Faith Seeking Understanding: Part 1

christmas_faithAre faith and reason at odds with one another? Many people, Christian and non-Christian, seem to think so:

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” – Richard Dawkins

“*faith /fāTH/*

1. *Belief without evidence.*

2. *Pretending to know things you don’t know.*”- Peter Boghossian

“The Bible is not supposed to make sense, it is supposed to make faith.”- Kamran Karimi

“I once asked the Lord why so many people are confused and He said to me, ‘Tell them to stop trying to figure everything out, and they will stop being confused.’ I have found it to be absolutely true. Reasoning and confusion go together.” – Joyce Meyer

In my experience, most people agree with the people quoted to one degree or another. Spoken or unspoken, faith is popularly described as blind belief without evidence or good reasons and reason is described as proven knowledge based on evidence and good reasons. Going forward, I will describe these popular definitions of faith and reason as *folk faith* and *folk reason*.

*Folk faith* and *folk reason* are biblically and logically false. There
are no examples in the Bible of anyone taking blind leaps of faith in the dark. There are certainly examples of people believing in what they could not see with the eye or hear with the ear, but they still had good reasons to trust God. The modern notion of reason is truncated and unrealistic as well. The mantra of the skeptic is, “observable, repeatable, testable,” but most of the things we all believe–whether Christians or not–cannot be verified in this way.

It is important to clearly define *true faith* and *true reason*. As defined by the Bible, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV). If we just leave it here (and unfortunately, many people do) this seems to support the notion of *folk faith*. Ripping individual Bible verses out of context is a horrible way of reading the scriptures. Hebrew 11, often referred to as the “Hall of Faith,” gives us examples of people who lived by faith. Verse 4 tells us that, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…” How do you suppose he did that? According to *folk faith*, Cain and Abel simply had a notion out of thin air one day that God desired sacrifices, and by some blind and baseless process it was reckoned that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God. Of course, that is absolutely absurd. Although we do not have all the details in the book of Genesis, we see that even though Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, God spoke to him–even after he murdered his own brother! In other words, Cain and Abel had an experiential relationship with God. Other heroes of the Hall of Faith based their faith on their relationship with God at the very least. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death” (Hebrews 11:5), because, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24). Hebrews 11:7 tells us plainly that Noah was “warned by God” to prepare for a cataclysmic flood judgment. I hope my readers are not so silly as to think that Noah simply heard a strange voice one day and blindly followed its instructions.

Although the Bible does not describe Noah’s relationship with God before receiving the divine flood warning, it is reasonable to assume that Noah knew the Lord well enough to listen to His commands. We a process of building trust in the life of Abraham. God called Abraham to move to foreign country, and as with Noah it is reasonable to think that even by this point Abraham knew God well enough to trust Him. After that God called Abraham and Sarah to take another step of faith to conceive Isaac in their old age, and then God commanded Abraham to offer his miracle boy up as a sacrifice. By this point, Abraham’s faith was strong enough that, “He
considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). Imagine if God had started out asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son? I doubt that Abraham would have listened to God on blind *folk faith*. True biblical faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) that grows over time as we take steps based on the knowledge God reveals to us.

~Jared Abbot

Please look for the continuation of Jared’s blog on Faith Seeking Understanding next week ~ Canvas Rhapsody

In the Driver’s Seat

Hands_on_wheelMy teenager recently got her drivers permit. Oh, how time flies. And she is driving now, and I sit besides her giving her instruction. And, the occasional gasp or “STOP!” comes out of my mouth. She’s learning and concentrating as we go. You do know, 50mph is waaaaaay faster when a 15yr old has their foot on the gas peddle?

Recently, there has been a commercial on Pandora Radio, that says, “Be the kind of driver you want your teenager to be.” And Madi, my teen, loves to quote this little jingle to me whenever I get a little heavy-footed driving her places. She notices everything about my driving now. She is paying attention to every detail.

It turns out, I’m more of a teacher when I am in the drivers seat than when I am in the passenger seat telling her “how-to” drive.

The truth of teaching is in our actions. We can talk and talk and talk until we are blue in the face but our actions show, display and teach the reality of our heart.

