What is Faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
– Hebrews 11:1-3, ESV

This week, my wife and I were chatting about our faith… our relationship with our Lord and Savior. This subject has been a hot topic for me for a while now.

As a child, mom and dad drug me to church, but I didn’t see any reflection of God in their lives. As a teen, I walked away from a God I never knew, and, as far as I was concerned, wasn’t real. 17 years ago, He made Himself real to me.

But that was 17 years ago.

And life goes on.

And where is God now?

I confessed to my wife and preacher that there are days when what I claim as my faith doesn’t feel real to me. I confessed that, even though I have my doubts, I will continue to proclaim Him.

My preacher referred me to Mark 9:23-24.

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
– Mark 9:23-24, ESV

My wife referred me to Hebrews 11:1ff.

And it hit me: having faith is what saves us and endears us to Christ. Having doubts doesn’t mean that we are not His.

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6, ESV

That realization brings me peace.

As I mentor the next generation of believers, God keeps His Living Word flowing through me. And it’s because of faith in things hoped for, a belief in things not yet seen.

…while I’m waiting…

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Letting God drive is like riding a roller-coaster. One day you’re up. The next day you’re down. Some days you loop-the-loop. But you never know what’s coming next.

I’ve been offered, and accepted, permanent employment. But I’m still a contractor. I want insurance. So I’m not happy. What does our Provider have up His proverbial sleeve now?

The funny thing is, I know he has something up His sleeve. I just don’t know what it is. Somehow the bills will get paid. Not the extras, like the dinner out last week, but the necessities. There is always, miraculously, a little left over – just so long as we don’t over-do it.

But I’m greedy. I want a little more. I want to show my kids the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I want to show them every place I’ve ever lived. I want to eat an occasional steak. I want… I want… I want…

Then I think about the poor soul I passed under the bridge this morning. At 4:00 am. It was already over 80F and he didn’t have a cool place to sleep. Sweaty and dirty, he hoped to get just a little shut-eye on a concrete mattress before the day warmed up to another record high.

And I got mad because my air conditioning couldn’t keep it below 85F at 4:00 pm.

God can put things in perspective. I can do little to help the guy under the bridge. But I can put a little jingle in his cup. I can feel good about that, right?

I am content with what God has given me. I really am. But there are days when it just seems like more would be better.

Thanks for listening.

Idiot Ideologies

I don’t like political parties.  When asked, I say I’m a member of the beer party.  But my political leanings cross boundaries too much for me to be labeled a big fat elephant or a stubborn jackass.  Of course, many who know me well would say I fit into both of those categories, but not that they relate to politics…

Anyway, I find that I am what can only be defined as a

Compassionate Christian Conservative.

I am compassionate – I believe in helping those who need help.  This help may be a hug, food, cash (if I have it), a kind word or just a listening ear.  The compassion I feel toward others drives me to reach out in the name of Christ.

I am a Christian – I celebrate Christ risen from the dead.  I strive to follow His teachings and commands.  Love the Lord your God with all you are.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  By doing this, I can reflect a tiny bit of His glory here on earth.  I hesitate to write this, because I do not celebrate it for my sake.  I celebrate it for His sake.  He has guided me to be the man I am.  I have done nothing.

I am a conservative – I have been through hard times.  I believe that only by being a good steward of the gifts that God has given me can I do His work.  Being a good steward means I do not give away everything just because somebody asks for it.  Rather, being a good steward means I plant seeds that may grow.  This includes teaching skills to those around me so they can earn their own money.  It also includes investing what God has given me so it will grow.  One day, I will be able to bless twice as much as I do today through wise investing.

When I discuss my passion for Christ, there are those who question me because I don’t believe in giving food to everybody who asks.  Rather, I believe I need to help people help themselves.   Through assisting in this manner, others will be able to give rather than just receive.

I am not 100% right.  Neither am I 100% wrong.  The Body of Christ has room for – and a great need for – those who believe as I do and those who are outrageously “fiscally liberal”.  Like all of the different members, we need to learn to just get along.

Certifiable

I’ve been working on computers for thirty years.  I don’t know everything there is to know about the digital world, but I do know quite a bit (toot-toot!).

