ART OF FAITH by Pastor Josh Kapchinsky
I have learned that there is an art to faith, it’s a bit of a creative dance with God. Recently I was in a prayer meeting with other local pastors. We gather and pray for each other's needs and churches; it's a great time to reflect on what God is doing in other churches besides Granite Creek.
We reflect on the state of our churches and society, navigating a global pandemic that has changed us. During the prayer meeting, another Claremont pastor made a statement that stuck with me and resonated with the whole group. It was a simple statement, but it felt as if her words had power, if not prophetic. She said, "Historically, there is a renaissance after the plague." What a statement, what a proclamation, what a declaration!
I, too, am anticipating a renaissance. The definition of Renaissance is literally "Rebirth" in French...
"A period in European civilization immediately following the Middle Ages and conventionally held to have been characterized by a surge of interest in Classical Scholarship and values.The Renaissance also witnessed the discovery and exploration of new continents, the substitution of the Copernican for the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the decline of the feudal system and the growth of commerce, and the invention or application of such potentially powerful innovations as paper, printing, the mariner's compass, and gunpowder. To the scholars and thinkers of the day, however, it was primarily a time of the revival of classical learning and wisdom after a long period of cultural decline and stagnation."
The Middle Ages, or The Dark Ages, were marked by fear, war, and plague. People turned to superstitions to explain the tough questions about why God allowed the Black Plague or the invasions of Barbarians and significant divisions in the church. Every sickness, every hardship, every problem had an evil spirit attached to it. A devil was hiding behind every bush, just waiting to jump out and get you! What an unnecessarily fearful state to live in.
Turning to superstition is still happening today, and it feels as if we are in a bit of a "dark age." Everyone wants answers as to why our world seems to be falling apart or why bad things are happening to good people. Horoscopes, Tarot cards, and mediums are still used to "help" people figure out who they are and give them, although false, a little hope and control. Most Christians see these cult practices as inappropriate if not evil, as they should, yet have no qualms taking a personality test on what Star Wars characters they are most like. I'm not trying to be a joy kill on having some fun with your personality online, but it seems to be so prevalent that people are taking these assessments seriously or at least letting them consume their time.
Furthermore, when Christians look for black and white answers to why life is not in balance, they often develop unbalanced theologies that God never intended. For example, how do we as Christians process natural disasters that take innocent people's lives? Some would say that it's the wrath of God being poured out on sinful people, as some Christians made a case for Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, killing 1800 people and destroying New Orleans. Calling New Orleans a wicked city worthy of God's judgment would be a naive answer to explain that tragedy. The truth is that the French Quarter, the most Godless part of the city, was spared, so an act of God is not a good answer.
How do we process the current war in Ukraine? Are Putin's actions attacking a sovereign nation God's will to bring about the End of Days? Some Christians think that but I doubt it; God is not the author of evil.
Global disasters and geopolitical crises are concerning and quickly become the center of our personal worlds. Yet, we cannot allow these significant issues to darken our minds and steal our "Kingdom." For we are in this World, but not of this World. Our World is Jesus, His message is the Kingdom of God, and when the Kingdom of God is our center and not the World, God says we will experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. So then, let us pursue what leads to peace and mutual edification.” - Romans 14:17-19
Understanding what is going on in the World is one thing; understanding what's going on in our personal lives is another and maybe even harder to discern. If you are having problems in your marriage, an easy answer to your turmoil is to believe that your spouse is demon-possessed. They might be, but you and your spouse most likely just need to invest in your marriage and go to counseling. You might believe that you are under a spiritual attack because your kids are unruly or you are about to get fired from your job… maybe. But going to another power prayer meeting or warfare conference is not gonna solve those personal problems. We know biblically that God wants us to discipline our children and work our jobs with integrity, as if we were working for God himself. The word of God tells us what to do, and yet we often get stuck in religious dysfunction and use "God stuff" as an excuse to run from God's word. Peter Scazzero writes in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality that we are "Using God to run from God."
I do not want to downplay the craziness of this current evil age or of your personal lives, and I, as your pastor, will be the first to say that I do not understand all of God's ways. His ways are not our ways. I cannot determine how He chooses to respond to His free, fallen creations. However, it is clear to me that not everything has to be clear, that we do not have to have all the answers or know the future. In fact, I don't think we were meant to see. I believe things are constantly changing and feel confusing for a reason. What I do know to be true is that we have been called to conduct ourselves in healthy ways when under stress. In dark times the Christian is called to have a bright mind.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.” - 2 Timothy 1:7 AMP
A Renaissance or rebirth of the heart and mind, of family and culture, takes place when we shed those superstitious, must know, fear-based religious attitudes. Replace the negative narrative with the positive qualities listed in 2 Timothy, such as power, love, sound judgment, personal discipline, calmness, balance, and self-control, given by God to us to combat fear.
Faith is an art form. Let’s look for a new Renaissance, a new and creative move of God after the darkness fades. If there is no renaissance on the horizon, we need to predict the end of days. Either way, there is an art to faith. Allow God to renew you, body, mind and spirit.