The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 12

14 08 2009

Click here to read the text of Genesis 12.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going
-Hebrews 11:8

Every time I read this book, I am overwhelmed by what a wonderful story it is. Quite apart from its truth or falsehood, it’s just such a compelling narrative. What great characters; what a great plot! And the plot always thickens…

Because it’s not enough to just be a nation of people. Up until this point, it has been possible to become the patriarch of a nation simply by having lots of kids. Nations are families: human families.

But God is setting up something different. Abram has to leave his people, his family. He is to become the patriarch of a consecrated (set apart….chosen!) nation, and he must first separate himself physically from the others.

When God first calls Abram, he says “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (verse 1). At this point in the story, the land hasn’t yet been “Promised.” It’s just on display for Abram to see.

What the view might have looked like

What the view might have looked like

Can you imagine? Essentially, God is saying, “Come here, Abram. I have something to show you–you’ve just got to see this!”

And just like some modern tourist in the Big Apple, Abram comes to see the sites. But he’s letting God guide his itinerary. When he gets there, he immediately builds an altar to his Guide, even though he isn’t even quite sure where he is and what he’s doing there.

And maybe that’s the important part of this faith thing. To be ok with uncertainty. To trust God enough to drop everything and follow him to the ends of the earth, not for what you can get out of he deal, but because that’s what God asks of you. And because you just want to see all that God has to show you.

(originally posted 6/19/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)

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Meditation on Faith

24 07 2009

(I know that this is formatted differently from most posts.  It was inspired by a creative journal entry that I wrote last year, and I tried to convey the imagery of the journal using colors, indentations, and font styles.  Think of it as a work in progress…)

You of little faith!    – Matthew 6:30b

Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
– Matthew 17:20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval…

Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6

By faith we understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which were visible…

I say, faith is a burden.  It’s a weight to bear.  It’s brave and bittersweet.  And hope is hard to hold to.  Lord, I believe!  Only help my unbelief!
– Andrew Peterson, No More Faith

“…God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  – Romans 12:3

“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another [is given] faith by the same Spirit…”  – 1 Cor. 12:48

Preach faith until you have it.  Then, preach faith.

So what, then, is this faith thing? An assurance, a conviction?  A burden?  A gift?

It’s hard to understand the fact that God has given people faith in different amounts, and yet the world testifies to that very fact.  There are people who struggle as they search for a faith that they don’t really feel, and others who can’t help but believe,  as though that faith was programmed into the core of their soul.

Everywhere there are people who claim that even the “best” non-believers are still living in sin because they do not believe.  But Scripture teaches that faith is a gift, just as teaching is a gift, and healing is a gift.  And exercising any one of these gifts without love is nothing: a clanging symbol, a noisy gong.  In other words, useless.

But what happens when you exercise one of these gifts without faith?  Surely no gift is greater than the other; in the body of Christ, there is room (and necessity) for each person to exercise his or her unique gifts, in proportion to God’s allotment.  And so, I can’t help but wonder…is there room (and necessity) for the non-believer to exercise his or her unique gifts?

I am reminded of a conversation that I once overheard between a Christian and a rabbi.  The Christian asked, “Don’t you get tired of having to live up to an unrealistic standard of righteousness in the laws?”

The rabbi answered, “I’d rather ask myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ than have to always worry, ‘Do I believe enough?'”

…Because what happens when you can’t measure up to that standard?  What happens when you find your soul devoid of faith? Is the advice passed on by John Wesley enough: can you preach faith until you have it, and hope that by doing enough, you will train yourself to believe enough?