“Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

– Genesis 13:17

WALKING THE LENGTH AND BREADTH OF OUR FAITH

The great father of our religious heritage, Abraham, was from the tenth generation since Noah. His father, Terah, had taken Abraham from his home in Ur,  to journey through the land of the Canaanites. His father never made the it into Canaan. Distracted from his mission, stopping instead in Haran, where Teran died.

After his father’s death, Abraham was spoken to by God, who said; “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1 Abraham began a long journey throughout the region, taking with him, his immediate family and nephew Lot. Along the way they were beset by many struggles, including a famine. Desperate to avoid the loss of his health and wealth, forgetting God’s command, Abraham led them into Egypt. Abraham like his father became distracted and lacking in faith moved away from God’s plan.

While in Egypt, Abraham told his wife, Sarah,  to tell pharaoh that she was his sister. An act of concealment to avoid having Abraham being murdered. For his wife, Sarah, was beautiful and Abraham was sure that Pharaoh would murder him to possess his wife.

The plan worked for a while, Sarah was fully accepted in Pharaoh’s house. Abraham was treated well by the Egyptians. Pharaoh takes Sarah as his wife, but soon develops sore and other plagues caused by God. Pharaoh confronts Abraham and asks him why did he lie? Why did he not tell Pharaoh that Sarah was his wife. Fearing more retribution from God, Pharaoh him banished from Egypt.

Along the way, both Abraham’s and Lot’s herds grew. Causing animosity between Abraham and Lot. Abraham tells Lot to choose a place where he would go and Abraham would take what was left. Lot chose a large parcel of land that would be best for his herds, but also contained the city of Sodom. A place that was notorious for its wickedness and sinful behavior.

Lot moved his herds and settled in the city of Sodom. Abraham took over what was left. A final settlement and finally Abraham was in the land that God wanted him to be. After years of traveling to Canaan and being distracted by his own fears and hearing the sirens of other lands. Abraham was where God wanted him.

God then issued a request to Abraham to, “ “Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” – Genesis 13:17 Abraham was now finally where he should be and God had told him to inspect all that he owned. Not just to see, but walk its length and breadth. To immerse himself in all that God was giving him. Not just see the trees and water, but to be with the land. To explore every facet of this land that he had inherited from God.

Metaphorically, we can see this same thing in our lives. Our faith is the land that God wants us to explore and become immersed. Not just stand by and watch the unfurling of our faith, but to experience and invest our energy into our faith. To move beyond just saying our prayers and reading the Bible. But to explore our prayers and the Bible. To become deeply immersed. To learn the ways of the world and what to avoid. To wonder at the majesty of all creation. To wonder about the stars, to observe the spiritual winds of our lives. To not become attached to the shiny and temporary glimmers that the ways of the world. To not live our lives in fear and desperately try on our own to solve our problems through worldly ways.

God has a great bounty of spiritual wealth awaiting us. God will protect us and guide us on this journey. In times of trial he will hear. We will never be alone.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

-John 3:7-8

SEEING SPIRITUAL WINDS

On this dark night near Jerusalem, Nicodemus is struggling to understand the message of God.  Nicodemus was from the ruling class of the 1st century Judean society. He had nearly everything, wealth, a member of the Sanhedrin and status. Yet here he was, trying to learn what Jesus had to offer. He came to Jesus in the darkness part of the day, at night, so that he wouldn’t be seen. He had a yearning for God and deep in his soul he knew Jesus was the answer. Torn between the trappings of his material life and the desire to know God, he visits Jesus.

Struggling he tries but he doesn’t get what Jesus is saying. All that he had and knew was at risk, preventing his full comprehension of what Jesus had to say. Knowing this Jesus was frank and to the point, he tells Nicodemus, “You must be born from above. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” -John 3:7-8

Jesus’s point compares the spirit to the wind. God directs the spirit and the wind. He is simply telling Nicodemus, that if he is with God and born from above, then he would know that the wind or life isn’t for him to control. Those in commune with God or born from above understand the wind and the spirit. They know God is sovereign. He is also telling Nicodemus that he is trapped in the world. Matthew Henry , the famous 17th century theologian, explains it in this way, Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe.”  Nicodemus is at a crossroad in his life. Does he accept Jesus’s answer, which threatens his wealth, power and status, or does he return to his old life and still have a thirst for God that can’t be satisfied by the natural life.

For those us peering into this story, we know the choice Nicodemus should make. A test that he has to take in the school of life, that has only one question. Perhaps we feel like screaming out, “choose the wind!” Almost as if we are watching a science fiction movie and we are encouraging the main character to not go into the dark room. We all know the answer and what we would do.

This is the same question we are asked every day, sometimes every hour. Do we choose the comfort of our life or choose the wind. Nicodemus has a lot to give up. Many from the ruling elite  in the first century wanted Jesus taken care of or at least silenced. He posed a threat to all they had. To embrace the message of Jesus threatened all that Nicodemus had achieved through the world.

For those of us in the twenty first century, the question on our own life’s test is the same. Which path do we choose?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

– John 14:6

ACCEPTING THE COMPELLING FORCE OF GOD

C.S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. He stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period of time, he continually wrestled with God. He found the church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.”

Lewis was a member of the Oxford University community, surrounded by people like Yeats and Tolkien. He was part of the intellectual elite of England during the early part of the 20th century. He couldn’t buy into the winds of God. His wrestling with God eventually ended because God became the only answer to a life-long yearning.

He wrote his own conversion story, where it states: “You must picture me alone in Magdelen , night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” The searching had ended. Encouraged by his friends, like Tolkien, he was changed and reborn.

“Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down.”

C.S. Lewis went on to become strong a Christian. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and was instrumental in helping the English people’s morale during the bombing of London in World War II. Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down. Nicodemus, another reluctant follower from the first century came out of the closet and acknowledged Jesus publicly. He was at the Crucifixion and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to provide the burial tomb and spices.

“God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never ending.”

Life gets in the way of God, as it did with Lewis.  God pursues us. We fall and don’t accept the winds of God, but God’s chase is never ending. Once we give in to our gift, we are quickly whisked to life as another being. We are still “frail and faulty,” but our lives have changed.

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman