The Call of God (Hebrews 11), Part 12

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Faith Speaks.

“By faith Joseph,” continues the Hebrews 11 account, “when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” An emigration and an exhumation is an unlikely pairing for a dying valediction. What was Joseph, great grandson of Abraham, thinking?

The end of life—like the end of a good novel—has a way of clarifying the most important things to us. To Joseph, it served to supply a final opportunity to speak hope to his loved ones—the descendants of his father Israel who were living in Egypt with him, far from their Promised Land. If Joseph had learned one thing in his long and challenging life, it was that God’s plans are for our good, even when everything around us seems to be stacking up against us. That’s a lesson some people would never learn unless someone like Joseph were to speak out.

Some ninety years earlier, Joseph had been bullied and sold into slavery by the brothers to whom he now spoke. Enslaved in Egypt, the angry treachery of his master’s wife had then sent Joseph to the pharaoh’s dungeon. Kindnesses to other prisoners were repaid to Joseph with thoughtless indifference. Joseph was forgotten by all.

But somewhere in the midst of the darkness of his life experience, Joseph remembered what God had said. He remembered the promise God had spoken to his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. It was a promise that God was working for his—Joseph’s—good and the good of all who honoured God from their heart. Like a piercing ray of light, this word, this call of God on his life, brought Joseph hope.

And later Joseph began to see God using him to bring hope into others’ lives, including those brothers who had begun the terrible chain of events Joseph had suffered. “You intended to harm me,” he would later summarize for his guilt-ridden brothers, “but God intended it for good.”

Now Joseph had one more opportunity to speak. He could have used it to bitterly berate his family members for their cruelty to him resulting in so many years of his youth being lost to slavery. He could have used it to take credit for the personal skills that led to his release from prison. He could have used it to flaunt the power and prestige to which he had eventually risen in Egypt. Rather, Joseph’s words reveal that his heart was set on something bigger, something much more important, something of eternal value. Joseph was now thinking of the distant future. He was visualizing God’s promises fulfilled.

God had promised the Israelites a land of their own. He had promised to bless them. More than that, He had promised to bless all nations on earth through them. And most notably, He had promised to send a unique Someone through the Hebrew family line who would reverse the ancient curse produced in Eden by humanity’s inaugural sin.

Although Joseph knew he would not live to see the day these promises would be fulfilled, he had two reasons in mind when he spoke the message captured in Hebrews 11. Firstly, Joseph believed God’s call on individuals’ lives to be authoritative—both practically and spiritually; Joseph understood every event of his life to be a concatenation—at series of connected events—through which God’s call and promise would be fulfilled. Without Joseph’s enslavement there would have been no inroad into an Egyptian prison. Without the prison, there would have been no opportunity to serve the Pharaoh. And without serving the Pharaoh, Joseph’s family back in Palestine would have perished when the years of drought wreaked their havoc. Looking back over his life, Joseph was able to see that God’s seemingly distant promises had influenced Joseph’s day-to-day opportunities to be faithful. So when Joseph’s final words reminded his people that God would be true to his promise to lead them to their Promised Land, he was passing the baton on, so to speak. He was encouraging them to remain hopeful, faithful and true to God.

Secondly, Joseph believed that God’s call involved inexplicable hints that life was designed to be eternal. He knew the oral tradition told by his ancestors. It spoke of death as a post-scripted addendum to God’s original plan for human life. Had there been no sin there would have been no death. So while Joseph knew with certainty that he, like his ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would die he wanted to make a final statement on behalf of God’s original plan for an undying humanity. He wanted his bones to be brought to the Promised Land because if God’s plan some day included reinstituting eternal non-dying life—if there was Someone who would initiate a resurrection—Joseph wanted to be in on it.

That is what faith in God’s call speaks. It speaks of God taking the difficult events of your and my faith-filled lives and turning them into good. It speaks of a resurrection to eternal life. It speaks of Jesus. This is how faith has and will speak. Are you letting it speak through you?

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The Call of God (Hebrews 11), Part 5

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Heeding Warnings.

The call of God is attractive when it’s a message of love and grace, of forgiveness and mercy, of hope and acceptance. That kind of call is heartwarming. It lifts us up and encourages us when we are down and discouraged or weak and defenseless. But sometimes the call of God demands more of us, requires a degree of grunt work on our part to obey; it takes us the next step further in our process of spiritual growth and development. Sometimes God’s call entails warnings—even condemnations—and is designed to evoke in us a response of holy fear.

Introducing emotionally charged words like these is risky business; they are not culturally acceptable words these days. Warnings and condemnations brings to mind the ‘Hell, Fire and Brimstone’ sermons we cringe in recollection of hearing about in the post-enlightenment days of our Western culture—sermons like Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ address of the 1700s. Are harsh words and concepts like these really an aspect of the call of a loving God?

“By faith Noah,” the author of Hebrews continues in his eleventh chapter discourse, “when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

What was is that distinguished Noah from all the rest of his culture, that saved him and his family from peril while possibly millions perished? From what we read here in Hebrews and in the more detailed account in Genesis, Noah’s life was characterized by a “holy fear” of God. His worldview, his mental set point, his philosophy of life was distinguished by the acceptance of God as the rightful ruler of his life. He attended carefully to everything he had learned about God and applied that knowledge to his life. Genesis tells us that Noah “walked with God” and was both “righteous” and “blameless among the people of his time.” Those are terms used in the Bible to describe people who live with integrity the principles of God-honouring behaviour—whose day to day choices reflect their understanding of God’s character and His prerogative to set guidelines for human living, whose hearts admit God’s sovereignty.

In contrast, the culture around Noah was characterized by ideologies we currently call atheistic or agnostic. People had no fear of God. The Genesis account describes the situation from God’s perspective.

“The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Note how it is the heart attitude of both Noah and his contrasting culture that God observes and to which He speaks when His call is a warning.

Noah’s response to God’s warning call was the next thing that distinguished him from his surrounding culture. Noah listened. He heard the bad news, believed that God was serious, and then as Genesis records, “did everything just as God commanded him.” Now that took faith. Building an ark of enormous proportions was one thing. Passing on the warning call of God to his community was another, perhaps even more daunting task. It is quite possible he feared for his life and liberty among those who would have considered his message ‘hate speech.’

We know the rest of the story. Noah completed the ark and filled it with his family, land creatures of every kind, and enough food for a year of crazy confinement; his culture refused to accept the rescue and perished enmasse. Later, when the floodwaters had subsided, Noah and his entourage disembarked their floating quarters and were welcomed back on terra firma with a rainbow, symbolic of a promise of blessing.

Did you notice how the Hebrews account of this momentous event ends? It explains that Noah “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” This phrase is crucial. We might even say it describes the essential core of the Bible’s message, of God’s call to each of us as individuals. It speaks of faith, of becoming an heir, and of righteousness. It is saying that when we by faith choose to hear God’s call—be it of grace and love or of warning and judgment—and heed it, we become heirs. And what do we inherit? We become recipients of Christ’s righteousness, of His perfect heart, and we are accepted into an eternity with God. This is the result of listening to God’s call.

The warnings, like the expounding of God’s love and grace, run throughout God’s word. So let’s take advantage of the opportunity to take them to heart. Let’s hear and humble ourselves and obey God’s directions. Then we will become people characterized by faith, by holy fear, and (O great mystery) by righteousness.

The Call of God (Hebrews 11), Part 4

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Communing with God and Escaping Death.

Community requires communing. That may seem obvious to most, but perhaps we need a reminder when it comes to our relationship with God. His existence is so vastly different from ours we may forget that a relationship of intimacy with Him is our life’s chief purpose. Communing with other people means talking and listening to each another, expressing hopes, dreams and core values, and seeking to understand each others’ perspectives. Communing means living life together, walking alongside one another. It’s what families and good friends do.

