This is part one of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here
This week I am privileged enough to have Dan Sheed, Assistant Pastor at Shore Vineyard Churches, as a guest blogger. You can and should visit his website after reading this.
Firstly: Let’s talk about faith.
Faith, it’s like this: Some believe that faith is a thing of the mind, and others believe its a thing of the heart. What a tragic dualism. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can these two not exist together?
Faith, as Hebrews 11 can prove, is a combination of both of these wonderful positions – we believe in God with reason because we have thought well, and come to a conclusion that He exists, and then we also have this heart-moment – a conviction that He is an incredible God, mysterious and awesome.
Both of these two positions mysteriously merge, like black and white together making green, and we arrive at a new position – commitment. Commitment is the combination of having thought well of God and arrived at a reason of some sort, that combined with a conviction of His activity today, we now have this amazing movement of our lives being lived for Him.
This is what it looks like to have faith – to sign your life up to following Jesus: It’s not a sinners prayer prayed in a hype-induced moment but instead it’s to arrive at a position of reason, and conviction and decide: I’m in, and I choose to live here, in this place of faith right now.
We have a saying in the Vineyard, that “Faith is spelt R-I-S-K” and it is – but only on the one side of conviction. Deep down, we know that we need to step out in some sort of blind trust or obedience to see His hand move – but isn’t it also completely opposite?
Isn’t faith also spelt “I K-N-O-W”? Because we have engaged, thought, wrestled and arrived at a place of not having to risk at all; we know who this God of ours is.
Second. Let’s talk about hope.
In his book Mans Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist who survived spending the war in a German concentration camp, notes that the ones who survived were ones who had something to go home to. When someone found out their wife was dead, or their son was killed, or their life’s work would never be able to be complete, they gave up. They signed up for being with the dead. Frankl’s observation was that these men did not just simply give up – they lost faith in the future.
Lost faith in the future?
Can we have faith in the future? I thought our faith was in God.
We are hopeful creatures, and God is a God of fulfilling that hope-fullness. Hence why He says these wonderful words in John’s revelation: “Behold. I am making all things new.”
That is our Christian hope – our faith in the future; that is what we can put our faith in – that our God is in the restoration business. That his mission is still to redeem His world, not throw it out. That His mission includes us: we are the ones being made new and restored, and we have a role to play in continuing that job.
This faith in the future, changes the way we live right now. It has incredibly large effect.
A wise friend of mine once said that God’s kingdom – his heavens – is like a thunderstorm brooding over this age of this earth, and every now and then a bolt of lightning strikes down to it. Our job, he said, is to go out with golf clubs and try conduct lightning bolts.
Go out in storms and conduct lightning bolts? Really? We can conduct things of God’s future now?
What was it Jesus said the greatest commandment was again?
Love God, and equally love others.
So: love this awesome Creator who loves His creation, this God who loves it so much He is set in the mission of redeeming the brokenness and hurt in this world…
…and join him in doing it. We get to love others with this same heavenly restorative agenda. This changes the way we treat one another.
Jesus came with a message of God’s Kingdom breaking into this present world – and His Kingdom is one of restoration – it fixes things. This changes the way we pray. (Remember Jesus’ instructions on prayer was to pray heaven to earth.)
Jesus came and told us to get busy putting our actions where our faith was cashed in – to love the poor, to spend ourselves on those less fortunate. This changes the way we do mission.
Jesus came and told us that to see this Kingdom we would have to sell up everything for it and instead live this selfless life in service of this God who is making all things new. This changes the way we hoard our lives.
The common theme?
Love. God’s currency of doing all of this is love, and Jesus invites us to live it out too. To become people marked by love, defined quickly as the ones who love. Remember those words of Paul. He says that we can do all the amazing things of faith and hope, but without love we are useless.
We are useless why?
Maybe it’s because we have stopped living in the direction God is living – one of love for a world that so desperately needs it, so that it may be restored. So that it may be made new. So that it may be as it was always meant to be; perfect.
Could this position of living God’s future now be why John wrote such things as “Let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
Could this position of living God’s future now be why James wrote such things as “Faith or deeds? It’s both!”
Could this position of living God’s future now be why Paul wrote such things as “Love from the center of who you are – don’t fake it.”
Bold words: but from people who had firm faith in their God’s future plan.
A God who’s future plan is one of completing His restoration of sin, brokenness and pain. Now that is a God and a hope worth getting out of bed in the morning for, and future worth putting your faith in, right now.