57 Reflections
Calcified Faith

Dateline: 30 January 2015

I love this picture.

Tomorrow marks another trip around the sun for me. Back in 2010 I blogged about how I was pulled into this world by an instrument of cold steel clamped on my head. I think about that every year at this time. I wonder if that traumatic birth experience might explain, in part, why I am adamant about not going to a doctor, unless I absolutely must (it has been a very long time).

I am a reflective person (it’s part of being an introvert, I suppose). For example, I reflect daily on how blessed I am. And how thankful I am. I'm not just thankful in general. I am thankful in particular, to the Giver of Blessings. I know that every good thing in my life has come to me as a result of God’s grace, and mercy, and love.

Oh sure, I’ve had my share of disappointments and regrets but, thus far, the disappointments have not made me bitter; they have not robbed me of my joy. I hope that will never be the case.

I’ve come to recognize that God is sovereign and actively involved in every aspect of His created order. Nothing happens by mistake or chance. The events of my life have come as a result of the ongoing orchestrations of God’s Providence. I believe that. And I embrace it.

Life is short. Then we die. Then comes life eternal. I think about the by-and-by fairly often. As a follower of Jesus Christ (my testimony is Here) I have a faith that transcends the temporal concerns and troubles of this earthly realm. 

I used to think that eternity for the Christian would be an amorphous experience. But I’ve come to understand that eternity will be, to a greater degree, physical. Perhaps "material" or "tangible" would be better words. 

The Bible says that God will one day create a new earth. A material earth. And His people will inhabit it. This new earth will not be cumbered by sin (or sinful people), as is the current one. 

Furthermore, when Jesus Christ was in His resurrected body, it was a material body. So, I’m inclined to think that the resurrected bodies of God’s people will be the same.

Thus it is that I‘ve come to believe that my eternity will be active, creative, worshipful..... and down-to-earth. You might call it agrarian. 

After all, when God created the earth we currently reside on, and he put his created man in the garden of Eden (before the forbidden fruit episode that changed everything), He stated that it was “very good.” God liked the agrarian world he created. It makes sense that the next earth would be similar.

Will I be disappointed if it happens that the new earth of my eternal dwelling is not agrarian? That it is, instead, full of starships, and robots, and all manner of advanced technology? No, I won’t be disappointed. I will be surprised, but not disappointed.  

I won’t be disappointed because those things are, of course, not all that important. The important part of eternity is spending it in the presence of Jesus Christ, and to be in a place where love permeates—where there is no pain or sorrow. That is powerfully appealing to this 57-year-old man.

The other eternal option (hell) is described as a place where misery is fully felt and physically experienced (e.g., thirst). I’ve actually heard people joke about hell and how they are going to be there with all their friends. That may be true (that they and their friends will all be in hell) but it won’t be a party. I’ve never seen any humor in hell.

To the modern, “enlightened” mind (a mind that relies on the knowledge of men-only) such thoughts on my part are like ruminating on “fairy tales,” or wishful thinking. Transcendent realities are not allowed (and increasingly not tolerated) by the dominant secular culture.

But the Christian faith is a remarkable thing. It comes small, like the grain of mustard seed Jesus mentioned in Matthew 13:31-32. If if you sow the tiny seed of faith in your field (your life) and care for it, faith grows much bigger. It transforms your whole outlook on life, and eternity. It sustains you. It gives you hope, and peace, and joy, even in the darkest of times.

Aside from the concept of small faith growing larger, I like to think of faith in terms of soft and hard. Soft faith is not fully informed or mature. It has not been properly cultivated (Romans 10:17). It moves easily, like a soap bubble wafting in the air, and if it is poked, it pops. But a hardened Christian faith is calcified

Calcified is not a word normally associated with faith, but I think it it a right word. It means “to become rigid or intransigent.”  Intransigent means inflexible, unchanging, stubborn, entrenched. 

Calcified faith is what we see manifested in the life of Job in the Old Testament. A godly man, Job was greatly blessed by God. Then everything changed. God allowed Satan to take away the blessings. Job suffered mind-boggling loss, and pain, and despair. His wife advised him to curse God and die.

But Job responded to his travails by saying “Though He slay me, Yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15). That is calcified faith.

We see calcified faith again in the person of Habakkuk... 

