Tag Archives: Faith

The logic of receiving God’s power

25 Apr

Do you feel weak as a believer?  I know I do, every day.  I throw myself on God each and every morning as well as throughout my school day?  Why?  It’s how I tame/master/subdue those negative feelings, my fears that pop up while driving to school.  It’s knowing that I have to ‘do it again’, teach one more day. Even after 26 years, I feel inadequate, like there won’t be enough time to complete planning and grading and teaching AND engage the students so they both acquire AND enjoy French!  It’s THAT pressure that I don’t like and that I fear.

So when I read about God’s power this week, my ears perked up.

Listening to a John Piper classic sermon of the day got me to thinking about how we actually RECEIVE supernatural strength to fight those fears.

Piper explained that Paul’s epistle greetings and even his closures contained power phrases like ‘grace and peace be to you’.  Here’s an example:

2 Tim 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

My mind started backtracking by wondering:

  • Okay, how do I actually GET this grace?  And what specifically IS it, this grace?

I think the Holy Spirit led me logically to see the simple but effective way to receive God’s power.  Hear me out.

If you are a Christian, you’ve heard and read it many times over that:

…..faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

So…IF faith comes from hearing or reading God’s Word (and faith means BELIEVING, TRUSTING, RELYING ON, RESTING IN, COUNTING ON), then God’s word is a source of supernatural effectual power that tramples our natural unbelief and causes us to take as true what the Word says.

....AND if Paul is writing what Christians accept as God’s intended words, then God means to transmit the gift (what grace is) of actual power to hearers/readers through the words themselves.  How is that?  by hearing with faith, hearing words that we believe, trust, will rely on, rest in and count on.

Grace covers LOTS of types of gift.  What supernatural gift might one need?  I can think of several:

  • strength
  • patience
  • wisdom
  • clarity
  • understanding
  • peace
  • joy
  • new desires to exercise kindness and compassion toward others
  • control over one’s ‘natural’ expression of feelings
  • releasing of grudges and leaving revenge to God

So here’s the string of logical propositional truths that my mind locked onto:

  • If believing God’s Word to be true comes by hearing with understanding…

…and

  • If God, in His Word, promises spirit and power-filled divine gifts (grace) to His children

Then

  • Grace comes to us from hearing God’s Word.

What’s the implication?

Nothing, that is NO THING, should hinder us from filling up on this grace from the Bible, each and every day.

 

 

Do Christian beliefs rest on ‘blind’ faith?

23 Mar

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”  John 20:29

I love Venn diagrams!  Creating categories helps me think through possibilities and provides a way to understand what something IS because I can see ‘what it is NOT!’

Take screwdrivers.  When I’m new to a concept, in order to picture it through descriptive words, I have to know what the other possibilities might be.

My dad first introduced me to the screwdriver by sending me to fetch a Phillips.  I asked him what one was.  He described the cross-recessed tool.  I had to know if there were other possibilities besides this design.  As I recall, he only mentioned the other common device – the slot drive one.  If your curiosity is piqued, then take a glance at this website.

Back to Jesus’ comment about ‘those who believe without seeing’.  Just like with screwdrivers, I want to know how many possible kinds of believers are there and what distinguishes each from the other.  Are believers merely binary?  That is, are there only 2 kinds – those who believe because they see Jesus and those who believe yet don’t see Jesus?   Or are there other categories because of different distinctives?

I think the ‘world’ outside of Christianity will respond with a hearty Yes!  There are those who believe because they SEE and then there are “the blind-faith kind“.   These folks are often parodied as those who ‘check their brains at the door.’   I’ve even run across some Christians who proudly echo a version of that kind of belief.  When queried about why they believe, they’ll respond with an ‘I just do!’

But is that the only basis for trusting Christianity to be true?

No!  and fortunately not.

We believe that Jesus is God and that all He said about Himself, His Father, the world, the past and the future IS accurate because we have eyewitness testimony.  The written Bible is a document that has been historically validated and stood the test of time.

Yes, the Holy Spirit has to open eyes and hearts to accept that the testimony is true.  But the documentation exists, nonetheless.

So back to Jesus and His blessing on those of us who were not around to encounter Jesus in 1st-century Palestine.  We have the benefit of being able to read every single day the evidentiary accounts of God dealing with Old Testament Israel and her enemies.  And we have written testimony by the apostles of what happened in the life of Jesus and after His ascension.

