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Posts Tagged ‘Faith in God’

 

No doubt many moviegoers looked forward to last Friday when the film A Wrinkle in Time premiered.

Perhaps like me they had read the book of the same title and relished every page of the Newbery Award winner (1963), written by Madeleine L’Engle. Fans of the novel surely hoped the film would offer the same intriguing juxtaposition of science and fantasy, as well as the thought-provoking allegory of the divine versus demonic.

Some Wrinkle-in-Time fans may not know that L’Engle was a Christian, and wrote the book as a way to express her reflections about God.

“If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle journaled. “This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death” (1).

 

 

L’Engle grew up with a church background, but in her 30s wrestled with such essential questions as: Does God exist? Why are we here? Do we exist after death? Her strong faith in God developed over time, her granddaughter has explained, a slow “acceptance of what she had always known to be true” (2).

As L’Engle’s faith grew, she established the daily habits of Bible reading and prayer. Her writings began to reflect her devotion to God and deep love of scripture.  A Wrinkle in Time is no exception. Several characters frequently quote from the Bible.

L’Engle discovered: “Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys” (3).

L’Engle’s faith did indeed carry her through several tragedies. Her father died when she was eighteen, the result of lung damage during World War I.   Close friends died, survived by their young daughter, Maria. L’Engle and her husband Hugh adopted the child, only to struggle through Maria’s emotional turmoil as time passed. Then, after forty years of marriage, her beloved Hugh died of cancer.

L’Engle eventually wrote: “We trust as [Medieval mystic] Lady Julian of Norwich trusted, knowing that despite all the pain and horror of the world, ultimately God’s loving purpose will be fulfilled and ‘all things shall be well…and all manner of things shall be well.’ And this all-wellness…does not come to us because we are clever or virtuous but comes as a gift of grace” (4).

 

(www.quotefancy.com)

 

She saw Christianity as a paradox. On the one hand is the infinite, unfathomable God beyond comprehension, but who was at the same time a finite human being–Jesus–who died for us on a cross.

“To believe the universe was created by a purposeful being is one thing,” she wrote. “To believe this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason” (5).

 

 

L’Engle often wove Christian themes into her stories. Sadly, filmmakers chose to downplay the faith elements of A Wrinkle in Time, and focus on the fantasy and special effects. What’s left is a confusing storyline and muddled message. Many critics admit to disappointment and confusion (6).

In an interview the film’s screenwriter explained the decision for removing all traces of Christian reference:

“I think there are a lot of elements of what [L’Engle] wrote that we have progressed on as a society, and we can move on to the other elements” (7).

Oh? We can move on from the element of truth?

Like Madeleine L’Engle, we must wrestle with the essential matters of truth and faith; we must be certain of the reasons and evidence for our beliefs, because…

 

 

Notes:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/new/acts.of.faith/wp/2018/03/08/the-deep-faith-of-a-wrinkle-in-time

(2) Same source as above.

(3) From Walking on Water (Crosswicks, 2001), by Madeleine L’Engle

(4) Same source as above.

(5) From Penguins and Calves (Shaw Books, 2003), by Madeleine L’Engle

(6) http://www.businessinsider.com/wrinkle-in-time-movie-changes-book-religion-christianity-ending-2018-3

(7) https://uproxx.com/movies/jennifer-lee-wrinkle-in-time-frozen-2/2/

 

Additional sources:

  1. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/march-web-only/hollywood-spiritual-themes-wrinkle-time-madeleine-lengle.html
  2. http://exhumator.com/00-139-00_esoteric-religious-spiritual-engle-madeleine.html
  3. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/madeleine-lengle-an-epic-in-time/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com.

 

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(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published September 13, 2013.)

Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,” Melissa shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths out  the path perfectly.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out for us to see ahead of time step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a revealed plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

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Research scientists rely on their five senses to collect and analyze data.

Some scientists argue that because we can’t see, touch, or hear God (out loud, in the hearing of others), he cannot exist.

So how can we embrace faith in our invisible God, and be sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1)?

