Feelings Follow Faithfulness

At church this morning, they mentioned that the 21st Desperation Conference took place this past week, and they described how so many of the 2000 teenagers who attended had dedicated or rededicated their lives to Christ and left the conference on fire for Jesus. I have to admit that I secretly wished that I could have gotten my two adult children, who are not followers of Christ now, to attend that conference when they were teenagers. It could have altered their faith journies to the point where maybe they would be in the faith now and would be experiencing the peace they are so desperately seeking elsewhere (in all the wrong places) right now.

Anyway, the talk of this conference reminded me of my own “Damascus Road” conversion experience (Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Christ on his way to Damascus to persecute followers of Christ there, as recounted in Acts 9:1-22). when I was 16 years old. I’ve been on fire for Jesus ever since then, which is now a very long time ago. Over those years the flame has sometimes been very brightly ablaze, like it is for those teenagers right now. But I have to admit that sometimes, it has scaled back to nothing more than smoldering embers.

Speaking with a friend this week, an axiom came back to my mind that really applies to my whole life, meaning that it is not limited just to my faith journey. In my (many) years of experience, I’ve learned that feelings follow faithfulness. Meaning that even when the feelings aren’t there, if you are faithful in doing what you know in your heart is the right thing to do, the feelings will usually follow.

Allow me to explain (well, since this is a blog post and not a conversation, I’m going to explain without waiting for permission 😊). The best way to elaborate is with a couple of examples.

Since this blog is focused on myfaith journey (and all of our journies), I’ll start with an example close to home in that space. Over the years, there have been some times–all too many, I’m sad to admit–when I did not feel like going to church. I didn’t have the feelings I thought I needed for the proper worship of our Great and Loving God. Thankfully, though, most of the time I went to church anyway. And most of the time, a beautiful and magical thing would happen: in the midst of other believers worshipping, the feelings would come. I almost always leave church feeling like I have been swept up into God’s presence, pulled onto the holiest ground, generally referred to as heaven on earth.

God is working in and through and around us to bring His Kingdom to this planet. I know that if you watch the news or surf social media, it won’t really seem like this is happening. But in those moments where the feelings have followed my faithfulness, I have sensed that it is happening. God is near. He inhabits our praise. And He also walks with us in the brokenness we bring into church and that which we drag out with us.

For those many times this has happened, I am so thankful that my faithfulness led me to church so I could feel and enjoy the presence of God, which always reminds me that we know how this story ends. Spoiler alert: God wins. In the end, there will be no death or loss or pain or tears or divisiveness, or even dentists. It is good to be reminded of this, especially on those darker days when I don’t feel like going to church.

Photo © Copyright 2022 by David K. Carpenter Photography, all rights reserved

Let me shift now to a more secular example to add and further emphasize another point. These days, I hike or walk at least 4 miles every day, pretty much regardless of the weather. During that time, I listen to the Daily Audio Bible, other audiobooks, and praise music, and I pray (yes, with my eyes open, while hiking or walking). It is consistently the richest part of my day. I look forward to it and cherish it while I’m doing it. I feel out of sorts if I ever have to miss it.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Before it became part of who I am, it was the constant struggle that many of us are probably familiar with: I have to work out at some point. I should go exercise now. Some days I just didn’t feel like it. I was too busy or too tired. The weather was too hot or too cold. I could go on and on with excuses, and if you can relate, you could probably add some of your own.

Over time, however, I got better and better at making myself go exercise even when I didn’t feel like it. How did I do this? Sometimes I would offer myself a little reward if I would go–a nice dessert, for example (counter-productive, I know, but hey, until it becomes ingrained in you, you often have to deal in little trade-offs). Sometimes I would remind myself how good I will feel afterward–sunshine, fresh air, and exertion are a great team for relieving stress! Again, you probably can think of sample deals you have made with yourself to get yourself to the gym (or whatever form of exercise you prefer).

And here’s the cool thing: after so much struggle, after so many negotiations with myself, after so many times of going out for a run, walk, or hike even when I didn’t feel like it, it has now become something that adds joy to my life.

That leads me to another point: sometimes we must pass through obedience to reach joy.

Quote Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, all rights reserved. Photo by Jake Fagan on Unsplash

I trudged through many walks to get to where I enjoy them and anticipate them eagerly.

