faith

Rooted

Rooted.

At the end of last year, the painting “Rooted” had found a new home. This week, I finally had the opportunity to see it in its new context and frame. By this I mean not only the spatial frame but also the picture frame. The owners happened to have this beautiful old frame that matched the picture and now it shines in new splendour in a place of honor in their reading and video room.

Rooted Acrylic Painting - SOLD
Rooted Acrylic Painting – SOLD

Rooted – fitting for Good Friday

The picture “Rooted” is very fitting for today. Today is Good Friday and we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross at Golgotha. His sacrifice on the cross enables us to receive forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with the Almighty God. Jesus’ willingness to be treated as a felon is described in the Philippians’ letter:

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names. (Phil 2:6-9 NLT)

Out of love for us, Jesus went the not at all easy way into death and into the distance from God. He himself compared this in advance with a grain of wheat:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. (Jn 12:24 NLT)

Jesus died to bear fruit. We are this fruit. Those who follow Jesus and live rooted in Him are thus part of this fruit and contribute to Jesus’ joy.

Rooted – A Reason for Joy

The anticipation of these effects helped him to endure when he was confronted with suffering, contempt, shame and injustice.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebr 12:2 NLT)

Finally, a last quotation from Isaiah, where Jesus’ death was predicted in a prophetic word:

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all. (Is 53:4-6 NLT)

Jesus’ sufferings and death on the cross, sad and terrible as they are, eventually became a source of joy and peace for him and for us. He died so we could have peace with God. In this sense, I wish you all, HAPPY EASTER!

Steps of Faith in a Storm – Poem

Steps of Faith in a Storm – Poem

I wrote the poem “Steps of Faith in a Storm” in a very difficult time, when people whom I trusted harassed and hurt me deeply. It’s my first attempt of translating a German poem into English.

Steps of Faith in a Storm

Spilling breaking waves waves waves waves waves
storm storm storm
fooooog

The boat sways on high sea
I stand uncertainly on my legs
powerless against the powers
powerless

I stare at the shape in the fog
and a gentle voice in me calls:
Come! Trust me!
Come!

I inhale deeply
I want to dare the leap
and let go of the edge of the boat
I step on the water…

I forgive my enemies
pray for those, who persecute me
and don’t take revenge

I step on the water
and the water carries me
the water carries me
hopefully for a long time!?!

And if not
I will try it tomorrow again.

*

Spilling breaking waves waves waves waves waves
storm storm storm
fooooog

The boat sways on high sea
I stand uncertainly on my legs
powerless against the powers
powerless

I stare at the shape in the fog
and a gentle voice in me calls:
Come! Trust me!
Come!

I inhale deeply
I want to dare the leap
and let go of the edge of the boat
I step on the water…

I forgive my brothers and sisters who wrong me
I pray for those, who hurt me
and I don’t lash out at them

I step on the water
and the water carries me
the water carries me
for a loooooong time!

*

Glaubensschritt * Steps of Faith
Glaubensschritt * Steps of Faith

I had painted the picture that meshes with the poem “Steps of Faith in the Storm” more than one year before that. Originally, for me it referred to the steps of faith that I take by trusting God and following his guidance.

I wrote the poem, when I discovered a new dimension of steps of faith – when I am unfairly treated and harassed, to not insist on my right, defend myself or strike back, but let go and trust that God is above it all and can turn things around for good.

That is what happened in the specific situation, during which I suffered a lot and felt helpless at the mercy of some higher powers. In the end, God turned the situation around and changed it into blessings.

Faith Applied

Xavier Naidoo, singer:

“I am just her to praise God, to search and find him daily.”

Mother Therese:

“Prayer makes the heart wide, until it is so big, that it can receive God’s gift – namely himself.”

Isaac Newton, mathematician and philosopher:

“Those who think half, believe that there is no God; whoever thinks fully, has to believe in God.”

(found in the latest Alpha-Austria newsletter July 09)

Good or evil?

Good or evil?

The following quotes are part of the conversation in “The Shack“ (pp 134-136) that I intentionally left out in my last post. God explains there to Mac why our parameters for deciding what is good and what is evil are often wrong.

“Evil is the word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. This is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life.”

I have contemplated this a lot and found it really helpful. As long as we discern good and evil based on our subjective feelings and perception, we will often get it wrong and miss how “bad” things can be “good” for us. And this in turn will undermine our trust in God. Only when we understand that God’s presence makes something good and his absence makes something evil, can we understand that “in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income – or even a life.”

It is often the hard things that drive us into God’s presence, mold our character and transform us into his image. Unfortunately, difficult times seem to be the only way we learn and experience transformation.

This also sheds a different light on our pursuit of independence. Being independent from God removes us from the Vine. We are called to remain in Him, abide in Him, because apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) A well known passage, but how often do we manage to put it into practice? 🙂

What does it mean to practice it? Here is what Mac heard God say to him about this:

“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil in your own terms. This is a hard pill to swallow; choosing to only live in me. To do that you know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.”

So this brings us back to the issue of trust. If we decide on our own what is good and bad, we easily come to the conclusion God is not trustworthy. Or as Wayne Jacobsen puts it – we practice a “Daisy Pedal Christianity” (He loves me!) going back and forth between “God loves me” and “God loves me not” depending on whether things happening in our life are “good” or “bad” according to our subjective perception. Whenever we don’t like what is happening to us, we conclude that God does not love us, instead of looking for the good God intended with it.

I know, it is not easy to apply this in some extreme situations, but why not start with every day situations and try to see them through God’s eyes? I have been mulling over this topic for some time. It was a pleasant surprise recently, when I experienced a very disappointing situation and in the middle of it was able to hold back on my subjective judgment, but trust that God has good plans for his children. (More about it in a future post)