Habakkuk was a prophet in the Old Testament. Here was Habakkuk’s situation (as explained by one online commentary):
Habakkuk was perplexed that wickedness, strife and oppression were rampant in Judah but God seemingly did nothing. When told that the Lord was preparing to do something about it through the “ruthless” Babylonians, his perplexity only intensified: How could God, who is “too pure to look on evil,” appoint such a nation “to execute judgment” on a people “more righteous than themselves?”
(I wonder... could there be parallels between Habakkuk’s Judah and America? Hmmmm.)

So Habakkuk has a conversation with God. In the end of the book (the bottom line with Habakkuk) he writes:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

What Habakkuk describes in that verse is utter devastation for an agrarian civilization, which is the kind of world he lived in. 

In the end, Habakkuk expressed his acceptance of God’s sovereign will, no matter how bad life got. And in the midst of such devastation, Habakkuk even says that he will “rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Yes, that’s calcified faith. 

I would like to have a calcified faith, and I think I do. But only time will tell if I really do.

I’m not talking about calcified faith in a specific doctrine, or denomination. 

Beliefs about points of doctrine are important, but many outlying doctrinal beliefs have a way of changing over time. When I think of calcified faith, I think of the core beliefs that have always been at the heart of authentic Christianity... Belief in the supremacy of God, the truth of his word, the reality of sin, and a proper understanding of God’s only plan of salvation, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. 

I’m not a theologian, or a preacher, or an evangelist. I’m just a thankful old guy who writes about what he thinks. And these days, as you have seen, I’ve been thinking a lot about the world as it is, calcified faith, and eternity. 

Thanks for joining me on the journey.


Lyle Stout said...

Happy Birthday, Herrick! My mother shares your birthday - but she has a head start of over 30 years. Thanks for sharing your faith and life in such a genuine and articulate way. And i appreciate that you know how to use a semicolon - a rare thing in this age.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Mr. Kimball. A very thoughtful and insightful post. Than you for sharing it with us.
Pam Baker

Jake said...

Happy Birthday Herrick! And thanks for reflecting.

Frank and Fern said...

Great things to ponder. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Blessings to you and yours.


Unknown said...

Hope your birthday was a wonderful one, Herrick. Thanks for your lovely description of a faith that refuses to be swayed by difficulty or blown about by every wind of doctrine.

I've always loved the many OT prophesies of the Age to Come. In my mind they boil down to every family having their own productive garden and orchard and the peace and security to enjoy good food with family and friends. Sounds Heavenly to me.

And of course, Jesus loved to begin stories with, "The Kingdom of God is like a party."

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Herrick! This is more to do with some of your previous posts about economy but thought it was interesting - particularly liked some of the comments regarding the article:

Anonymous said...

Mr Kimball:

My daughter, whom we brought home from China nearly 2 years ago, also shares a birthday with you. She has been quite a blessing, keeping us "old folks" who were nearly empty nesters on our toes. Her new brother, who just so happens to be waiting for us in China as well, will help keep the house active for atleast the next 15 years as well.


Lorraine Barnett said...

Happy Birthday to a unique and dear man, even though I have never met you. After reading your blog today, the precious 1st Psalm comes to mind: "Blessed is the man. . . who meditates on His Law day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. . . " That's a good analogy of the one planted deep in God's ways and Word! Happy Birthday!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday!
It is my greatest desire to always Thank God for His care for me and those I love. He has never let me down. I will trust Him until the day I die, and after.

Anonymous said...

Just one little disagreement: you are a theologian, preacher, and evangelist because you are a Christian! He uses you in every message you send us. You are a blessing to all of us. Happy Birthday!!!!

Nick L said...

Happy Birthday Herrick!
Thank you for sharing your reflections and for making us all think about our faith. May God continue to bless you and your work for many more years to come.

Nick L

Margie Clyde said...

Thank you for your lovely post. I enjoy reading your blog.

Lisa said...

Happy birthday wishes to you from one who is not too far behind you. May the Lord be pleased to bless you with many more years of service!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday sir

Jennyr said...

Happy birthday! I enjoy your writing and reflections.

Herrick Kimball said...

Lyle, Pam, Jake, Frank, Fern, Jim, Lisa, Lorraine, Sheila, Nick, Lisa, Deitra, Jenny, and the Annonymouses—

Thank you all for the well-wishes and the comments!