Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One Giant Leap of Faith.... or Not

What are the chances of this happening?

While teaching on faith last week and using an illustration on skydiving from a book called Faith is Like Skydiving (published by Intervarsity Press where I work and linked on my homepage), a college student would later bring up a great skydiving story he was involved in, which was just as great as the  book.

In Faith is Like Skydiving, author Rick Mattson tells the story of  a woman who unfortunately lost her husband to a skydiving accident. He leapt from an airplane on a windy day, pulled the rip cord, dangled under a full chute and was ready for a good landing. But then the wind took him off course and he got entangled in some power lines.

The author then proceeds to tie in faith and skydiving with the potential of our faith failing:

The image of skydiving illustrates the evidential stage of faith for several reasons. One is the risk of failure.

How could faith possibly fail? Easy. If you place your faith in the wrong thing, it fails.

Skydiving is relatively safe. It's easy to focus on the risk of failure, but what about the probabilities of success? In 2010, fatalities occurred within an estimated 3 million jumps. That's a 99.9 percent safety record.

When we jump out of the airplane of faith, faulty thinking can land us in the wrong spot.

Biblically we are taught to put our trust in God and not man, nor the things of this world. With a few of my own unsaved friends and family, they tend to look at my material possessions and way of living and begin to search for evidence of this Christ that I've chosen to follow.

What I love about this book is the many ways the author illustrates how to carry on conversations with those who are skeptics of God and of our faith. One of my favorites:

Author: "My faith depends on solid evidence and rationale. It's like skydiving. There's lots of evidence to suggest that I'll live when I jump from a plane.

Skeptic: "Religious faith, by definition is purely subjective and is not supported by evidence. You're confusing faith and facts, religion and science.

Author: "But, my faith is supported by evidence. After all, it's my faith, my way of doing things. I would never place my faith in Christ unless there were plenty of evidence and arguments for doing so. I'm interested in an "informed" faith, not blind faith. And your not really in a position to tell me otherwise.

The author suggests that we remind skeptics that it's our faith, not theirs.

As for that college student Andrew's encounter with skydiving, his faith failed him miserably. Andrew and his friends were in the mood for some high-flying, exhuberant adventure and skydiving was just the ticket to test their manhood.

Andrew set up the whole adventure, working out all the details: cost, reservations, the chosen day of the event. But, what Andrew wasn't counting on was a sleepless night of tossing and turning and wondering if he really could jump out of an airplane successfully.

Once they arrived at their destination, each of the friends were given an instructor, and, let's just say, Andrew wasn't feeling too comfortable with his instructor. The man looked like a dead-head from the sixites: long gray beard, dressed in a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf emblazzoned on it and appearing as if he should be toting a can of beer and a cigarette.

Andrew backed down from jumping that day. He ended up taking pictures of his friends jump, as each one fell from the sky one by one in their colorful chutes. To this day, his friends never fail to bring up how Andrew, who set up this whole parade, would wimp out in the end.

Andrew commented that he still thinks about that day and how his faith failed him.

One of the great mysteries in life is how we approach those tests and trials that come our way. We can either use them to build up our faith in God, or we can let our faith fail miserably. I'm sure somewhere down the line you've heard the expression, "You can't have a testimony to give without first having a test." Some of the greatest witnesses are those who battled mightily through a struggle. If you want to be a great witness to others of the greatness of God, you have to first accept that trial or test and choose faith in God to deliver you from it.

But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Self vs. Others

"Only a life lived for others is a life worth living." - Albert Einstein

It's unfortunate that every once-in-awhile an accident occurs that takes on life at so many different levels. Life is something to behold, but at times people will put their own life before others, which we call selfishness.

Today our culture has a way of dictating who amongst us comes first: all the electronic gadgets that begin with the letter I that simply cries out "Mine!", and now self photo op's called selfie. All of these things are fine, as long as we don't let it destroy the value of putting others before ourselves.

 This past week a Ferry off the coast of Seoul Korea sank, the loss of human life was costly (300).
And what is really tragic is how many of those lives lost were children that could have been saved if not for the Captain and some of his crew who chose to not go down with the ship as most Sea Captains are taught. Though still under investigation, apparently the crew could've rescued people by placing the lifeboats in order as they were trained to do, instead of abandoning ship.

"Sometimes, the person who's been there for 
everyone else needs someone to be there for them."

It's unfortunate, (again), the other tragedy in all of this was the Asst. School Principle on the ferry, who survived, felt guilty and took his own life the next day. He obviously felt bad that a simple school trip on a ferry boat could become so deadly.

Life can be good one day and bad the next, which means we need to treasure each day that God has given us. A life given to us that carries with it the value of helping others along the way.

