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The Angles of Faith - By Pastor Thomas Engel

Have you ever started planning a project with thinking first of the ending? You have such a strong vision for the end results that you can draw it or write it all out.

The term for this way of planning is called “Backward Design.” An example of starting from the “back” is a teacher putting a lesson together.

Before we talk about “Backward Design” in teaching, let’s talk about starting a lesson from the “front,” so we can help our understanding of “Backward Design.”

To be clear here, one way is not better than the other, it’s just good by the way of contrasting to see all the ways of planning to get desired results.

By thinking from the “front,” a teacher will look at the topic, and from that topic, he will look for resources, start making lesson plans, and finish with making an assessment.

With “Backward Design,” a teacher will first make the final exam. Then, he will work back from that test and make lesson plans that will help students to pass the test.

Some people might say that this type of planning by making the final test first is “teaching for the test.” But, if the final test is viable and shows the achievement of what was to be learned, and if it shows that the student is ready or not to move on to the next topic, “teaching for the test” can be practical.

After all their learning, training, and passing of rigorous tests, professionals-like doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and mechanics-display all the documents on their walls in their offices that show that they are qualified to do the work that is to practice law, medicine, plumbing, or car repair.

When we walk into their offices and see the display of their achievements, we can be confident as we put ourselves into their hands.

My brother was a carpenter. At his funeral, his daughter had put together a display of his life that included many pictures at all the stages of family life. Also, she had the photo album that my brother made of the work that he did as mainly of a builder of decks.

He took the album to prospective clients when he would bid on a job. I saw the album once, and the decks that he made were beautiful-they were like works of art. When my brother showed the potential client the album, he was hoping a picture was worth a thousand words and the person would say, “Wow, I want my deck to look like one of these.”

It is good to see the end results of what people have done.

When we talk about faith and how we live out our faith, I’m finding that we can approach it from different angles.

Today, I want to emphasize looking at faith using a backward approach. But again, one approach is not really any better than another. Maybe in any day, we will use all of them, so for understanding, let’s take a quick look at these approaches.

The first way is the front-end approach. This approach is looking at life through our baptism. We are children of a heavenly Father.

As we start our days, we can make the sign of the cross on our foreheads and hearts. We can know that God is going to care for us as we are His beloved children.

We were talking about how we put our certificates and diplomas on our walls. I wonder what it would mean if we put our birth certificates and baptismal certificates on the same wall to show how we were born and then born again to a new life in Christ.

Another way of looking at faith is how King David saw it as he was walking so close to death that he felt he was in its very shadows in a dark valley.

But, he also knew that the Lord was with him as a Good Shepherd who will do anything to protect his flock from harm. David knew that the Lord will fight for him with His rod and staff.

When we are in the midst of difficult times, we can know that the Lord is stronger than any enemy that is looking out to get us.

Another way of looking at faith and how we can go about applying it to our lives is by using “Backward Design.”

With what I am about to ask, I am not sure if it is a pleasant thought or not-probably not-but let’s try it anyway to make a vital point.

Can you picture yourself in your last moment of life on this earth? And then, can you see that heaven’s doors are wide open for you? Can you see Jesus and all your loved ones who have died in the faith?

A popular Christian song is “I Can Only Imagine.” The song goes through the possibilities of what heaven will be like. Will we dance as we enter heaven, will we speak, or will we be silent in awe?

I am not sure what heaven is exactly going to be like, but it’s perfect in every way. Again, I am not wanting to cause distress and sorrow by asking us to picture death and funerals, but at our funerals, sermons will be preached that will talk about in some way how we were sinners, but also how we were saved by God’s grace in Christ.

The sermon will talk about how heaven’s door was wide open for us and how we were received by Jesus for all of eternity.

If we can think of this result of faith that ends in heaven, how can we apply this most awesome result to our lives in our present moments?

The reason that I’m talking about the different angles of how we can look at life through faith is because of some of the conversations that I’ve been having with people.

Maybe your conversations with others have started like this:

“How are you?”

“Oh, I’m hanging in there. How about you? “About the same. Just trying to get through these days. What else can we do? “You’re right. But we will get through them.”

“Yup, all is going to be okay.”

That conversation is not negative or positive, but it does sound so lukewarm.

To put the best construction on it, maybe we can say it’s has a good sense of reality.

But does reality, even if it’s so difficult and hard, have to be such a downer?

Well, I guess we do have to say that life does get to be difficult and hard at times.

But does it have to suck out all the joy? No, it does not.

We can expect to go through hard times because we are a world of sinners who act out of our selfish egos-and when we do-messes happen.

Also, God might send something-like a contagious virus to the world-to get our attention, so we will repent of our sinful ways and turn to Him for forgiveness and help.

God has been known to have things like plagues, war, and natural disasters to happen to get people’s attention.

Although I know God is always wanting us to turn to Him for all things, and even though we need to take the times that we are living in with its events seriously, my little red flag goes up whenever I hear, “We need just to get through this?”

Isn’t life to be more than just getting through things? Is life about going from the frying pan to the fire and back to the frying pan over and over, again?

With no doubt, life is hard, and it can be really hard at times. And it can seem like one problem after another.

Through all the messes of life, is there something that can give us joy-and not just joy now and then-but joy all the time, even when life pours down a flood of problems.

After all, God says, “This is the day to rejoice.”

Often, I want to ask, “Do you mean this day, Lord? Do you mean this day that is so bleak with difficulties?”

Using “Backward Design,” we can see that any day is a day of joy because every day is a day of salvation. In our days that can be hard, we can have joy.

Having this joy does not mean that we will not experience sadness, but if we can work backward from heaven, we can have joy in all circumstances-even the most difficult of ones.

By seeing heaven’s door opened door, we can be confident that we will enter paradise one day.

If we can see that by God’s grace in Christ that we have heaven, we can have joy because, in the big picture of life, our end result is the salvation of our souls.

This celebration of knowing that heaven is ours can be in every situation of life-no matter what life dishes out to us.

Jesus went to the cross to battle sin, Satan, and eternal death. He died and rose on the third day. His resurrection shows victory over all that wants to harm us.

Christ’s victory over all evil is with us every day as we fight our battles. Knowing that the power over all evil is with us every day, we can have such great confidence in all of our trials. This confidence is so strong that we can have joy because we can know that we will make it through everything all the way to a certain result-heaven.

This joy of salvation can have a dominant impression on us every day in all our situations.

A life of faith can come from all angles. We can start at our baptism, see God in the midst of any day as our Good Shepherd, and we can know heaven’s door is opened for us.

If I can borrow from Mrs. Tennis’ chapel talk this past week, she read a verse on how we are all God’s children. Then, she asked questions about what the children have in common-like who was born in September and what is their favorite color.

The students had all kinds of answers- some were the same, and some were different.

As humans, we are alike in many ways and we are different in many ways. In everything, we can celebrate and have joy because we are all God’s children.

In all of what this world is experiencing with a virus and social conflict, let’s first take a look at everything from an angle of faith.

All the angles of faith work well if we use them throughout our times. When we are living at an angle of faith, we won’t just get through life, we will have joy in all things no matter what those steps bring-even if they are sharp and deep conflicts.

We end here today by departing with taking all good things from God-forgiveness, peace, love, care, and strength.

I know it might sound strange with so many problems in the world and some problems in our lives that need fixing that it’s tempting from a point of all goodness to want to “fix” them.

But let’s not try to “fix” it all-but let’s go first at everything from an angle of faith. Just bring the blessings of God to all your situations, and then, in trusting God and His blessings-set, wait, and see what happens as you are living out your life from all of the angles of faith.

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