We often desire to see others around us live a “Christian” life. We want to be treated kindly. We want people to be giving. We want to be loved and know we will be taken in if it all falls apart. Oh, and we can talk. We can tell you all about “how” to do it rightly. But I ask you, “Are you the kind of Christian you want the world to be?”

Are you Kind?

Do you give when someone is in need?

Do you love with out expectation?

Can you forgive when it is least deserved?

Because what you say has little consequence on the world around us. But, what you do will show the world your heart belongs to God and you desire to live in a world filled with the gentle character He calls His people to live.

Someone is watching you, someone is learning from you. What do you do when you are in the driver’s seat?

~Angela

As You Were

Questions and Answers signpost

In the previous post I said that,

*The Principle of Identity*: The dog is a dog.

*The Principle of Non-contradiction*: The dog is a dog, and not anything other than a dog.

*The Principle of Excluded Middle*: It’s either a dog or not a dog.

I regret to inform my readers that I actually got them a little off. I
understand now that I could have said it more accurately this way:

*The Principle of Identity*: The dog is a dog.

*The Principle of Non-contradiction*: The dog cannot be both a dog and a
non-dog at the same time and in the same sense.

*The Principle of Excluded Middle*: It is either true or false that this is
a dog.

These are the three classical principles of logic. Truth is exclusive and absolute. Once we depart from these principles, we cease to make sense. Let’s take the common claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Is that claim true? If that claim is true, then it isn’t. Since the statement contradicts itself, it cannot be true. The principles of logic are useful because they help us rule out what is not true.

Let’s examine these principles in greater depth. The principle of identity is fairly obvious. The dog is a dog. We could be wrong to say that it is a dog if it turned out to be a cat, but then per the principle of identity the cat is a cat.

Say that the identity of the animal is in dispute. I say the animal is a
dog, but Jessica says it is a cat. Both of us might be wrong, but if the
animal turns out to be a dog it cannot be a cat, and vice versa. This is
where the principle of non-contradiction would be useful. The animal cannot be a dog and a non-dog at the same time and in the same sense. Norman Geisler explains the principle of non-contraction this way: There are at least two ways to express this principle: (1) it is impossible that contradictory statements be simultaneously true; (2) if one contradiction is true, the other is necessarily false.

-*Should Old Aquinas be Forgotten: Why Many Evangelicals Say No: The Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas Considered*, Chapter 6: The First Principles of Knowledge

Finally, the principle of Excluded Middle can be described as the either/or principle, or the true/false principle. Either the animal is a dog, or it is something else. It is either true of false that the animal is a dog.

I hope this post clears up the muddled explanation of first principles from the previous post.

~Jared

Worship a King

worship a kingKing…. What is a king? Do we really know? As an American-Christian, I am sure I am far from the understanding of the sovereignty of a king.

Most of us would define our greatest sacrifice to worship as the fight we deal with on Sunday mornings. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. First, the battle over the alarm clock to press snooze just one more time. Now, to get everyone ready and argument free before we end up in a rush and late. What’s for breakfast? Coffee, did you make the coffee?!! And we make it to service, with just enough time to check the kids in and breathe before the band finishes the first song.

Raise your hands. Pray out loud. Face down or on our knees. How do you worship? The music is moving but I think someone might see me. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t think God really cares if I raise my hands. I always feel so good after the music rises and slows to the reverent sounds of believers in unison carrying the chorus. The Word tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. I have felt it. I know He is there.

And we leave. And we figure out lunch and plan the afternoon around obligations. And our worship ends and we live out life.

I recently read this quote: “Are we more afraid of what people think of us or what God thinks of us?” After a weekend of news over 21 Egyptian-Christians loosing their lives over their beliefs, it’s hard to not be struck by the question. Do I worship enough to sacrifice my life? Who is my king?

Do I worship on Sundays because of the way it makes me feel? Do I complain over the sacrifice of time it would take to learn His Word? Do I really have to live with the type of integrity God calls His people to? Could I get on bended knee, to sacrifice my life at the hands of terrorist?

If we have never been taught the power of a King, do we understand what it means to worship one?

Is God your King? Or do you worship the things that line up with how you feel and what you believe? Do you believe His opinion of you matters more than the opinions and judgment’s of others?

You God, are my King!!

