Greenery, Gutsy Faith, and Gus.
In retrospect, it was kind of like an out of body experience.
I had to ask the people near me to help me reconstruct how it came to be.
But first, I must set the scene, which was unusual right out of the gate.
This past weekend I travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, for a pastors' conference at the Billy Graham Center at the Cove - a place I have often longed to see.
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As this picture indicates, the center is set in lush greenery. Driving through the gates made me think of entering the Garden of Eden, complete with a dense canopy of trees, a rocky creek and birds chirping overhead.
But as soon as I got to registration, I considered putting it in reverse and hightailing it, as there wasn't a soul that looked like me. Conservative, older-looking pastors and wives were all around, groups of people chatted, while I was flying solo as usual. I was overcome by shyness, but had to get past it; after all, one doesn't travel 2300-plus miles and then run for it, right? Eventually, I sidled up to a sweet couple from North Carolina and a young man in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy; they became my people.
My beloved pastor from Brooklyn Tabernacle was our teacher. Jim Cymbala sharpens me like no other as he opened with talking about our need for greater faith. Since he was talking to a room full of pastors, that might seem elementary, right? "God treasures nothing so much as he does faith... great faith -> great things; little faith -> little gain for God." 'So what do you want, Christine?' I thought to myself.
What is your faith quotient, Friend?
What gets in the way of your faith anyway? Is it your feelings? Do your feelings impede your faith in God? Our feelings do not change who God is, now do they? God is. From the start of Christianity, it has been so, "We live by faith, not by sight."1 And for sure, the biggest enemy of faith is our feelings.
Which begs the question: how then do we grow our faith? "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."2
To the desperate father whose son needed a miracle, Jesus said, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." To which the father cried out through his tears, "Lord, I believe...help thou my unbelief!"3
Simple as that - strange as it seems - we choose to believe that God is who he said he is, and we
'fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith'4
we get into God's Word because faith comes from his words
like the father who came to Jesus, we ask God to grow our faith,
and we get into a community that wants what we want--to grow in the things of God and to throw ourselves headlong into the race that is before us.
Yesterday afternoon, I was introduced to a young man named Gustav, and over lunch, I got to hear his story.
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[Silly pose, but a gifted guy.]
Seeming to be stretching for something, I inquired of him what that might be. 'I really want to do this thing-I don't just want to say all the right things to the right people about being a Christian.' He looked down, thought for a moment, and looked back up with these soulful brown eyes and said, 'I want to act like one, and be consistent in that-'you know what I'm saying?' Not too bad for 21.
So through my soulful brown eyes, I looked back and said, 'The best way I know how to do that-to do this thing-to be faithful, is to start your day with God, Gus. Give him your first fifteen. Get a little of his Word in you, and journal your prayer... every day. Don't leave home without doing it.' Then we walked and found a store with a journal and I showed him what I was talking about-how to journal his heartfelt prayers to the One who loves him, longs for him, and cheers for him. [Want to know how to journal your prayers? Hit 'reply' and ask me, and I'll give you more on that.]
Either way-here's the thing: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."5
And hey, pray for Gus, won't you?
p.s. Dang, I didn't quite get to my out-of-body experience, so that's up next.
1 - 2 Corinthians 5.7
2 - Romans 10.17
3 - Mark 9.23-24
4 - Hebrews 12.2
5 - Hebrews 11.6