Have a Little Faith – Teaching

This week we’re continuing the series on believing and faith.

This week’s quote:

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see.
The reward for this faith is to see what you believe.
~Saint Augustine

Thoughts

Last week we discussed belief. Remember, the definition of belief is to accept something as true or to accept the evidence that something is true. Faith, on the other hand, is defined as, “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

The definition is also biblically accurate. The original New Testament Greek word is “pistis,” which is translated as, “confidence, trust, faith, or reliance on.”

Practical Examples

Think of a parent and child. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the child doesn’t ask for a DNA test. He simply believes the parent, he accepts the parent’s word as true. The child also has faith in the parent – he trusts his parent will feed him, clothe him, love him, and protect him. In general, parents fulfill these needs and  earn the child’s trust.

Likewise, think of hiring a new mechanic. Do you automatically trust him? Probably not. The trust has to be earned. If he consistently treats you fairly, deals with you honestly, charges a fair price, and performs the work as promised, then over time he will earn your trust.

Biblical Examples

Our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, is much the same. We accept certain evidence that God exists, and thus we believe in Him. But, what about faith? In Mark 11:22, Jesus says, “Have faith in God,” or literally, “Trust in God.” Do we have reason to trust in God. Has he consistently fulfilled His promises?

Hebrews 11 lists many examples of God fulfilling His promises by faith. One notable example is Abraham. He trusted in God and the promise that he would be the father of many nations, even though he was almost 100 years old and his wife, Sarah, was barren. He never doubted God’s promise, but was strengthened by faith (Romans 4:17:20).

How Does This Apply To Us?

So, what has God promised us? Has God promised us that life will be easy; that every little hope and desire will come true; that we’ll never have sorrows or tragedies; that we’ll never have physical, emotional, or mental pain; that He will fix all our problems; that He will feed all our hungry, house all our homeless, heal our sick, or end all war? No. God hasn’t promised that He will do what we can, and should, do for ourselves.

This thought reminds me of a point in the movie To Save a Life. When asked why God doesn’t just “fix it,” Chris, the Pastor, replies ‘I wonder if God doesn’t ask the same question of us’.

What does God promise? One of His greatest promises can be found in Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If we follow Jesus with all our heart, mind, and strength; and if we “keep the faith,” or, “trust in Him,” then when we suffer, when we experience loss, when we have tragedy, He will surround us with people who love and comfort us, care for us, bring us healing, and help us in some way.

Another promise is that “…God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Notice the word “need.” This doesn’t mean that God will waive a magic wand and “poof,” there’s a new car sitting in the driveway. It means God will supply, in some way and in some fashion, everything we need. To this end, God has graced us with the ability and the power to love, to show compassion, to heal, and to forgive. If we learn how to truly be open to these gifts, and to fully utilize them, we can feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, and end our wars.

Finally, if we keep the faith, or trust in Him, God has promised us eternal life (John 10:28, John 11:25 & 26, Romans 6:23). Now, God does not promise the path to eternal life will be easy, or free from trouble. There will be obstacles and some suffering along the way. But, He does promise that no matter how long it takes, or what troubles we may face, He won’t abandon us or forget us – He will always be with us and we will never be left alone.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s take another look at our quote, this time in a slightly different way. When we trust in what we accept as true, even though we don’t see it (God); our reward for our trust is to see God all around us and, ultimately, to be with Him in eternal life.

Scripture

  • Mark 11:22
  • Hebrews 11
  • Romans 4:17-20
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • John 10:28
  • John 11:25 & 26
  • Romans 6:23

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Next in the series…Faith and Miracles

Have a Little Faith – Quote

Last week we discussed belief. Continuing our mini-series on believing and faith, this week we’ll talk about faith.

This week’s quote:

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see,
the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.
~Saint Augustine

Join us this Sunday when we come together for worship and fellowship.

Seeing is Believing – Teaching

This week we’ll begin a short series on believing and having faith.

Quote

For those who believe, no proof is necessary…
For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.

    ~Stuart Chase

Thoughts

The dictionary says to believe is:

  • to accept something as true, genuine, or real
  • to consider to be true or honest
  • to accept the word or evidence of

Belief vs. Faith

Very often, the terms faith and belief are used interchangeably. However, faith is defined as “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” We’ll discuss faith in more detail next week. Today, let’s examine belief.

Consider long ago when we thought the world was flat. Was there proof? No. But, there was evidence – sailors left and didn’t come back. So, we reasoned the world must be flat, and the sailors must have fallen off the edge. Later, when there was evidence the world was round, the belief changed. In both cases, proof wasn’t necessary to form the belief – simply the acceptance of certain evidence.