The author of Hebrews 11 had earlier reminded us of Adam’s son Abel, the first human to experience death. As if to swing the pendulum in the extreme other direction, he now tells us about Enoch, four generations after Abel’s time. “By faith Enoch was taken from this life,” he begins, “so that he did not experience death;” What? Is he sure? As if to explain it another way, the author adds, “he could not be found, because God had taken him away.”

To be sure this is strange. Enoch was what we might term ‘translated’ from his earthly life into eternity without having to experience the usually-essential process of human death. His experience was unprecedented. So what do we know about Enoch and what is God communicating to us about this man’s life that would be useful to people like you and me. Is it a how-to lesson on escaping death?

We have only tidbits of information about Enoch—a few verses in Genesis and a couple verses here in Hebrews. What we know about him is just a condensed, compact synopsis of his life, and that’s a handy thing to have. From it we learn six things about Enoch: he accepted God’s existence, he believed God rewards people who earnestly seek Him, he walked with God, he pleased God, and finally, he did not experience death.

What we are not explicitly told, but can surmise by these six descriptors, is that Enoch lived his life attuned to the voice of God. He had a heart attitude that was open to God, ears perked and piqued to hear anything about God or from God that could be heard by a mere man. He believed God’s promises and obeyed God’s counsel. Consequently he lived his life in such a way that he is described as walking with God. Does that sound like a relationship that would please the heart of God? Does it sound like the kind of life you and I could live?

Well, yes and no. No, it’s not possible for anyone to live a life pleasing to God—at least apart from faith in the work of Jesus. While Enoch live millennia before Jesus’ earthly life, we can safely surmise he believed God’s promise to send a Redeemer some day—a sinless offspring of sinful mankind—one who would crush the head of sin and eventually destroy death itself. Enoch’s predecessor Adam was still living in Enoch’s time, and had preserved the memory of this promise of God for Adam’s progeny.

But it’s not only no; it’s also yes, Enoch shows us that we can live for God and please Him if we will listen to Him and humbly come into a communal life with His Son Jesus. This kind of living relies completely on the life of Jesus living inside us, interpreting the truths of His Word so we can apply them, and ultimately providing eternal life for us after we die.

“…Enoch’s example,” explains Blue Letter Bible’s Don Stewart, “provides hope that believers will achieve an ultimate victory over death.” So in a way, Enoch’s life story is an instructional manual on dodging death and gaining life. Communing daily with God—seeking Him, listening attentively to everything He wants us to know about Himself and about ourselves—is the source of eternal God-present life.

The call of God inspires faith, and faith open hearts to the call of God. “Come near to God,” invites the Apostle James to all who will listen, “and he will come near to you.” Be part of the community.

(Photo Credit: Meghanbustardphotography)

The Call of God (Hebrews 11), Part 3

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Agreeing with God.

Do some hear the call of God better than others? “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did,” the author of Hebrews 11 explains, launching into the list of the first of those named as having heard and responded to the call of God. “By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

We’ve been exploring the theme of God calling to people, and are given Abel as our first personal example. What we know from this verse and from the early chapters of Genesis where the story is originally recorded is that Cain and Abel were the first offspring of Adam and Eve following their expulsion from Eden. They symbolize all of humanity that would follow, blazing the two moral paths from which each of us may choose.

One day, Cain and Abel brought to God each of their respective offerings from the products of their labour. One brought the best of what he had. The other brought some of what he had. Each product was good, but it was obvious to God that the hearts of the two young men were quite different. Abel the younger had listened to God’s call and embraced the opportunity to offer God his best. Cain the elder had hardened his heart to God’s call and refused to respond with much more than lip service. God accepted the one but rejected the other. Cain was incensed by God’s rejection. Giving free reign to his growing anger and jealousy, Cain murdered his brother Abel and defended his action by arguing, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

How could such a seemingly innocent practice as presenting an honorarium to the Creator have such disastrous repercussions? The anecdote condenses for us in one concise account the state of affairs each of our lives mirror. God speaks to each of us—calls to us—in ways that allow us the opportunity to agree with Him or not. It all depends on our willingness to listen. Those who choose by degrees to listen to God’s call, to agree with what He says about the human heart, find faith growing. They believe that He is telling the truth when He says that no one can find peace with Father God except through Jesus. In contrast, those who refuse to listen, who choose to ignore or blatantly reject God’s call on their lives begin a downward spiral of hurting themselves and others. Abel himself still speaks of this great dichotomy of choices.