In my job search, though, my experience is meaningless without a piece of paper.  No, it’s not a college degree, it’s a certificate from some faceless authority that says I am certifiable.  The names sound like alphabet soup – CNA, CCNA, MCSE, SSCP, A+, Network+… the list goes on and on.

Yeah, I can pass the tests, but they are so darned expensive!  I have not had the luxury of working at a place that will reimburse me for the cost of these tests.  So, when times are tough and finances are tight, I have tried to do with just my experience.  It’s not getting me very far.

Recently, I interviewed with a company that said they would hire me if I got the certifications.  And, if I got the certs before I reported for duty, they would pay me back.  So, I’m gonna drop a few Benjamins on a certificate – a piece of paper that says I know what I know.

I guess our spiritual life is kinda like that.  People want to know under what authority we speak.  But we have a certificate.  In the Great Commission (Matthew 28), Jesus commanded us to carry His Name into the world.  That command is the authority we need – the certificate that says we are capable of doing His work.

I have to prove to the world that I know about computers through a piece of paper.  Jesus knows I am always learning His word, and is happy to hire me on His Word alone.

In Christ Alone

I don’t know why the song is stuck in my head.  I haven’t heard it on the radio for a while and we haven’t sung it in church.  But I’m glad it is stuck.

I can’t think of a better place to be than in Christ, alone.  Being in Christ is better than being in a church building.  Being in Christ is better than being in a fast car.  Being in Christ is, yes fellow Texans, I’m sayin’ it – being in Christ is even better than being in Texas – although not by much.

Seriously, though, when I’m pondering the meaning of life as I was today, I begin to ask what it’s all about.  I mean, in my head I know the meaning of life is to “Love the Lord your God with everything you are.”  But try something in me just don’t want to listen.

I can be easily distracted by the events of life.  While I bow my head and pray, I try to stay focused on the majesty of God.  But then my ear begins to itch.  Way down inside where only a key will get to it.  Or a dog will start panting by my feet, wanting attention.  Or I’ll suddenly start thinking about the person who was rude on the phone three weeks ago.  Suddenly, I’m distracted from my prayer.

Sing a song out loud, though.  Hum it, whistle it – whatever.  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  It will focus your entire body.  Your mind, your ears, your mouth, your voice, your lungs and your heart will all fall in line.

In Christ alone,
My hope is found,
He is my life, my strength, my song…

Peace begins to fill my head and the thoughts of the day are chased away.  Worries are now gone.  Life seems to be, once again, where it needs to be.

It is In Christ Alone.

Saying “Good-bye” To My Dreams

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was an obscure blogger.  We’ll call him “Clay”.  He had dreams – some sane, some outrageous.  They included a car of his own, a home in the country and a yacht in which he could experience the sea again for he was a veteran of the US Navy.  The car need not be fancy (but fast would be a plus).  The home need not be fancy but 20 acres or so would fulfill the dream.  And the yacht – well it does need to be seaworthy and what’s the point of having a yacht if it’s not fancy?

So Clay woke up many mornings depressed to be without wheels of his own and in a very modest house in the city.  His friends had more ‘stuff’ than he did, but they seemed to be no less depressed than Clay.  There was, after all, new stuff always available.  Gotta get the next new smartphone.  Gotta get 3D TV.  Gotta get HD radio.  And the list goes on.

Clay woke up one morning, and was more depressed than usual.  His dreams seemed to be so far out of reach that they were, in a word, unattainable.  In a rare moment of lucid dreaming (does that even make sense?), Clay decided that his dreams weren’t worth the depression.

“If I gave up on my dreams,” he thought, “I could be happier.  I would no longer be striving for something unattainable.  I would simply be glad that I can still see my kids in my modest house in the city because I can’t go anywhere.”

Now, don’t misunderstand the situation.  Clay still desires a car of his own, a house in the country and, maybe, a yacht.  But his driving force is now facing each day for the glory and blessing it brings.  He no longer wakes each day to dreams that are unattainable.  He can now see the trees because he’s closer to the forest.

One day, maybe he will get a car of his own and a house in the country with 20 acres or so for the milk cows and chickens and garden.  But until that day comes, he eagerly looks forward to the fleeting moments with his children and his wife.

Life is not yesterday, nor is it tomorrow.  Life is today.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:24, NIV

(not the) Last Word on Love

I am likely going to write about love until the day I die.  Which, hopefully, will be a long time from now.

