Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Belief Precedes Miracles

This is an article that my husband, Joel, recently wrote for his newsletter at work. I had to share it!

Matthew 13:58

58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

When I was in high school, I remember reading this verse in my study bible regarding the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth. I found it odd that Jesus would choose not to perform any miracles in a town just because people did not believe in him. Wouldn’t miracles help people to believe? Wouldn't that build their faith?

We all long for miracles. We pray for them. In seeking miracles, we hope that they will inspire our belief. But Jesus has shown us something remarkable in this passage. He does not perform miracles in the midst of unbelief. Instead, Jesus calls us to believe in him in order to witness his divinity. Belief precedes the miracle.

But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’s message from the book of John reveals that not only will our belief allow us to witness miracles that he can perform, but it will also allow us to become the miracles that we seek. Jesus says that we will do even greater works than he.

John 14:12

12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

Was Jesus telling a joke here? How can we perform miracles? How could I do anything greater than God-incarnate?

Jesus did not speak this truth to make his disciples feel better.  He spoke these words to wake his disciples up to the abundance and provision of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ has been given to You. Jesus ensured this promise during Pentecost and ever since that day we have become co-heirs and connected with the Son of God himself. God has pressed his fingerprints into your life and there is no separating the Holy One from you. This is good news! When we believe that we are one in the Spirit, then we can truly become witnesses to Christ’s living love in this world. And what’s more, we become God's love in the world, a divine miracle. 

So how do we believe? How do we build a life of faith? We must practice. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Awfully hard

Our family has been working on rehabbing my grandparents home for over a year now. There really are no words to describe the process of ups and downs, and the enormous amount of physical labor and planning that has gone into every task. Often, Joel (who is doing most of the work with our parents) will look at the place and mutter, "No one will ever know what we did in there" and it's true. At the end of the day, friends and visitors will walk into this beautiful home and admire how nicely we painted the walls. 

In the exhaustion and the moments of defeat when our expectations just can not be met, we have found ourselves thinking, "This is awful." The pay-off very often goes unseen or felt by those who have put in the most back-breaking hours of work. It becomes awfully difficult to stay positive. Awfully hard to feel motivated and grateful. The work, bottom line, is awfully hard. 

Last week, as we marveled in frustration over how long this is taking and why we just can't catch a break, I was reminded of the story of Moses. God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, only to let them live for 40 years in the desert before they could settle the Promised Land. I have written here that I believe a large part of this timing was for the purpose of spiritual purging. The Egyptian culture, with its god's and practices, needed to be purged out of a generation before God's people could become God's people again. Remembering this, Joel asked, "What do you think is being purged from our lives? How are we being refined through this process?"

It didn't take much effort to come up with a list of our own. There is so much that is changing for us both. We are learning to truly grasp and hold onto the gifts of the present with gratitude because the future is sometimes too stressful to even think about, let alone, prepare for. There is no procrastinating with this project. It will not ever come to life if we waste a moment of time and it cannot be finished with that last minute procrastinator's burst of motivation. We have to press on with our goals, lists and continue to work hard in spite of the obstacles.  We are learning not to take short cuts, that it makes all the difference in the word to fix something right the first time so that we don't ever have to go back to it. And in skipping the shortcuts, we are learning just how beautiful these efforts can be in the aesthetic. 

Those are just a couple of ways that our thinking and behaviors have shifted. But it isn't just our minds and actions that are tempering. This project has given us both precious time with our parents on a regular basis where we have received the gift of hearing their stories and life experiences. They have also been teaching us the practical skills they have spent their years attaining. In additional to our parental relationships, we have had friends show up just at the right moment to lend a hand but more importantly, to remind us that we are not alone in our endeavors. These visits have brought us so much joy, making the work light and our spirit's lighter.

When we step back and look at the work we have been allowed to accomplish, more often than not someone will say, "Well, it isn't perfect." But there is no denying that it is a lot better. We are all being rehabbed, purged and refined in this journey. Each season, difficult or triumphant is an opportunity to become better. 

It has been important to remember this word "Rehab". When someone goes to rehab for some reason, when they come out everyone will say, "You look great! You seem like you are doing so much better!" People will look for the evidence of change and rejoice in those transformations. That rehabbed person isn't going to be perfect and they will not be cured of their reformed behavior or addiction, but they will be better. And this better-ness is something they will have to tend to and work on every single day of their lives if they hope to continue to grow and heal as God intended. And I do believe that healing will come in time through the practice of daily intentionality.

Our house is the same way. We are repairing nearly 60 years of wear and tear on a home that has been a place of warmth and growth for 3 generations. We will not walk away from this project looking at perfection but we will be able to see that it is better. This home can be renewed, it can become more efficient, upgraded and updated, and it can be a wonderful pallet for our family to take on a new shape in this story.

We are no different than our grandparent's home. Nothing in this life that we do or achieve is going to make us perfect. We cannot earn perfection and we certainly can't make it our expectation and still believe we will live a life full of joy.

When this project feels awfully hard, I must remember that this line is exactly right. This project is AWE-FULL. And in this fullness, we are all being made better.