Wanted: Faith!

March 8, 2009

Due to traveling between Houston and Dallas every week and the demands of school, my blog activity has  suffered as of late!  Things are going well, though, and I hope to begin posting more regularly soon.

I ran across an excerpt from Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle to the Romans” this week in one of my classes.   This passage discusses what real faith looks like in the life of a Christian.  Mere profession of belief does not necessarily an experience of the heart, and yet we are always quick to point friends and family back to their moment of “belief” when they are looking for security of salvation.

While the initial moment is exciting and important, if the believer never matures, bears the fruits of the Spirit, or produces good works, it might be a grave sin on our part to give them assurance that they are saved.  Rather than needing to hear how to be a good Christian, they may need to hear the Gospel and to ask God to give them faith!

An excerpt from Luther’s “Preface” is below, and it can be read  in full here.  How does this compare to your faith?  How does this compare to how you explain faith to others?

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral martin-lutherimprovement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.” The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgments about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.

Thanks for reading!



Sermon on Revelation 21-22

February 19, 2009

I would like to give another thanks to Ralph Clements and his congregation for letting me preach again at their church, Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Montgomery. Here is my message from 2/15/09 on Revelation 21:22-23:5.  I pray that as you listen that you are able to share in the joy and worship of the glory of God that I experienced as I prepared and that we as a body of believers experienced on Sunday.

Thanks for visiting!


Confidence in the midst of doubts

February 12, 2009

I found a great statement in my reading for school this week.  It is by Anselm (a really old guy), and he is explaining his faith to a new Christian.  Anselm (through the character of his disciple) makes this statement:

“I come not for this purpose, to have you remove doubts from my faith, but to have you show me the reason for my confidence [in the Gospel].”

We often think that we must lay our/others’ doubts to rest before there can be belief in the Gospel, however faith is different than having all of our questions answered.  Faith is stepping forward – based on what we do know – and trust that God will/ has taken care of the rest.  It is normal for us to have doubts even after we are a Christian, and we need to make sure that we help our non-Christian friends understand that their doubts are ok as well!

If we knew all of the answers, faith in Christ would be the most logical decision in the universe.  As it is, we act on what we know, what the Spirit has revealed in our hearts, and we call it faith!

Thanks for reading!


Tolerance is not the answer

January 31, 2009

Or society today continues to be infatuated with political correctness and toleration, but adhering to to these policies is not only ineffective, but keeps us from getting to the heart of the issue.  Consider the following story from Martin Luther King’s book Stride Toward Freedom.  It describes a evening when his house was bombed, and MLK was rushed home from a civil rights event where, thankfully, he learned that his family was safe.martin_luther_king_jr

I was immediately driven home.  As we neared the scene I noticed hundreds of people with angry faces in front of the house.  The policemen were trying, in their usual rough manner, to clear the streets, but they were ignored by the crowd.  One Negro was saying to a policeman, who was attempting to push him aside: “I ain’t gonna move nowhere.  That’s the trouble now; you white folks always pushin’ us around.  Now you got your .38 and I got mine; so lets battle it out.”  As I walked towards the front of the porch I realized tht many people were armed.  Nonviolent resistance was on the verge of being transformed into violence.

In this atmosphere I walked out ot the porch and asked the crowd to come to order.  In less than a moment there was complete silence.  Quietly I told them that I was all right and that my wife and baby were all right.  “Now let’s not become panicky,” I continued.  “If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them.  We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence.  We must meet violence with nonviolence.  Remember the words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.'” I then urged them to leave peacefully.  “We must love our white brothers,” I said, “no matter what they do to us.  We must make them know that we love them.  Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ This is what we must live by.  We must meet hate with love.  Remember,” I ended, “if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement.  Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance.”

MLK was not arguing for the toleration of their oppressors, but for love!  When we ‘tolerate’, we are compensating for someone that we do not love.  When we love, there is no need to try to tolerate; it is already taken care of.

When the difference is skin color or cultural heritage, we are artificially creating barriers that we must ‘tolerate’.  We coexist daily with those who have different eye and hair color, but for some reason many cannot get over a simple difference in skin color.

When the difference is religion or faith the divide is very real; however love is still the answer.  Simple toleration does not build bridges or crumble walls, but love shows the character of Christ and introduces the Gospel – and the Gospel of Jesus is the only solution to our world-wide lack of love.

Thanks for reading!


The last page was the best page…

January 20, 2009

I read The Shack by William P. Young a few weeks ago.  In a book that was at times particularly offensive (God is represented as a woman who resembles Aunt Jemima, all religions are just separate paths to God, etc.), I found an insightful poem on the last page:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If The Shack had centered on this theme and God’s self-revelation it could have been much more helpful to Christians and Christians-to-be.  I believe that this poem touches on the desires of many in our world today – meaning, beauty, and God behind it all.

Our problem is that we want to find bushes on our own, instead of relying on God through faith in Jesus.  The Shack relies on sentimentalism and speculation rather than the Bible to teach about God, and the two do not exactly mesh.  Please be careful!

A full review of the book (by Tim Challies) is here.

Thanks for reading!


Life-changing love

January 6, 2009

Jessica and I watched a program on TV this week about Masab Yousef, a man who was converted to Christianity from Islam.  His story, shown below, is remarkable because he is a Palestinian and his family is heavily involved with Hamas.

What stood out to me about his story in the documentary that we saw is the verse that God used to bring Masab to passionately study Christianity and the Bible and eventually accept Jesus as his Lord: Matthew 5:24

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

The power and truth of the Word of God is amazing, especially its ability to change hearts and redirect lives.  I wonder, though, are we faithful in proclaiming this message with our own lives?  Loving enemies is vitally important, however just as important is loving our brothers.  1 Peter 1 says

21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

What if Masab had not picked up the Bible, but had just observed how you love your neighbor, or how you treat your enemies?  Many, many people do it every day, and it is our duty to develop the character of Christ so that we do truly love both our brother and our enemy.

We are the only Bible that many will ever read.

Thanks for visiting!


In the absence of God… me!

December 21, 2008

In the midst of the Christmas season when it seems that almost every commercial is trying to get us to focus on ourselves – our wants, our pleasures, our things – I am struck by the thought that this is exactly our problem.  Not our wants, our pleasures, or our things, but ourselves in general: we seek to please ourselves rather than God. 

The following is an excerpt from The Valley of Vision, and it is a cry out to God that exposes some of the many ways that we try to put ourselves first – to replace God with ourselves.  I pray that we would seek to use this season to make much of Jesus rather than ourselves.

O Lord,
My every sense, member, faculty, affection,
     is a snare to me,
I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me,
     or despise those below.
I covet honor and riches of the mighty,
     and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others;
If I behold beauty, it is a bait to lust,
     or see deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;
How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep
          into my heart!
Am I comely? what a fuel for pride!
Am I deformed? what an occasion for repining!
Am I gifted? I lust after applause!
Am I unlearned? how I despise what I have not!
Am I in authority? how prone to abuse my trust,
     make my will my law, exclude others’ enjoyments,
     serve my own interests and policy!
Am I inferior? how much I grudge other’ pre-eminence!
Am I rich? how exalted I become!
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state,
     but let me not forget my heavenly title,
     or the grace that can deal with every sin.

Thanks for reading!