Don’t forget, many of those who DID hear Jesus teach and see Him perform miracles did not believe.  This fact alone throws into question the adage, ‘seeing is believing’.  It certainly wasn’t for everyone.

If you believe and rest in the fact of Jesus being who the Bible says He is, then thank God for giving you this living faith. It IS a gift.  But it’s not a blessing bestowed in a vacuum.  The Bible exists; be glad about that!  And please practice being able to point to this evidence with confidence when someone asks you why you believe.   As the apostle Peter wrote, honor Jesus for the testimonies:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

 

Why some people aren’t Christians or ‘Preppers’

24 May

Ps 78:32  

In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.

I was listening to someone explain how & why he had lost faith in the God he had enjoyed throughout his childhood.  It happened like this: he fell in love with a gal in high school who wasn’t a Christian.  That relationship led him to question what he had been taught from church and the Bible about why there are some people who aren’t Christian. The evidence he saw around him upon investigation caused him to abandon confidence in the truth of the Bible and what he had learned at church.

As he detailed the events, he offered this distinction:

  • I don’t claim to prove whether God exists or not.  I just don’t believe in God.

Hearing him draw a contrast, I began to see that though intertwined, these are indeed two different issues. (You can listen to the interview or access his written account of the unraveling of his faith at the link above.)  What struck me was the following statement:

  • “I might be wrong about God. But what I’m sure of is that my search for the truth has been genuine and my beliefs are sincere.”

Some questions for thinking logical Joes and Janes:

  1. What added value does ‘genuine’ bring to one’s search for the truth?
  2. Does it matter if beliefs are ‘sincere’?

I’m bothered by his (and many others’ I encounter) almost cavalier, yet ‘sincere’, dismissal of just not believing in God.

Is Christianity a matter of choosing to believe?  And what does it mean to ‘not believe’, or even ‘to believe’ for that matter?  And what about truth?

We have a friend who is a ‘survivalist prepper’.  You’ve heard of those folks. They stockpile vast supplies of food, weapons and other necessary goods so they can live independently for weeks and even months in various apocalyptic scenarios.  My husband and I have not taken those kind of ‘what if’ precautions, although we do have some supplies in the event of a power outage due to storms.

Our friend, who seems very rational, might accuse us of living in denial if we say, “We don’t believe in the realistic eventuality which grounds your preparation.”

How SHOULD we respond to possible mega disaster events?  Just like how we should respond to the possibility of there being a real God.

The only questions are:

  • What evidence is there for a likely event for which we should increase our preparation?
  • What evidence is there for the supernatural God as described in the Christian Bible?

And given the evidence, what is the most reasonable (reason-based) response one should make?

A more honest conclusion on the part of the man who lost his faith would be:

  • I don’t like where the evidence points, because I don’t want to deal with the God that the Bible describes.
  • And as a fully-aware, but perhaps irrational adult, I deliberately choose to put off dealing with what will happen to me when I die

Friends, I don’t know about the odds of an apocalyptic scenario happening in my lifetime.  But what I do know is that there is a preponderance of evidence to give us a high degree of certainty that the triune God of the Bible (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is who He says He is as recorded in the 66 books of the Bible.  Therefore, I assert that we can TRUST the written record.

Only fools ignore that kind of certainty.

 

Don’t weaken the anchor ropes of your faith!

21 Sep

Do you ever play out an imaginary conversation between you and someone else?  It could be with a hypothetical person or maybe with someone you know whose likely responses you think you can predict as well.

anchor

I spun one out yesterday as I read an essay meant to encourage Christians about the trustworthiness of God’s promises as recorded in the Bible.

Anyone who reads the Bible knows that it teaches that God never changes.  All his characteristics are not only inalterable, they are perfect and pure.  God’s qualities or attributes are the standard by which we created beings know what moral values look like. Which kind of values specifically?  To name a few, consider:

  • beauty
  • goodness
  • strength
  • truth
  • evil
  • mercy
  • wisdom
  • peace

The essayist whom I was reading argued for the importance of integrity and how we long for it in others.  Given our election choices this year, who isn’t interested in a candidate who will do what he or she promises!  Alas, we know that human beings will always disappoint, both others AND themselves.  Why? because created human beings have limits; we are finite and fallible!  But the God who created all things is always true to his word.

