Our New Home!

Our New Home!
The sun sets on our first full week in Oklahoma!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Faith Alive!

I mentioned in one of my blog posts last week of how the digging that the plumbers were doing in our front yard, in order to replace the water line, reminded me of the tell-tale signs of moles in our backyard. (“Take It!” 4/6/18)  I had never actually seen a mole in the yard, but plenty of the tunneling and open little holes where they can pop out… until a couple of days ago when I saw one… hanging from the talons of our friendly neighborhood hawk.

Piper, Fiver and I had just come in from spending some time in the backyard and I was sitting at the dining room table preparing to transfer that day’s blog post from Word to our online blog site (pjberruto.blogspot.com).  Suddenly, Fiver who was laying on the floor with his nose pressed against the screen door, jumped to his feet and with his ears perked up, looked with great intent off toward our patio.  Since this is an activity that he usually only does at the front door and not the back, I took notice.  As I stood up to move to the window there was a blurred flutter and our hawk friend flew over and landed on a ceramic planter that is seated right next to our deck.

Then before he even folded back his beautiful brown and black with white striped wings he hopped to the ground and in a flash, flapped his outstretched wings and took off in a low arch into the forested area west of our property… with a mole hanging from the grasp of his talons! 

It all happened so fast that all I had time to say was “Look Piper, it’s the hawk,” before he was but a distant object majestically flying between the trees next to our property!  Now I have a good idea of why I haven’t seen any actual moles around the property like we would regularly see in our last home in Oklahoma.

What came to mind as I attempted to settle back in my chair was that the hawk was simply doing one of the things that he was created to do!  When he sits on our fence posts or on the peak of the playset, he isn’t just hanging out for a visit, he’s looking for dinner!  But you know, he could sit on that fence post all day and unless he spots a varmint and then makes the effort to swoop down to pick it off… he’ll never eat.

His job takes two steps.  First, he has to be relatively certain that he is in an area where the pickings are good (and from the amount of tunneling I’ve seen in the yard this year, he’ll be around all summer!), and secondly, he has to take the appropriate action when he spots a meal sneaking out and about our grass.

It is kind of like what James talks about concerning our faith in James 2:17.  The International Standard Version of the Bible puts it this way saying, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead.”  The more familiar King James translation uses the word “works” instead of the more modern term “actions.”   Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines “works” as “that which any one is occupied, an act, deed, thing done; (where) the idea of working is emphasized in opposition to that which is less than work.”

So, like our backyard hawk, we Christians have a job to do when it comes to being in active faith in our lives.  First, we do what we were created to do, which is to take God at His Word, and believe in what it says concerning the situations of our lives and secondly, to take the appropriate action that proves that we ARE in faith!

I’ve told the story in past blog posts of the time our guest Pastor was teaching the small group of Believers that had joined together at our home on Thursday nights with the purpose of starting a new church.  Paul who had just graduated from the Bible College that I would eventually graduate from, was recommended to us through a friend and he would drive in from out of town on Thursday nights to be with us

On one of his first visits he spent some time talking about the importance of Christians being in active faith in their daily lives.  I remember him walking around our living room in front of the 10 or so folks gathered that night and asking for a show of hands of those who were currently in the midst of a faith project in their personal lives.  Well, I had recently quit my secular job and was embarking on a new business venture, so Piper’s and my hands bolted straight up! 

But I was surprised when only a few other hands went up from the rest of the individuals, whom I considered to be strong and very mature Christian men and women.  By the end of the evening though, most of the hands went up when Paul asked for another showing after he completed his teaching and all of us realized how important it is to be in active faith every day of our lives!

What I’ve learned since that night in the early 1990’s, was that FAITH TAKES WORK!  It definitely is NOT a casual decision or emotional reaction to a good sermon or sudden need in your life!  It’s like a Pastor we once worked under (previous to that night in our living room) told me one day as we conferred in his office.  While planning some ministry directions and how we would accomplish it all, he looked me in the eyes and said, “You know Jim, one of the first Pastor’s I worked with told me that ‘Ministry is spelled W-O-R-K!’”  And WOW!  I’ve never forgotten that.

I once figured out in the late 1990’s, when that church that started in our living room was probably at the height of ministry, that with all the weekly hours I put in, I was actually making about 6 dollars an hour… which was about 6X less than I made with my secular job that I had gone back to a few years earlier! 

Most of the work that I did at church was behind the scenes as I sat at my computer at home and meticulously planned the children’s and youth activities, wrote curriculum, sermons, puppet skits, songs and dreamed up the many all-church activities that we put on over the twelve years at that church.  And… I loved every moment of our ministry at the church!  I always considered my church position as my main job over the secular management positions I also held.  My youngest daughter once told me after we left that church and moved to Oklahoma, that it seemed to her that I always looked happiest when we were at church!

I’ve also learned through the years and especially since we have been fighting the good fight of faith for Piper’s health, that although it takes a lot of work, I find myself stronger and happier with life when I am in an active stand of faith on God’s Word.  When I work hard at staying focused on God’s Word instead of what I may see unfolding before my physical eyes, I usually surprise myself at all I am able to accomplish toward my wife’s well-being!

When the Nurse Practioner was here the other day, she thought that she heard what might be the potential beginnings of Pneumonia in one of Piper’s lungs.*  As we sat there and talked frankly about what we might expect next, and she explained the “natural” progression of things, I listened to her and noted her eyes tearing up.  I then expressed my honest thoughts that one of the hardest parts in all of this ordeal has been to keep my faith strong in the face of all the contradictory evidence that keeps popping up along the way. 

I told her what we believe the Word tells us concerning God’s will for Piper’s healing, but also discussed the WORK it takes and the toll I’ve taken in order to keep the right Biblical perspective as the symptoms and years have gone on!  But you know, yes it takes hard WORK and yes there is a mental, physical and emotional toll to pay, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It is the same way that I have faced everything in my adult Christian life, and I m not about to change it now!

According to God’s Word, FAITH without ACTION is dead… Faith is meaningless without the appropriate corresponding actions that prove one’s faith.  John Gill described the relationship between FAITH and ACTION when he wrote back in the 1700’s that: “Good works are second acts, necessarily flowing from the life of faith.”

The exciting way that I like to look at it is with the idea that FAITH with ACTION is FAITH ALIVE!  And I like to know that I am living a life that is ALIVE and thrilling through my personal FAITH in God and his Word… What about you?

Have a great and LIVELY weekend by continually asking yourself and then following through with the appropriate corresponding actions saying, “How am I expecting my FAITH to come alive in and through me today?”

* PTL!  Piper's visit and follow up examination with our regular nurse yesterday, showed that her lungs were clear!  I can't tell you how relieved I am!

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