Those who have been willing to listen to God’s call and agree with Him have looked back over their lives and discovered God’s transforming power and goodness runs parallel to His voice. When God speaks sparks fly. Lives are given wings, darkness is dissolved by light, and death is swallowed up by life. This recollection of humankind’s early history on earth teaches us that when God speaks to us, it is because He has our ultimate good in mind. God’s call is always for the purpose of protecting us from our own tendencies toward selfward and otherward destruction.

What about Abel? Suffering an early and turbulent death hardly seems a fitting reward for one who listened and responded well to God. Where’s the fairness in that? Where was the good God seems to promise? Look again. It’s there in the middle of the Hebrews verse; “By faith,” we’re told, “he was commended as a righteous man when God spoke well of his offerings.” God commends Abel. He makes a judgment call on Abel, taking everything He knows about Abel into account: his heart attitude, his willingness to listen to God, his convictions put into practice even when it cost him dearly. All these aspects describe true faith. As a result, God judges Abel righteous.

This word ‘righteous’ is a key word in God’s economy. In means God has transferred, by the highest standard of justice that characterizes Himself, the guilt of that individual onto Jesus. In exchange, the perfect right-ness of Jesus is transferred to that individual’s account and God sees that person as right with Him. Abel—like his brother Cain—was intrinsically sinful. But Abel chose to listen to God’s call and respond. It was an act of faith, of agreement. And God respects that heart attitude so highly—not only in Abel but also in each of us who make a similar choice—that He offers eternal life to those who have listened to Him.

So we have before us a choice and a fine example in Abel who lives in eternity’s grand glory with His Lord. Softening our hearts to God’s voice is the first call of God. Then listening to and agreeing with what He tells us about Himself through His Word, the Bible, is next. And then obeying what He commands through His Word is the natural by-product that will mark our lives. Do you hear Him calling you?

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 10

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Does Not Delight in Evil.

Love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth,” claims the author of I Corinthians 13—the Bible’s love chapter. We innately know the essential component of love is its complete absence of evil. We affirm that statement so easily. Perhaps we can skip over this phrase, ticking off the little box as completed—accomplished!

But the words insist we stay a moment. We need to delve a little deeper. There is something here for us and we must not to sweep it away as peripheral, inconsequential and irrelevant. The inspired words are giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the human heart—your heart and mine. By now we are aware that words inspired by God, if understood correctly, cut to the quick. They penetrate into hearts and have a habit of revealing thoughts and attitudes we thought were well hidden.

Surprisingly, the key word in this phrase is not evil. That comes eventually. First, the author wants us to look at delighting, at the human heart, its role and purpose and its set point. Our heart is not only capable of delighting; its primary task is to delight. It must absorb the glories of something outside itself that is good and expand with the resulting joy, or else be in bondage to something—even itself—that is not worthy of its worship, and finally shrivel and die.

To be delighted is to be entranced, enthralled and enchanted. It is to be riveted, transfixed and mesmerized. Look at those words again. Do you see what they are all doing? They are holding the heart in a sort of bondage. They do not offer the heart options; they demand the delight response. We become captivated by something and try as we might, we cannot escape. It may have started out as a first look, our attention caught by something interesting, but soon the attraction becomes irresistible. We have begun to delight in it.

Create a list of things that enthrall. The list is endless. To determine what it is that delights us, we simply need to ask ourselves, “What is it I cannot live without, or will be angry with God if it is taken away?” These things may not be evil in themselves, but they do hold sway over our thoughts, emotions, and even our actions.