Why is this important?  Because life is filled with suffering and the promises to Christians in the Bible are hope-giving and life-sustaining.  Ken Boa, the author of what I was reading wrote, “Because it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2), he is the ultimate and reliable source of hope…….Whatever he says he will do is as good as done, and when we hope in his promises, this hope becomes an anchor for the soul…(Hebrews 6:19)”

My imaginary conversation took flight at this point.  I have a relative who does not believe that all the Bible is true.  She picks out what seems reasonable to her.  Not a very reliable metric, wouldn’t you say?

Here goes:

Me:  We can count on God’s promises in the Bible because what he says comes to pass, whether in our lifetime or later.

She:  How can you say that?  The Bible is just primitive man’s interpretation of his world around him.  We know better these days.

Me:  Do you think that about the New Testament as well?

She:  Not as much as I do about the Old Testament.  I’m sure that parts of the New Testament are true, like Jesus’ words.

Me: Why wouldn’t you think all of it is reliable?

She:  Because the Bible was written by men prejudiced by their times and lots has been changed in all the translations since the originals.

Me:  Do you believe God is all powerful?

She:  Yes, I would say so.

Me:  Do you believe God is all good?

She:  At least MY God is!

Me:  Well then, do you think that an all-powerful and all-good God would be incapable of insuring that what he intended to be written actually got written and translated correctly?

She: (I can’t predict what her response would have been at this point)

Where would you have gone in this conversation?

Dear friends, clear thinking and logic are tools not just for political arguments or policy debates.  Our handling of the tools of rational reasoning and clear terms is vital to our very life.  For anyone to retain the gift of faith that God has granted, a Christian must think clearly.

There are many attacks on Christianity today and those who number among the Church must know what they believe and why.  And all our TRUE beliefs find their source in who God is and what kind of sovereign Creator and Sustainer He is.

If we lose our faith in who he is as recorded in his Word, the Bible, we will drift with the cultural tide and be miserable.

Truth matters…and can change your life

23 Mar

POW bracelet  When I was a junior in high school, many of us wore POW bracelets to remind ourselves of those men still held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.  I don’t know what happened to ‘my POW’ or the bracelet.  But that memory was vividly stirred when I heard someone explain how ‘news’ makes a difference.  The scenario he painted was of a wife, bereft of her POW husband, who still held on to the slim hope that he might be returned to her and their children.

One day, she picks up the phone to hear the startling news that not only is her husband alive, but he is already safely travelling home on a naval ship.  The Navy will pay for her to fly to San Diego to meet him in two weeks.

After the phone call, her circumstances have not changed, for she is still without her husband.  But the news of that future event WILL have an effect on her and the children.

What’s this example have to do with truth?  That’s easy: unless that mom trusts the veracity of the phone call, that it is NOT a hoax, then she won’t book the flight and make the arrangements to meet the ship when it docks.   Truth DOES matter.

So too does truth carry weight in a logical argument.  Recall that to have a powerful position, two conditions must be met.  Premises must be true and the way a conclusion is drawn must follow rules of logic.  An argument that abides by guidelines in how it’s formed is deemed valid.

Couple true premises with an orderly, valid proceeding from premises to conclusion, and you have a sound, or ‘unbeatable’ argument.

I saw another example of the power of true premises this morning when I was reminded of the account of Hannah, future mom of the prophet Samuel.

Mournful due to infertility and constantly belittled by ‘the other wife’ of Elkanah, Hannah refuses to eat but prays in the tabernacle during the family’s annual trek to worship at Shiloh.  Hannah receives a blessing from the priest Eli when she prays in for a son (1 Sam 1:1-18).

All she has heard is ‘news’ (Eli’s blessing) that the Lord will do for her as she requested while praying. When she arises from prayer, nothing has changed.  She is still childless, but she has heard and believed the ‘truth’ given to her by this representative of God, the priest Eli.

Here is a framework for this news and why it changed the live of our hypothetical POW’s wife and for Hannah, future mom of the renowned prophet Samuel.

P1 – I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2 – My husband’s return is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on my husband’s return

We can substitute the Hannah details for premise # 2

P2- My conceiving a son is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on being a mom

What happens after the ‘counting on something occurring that has been foretold’?  Lives change!

