Thursday, July 30

No Second-Hand Faith


Our Christian lives can easily dissolve into mere memories of former blessings, instead of enjoying a continued string of gracious and divine acts. I know this happens to older believers who fall to reminiscing on more spiritually invigorating days of yesteryear, but who today see very little as tangible evidence of God's grace. God tells Israel this through Jeremiah:

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

Remember the Alamo! . . . or, Egypt!!

Americans--perhaps, more Texans--recognize the above declaration as a stark reminder of how valuable the loss of life is when dying for a cause. The children of Israel would rally around another cry, "Remember Egypt!" For many years, Israel could reflect on her sordid past and remember a day when God's faithfulness overwhelmed them at the Red Sea event. God delivered them out of bondage and freed them to move faithfully toward the Promised Land. By the time of Jeremiah the prophet approximately 800 years have passed in which Israel has violated the law of God and spurned His love times without number. And they forgot God. His real presence was but a distant memory, and his works but a mindless mantra muttered by the irreligious and hopeless.

Then Jeremiah prophecies that no longer would they speak of the Lord only in terms of previous victories (Egyptian bondage), but of his present power to deliver them again, this time from Babylon's tight grip! No longer would they only locate God's glory in a story (even a great one) from the past, but they'd experience his power themselves. NO SECOND-HANDED FAITH HERE!

What Should We Remember?

Do we practice such a "once-removed" kind of faith? We expect it from the world don't we? I've golfed with unsaved friends who when lightening was spotted on the horizon, exclaimed that they'd want to get close to the "Reverend" because he was "in good with the man upstairs!" There, they imagined, was protection from the storm even if it came via someone whom they jokingly thought was "in good with" God!? What they sometimes exclaim in jest finds grounds in life doesn't it? It's blessing two steps removed--a sort of faith by proxy, if you will.

For Christians, too, there is the distinct tendency to let the living WORD atrophy into mindless clich├ęs. The Infinite God becomes a story to be told rather than a life to be lived. "But that is not the way you learned Christ" (Eph. 4:20). "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20). The Christian's life was not meant to be endured while vicariously living off the diaries of saints of old, but by faithing out the life of sainthood every day! Here is no surrogate lifestyle; this is the genuine article! And the crazy thing about Israel's Babylonian deliverance, and about ours, is that both are but one among many others--smaller to be sure--but too many to be counted. They ARE there, if we but had eyes to see them. The problem, it seems, is not in the absence of God, but in the dullness of our hearts.

What DOES it take to get our attention-- a tsunami, 911, or the death of a loved one? Can we, if we are wise, not see God in the myriad smaller ways he surrounds us every day? Indeed, his mercies are new every morning. "Those who seek me diligently find me" (Prov. 8:17b).


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