Now we need to come to the word evil. How do we determine whether the things that delight us are evil or good? The Bible often uses words like wicked to describe people captivated by evil, and like righteous to describe those captivated by good. Even the terms righteous and wicked, though, come with some baggage, some incomplete or faulty impressions. The author of the very first Psalm gives us some insight on how we can determine good and evil, where our heart’s delight lies, and how to rectify the situation if the news is bad.

“…(Y)ou thrill to God’s Word,” explains the author of Psalm 1, describing those captivated by God and everything about Him, “you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom. You’re not at all like the wicked, who are mere windblown dust—”

Author Timothy Keller looks at it from another angle. “The righteous,” he explains, “are by definition those who are willing to disadvantage themselves for the community while the wicked are those who put their economic, social, and personal needs ahead of the needs of the community.” Good and evil, Keller continues, “is inevitably ‘social’, because it is all about relationships.”

Relationship with God is number one. Growing within that relationship requires absorbing everything He reveals about Himself in His Word, communicating with Him in prayer and living in line with that truth. Relationship with the people He created in His image is number two. Reaching out to them with as if we are the hands and feet of Jesus keeps those relationships in perspective. When we focus our primary delight on God and our secondary delight on people, we will find ourselves protected from being in bondage to the delight of evil. We will be safeguarded from the shriveling, minimizing effects of placing our delight in lesser things and becoming like them—nothing more than windblown dust.

The stakes are high. We can ride the wave of any delight that rolls our way and discover that love escapes us in the end, or we can delight in God Himself and in His magnificent love for us. One deceives and the other is truth. One destroys, while the other recreates ever-expanding truly human beings. One is loneliness and one is true community. Come and delight in the God who is love.

(Photo Credit: Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/search?safe=strict&biw=1920&bih=868&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=PNU_WvT6F-Oe0wLDv4mgDw&q=apple+trees&oq=apple+trees&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0i67k1j0l2j0i67k1j0l6.3443.4452.0.6727.5.5.0.0.0.0.73.324.5.5.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.5.322…0i7i30k1j0i13k1.0.HDgX1M7A0OU#imgrc=Ld7j-xZD1ckMrM:)

The (Almost) Impossible Paradigm: Part 11

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Quest of the Inner Ring.

The ten were indignant. They were incensed. They had heard the presumptuous request of James and John claiming first rights as the highest ministers in Jesus’ new sovereign state that they had envisioned. A hubbub of low murmurs was growing into exclamations of disbelief as one by one the other disciples heard of the audacity of their two fellow apprentices. They were disgruntled because of the ‘Inner Ring.’

C.S. Lewis talks about the phenomenon of the Inner Ring as an unwritten system determining who is inside and who is outside of an exclusive group. This quest to be part of an inner group of any type—whether of money-laundering drug lords or of trend-setting coffee shop dabblers—attracts each of us.

“I believe that in all (people)’s lives at certain periods,” explains Lewis, “and in many (people)’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.”

What is wrong with that?” we may ask. Aren’t Inner Rings natural groupings of like-minded people? Lewis gives two reasons why the quest—the unbridled passion— for the Inner Ring destroys all who follow it. Firstly, he says, “ Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skilful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.” Secondly, he adds, “As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want…The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”

This was the situation facing Jesus as He saw His disciples break into bitter complaints over the blunt request of James and John to be in Jesus’ Inner Ring. Jesus saw the pride and selfishness that plagues humanity erupt in all twelve of His disciples—each of them willing to sacrifice all to enter that elusive and exclusive camaraderie with power. He could see into the future where each of the twelve would have spiralled into solitary self-absorbed chiefs grasping for their version of desired dominance, all in Jesus’ name.

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Jesus is showing His disciples, and all of us who attend to His words, that the desire to be “great”—to be in the only truly significant Inner Ring—is the best good a person can pursue. But here the similarity to all other Inner Rings and all other artifices of greatness disappears. This Inner Ring can only be entered by loving. Loving, explains Jesus, is the motivating force behind this quest, and serving others is the external outworking of that love. Jesus gives Himself as the prime example of One whose eternal greatness is revealed by His serving heart, by actions which would culminate in giving his life “as a ransom for many” out of sheer love.