  • The POW’s wife and children felt joy during the 2 weeks before Dad reached American soil.  They quickly sprang into action, prepping for Dad’s return.  Perhaps a planned spring break vacation was cancelled.
  • Hannah’s countenance immediately turned glad.  She ended her mournful fast, took food and confidently did the next step of sleeping with her husband Elkanah in order to conceive a son.

I’ll leave you with the MOST IMPORTANT news that Christians have heard:

  • Jesus, Son of God, was executed in the place of guilty sinners who are deprived of the means of coming to God and glorifying him by enjoying him (sin bars the way to commune with a holy God)
  • After dying, he was buried and came back to life 3 days later. His resurrection validated his prior public claims to BE God as well as demonstrated the truth of his announced purpose to live and die for helpless sinners. His punishment for our sins removed a holy God’s hostility toward men, opening the way to a happy father-child relationship.

Let’s put THAT news into our syllogism:

P1:  I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2: Jesus’s substitutionary death for guilty sinners (as well as his substitutionary life perfectly pleasing to God and law-fulfilling) is a fact

C: Therefore, I can make decisions, both day-to-day and long term, counting on those facts.

Besides the outward impact on my life’s choices, the AFFECTIVE part is equally changed:

  • Picture the glee, delight and joy of the POW family as they make plans.  Mom is still a single parent juggling the demands of mothering, working and keeping house.  Those circumstances haven’t changed. But her whistle and glowing face point to a significant change.
  • Imagine Hannah’s attitude NOW when ‘the other wife’ with children mocks her. She still is slim and childless, but the taunting rolls off her back if she even notices it. She finds herself wanting to take in sufficient and healthy food to carry her future baby safely. Her mind is preoccupied with thoughts about the future.

And we who are Christians who trust and act on the news of what Jesus has done for us also live life differently, although we still might be suffering in today’s current circumstances.

What if we don’t EXPERIENCE joy or find ourselves meditating on meeting Jesus face to face?  What if we actually FEEL and ACT the same as our neighbor who has no certainty of this paradigm-shattering historical event?  Maybe it’s as simple as this: we haven’t been convinced what eyewitness testimony (the Gospel accounts in the New Testament) describes is true.

Remember, faith (or certainty about an unseen but true event) grows stronger by hearing reports again of what Jesus has done.

Truth DOES and should make a difference in our lives.

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

 

The logic of assurance of faith

9 Mar

If you are a Christian, do you struggle with knowing for sure that all the promises of Christ are actually for you?  That you will be eternally with God when you die?  That you won’t have to face judgment, followed by sentencing for your crimes against the Creator and Sustainer God of the universe?

Assurance of salvation

There’s actually a logical way, I think, to know for sure whether you are IN Christ and under no condemnation from God the Father or excluded from Christ’s saving work on your behalf.

As I was thinking about this topic the other morning (prompted by reading from Puritan William Gurnall’s work on the armor of God) I mused about the state of our spiritual health before my husband and I actually became Christians.

Until the age of 22, we had NO doubt that we were Christian.  The topic never came up.  We were baptized, confirmed members of the Episcopal Church.  That denomination’s current (or at least de facto) doctrine teaches that all those who are baptized are in fact Christians. End of discussion. Period.

But once we heard the ‘bad news’ of our natural state (“all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard….and deserve death” – combo of Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), we grasped with haste the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ atonement and fulfilling of the Law on behalf of those who will receive it by faith.

That’s when occasional doubts about our actual salvation began to jab at our assurance of pardon and peace. Those fears bothered us! The very fact of our DIS-stress over our eternal future is likely a healthy clue and evidence to the saving faith we actually possess.

But over the years, I’ve come to see how clear thinking and a logical hypothetical true statement can bolster my confidence that what Jesus has done actually DOES apply to me.

Ephesians 2:8 teaches Christians that only by a GIFT have we been saved from God’s rightful wrath. (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God)

Gift of faith

By a gift, not by baptism, or confirmation or any work done by a religious person or us!

When I start to second-guess myself, I am tempted to imagine or hypothesize….

  • What if I believe this fact (that I’ve received the Gift) TODAY, but tomorrow I DON’T believe?  How do I know that I TRULY believe?  Maybe I’m fooling myself?