When we believe in God, we accept God is real and we accept that there is certain evidence of God. Is it proof? No. But belief doesn’t require proof. It simply requires evidence, and acceptance of that evidence.

Evidence of God

Is there evidence that God is real? Look around at our universe. The sun is exactly the right distance from the earth – any closer and we’d burn up, any further away and we’d freeze. The moon, too, is exactly the right distance from the earth. It allows for the proper gravitation to keep the oceans and the tides from completely receding or completely covering land masses. And look at all life – plants and animals. Each is made up of exactly the right cells, molecules, DNA, etc.

Each form of plant life “knows” how to grow, when to grow, when to flower, when to go to seed, and when to start the cycle over again. Some grow in winter, some in spring, some in summer, some in fall.

Each living being, animal and human, are formed by the combining of two separate cells coming together and creating a new life. Those cells “know” how to multiply and divide to become skin, bone, eyes, heart, lungs, blood, brain, etc. – even the color of the eyes, the color of the skin, and the color of the hair. Not to mention the complexity of the brain – processing sight, sound, touch, smell, emotions, memories, thoughts, imaginations – all while keeping the rest of the body going; telling the heart to beat, the lungs to inflate and deflate, the eyes to blink, etc.

Think of a garden. What would happen if you threw a bunch of seeds all around and walked away. Some would grow, some would not. Without your intelligence to guide the planting and tend the garden, the result would be chaos.

Just as a nice, well designed garden takes your intelligence to grow, it stands to reason that some intelligence was and is at work in creating and sustaining our universe, our planet, and all life as we know it.

Those who don’t believe just consider it to be one big accident. But, even scientists can’t explain how all life as know it could be the result of some cosmic accident. So, even though no reasonable explanation exists, some don’t consider this to be evidence and, therefore, no proof will ever be possible.

Those of us who believe call this incredible intelligence, God. We look at all that is around us as evidence of God’s existence. And, because we believe, or accept the evidence, no proof is necessary.

Doubting Thomas

What does Jesus say about belief and proof? Let’s look at Thomas. When the other disciples told Thomas they had seen Jesus, he responded, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” He was saying ‘unless I have the proof, I won’t accept your word or the evidence’.

Eight days later Jesus came to the disciples and He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.” And He goes on to say, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Basically, Jesus is saying ‘blessed are those who accept the evidence, and consider it to be true’; which is the definition of believing. For those who believe, no proof is necessary.

And John goes on to say, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe (accept the word) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Scripture

  • John 20:25
  • John 20:27
  • John: 20:29
  • John: 20:30 & 31

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Next week we’ll discuss faith, and how it differs from belief.

Seeing is Believing – Quote

Faith and Belief are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. This week we’ll begin a short series on believing and having faith. We’ll start with belief.

This week’s quote:

For those who believe, no proof is necessary…
For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.
~Stuart Chase

 

Join us this Sunday when we come together for worship and fellowship.

The Greatest Virtues – Teaching

Today is Mother’s Day…a day to honor and remember moms and reflect on the important role they play in our lives.

Quote

Winston Churchill said:

There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues of human society are created, strengthened, and maintained.

~Criminal Minds Episode

Message

It’s good to take time to honor and remember moms, and it’s biblical – honor your father and your mother. For many of us, mom is the one who holds the family and the home together. Proverbs 31 speaks directly to the hard work and diligence of mothers: she…works willingly with her hands…she brings her merchandise from afar…she rises also while it is yet night and gives food to her household…strength and honor are her clothing.

Just think of the many roles mothers typically fill:

Nurse, Counselor, Spiritual Advisor, Cook, Personal Shopper, Educator, Nutritionist, Accountant, Transportation Center, Main, Peacemaker, Entertainer, Tailor, Arbitrator, Janitor, Interior Designer, Groundskeeper, etc., etc.

For some, the role of mother is filled by a grandmother, step-parent, mother-in-law, aunt, or family friend. And, there are Mr. Moms who, for whatever reason, fill the role of both mother and father.

Example

A beautiful example is the story of Naomi and Ruth. Originally from Judah, Naomi, her husband, Elimelek, and their two sons journeyed to Moab. While in Moab, Elimelek died. After taking Moabite wives, Naomi’s two sons also died.

Now alone, Naomi decided to return to Judah and to her people. Refusing to leave Naomi, one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, decided to stay with her. Ruth’s devotion was so strong she said, “…where you go, I will go; and where you dwell, I will dwell; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die…”

The bond between these two women was every bit as strong as if Naomi had been Ruth’s natural mother. Naomi set everything in motion for Ruth to marry Boaz, a distant relative; and Ruth did everything Naomi asked of her. Several times, Naomi addressed Ruth as “my daughter.”