If we proclaim it, if we can live it….. God says that if we are His people, He will be our God. The power of serving a holy God will be sacrificial. It won’t be about the songs you sing, it’ll be about His presence in a room full of believers. Your worship won’t be about the snooze button but about the extra 30min to pour His Word into your heart. It won’t be about the embarrassment to say no to a movie invite but to the knowledge that your life is a proclamation of His promises.

I don’t want to be my own king. I don’t want my opinions and needs to be bigger than what God has planned for me, planned for His people.

How do you worship a King?

~Angela

For everything there is a Season – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Hapgood_Pond_-_Flickr_-_USDAgovA long time ago, I was that <crazy> person that vacuumed my furniture every other day. If you spent any time at my house, you can vouch for the obsessive level it reached. Something about having those beautiful, clean lines on my tan suede furniture made everything right in my little world. Today, I cannot even tell you the last time a vacuum hose even touched my furniture. Things change. Seasons change.

Sometimes I daydream; attempting to imagine what our lives may look like the day Frank and I will be ‘empty nesters’. What will our home be like when tiny toddler tantrums aren’t ruling the house? Or homework consuming the evenings? Or basketball games reserving the early Saturday morning spot? I find myself looking far into the future.

Here’s where a little conviction snuck in on me. Not necessarily about these specific, earthly things. Moreover, about my frame of mind when my thoughts are dwelling in the past and in the future. The Holy Spirit had some things to say to me.

How often do we find ourselves dwelling in the past? Or planning, worrying and praying for the future. Now before I move on, let me just state. The Bible is very clear on the command of ‘Remember’. You can google that one if you’d like! Also, planning and preparing, laying the ground work for the future is wise and responsible. The negative side of allowing oneself to stay in either of these extremes, is the missing out of the here and now. God is working, pruning, calling his children to the field. He’s beckoning his followers to build the kingdom of God, here and now. If our sights are ONLY set on things long ago or things yet to come, we may miss the Holy Spirit’s direction to encourage that friend going through a tough time. We may miss an opportunity to help out a neighbor that just lost their job. We could lose the moment of empowering a child that may never hear of their worth at home.

I never want to fail to remember the blessings God has given me in the past. I never want to fail to ask God for blessing, provision and covering over the things coming towards me in the future. Most importantly I don’t want to get to the end of my life’s journey and God tell me, ‘You were so caught up in future prep work or too busy filling your thoughts of how life has changed over time, you missed it. You missed the whole point.’ No, no. I want to hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You tuned into my work, my bigger purpose than just the mundane day to day. You got it. You got the whole point. Wherever I put you, you were ALL there.’

Friends, God is moving in whatever season you currently find yourself in. Tune into the Holy Spirit. Set your sights on things above. Ask God to show you the purpose to every season you go through. Ultimately, things change. Seasons will change, again and again. God NEVER will, that’s a promise!

Kristy

~Colossians 3:1 -4 – Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

~Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

First Principles

Questions and Answers signpostAccording to 1 Peter 3 : 15, Christians are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect. In order to do this, followers of Jesus need to be prepared to answer two questions, “How do I know that Christianity is true?” and “How can I show that Christianity is true?”

For the Believer, the first question is more important, because as useful as apologetics can be, Christianity is primarily about a Person–Jesus, not just a set of facts about Jesus.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ~John 17:3

Christians do not believe merely because they are intellectually convinced that the claims of Christianity are true. That kind of belief would only put them on the same level as demons (see James 2:19). Christians have faith because they have had an encounter with the Spirit of God. They not only believe He exists, but they have experienced His presence, and trust in Him for their salvation.

This is not to say that showing Christianity to be true is without merit. Not only is it invaluable in removing intellectual barriers for those who have not consciously experienced God, it bolsters the faith of Christians in dry seasons of doubt. More importantly, we are commanded to show that Christianity is true by 1 Peter 3:15, as well as other passages of Scripture. While God is much bigger than human reason, He created us as thinking beings, equipping us to understand His creation. He provided us with senses and a brain to make sense of the world around us.

