of my heavenly Father.”
  • They put into practice Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle.
  • They feed the hungry and thirsty.
  • They clothe the naked.
  • They care for the sick and the prisoner.
  • They “enter the narrow door” by discarding all of life’s baggage to follow Jesus.

This list suddenly makes following Jesus hard!  It is easier for me to say, “I believe in you, Jesus!”  It is much harder to do the work of Jesus here on earth.  Yet, that is how he will identify his own in the last day.  They will be the ones doing his work.  In other words, the Kingdom of God is made up of individuals who do not just believe but who do the work of the Kingdom.

The Protestant Reformation recaptured this idea when it proposed the idea that there is a visible church” and “invisible church.” Simply put, everyone who is a part of the visible church may not be part of the true Church of Christ – the invisible church that only Christ knows.  Not everyone in the visible church hears the Shepherd’s voice and follows it.  However, the true Bride of Christ – the invisible church – hears her Master’s voice and does his work.  In other words, the actually number of true followers of Christ is much smaller than those measured by the Pew Forum or Barna Research.

Turtle River, Turtle River State Park, North Daktoa, Fall 2004

Turtle River, Turtle River State Park, North Dakota, Fall 2004 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

Unfortunately, many church people are like the story of a man and his wife who were sitting in their living room watching a drama about a man who lost consciousness and went into a coma.  The husband says to her, “Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine.  If that ever happens to me, just pull the plug.”  So, his wife gets up and unplugs the TV!

Jesus set the example for us, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).  There is a day coming when it will be too late to try to do anything for the Lord so you can be identified as one of his when he returns.  May the heart-cry prayer of the Church become, “Lord, shake us out of “a vegetative state” and awaken us to the work we need to do in this generation!”

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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I met another one the other day: Someone who thought that the roof of our church would cave in if they came to church.  He had a long laundry list of “dirty deeds” that he figured made him unacceptable to God.  He saw his life as hopelessly spiritually lost.  In fact, he had already reconciled himself to the fact of dying and, at best, going into spiritual oblivion or, at worse, going to hell.  He had made peace with it.

And, of course, there is always the “big one”; the “BIG” sin that guarantees divine wrath for all eternity.  It’s different for different people, but amounts to something so horrendous that the person can’t forgive him or herself, let alone think that God could ever forgive them.  This individual was sure he was beyond redemption.

I assured him that God’s love and mercy were much greater than all his list of wrongs, plus the list of all the rest of the world’s put together!  I pointed him to Scriptural promises of God’s love that is big enough to forgive and wipe away all sin.

Plus, I encouraged him that his future could be different from his past.  A living relationship with his heavenly Father through believing in the life and work of his son, Jesus, would change his life from that moment on.  There is a promise of victory over his past and hope for his future.

He didn’t take it.  Couldn’t believe it.  Unfortunately, I meet a lot of people like that individual.

I also meet the ones on the other end of the spectrum.  They don’t need God because they are already good people.   They compare themselves to other “bad” people and figure, “Hey!  I’m not as bad as THEY are.  I’m better than they are.  Religion is not going to make me a better person than I already am.”

Faith in God is only for ‘weaklings,’ they tell me.  They have lived a good life, better than most anyway – at least in their mind.  They have nothing for which to ask God’s forgiveness.  If there is a heaven, which they doubt, their good life will get them there.

Mountain Flowers

Mountain Flowers ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

Both individual’s are in a spiritual dilemma.  One knows he can’t make it to heaven based on his lifestyle.  The other is hoping to make it to heaven based on his lifestyle.  Neither one has a secure hope for the future.  For one, his spiritual glass is drained and can never be filled.  For the other one, his spiritual glass has enough for him.

The trouble is that no one measures up to God’s standard of goodness.  Jesus declared, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Wow!  One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado, tells us that it is as if God said, “Jump over the moon to please me.”  What’s the difference?  Be perfect, jump over the moon – they are both humanly impossible.

And it doesn’t matter if one person can’t get but six inches off the ground while another has a vertical leap of three feet.  Can the one jumping three feet gloat?  No.  They are still a long ways from the moon.  At the same time, does the one jumping only inches gain anything by, in despair, comparing himself or herself to others who jump several feet off of the ground?  No.  The moon, or being perfect like God, is still out of reach.