What was the result? Ruth ended up marrying Boaz. And, though she never knew it, she bacame a mother in the lineage of Jesus. Ruth gave birth to Obed; Obed was the father of Jesse; and Jesse was the father of King David. Through her lineage, Ruth was truly blessed.

My Thoughts

Personally, I’ve been blessed to have two moms. My natural mother (Mom), the one who raised me and, though I don’t like the term, my step-mom (Ma).

Growing up, Mom filled all the typical roles spoken of earlier, and more. She educated us, cooked, cleaned, nursed our injuries, managed the family finances, and even painted the house – both inside and out. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I know she loved me, and I her.

When Mom passed away, my siblings and some of Mom’s friends went out to dinner. The restaurant happened to have one of Mom’s favorites – brussel sprouts. So, we all took at least one in honor of Mom. Today, in honor and remembrance of Mom, brussel sprouts are on the menu at home.

Ma, on the other hand, didn’t raise me. She came into my life when I was an adult. But, she’s still every bit as important a person in my life. She has loved me and supported me, and listened when I needed an ear. Whenever I’ve needed her, she’s been there. More importantly, she made my dad happy for over 20 years. And, though Dad has passed away, she remains my “Ma.” Thankfully, I have the opportunity today to tell her how much she means to me, and how thankful I am that she is part of my life.

Regardless of who it is that fills the role for you, take time to remember them and to honor them today.

Scripture References

  • Exodus 20:12
  • Ephesians 6:2
  • Ruth

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The Greatest Virtues – Quote

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a wonderful time to reflect on the important role mothers play in our lives.

There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues of human society are created, strengthened, and maintained.

~Winston Churchill (Criminal Minds Episode)

 

Join us this Sunday when we come together for worship and fellowship, and to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Acts of Kindness – Teaching

This week’s quote is so simple, yet so true:

No act of kindness, no matter how small,

is ever wasted.

~Aesop

Thoughts

Most of us have heard, “practice random acts of kindness.” And, many of us have either been on the giving or receiving end of such acts; feeding a parking meter, paying for a cup of coffee for the person behind you, etc. Practicing random acts of kindness is a wonderful way to bring a little joy and happiness into someone’s life. If you practice random acts of kindness, please, by all means, continue!

I’d like to take a little time to explore deliberate acts of kindness. Deliberate acts, like random acts, can bring a little joy into someone’s life. Deliberate acts can also be very healing. A kind word or a gentle touch, at just the right moment, can make a world of difference. Consider Proverbs:

  • 12:25…A fearful word troubles a man’s heart; but a good word makes it glad. (Also reads: An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”)
  • 15:4…A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, and he who eats of its fruit shall be filled with it. (Also reads: Kind words are good medicine, but deceitful words can really hurt.)
  • 25:11…A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Also reads: The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.)

Each of these verses speak of “words.” But, we can easily insert “acts” in place of “word.” For instance, “Kind acts are good medicine, but deceitful (or unkind) acts can really hurt.” Kindness begets kindness, whether in word or deed. Deliberate acts of kindness can bring joy and healing into lives. They can also have very profound, long-lasting impacts. Sometimes, without even knowing it, your acts, no matter how small, could actually save a life.

Let me give an example:

In 1989, there was a man with significant challenges. A single father, raising his two children, had lost the lease on the home he was renting. Having recently “come out,” being a gay single father presented its own set of issues. Faced with homelessness, he and his children moved into a cheap, run-down hotel. Though working, the income didn’t come close to meeting their needs. His salary, before taxes, was $1,132.00 a month. The hotel was $800.00 a month, daycare was $465.00 month, and the car payment was $235.00 a month; to say nothing of food, gas, insurance, laundromat, etc. He was beyond broke before he even got out of bed in the morning. On top of all this, he had some pretty severe medical issues and had accumulated over $10,000.00 in medical bills not covered by insurance. To say he was depressed would be an understatement.

One weekend, while the children were visiting their mother, he hit bottom. Seeing no way out, he set things in motion – he wrote his note, set out a full bottle of bourbon, and lined up numerous bottles of medication. As he was preparing to wash the pills down with bourbon, the phone rang. It was Adrian, the roommate of the man he had been dating.

Though they didn’t know each other all that well, Adrian asked him to go out for the evening with a group of friends. Making up excuses, he politely declined Adrian’s offer. In what seemed a matter of minutes, there was a knock at the hotel door. Quickly hiding the booze and the pills, he opened the door and there stood Adrian. “There was something in your voice – come on, you’re going with us”, he said.

It’s been over 20 years and, to this day, Adrian has no idea that his single act of kindness literally saved my life. Yes, I said my life. The man in the hotel was me. And, because of Adrian, my children didn’t grow up fatherless, and I’ve had a full and wonderful life. I know first-hand how impactful small acts of kindness can be. Though Mark and I broke up shortly thereafter, and Adrian and I haven’t seen each other since, I thank God for bringing him into my life at exactly the right moment.