Friday, April 18, 2014

And on This Day, Choose Faith

"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times." - Martin Luther

You are probably wondering why I'm blogging about faith on this Good Friday, let alone a story about Jesus healing a blind man, but that's the significance of this day. Everything revolves around faith.

Mark 10:46-52-

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. 

It is faith that causes us to be saved, and it is faith that opens our eyes from both physical and spiritual blindness. Bartimaeus represents all those who are blind to the reality of God's existence and His workings here on earth. 

Faith causes us to see God's miracles and goodness all around us.

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were approached by an angel at the empty tomb of Jesus, they acted on faith in following the angel's instructions on meeting to tell the Disciples the good news.

That good news still exists today:  He is alive!

"For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord."

- Psalm 117:2

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.com
for more of God's encouraging Word.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Kiss Hello

"Well, thank you for putting my picture on the wall. I'm like Richard Dawson down there,now.
And everyone is drawing me into this long, tedious conversation and I don't have time for this."

Another one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is where Kramer liberates Jerry from his world of loneliness and isolation. Kramer suggests the tenants in his building put their name and photo on a wall near the entrance of their complex, so everyone can greet each other by name. Of course, Jerry doesn't like this because all the women are now kissing him hello each time they see him.

While visiting the small town of Lewisburg, West Virginia recently, I quickly recognized how everyone knew each other, said "Hello", and even greeted strangers with a smile and a Hello.
This is obviously uncommon where I live in the suburbs of Chicago, but while visiting West Virginia this was very refreshing.

 Each morning we had our coffee at the Wild Bean Cafe (kind of resembles a Starbucks, but more quaint) where each person that came in knew each other by name and even greeted us visitor's with a Hello.

While in high school, we had a police officer directing traffic after school who was known as Officer Friendly.  It was ironic that this policeman directing traffic, who smiled and waved to every passing car, was aptly named Officer Friendly, because that was his real name. No kidding!

With each passing day while living in a country still filled with economic turmoil, I'm beginning to realize the importance a smile and a friendly Hello to strangers can make.

So, whether your living in Chicago, West Virginia, any small town USA, or in a big city of broad shoulders, a simple smile and a  Hello can go a long ways.

You can make an impact with just a Hello, the West Virginians did it for us. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Country Tis of Thee

"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
- Mark Twain

Who would've thought you could get a spiritual revelation at the Golden Corral?
Upon our trek to West Virginia last Sunday, we stopped in Dayton Ohio at the Golden Corral for lunch. It was way past noon and my stomach said, "Feed me", and I often oblige to the rumbling of hunger pains. The restaurant was packed both in the dining area and the waiting area. It was about the time those southern church-goers break for lunch after a late church service. About 90 percent of the patrons were dressed in their Sunday best: men in suits and ties, and the women in their flowered spring dresses and fancy hats. Geez, even the little tikes were dressed in style; wonder how the parents coaxed them out of their Nike's?

I don't recognize Dayton Ohio as a Southern Bible-belt state, but it sure felt like it. I enjoyed seeing all of those faithful church-goers dressed in their Sunday styles. Then, my imagination went wild as I thought how different it is on a Sunday, where I live in the 'burbs of Chicago.

On most Sundays after church, if I frequent a store or restaurant all I see is t-shirts and blue jeans and my mind wanders off in wonder, "Did anyone in this store go to church today?"

Yes, they could have went to a Saturday evening service at their church, so I don't judge. But I am
old school when it comes to having church on Sunday; there's just something special about that.

Although our culture can and has changed, I choose to stay old school when it comes to church on Sunday. Hmm, I think I would enjoy living in the South....even West Virginia.

I learned a lot on this trip, so I will share more on my next couple of posts!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Parable of the Persistent Widow

I remember when I spent some time with a close relative who baby sat a young five year old boy; a boy who was consistent and persistent in getting answers to his questions. It seemed like everywhere we went, he had to ask about whatever we may have walked by or driven by in passing. If there were a crack in the sidewalk he literally would ask how that crack got there. After awhile, his questions got tiresome.

Probably one of the lesser known Parables that Jesus taught is one of my favorites,  
The Parable of the Persistent Widow. Here's the Amplified version, Luke 18:1-8:

 Also [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).
He said, In a certain city there was a judge who neither reverenced and feared God nor respected or considered man.
And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary.
And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man,
Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or at the last she come and rail on me or assault me or strangle me.
Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says!
And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf?
I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [persistence in] faith on the earth?

I like the fact that the widow was so persistent for so long in approaching the judge, that he got so tired of her pleas and simply gave in to the widow.

And the wisdom of this Parable comes in verse one: 
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.

And, as any believer should know, God doesn't give in to our demands or prayers, but he does want us to approach Him in boldness with our requests with a certain trust involved in that request.

 And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf?
I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily.

Persistence in faith pays off.

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.com for more of God's encouraging Word.