We can feel God’s pleasure flowing through us when we do what God wired us to do. He made us, among other things, to spend quality time with him, which I think is part of what brings me joy in my hikes or walks.

He also wired us to be good at some sort of vocation, which for most of us translates into our job and career. And although most days I don’t feel like getting out of bed to go to work, I do it anyway. I can think of many other things I would rather be doing, but I don’t do those things. Instead, I focus on the task at hand, serving in my job as though I were serving God, because I am serving Him. Working for a living isn’t a great source of joy, but I have to admit that when I use the skills and abilities God has blessed me with, I do feel the satisfaction that comes from God working through me to achieve things that nobody else could. And that satisfaction dances around the edges of joy, and occasionally even tiptoes over that line.

Here’s the bottom line: a lot of times, if you keep (or start) doing the things you should do, those things can often become something you want to do because of the joy you experience from doing them. This pertains to faith-related activities–like going to church or praying–as much as it does to secular life activities like exercising and going to work. It applies to relationships as well–if you are faithful to friends and loved ones, doing the right thing by those people even when you don’t feel like it, the feelings will follow and you’ll be reminded why that person holds a cherished place in your life.

So one path to joy can be as simple as this: remembering that feelings will follow faithfulness.

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The Climb

Last week, I wrote about the joy of the Lord. This week, I’d like to discuss it a bit more, but from a different perspective. Specifically, I’d like to invite us all to reflect on how we have a tendency to steal it from ourselves.

This morning, my wife and I (along with our dog, Happy) grappled with a spectacular but challenging hike. It was about 5.5 miles long, but what made it especially challenging was the fact that it was almost entirely uphill on the way out. And not only that, but we gained over 1500 feet in elevation. So it was tough, to say the least.

As I was leaning into the mountain to ascend it, I mostly had to watch my footing since the trail was decorated with many small and medium-sized boulders, some of which were loose, so it would be easy to take a potentially nasty tumble. So since my eyes were fixated mostly on the trail directly in front of me, much of my enjoyment needed to come from other senses. A stream whispered at first, beckoning us to find it. When we did, the symphony of water rushing over rocks reached straight into my soul. Soothing me, restoring me. The trail wound through a forest populated predominantly by various pine and spruce trees, so the scent of Christmas wafted through the July air.

I was cherishing this hike, to say the least.

However, every once in a while, I would look up to make sure we were still on the trail (some of the trails in the San Isabel National Forest aren’t well marked). When I did, a temptation began gnawing at the edge of my consciousness to get discouraged about how much more steep uphill still lay ahead of us.

There I was, thoroughly enjoying the hike, but then I nearly allowed discouragement to rob me of the joy I was experiencing.

That made me wonder how many times I–and all of us–allow concern for what lies ahead to steal the joy of the moment from us.

In order for the joy of the Lord to permeate us, we have to live in the current moment because that is where God meets us. He is timeless, not bound by time, but He made us so that we experience life as a stream of moments–seconds, minutes, hours, days flow by us. Once they are passed, we cannot get them back.

If we walk upstream, delving into our past, God is not there because we’re not really there, either. Although God can help us heal from the wounds of the past, He does not meet us there. And although He can see our future (since He is outside of time), He also does not meet us there, either. So when we let our worried minds wander downstream in moments not yet come, fretting about what might be, we go there without God.

I have a dear friend who is a devoted follower of Christ. But as hard as he tries, he frequently cannot stop himself from worrying about the future. I have reminded him that you cannot live tomorrow until it becomes today. Even though he has made that somewhat of a mantra for himself, he often still cannot resist the temptation. And in succumbing, he robs himself of the joy of the moment. I’ve watched it happen with him. We can be doing something that I know he enjoys, and at first, when he’s present in the moment, he really is feeling that pleasure. But at some point, because I know him so well, I can tell when he has left the moment to wander into the future, worrying about something that will probably not happen. It’s sad to watch, really, since he has given up some of the joy that God offered him. Wadded it up and thrown it in the trash can.

So here’s my thought for the week: don’t let the whole steep climb of life rob you of the rich possibilities for joy in the present moment. Don’t look up and wonder how you will ever make it to the top–keep your eyes only on the next step.