Acts of kindness are never wasted. They can impact lives in ways we may never know. And, sometimes, they can literally save a life.

Scripture References

  • Proverbs 12:25
  • Proverbs 15:4
  • Proverbs 25:11

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Give Me Today – Teaching

Quote

This week’s quote is actually a line in an old television series…

Trouble will come in its own time,

It always does;

Buts that’s tomorrow.

Give me today and I will be happy.

~Babylon 5

Thoughts

Babylon 5 is one of my favorite TV shows. It’s a science fiction show, and takes place in outer space. Back when it first aired, a dear friend taped each episode…remember the days of large, bulky machines with equally large video cassettes? Twice a month, a group of friends gathered at her home for “Babylon 5 Night” and we’d watch 3 or 4 episodes back-to-back.

Each Babylon episode dealt with issues – many of which we still face today: war, ego, pride, jealousy, hate, anger, love, compassion, forgiveness, religious tolerance (or intolerance), power, greed, etc., etc. And, if you really watched and paid attention, the show provided opportunities to think, to learn, and to grow. I’m not sure if the writers intended for the show to be one of social messaging, but for me, the messages were, and still are, quite clear.

What happens when we let our ego and our pride dictate our actions? What type of person do we want to be? Do we let our anger get the best of us? Are our religions all that different? How do we treat others who look, or think, or believe differently than we do? Are material “things” more important that people and relationships?

These are all questions that were applicable then, and they’re still applicable today. True, we’re not likely to enter into an inter-galactic battle with an alien species any time soon. But, look around – we go to war with one another; there are those that are driven by power and greed; we continue to have race issues, gender issues, class issues, sexual orientation issues, etc; and some of the most angry, hateful, hurtful, mean, nasty, vile acts are committed in the name of religion.

On the other hand, there is an awakening occurring. more and more people today are realizing the importance of love, compassion, generosity, tolerance, and forgiveness – and their importance in our own happiness.

To that end, we’re each responsible for our own happiness. And, we can choose, no matter the circumstances, to be happy. This doesn’t mean we’ll never have troubles. We will. We have all experienced a friend or family member dealing with a horrible illness like cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. We, or someone we know, is experiencing financial difficulty. Most of us, if not we ourselves, have been the victim of an act of violence. Many of us are sending a family member or friend off to war. The fact is, as the quote says, troubles will come – they always do.

Unfortunately, none of this is new. As a species, we’ve been experiencing these types of troubles since time began. And, none of us has any guarantee of a tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but God didn’t send me a memo saying, “Hey Alan – you’ve got ‘X’ number of tomorrows left…make the best of them.”

What’s important is how we choose to face today. We of the Christian faith can find great strength and hope in Scripture. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says, “…Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God and believe in Me also…” and He goes on to say, “I am never alone because the Father is with me…these things I have said to you that in Me you may have peace…In the world you will have tribulation; but have courage, I have conquered the world.”

Closing Thoughts

Yes, all of us have troubles. And, none of us has a guarantee of tomorrow. So, the decision becomes, “What do we want to make of the today we have?” and, “What can I do today to bring a little happiness into my life, or into someone else’ life?” Regardless of the troubles we’re facing, or that may come tomorrow, we can hold onto God’s promises. Remember…this is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. Will our faith magically make the troubles disappear? No – but our faith gives us strength. Even when times are tough, there is something we can be happy about. And, we can find ways to add to the happiness of others. Changing our focus, and turning to our faith, gives us the strength to weather all storms.

Give me today and I will be happy.

Scripture

  • John 14:1
  • John 16:32 & 33
  • Psalm 118:24

The HAPPY Movie

We gathered at the Center on Friday the 27th for Reflective Cinema and had the opportunity to watch The HAPPY Movie. It is a powerful documentary on happiness – what it means and how we manifest happiness in our lives. Obviously, happiness means different things to different people. But, the movie explores some wonderful examples of people overcoming incredible troubles and coming out even happier on the other side. There are also some wonderful ideas presented that have proven, scientifically, to enhance happiness.

One idea presented, and I throw out to you, is to sit and give a little thought each Sunday before going to bed – and write down 5 things for which you are thankful. This is something the regular worship service attendees have committed to do. I’m also throwing it out as a challenge to people in service organizations to which I belong. Over time, you will be able to look back and “realize”  – Wow, I really do have a lot to be thankful for. Will this make your troubles go away? No…but it will change your focus, and it will help you to face your troubles with a whole different outlook.

If you get the chance to see The HAPPY Movie, by all means do. It’s a wonderful movie!

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