First, the Christian faith is based on a huge body of proof. Our beginning point of discovery: God’s Word. And why should we believe the Bible? Because its reliability has been proven again and again by:

  • Hundreds of archaeological discoveries. One small example: Remember the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a lame man (John 5:1-8)? According to John, the pool had five porticos, or colonnaded walkways. No such place was found until 1956, because it was buried–forty feet below ground level. But, sure enough, there are five porticos (1).

Also worth noting: Not one artifact has been found to disprove a fact or claim of the Bible (2).

 

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  • Thousands of manuscript fragments discovered, from ancient copies of the scriptures. The Dead Sea scrolls are one incredible example. Complete copies or portions of ALL books in the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, are included in these scrolls.  The book of Esther is the only omission (3).

viewer-Isaiah

 

  • Scientific and medical discoveries that have corroborated scriptural truth. Again, one example of many: In the late 1960s, deep sea exploration discovered numerous springs of fresh water pouring out of the ocean floor. Job (38:16) spoke of the “springs of the sea” eons ago (4).

 

Job 38-16

 

Hundreds of prophecies fulfilled with pinpoint accuracy.  The Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies. Of those, more than four dozen are about Jesus. Every one of them that refers to his earthly life was fulfilled.  

Those are just a few categories of proof.

But we can also place our confidence in God because of experience.  The Bible and two thousand years-plus of church history include countless stories of believers in God who faced hardships to be sure, but lived adventurous, fulfilling, and miraculous lives of faith.

To experience the same, we have to step out in faith, like:

 

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  • Abraham, who left his home country at God’s command, with no idea of where he was going (Genesis 12:1).
  • Moses, who confronted Pharoah and ordered the powerful ruler to release God’s people from slavery (Exodus 5:1-5).
  • David, who stepped out onto a battlefield to fight a giant—alone (1 Samuel 17).
  • King Jehoshophat, who led Judah into battle against a vast army (2 Chronicles 20).
  • The centurion who asked Jesus to heal his beloved servant—from a distance. Jesus fulfilled his request and commended the officer for his great faith (Luke 7:1-10).

We have to step out like these more recent heroes, too:

 

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  • George Muller (1805-1898), who could hardly provide for his own family, yet with great faith and not much else, founded five orphanages in Bristol, England, where ten thousand children were cared for.
  • Florence Young (1856-1940), a missionary to the Kanakas of the Solomon Islands. She and others helped the Kanaka believers minister to villages that practiced cannibalism. Thousands of people became Christians.
  • C. T. Studd (1860-1931), missionary to China, India, and then Africa. He inherited 25 million dollars ( in today’s economy) and gave it all away.
  • Betty Greene (1920-1997), who combined her passion for flying with her faith in God and helped to found Mission Aviation Fellowship.
  • Brother Andrew (1928- ), who smuggled Bibles into communist countries during the Cold War.

How were these biblical and historical heroes able to accomplish such feats? Was it because of courage and perseverance? No doubt, but the foundation underneath those traits was their faith in God.

They believed what they could not see. They were sure of God’s love and care. They were certain their final destiny was secure.  Therefore, they confidently moved forward step by step as God opened the way. That is faith.

 

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Lord, I have said it many times: Whatever you want for my life is OK with me! Forgive me for wavering and fretting that perhaps your will might cause hardship. Shame on me! Help me to rest in you, Father. Since your love is steadfast and everlasting, and you have only my best interest at heart, I can confidently put my faith in you. Help me to be watchful and stand firm, a woman of strength, courage, and love.

(Psalm 116:7; Jeremiah 31:3; 1 Corinthians 16:13)

Notes:

  1. bible-history.com
  2. Grant Jeffrey, The Signature of God, p. 71.
  3. deadseascrollsfoundation.com
  4. Institute of Creation Research (icr.org)

(Photo and art credits:  www.fda.gov; http://www.flickr.com; dss.collections.imj.org.il; http://www.newheartnewspirit.com; http://www.alittleperspective.com; http://www.georgemuller.org; http://www.etsy.com.)

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Ryan-Spirit-of-St-Louis

“Stay awake! Stay awake!” the pilot yelled at himself.

