In Pastor Jeff's Blog

Faith2smIn modern Christianity faith is often reduced to intellectual assent to doctrinal statements. Believe certain things to be true, like the Virgin birth of Jesus, and you have faith. While faith certainly includes the doctrines we hold to be true, biblical faith is much more. It’s more akin to trust in a relationship. To have faith in the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ is to entrust one’s self to God’s love and care.

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you entrusted yourself more to God’s love, no longer needing to seek the approval and applause of others? Can you imagine being able to unhook your being from your doing?

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you entrusted yourself more to God’s care, how much less anxiety and worry would consume you? Can you imagine how much freer you would be to enjoy the moment, every moment as a gift?

So how do we grow in faith? As is true of all the Fruit of the Spirit, faith is a gift. It’s the gracious work of the Spirit. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us to do. There are spiritual practices that open us to the Spirit’s work. Here are just two.

Immerse yourself in Scripture. Whether we read it or hear it proclaimed, God’s Spirit uses the words of Scripture to plant the seeds of faith in us, and nurtures those seeds to bear the fruit of faith. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt anxious about something and out of nowhere a verse of Scripture, such as Proverbs 3:5-6, comes to mind, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God who makes your path straight.” Those words become a refreshing breeze, blowing the fog of fear from my heart. They grow my faith in God’s love and care.

Lately I’ve been reading Brian McLaren’s book, “We Make the Road by Walking It”. McLaren has a gift for bringing scripture to life, connecting the ancient story to our stories now. I highly recommend it as a resource for immersing yourself in Scripture.

Act “as if”. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So faith means we sometimes take a step forward even when we can’t see the way clearly. We walk “as if” God has already provided what we need, even though we can’t see it yet. Take a moment to watch this great scene from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” as an example of what it means to act “as if”. Faith grows when we put it into practice, acting “as if”.

In my experience faith is a lot like love. It finds us when we least expect it, and grows stronger when we walk in its ways. I hope that both faith and love find you and grow in you.

What “leap of faith” do you need to take this week?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Ken Walter

    This prompts me to share about an experience. I had committed to a 9 month small seminary course of one day a week and home work. It started with lessons in Bible study in late August and a retreat. Mondays were a seminar, chapel, character building group, bible study and a complete book reading assignment. Reports were written on each area of study each week.
    By November i declared with a mentor i was meeting with weekly that it was more than i could handle. I realize now i was much into beating myself up as being very inadequate, not understanding this whole thing. Some would call it the enemy blocking my way. I said I would keep going to the end of the year and then quit. That was my relief for that day. As i went on I came to an understanding with myself of not needing to meet my expectations or my perceptions of what others expected, but just go through what motions and thoughts that came to me. I believe I started to trust in the Spirit within me to guide me.
    When January came the first class session was for a two day silent retreat. I was very much trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide me through it. I was set up after an orientation with a small one room cabin with the name St. John in a beautiful winter woods next to a frozen snow covered lake. It had jugs of water, a gas heater, light and hot plate. No electricity or water/plumbing. An outhouse a ways away shared with three other cabins. I was provided some cheeses, a loaf of bread and some coffee/tea making assortment.
    It was dark by then. I ate a bit and thought on sorting out portions to last me two days. I could ask for more through a mailbox message system outside the entry door. I had no use for the screened in porch.
    I slept well, got up for the full day and made a decision to read the book of Acts and learn more about those experiences of the early disciples and Christians. I was not being quiet but felt quite comfortable making noise to myself. Soon I was led to sing from memory hymns of the church I grew up with. Words came back to me as I went along. So I read and sang through the day and went out a couple times for a walk in the bitter cold.
    That evening I retired quite relaxed to the bed and slept well. Some time in early morning I was awakened, I looked up and seen at the foot of the bed a TV screen with a bright picture of curtains. I was wondering if I was dreaming or awake and decided I was definitely awake, as I was attracted to a pencil thin beam of light moving in a straight line from the TV screen up over my head, as i followed it came to reflect on the head of Christ represented on a crucifix on the wall over the head of the bed. I got on up and searched the room and looked outside for any evidence of what I had just witnessed. I pondered what it meant. I shared the experience with my group as we gathered for review at the end of the second day. I am still realizing various versions of what it might have meant. The one that speaks the loudest goes like this.
    I think of God as hidden behind a curtain, much as the Jewish tradition practiced, but the light directed on the crucifix says Christ came, died for me on the cross, and He is the one to follow, and to quit thinking God is hidden from me.
    I think my time in the word and song was worship that was very pleasing to God, and seeing my openness to Him grow in that day he revealed something supernaturally special to me. Certainly it encouraged me to go on and complete the course letting His will as It fell into place with me as my guide. I have had many dreams and visions, usually coming out of sleep but not so physically realistic in most cases. When the bible reports wise men following a star I can now believe there needs to be no physically astronomical explanation as certainly a special star for them to follow was His creation for that part of the experience.
    It assures me there is a creator God, as was evident by the screen and light beam not having any explanation otherwise, in relationship with Him in word and praise He came close and revealed to me that Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit are real, very real. I believe I am first of all spirit, He knew me in my mother’s womb, there I grew from the seed to this body I am in for awhile on this earth He created, and as a follower of Him my spirit will become one with His Spirit and live on eternally.
    Finally the Holy Spirit is with me and all His children now available to those who grow close to Him in praise and worship relationship for natural and supernatural or miraculous adventure.
    Such as this impresses the theology of who I am and who He is.

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