Q: So, out of all the people in the Bible, why did you focus on Abraham?
Because he meant so much to me. Thirty-three years ago when I first taught Genesis, he just walked off the pages of the Bible and into my life. I loved him because I thought he was so ordinary. We think of these biblical characters as bigger than life. But they're not.
I think he must have had a yearning in his heart for something more real than the rocks and the wooden things they'd been worshipping.
And God leaned out of heaven and said, "Abraham, you know, if you'll follow me, I'll bless you." And Abraham packed up and left and did that.
He had a relationship with God, that God defined as a friendship. Three times in the scripture God says, "Abraham is my friend." I thought, "That's what I want."
So I set that as my life's goal. I can be rich or poor, well or sick, popular or despised, alone or in a crowd, and that goal transcends everything.
It gives my life purpose and meaning. In fact, I look back and I think that it's been during the hard times that I've learned about Him the most. I can see God's faithfulness and his goodness and his mercy.
When the storms of life come, if they come to me personally, to my family or to the world, I want to be strong enough to stand and be a strength to somebody else, be shelter for somebody else.
That means right now I have to build a relationship with God. I can't wait 'til the storms hit. I need to do that now.
Because knowing God in a personal relationship that he would describe as a friendship is a foundation on which to build your life that will carry you through whatever is coming.
Q: I think it's a real struggle right now for some people of people of faith, who are praying and trying to do the right thing and who feel like they're still suffering. I think some still feel- "Where's God?"
One misconception is that if we follow God in the life of faith and that means obedience -- that we read His Word, we're obedient, we pray, we go to church, we do the right things -- that somehow His blessing means we're going to be okay.
When we're not, then we think, well, "He doesn't love me," or "I've done something wrong." We have to change our mindsets. Sometimes God doesn't give us what we want when we want it, the way we want it. He's not like a genie in a bottle that you rub by faith and He pops out and He does what you want. He's much greater than that.
Problems are part of human life, but He promises that, in the middle of all that, He will be with us. I have people say, "Anne, I don't feel His presence." Well, if you could feel it, it wouldn't be faith.
There are times when I felt abandoned. I had no feeling of His presence. But, I read my Bible, and it says--Hebrews 13, "I will never leave you, never forsake you." So my faith has to go down to His words... It's the voice of God coming through scripture. That's the basis of your faith, not your feelings, not your circumstances.
Abraham wasn't perfect. He failed, made mistakes. But, he would go back, get right with God, and then just keep moving forward. He didn't quit when things got hard. He just kept on going. And everywhere he went, God was there. God was with him.
We need to keep our eye, if we can, on the big picture. He's a God for here and now, and He can walk with you through whatever you're going through. He promises it in Psalm 23. "You walk through the valley of the shadow. I'll be there."
Q: In addition to personal struggles, there are political debates going on about abortion, gay marriage--issues that people of faith speak out on. What do you think the biggest issue is facing our country?
I think that it's sin. What I have seen is that, within the church, there is such biblical ignorance. People don't know God's word. Now, I'm speaking generally. You're going to find some great churches, and great people.
Generally speaking, across all denominations, they're more familiar with their denominational material or their rituals or than they are with what God's word says. And when you take yourself away from God's word, you're just that--farther away from God himself.
You're either guessing what He says, or you have to get it secondhand through a pastor or a priest, and then, pretty soon, you live your life in comparison with others.
I think within the organized church, people who call themselves Christians, sometimes it's hard to tell they are. In fact, I think some people who say they're not Christians can behave in a more godly fashion than people who call themselves Christians.
For me, rather than pointing my finger at all the social ills, I think, "You know what? It's time for us to get ourselves together before God." There are sins in our culture. But first of all, I need to look into my own heart and get right with God.
And then, God says that we can go into the world and share the love of Christ, and I'm free to love those people. I don't have to judge them. When they come to faith in Jesus Christ He'll deal with some of the issues that we keep harping on.
I think a personal relationship with God is established at the cross. When you come to the cross by faith, you acknowledge before God that you're a sinner. You tell Him that you're sorry. You claim the death of Jesus to make atonement for your sin, invite Him to come into your life, just giving Him the authority in your life.
I think many people do that. So, they know they're forgiven. They know they're going to heaven when they die.
In the meantime, they're going to join a church and do a few good things, and they think that's being a Christian. They miss out on developing a relationship and living a life that's pleasing to God.
Q: I'd like to shift gears and ask you a question on a more personal note, how is your father?
He'll be 91 on his birthday. And so, he has trouble hearing, trouble seeing, trouble walking, and he says he misses my mother more every day. That's getting harder for him.
Some days are good. Some days are not so good. But, last time I was there, he had really good days, and he was alert and sweet. He doesn't have much stamina, he doesn't get out of the house much, but he has friends come and see him. He's always been a news person, so he watches the news on TV. He has a wonderful staff that takes care of him and he enjoys my grandchildren.
Q: When you look at your father's life, what you think his most profound accomplishment might be?
I think his greatest contribution is that he was a man like Abraham, who heard the call of God in his life, and he gave everything up. And then, God took him from there. It's been a journey that he would never, ever have dreamed when he was on the farm in Charlotte. I think the legacy that he'll leave behind is a legacy of changed lives.
When he gets to heaven, I don't think God cares so much that he knew all the presidents, God's not impressed with stuff like that. But I think what he will look at, one, is my father's own character. Did he live it? Did he live what he proclaimed, which, as far as I can see, he has.
So, I think the greatest contribution is just that he's been obedient and faithful to God's call in his life
Q: Is there anything else you want to say to Beliefnet readers?
God loves people and has a purpose and plan for their lives. He wants them to know Him in that personal relationship because that's what they're created for. And if you don't have that, then you'll never be deeply fulfilled.Abraham was raised in a religious home in Ur, and he rejected religion in order to pursue a personal relationship with God.
I would define religion as man trying to reach God. We're trying to connect with God, so we have our philosophies, our traditions, our rituals, our hierarchy of leadership or whatever.
But, how could you really reach God? If there's a God up there, even man couldn't reach Him. That's why God has reached down to us.
God has revealed Himself to us through scripture, through Jesus, and then invited us to know him in a personal relationship, which can develop into a real friendship. And Abraham rejected religion, and today he's considered the patriarch of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and yet he was not religious. He rejected religion for the relationship.
I think religion is an impediment to knowing God, actually. I wouldn't consider myself a religious person in that sense. I'm just a pilgrim on a journey seeking to know God in a relationship that He would describe as a friendship.