Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Faith that Please God

Faith is a tough subject because there are so many ideas out there about it. The devout Muslim for instance shows their “faith” by becoming a suicide bomber. Another person has faith by believing their church is true, even if it means ignoring any evidence to the contrary. Another teacher I once read taught that faith was believing that something you wanted to be true actually was true, until it became true.

The Bible of course teaches a lot about faith, and in some ways seems similar to the examples I mentioned above. For instance Romans 4 tells us that Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he (God) was able also to perform.”  The writer of Hebrews adds more to this equation when he wrote “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Later on in chapter 11 he continues by saying: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

The difference between the examples I mention above and biblical faith though lies in the source of that faith. You see, biblical faith is always based on someone, and is backed up by facts.

Let’s look at Abraham who is often mentioned as an example of biblical faith in the New Testament. The very first time we see Abraham in scripture we see him talking with God. (Genesis 12) Spend some time thinking about that. Abraham had faith because God had promised Him directly to do what He said He would (in this case provide a heir). So, Abraham’s faith was based firmly on who God was, and on what God had promised Him.

That’s why too, biblically speaking, a Christian can have full confidence that God will save Him. John 3:16 (among many other verses) tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son, that whoever believes  in Him will have eternal life. As a Christian I can’t be totally sure (fact wise) that there is eternal life, but there are things I can do to find the facts in this promise: first I can search out the history of the Bible and come to know that it is trustworthy—above and beyond any real doubt. Then, I can seek out this God and find out more about Him: is He trustworthy? Does He have a track record of keeping promises? (The answer is yes.)  Is there evidence that He exists? (Yes again.) Finally, because I can believe God, and because I can believe His Word, I can believe this promise. These are the “facts” behind my faith, just as Abraham’s meeting God, and hearing His promise firsthand were the “facts” behind Abraham’s faith.

Again, and again, and again in the Bible we see Jesus affirming the fact that He is truth. He’s very, very interested in truth (He actually says that He IS truth) and because He is interested in truth, He wants us to seek out the “facts” that we can firmly base our faith on. That’s true and biblical faith, and it’s the faith that pleases God.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Praise to the. . . Man?

Praise to the Man is a LDS hymn that I was reminded of recently. It’s a hymn that was originally written as a poem right after Joseph Smith, first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was killed. The poet wrote it from the depths of his grief and with great admiration for the man he considered a true modern day prophet of God. It was later set to the music of “Scotland the Brave,” a patriotic Scottish song, and is sung by faithful LDS people to this day.

I can appreciate a song written to honor a person you greatly admire. I’m reminded of the song by Elton John titled “Candle In the Wind” dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, or the song by Vince Gill called “Go Rest High on that Mountain,” devoted to Keith Whitley. Both of these songs are ones I enjoy, and like “Praise to the Man” reflect the deep sorrow and pain the death of the person caused to the artist.

However, as I search the pages of my Bible I am concerned about this type of praise: praise given to a man. Paul actually warns us against giving glory to any man in 1 Corinthians 3:21. Luke recounts in Acts 12 how Herod took glory for himself and was immediately struck dead. Paul seems to be very aware of this and tells us that he, himself is deathly afraid of taking the glory on himself in both 2 Corinthians and Galatians. (In Galatians 6:14 he actually says “but God forbid that I should glory. . .” And, in the book of Romans Paul gives a very stern warning against “changing the image of the incorruptible God into that made like a corruptible man” (Romans 1:23) He actually says those who do this are “fools.”

And really Paul, in his warnings about not glorifying man, but instead giving all glory to God, is quoting what God has said about Himself from the very beginning:

I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another. . . Isaiah. 42:8

If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Malachi 2:2

From Genesis 1:1 we see in scripture how there really is only One ever who is worthy of praise and honor: God Himself. And, the Psalms are full of that praise. Try an experiment: go to and search for the keywords glory, and praise. The Bible teaches us that the Heavens declare God’s glory, that man should declare His glory, and that the angels themselves declare His glory. He, and He alone, is worthy of our praise, and to praise and glorify anyone, or anything, else really is biblically speaking, idolatry.

So when we sing or listen to songs that glorify people, we really do need to check our hearts: are we giving someone the praise or glory that rightly belongs to only God? And, are we putting our leaders in the place that rightly belongs to God? Remember what happened to Herod when he allowed that to happen? God hasn’t changed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Confession # 1

My daughter has been posting on Facebook her list of “confessions.” They read something like this: “Confession # 18 I need to shower badly, but I don’t want to,” or “Confession # 15 I’m so happy right now.” I realize too as I think about writing this blog that I’ve got a confession of my own and that is that I really, really don’t want to offend anyone.

I’ve been thinking of this more because my dear sister-in-law has recently joined Facebook. I really, really like this sister-in-law. We have a lot in common, and I very much appreciate her common sense, and strong sense of what’s right and wrong. If we lived closer (they’ve nearly always lived across the country from us), I suspect she’d be a good friend, one I could share my heart, my struggles, and my fears with.

The trouble is that her beliefs and mine are not the same. We grew up with the same beliefs, but somewhere in our growing up, we came to different conclusions. Her conclusions are based on what she believes with all her heart to be true. They are also based on her logic, and on spiritual experiences that she believes proves these things to be true. My conclusions also are what I believe with all my heart to be true. They too are based on logic, but not always based on my logic alone, but instead are based on what the revealed Word of God teaches to be true and they are different from hers and sometimes offensive to her. 

I suppose similar situations were what Paul was thinking about when he admonished the young preacher Timothy to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Or as the Amplified Bible, which includes every possible meaning of the words in the original language, puts it herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.”

Another time Paul wrote to the Galatian church and warned them:  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

Then Paul goes on to address the same dilemma I have: For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Later on in that same book Paul asks the question: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)

And, I guess that’s really what I’m afraid of, offending by telling the truth. To be honest, I don’t like it much. . .