The Bible asserts, “There’s nobody living right, not even one (Romans 3:10).  Without God everyone is lost.  The church choir and the bar room bunch all need God.  The preacher and the prostitute need the same work of mercy and grace.  They also need the same message.  God doesn’t dismiss our laundry list of “dirty deeds.”  He doesn’t ignore our rebellion.  Neither does he dismiss his demands for perfection.  Nevertheless, he solved our dilemma himself.

Incredibly, he took all of our sin and rebellion and paid the price for them himself.  His demands for a perfect life were met in his son Jesus Christ through his life, death, and resurrection.  Even more incredible is his desire to trade his perfect life for our very imperfect lives.  The only leap we need to make is the one to trust him to do this for us.

Now we can truly be before God what we never thought possible – perfect in His sight and acceptable for heaven.  I’ll never jump over the moon – no matter how hard I practice and try.  The good news is I don’t have to anymore.  Someone did it for me.  I’ll just ride on His shoulders.  He’ll get me there safely.

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Harold Sherman quite awhile ago wrote a book entitled How To Turn Failure Into Success.  In it he gives a “Code of Persistence.”  If you have a tendency to give up too easily, write this down and read it daily.

1.  I will never give up so long as I know I am right.

2.  I will believe that all things will work out for me if I hang on until the end.

3.  I will be courageous and undismayed in the face of odds.

4.  I will not permit anyone to intimidate me or deter me from my goals.

5.  I will fight to overcome all physical handicaps and setbacks.

6.  I will try again and again and yet again to accomplish what I desire.

7.  I will take a new faith and resolution from the knowledge that all successful men and women had to fight defeat and adversity.

8.  I will never surrender to discouragement or despair no matter what seeming obstacles may confront me.

These are great maxims to live by. They can help a person to reach wonderful goals.  These personal declarations can help a person overcome all obstacles in order to be successful in life.  And success is good.  It can be not only personally rewarding but also God-honoring and God-glorifying.

Fall Rosehips, Turtle River State Park, North Dakota, 2005

Fall Rosehips In Turtle River State Park, North Dakota 2005 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

Yet, for the Christian, there is another maxim for success that must not be forgotten in regards to persistence.  It is more important than any of these in Harold Sherman’s list.  We find it over and over again lived out in the lives of people portrayed for us in Scripture.

For example, Joshua was reminded of it when he had to take over the leadership position vacated by Moses and lead Israel into the Promise Land.  The maxim that Joshua needed to take with him to be successful was that the strength to be persistent until success lies in the knowledge that God is with you.  As long as Joshua acted upon that truth and led others by it, he could not fail.

God’s promise to Joshua was very simple, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  This is a powerful truth to take to heart and live by everyday as we seek to accomplish great things.  God has promised His presence wherever his people go in service to him.  Every believer in Jesus can draw strength and take courage in the knowledge that the Lord God is with us and will help us.  So, don’t give up too easily!

Jesus gave his closest followers a similar promise that is passed down to us.  After commanding them to make disciples for him in the entire world, he promised, “I will always be with you, even to the end of time!”  As they went out into the world to do their work and live their lives, they were to take strength and comfort from Jesus’ promise that he would always be with them wherever they went.

Jesus’ promise to his obedient followers did not come with an expiration date.  It is a promise that continues down to our time and place.  We also are to take the same strength and courage from Jesus’ promise.  His presence encourages us and strengthens us to be persistent in our daily battles.

When we give up, we are essentially saying back to God, “I don’t believe your promise.  I don’t believe that you are really present with me in this situation.  I don’t believe that you want me to succeed.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  God does not fail in the promises he makes.

We win in the end because he will see us through until we are successful.  This does not mean the absence of temporary failures or set backs.  It does not mean we will not face obstacles and trials.  There will be challenges.  We will have to fight some battles.  Nevertheless, if we remain persistent like Harold Sherman suggests and never let go of our confidence in God’s promise to always be with us and lead us, we will finish successfully.

So, whatever you are faced with, hang in there.  Do not give up.  Remain persistent at what you know you need to do and you will be successful.  Remind yourself daily that God is present in your life and leading you as you trust and follow him.  You will win your battles and be victorious.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

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