As I was pondering this during my uphill hike, God brought Psalm 121 to my mind (this is one of the ways God speaks to us in real-time, which is why it’s helpful to be familiar with Scripture):

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

God is waiting for us at the top of the mountain. Sometimes He’ll venture down to help us when we’re struggling, but other times He won’t, preferring to root for us and help us in other ways we can’t see. I don’t know why that is, but I think I’d like to ask Him when I meet him face-to-face.

In a secular context, I also thought of the song “The Climb“. This was sung by Miley Cyrus in 2009, before she, ironically, succumbed to the climb herself and became someone else entirely. My younger daughter introduced it to me back then, before she also stumbled off the path herself. Anyway, the song is worth a listen. The topic isn’t exactly the same, but it still offers some nibbles to ponder.

Whether you prefer to listen to God or to a young Miley Cyrus, the point is that none of us should let what lies ahead, no matter how steep it appears to be, steal the joy of the moment from us. Listen to the stream, allow its gentle whispers to fill you with peace and restore your soul. Inhale deeply when you stumble upon the scent of Christmas in the middle of July. Life can be full of wonder and joy, gifts from our Loving Creator, if you’ll only allow yourself to live in the moment so that you may find them and cherish them.

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The Joy of the Lord Comes from Hoping in Him

This weekend in America we are celebrating Independence Day, a time commemorating the birth of our nation. This got me thinking about joy. Joy is a gift from God, but one that is all too often overlooked. I get it, life is hard, and in the midst of difficult circumstances, joy is elusive.

But here’s the thing: joy is transcendent.

God gives it to us to experience regardless of what’s happening around us or to us or in us.

As followers of Christ, we are called to model our behavior after Jesus’s. But if someone who didn’t know Jesus were to try to guess what Jesus was like based on observing Christians, how do you think they would assess him? Joyful and loving? Sadly, probably not. More likely, they would guess that Jesus was dour and bitter, trying to keep everyone around him from having a good time.

This is tragic, because the Jesus I see in the Bible was brimming with joie de vivre, a great French phrase meaning “joy of life”, which really gets at the exuberant enjoyment of life. His first recorded miracle, for example, was to create top-quality wine from ordinary water to save the day at a wedding feast. He loved hanging out with kids and his buddies. He attended many dinner parties.

That doesn’t strike me as someone who was dour and bitter.

So why is it that followers of Christ have a reputation for looking like we just ate a lemon?

Here’s at least part of the reason: because we overlook and even reject God’s gift of joy.

But Dave, you don’t know what’s happening with my job / family / illness / bank account, you might say. Or what about what’s happening in our country and the world? How can I possibly be joyful in the middle of this mess?

Fair point.

But let’s look at Jesus’s life and what was going on in the world when he walked the earth. He was homeless. His own family mostly did not believe he was who he said he was until after his death and resurrection. He was a rabbi, but most people in his religious community rejected his message, to the point that they had him executed. His best friends abandoned him when he needed them most. His country had ceased to exist as its own entity since it had become just another occupied territory of the brutal government of Rome.

I think it’s a safe guess that none of our lives is as difficult as that.

And yet, despite all of the reasons why he should have been miserable, Jesus’s joie de vivre made people want to be around him.

How could that be?

There are many good answers, but I believe at least one of them is because of where he placed his hope, which was in God alone. What happened one day or the next didn’t rob him of his joy because he was absolutely convinced that God was in control of this world. He knew that waiting on the other side of these struggles was an eternity in paradise with God. And us. And all the good dogs who have ever lived.

This means that his ultimate hope did not hang on his job, his family, his health, or his bank account. It was not dependent on his country or government officials.

So why do we place so much of our hope in these things, and so little in God?

It’s a rhetorical question, and not one meant to make us all feel bad. Instead, I invite all of us to keep it in mind as we go into our weeks. Every time we feel something starting to take away the joy God has given to us, we should catch ourselves and think about where we might be misplacing our hope. Why is that outcome more important to us than the blessings God is giving us now or the ultimate blessing awaiting us at the end of days?

Let’s receive God’s gift of joy with open hands and open arms, with reckless abandon. Celebrate. Be thankful. Laugh at the dad jokes. Dance like Snoopy.

Borrowed from https://images.app.goo.gl/J4bMtWSpHNFHhvws6. Image may be subject to copyright.
Borrowed from YouVersion: https://my.bible.com/verse-of-the-day/NEH.8.10/10819?version=111

P.S. For anyone who was hoping for a more patriotic post for Independence Day, here’s the link to my blog from last year’s July 4th weekend.

