God doesn’t need us and He loves us…

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“Let there be light.” With those words God turned thought into reality.  The Apostle
Paul writing to the Corinthians attributes the power of a mind grasping the knowledge of God in the Gospel of Jesus to the grace of God saying once again “Let there be light.”

1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1-6

When God sparks the realization of “who He is” the understanding ushers people into a brand new world. I have appreciated Carolyn Weber’s confession, a memoir of discovery and faith, Surprised by Oxford, because of the beautiful way she expresses her journey from Canada to Oxford, and her journey from unbelief into vibrant faith.  In the text below she recalls a moment when the words out of her own mouth gave surprising form to the faith forming in her mind and heart. Her class was discussing Milton.

“I think Milton is trying to feel his way through the dark.” It just came out, as I had just done from the wardrobe. Obviously it, too, within me had been grappling for the surface. I tried not to look surprised. Professor Nuttham stared at me intently. “Go on,” he said. Linnea and Fred looked at each other, and then at me, nervously. Again Dr. Deveaux’s image came to mind. I realized that the answer swelling up in me came from a very real, very personal place. “He is going blind on one level. I can only imagine how particularly horrendous that would be, especially for a writer. But does he fear going blind, being blind, on another level even more so?” I heard myself saying, “Why, exactly, is he ‘justifying these ways of God to men’? For whom is he writing? God doesn’t need justification. He certainly doesn’t need us. God doesn’t need anything.”
The room stayed quiet. “Yet, it doesn’t make us superfluous or unimportant, the fact that God doesn’t need us,” I rushed on. “Actually, quite the opposite. It’s because He loves us in spite of not needing us that makes His love so, well, awesome.” Dr. Nuttham raised his eyebrows; slang was not encouraged in tutorials. “In the original sense of the term,” I quickly clarified. He lowered his brows in acceptance. Inside me lights began to go on, an electrical surge; though out of habit, I checked the swell in my heart. “Yes, I see what you mean,” ventured Linnea. “I tend to confuse what I desire, what I think I need, with what I love or pretend to love. Even with the best intentions, everything, at some point, gets muddled. Can anyone love perfectly?”


“For man,” I replied, “the trees grow so close together! I know I can’t always tell the vines apart, especially in the dark. But there is no pretense in a love that is not based on need of the giver, that is not based on consumption of the other, but only on magnification.” Everyone stared at me with that initial Yeatsian silence. I surprised everyone, including me. Where had all of that come from? I paused, collected my nerve, and then threw caution to the wind and added, “I think Milton is trying to show us the difference between Eden and heaven. Like the rest of us, he’s trying to feel his own way along that continuum.” Everything in the room stayed very, very still. I willed the clock to chime, but it didn’t.

“Despair is the greatest sin,” Dr. Nuttham finally responded slowly. “It involves forgetting that God is there. Forgetting that He is good and that all He is and does extends from and works toward this perfect goodness. That doesn’t mean that He allows evil, or creates it, or perpetuates it. That’s our entwinement. Rather, He uses even our evil toward His good. We all need forms of remembering this first great love . . . writing, reading, creating, being.” He paused, looking surprised too. Then he added, “I see,” and smiled at his own inadvertent wording. He continued smiling softly as he rose to make tea. Linnea leaned in and whispered, “Whoa.” She put her fingers to her mouth and puffed, as though to sign that I had been smoking the funny stuff before class. I made a face back at her. But I had to admit, I did feel a little high.

Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber

 

Jesus sees your faith even if we can’t.

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Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:5

I’ve heard this story (you can get the whole story below) since I was a kid. I  have read Mark 2 a lot. I think about it often as a picture of genuine friendship and the incredible declaration of divinity made by Jesus when he forgave the man’s sins. But last night at our Alpha Course the Lord pressed me on another angle:

The paralyzed man had faith too.

In my mind and in most sermons its just been the faith of the four friends that Jesus saw.. because they were the ones in motion. They were the ones doing all the work. They were the ones tearing a hole in the roof. They were the ones finding a solution to the barriers between Jesus and their friend. But last night it hit me, Jesus saw “their” faith. There are 5 guys and some faith and Jesus saw them all.

The paralyzed man must have had some faith. He doesn’t seem to be protesting. There must have been a a conversation among the 5 guys beforehand. The man on the mat is a willing participant seeking Jesus.

I don’t know why but I never saw this before! But this realization is full of grace and delight for me! And I’m loving God even more today because of it!

When I can’t perform as others might want…

When I can’t move with grace and power…

When I can’t do everything I wish I could do…

When I can’t express all that I hope for…

When I can’t forgive myself…

When I can’t …

He can!

Jesus can act on the smallest glimmers of faith in Him that are in me.

Jesus sees past all that is left undone and He acts on the faith we turn towards Him. He does what seems impossible. And right there Jesus saw past all the “able bodies” and saw right into this man’s heart and did a miracle. Forgiveness! The miracle of a forgiven and cleansed life is priceless! And then Jesus showed the crowd He really did have the authority to do the larger and more costly act of forgiveness, when He healed the man of his paralysis.

Jesus will act on our faith even if for a time all we can do is lay in bed.

What little glimmers of faith in Jesus, the Creator, the Conquer of death, the Redeemer, the Shepherd of our Souls, are you turning toward Him?

He sees. He hears. He acts.
Mark 2:1- 12 NLT

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

5Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
6But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7“What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
8Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
12And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Following Jesus into science

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I’ve been reading through Walter R. Hearn’s book, Being a Christian in Science. He spent twenty years as a researcher and professor of biochemistry. Below are some of his thoughts on science as a “calling.” Perhaps his thoughts will generate some consideration and appreciation of a scientist or a budding scientist close to you. At UBC I have been getting to know several students who aspire to the research scientist lifeform. Most feel the tension between the lab and the draw of other possible loves. Christian faith enters right into this tension with them but learning how to navigate it does seem to require wrestling with what we call “calling” and the ability to hold onto several ideas at the same time.

Dr. Hearn writes:

It is not improper to speak of having a gift for science. To test that gift, take all the mathematics and science courses you can, and work hard at mastering them. Think of your studies as mind-building, the way athletes and bodybuilders benefit from physical exercise at a gym. For most of us, the challenge of mastering science courses in school will either develop our interest or reveal that God has another direction for us. Good grades in math and science courses serve as reasonably good indicators of our attitude toward science as well as our aptitude for it.

As a rule of thumb we can expect God to call us into a life’s work that we will enjoy. Scientists generally work extremely hard, partly because it is expected but also because they tend to enjoy what they do. Any scientist needs emotional resilience, determination and self-discipline to keep going through long periods when joy is hard to come by. Sometimes theoretical calculations just will not come out right. The most carefully planned experiments can keep going haywire. The atmosphere in a lab can be discouraging because we may be surrounded by colleagues with similar frustrations.

Few Christians in science would expect to solve problems in the lab without putting in the same amount of effort as anyone else. Yet many testify that at least on occasion they have experienced God’s special present in the laboratory. Sometimes that means seeing the breakup of a mental logjam that has held back progress. More often it means being sustained by hope when things are not going well.

 

The apostle Paul referred to faith, hope and love as the “greater gifts,” with love being the greatest of all. Any individual able to exercise those gifts can make an outstanding contribution to a scientific laboratory. A Christian who demonstrates resilient hope biased on an abiding faith, and who can lovingly pass a spirit of hope on to coworkers, can have a salutary effect on the morale of a whole research group.

 

Flexibility is another important characteristic. Studies of psychological profiles indicate that successful scientists have a strong desire to find solutions, but can tolerate a lot of ambiguity and delayed gratification along the way. The most creative scientists can carry around in their heads a dozen competing hypotheses, seriously considering ideas that may turn out to be false or even ridiculous. Scientists must able to play with ideas even when they know that not everyone of them can be correct.

 

Thoughtful Christians often display that same kind of intellectual flexibility. Anyone who has grappled seriously with apparent theological paradoxes comes to realize that each extreme position may hold some partial truth but neither tells the whole story.

 

Scientists are trained to withhold judgement, to remain objective until all experimental results are in. Of course all possible results of all possible experiments are never in . Flexibility can harden into overarching scepticism, reluctance or inability to commit ourselves to any position. In practice, scientists will vigorously support an appealing hypothesis, the one they consider least likely to be falsified, because they believe in it.

 

In theory, at least, a scientists’ commitment to any hypothesis remains tentative. Yet no one gets to be a scientist without making a serious commitment of his or her life to the scientific community. Those who disparage religion caricature it as taking blind leaps of faith. Those who actually live by faith generally keep our eyes wide open — to see where we are going to land.

Now we live with great expectation.

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3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  1 Peter 1:3-6

Peter knew what it was to cave under pressure. He knew how weakness had given  way to dread. He knew how the shame of failure could have become a weight dragging him back from freedom in His relationship with Jesus and from leadership among Jesus’ people.

But Peter also knew the healing, restorative work of Jesus in His life. So Peter writes to the church celebrating God’s mercy that gives us new birth! He says, “Now we live with great expectation.” We look forward to our inheritance: the full unveiled experience of Jesus and His Kingdom. Even as we endure pressure and struggle, we are drawn forward by faith. “There is wonderful joy ahead!”

This is how faith works. Even when others don’t see who we are. Even when other do not share the hope we have in Christ. And even when they may even be puzzled by what Peter later calls “our good behaviour in Christ,” we persist because there is a day coming when what we are will be revealed “for all to see.”

“Now we live with great expectation.”

“There is wonderful joy ahead!”

When faith gives voice to fears.

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The Lord will work out his plans for my life—

for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138:8

Christian faith does not ignore the doubt stirred up by conflict or the challenges to our hope in the promises of God. When we have adjusted our life to follow God the inevitable testing comes. Practicalities and pragmatism pull at us. Is this really going to work? Am I an idiot for trusting God? Is there a shortcut to the dream God has given me?

When King David was a young man Samuel anointed him to be the next king. But David’s journey to the throne was long and tedious. His commitments and values were tested. Having faith did not mean that David had to ignore reality in the world around or in the world of his mind and heart. It was his faith in God that actually gave voice to his fears. His fears were not allowed to be a unspoken hidden force controlling him.

This weekend Psalm 138 was read at the beginning of our worship gathering. Do hear the tension in the last verse? The whole prayer moves along the tension created by faith and fears. “Don’t abandon me.”

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—

for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138:8

Have you been this real with God lately? When was the last time your conversation with God moved along the tension created by your faith in Jesus and by your fears? He is waiting and willing to meet you.