Friday, 15 January 2016

Faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall away

People who deny miracles are those that either haven’t seen them, or they’ve seen a miracle but refuse to believe what they’ve seen.
Miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  God was never one to ‘put on a show’ for the sake of simply impressing His audience. God always has an ulterior motive.  The biggest miracle of all was Him [Jesus] rising from the dead. Unlike Lazarus walking out of the tomb there were no recorded firsthand witnesses, only those who saw Him after the fact.  This miracle has an ultimate purpose which is to provide faith – while at the same time requiring faith.
When God displayed so much of His glory and might to the Israelites He had a purpose.  When Jesus walked three and a half miles out across the Sea of Galilee to His disciples, in the middle of a storm (without losing His balance as far as we know), at the darkest time of the night, He had a purpose.  When God raised Jesus from the dead on Easter morning He had a purpose.  His ultimate purpose for every miracle is to instill or deepen the faith of the participant or observer.
I am in the middle of reading The Grave Robber by Mark Batterson.   In his book he quotes his favorite definition of faith:  faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall away.  As I read this my initial reaction was this is crazy, but then the realization hit me that this was a truth I experienced in my own life – believing God and watching the impossible happen.
When I first had (was given?) the idea for Bus Stop Bible Studies everyone told me, implicitly or directly, that I was crazy.  This was an impossible idea.  The transit companies would not allow it, there would be too much public resistance, Canadian laws made it impossible, etc.  But this is where faith kicks in – do you choose to believe in a God who is able to keep a tree limb suspended in midair with you sitting on it, or do you believe that the tree trunk of opposition, impracticality and manmade laws make the mighty tree immovable.
Like Peter, who got out of the boat at Christ’s invitation, I chose to walk out on the limb.  I sawed through the branch which required both will and effort and watched as the tree slowly fell away.  Ten years later I am still enjoying the view from my perch on this tree branch... floating in midair.  The tree trunk is long gone.  Even the roots of the tree have vanished thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada.  And, as with all miracles, God had an ultimate purpose which was to share His love with the millions of commuters who ride public transit every day.  And, like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, with resources provided by a miracle-believing young lad, from my lofty viewpoint I am able to observe all kinds of miracles happening in other people’s lives.

Is God asking you to get off your sofa and climb a tree or to walk on water?  Are you simply going to change channels or are you going to turn the TV off and ask God, "What's next?"  Trust me, the view from my perch up here is incredible!

Friday, 1 January 2016

“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1Peter 3:15 NIV
My brother-in-law’s wife died suddenly this past week.  She had suffered with debilitating depression most of her life – her depression ultimately winning the battle but losing the war!
Donna Jean had a deep and abiding faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ.  We enjoyed many theological debates but I can never recall a single moment when we disagreed on the grace and glory of God.
Death is ugly however it comes.  Death and decay was never God’s intent for this world – He created it in perfection.  God also gave us freedom of choice – to choose intimate and abiding fellowship with Him, or rejection and sin.  Amazingly, Adam and so many others have chosen the latter.  And so we all suffer the consequences.
As I thought about Donna Jean’s death I was reminded of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.  He died way too soon also.  Jesus got angry – very angry.  We pick up the story in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11.
When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. 
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” 
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Most people know John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” as the shortest verse in the Bible.  Like those in the story, most interpret his weeping over the loss of his dear friend.  But this interpretation does not seem to make sense in the context of the whole narrative.  Jesus had known four days earlier that Lazarus was dead.  Why start weeping now?
I would suggest that Jesus’ anger and tears were over the tyranny of death itself.  I note elsewhere in Scripture that when Jesus got angry... He didn’t get mad – He got even!  He wasn’t about to let death get the better of Lazarus, or later Himself and us.  “Roll the stone aside!” Jesus commanded.  Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
The next time we see the stone being rolled away it was in front of Jesus tomb.  Again, Jesus defeated His arch enemy – death.
For Donna Jean the stone was rolled away many, many years ago, the moment she acknowledged Jesus as her Savior.  
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”  John 11:43
And now Donna Jean is enjoying the 'hope' of God's promises. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:3-5 NIV
I am ceaselessly in the wonder of God's grace.