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Weeds

I’ve spent the last several days with my wife on a glorious hiking vacation in Glacier National Park in Montana. The natural beauty–the work of the ultimate creative Artist–was stunning. As a gardener who works hard to make my garden look good, I am constantly amazed by the wildflowers, trees, and shrubs that God so effortlessly arranges to form such spectacular scenery. Having said that, I also noticed that there were plenty of weeds scattered throughout the landscape as well.

The ongoing struggle between flowers and weeds, whether in my yard or a national park, makes me think of the constant battle between good and evil. God blesses our lives with many flowers, whether or not we have eyes to see them. But the evil one tries to pollute that beauty by sowing weeds of fear, entitlement, hate, and many other ills, into the gardens of our lives.

Even though God has not planted the weeds, the Great Gardener gently works on us and with us to help us see the weeds for what they are so we can pull them and eliminate them from our lives.

Sometimes the flowers vs. weeds analogy plays out at a national level as well, as it has this past week. The many weeds of political tension were already threatening to overrun the flower garden that is America, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade has only made that worse. Another weed–and a big one at that. I call it a weed not as commentary on how I feel about the decision (as I have mentioned before, I believe I am not to use this forum to talk about my political views), but rather to point out that the issue of abortion is yet another tool the evil one is using to try to disintegrate this country.

One big difference between weeds in our own lives and weeds in our country is that for personal weeds, God works in us to eliminate them, but for national weeds, God works through us to try to eradicate those. For example, if I have a weed in my life that might be labeled “discontentment”, God might chisel away at my heart to help me develop a posture of gratitude for the countless ways He has blessed me. But for a national weed like the divide over abortion, God might work through me by helping me not to engage in bitter discussions on the topic and by exhibiting Christ’s love even toward those who view this issue differently from me.

I say this as much to myself as to anyone reading this: hate and bitterness are favorite tools of Satan, so we must never take them up into our hands, no matter how tempting they may be. If we are to follow Christ, we can only ever use tools he used to deal with difficult people in difficult situations–coming alongside them, understanding their pain, and helping them carry their burdens. Caring for them. Loving them.

That’s how we can cooperate with God to pull the weeds threatening to overrun the garden of our great country.

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Happy Abba’s Day

Today is Father’s Day here in the USA, and in some other parts of the world as well. This got me thinking about how some people’s faith journey is impacted by their relationship with their earthly father. What I mean by that is there are people who were blessed with a loving, caring father, so they may have an easier time embracing the idea of a loving, caring Heavenly Father. On the other hand, people whose father was absent, distant, mean, or worse probably struggle to think of a Heavenly Father as a good thing.

As a father myself, though, I can’t help but think that no matter how hard I tried, there were myriad times and ways I failed to be the loving, caring father I wanted (and still want) to be. I’m not beating myself up here, but I’m saying this to point out that Jesus invited us to look past our shortcomings as fathers and those of our own fathers when he said:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Jesus, in Matthew 7:9-11

What this says to me is that each of us dads who really are trying our best still can’t measure up to how loving and caring our Heavenly Father is for each and every one of us, His children. I also believe Jesus is hinting at the idea that no matter how good or bad our earthly father is or was, we should not judge God as Father based on that standard since God is infinitely better than even the best earthly father, and His love and greatness can overcome even the most horrible father.

And this further got me thinking about how Jesus modeled for us how we should relate to our Heavenly Father. When speaking with God the Father, Jesus often did so out loud so we could catch a glimpse into their conversations–and that’s really what prayer is intended to be: a conversation with God. And in those conversations, Jesus did not use grandiose, inflated, “religious” language. Instead, he used intimate, loving words when talking with God. In fact, he didn’t generally use the formal term, “Father”. Instead, he favored the more colloquial Aramaic term, “Abba”, which is closer to what we would usually say as “Dad”.

Here’s the thing: Jesus is showing us that we don’t have a God that’s “out there somewhere” or aloof and living by Himself in an ivory cathedral, not wanting to be bothered by us. He’s demonstrating for us that God is with us, near enough to hear us whisper, “Dad,” even on the darkest of nights. Jesus is telling us that no matter how good a dad we try to be or how great a dad we have had, God is an infinitely better father. He wants what’s best for us even more than we hope that for our children. He loves us so much more than our earthly dads ever could, no matter how hard they try.

So on this Father’s Day, I wish all the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day, and I invite all of us to thank our Heavenly Dad for the countless ways He has loved us and cherished us and blessed us, far beyond even what we could ever ask or imagine.

Photo by Mohamed Awwam on Unsplash
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Not Seeing is Believing

In today’s culture, it is becoming increasingly common for people to believe in only what they can see. I always want to ask such free thinkers if they believe in the wind or love or hope or outer space, but that’s not nice, so I usually keep my thoughts to myself. And that’s not really the point of this post, so I’ll move on from that. Anyway, the point is that people like this tend to think that God is a made-up superstition because they cannot see Him.

But this must not be a new thing. Over 2000 years ago, the author of the letter to the Hebrews addressed it this way:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

He goes on to list many people from Old Testament times who exhibited great faith, in what has come to be known as the “Faith Hall of Fame”.

Yes, faith means that we are confident and assured about something we cannot see. But everyone puts their confidence in something. In secular societies like this one, people put their confidence in things they can see–things like the government or a particular leader. But history has shown–and the recent trajectory of our country continues to suggest–that the farther people walk away from God, the more brutal and violent they become.

Here’s one way to think of it. We are here in a place that may seem desirable until we catch a glimpse of God hanging out in a place of indescribable beauty, joy, and peace. Trouble is, there’s a great chasm between where we are and where He is. Faith is the bridge that spans the chasm, enabling us to get over to paradise. Anyone is free to cross the bridge. All you have to do is be confident and assured that the bridge will hold you, that it will support the weight of your life while you cross the chasm. It may be a bit challenging to have that confidence since you can’t see for sure that the bridge makes it to the other side.

Here is the alternative.

Since some people lack that confidence and assurance, there are many other bridges to choose from. They start off looking like they will also take you to paradise, but they always veer off in another direction. But it’s OK, people will tell you, because at least you see the entire bridge.

So, is it better to take the bridge that you can’t see the end of, but you know it takes you to the right place, or is it better to take one that you can see the end of, and you know it doesn’t take you where you want to go?

For me, it’s better to jump onto the bridge that Jesus is beckoning me to choose. It may be rickety at times, and it may take some twists and turns I hadn’t expected, but at least it ends up on the other side of the chasm. And Jesus will be there every step along the way, guarding me, guiding me, escorting me home.

Faith is the bridge across the chasm to God.

Photo by Jonathan Klok on Unsplash
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Acts Two, Acts Too

In my journey through the Bible in a year with Brian Hardin and Daily Audio Bible, we’ve come to the second chapter of the book of Acts, which is really the start of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the name of Jesus. The day recorded here is known as Pentecost, and it is when God breathed the Holy Spirit into the world with the sound of a violent wind (Acts 2:2).

Peter is a great example of this. He was a fisherman by trade and training, and yet when he preached his first sermon, about 3000 people became followers of Christ. And this was with no formal religious training–unless you count following Jesus around for three years and listening to every word he said.

So does this mean that we ordinary people 2000 years later cannot do extraordinary things in Jesus’s name, since we didn’t have the opportunity to live in his presence daily for several years?

Absolutely not!

Actually, that was exactly the point of God giving us the Holy Spirit–to give regular people the ability to do remarkable things in His name. Jesus talked about this in John 14. And it’s the pattern recorded repeatedly in the Old Testament as well: God working through regular people to achieve His desires in the world. The was nothing special about Noah or Moses or David or Peter, aside from their desire to serve God to the point where they made themselves available to do so.

And that’s all we have to do to achieve great things for God’s Kingdom: tell Him we will follow wherever He leads us. Easier said than done, I know.

But then again, the Holy Spirit will help us with that, too!

BTW, following God wherever He leads us doesn’t necessarily mean that we will find ourselves on the other side of the world as a missionary or preaching in front of hundreds or thousands. It could simply mean doing a stellar job at what you’re already doing and giving God the glory. Or you could be called to show God’s love to an unlovable neighbor. You never know–God might even put it on your heart to start a blog that only three people read!

Anyway, what are you waiting for? We have the Holy Spirit–time to change the world!

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Remembering, with Gratitude

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I want to thank and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit.

In addition to servicemen and women…

…this also includes first responders and anyone else who has selflessly sacrificed themselves for the good of others.

