Hope States Faith

At a recent conference, I heard Rachel Held Evans speak about why she is a Christian. So I thought about her topic and decided to share my thoughts with you.christian-because

I am a Christian because I was born in America. Religious freedom is a gift that wraps our souls in the joy of grace and the privilege of accepting what we believe and who our faith is centered around.

If I had been born in the Middle East, I might have been raised in an Islamic culture with no opportunity to learn about Christianity. Within that culture’s religion, I might have been commanded to strap on a bomb, walk into a café and detonate myself to somehow appease an angry god.

Instead, I was raised with the image of a loving Jesus who did the dying for me – once and for all. Rather than destruction of the soul and body, grace was offered as a free gift. Instead of strapping on dynamite, all I had to do was reach out and accept love.

So I am a Christian because of where I was born and raised. Thank you, God!

I am a Christian because Mabel Gruneau took time out of her busy schedule to organize a Child Evangelism event in my home town. During that event, Mabel used a wordless book – filled with lovely colors – to explain salvation in a way I could understand. I ran – yes – ran to the front of the room and cried, “I believe in you” to Jesus.

I am a Christian because of my home church and the saints who walked their faith in front of my observant eyes. Sunday school teachers such as Lillian Sawatzsky, Lydia Warkentin and Duane Janzen taught me the groundwork of faith.

My youth minister, Dave Gerbrandt showed me how faith works in practical daily life while my pastor, Lynford Becker helped me see how passages in the Bible – written so long ago – still applied to me.

I am a Christian because of the power of music. In the denomination where I grew up music was more than just a slot in the bulletin during each service. It was the fabric of our lives. The choir members and the directors, Lloyd Ediger and Jake Classen, invited me as a teenager to join the choir and learn how to sing true harmony.

My piano teacher, Arlene Flaming, taught me how to play with the proper techniques but more importantly – how to invite the power of music to travel from the keyboard to the soul. She helped me grow as an accompanist and soloist so I could share the gift of music with others. It is because of her that I still sit down to play and worship the God who speaks with rhythm and glory.

I am a Christian because my parents made a commitment that church would be for our entire family. No dropping me off at the door. Dad and Mom both served faithfully in the church and with Dad’s perfectionist personality, we were early for every single service – Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. Then revival meetings two or three times a year. The church was almost like a second home.

I am a Christian because of who Jesus is. Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus is the only one who truly respected women, allowed them to use their giftings and invited them to sit at his feet and learn.

Jesus is also the only religious leader whose body cannot be found because he came alive after death. With all our DNA tests and archaeological studies, no one has ever found the body or any portion of the physical body of Jesus. So I am a Christian because the God I serve is alive.

I am a Christian because of Oklahoma Bible Academy – a Christian school in the little town of Meno, Oklahoma. At OBA, my teachers somehow merged academia with theology. Some of my teachers were seminarians, pastors, scientists deeply schooled in how faith integrates with life. The education I received at OBA was priceless and it was there during a chapel service – I believed God was calling me to a lifetime of ministry.

I am a Christian because I have studied other religions. During high school and college, I researched other denominations and the religions of the world. While I served as an international minister at the University of Kansas and learned about the faith of my students – I discovered other gods and their legalistic rules.

None of the world’s religions even begin to offer the grace-wrapped salvation story of a God who loved mankind to the extent that he would send his only son to repair the breach sin caused.

No other religion is so founded on sacrificial love and so grounded in historic faith that it cannot be logically explained but only individually accepted.

I am a Christian because throughout my lifetime, this same loving God has personally met with me, sent his Holy Spirit to guide me and several times – actually touched me with his healing hands.

When I have most needed my eternal Husband and Maker, he has been present. During the darkest of times, he has answered my cries with, “I am here.” He has never betrayed me, abandoned me or allowed me to doubt that he would somehow find a way to help me.

Ultimately, I am a Christian because I fell in love with Jesus and never got over it.

