A real leap of faith

They say that God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes God speaks in mysterious ways as well. I wish he would speak to me directly and audibly but he speaks to me through scripture, sermons, and songs. I didn’t expect God to speak to me through an Amish romance novel, but he did.

Last year, a friend gave me a bag of books that belonged to her mother, including some Amish love stories. They’re not books I would choose myself, though this particular genre is targeted at Evangelical women over the age of 50. The books sat in my basement for months. When I gave up social media for Lent, I suddenly had more time to read.

One of the Amish books is A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron. In the book, a twenty-year old named Elizabeth got on a bus and ran away from home. She was the oldest of nine kids and had grown weary of taking care of her younger siblings. With her job and home responsibilities, she didn’t have time for a social life and was afraid she would never date or get married. So she decided to go stay with a friend in Pennsylvania and search for a job.

On her road trip to Pennsylvania, Elizabeth worried about whether she had packed enough food. Then she saw birds pecking at some crumbs and she thought: His eye is on the sparrow. Later in the book, she bought a couple of sparrow figurines to remind herself of God’s love and protection.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

After I read the book, I started thinking about my most recent leap of faith. A couple of years ago, I was so unhappy in my job that I quit even though I didn’t have another job lined up. I considered retiring early. But I found that health insurance is really expensive if you don’t have an employer to subsidize the premiums. I looked for non-profit jobs, hoping that I could find work that is more meaningful. I ended up jumping back into the rat race because it was easier to find a job in the for-profit market.

When I made that leap of faith, the visual that inspired me was a picture of a fish jumping out of a glass bowl, with the caption, “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” My leap of faith transported me to a job that is better than the last one. But instead of really taking a risk, I leapt from one fish bowl to another. So it is no surprise that I find myself once again wanting to take a leap. I am constantly thinking about beginning the next stage of my life somewhere else, escaping the suburbs and moving closer to nature.

Several years ago, I did a Bible study based on John Ortberg’s book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. One night, the disciples were in the boat, tossed about by the wind. Jesus had gone off by himself to pray. Just before dawn, the disciples saw Jesus walking out to them on the water and were afraid, thinking he was a ghost.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:27-31

I am a lot like Peter. I want to trust that God will not let me fall. I take a tentative step then quickly return to the safety of what I know.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

Thankfully, God is patient with me, just as Jesus was patient with Peter. I am thankful that he knows what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. He has a plan for me and his plans will not be thwarted. His purpose will prevail.

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Photo by Photo by fred A on Unsplash

The Good Lord’s Whistle

At my church, we sing a prayer of illumination before the sermon asking God to make us receptive to the message he wants us to hear. Sometimes as I listen to the sermon, especially if I pick up on subtleties, I wonder how the message is received by others. Do they hear God’s whistle?

What I’m calling God’s whistle is a message from God that can only be heard by people who are receptive to hearing his voice. God whistles to his children to gather us in.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)

A pastor is to be like a shepherd, helping and feeding the Lord’s sheep. Some pastors are false teachers who lead the flock astray. For pastors who are genuinely committed to following Jesus, it must be difficult to lead people who have fallen under the influence of deceptive, misleading voices. A pastor may have to be very subtle to get God’s message across to those who have been led astray.

A member of my church who is also a professor of theology delivered the sermon while our pastor was on a mission trip. He preached about the Hebrew word for the sin of rebelliousness against God, pesha. Dave said that among all religions, Christianity should be the most realistic about sin. Christians should call what is evil evil and what is good good. We should celebrate what is good and push back against evil. Christians today do not speak out against sin as they once did.

As Dr. Dave pointed out, we all sin and should focus our attention on our own sinfulness and not on the sin of others. After all, Jesus said, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It is difficult to speak out against sin because no one wants to be accused of being judgmental. But if we don’t speak out against evil, our silence sends the message that abhorrent behavior is acceptable.

It especially saddens me when Christians refuse to speak out against hate in all its forms. Silence in the face of evil is sinful. When we speak out against bigotry, racism, and other sins that harm others, we are being obedient to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, said this:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Dr. Dave said that pesha is crossing boundaries – the boundaries that God placed on our behavior so that we could enjoy a healthy relationship with God and with others. He said that when wicked people are in power, pesha increases. Those who rebel against God have no fear of God. They do not submit to God’s authority. They selfishly assert themselves against God and his boundaries. They are hotheaded and angry.

When I heard Dr. Dave’s message, I hoped that those who have turned a blind eye to wickedness would hear God’s whistle. God has shown us what is good. When we see behavior that is evil, we should speak up. Watch out for wicked people in power who have crossed God’s boundaries.

Let us be strong, courageous, and obedient. Call what is evil evil. Call what is good good. Hate is evil. Love is good. If you hear God’s whistle, you know this. Fighting is evil. Peacefulness is good. If you hear the good Lord’s voice, you know this. Lies are evil. Truth is good. If you hear God’s voice, you know this.