His little plane skimmed over the ocean, mere feet from the cresting waves. Another moment of dozing might have spelled disaster for the lone aviator.

The scare pumped adrenalin through his weary system. He pulled up out of danger, then banked the plane slightly so he could see ahead through the side window. There was no window facing forward, because an over-sized gas tank blocked any possible view.

Up ahead the young pilot saw towering storm clouds. He decided to guide the plane around the thunderhead. Earlier, he had tried to fly through a large cloud, but sleet began to collect on his plane. He was forced to turn around and get back to clear air immediately.

Once clear of the cloud bank, the pilot thought, Maybe I should eat something. He pulled out one of five sandwiches stored behind his chair. Very little else was packed into the tiny cockpit—no parachute, no radio, not even the usual leather pilot’s seat. He’d opted for a wicker chair, to keep the plane as light as possible.

The young man checked his watch. He had already been awake thirty-six hours and knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep for at least another twenty. The good news: his destination was closer now than his departure point. Of course, that also meant no turning back.

The little plane hummed along, bouncing a bit on the air currents. If any plane is well-suited for this journey, it’s this one.  And the pilot smiled, remembering the camaraderie of the design team, of which he had been a part.   With creativity and engineering prowess, they sought to solve every problem that might present itself during his long solo fight.

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The body of the plane was only 9 feet, 8 inches high, and 27 feet, 8 inches long. But the wingspan was longer than usual, to handle the weight of the extra-large fuel tank. Someone quipped the plane wasn’t much more than a propeller-driven fuel tank.

Yet another cloud bank loomed ahead. The pilot checked his compass, the only instrument he had brought aboard to steer by. It wasn’t working again. Magnetic storms from the North Pole interfered with its function.

So he chose to fly over this bank, skimming the tops of the clouds at 10,000 feet. Darkness enveloped him. There wasn’t even the glimmer of a crescent moon to guide his way. Only pinpoints of stars glinted in the black sky overhead—stars to guide his course.

The tiny plane seemed like a speck, hung in that immensity of space between sea and sky—a sea whose depths were beyond man’s reach, and infinite outer space, beyond human comprehension.  Inside the tiny plane was a man, smaller still. Any moment could be his last on earth.

The pilot grabbed his inflight journal and wrote:

“It is hard to be an agnostic up here…aware of the frailty of man’s devices, a part of the universe between its earth and stars. If one dies, all this goes on existing in a plan so perfectly balanced, so wonderfully simple, so incredibly complex that it’s far beyond our comprehension—worlds and moons revolving; planets orbiting on suns; suns flung with recklessness through space. There’s the infinite magnitude of the universe; there’s the infinite detail of its matter—the outer star, the inner atom. And man conscious of it all—a worldly audience to what—if not God.”

And just as David had proclaimed in Psalm 19:1-2, the young pilot heard in that moment “the heavens declare the glory of God”—as if all the heavenly bodies thundered praise for the Lord’s wisdom, splendor and power—to create such complexities on such a grand scale. Indeed, “the skies proclaim the work of his hands”—in the countless stars of immense proportions. “Day after day…night after night they display knowledge,” as they constantly revolve in the same precise order.

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No one knows how long the young pilot contemplated God and his wonders.  We do know this:

Thirty-three hours after takeoff he landed his little aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis. He had gone without sleep for fifty-five hours. But Charles Lindbergh had fulfilled his dream to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean–by plane.

The date: May 21, 1927. Eighty-eight years ago today.

“Lindbergh did it,” wrote Edwin James, for the New York Times. “Suddenly and softly there slipped out of the darkness [surrounding Paris], a gray-white airplane as 25,000 pairs of eyes strained toward it.”   Later the crowd would be estimated close to 100,000.

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When he returned to the States, Lindbergh was honored by a ticker-tape parade in New York City, attended by four million enthusiastic spectators.

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But I wonder if his most precious memory of that world-changing event was the moment when his heart filled with wonder and he recorded those inspired thoughts in his journal. That was the point he profoundly understood in new ways God’s creative genius, his precise engineering, and powerful control of immense forces in the universe. That was when Lindbergh acknowledged God is the only One capable of producing such perfection.