But with the temptation, the Holy Spirit reminds me of  Gospel logic so I can plug that hole in the dike holding back false fears and guarding that precious gift faith.

Here’s my pre-supposition based on Paul’s teaching in Acts:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31

The Bible defines this kind of faith or  ‘belief’ as relying on/counting on/ trusting in.

Premise 1: Either I am relying on my own merit and works to be righteous enough to please God OR I’m relying on Jesus’ work for me to please God

Premise 2: I’m not relying on myself to please God

Conclusion: Therefore, I’m relying on Jesus’ work offered to me to please God

It’s as simple as that.  I have to keep asking myself this fundamental question:

  • Maria, who are you trusting in, you or Jesus.

That’s usually enough to quiet the doubts.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Logic tools employed in real life

10 Feb

Fresh insights and knowledge for the grabbing!

Pick ax

The laws of logic direct our thinking and warn us of pitfalls to faulty reasoning.

But the ASSUMPTION is that one is willing actually to think. And that takes effort.

Reading a passage in the New Testament reminded me of the exhortation Paul gives to ‘think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  2 Timothy 2:7

The tricky verse that challenged me to apply some careful reasoning finds itself in the middle of a passage from John’s letter, 1 John 5: 1-5. It says:

  1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 5. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whew! There is a lot in those 5 verses but I want to linger and look at verse 3 (in red). Let’s park a while.

Parking

It pays to spend time looking at the words and actually SEEING what they communicate. Firstly I noticed,

  • God’s love = either the love that COMES from God (that He gives) or the love that is part of His nature, that is what I would call ‘God-like love’

Then I asked myself,

  • Which comes first – this love FROM/OF God or that we keep His commandments?

To answer that I went back and started with verse 1. Restating or distilling John’s thoughts, I jotted down some premises,

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God. (also called ‘children of God’ in verse 2)

P2 – All people who love the Father are people who love the children of God.

P3 – All those who love the children of God are people who love God and obey (also phrased as ‘keep’) his commandments.

P4 – All love for/of/from God is the obeying God’s commands

P5 – No commands of God are burdensome (heavy or grievous in the Greek)

P6 – All people who have been born of God are people who overcome the world

(overcome in Greek = to prevail, get the victory, conquer)

P7 – All world-overcoming victory is our faith

(victory in Greek = means of success, of prevailing)

P8 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are people who overcome the world

Looking at P6 and P8 and relying on the Transitive Property of Equality whereby:

If A = B and B = C, then A = C

I think I can safely equate: All people who have been born of God with

All people who believe that Jesus is Son of God

And also with the first part of P1: All those who believe that Jesus is the Christ

 Going back over these verses, I got stuck on this question:

What causes us to love the Father?

It seems that the Apostle John ASSUMES that all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ/Jesus is the Son of God are ABLE to love both the Father AND other children of God.

What could be underlying that assumption? Looking down at P7, which states that faith is the key to overcome the world, it seems that when one is born of God, one is equipped with faith. Where do I get that?

Here’s P1 again:

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God.

Look at the verbs I’ve underlined. The tenses are different. It’s clear that ‘being born of God’ comes first. And those who are born of God now can believe, that is they ‘have faith’.

And this ‘faith’ enables them to prevail against the world.

What goes along with ‘having faith’ then seems to imply one can obey or keep God’s commands, to include the VERY IMPORTANT directive to love others in the same family of God. And loving one’s siblings in God’s family = loving God.

**

Okay, so maybe I lost you in all that. But here is what I, Maria, gain from thinking through and wrestling with these verses in an orderly fashion, applying logical clear thinking:

Jesus said that the most important commands were

  1. Love God
  2. Love Others

Knowing me by nature, I can’t ‘gin’ up that kind of love on my own, based on my human nature.

What is reassuring is that knowing that I DO in fact believe that Jesus is God’s son guarantees that I have been born of God and that I am now equipped (it was a gift) with powerful faith that allows me to prevail over the lure of the world which preaches messages like:

  • You only live once, so carpe diem!
  • Complete your bucket list.
  • Pursue your passion
  • You deserve it

And instead of putting MY interests first, with the God’s gifts of strength and desire, I can love others, starting with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Without the faith that came as a gift, then I am sucked into that worldly, self-centered rat race.

I find this VERY good news.