We must love by serving others. Our serving is not to be out of mercenary interest but out of the greatest of loves existing in this universe: out of God’s love for us. This is the great purpose for which God created us in His image, to be individuals eternally expanding as co-operators with the expansive love of God. God’s love for us, in us, and through us becomes the identity with which we are known. We become lovers (not in the shallow, amorous, illicit sense—but in the deep, compassionate, self-sacrificing sense) of others. It is the natural outflowing of God’s love.

What Inner Rings do we pursue? Jesus is calling you and me to see them for what they really are: poor replacements for the one true relationship for which we are made. Child of God, come to the One who loves you as you are, then go out and serve others so they can come home to Him too. The quest for this Inner Ring is your calling.

(Photo Credit: By © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51964834)

The (Almost) Impossible Paradigm: Following Jesus, Part 6

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Receiving the Gift

Wages, explains theologian Timothy Keller, are inherently different from gifts. To receive a wage, one must simply do an amount of work equal to the compensation. It’s an objective and transparent process. To receive a gift is more complex; accepting a gift means submitting to a narrative that may require a change of perspective.

For instance, if we perceive certain people to be dishonest or manipulative, we will be cautious about accepting a gift from them. In order to accept the gift we would have to have a change of heart, to believe we had misread them, or that they had now become genuine and generous. We must be certain that their gift will not be a Trojan Horse. Or, imagine a scenario where we had experienced class disparity; a gift offered might be seen by us as a slight, pointing to our inability to provide for ourselves. We’ve heard the classic explanation for refusal of this kind of gift: “I don’t take no charity!” In order for us to receive this gift, our pride would have to be replaced with simple thankfulness.

So while Christians commonly exult in spreading the news that God is the great giver of gifts (like salvation), there is a paradigm shift that must happen in an individual’s heart and mind in order for him or her to accept this news as good. If we look closely enough, we might even consider it an almost impossible paradigm shift.

In our passage in Mark 10 that we have been exploring, Jesus has been talking with His disciples about the criterion for entering ‘the kingdom of God’; Jesus explains that He Himself must be preeminent—first priority—in the life of anyone who wants to enter this kingdom. Then He offers the gift.

“No one who has left …(everything)…for me and the gospel will fail to receive…eternal life” (Mark 10:29,30). It is no coincidence that Jesus connects His matchless preeminence (“I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end!”) with the reception of the gift of eternal life (“…whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”). They are both impossibly puzzling, inexplicable, and even peculiar. We are cautious about terms like preeminence and eternal life in the 21st century.

Perhaps hearing a definition of eternal life will help us. In John’s Gospel we get a chance to eavesdrop in on Jesus defining eternal life in a conversation with His Father. “Now this is eternal life:” He considers, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” What? Eternal life is simply knowing the Father and the Son? Intriguing. What is it about knowing them that transmits an extension to our mortal lives both now and beyond the grave?

Jesus helps us understand that too. He claims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

Knowing the Father and the Son is the ultimate of network connections. If we know, have an integral relationship to, and connect on the deepest level with Jesus—who is the essence of Life—we become recipients of that life. His life extends to us something like a pregnant mother’s life and breath extends to her as yet unborn infant. It’s a sort of divine contagion, a breath-taking ride from the depths to the heights, a simple truth available only to those who simply trust Him.

Yes, the eternal life Jesus offers us is truly that, a gift. It is freely offered to each of us. But in another sense it is the most difficult gift to accept—not because of the nature of the Giver, but because of the nature of the getters. We are impossibly stubborn, too narrow-minded or broad-minded for our own good, and stuck in the mud of our unbending notions. Only His Holy Spirit can help us escape our almost impossible selves and say as one old sinner once said, “Lord…help my unbelief!”