The Resurrection

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

Liz and I came back home from a long trip, to find that the house was eerily still with a cold, vacant feel to it. Mom and dad were not there.

We set the house in order. Then I think I made some tea while Liz warmed up something for us to eat. After we ate, we sat in the living room, both of us feeling just like the house—silent and sad in the cold afternoon light of a cloudy November afternoon. Soon the door opened, and dad appeared. He looked haggard, and we were so aghast at his doleful air and the way he had aged at least twenty years since we had seen him that we failed to rise to go meet and greet him.

I don’t know how it came out, but he told us: They had had an accident on the 405. He had walked off fine with a few scratches—but mother. Mother had died.

The days after that were a blur. I know that Liz was the stronger of the two, and she had to be strong for the three of us. Father was worse than I’d ever seen him, racked with guilt because he’d been the one driving. I stayed outside of the house, walking around, mad with grief, mourning the death of my warm, beloved, joyful mother.

* * *

I woke up toward dawn. I wondered where I was. Had I not been sobbing in the stairwell of my house refusing the comfort of my distraught sister?

No. It had been a dream.

A dream.

Praise God it was only a dream.

Involuntarily I began to sob in my pillow, first softly, but as my relief intensified with the conviction that my mother was, indeed, still alive, my cries only grew louder. This woke Lizzy up, and she was soon next to me soothing me and comforting me while running her little fingers through my hair.

After we prayed together and she went back to sleep, something told me to read back to what I had last read last night. I reached for my iPod, unlocked it, and saw that the last thing I read before drifting off to sleep had been the book of 1 Kings 17. Yesterday night I as I was drifting off to sleep I had been asking myself what new message—besides that of trusting God and having faith—could the story of Elijah and the widow have for me today.

I re-read the story of the widow. From the time Elijah finds her gathering sticks before cooking her last meal to when Elijah resurrects her dead son. The passage took new life—and I read these familiar passages it with new eyes.

I felt the widow’s grief; it was vivid, it was real. I could see her falling apart on the floor before Elijah, with her limp son in her arms. He had to wrest the body of the boy from her hands, because even so it was precious to her and all that remained in this world that was of any value. As she cried out to him, complaining why he had brought sorrow to the house, I knew that her throat was hurting, and the voice came out only with much, much effort, the way mine had done in my dream when I  cried out to God to do something and save my mother. Finally, I lived first-hand the rush of relief, the overwhelming joy of the resurrection, when I woke and knew that my mother was alive, after all.

God condescended to answer my question in the most amazing and vivid way possible. It was clear and direct. I’ve never had such an experience, and I am humbled by it. Of course, daylight is trying to play off this lesson a bit. The terrors of the night seem to dim a little when the sun is out, but I will not forget. I cannot. I leave it here for you and for me.

Jesus is the life and resurrection. This holds such sweet hope to me for those dear ones that have gone before me—and who may go if he doesn’t return in my lifetime. I thank God that Jesus rose victorious because that means we can all have hope of life even after we die. Until this morning, I never was so thankful for it.

When I awoke again, the first thing I did was run to the kitchen where my mother was rushing about getting ready for work. In that fierce hug I prayed to God. I thanked him she was alive, that she was my mother, and prayed that he keep us all safe. I ask him now that though we have this sweet hope of life everlasting, that He will not tarry.

I don’t know if I could bear parting with my loved ones. So please. Please don’t make us wait any further.

Come, Lord Jesus.

The Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

He was a philosophy major and he wanted me to tell him how I—a rational, intellectual person—believed in God. He caught me off guard (spiritually speaking). At that time I was ill prepared to counter his arguments, and though I spewed out all manner of things (which I still don’t remember) in a valiant effort to prove to him that Christians are not the mindless and anti-science lot he made us out to be, it was a dismal failure. Ultimately I had to fall back on faith: You believe or you don’t.

He rolled his eyes at me, “Well, that is what I want to know. You believe—have this faith that you call it. How did you come about to have that faith?”

I could not answer that then. The basic explanation of faith in the Bible still confounded me, how could I explain that which I never really knew of? I simply believed, and I figured that was the same as having faith, right?

Now I am inclined to think otherwise.

Belief—like I’ve said in one of my previous posts—is nothing special . It is essential to faith, but it is not faith. Belief will only carry you as far as the limits of your comfort zone, that is, up to the point where certainty ends and where faith must begin.

Ok, so I believe. How do I make the leap from believing to having faith so small (the size of a mustard seed) that I get to move the mountains? That, O my soul, is the work of God!—and it’s up to you to let him do his work or not.

God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction and we cannot have faith in Him…Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ  –Oswald Chambers [1]

My mercenary self always missed the point of faith. Before feeding the prophet—so to speak—I wanted to know for sure that God would replenish the jar of flour and the jug of oil. In short, I wanted to have the certainty of something happening (of my leap of faith being effective) before I acted upon my faith (before leaping). That, of course, is missing the point altogether. I was a mere believer—seeking certainty and not faith—what else was to be expected?

The ultimate goal of faith is to know and love the Father. Hebrews 11;1 talks about faith being a certainty of what is unseen. For me, the only unseen that matters most (indeed, the only thing I should seek to be certain of) is the Father–the great Unseen– whom one day we all hope to see face to face.

That is the crowning glory and the goal of having faith: to reach the point of not needing faith. To reach Heaven. Healing the sick, moving mountains, having free refills comes as a happy bonus. It’s extra.

 


[1] Chambers, Oswald, My Outmost for His Highest “Faith” (October 30)

The Power

There is something incredibly romantic about Elijah the Tishbite.

He was the fearless, brazen, wild man of God who, jealous for the honor of His cause, “did not hesitate to obey the divine summons by proclaiming the judgment of God in the form of a national drought, though to obey seemed to invite swift destruction at the hand of a wicked king”[1]. A solitary man, he stirred the fears of the royal house and the hearts of a nation in his appeals to return to God. An audacious man, who dared to taunt the gods in a public showdown on Mount Carmel. A man of prayer who called fire down from heaven and afterwards, and afterwards had no room for pity in his ruthless slaughter of hundreds of false prophets in a move to initiate reform.

This same Elijah, for all that he seems to us as such a legendary character today, was a “man subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). So then what was his secret? What did he have that we need in order to work for God on earth in a manner that will be as effective and as stirring?

He was a man of prayer, and his life he had dedicated to the purpose of bringing about reform. But all his deeds were driven by a deep and abiding faith in God. And this is what is needed in the world today. “Faith that will lay hold on the promises of God’s word and refuse to let go until Heaven hears. Faith such as this connects us closely with Heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness. Through faith God’s children have ‘subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the strangers.’ (Hebrews 11:33,34) and through faith we are today to reach the heights of God’s purpose for us. Faith is an essential element of prevailing prayer. ‘He that cometh to god must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.’ (Heb 11:6)”[2]

As we begin our week, let’s remember that God, the source of power that was available to Elijah, is still ours for the claiming.

Have a blessed week.


[1] E. G. White, Prophets and Kings, Elijah the Tishbite

[2] E. G. White, Prophets and Kings, From Jezreel to Horeb