So what about you? What is your faith story and why do you believe as you do?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Waits

Hope WaitsWaiting is not easy for me, but I seem to often reside in God’s waiting room. Throughout the years, my spiritual muscles have been stretched and strengthened by the exercise of waiting. So I try to be grateful for the experience.

Still, it’s no fun.

In this season, I am trying to be patient as I wait for several prayers to be answered. I am waiting to hear about a book decision. When writers spend months and sometimes years emptying their souls onto  computer screens, then revising and deleting, adding and groaning about more words – they want their work to be acknowledged.

I know the drill. It takes a while to hear back from editors and publishers because they are busy people just like me. Still – this section of the waiting room is surrounded by uncertainty. Fear screams, “What if they don’t want my book? What do I do then?”


Although I have a Plan B, I’m impatient enough to want Plan A to happen right now, thank you very much.


 

For several months, I have been searching for Sunday. I borrowed that phrase from the book title by Rachel Held Evans. Hers was the book I opened, read the Introduction and immediately burst into tears. When you cry at the beginning pages, you know the book was meant for you.

During this season of life and in my particular demographic of older single woman, I find it hard to find a place to belong. With my ministry background and years of serving with wonderful saints, I struggle to find a fellowship that will honor my giftings and accept me for who I am yet continue to nurture and teach me. It would be easier to stay in my jammies on Sunday mornings, click on the remote and forget my aloneness within the plots of various Hallmark movies.

But I believe in the corporate body, the fellowship of the saints and the role we each play. I like to sing with other people, sway to the music, pass the offering plate and share the communion dish, hug others and rehearse my prayer requests. Plus, some of those Hallmark movies are so easy to figure out, they bore me.

I visit churches, discover other saints also searching for Sunday and ask God to remove me from this waiting room and plop me into the pew where I belong.

Another area of waiting involves Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey. I wait for the phone call, “You’d better get down here in a hurry.” I wonder how many more years she has to endure this infernal Long Goodbye. When will she get to graduate to heaven? What is God waiting on for her release?

I don’t want her to die, sort of, but I also don’t want her to live in la-la land, unaware of those who love her and of the way she now responds like a child. Where is the abundant life we are promised that accompanies our faith? When is the release?

As I struggle in prayer for Mom, I also pray for the rest of us. I am so tired of bad news, of hearing about people who chose to use their freedom to bear arms by taking the lives of others. I am sick of the condemnation and stereotyping of people of color, single moms and all the inequities we carry around and somehow call justice. Politicians who can’t work together. Rape and the molestation of little girls. Celebrities who get away with sin just because of who they are and the amount of money represented in their checking accounts.

I am homesick for heaven, and I am tired of waiting. I want Jesus to come back right now so that we can live in the purity of his home and never have to watch another stupid Viagra commercial.

So what can we do when hope waits and frustration mounts day after day?

We can stay busy helping others. I’ll keep writing and working and praying and hoping. When I’m busy, I focus on the task at hand. It’s only when I sit quietly that I grind my teeth and wonder how much longer, Lord? Hurry up and get us out of here before everything really falls apart.

We can keep our focus on God. I know he is being patient with us, and he understands how frustrating it is to wait. He also grieves at the state of our world, at fresh coffins planted in the soil, hungry and homeless people lying on sidewalks just outside affluent businesses, bombs that blow children to bits.

Somehow in the waiting, we have to recognize his sovereignty – his eternal knowledge of the whole picture. Sure, he wants us to do our best to remedy some of these problems, but he also knows what is coming and why he waits. Someday, perhaps he will share that answer with us.

We can learn patience within each season. The stretching of spiritual muscles is never enjoyable, but afterwards – isn’t it always afterwards – the effort yields a better result. We gain strength, we learn endurance and we find extra measures of grace.

This morning, I watched this video and found new strength to wait a bit longer. http://www.maryloucaskey.com/when-your-answer-seems-so-far-away.html

So in my current waiting rooms, I am determined to sooth my restlessness with the truth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still. Know who he is. Know he is sovereign God. Know his timing is always important and know that someday, the waiting will end.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh