Posts belonging to Category Faith

Hebrews 11 “Growing in Faith” Series

We just completed a series of Sunday morning messages on “Growing in Faith” from Hebrews 11. Here are the links to the various sermons in the series.

Growing in Faith Series
(Click here for a PDF of all the sermon outlines for the series.)

Hebrews 11 - Growing in Faith

1) Faith: Being Certain of What You Do Not See – Hebrews 11:1-2
2) Creation: Understanding the Power of God’s Word – Hebrews 11:3
3) Abel: Giving God the First Portion – Hebrews 11:4
4) Enoch: Believing God’s Goodness – Hebrews 11:5-6
5) Noah: Heeding God’s Warnings – Hebrews 11:7
6) Abraham (1a): Following God’s Leading – Hebrews 11:8
7) Abraham (1b): Following God’s Leading – Hebrews 11:9-10
8) Abraham (2): Believing God’s Promise – Hebrews 11:11-12
9) The Patriarchs: Longing for Heaven – Hebrews 11:13-16
10) Abraham (3): Unquestioning Obedience to God’s Commands – Heb 11:17-19
11) Isaac, Jacob, Joseph: Trusting God with the Future – Heb 11:20-22
12) Moses and His Parents: Fearing God Rather Than Man – Heb 11:23, 27-28
13) Moses: Identifying with Christ and His People – Hebrews 11:24-26
14) The Red Sea: Trusting in God’s Deliverance (1) – Hebrews 11:29
15) Jericho and Rahab: Trusting in God’s Deliverance (2) – Hebrews 11:30-31
16) Old Testament Believers (1): Triumphant in Victory – Hebrews 11:32-35
17) Old Testament Believers (2): Triumphant in Suffering – Hebrews 11:35-38
18) New Testament Believers: Something Better for Us – Hebrews 11:39-40

Steven Curtis Chapman on Choosing to Believe

CT interview: Steven Curtis Chapman shares honestly about the challenge of choosing to believe in the months following the loss of his youngest daughter, 5-year-old Maria Sue, a year and a half ago.

We have absolutely questioned God and had our doubts and said, “Is this whole thing true? Is this real?” I sat on our tour bus last summer and called Scotty Smith, my pastor, after spending a very difficult night of wrestling with God. We were getting ready to go do an interview with People magazine or Larry King or somebody, and I was just in tears, calling my pastor and saying, “Is it really true? Is it really true? Can God be trusted?” … I needed to hear my pastor speak truth again to me. I needed to hear somebody say again, here’s what’s true.

That has been an important process, the whole thing of taking every thought captive and saying, God, this is what I choose to believe. Because I’ve found myself, especially in the first few days and weeks after Maria went to heaven—and there’s still moments of this—that I could almost feel myself being sucked into this black hole of doubt and despair. Of saying, “God, if I let myself keep going in this direction, there seems to be no bottom, no end to this, and I’ll never be able to escape from it.”

At the hospital at Vanderbilt, literally within an hour of knowing that my little girl was in heaven with Jesus, I found myself having to make a choice, when I would start to feel myself and everything in me being sucked into this place, this abyss. I would begin to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord. You give. You take away. But, God, I trust you. I trust you. You are faithful. You are good. I trust you. I trust you.” And as I would say that, literally just choose to make that declaration in the midst of this, I would almost physically feel myself being pulled back from that place. And I’d start to breathe again.

HT: Justin Taylor

Related posts:
    • Steven Curtis Chapman’s Daughter Killed
    • Steven Curtis Chapman on Good Morning America
    • MaryBeth Chapman on Maria’s Death One Year Later

God’s Providence and Scientific Investigation

I am enjoying reading Mr. Dawntreader’s articles on the book, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by Dr. C. John Collins. Dr. Collins is an Old Testament professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. He has his undergraduate and first graduate degrees in engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. in lingusitics from the university of Liverpool. He is also an expert in Hebrew.

I especially liked this article on the topic of God’s involvement in this world and its effect on science.

In theological terms, this falls in the area of study called providence. How involved is God in the natural world? If he is heavily involved, does it make the study of science pointless?

Collins unpacks God’s involvement in the world by stating the classic Christian understanding of God’s providence. God created real things with real properties (i.e. natures) each with the possibility of causing things. God ceased creating but goes on maintaining and governing. That is, he keeps his creation doing what it is supposed to be doing …

This raises a question. Does God do everything?

In a sense, yes. In a sense, no. God directly governs this world. His purposes are holy, wise and thoroughly good; and he sees to it, that in the end, his purposes stand. The reason the laws of physics work is because God keeps them working day after day. They serve his purpose. So God is directly involved in all of creation daily. However, God created a universe with a web of cause and effect and things that have natures … and one of the properties of those natures is to cause things. In that sense, God did not write this blog post. Mr. Dawntreader did …

Is it still possible for Christians to study and learn about the natural world if God is so involved in it? Of course it is, and we should learn as much as we can. In fact, it is because God sustains this world and gives it order that forms the basis and foundation for studying it.

I encourage you to visit the Dawn Treader site to read the full article, plus the earlier articles on the book as well. This looks like an excellent book on science and faith, and I have added it to my “books to read” list.

Related post: The Bible is to Theology as Creation is to Science

Flannery O’Connor versus Hebrews on Faith

Flannery O'Connor Holy Bible

“Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.” (Flannery O’Connor)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Okay, I don’t want to make this a Flannery O’Connor versus the book of Hebrews smackdown, because, as much as I like Flannery O’Connor, the book of Hebrews would win hands down. But I saw this quote by Flannery O’Connor earlier this week and immediately thought of Hebrews 11:1.

At first read, it might seem that the verse from Hebrews is contradicting Flannery, but perhaps Flannery is getting at something different in her quote. I have my own ideas on this, but I will let you all tackle this first.

What do you think? Is Flannery O’Connor’s quote out of line with Scripture? Or is she saying something different than Hebrews 11:1 is saying? (i.e. not contradictory, just different)

I know, you weren’t expecting to come to the blog today and have to think!

HT: Don Bryant

Lifeway Survey on Teens and Christian Faith

Here are some of the results from a January-February 2007 Lifeway Research study on American teens and Christian faith.

How to get to heaven:

  • 28% are trusting in Jesus Christ alone as their means to get to heaven.
  • 27% are trusting in their own kindness as their means to get to heaven.
  • 26% are trusting in their own religiosity as their means to get to heaven.

Attendance/participation in church activities in the last 30 days:

  • 54% attended a church or religious service.
  • 23% attended a church youth group social activity.
  • 20% attended Sunday School.
  • 14% attended a small-group Bible study.
  • 8% have been in a leadership role within their youth group.

Some results show a decline compared with an identical 2005 survey:

  • Believe heaven exists: 75% in 2005; 69% in 2007.
  • Told a friend about their religious beliefs: 30% in 2005; 24% in 2007.
  • Attended Sunday School: 24% in 2005; 20% in 2007.
  • Invited someone to a church activity: 19% in 2005; 15% in 2007.
  • Attended small group Bible study: 18% in 2005; 14% in 2007.

Age and gender differences:

  • Older teens (18 and 19 year-olds) are less likely than 12-17 year-olds to attend youth group activities (13 percent vs. 26 percent), and they are less likely to attend Sunday school (8 percent vs. 24 percent).
  • Female teens are more active religiously than their male counterparts. More females pray regularly (48 percent vs. 31 percent) and read the Bible regularly (17 percent vs. 11 percent) than male teenagers.
  • The level of teen participation is also higher for females than males for church youth group social activities (26 percent vs. 20 percent), small group Bible studies (18 percent vs. 11 percent), and leadership roles in their church youth group (10 percent vs. 6 percent).

As a pastor and parent of teens, I am concerned to see the confusion over how to get to heaven, the decline in areas of faith and participation, the radical drop in participation from older teens, and the lesser involvement of young men in church life. These should all be areas of concern, prayer, and action for churches in America.

HT: PastorBlog

Letter to James on his Thirteenth Birthday

Elle, at A Complete Thought, has written two very moving posts about her firstborn son, James, who died at age 2 1/2 after two years of illness and extended hospital stays. James was born on April 3, Easter Sunday, 1994.

The first post is a letter written to her son this year on what would have been his thirteenth birthday. In the second post, written on Easter of this year, Elle shares openly about her own struggle with faith following James’ death, along with the added difficulty of learning how to celebrate Easter once again, which now represented not only the resurrection of her Lord but also the birthday of the son she had lost.

I pray that these two posts will minister to others who have lost children as well as deepen the hearts and understanding of those who have never experienced such a loss. Thank you, Elle, for sharing personally and from your heart. May God continue to comfort you and your husband with his strong hand of love.

Virginia Tech, God, Suffering, and Faith

Pastor Mark Roberts shares some helpful resources for thinking about suffering and evil in the wake of the killings at Virginia Tech.

In light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I thought it might be helpful to put up some resources for people who are looking for answers to the tough questions having to do with suffering, evil, God, and faith. Though there are limits to our understanding, and thus to the satisfaction [we] will find in this conversation, nevertheless I believe there are some truths we can know that will help us find guidance and even solace.

Mark’s post provides links to some helpful articles, books and sermons discussing God and the problem of suffering and evil in the world. You can link to the resource page here.

Mark also has an excellent post today on caring for people who are grieving.

The most important thing we can do is be present with those who hurt. Sometimes our presence will be literal. Sometimes it will be expressed through a card or a letter or a meal. Presence says “I am with you. And I will be with you through this process.” Presence doesn’t try to make things better. It doesn’t offer explanations or solutions. Presence doesn’t try to fix things. Rather, it offers love in tangible, faithful, and non-invasive ways.

Our American tendency is to want to help people feel better, to take away their pain. Thus we’re often tempted to “cheer people up.” We want to say things like, “I’m sure God will work good things out of this tragedy.” Now this might be true. Indeed, I believe it is. But when people are in the midst of deep grief, such words, even when true, can seem terribly superficial.

I appreciate Mark’s unique blend of compassion, wisdom, and insight. I enjoy reading his blog and recommend it to you.

Good Knievel

I don’t know, it just doesn’t have the same ring as “Evel Knievel.” As a kid I was always enthralled by the daredevil exploits of motorcycle stunt man Robert “Evel” Knievel. I would watch in awe as he fearlessly jumped various obstacles on his motorcycle, sometimes making it and sometimes offering up spectacular wipeouts. And then of course there was his ill-fated attempt at jumping Snake River Canyon on his rocket-powered X-2 Sky-Cycle. (He didn’t make it.)

I had not heard anything about Knievel for years, except for a brief interview I saw with him during a David Blaine stunt special last year. I know, I am still watching stunt shows. What can I say? They say the personality is set by five-years old. So I was pleasantly surprised to read this in Christianity Today:

On Palm Sunday, hundreds responded to Robert “Evel” Knievel’s testimony by asking to be baptized on the spot at Crystal Cathedral. Speaking alongside the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Knievel told the congregation in Orange County, California, how he had refused for 68 years to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. He believed in God, but he couldn’t walk away from the gold and the gambling and the booze and the women.


Newsweek: Is God Real?

Newsweek’s April 9, 2007 religion feature by Jon Meacham is entitled: Is God Real? The article is a follow-up to Newsweek’s recent religious poll and the discussion/debate Newsweek hosted between Christian pastor Rick Warren and atheistic author Sam Harrison on the same question.

Meacham describes the two debate participants as follows:

Warren believes in the God of Abraham as revealed by Scripture, tradition and reason; Jesus is Warren’s personal savior and was, Warren argues, who he said he was: the Son of God. Harris, naturally, takes a different view. “I no more believe in the Biblical God than I believe in Zeus, Isis, Thor and the thousands of other dead gods that lie buried in the mass grave we call ‘mythology’,” Harris says. “I doubt them all equally and for the same reason: lack of evidence.”

Newsweek religion contributor Rabbi Marc Gellman adds his own thoughts to the subject in his April 5, 2007 article, “Problems and Mysteries.” I got a chuckle out of Gellman’s closing words. After commenting on his own Jewish faith, Rick Warren’s Christian faith, and Sam Harris’ lack of faith, Gellman signs off with these three greetings:

Happy Passover to my Jewish readers.
Happy Easter to Rick and all my Christian friends.
And to Sam Harris, happy springtime.

Is God real? This is the most basic question of faith, and one that must be addressed in order to come to God. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Without God there is no meaning to life. Without Christ there is no hope of resurrection and life beyond the grave. There is just “happy springtime.” Springtime is nice, but it cannot compare with Easter. May you know the reality of God and his love for you in Christ this Easter season.

A Final Easter Cartoon from B.C. and Johnny Hart

Johnny Hart, the creator of the B.C. comic strip series, died Saturday of a stroke at the age of 76. He was at the drawing table in his home when he died.

I have always enjoyed the B.C. series (as well as the Wizard of Id, the other series Johnny was involved in). Johnny had a keen sense of humor, and his comics almost always made me laugh, and often made me think as well.

Johnny was a Christian, and he sometimes injected his faith into his B.C. strips. Here is his comic from Easter Sunday yesterday.

Thank you Johnny for sharing your life, faith and humor with us over the years. We will miss you, of course, but how magnificent for you to celebrate Easter Sunday 2007 in the presence of your resurrected Lord!

(Click here for more B.C. Easter cartoons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Legendary cartoonist, Johnny Hart, created two of the most popular comic strips in history: B.C. and Wizard of Id. When he became a Christian in 1984, Johnny turned his trademark wit and humor to matters of faith. Johnny passed away the day before Easter 2007 while at his drawing board. “This book is a dream that Johnny and I shared,” says his wife, Bobby. “I knew I had to finish our dream.”


Recent comic strips:

Related posts: B.C. Easter Cartoons – Part 1

The Passion of the Christ and the Legend of Veronica

When I first saw Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ back in 2004, I was intrigued by the character of Veronica. As Jesus struggles with the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, a young woman approaches him and wipes his face with a cloth. The scene is almost surreal as she walks bravely through the midst of the soldiers to Christ and then back again. As Jesus and the soldiers continue on their way, she stands holding the cloth which seems to bear an imprint of Jesus’ face on it.

I found this a very touching scene, and yet I also remember thinking, “What was that all about? I don’t remember that in the Bible.” Well, three years have passed, and I guess I was never curious enough to do the research myself, but John Mark Reynolds over at The Scriptorium has come to my aid today with a fascinating article called: Women of Holy Week: Veronica and Legends that Capture the Truth.

In the article Reynolds explains the origins of the Veronica legend and even the origin of her name. (Her name, “veron ika” means “very image” and corresponds to the image of Christ’s face on the cloth.) After affirming the historical truth of the gospel accounts and revealing the Veronica account as clearly legend and myth, Reynolds goes on to show how we can still learn something from the Veronica story today.


Newsweek Poll: 9 in 10 American Adults Believe in God

Here are some of the figures from the latest Newsweek poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on March 28-29, 2007. According to the poll, which questioned American adults aged 18 and older on political and religious beliefs, 9 in 10 American adults believe in God.

Here are some of the other results from the poll.

Of the 1,004 American adults surveyed:

  • 91% believe in God
  • 87% identify with a specific religion
  • 82% identify themselves as Christians (5% say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam)
  • 48% reject the scientific theory of evolution
  • 34% of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact
  • 10% identify themselves as having “no religion”
  • 6% said they don’t believe in a God at all

The “believe in God” number seems low to me compared to other polls I have seen in the past, and the “do not believe in God” number seems high. And although it may be nice for 82% of American adults to identify themselves as Christians, if 82% of all American adults truly followed Christ, I think we would see a very different moral climate in our country. You can read the actual poll questions here.