I refer you, gentle reader, back to the two great commandments:  Love the Lord your God with everything you are.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Christ said that everything else in the Bible is based on these two commandments.

How, then, do we love others?  WWJD?  How did Jesus love others?  Scripture clearly shows us that he loved sinners.  He ate with them.  He showed them the pure, unadulterated love of God.

“But Jesus got really mad!”

Yes He did.  Why?  Because people had turned his Father’s House (the Temple) into a “den of thieves”.  He also got more than a little riled when the leaders of the religious establishment failed to follow the first two commandments.

So, Jesus forgave the people who committed adultery, the murderers, the thieves and the liars.  And He rebuked those who followed the letter of the law.

WHY?

Because they failed to love.  They took the power and the money then left the orphans and widows hungry.  Jesus pronounced seven woes on them because when they converted others, they “made him twice the child of Satan that they are!”

Can the same be said today?  Preachers everywhere are worried that their sermons against sin will be viewed as hate speech and result in arrest and other horrible actions.  But, aside from the downward spiral America finds itself in, why would people view Christian sermons as hate speech?

I have no problem with calling sin “sin”.  But, as Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  He never seethed with rage screaming at a person because of their sin, except for the Pharisees who claimed to be from God.

In order to love the world, one must love every part of the world.  The drag queen, the serial rapist, the child molester, the murderer, the thief, the liar and even ourselves.  We must love the unloveable.

All Scripture is God-Breathed

And useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16

Dedicated to Westboro Baptist Church

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. – Romans 8:9-11

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:23-24

Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth—
then my judgments go forth like the sun. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:4-6

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. – Matthew 12:7

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
– Matthew 12:30-37

Bless those who persecute you.  Bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. – Romans 12:14-15

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1-2

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him,“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. – John 5:14-15

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. – 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. – 1 John 2:3-5

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

“If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” – John 14:15-17

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:7-12

 

Storgē

Like I said before, I can have a lot of fun with these Greek words.  “It’s over there by the storge container!”

Storgē is that special love that bonds a parent with a child.  When a parent says to their child, “I love you,” the Greeks say “I storgē you” or something to that effect.

The love for a child is an amazing thing.  Before I found out I was going to be a Daddy, I didn’t even want to ponder that possibility.  I’m a horrible person, I’m going to make horrible kids.  But I saw that little hand on the screen at the doctor’s office and that stony heart began to melt.

When she was born, I was an emotional wreck.  I had never held a child in my entire life.  Now, here was one of my very own!  By the time she was four, I was a very happy stay-at-home Dad.  About that time, her younger sister joined the family.

From a guy with absolutely no use for people under 21 to being totally enamored with my children – I discovered exactly what storgē is.  I love my kids.  Now that I am working, I try to arrange my schedule so I get more time to spend with my kids.

Storgē – the most amazing love of all.

Philia

Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love”.  Few realize that there was a city in Asia Minor with the same name at the time of the Romans.  Yup – the name is that old.

Philia is a Greek word that means love between friends.  It can be also rendered in English as phileo.  In modern English, where straight people are worried about sounding gay, they shy away from the word love and we use words like BFF.  BFF=philia.

This is precisely what Christ meant, though, when He told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  No matter how absolutely despicable we think they may be, He told us to love them.

But people will always find a reason to not love someone.  Maybe it’s the slowpoke on the road in front of us.  Could it be that the family down the street has bikes outside their front door?  Maybe there’s a handicap.

This is, sadly, where I need the most help.  I’ve heard it’s rude to stare at people or make a big deal of a handicap.  Therefore, I don’t want to appear rude and avoid people who are different from me.  It makes me uncomfortable.

But I feel perfectly comfortable walking into a prison as a chaplain or volunteer.  I feel perfectly comfortable reaching out to that “different” person at church.  I feel perfectly comfortable chatting it up with someone I’ve come to know.  Why?

In those situations I am empowered by title or familiarity.

Through Christ, we are all empowered to address those around us in His name.  We don’t have to verbally invoke His name, but act as if we had.  In turn we make others comfortable around us.  The guy covered with scars from a car wreck.  The woman whose body is deformed from palsy.  The next-door neighbor who won’t even look at you on the street.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Little children, love one another.