This means I also want to thank and remember my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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The Heroism of Jesus

I’ve written previously about Jesus’s bravery since he knew the brutal, torturous death that awaited him, yet he strengthened his resolve and set his face toward Jerusalem anyway. I am still amazed by and thankful for this.

But this week, I read Timothy Keller’s excellent book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. In it, he provided fascinating speculation regarding Jesus’s desperate prayer in the garden of Gethsemane the night his terrible ordeal began, as recounted in Matthew 26:36-46. Keller wondered if maybe the reason Jesus’s prayer time was stressful to the point of sweating blood was that he was being given a glimpse into hell, a foretaste of the separation from God that would become the worst part of his crucifixion.

This got me thinking. God is above and outside of time, so every moment that ever was or ever will be are present before God at the same time. Since Jesus has always been part of the triune God, this would apply to him as well, except during the time that he had stepped down from his glorious throne to live among us. During that time, he was subject to the normal space-time continuum we all live within.

So, on the cross, Jesus took on all of our sins, which caused him to be separated from God. I assume this is why the Apostles’ Creed declares that “he descended into hell”–because he was separated from God. I started wondering, what if during this time, Jesus returned to his state of being outside of time? In one sense, then, during his 2.5 days in hell, he could see everyone who would ever go there show up on the doorstep.

Then the thought occurred to me that maybe we will all begin our journey into eternity at the gates of hell, instead of this notion of the “pearly gates” of heaven, since hell is where we all belong, were it not for Jesus’s redeeming work for us on the cross. So, then, what if we start at the gates of hell, with Satan’s greasy grasp trying to drag us in? But since Jesus is there at the moment of our arrival, he is able to grab hold of us and escort us into heaven where we belong, but only because we have accepted him as our Lord and Savior and therefore have received his sacrifice on our behalf.

I recognize that my musing may have some theological holes, not the least of which is that it seems to imply that Jesus is in hell for all of eternity, which of course is not true. But hey, it was just my imagination churning on the idea that Jesus was getting a glimpse into hell.

In any case, in my view, this whole speculation–Keller’s and mine–further adds to the mystique of Jesus’s heroism. Not only did he know the horrible death that awaited him, but he also got a taste of how utterly lonely and desperately bleak it would be to be separated from God for his first time ever.

Maybe Jesus saw all of this as he was praying for this cup to be taken from him. He was pleading for another way.

And yet…

When no other option was offered, he did what he knew he needed to do. For you and for me. He glimpsed into hell and saw us there, about to enter into an eternity of agony. And he said, “Take me instead.”

If that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is.

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The Power of God in You

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did a number of miracles–amazing feats that were inexplicable except if you consider that Jesus was and is part of the Triune God. Toward the end of his life, he promised his disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in his place.

What does that mean for us?

Well, while it doesn’t mean that we have as much of God’s power as Jesus, it does mean that we have some access to God’s power–undoubtedly more than we realize. In thinking about writing this post over the course of this past week, a quote by Christian author Annie Dillard popped into my mind. In his sermon at church this morning, Pastor Brady Boyd referred to the same quote, so I figured that must have been a sign that I should go ahead and mention it:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

So when we pray, we should pray expectantly, as though we are calling God’s power to bear on the problem at hand–because that’s exactly what we’re doing!

You may ask why, then, aren’t all of our prayers answered in the way we pray them at the time we pray them. That’s a great question, and I don’t have a great answer. Or any answer. And I can’t find a good answer in the Bible. It would be a good thing to ask God when you meet Him face-to-face.

But in the meantime, though, I will say that the Bible has many encouragements for us to continue to pray expectantly. One such example comes in an odd story about the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, as told in 1 Kings 18. He had previously caused a drought for a long time via his prayer to that effect. When it came time to end the drought, Elijah pretty much guaranteed to King Ahab that it was going to rain before there was even a cloud in the sky. After he made that guarantee, he climbed a mountain to pray for rain. After praying, he sent a servant to check to see if there was any sign of rain. When there wasn’t, he repeated the cycle, which he had to do several times. It wasn’t until the seventh time that there was finally a raincloud forming.

Now how’s that for praying expectantly? It didn’t deter him that he hadn’t gotten the result he expected six times. He kept praying, waiting for God to respond.

And He did.

This is the power of God that’s available to all of us via the Holy Spirit. So we should put on our crash helmets and pray!

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
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