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.charleslindbergh.com; Christmas, by Charles Allen and Charles Wallis, Revell, 1977; http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com; http://www.history.com.

(Photo credits:  www.fiddlersgreen.net; http://www.charleslindbergh.com; http://www.worshipinitiative.som; iconicphotos.wordpress.com; http://www.telegraph.co.uk.)

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Check a map that traces the trek of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, and you’ll see a meandering, looping pathway:

Wilderness Journey

God could have taken them along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a much more direct route. One commentator says that route would have required just days of travel. A short journey would have been so much easier on everyone, right?  Less chance of fatigue, boredom, and impatience to develop and create problems.

But God had his reasons for a long, winding route.

Reason #1: The Philistines. That’s not conjecture; that’s exactly what scripture tells us. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’ ” (Exodus 13:17).

The Philistines’ territory stretched for fifty miles along the Mediterranean Sea, with the southern border touching Egypt. They were a well-organized, warring people. Five great cities, strategically located throughout their coastal holdings, created an alliance, the famous Philistine pentapolis.

A people suppressed by slavery for four hundred years would not be able to fight such an adversary. The Israelites didn’t have any trained soldiers among them either. Could God have given them a rousing victory over the Philistines anyway? Of course. But he chose not to.

Reason #2: Perhaps God determined his people needed some wilderness experience to train them in his ways and build their trust in him. Instead of quick and easy, God chose slow, step-by-step progress. He was like an eagle, teaching his fledglings by degrees how to fly (Deuteronomy 32:11).

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I wonder if the Israelites thought, Does God have any idea where he’s taking us? What is he DOING?!

In hindsight we can see God’s purpose:

  • To prepare them to be his holy people by giving them the law. (By the way, according to Exodus 19:1, Moses went up to Mount Sinai during the third month after they left Egypt. God was certainly in no hurry to get his children to the Promised Land.)
  • To teach them.  Through the laws he gave Moses, God taught the Israelites how to treat one another and how to worship him. They were to be different from all other peoples on earth.   “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy,” he said, “because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
  • To challenge them. For example, God let them experience great thirst and hunger. Then he stepped in and supplied their needs. By degrees God taught them to trust him.

I have to admit: my life experiences have paralleled the Israelites’ in a number of ways. I’ve encountered a few winding roads, puzzling detours, uncomfortable wait times, and unanswered questions of my own.

You, too?

Here’s what we can remind ourselves of: God may not direct us by the nearest, fastest way—even though he could. In his omnipotent wisdom, he knows a better way. And he has perfectly sound reasons for his decision.

My choice in the matter? I can plead for the shorter route, complain about the delay, try to forge ahead on my own self-chosen fast track, OR…

…trust my all-knowing, all-wise Heavenly Father.

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Seeing the choices laid out in black and white, here on my computer screen, the decision is easy. However, complete trust in the moment of uncertainty, fatigue, and discomfort is much more challenging.

Perhaps I can encourage myself by reviewing God’s purposes for the Israelites. Chances are, he desires the same results in me:

  • God prepared the Israelites; he may be preparing me for the next chapter in my life.
  • God taught the Israelites; he may be teaching me what the next level of maturity includes.  (Yes, even an old Christian like me still has growing to do!)
  • God challenged the Israelites; he may be challenging me to trust him—in spite of a long, winding road and uncomfortable wait time.

In summary:  As I cooperate with him, God can transform me into a prepared, mature, trusting servant for the next chapter of my life.   I like the sound of that!

You, too?

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“Who compares with you, O God?  Who compares with you in power, in holy majesty, in awesome praises, wonder-working God” (Exodus 15:11, The Message)?  You are over-the-top trustworthy!  So, in advance, I thank you for the good that will come out of the winding road, detours, and wait time in my life–experiences you ordained for me, before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  I place my hand in yours, my caring, constant Companion.  Help me to focus on your strong grip, not the uncertainties ahead.  Amen.

   

(Art credits:  www.registrypartners.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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