Jesus put it this way, Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen… If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? ~John 3:11a, 12, ESV

C.S. Lewis wrote that we need good philosophy in order to answer bad philosophy. Many people make claims such as, “Christianity may work for you, but Buddhism works for me,” or “All religions are basically the same.” The truth is that all religions are superficially similar at best, and each one makes exclusive and competing truth claims. For example, Christianity claims that the problem is sin, and human beings cannot save themselves from sin, but need Jesus Christ to save them. Buddhism claims that the problem is suffering, but human beings can transcend suffering and achieve enlightenment through disciplines such as meditation. In Christianity, human beings are inescapably flawed and in need of a Savior; in Buddhism , human beings are capable of reaching enlightenment on their own through discipline. It is logically possible for both beliefs to be wrong, but it is not logically possible for both beliefs to be right.

A good place to start for examing the truth claims of one belief or another is First Principles. These principles were systematized by thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, but these are common sense principals that most people use every day whether they realize it or not..Humans are imperfect, and do not use these principles consistently, but just being aware of them and pondering them will help us become clearer thinkers. I will summarize them here, using the example of a dog (because I like dogs).

*The Principle of Identity*: The dog is a dog.

*The Principle of Non-contradiction*: The dog is a dog, and not anything other than a dog.

*The Principle of Excluded Middle*: It’s either a dog or not a dog.

*The Principle of Causality*: Something else caused the dog to exist (the only exception to this principle is God, who exists eternal and uncaused).

*The Principle of Finality*: Dogs exist for a reason.

While there is some debate about which principle is the most important, I side with those who say it is the Principle of Non-contradiction. Beliefs are either true or not true, and all the other principles logically follow from this. If two claims contradict and one is true, then the other is necessarily false. If Christianity is true that humans are unable to fix themselves, then Buddhism is not true on that point, and vice versa.

To show that Christianity is true, we should be able to demonstrate that it’s claims are consistent. The Holy Spirit can use the things we show the unbeliever to change their mind and draw them toward a divine encounter. The hope is that the unbeliever will not just know about God, but actually come to know God in an experiential way.

~Jared Abbott

The Importance of Quiet

The_quiet_after_the_storm_by_Ciccio08God displays His presence in many ways in our lives.  Sometimes He shows up through flashy miracles, signs, and wonders.  Mostly, though, He speaks to us on paths that are less noticeable, the everyday things that we take for granted.  He is speaking to all of us constantly, but the real question is this:  Are we placing ourselves in a position to listen to His messages to us?

In I Kings 19, Elijah ran for his life when Jezebel threatened to execute him.  He escaped to the wilderness, begging God to take his life because he was exhausted and tired of trying to reach those who had no intention of committing their lives to God.  This part of the story caught me by surprise…really?  Elijah was frightened and whining?  Elijah, whom the LORD had chosen, and proven Himself by sending fire down to consume a drenched altar and sacrifice in front of the prophets of Baal?  If Elijah was weak, what chance do I have of hearing God rightly?
But how did God respond to him?  Did He become angry with Elijah for all his complaining?  God remembered that we humans are made of dust, and fade like flowers and grass.  He sent refreshment to Elijah to continue his journey to Mt. Sinai.  At the mountain, He spoke to Elijah:
“So He said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.’  And behold, the LORD was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire, but theLORD was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice.”   I Kings 19: 11-12
What we need to remember is that it does not depend on US, it depends on HIM.  I’ve found that most of the time, He chooses to communicate in small ways through small {in the world’s eyes} people, those who KNOW that these things cannot have come from them.  He works through us when we come to that place of trust, faith, obedience, and patience.  He works when we are out of the way of ourselves and His work.  He works when we REST IN HIM.  That is why quiet is so important for us.  Quiet in our space, quiet in our mind, spirit, body, and heart.  We desperately need to turn off the world’s distractions, whatever they may be for us {phones, internet, music, TV, people, video games, books, sports, etc} and meditate in His presence.  Come to the quiet.  It is in that space that God can make it clear to us the sound of His voice.
Jesus said that His sheep would hear His voice and recognize it…spending time in quietness before Him in His healing and holy presence brings us in tune with His heartbeat and voice.  Then we will have the wherewithal to stand in our armor against the world and the wiles of our enemy, to be clear conduits of His message of love to a hurting world.
Denise
 
Psalm 46:10
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

A Response to Grace in Words

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